Ku Li: Yes, I will lead the charge

(The Star) – It’s confirmed – Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah will lead the Barisan Nasional charge in the upcoming Galas by-election in Kelantan.

The Gua Musang MP arrived at the KL International Airport here from Belfast, Northern Ireland, yesterday morning and said he had accepted the offer by the Barisan leadership to head its election machinery for the Nov 4 by-election. Nomination day is Oct 26.

On speculation that he had not been keen on taking on the job, the former finance minister said: “What is there to be apprehensive about?”

Leading the pack: Tengku Razaleigh (centre) with Umno leaders at KLIA in Sepang Saturday.

He had been to Belfast to visit his alma mater, Queens University.

At the height of the rumours, he had conveyed a message through his personal assistant, Mohd Lukman Ghani, that he was not happy over what was happening, including reports that indicated he should stand as candidate.

“It is my duty as an Umno member (to secure a Barisan victory). I have served as the Gua Musang Umno chief for 50 years, and I am also the Gua Musang MP.”

“I once served as an assemblyman in the very same constituency (Galas) when it was formerly known as Hulu Kelantan Barat,’’ he said.

Tengku Razaleigh shrugged off allegations by PAS that it would be an insult to him to be a candidate in Galas and that it would be tough for the Barisan to recapture the seat.

“We will be dead if we keep taking to heart whatever PAS says. PAS has its own perspectives, and we respect its views. Likewise, PAS should also respect our views,’’ he said.

The seat, once a Barisan stronghold, fell vacant on Sept 27 following the death of incumbent assemblyman Che Hashim Sulaima of PAS.

He had defeated the Barisan’s Saufi Deraman in the 2008 general election.

Asked if he would consider contesting the seat, Tengku Razaleigh said the matter had not arisen yet.

“I have yet to meet the Prime Minister (Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak). I will probably meet him on Monday,’’ he said.

Asked how the seat slipped from the Barisan’s clutches in 2008, Tengku Razaleigh said it was the general trend nationwide at that time (to oppose the Barisan).

On working with Kelantan Umno chief Datuk Mustapa Mohamad, he said: “I do not have any problem getting along with anyone”.

“From Tunku Abdul Rahman (the country’s first prime minister) to Mustapa, I have no problem,’’ he said.

Asked if he was confident of recapturing the seat for the Barisan, Tengku Razaleigh said: “We will know on Nov 4 (polling day).’’

On the oil royalty that he and PAS had been championing for Kelantan, he said PAS could not use the issue to fuel voters’ sentiment, pointing out that it would be sub judice as the state government had filed a suit in court against the Federal Government.

“Furthermore, it is a national issue,’’ added the Kelantan prince.

Gua Musang MCA division chief Chee Sien Chen, who was at the airport, presented a registry of the Chinese electorate in Galas to Tengku Razaleigh.

Meanwhile, PAS has appointed Pengkalan Chepa MP Datuk Ab Halim Ab Rahman as the Galas by-election director.

PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, who disclosed this, said the party would announce its candidate soon.

“We will pick a suitable candidate who appeals to the people. Our aim is to have a candidate who knows the area well,’’ Hadi said after officiating the PAS Brigade Muslimat, a young women’s wing, in Shah Alam yesterday.