(NST) Menteri Besar Datuk Ahmad Said is accused of dictatorship and blatant cronyism by his detractors
IN an interview to commemorate his first year in office last month, Datuk Ahmad Said said his greatest challenge as Terengganu menteri besar occurred before he was appointed as one.
His description of the three-week political impasse when his appointment triggered protests from Umno colleagues sounded like nightmares one would never wish even on an enemy.
The 52-year-old Kijal assemblyman has enough years behind him to know that foes, more so political ones, never go away.
They either lie low or keep snapping at your heels until the next big opportunity to bite.
Last Friday’s Umno su-preme council meeting, chaired by president Datuk Seri Najib Razak, had many people in the state waiting expectantly.
Ahmad had just been put through another round of hell by his detractors the week before, who made it clear they wanted him replaced.
In just a week, he had to deal with a situation involving SMS death threats, police reports and a boycott of the state assembly sitting by an opposing group of Umno assemblymen.
Some of them said they had lost their patience and accused him of dictatorship and cronyism.
By Monday, word had gone around that Ahmad’s position as state liaison chief was unsafe.
And much to the delight of his detractors, this proved to be true after Najib announced that party vice-president Da-tuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein was replacing him.
The rumour mill worked overtime on Friday night.
By Saturday morning it was on overdrive, asking the same question: is this the beginning of the end for Ahmad?
By convention, menteris besar at the helm of Barisan Nasional-controlled states also chair the state Umno liaison committee.
There have been exceptions over the years, but mostly procedural such as former menteris besar who went on to hold cabinet posts before relinquishing the committee posts to their successors.
If there was any disappointment on Ahmad’s part over the decision, it was well-masked.
Shortly after Najib’s announcement, Ahmad said he welcomed Hishammuddin’s appointment, pledged his cooperation and called on all Umno members in Terengganu to accept the party’s decision.
Ahmad, as if knowing what his fate would be, had said throughout the week that he was prepared for any decision made by the party leadership.
Sources in Ahmad’s camp said they had no reason to hit the panic button.
They believed that their boss had been a victim of a political conspiracy all along.
They said: “This group (detractors) just refused to accept that he was chosen to become the menteri besar. From then on, they never stopped looking for the slightest fault.
“He never had a level playing field to begin with. There is dirty play going on.”
Ahmad’s supporters claimed that allegations of cronyism were unfounded, as the menteri besar was entitled to make changes, either in the administration or in policies, to suit his vision and agendas.
A senior state official said: “This is normal in politics. When there’s a new leadership, there’s bound to be new faces brought in for fresh ideas and implementation.”
The official said Ahmad possessed the integrity and standing to survive the crisis.
More importantly, he claimed Ahmad had the support of the party leadership and the people, whom he believed were aware of what was going on behind the scenes.
Political observers here, however, believe there will be an end to this saga once the leadership makes a decision
Until then, Ahmad will just have to bear with the heel snapping.