Penang: Former Deputy CM challenges Anwar

Written by Kazi Mahmood, World Futures

After weeks of speculation, former Penang Deputy Chief Minister I Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin has quit his Penanti state seat, paving the way for a possible by-election.

He also took aim at PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, issuing an ultimatum through a Chinese daily: Help him clear his name or risk the exposure of a state and party scandal.

His resignation comes less than a week after he officially stepped down from the state’s No 2 post following allegations of his involvement in illegal activities with local quarry operators.

In a press statement, he said that he would now focus on his post-graduate studies and on clearing his name from the allegations hurled against him.

In an immediate response, the Election Commission said it was awaiting official notification of Fairus’s as Penanti assemblyman.

Its chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Yusof said the Commission would only start to look into the resignation and the possible by-election once it was officially informed of the resignation.

He said the state assembly speaker would usually notify the state Commission office of a vacancy or it could also be contacted by the representative involved, DHARMENDER SINGH reports.

“As yet, we have not received any notification to the effect from the Penang state assembly speaker or our state office so are unable to confirm the facts,” he said when contacted in PUTRAJAYA.

He said however that if Fairus had indeed quit then a by-election would be held to elect a new representative to replace him.

He said the commission’s machinery was always ready and would be able to handle another by-election if there was a need for one.

Falling star

Mohammad Fairus shot to stardom after the March 2008 general election on the strength of his confidence, extensive academic training and gift for languages. The double Masters degree holder has however been plagued by controversy after controversy since September last year.

After just six months on the job as Penang’s youngest ever Deputy Chief Minister, he was given a very public tongue-lashing by Anwar for apparently neglecting his constituency.

The young leader was humbled before Permatang Pauh PKR Wanita members during a breakfast gathering and later passed off the incident as a result of being publicity-shy with his activities and working with the wrong team of people.

He was dealt another strong blow later that month when the Football Association of Penang (FAP), which he was helming, called an emergency meeting to ask him to step down.

Mohammad Fairus, a former national athlete and silat (Malay martial arts) trainer, was accused of repeatedly postponing meetings and allowing the association’s coffers to dry up, resulting in state players not being paid for four months.

Under his watch, FAP — running the oldest domestic league in the country — was suspended for a month in July due to financial constraints.

He resigned his FAP post in October, which was later taken up by Penang PKR chairman Datuk Zahrain Mohamed Hashim.

In November, state Opposition members weighed in, calling for his resignation for under-performing.

Each time he faced such an obstacle, the charismatic former freelance human resource and corporate development consultant put on a brave front, saying his accusers were only “jealous” of his position and abilities.

Online reports quoting a few of his former aides and noting the high turnover of staff in his office painted a picture that he was difficult to work with.

A report also surfaced saying that Anwar had given him and fellow PKR state executive councillor Abdul Malik Abul Kassim a stern warning to bury the hatchet.

In late January, Mohammad Fairus, Abdul Malik and fellow PKR state executive council member Law Choo Kiang were dropped from the party’s liaison committee line-up.

Then Mohammad Fairus was stripped of the State Religious Affairs portfolio, which was given to Abdul Malik, in early February.

In March, PKR began investigating allegations that two party leaders were working hand-in-glove with several quarries in the state to cover up illegal activities. His name repeatedly came up.

While maintaining his innocence, Mohammad Fairus tended his resignation from the state government to Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng on March 21; it became effective on April 8.