With the glow gone, Ahmad Said has tough questions to answer


KUALA LUMPUR, June 10 – A year ago, Datuk Ahmad Said’s political career was flying.

The brash and rough-around-the-edges politician was plucked from obscurity and appointed Mentri Besar of Terengganu, the beneficiary of a fallout between Datuk Idris Jusoh and Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin.

He was paraded by supporters of the royal household as the man who would ensure that development reached everyone in the oil-rich state, who would not allow the pristine environment of Terengganu to be trampled by timber tycoons and someone who would have his finger on the pulse of the rakyat.

Umno leadership at the federal level were not in favour of his appointment but were in no position to play hardball with the palace, given the negative sentiment surrounding Barisan Nasional’s performance in the general elections and Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s tenuous hold on power then.

So Ahmad took office. The most charitable view of him then was that he was a sound grassroots politician who would be able to win over the ordinary folk by making sure that oil royalties flowed to the ground.

The pessimists believed that he would surround himself with “advisers’’ and get embroiled in controversy and forget about the rakyat within a few months.

The pessimists seem to have read him correctly.

When Ahmad Said meets Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak tomorrow, he will have more than his share of questions to answer.

Reports have reached Putrajaya that oil royalty paid out since he became MB have not had the multiplier effect.

Indeed, it is not clear where the revenue from oil and gas was channelled to.

As troubling are allegations that timber concessions for more than 20,000 hectares of land have been given to “influential players’’ in the state.

The state government could also find itself in a pickle if it insists on building a larger dam than the one proposed by Tenaga Nasional Berhad.

Officials familiar with discussions on the project said that a larger dam was unnecessary and would only result in a delay in completing the project.

They point out that a larger dam would result in the need to cut down more trees and flood a larger area.

Not only will this move draw the ire of environmental groups, it will also expose the state government to charges of being more interested in handing out timber concessions.

In addition, given the current sour mood against the constitutional monarchy in the country, some of the issues surrounding Ahmad Said’s handling of economic and environmental issues could also hurt the royal household.

After all, the view in Terengganu is that the MB is holding office at the pleasure of the Sultan, having lost much of the goodwill of the ordinary folk which accompanied him into office 12 months ago.

Ahmad Said is still facing a revolt from several Umno warlords in the state over his opaque style of governing and his determination to sideline those politicians who are linked to Idris.

Yes, the glow certainly looks to have deserted the man who only a while ago was paraded as a man of the people.-MalaysianInsider