GEORGE TOWN (May 17): A mixture of certainty and intrigue over the composition of the new Penang state leadership marked the closing of the 13th general election when Pakatan Rakyat managed to win the state government for a second consecutive term. It was certain that DAP's Lim Guan Eng and Prof Dr P Ramasamy would retain the posts of Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister (II) respectively, having defended their state seats with convincing margins. However, the important post of Deputy Chief Minister (I), assigned to PKR in the local Pakatan arrangement, was up in the air. This was especially so as the previous DCM (I), Datuk Mansor Othman, had contested and won a seat in Parliament, and so moved away from the state government sphere. It came as a particular surprise then when newcomer Rashid Hasnon, 53, was given the post. Little known in mainstream politics, Rashid had contested the mixed-race Pantai Jerejak state seat to beat Gerakan's Wong Mun Hoe, garnering about 65% of the votes cast. While the media and various quarters queried the choice, it took some time for the wisdom of the appointment to set in. Man with multi-pronged experiences Rashid is as soft-spoken as he is unfamiliar to many. However, his quiet bearing belies the lengthy and multi-pronged experiences he has on several fronts – in the civil liberties movement, local government and the professional industry. His credentials in fact feature a rich marriage of activism and professionalism. Rashid has been a local mainstay in the 'reformasi' movement since 1998 when Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was sacked from the government and as deputy prime minister in 1998. A very active member of the Jamaah Islah Malaysia (JIM) movement, he also became state deputy chairman of Gerak, the human rights organisation, in its early years. Among his humanitarian services, he worked as a volunteer to assist tsunami victims in Aceh dan Meulaboh in 2004, and was in the aid mission to Gaza in 2011. Atypically, he has also pursued an extremely accomplished professional career. A qualified ISO and QS assessor, the engineering graduate from University of Sheffield in the UK, has held senior positions with Japanese and American multi-nationals like NEC, Motorola and ASE Electronics for some 22 years. "I have within me both Japanese and American cultures," he quipped to reporters who were asking him about his background. In 2006, he began an enterprise to retrain and help provide jobs for graduates who were unemployed. Incidentally, Rashid, who got an MBA from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in 1990, also studied at the Royal Military College where he trained under (Tan Sri) Md Hashim Hussein, who would later become general and army chief. Hashim, who is now retired, joined PKR this year. He was the first treasurer of PKR Penang and has been active in the Bayan Baru division, and was appointed a councillor in the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) for the past five years. Confusion over state posts linger The wealth of credentials that have now amply justified his appointment, however, have failed to stop the questions, especially since PKR's Abdul Malik Kassim had been considered by some as a logical choice for the post, having been in the State Executive Council (exco) in the last term. One person who has openly prodded the issue is former Penang PKR chairman Datuk Seri Zahrain Hashim, who won the Bayan Baru parliamentary seat in 2008 under the party ticket before infamously leaving PKR two years later to become a Barisan Nasional-friendly independent. Zahrain had this to tweet on May 11: "Sad that Malik Kassim still not made Deputy CM in Penang! So loyal to Anwar yet…" Malik, however, has remained stoic and focused on his designated work throughout this whole affair, consistent with his stand in 2009 when the then-deputy chief minister (I) Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin resigned. The post was then given to Mansor Othman who won the by-election for the Penanti state seat vacated by Fairus. Added to the intrigue is the confusion over who would be appointed the Speaker for the state legislative assembly. The seat is to be assumed by a PKR member under the Pakatan Rakyat arrangement at the state level. PKR's Datuk Abdul Halim Hussain is popularly considered a highly suitable personage to sit on the chair, having performed impressively as the Speaker during the assembly sessions in the last term. However, current PKR chairman Mansor Othman, who won the Nibong Tebal parliamentary seat in GE13, surprised various quarters when he told reporters during the swearing-in ceremony for state executive councillors last week that someone else would be made the Speaker. Mansor, who was Deputy Chief Minister (I) in the previous term, named PKR's Law Choo Kiang, who defended his Bukit Tambun state seat, as the new Speaker. Law was an executive councillor in the previous state term, but has been reported to have been disappointed at being dropped from the new exco line-up. When asked about the matter on May 15, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng insisted that the issue of who should be Speaker has yet to be finalised, and would be announced. The issue also highlights a dilemma faced by PKR over how it can name its non-Malay members for key posts in the state government. This is in view of the fact that DAP does not have any Malay state assemblymen at all to assign to the exco. PKR has to therefore contribute three of its Malay assemblymen to the state exco, possibly at the expense of non-Malay reps like Law.
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