Najib returns to Istana Kinta with four defecting assemblymen

(NST) KUALA LUMPUR, Thurs (11:25am):

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, after completeing his audience with the Sultan of Perak to seek the ruler's consent to the formation of a new Perak Government, has returned to Istana Kinta hardly an hour after the audience, bringing along with him the four defecting assemblymen. No word yet and why he had to go for a second audience with the Sultan of Perak.

Accompanying the DPM in the first audience was Datuk Zahid Hamidi, Minister in the PM's Department and Perak Umno deputy chief, all 27 BN assemblymen and the four defecting assemblymen. They all left Istana Kinta at 10.35am without talking to the media.

Najib merely smiled and waved to the crowd.Najib had arrived at the palace at 9.50am.

After the first audience today, Najib, who is also Perak Umno chief, is expected to chair a state Umno meeting at 12 noon to deliberate on nominations for a new Menteri Besar. He is scheduled to give a Press conference to reveal the identity of the new Menteri Besar and, also likely, the new agenda on governing the state.

The BN's bid was born out of the yesterday's sensational defections of four Pakatan Rakyat assemblymen to Barisan Nasional – assemblymen for Behrang, Changkat Jering and Jelapang Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi, Mohd Osman Mohd Jailu (both from Parti Keadilan Rakyat) and Hee Yit Foong of DAP had left the state government to be "friendly independents" to BN. Hee is also the deputy speaker of the Perak state assembly.

Umno also welcomed back Bota assemblyman Datuk Nasarudin Hashim, who left on Jan 25 to defect to PKR, only to re-defect to Umno.

With the four assemblymen in tow, BN can claim that they have the numbers to topple the PR State Government and form a new BN entity. BN now possess 27 seats and controls four "friendly" assemblymen, making it a simple majority of 31 seats against PR's 28.

Najib had indicated that a new Menteri Besar will be nominated. The former MB, Datuk Seri Tajol Rosli Ghazali, had, in the aftermath of Nasarudin's defection to PKR, resigned as Perak Umno chief while admitting that he was not "strong enough" to lead the party in the state.

However, Perak Menteri Besar Nizar Jamaluddin had an audience with the Ruler yesterday, seeking his consent to the dissolution of the state assembly to clear the way for fresh state elections.

It is now a question of who will prevail with the Sultan of Perak: the BN with the required number of seats to form a new state government or the Pakatan Rakyat, which has lost the numbers, but wants a snap state election.

Nizar said the Sultan may consult the advice of lawyers to make the correct decision to avoid a constitutional crisis.

In the meantime, Perak Speaker V. Sivakumar will fle an application in the High Court to declare Behrang, Changkat Jering and Jelapang state seats vacant, using pre-signed resignation letters to back the claim.

The DAP is also urging Hee, the Perak deputy speaker, to reconsider her decision to leave the party but Hee lodged a police report yesterday over a letter purportedly signed by the Perak Election Commission director stating she had been sacked as deputy speaker. It is learnt that Hee lodged the police report two hours after a press conference announcing her resignation from the DAP.

She was said to have been handed a copy of the letter by an unknown person immediately after the press conference, about 5.30pm. She stated in her report lodged at the district police station here that the contents of the letter were "lies and fabrication."

Over protests and demands that the three Pakatan assemblymen should vacate their seats, former PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad the parties should not force defectors to resign.

"Voters can reject these assemblymen at the polls," he said.

Updates in a moment…

10.45am: Members of the media rushed over to Jelapang assemblywoman Hee Yit Foong's house in Taman Ehsan after being tipped-off that she might give a Press conference. It turned out to be a false alarm but she was reported to have later confirmed her defection to the BN by joining the MCA.

12.30pm: Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin called for an emergency press conference at his office at 1pm but was postponed with no reasons given. However, word has it that he was to announce the dissolution of the Perak assembly.

1.40pm: The wire services issued a flash that Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is calling for a Press conference at 4pm in his Putrajaya office, presumably to make an important announcement on the political status of the Perak Government.

2:10pm: Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah arrived at Istana Kinta. Exco members Tai Sing Ng and Mohd Zainuddin Mohd Yusof who arrived at the same time were barred from entering the palace.

3pm: Members of the media rushed to Istana Kinta after learning that Nizar Jamaluddin is seeking an audience with Sultan Azlan Shah.

3:50pm: Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin arrives at Istana Kinta

4:00pm: Nizar told the NST that he has won an audience with the Ruler 5pm. Nizar is believed to be seeking for the dissolution of the Perak State Assembly to clear the way for a snap state election.

4:00pm: Senior exco member Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham arrives at Istana Kinta but is barred barred from entering palace. He gives a P/C saying the only democratic way to resolve the political turmoil is by dissolving the state assembly and calling for snap elections.

4:10pm: Perak BN assemblymen are assembling at Najib's office.

4:10pm: Bota Assemblyman Nasarudin Hashim makes surprising appearance at Najib's office. Also making a surprise appearance is DAP Jelapang assemblyman Hee Yit Foong. Two so-called independent assemblymen who quit PKR, Behrang assemblyman Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi and Changkat Jering assemblyman Mohd Osman Mohd Jailu, are also present.

5:15pm: Najib announces defections of four PR assemblymen into BN and declares that BN has the majority of state seats to form a new Perak Government.