By Adib Zalkapli, Shannon Teoh and Lee Wei Lian
IPOH, Feb 5 — Perak plunged deep into crisis today after Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin refused to resign on the orders of Sultan Azlan Shah, desribing the situation as a coup by Barisan Nasional, while the Umno-led coalition prepares to be sworn in as the new government.
Umno leaders, including Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi, are already gathering at the Istana Kinta here, even as Pakatan Rakyat leaders seek a last-minute reprieve from the ruler.
"We are not rejecting the decision of the Sultan. We are pleading to ask for the dissolution of the assembly.
"The Sultan told me that BN has 31 to 28 but I told him that was inaccurate as three have vacated their seats.“I asked for consent to dissolve to protect the rights of the people,” he told reporters at the official residence of the MB here.
He said the Sultan had asked him to resign, and he told the ruler he would not.
Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said the PR alliance of Pas, PKR and DAP fully supported Nizar, and wanted the matter “returned to the court of the people”.
“BN has twisted it as if we are committing treason. But we are merely pleading.
“The leadership council of Pakatan will seek an audience with the Sultan,” he told reporters at the same press conference.
Pakatan Rakyat leaders were earlier locked in an emergency meeting following Sultan Azlan Shah’s refusal to grant a dissolution of the Perak state assembly and his order for Nizar to resign.
This decision to not to resign will lead PR on a collision course with the Sultan, whose decision has been greeted with immense criticisms even on his own website where visitors have been expressing their disappointment.It is understood letters have been sent by fax to the MB's and all state executive councillors, asking them to vacate their offices.
The police have also set up road blocks around the state secretariat here.
Many offices have also closed early for the day, with employers asking their staff to go home early.
It remains unclear if a planned public rally tonight will go ahead but Barisan Nasional leaders are already going ahead with plans to form the next state government.
Earlier, Sultan Azlan Shah announced his refusal to give his consent for the dissolution of the Perak state assembly, and asked Nizar to resign in a statement carried by national news agency Bernama.
And if Nizar refuses to resign, the post will be declared vacant.
This will pave the way for BN to form the next state government.
The office of the Sultan of Perak, in a statement, said that after meeting all the 28 BN assemblymen and the three independents, the Sultan was convinced that Nizar had ceased to command the confidence of the majority of the state assembly members.
"If YAB Datuk Seri Ir Mohammad Nizar bin Jamaluddin does not resign his post as Perak menteri besar together with the members of the state executive council, the posts of menteri besar and state executive councillors are considered vacant," the statement said.
It is understood that a candidate for the MB's position has already been proposed to the Sultan, who has given his approval.
Umno president Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi is also expected to meet the Sultan at 6pm today to confirm the formation of a new state government.
A mammoth gathering has been planned tonight, originally to be held at the MB's residence, but which has apparently been shifted to the Perak Stadium.
Earlier, the Sultan concluded a busy morning of talks with both Nizar and Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Najib Razak in a bid to break the political impasse in the state.
He met Najib twice before summoning Nizar to his palace as well.
"Signs are good," Nizar told reporters as he left the palace.
But Najib was equally optimistic that the Sultan would rule in his favour and allow BN to form the state government.
In his second audience with the Sultan, Najib brought along the 28 BN state legislators and the three independents backing the coalition to see the Ruler to make his case for a new government.
"A second audience with the Sultan was arranged. It was attended by all 27 Barisan state assemblymen and Datuk Nasarudin Hashim, who has returned to BN, together with the three state representatives who left their parties and are now supporting Barisan.
"All of them pledged their support to Barisan, and the person to be appointed as the menteri besar later, before the Sultan," he told reporters before chairing the state Umno liaison committee meeting.
He said the final decision now rests with the Sultan.
Najib added that BN would respect and abide by the Ruler's decision, even if meant the dissolution of the state assembly to enable fresh state elections to be called.
Nizar's Pakatan Rakyat government has filed a suit to declare three state seats vacant after their representatives turned independent. The three — from Behrang, Changkat Jering and Jelapang — have thrown their support behind BN, which also accepted back the Bota assemblyman who had defected earlier.
Pakatan Rakyat had hoped this move would persuade the Perak Sultan to accede to a request to dissolve the 59-seat assembly and pave the way for snap polls.
Earlier, Najib was granted an audience with Sultan Azlan Shah this morning a day after he declared BN has enough support to form the state government.
Najib was seen entering Istana Kinta here around 10am accompanied by Bagan Datok MP Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi and other BN officials.
The cheerful-looking Najib and the state Umno deputy chief Zahid left the palace about 30 minutes later.
When met later Najib said that he had informed the Ruler that BN has the majority in the state assembly and intent to form the new state government.
He added that the Sultan had expressed his wish to meet all 31 BN supporters in the assembly before the decision on the new state government can be made.
"We will respect whatever decision made by the Sultan as it is his discretion," Najib told reporters at the state Umno building.
The deputy prime minister, who is also the Perak BN chairman, announced yesterday the coalition now enjoys the support of 28 of its assemblymen and three independents in the legislative assembly with 59 members.
The state BN's success in toppling the PR government would give legitimacy to Najib's leadership as he is slated to take over the premiership by the end of March, after suffering a blow with the defeat in the Kuala Terengganu by-election.
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