(The Malay Mail) - “Now is the time for Kuala Besut folks to be grateful that their MP became a minister. And one at an important ministry, to boot,” the Umno information chief told reporters here.
Terengganu Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Said today reprimanded Terengganu residents for being “stingy” with their support for Barisan Nasional (BN), blaming them for leaving his administration at risk of what could be Malaysia’s first-ever hung assembly.
The BN administration in the east coast state is now clinging on by one seat in the 32-spot assembly, after it won just 17 seats to Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) 15 in Election 2013. One of its assemblymen died last month, triggering the July 24 by-election that will determine if the government stands or falls.
“The government has never tricked the people ... But the people are actually too ‘kedekut’ (stingy) to give their votes to BN,” Ahmad said during the launch of a low-cost housing project here today.
“Sometimes the Terengganu folks, I don’t know, when you promise them the moon, the stars, the heavens, they forget the deeds of BN.”
He pointed to Terengganu residents’ alleged ingratitude towards the “generosity” of the BN state government, which he said has lavished upon them financial aid and subsidies, including the low-cost housing project he launched today.
Ahmad said that many voters had been hoodwinked by promises from the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR), including cheaper cars and fuel prices as well as free higher education.
“I really don’t know what the folks want. In the last elections, 15 seats fell to the opposition. The opposition has never even done anything,” he added.
Yesterday, Datuk Ahmad Maslan had taken a softer tact with Kuala Besut residents, urging them to vote for the BN candidate in the by-election in return for their MP being appointed a minister.
Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh won the Besut parliamentary seat — which includes the Kuala Besut state constituency — with a 8,342 majority in the May polls, leading to his appointment as Education Minister II in Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s revamped Cabinet.
“Now is the time for Kuala Besut folks to be grateful that their MP became a minister. And one at an important ministry, to boot,” the Umno information chief told reporters here.
The prominence of one-time rivals Idris and Ahmad in the by-election has led to talk of rival factions within the state Umno and heightened fears of internal sabotage, forcing BN to mobilise its big guns for a relatively minor by-election.
Kuala Besut is considered an Umno stronghold, as it has won there by over 2,000 votes in the previous two elections. But the party and the larger BN coalition are sparing no effort to ensure that it does not fall into PR’s hands.
Beyond the crisis that a hung assembly will trigger, a defeat there could have repercussions at the Umno election later in the year, given the BN coalition’s new low of Election 2013.
The alleged tiff between Idris and Ahmad started after the latter was appointed mentri besar following Election 2008.
A long-serving statesman in Terengganu, Idris has been instrumental in winning back Terengganu from PAS in the 2004 general election. BN had won 28 seats compared to PAS’s four.
Despite the federal government’s recommendation, the Terengganu Ruler, Sultan Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, refused to reappoint him after Election 2008 and swore in Ahmad instead.
BN’s Tengku Zaihan Che Ku Abdul Rahman will face local boy from PAS, Azlan Yusof, for the Terengganu state seat in the July 24 by-election which was called following the death of Dr A. Rahman Mokhtar on June 26 from lung cancer.
In Election 2013, Dr Rahman had defeated PAS’s Napisah Ismail with a comfortable 2,434-vote majority.