Fairus episode — more than meets the eye?

Written by Regina William, The Edge

Will there be a by-election in Penanti? That was the question after former Penang deputy chief minister 1 (DCM1) and Penanti assemblyman Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin was cleared of wrongdoing by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) last Thursday.

The Election Commission (EC) gave Fairus until today to retract his resignation letter following the MACC findings. The MACC decision and the EC statement suited BN fine, as Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had said there should not be a by-election.

But last Friday, Penang State Legislative Assembly Speaker Abdul Halim Hussain said there was no way for Fairus to retract his resignation as he had also submitted a statutory declaration that he was quitting to pursue his studies and spend more time with his family besides clearing his name.

On his part, Fairus seemed to have gone along with Halim. This was despite repeated indications he had wanted to keep the state seat after submitting his resignation letter as DCM1.

He reiterated the stand after he got wind of the MACC decision a day before the decision was announced.

The EC stand seemed to have given him more hope that he could stay on. But in the end he had to go along with Halim. What was going on?

These changeable decisions tell of fickle-mindedness that is not worthy of someone deemed good enough to be elevated to DCM post.

Obviously, Fairus was held in high regard or else he would not have been considered for the post. So, in light of recent events, is there more than meets the eye?

Fairus had been angry with some PKR leaders whom he claimed had "framed" him and alleged the corruption charges were part of a conspiracy to get rid of him. That is a serious allegation.

Now that the MACC has cleared Fairus, shouldn't PKR look into this matter? A DCM resigning his post is unusual. And if he is not guilty, why shouldn't he have his job back? Still, it is for the chief minister to decide.

In any case, he should be retained as assemblyman, as he has been cleared by MACC.

His reason for resigning, to pursue studies is most bizzare. Fairus had climbed almost to the top rung, why did he choose this time to continue to study?

During a briefing for party members in Penanti, PKR leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said that the party needed a "strong and senior" Malay DCM1 to attend to issues faced by the community.

So, perhaps, Fairus doesn't fit the description.

When The Edge Financial Daily spoke to Fairus after the MACC cleared him, the former DCM1 kept reiterating his wish to remain a state assemblyman until the next general election.

He even issued a subtle warning to his party. "After all this has happened, I am now smarter and stronger," he said.

For a moment, there was a prospect of him becoming an independent if PKR did not agree to his wish. It means that there would be no by-election, as Umno had wished.

Now that Umno itself is under pressure from within to contest the seat, a by-election is surely on the cards.

The question now is, how will the Fairus and PKR Penang episode, and what happened with the party's two assemblymen in Perak, be viewed by the voters?