Terengganu's Mahathir: The Star columnist

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

By Joceline Tan 
The Star/Asia News Network 

Former Terengganu Mentri Besar Ahmad Said is said to be quite amused at being described as the Terengganu version of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The way Ahmad has gone about trying to oust his successor in Terengganu has been all too similar to the way Dr Mahathir has been going after the Prime Minister.

Ahmad has pulled off one stunt after another to unseat Mentri Besar Ahmad Razif Abd Rahman, each one more outrageous than the last. He wants Ahmad Razif to resign by hook or by crook. 

Every state assembly sitting has become a stage for him to threaten and humiliate Ahmad Razif and to push the state government to the edge of reason.

And that is why Monday's (Aug 8) state assembly sitting is crucial for the survival of Ahmad Razif’s administration.

Ahmad has been able to do all that because of Barisan Nasional’s flimsy hold on power in the state. Barisan has 17 seats against 14 by PAS and one by PKR.

All it needs is for one Barisan man to jump over to the other side or for two assemblymen to declare themselves as independent and it is game over for the Barisan government.

People have been punished by and sacked from Umno for less but Ahmad has been allowed to run wild.

Will the sitting be another drama-filled session? No one can quite predict what the former Mentri Besar will get up to.

During the March meeting, he caught everyone by surprise when he tried to move a motion of no-confidence against Ahmad Razif. 

He was foiled by Speaker Datuk Zubir Embong who swiftly adjourned the meeting for lunch and the attempted motion was eventually rejected.

The Ahmad Razif camp is much more prepared this time around or, rather, they are prepared for the worst.

“The MB is ready to dissolve the state assembly if he has to. We have explored all options and we’ve consulted the state legal adviser,” said Air Putih assemblyman Wan Hakim Wan Mokhtar.

The Mentri Besar is said to have met the Prime Minister to press his case to call for a snap election in Terengganu. 

Ahmad Razif told his inner circle that he has informed Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak that the most effective way out of the imbroglio is to dissolve the state assembly.

He argued that Ahmad would continue making trouble at every state assembly sitting, and he was worried about the budget meeting at the end of the year. The state administration would be badly affected if the state Budget could not be passed because of Ahmad’s politicking.

He told the Prime Minister that other assemblymen were pressuring him to reshuffle the state exco and drop those who support Ahmad.

However, the Prime Minister is believed to be non-committal because stand-alone state elections are costly and have long-term repercussions.

The Ahmad Razif camp is pushing for snap polls because their survey has shown that Umno would be able to retain the state.

Umno’s confidence is bolstered by the fact that a snap election would mean multi-cornered fights involving PAS and Amanah which could work in Umno’s favour.

“It will be a larger scale version of what happened in the by-elections in Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar,” said a Kuala Terengganu-based businessman.

The survey showed that if there are multi-cornered fights, the worst case scenario for Umno is 20 seats and the best case scenario could see Umno doing as well as 25 seats.

However, Umno in Terengganu is also famous for sabotage and seats have been lost when those not picked as candidates undermine the ones who are selected to contest.

The snap election will also test the strength of PAS and Amanah in this Malay heartland state and one Amanah state leader told the above businessman that the party has even identified Hishamuddin Abdul Karim, 38, as a possible Mentri Besar candidate.

Hishamuddin, an Al-Azhar graduate won the Tepoh state seat in 2013 under the PAS ticket but is known to be aligned to Amanah.

The real clash, in the event of a state election, will not be between Umno and PAS. It will be the ultimate test of survival for PAS and Amanah. The new party will have to pull its own weight against PAS because there will be no DAP or Chinese votes coming to Amanah’s aid.

“Our plan is to wait and see. We are not going to force a snap election but if it happens, we are prepared to face it,” said PAS election director Datuk Mustafa Ali.

However, Mohd Wahid Endut, the PAS assemblyman for Wakaf Mempelam, said the PAS backbenchers are ready to back Ahmad in his moves against the Mentri Besar.

“Sometimes we shout at each other, sometimes we drink coffee together, that’s politics,” he said.

A snap election is definitely on the table but it is an option of last resort. 

Much will depend on what Ahmad will do next. Ahmad has been threatening his party, claiming he has documents that will damage Umno leaders.

But the Mentri Besar’s men have also been building a file on Ahmad and some of his alleged peccadilloes during his years as the Mentri Besar.

They call it their senjata or secret weapon which they intend to use against Ahmad. 

Some call it the “dirty secrets file” and it is said to contain information on alleged timber concession scandals and other alleged misconduct of a personal nature.

Posters criticising Ajil assemblyman Ghazali Taib, an ally and relative of Ahmad, have also sprung up in the last few days.

The posters have slammed Ghazali as, “YB Ajil dorrok cetong”, which is Terengganu dialect for “useless” and a “tin can”.

“I keep hearing about ‘secret weapons’. I think both sides have lined up their weapons to use against each other,” said Terengganu political expert Dr Azmi Omar.

On Wednesday, the last day of syawal, the Mentri Besar attended a Hari Raya gathering in Cukai, a state seat in the Kemaman parliamentary constituency.

Cukai is located next to Kijal where Ahmad is assemblyman but he was notably absent. Even the PAS assemblyman for Cukai, Hanafiah Mat, was there.

Accounts of the crowd turnout have ranged from about 5,000 to a staggering 15,000. 

The gathering was also a sort of show of force by the Ahmad Razif camp because a few days ago, Ahmad had held a gathering nearby where he made a blistering speech against the Mentri Besar.

Ahmad’s inability to accept being replaced as Mentri Besar is about to become the stuff of legends. 

He does not seem to understand that political positions are not personal to holder and that politicians come and go.

The Chinese have this saying that one rises because of opportunity and one should come down with wisdom. Ahmad was given the opportunity to go up but he does not know how to come down.

He feels that he was pushed down from the stage, he knows he cannot get back onto the stage and he wants to bring down the whole stage.

The saddest part of it all is his inability to accept responsibility for the fact that Barisan almost lost the state in 2013. 

The hot-headed Ahmad was not an exceptional Mentri Besar and he was not the worst either but he paled in comparison with his predecessor Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh.

He has blamed everyone but himself for almost losing the state to PAS and his actions will contribute to more problems for the coalition in the next general election.

There is speculation that Ahmad may resign from Umno to exacerbate the crisis but those in the know say he would not want to cut himself from the loop.

He wants to replace Ahmad Razif with someone who is aligned to him so that he will have an indirect say over state matters and more important over the selection of candidates for the next general election. It will also be his lifeline to contesting again in the general election.

But that is how logical people think and Ahmad has defied logic so far.

“Everyone will be watching what Ahmad gets up to this Monday but I think the Speaker will be the one who will have the biggest say on the course of events,” said Dr Azmi.