Khalid: HoA on water stands after my resignation

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SHAH ALAM: Outgoing Selangor Menteri Besar (MB) Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim said the heads of agreement (HoA) signed between the state and federal governments on the state’s water restructuring exercise will still be in force after his resignation.

Abdul Khalid reaffirmed the status of the HoA, although he will relinquish his post after a new MB is selected.

“It is still in force because the government is in operation,” he told a room packed with members of the press at the Selangor government office yesterday.

Earlier, the embattled Abdul Khalid tendered his resignation as MB, a post he had held since 2008, “to restore political stability in the state”.

However, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah of Selangor ordered him to defer his resignation until the Sultan has decided on a new MB.

Abdul Khalid said the Sultan had also ordered each party — PAS, PKR and DAP — to present more than two candidates, but said he does not know the deadline for the submission.

In a statement read out by Abdul Khalid, the Sultan said this is in accordance with the convention of appointing a new menteri besar.

Under the state constitution, the Sultan has the sole discretion to appoint any state assemblyman whom he deems commands the majority confidence of the state assembly.

“I believe Tuanku would prioritise the interest of the people and the state in making [the] decision and I will sincerely agree to any candidate chosen by him,” Abdul Khalid said.

On whether DAP has to submit Malay Muslim candidates, he said the party had nominated him previously.

Abdul Khalid was sacked from PKR for refusing to step down from his post. His handling of the water restructuring issue was cited as one of the reasons for his sacking.

He was accused of signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the federal government in March without consulting the party.

The move invited mixed views from politicians and the public: some saw it as necessary to solve the water crisis that hit the state earlier this year, while others feared that a water tariff hike could hit every household soon.

Despite his party’s misgivings, Abdul Khalid proceeded to sign the HoA with the federal government on Aug 1 to execute the long overdue water assets restructuring in the state.

With the signing of the HoA, the terms that were agreed upon in the MoU became legally binding.

But PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli is reported to have said the Selangor government will revise the terms of the water restructuring exercise should Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail take over as MB.

Under the MoU, the Selangor government will take over the operation of four water concessionaires — Syabas, Konsortium Abbas Sdn Bhd, Syarikat Pengeluar Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Splash) and Puncak Niaga Sdn Bhd — for RM9.65 billion.

So far, three out of the four concessionaires have accepted the state’s offer, except for Splash.

Abdul Khalid’s resignation to pave way for the appointment of a new MB would likely bring closure to prolonged Pakatan Rakyat infighting over control of the state, which has dampened voters’ goodwill towards the six-year-old political alliance.

“I am not going to play any role in the appointment of the new mentri besar because I have vested interests,” he said.

When asked, Abdul Khalid said there was no discussion on PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail during his audience with the Sultan.

Pakatan Rakyat had wanted to submit only Wan Azizah’s name as the new candidate to replace Abdul Khalid and she had shown that she commanded the majority support with 29 out of 56 state assemblymen pledging to back her as MB.

In light of his resignation, Abdul Khalid said there is now no need to hold an emergency state assembly sitting to carry out a vote of no confidence.

Further, the route of dissolving the state assembly to get a fresh mandate from the Selangor voter would not have to be considered once the MB is appointed, he said.

In the meantime, he will carry on his duty with the four remaining state executive councilors.

As to his own political fate, Abdul Khalid said he has not made any decisions.

Responding to the Sultan, PKR and DAP issued a joint press statement at 10.40 last night stating that the two parties are naming Wan Azizah as the sole candidate for the Sultan to consider for the menteri besar’s post.

PKR and DAP said that their decision was in line with the convention that the Pakatan Rakyat parties had followed in 2013, when they had named Abdul Khalid as the sole candidate for thepost. This choice was accepted by the Sultan then, the statement said.

This was despite the Sultan asking for more than one candidate for MB to be named, according to a letter dated May 7, 2013 from the Sultan to the Pakatan parties, it said.

In view of this convention that was accepted by the Sultan in 2013, the Pakatan parties were naming Wan Azizah in view of the fact that she had already received the support of at least 30 members of the Selangor State Assembly, including herself, the press statement said.

The statement was issued by PKR secretary-general Datuk Saifuddin Nasution and DAP Selangor chairman Tony Pua.

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on August 27, 2014.