PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Malaysia’s largest party Umno has been abuzz over the hasty swearing-in of Datuk Seri Sulaiman Md Ali as Melaka chief minister at 1am on Sunday (Nov 21), just hours after the party’s landslide victory in the state polls.
It is understood that the decision to rush through the swearing-in was made after an unexpected attempt by newly elected Tanjung Bidara assemblyman Rauf Yusoh to claim the chief minister post.
Datuk Seri Rauf, who is the Melaka Umno chairman, was absent from Mr Sulaiman’s swearing-in before state governor Mohd Ali Rustam.
Mr Rauf had tried to lobby top party leaders including Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and also Najib Razak, adviser to the Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.
It is learnt they put their foot down and insisted that BN cannot go back on its election manifesto to elect Mr Sulaiman for the top post.
BN swept back to power in Melaka winning 21 out 28 seats on Saturday.
Mr Rauf, when contacted, said it is up to the party to explain why he was not present at the swearing-in ceremony.
He declined to comment on whether he had made a last-minute bid for the chief minister post, but said that he has no intention of rocking the new government.
“Why should I topple the government that I helped to set up? I will help Sulaiman, he is my buddy. I will give him my strong support,” said Mr Rauf.
“I want to avoid a situation where there are two tigers on a hill. I want to see a good combination so that we can work together to take Melaka forward,” he added, when speaking to The Star newspaper.
Mr Rauf was a central and controversial figure in the events leading to the dissolution of the state assembly.
He struggled to defeat Perikatan Nasional candidate Mas Ermieyati Samsudin in the Tanjung Bidara ward, winning by only 364 votes, down from a majority of 4,865 in 2018.
Despite professing support for Mr Sulaiman, Mr Rauf indicated he was meeting Umno division chiefs on Sunday and would hold a press conference later in the day.
He was coy about the purpose of the press conference but said he only wants to play a role in the state government and that it was up to the chief minister to decide on a role he is suitable for.
“They should show some appreciation and discuss with me,” said Mr Rauf, who was previously the Melaka state assembly speaker.
It is possible that Mr Rauf, having failed in his eleventh hour bid for the chief ministership, is now trying to make sure that Mr Sulaiman does not exclude him from the state executive committee.