No easy road for Rais Yatim as three other senators set to contest Dewan Negara president post

Several sources told Malay Mail that Tan Sri Rais Yatim’s nomination has been challenged not just by the Opposition, but also Bersatu’s close ally in Umno. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Several sources told Malay Mail that Tan Sri Rais Yatim’s nomination has been challenged not just by the Opposition, but also Bersatu’s close ally in Umno. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 1 ― Four senators will be expected to vie for the Dewan Negara president seat tomorrow, a significant challenge towards Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s (Bersatu) Tan Sri Rais Yatim who was previously seen as a shoo-in candidate.

Several sources told Malay Mail that the Negri Sembilan Bersatu chief’s nomination has been challenged not just by the Opposition, but also Bersatu’s close ally in Umno.

“The disagreement with Rais’ nomination has made others submit their nomination instead,” said one source close to Dewan Negara.

The senators which has submitted their candidacy are Yusmadi Yusoff from PKR who was nominated on August 27, Datuk Theodore Douglas Lind from Warisan (August 28), and Datuk Seri Muhammad Ali Mohammad from Umno whose candidancy was just confirmed yesterday.

According to the law, senators will cast secret ballots to choose their president and nominations should be informed to the senate’s office two days before the voting day.

The seat was vacant since June 22 after MIC president Tan Sri SA Vigneswaran finished his term as senator.

On August 28, six Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Opposition senators ― Yusmadi, Aiman Athirah (Parti Amanah Negara), Datuk Marzuki Yahya (Parti Pejuang Tanah Air), Liew Chin Tong (DAP), and Douglas Lind and Datuk Peter Mojuntin (Upko) ― expressed concern over Rais’s candidacy.

According to them, Rais is not the right individual to hold this role, and hoped for a president that can be accepted by all parties.

Among the candidates, Yusmadi, former Balik Pulau MP, is the youngest at 45 years old.

Former Balik Pulau MP Yusmadi Yusoff from PKR who was nominated on August 27. — Picture by KE Ooi
Former Balik Pulau MP Yusmadi Yusoff from PKR who was nominated on August 27. — Picture by KE Ooi

However he was unanimously elected as the first Dewan Negara Caucus as the chairman of the Senate Reform Working Committee which was established in December 2019.

The lawyer was appointed as senator by the Penang state in August 2018 after PH took power and he also served as adjunct professor at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization at his alma mater, International Islamic University of Malaysia.

Meanwhile, Rais was appointed as a senator in the Upper House in June, and a Barisan Nasional source previously said he would replace Vigneswaran whose term ended the same month.

A veteran politician, Rais was with Umno for decades, holding posts like Negri Sembilan mentri besar, minister of information, communications and culture, and minister of foreign affairs.

He quit Umno after BN lost the 14th general election and joined Bersatu, the second time he did so after previously quitting to join splinter party Semangat 46 in the 1990s before rejoining Umno.

Mohd Ali was appointed at the same time as Rais in his capacity as the Melaka Umno deputy chief after the party took over the Melaka state government from PH.

Douglas Lind meanwhile was appointed by Sabah’s Warisan government on August 27, 2018.

There are currently 62 senators who have taken their oath in Dewan Negara today, out of a maximum of 70.

The term of office is three years and senators may only be re-appointed once, consecutively or non-consecutively.

Each of the 13 state legislative assemblies chooses two senators. Yang di-Pertuan Agong can appoint two senators for the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, and one respectively for the Federal Territories of Labuan and Putrajaya on the advice of the prime ,inister.

Another 40 senators, regardless of their states, are appointed by the King, also on the prime minister's advice.

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