Turmoil as govt changes

New man is sworn in, but ex-chief minister insists he's in charge 

By Carolyn Hong, The Straits Times

Barisan Nasional assemblyman Zambry Abdul Kadir was sworn in yesterday as Perak's chief minister under tight security as police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters trying to stop the ceremony.

He took the oath of office before the Sultan of Perak in the royal town of Kuala Kangsar even as the Pakatan Rakyat's Nizar Jamaluddin insisted he was still the lawful leader.

Datuk Seri Nizar defied a royal command to resign after four defectors left him with a minority government.

The PR and BN each holds 28 seats in the state assembly now. Three independents have pledged their support to the BN.

Mr Nizar was escorted out of his office yesterday after he insisted on entering the State Secretariat.

'I will come to work at the State Secretariat tomorrow as usual, and I don't intend to surrender my office and car keys,' he said.

The impasse has left Perak with two leaders claiming to be chief minister, signalling a looming confrontation in the coming days. The drama yesterday gave a hint of what may come.

The day began with Mr Nizar and his administration trying to enter their offices.

With a dramatic flourish, he pulled out the empty drawers of his desk to show reporters that all his belongings had been removed.

As he was speaking to reporters, state secretary Abdul Rahman Hashim and the police arrived and demanded that he leave the premises.

Other executive councillors were barred from entering their offices and a commotion ensued.

Everyone later left the building but not without pledging to return.

In the afternoon, the drama shifted to Kuala Kangsar.

Thousands gathered at the Ubudiah Mosque near the palace. The crowd tried to march to the palace to stop the swearing-in ceremony.

Police fired tear gas to stop them, as several hundred people tried to block the road to the palace. Some protesters lay on the road to block the BN entourage led by Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The swearing-in ceremony went ahead under heavy guard, broadcast live over state television.

Outside, the protesters jeered and booed the official vehicles as they left the palace.

Perak police chief Zulkifli Abdullah later told a news conference that nine people, including an Indonesian, had been detained 'for rioting using weapons' and all face jail if convicted.

It was an inauspicious start to BN's wresting back control of the state.

Datuk Dr Zambry, 47, will have a hard time convincing the people of the legitimacy of his administration. A two-term assemblyman for Pangkor and a property developer, he holds degrees from the International Islamic University of Malaysia.

The deadlock will continue into the weekend as PR yesterday declared that it still supports Mr Nizar as the chief minister.

'We still stick to our opinion that Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin is the valid Menteri Besar,' said opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

'The people are now voicing their unhappiness towards the abuse of power by Barisan Nasional.'

The Pakatan plans to file a suit to challenge the appointment of Dr Zambry.