The neverending soap opera in Terengganu


NEXT Monday could be a do-or-die day for the Barisan Nasional government in Terengganu.

Joceline Tan, The Star

Mentri Besar Ahmad Razif Abd Rahman is prepared for the worst even though he has insisted that his government is not headed for a snap state election.

His team had a lengthy session with the state legal advisor and the outcome of the meeting was that if things go seriously wrong at the state assembly sitting on Monday, Ahmad Razif has no choice but to call for fresh polls.

Ahmad Razif has not had any peace from the day he took over because his predecessor Datuk Seri Ahmad Said has been unable to accept being removed from the top post.

Ahmad Said, who is the assemblyman for Kijal, has given the Mentri Besar and his administration a hellish time. As a result, every state assembly sitting has become a cliff-hanger that leaves a big question mark over the survival of the Barisan government which is ruling Terengganu with a majority of only two seats.

Barisan is in a precarious position with only 17 seats against PAS which has 14 seats and PKR which has one.

Terengganu politicians are expecting fireworks at this Monday’s sitting.

Ahmad Said fired a warning shot on Saturday when he officiated at the ground-breaking of the new Umno office in Kemanan where he is the Umno division chief. Speaking in thick Terengganu dialect, he hit out at the Prime Minister who he blames for losing his position as Mentri Besar.

But his most cutting words were reserved for the man who replaced him. He ranted against Ahmad Razif, accusing him of cutting off allocations for Kijal and of meddling in the constituency.

Ahmad Said has become a sort of Terengganu version of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad – someone who will not rest until he gets his way.

He tried to move a motion of no-confidence against Ahmad Razif at the March state assembly sitting but it was rejected by the Speaker Datuk Zubir Embong.

No one can quite guess what he will do this time around but everyone agrees that he is capable of anything.

The added danger this time is that Ghazali Taib, a state exco member and assemblyman for Ajil, has joined forces with Ahmad Said in calling for the Mentri Besar’s resignation.

Ghazali is related to Ahmad Said by marriage and the pair, together with Bukit Besi assemblyman Roslee Daud, almost brought down the state government in May 2014 when they attempted to resign from Umno.

Ahmad Razif’s government will be in an intense state of siege in the coming days.

Political circles in Terengganu are abuzz with talk of the gelombang kuning or yellow wave. It is the euphemism for several Umno division heads and elected representatives aligned to Ahmad Said and their aim is to oust Ahmad Razif.

Those in the group claim that they only want to see Ahmad Razif gone. They claim that they still love Umno even though what they are doing is damaging the party.

Ahmad Said’s kampung style of politics was quite popular with the rural folk when he was the Mentri Besar. But his actions in the last couple of years have not been good for his image.

“This is the lowest point for Umno in Terengganu, morale is very low. One drama after another, it is so stressful for everyone and distracts from the real purpose of government which is to serve the people,” said Terengganu political expert Dr Azmi Omar.

The local folk, said Dr Azmi, are fed-up with the neverending politics. This is in stark contrast to the years when Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh was the Mentri Besar. He had ideas and drive, and the projects he implemented inspired people and gave them hope for the future.

Even if a snap election does not take place, the situation now could be the recipe for disaster for Umno in the general election. Terengganu has a reputation as a swing state. Seats here are won or lost by narrow majorities and the current turmoil could be a prelude to the state falling to PAS.

PAS has shown very little interest in taking over mid-stream. It does not want to inherit a troubled mandate and its president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang has indicated that his party intends to come to power by the front door, that is, via an election.

According to one Terengganu assemblyman, the state assembly sitting next week could result in three possible scenarios. The first is that Ahmad and his accomplice Ghazali could disassociate themselves from Umno and cause a hung assembly. Should that happen, the Mentri Besar will have to seek an audience with the Palace to dissolve the state assembly.

The second scenario is that instead of opting for a snap election, Umno may invite PAS to form a Unity Government. That may be a terrifying idea for those outside of Terengganu but it may actually go down quite well with Terengganu folk.

The third scenario is that the drama may fizzle out.

The political drama in Tereng­ganu has come to resemble a soap opera where every episode ends in a cliff hanger.

The thing is that Ahmad Razif is not enjoying the show. He is said to be thoroughly fed-up with his predecessor’s antics at undermining his administration.

Those around him have asked how long more he can continue putting up with threats from someone like Ahmad.

They claim that Ahmad Razif is not keen to take Barisan into a snap election but if that is forced upon him, he is mentally prepared for it.