ALOR SETAR: I am back! These were the first words of new Kedah Menteri Besar Mukhriz Mahathir at his first press conference after being sworn in today.
Mukhriz said the hard work of over two years has paid off, with Pakatan Harapan successfully taking the Kedah state government.
“It is somewhat surreal. I did not expect this. As you can imagine, there was talk I might end up in the federal government.” But he said he loved to be in Kedah, “a beautiful state” where the party had good support from the people.
“We have a good thing going on,” he said.
The Kedah PH chairman said he was grateful to have returned as menteri besar after his father Dr Mahathir Mohamad had taken office as Malaysia’s seventh prime minister, and with other menteris besar and chief ministers taking office.
Mukhriz said Pakatan Harapan needed to get down to work quickly in running the state government.
He would hold discussions on filling the 10 positions on the state executive council, and appointing a Speaker of the state assembly.
“We will start work immediately, as soon as the state executive council is formed” to fulfil the promises made in the PH election manifesto, he said.
He denied that he had formed a minority government (PH holds 18 seats out of 36 and is one short of a simple majority).
“The opposition has a bloc of 15 plus 3, and we have a large bloc of 18, and that is the one that counts. It is not a minority government. It is a divided government. I have to admit that. We have a split seats situation. But I think it is all right as long as we get the mandate from the leadership of PH,” he said.
He said it was not in Kedah’s best interest to have an “opposition government” of a party in opposition to the one holding federal power. “You will not get much support from the federal government so it is best for Kedah to be this way.”
Admitting that PH did not win as many seats as it had hoped for, Mukhriz said it was only because they did not spend money like how BN did in this election campaign.
“The odds were stacked against us. You would have noticed that the government machinery was working against us. It was quite serious. The money that poured in was also quite unprecedented.
“In spite of that, I believe we did quite well,” he said.
‘New administration but with old timers’
Mukhriz also expressed his belief that Pakatan Harapan has the experience to manage both the state and federal governments even better than BN all these decades.
“Although, it is a new administration in the state and federal governments, we are all ‘orang lama’ (old timers).
“I also realised that there were several policies I launched when I was in BN as MB. We will fine tune these policies, and if needed we will continue with them,” he said.
On what the new PH state government intended to do for Kedah after this, Mukhriz said they would first of all fulfil the promises it had made in PH’s manifesto for Kedah in the first 100 days.
“We will look into solving the issue of water. Within 100 days, we will draft a strategy on how to solve this problem.
“We will also look into drawing investments to Kedah to generate job opportunities. We will also look into housing.
“All these issues are in our manifesto, and we will implement them as soon as possible,” he said.
Mukhriz further expressed hope that the opposition bloc in Kedah will be able to play their role of opposing in a mature manner, and that there would be no confrontations between the state government and the opposition.
“We are here to develop our beloved state. So, whatever criticisms that come our way will be accepted, as this is for the general good of the people.
“We welcome the opposition being the proper check and balance to the new Kedah state government.
“There is no point in playing politics to the extent of hampering the plans of the state government, as this would in turn negatively impact the people. I hope both sides can work together,” he said.
On speculation that two Kedah BN representatives, Suraya Yaacob and Norsabrina Mohd Noor would hop over to PH, Mukhriz said they would be most welcome to join the new ruling coalition.