Azizan keeps a steady hand at Kedah's helm

Posted by Penarik Beca Friday, July 18, 2008

Malaysian Insider (13/7/08): In his deep Kedah Malay accent, a straight-faced Azizan Abdul Razak told a ceramah crowd of thousands that he was there with them on his 120th day of administration to celebrate Pas state government's 100 days in power.

The 68-year-old Kedah Menteri Besar is stressing the point that his detractors, particularly Umno which had predicted his government's downfall by the 100th day, can continue to dream on.

"Even after the extra 20 days, we're still here. They think we don't know how to govern. I want to say that we're new but we're learning to govern.

"But it is them (Umno) who have no experience in being the opposition. They still think they rule the state," Azizan told the cheering audience that had thronged the Pas complex at the Kota Sarang Semut near here last night.

The point he was making: Umno and its apparatus, especially a certain TV station, will continue to find faults but he is determined to govern based on Pas' electoral promises – delivering a clean and transparent administration.

Compared to other recently won federal opposition-held states such as Penang, Perak and Selangor, the rice bowl state of Malaysia is rather quite low profile, avoiding crisis and any form of scandal.

But Kedah suddenly appeared on the map of the country's political gossip a few weeks ago when Azizan announced his administration would consider approving logging activities at a water catchment area in Hulu Muda, a move to generate RM100 million annually. Hulu Muda, gazetted in 1932 as a permanent forest reserve, covers 160,000 hectares of forest.

His plan was criticised by many sectors especially environmentalist groups. Last night, Azizan took the opportunity to explain that his plan was just to highlight the issue of federal funding to Kedah.

"Of course we don't have to resort to logging if the federal government would give us RM100 million every year. The money is not for my pocket, it's for development projects for the people.

"Have the federal government forgotten that it is Kedah that has been providing water to Penang and Perlis. We also produce 53 per cent of rice for the country," he thundered to the crowd, preaching to the converted who have no love lost for Putrajaya under Barisan Nasional.

To the critical environmentalists, he said: "What do they know about the environment? With their nice shirts and suits, do they even know the names of the local plants here. I know. The Kedah farmers know. We're the true environmentalists here."

His jokes go well with the audience, mostly Pas supporters, who were mainly there to hear Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's explain the latest accusation of sodomy as well as to pay respect to the visiting Pas president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang.

But it was Azizan who won the hearts of many with his local brand of jokes to underscore his serious points, as well as replying to a recent claim that he owned a private jet.

No matter how ridiculous the accusation was, Azizan said it was his duty to explain the issue as some people might actually believe the story highlighted by a TV station recently.

"I was on a special jet as part of a Kedah royal entourage to invite the Sultan of Brunei to attend the Sultan of Kedah's golden jubilee celebration this Tuesday.

"How can this TV station say I have a jet when my most expensive car is worth RM16,000. These people have nothing to do than wasting their time finding other people's fault.

"If only they know what the past Kedah administration had done, wasting people's money and enriching themselves. I even had a visitor who met me to ask for a timber concession, and I just told to go back and don't waste my time," he told the crowd, cheering him yet again.

The crowd lapped it up although Azizan is seen as a low profile politician and not a populist figure in the company of other Pas leaders. But they were content with him.

"To compare with the previous Umno-Barisan Nasional administration, I think we the people of Kedah are contented with what we have. Of course we follow all the political news but there's no point of going to the streets to voice dissatisfaction," said Mohamad Abdul Rahman, a petty trader.

In terms of dynamism, the mainly rural state seems to prefer the slower pace of doing things. It may not be an attractive key point for eager business community but it agrees well with the locals.

And outside of Azizan's dream of having a clean and corrupt-free administration, life does not change much despite the change in government from Umno which had controlled the state since Merdeka. (Wan Hamidi Hamid)

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