RECENTLY, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz said his ministry wanted to adopt Kuala Selangor to help spur the district’s development.
Tengku Zafrul’s announcement started the political grapevine going with fiery speculation that the former banker-turned-senator-turned- finance minister was eyeing the Kuala Selangor seat in the upcoming general election.
He denied such allegations, but of course, no one is buying his denial.
The talk became louder after Tengku Zafrul spent the recent Hari Raya Haji visiting 10 places in Kuala Selangor where korban (sacrifice) was being carried out.
Of course, it’s the right of every Malaysian to contest in any constituency – as long as they do not have a criminal record or is a bankrupt – and there is nothing wrong in Tengku Zafrul kickstarting an early campaign.
“We are a democratic nation. It is anyone’s right to contest wherever they want to, but Tengku Zafrul must not continue with his denial because it is not being forthright,’’ said Jeram assemblyman Mohd Shaid Rosli, who is also Pejuang’s Kuala Selangor parliamentary constituency coordinator.
He added that as a federal minister, Tengku Zafrul had access to all constituencies in every state but chose to come to Kuala Selangor.
“Who is he kidding when he claims he has no interest in contesting there?” said Mohd Shaid.
Selangor Umno chief Tan Sri Noh Omar has been very supportive and dubbed Tengku Zafrul as being a heavyweight candidate.
Noh, the Entrepreneur Development and Cooperative Minister and the MP for Tanjong Karang, said Selangor needed heavyweights to contest in GE15.
This could work in Barisan’s favour in its bid to retake Selangor, which it lost to Pakatan Harapan in 2008.
“I encourage and will give opportunities to young people, more so if they are well known such as Tengku Zafrul, who is also Selangor-born,’’ Noh has been quoted as saying.
However, not everyone is as supportive as Noh.
Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin, for one, has chided Tengku Zafrul’s move to get his ministry to “adopt” Kuala Selangor.
Khaled said he did not see why the Finance Ministry should take any constituency under its wing when it should be focusing on more pressing issues, like the struggling economy, among others.
Detractors were upset over how an entire ministry could be used to serve the political aspirations of one person, especially at a time when it (the ministry) is charged with solving the economic uncertainties and tribulations in the country.
DAP secretary-general Anthony Loke has called it an abuse of authority.
“Tengku Zafrul should not use his position as minister to give himself an advantage in a constituency,’’ Loke said.
He added that he had never come across a case of any ministry adopting a district or constituency.
There are many questions being asked, but the most burning one is whether it is permissible for a ministry to “adopt” a constituency where its minister may contest?
Kuala Selangor isn’t exactly an impoverished area and it is in Selangor, the country’s most developed and affluent state.
Such an “adoption” would be akin to pouring into an already overflowing barrel.
Universiti Sains Malaysia’s political science expert Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian also said it was not proper for “special interference” such as this to happen at any constituency.
“It will raise many questions and dent Tengku Zafrul’s reputation.
“It will give his political critics a bullet to attack him,’’ said Dr Sivamurugan.
He added that if Tengku Zafrul contested on his own merits and reputation, he could even be seen as a mentri besar candidate if Barisan Nasional wins the state.
Using the ministry could leave a blot on his record.
Sources say Umno folk in the Kuala Selangor division, including local political warlords, are also unhappy over Tengku Zafrul’s presence in their territory.
“The locals feel Tengku Zafrul is not an Umno member, and even if he does not belong to any party, his loyalty would be with Bersatu and Muhyiddin,’’ said the sources.
After the Sheraton Move, Bersatu president and then Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin pulled Tengku Zafrul from the corporate sector, made him a senator and appointed him as Finance Minister.
Retired academic Prof Datuk Dr Ramlah Adam said such an “adoption” has never happened before.
“To me, it is something unnatural. It has never happened before and it is a sad turn of events which will only make our politics go backward,’’ she added.
Furthermore, using the Finance Ministry to adopt the constituency may come across as an act of blatant political patronage, which is not healthy for the development of any nation.
Malaysia has to steer clear of such practices in order to create a mature democracy.
Again, it is not wrong for Tengku Zafrul to contest in Kuala Selangor, but he has to do it without resorting to the Finance Ministry holding his hands.