KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 9 — The Pakatan Rakyat, which lost three Perak lawmakers last week, today lost its Bukit Gantang MP who died suddenly while Bukit Selambau assemblyman V Arumugam tonight quit both his Kedah executive council post and state seat. Kedah’s Menteri Besar Azizan Abdul Razak confirmed the resignation of Arumugam.
The death and resignation will add to the fledgling electoral pact’s woes as it continues to dispute losing the Perak government to Barisan Nasional in a controversial decision by the state ruler.
By-elections for both seats will be called within 60 days according to law.
Earlier today, Pas MP for Bukit Gantang Roslan Shaharum died suddenly of a suspected heart attack while cycling to a pharmacy, paving the way for at least one by-election in the state mired in a constitutional crisis and saddled with two menteri besars from rival coalitions.
Police said passers-by found the 50-year-old’s body by a slip-road at 11.15 am. His family said he will be buried at 6pm at his village in Changkat Lallang.
The Bukit Gantang by-election will be seen as a referendum for Barisan Nasional’s action to regain the state and Sultan Azlan Shah’s decision not to dissolve the 59-seat assembly after the Pakatan Rakyat led by Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin lost its slim majority through defections last week.
Incidentally, one of the defectors, Osman Jailu, represents the Changkat Jering state seat within the Bukit Gantang constituency.
Roslan, who was appointed chairman of the Perak Foundation last year, leaves behind a wife and 11 children. He was the human resource director for the Perak Economic Development Corporation before he quit to stand for elections last year.
In Election 2008, Roslan took the Bukit Gantang seat by beating Umno treasurer Datuk Abdul Azim Zabidi and Independent candidate Mohganan P. Manikam with a 1,566 majority. Roslan won 20,015 votes against Azim’s 18,449 while the indepedendent lost his deposit with just 872 votes.
His death brings back Pakatan Rakyat to just 81 seats in the 222-seat parliament after it gained an extra seat when Pas’s Abdul Wahid Endut convincingly won the Kuala Terengganu parliamentary seat last month following the death of BN’s Datuk Razali Ismail.
BN has yet to win in any by-elections since Election 2008 and the Bukit Gantang seat will prove no different due to the prevailing hostile mood against the ruling federal coalition after it took back the Perak government last week.
The by-election will test Barisan Nasional particularly Umno which is also going to party polls in March. The Election Commission has up to 60 days to hold by-elections upon a vacancy.
In Alor Star, Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak confirmed Arumugam has resigned from the executive council and state seat as he battles allegations of adultery. He had earlier complained about threats to his life, his family and aides including an attempted kidnap attempt.
Bernama reported Azizan as saying that the 55-year-old Arumugam had sent the resignation letter to the Kedah Sultan, adding that the Menteri Besar has been informed of the quit decision by Arumugam’s aide.
“Arumugam told him that he was relinquishing the post due to personal reasons and that it has nothing to do with the Pas leadership,” said Azizan, who is also Kedah Pas commissioner.
He later confirmed that the first-term assemblyman had quit the state seat.
Sources said Arumugam apparently took a second wife through a Hindu customary marriage leading his wife to accuse him of bigamy. It was learnt that he complained that government machinery was being used against him.
He won in Election 2008 as an independent candidate and only joined the Pas-lead Kedah government after being assured of an executive council post. He was in charge of domestic trade, Siamese and Indian affairs in the Pakatan Rakyat goverment, which has 22 seats in the 36-seat assembly.
Arumugam resigned as a trainer at the RMAF college in Alor Star to contest in the elections, getting 13,225 votes against MIC’s S. Krishnan’s 10,863 votes. Apart from Bukit Selambau, PKR also controls the Lunas, Bakar Arang, Sidam and Kulim state seats in Kedah.
Meanwhile, Election Commission chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Yusof said today the commission will meet to discuss the Bukit Gantang by-election once it recies official notice of Roslan’s death from Dewan Rakyat speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia. Parliament is due to convene on Feb 16.
This would be the third by-election since the 12th general election with the first in Permatang Pauh when PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail quit to make way for her husband, Anwar, to make his political comeback after his sacking in 1998 and subsequent convictions.
Anwar won the seat, his political stronghold since entering politics in 1982, with a bigger majority to return to turn to parliament after a decade. The other by-election was in Kuala Terengganu.
Pas MP dies, Arumugam quits