KUALA TERENGGANU - The Barisan Nasional government in Terengganu is said to be facing a big headache over an ‘opposition bench’ within its own camp in the state assembly.
The rebels have been taunting Mentri Besar Ahmad Said almost from the day he took over the helm of the state administration from predecessor Idris Jusoh after the March 2008 general elections.
The dissenting group is said to be siding Idris, a one-term MB who was replaced amid a controversy that dragged the palace into Umno politics.
Idris’ supporters were so sore with the appointment of Ahmad that they went to the palace grounds to protest – shaking even the palace gates to display their displeasure.
They claimed that if not for ‘the grace of the palace’ Ahmad would not have been the mentri besar, claiming he would not have been chosen if it was a political decision.
But Ahmad has repeatedly reminded them that he is the ‘most senior’ among the Barisan assemblymen, having served longer than anyone else in the current assembly.
It is learnt, however, that there has lately been a change of heart among some of his opponents, who have now pledged to give their support to the embattled MB.
Defying the palace
Initially, all the elected Barisan representatives had thrown their support behind Idris, in an apparent defiance of the Terengganu palace.
The Barisan reps even stayed away from Ahmad’s audience with the chairman of the Regency Advisory Council to receive his appointment letter as MB from the Terengganu palace in April 2008.
Ahmad’s post became shakier when he embarked on drastic steps to remove and re-designate several senior government officials aligned to the former Idris’ administration.
There has since been a continuing attempt to dislodge Ahmad and to bring back Idris to the post to lead the state as well as Umno and the Barisan in Terengganu.
Boycott of state assembly sitting
In April 2009, Idris and nine others humiliated Ahmad by boycotting the second sitting of the state ate legislative assembly meeting.
The move came in the wake of speculations that a vote of no confidence would be tabled against Ahmad in the 32-seat state assembly. The Barisan holds 24 seats while the rest are held by PAS.
The idea, according to sources at that time, was to force Ahmad to step down.
The excuse given by the 10, however, was that they had received an SMS that their safety would be at stake if they attended the sitting. They, instead, holed up in a hotel.
Ahmad made no attempt to get them to the assembly and it was only when Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, newly-appointed to the post, intervened in the matter that the ’10 black boys’ returned to the proceedings.
The assemblymen claimed the threatening SMS was sent by a senior government official associated with Ahmad, but Najib said he had spoken with the mentri besar who denied it had come from his office
Nevertheless, it was a small triumph for the rebel group and led to other events that eventually saw Ahmad replaced as state Umno chairman. Party vice-president Hishammuddin Hussein (pic) took over the slot in May.
In an attempt at reconciliation, Hishamuddin, who is Home Minister, gathered all Umno division heads and Umno state asssembymen at his office in Putrajaya to give them a ‘pep talk.’
Ahmad and Idris, who is said to be close to the vice-president, also attended the meetings.
When the state assembly reconvened, the group of 10 returned to their places.
Shift to silent mode
Still in the mood to protest, they declined to speak in the august House this time. They kept quiet even in the face of criticisms from PAS backbenchers against the state government.
It prompted Ahmad top comment: “At least we’re seeing some improvement. The last time, they didn’t attend the meeting. Now, they are here.”
Ahmad’s aides said the mentri besar, tired of confronting the rebels with their own badmouthing tactics, chose to take a more positive approach – by not criticising his opponents.
Even at the meetings with Hishammuddin, the MB chose to be quiet when one of the rebel assemblyman bluntly criticised him in front of the party vice-president.
Also, when speculations were rife that the group had met PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim and were thinking of hopping to that party, Ahmad also kept an indifferent stance.
The silence of the rebels did not last. After being long ignored by the MB and most of the other state assemblymen, the 10 started to ‘heat up’ the House again with incessant criticisms of Ahmad’s administration.
It's now a group of four
Lately, however, the news from the administration grapevine had it that six of the rebel assemblymen have decided to make peace with Ahmad and have dissociated themselves from Idris’ group; now reduced to four.
Beside Idris himself, those who remained included backbenchers club chairman Rosol Wahid. The other two are former state executive councilors Din Adam (Bukit Besi assemblyman) and Alias Abdullah (Alor Limbat).
For the time being, it looks like harmony has returned to the Barisan fold in the Terengganu state assembly.
But some political observers are not too sure about how the six ‘defectors’ would measure up as supporters of the MB when, all along, they were against Ahmad’s appointment.
Ahmad, in the meantime, continues to play iot cool. - Malaysian Mirror
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