Terengganu's fighter backs off, for now: The Star columnist

Datuk Seri Ahmad Said (center) speaking during a press conference after being appointed as the Terengganu Perkasa president today.
Datuk Seri Ahmad Said (center) speaking during a press conference after being appointed as the Terengganu Perkasa president today.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Joceline Tan 
The Star/Asia News Network 

Everyone turned to look at Datuk Seri Ahmad Said when he walked into the state assembly chamber shortly after it started.

He was the only assemblyman wearing a suit and tie while the others were in traditional baju Melayu. He looked well-groomed, his greying hair was neatly cropped and he had posed in a good-natured way for the hoard of reporters camped outside.

However, that was not the only reason why he stood out. Ahmad was the man of the moment and many of those already seated were expecting fireworks from him.

As the morning wore on, it became clear that the Kijal assemblyman and former mentri besar was, well, not his usual self.

He sat passively in his place, occasionally turning to chat with Air Putih assemblyman Wan Hakim Wan Mokhtar. He made no attempt to stand up and speak, unlike at the last assembly sitting in March when he sprang a surprise emergency motion against the Mentri Besar.

But Ahmad was closely following the debate because he pointed out to Wan Hakim that one of the opposition assemblymen, who was complaining about some joint state and federal projects, “does not know what he is talking about”.

It seemed like the lion had turned into a pussy cat.

In fact, this time around, it was Wan Hakim who tried to table an emergency motion to debate the immunisation and vaccination issue that has been of great concern to parents with young children. 

But emergency motions, no matter how pressing, rarely see the light of day and Wan Hakim did not succeed in his quest.

Ahmad was again the centre of media attention when the sitting adjourned for the morning break. He was bombarded with questions every step of the way, but all of them were met with the standard reply of “don’t know”.

“It was not the Ahmad that we know. He is always vocal and makes big statements but today he was not like that. He sat quietly inside and then he went off,” said a Kuala Terengganu-based journalist.

Ahmad did not join his YB colleagues for the coffee break, nor did he return to the sitting. It was an anti-climax to the most awaited assembly sitting.

It meant that Mentri Besar Ahmad Razif Abd Rahman had survived a week of incidents that threatened to derail the state government.

He has no intention of resigning and he is said to have done his homework on the legalities involved in any attempt to unseat him.

On the evening before the assembly sitting, he summoned all the assemblymen – except Ahmad – to his Mentri Besar office. 

He took a reconciliatory tone, asked for their cooperation, urged them to think as one big Umno family and said he wanted to move beyond petty politics and focus on matters of state.

Ajil assemblyman and state exco member Ghazali Taib, who had criticised the Mentri Besar at a press conference days earlier, also explained his action and tried to smoothen the ripples that he had caused.

The meeting ended with a senior assemblyman being sent as an emissary to speak to Ahmad that very evening and persuade him to put the party’s interest above all else.

Ahmad himself had set the tone a day earlier when he said that his aim was not to push the state into a snap election and that he only wanted Ahmad Razif to step down.

It is understood that a group of assemblymen and Umno division chiefs sympathetic to Ahmad had also met the Prime Minister on Saturday afternoon.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was not keen on something as messy and costly as a state election and had advised the group to help contain the political situation in Terengganu and focus on managing the state.

In short, there have been several shrewd behind-the-scene moves to pull the state government back from the brink of disaster.

Now that the crisis has been averted, some politicians in the state have taken to blaming the media for what happened. But the sequence of events suggest the politicians themselves started the fire.

The latest drama was sparked off by a report that Ahmad Razif tendered to the Umno management committee which met on July 29, prior to the Umno supreme council meeting. The report had allegedly asked for Ahmad to be sacked and that the state government was prepared to face a snap state election.

The committee chaired by deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was not in favour of a snap election and advised the Mentri Besar to try to sort out his problems.

According to a party insider, Ahmad Razif raised the matter again at the supreme council meeting, where there was sympathy but no support for a state election.

Word got out to Ahmad, who was furious to hear of the call to sack him even though no such decision was adopted.

The next day, the hot-headed Ahmad hit back when he officiated at the ground-breaking ceremony for the new Umno building for the Kemaman division. He warned his detractors of what he could do to undermine them and dropped threatening hints of a possible snap state election. The rest is history.

Ahmad’s bargaining clout is not like before. Ahmad Razif managed to call his adversary’s bluff by indicating that the state government will move to dissolve the state assembly if pushed to the wall.

Ahmad was the Mentri Besar when Barisan Nasional came within an inch of losing Terengganu. He would not want to be blamed for Terengganu falling in the event of a snap polls. 

But that does not mean that he is backing off. He told the popular Malay news portal Agenda Daily yesterday that in a war, one does not make a move when the other side is all prepared. He warned that he will retaliate when attacked.

In other words, this is not the end of the story where Terengganu’s most famous fighting cock is concerned.