Political storm looks to be brewing in Terengganu

(The Star) KUALA TERENGGANU: A political storm is brewing in Terengganu after 10 Barisan Nasional assemblymen stayed away from the second sitting of the State Assembly yesterday.

The official reason given was that they feared for their safety after three of them claimed to have received death threats via SMS.

Unoccupied: Backbencher Nawi Mohamad (BN – Hulu Besut) sitting among the empty chairs as 10 of his colleagues decided to stay away from the State Assembly sitting yesterday. On the right are exco members Rozi Mamat (front) and Dr Abdul Rahman Mokhtar.

However, there were also suggestions that they were staging a boycott in apparent protest against the leadership of Mentri Besar Datuk Ahmad Said.

In the past week, talk had been rife that the Barisan assemblymen would move a motion of no-confidence against Ahmad when the assembly convened on Monday.

Ahmad had earlier warned the assemblymen not to table such a motion against him as this could taint the image of the state Barisan.

He also threatened to sack those who defied his order.

State Backbenchers Club chairman Datuk Rosol Wahid said the 10 assemblymen – all backbenchers – decided to stay away from the assembly because of “safety factors” after alleged death threats were received yesterday morning.

“We are not boycotting the assembly. We decided to gather at a hotel because we are very afraid,” he said at the hotel.

He claimed that all 10 had applied for leave.

The three who claimed to have received death threats, said to have originated from Ahmad’s private secretary Wan Ahamad Wan Muda, were Rosol, Paka assemblyman Zakaria Ariffin and Permaisuri assemblyman Halim Jusoh.

Wan Ahamad later denied sending the SMS and lodged a police report at the state police headquarters.

One of the assemblymen, who declined to be named, however, said that there was a boycott of the assembly.

“The Mentri Besar should resign. We do not intend to table a motion of no-confidence against him at the assembly but he should get the message that he is not favoured by Barisan assemblymen,” he said.

Besides Rosol, Zakaria and Halim, the others who stayed away were Tepoh assemblyman Muhammad Ramli Noh, Mohd Zawawi Ismail (Kuala Berang), Datuk Din Adam (Bukit Besi), Alias Abdullah (Alor Limbat), Ramlan Ali (Jabi) and Mohd Pehimi Yusof (Kota Putera).

Muhammad Ramli later said that all 10 would attend the sitting today.

There are 13 backbenchers and 10 exco members, including Ahmad, in the assembly. The Opposition has eight members, all of them from PAS.

All Opposition members, including PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, were present.

Despite the boycott, the assembly, however, continued as usual.

Ahmad, when approached by reporters during a break, said he was shocked that the assemblymen had resorted to such action.

“I will contact them to find out why they did this. As Mentri Besar, it is my duty to find out the rationale of the 10 for doing this,” he said.

When asked about the death threats sent to three representatives via SMS, Ahmad said he had no knowledge of it.

Ahmad’s appointment as Mentri Besar after the 2008 general election was controversial from the beginning as it was not the original choice of the Barisan, which had chosen former mentri besar Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh.

Ahmad was, however, sworn in and then prime minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi later said that the Barisan would accept him as Mentri Besar.