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2008/03/30
'Now we close ranks and work for the people'
By : ROSLI ZAKARIA
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Datuk Ahmad Said has forgiven those who were against his appointment
Datuk Ahmad Said has forgiven those who were against his appointment

Terengganu Menteri Besar Datuk Ahmad Said is determined to put the controversy surrounding his appointment behind him and tells ROSLI ZAKARIA that he is geared up for the challenges ahead

Q: Your appointment as the menteri besar was shrouded in controversy. Now that you have the blessings of the Umno supreme council, how do you feel about your appointment?

A:
It is an experience I will never forget. I am happy that the Umno supreme council has endorsed me but at the same time, I feel sad that a lot of time has been wasted.

Now that the controversy is over, it is time to work.

Q: The appointment of executive councillors will be your priority. Who among the 22 state assemblymen will fit into your plans for the state?
A:
Yes, it is one of my priorities. I intend to have a good mix of old and new faces in the line-up. I will get the views of Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh (former menteri besar) on those who are qualified to undertake the responsibility.

I hope to meet him soon and form the exco in 10 days.

Q: There are those among the 22 state assemblymen who spoke out against your appointment and had threatened to boycott the swearing-in ceremony. Will you appoint any of them exco members?

A:
I can understand their anger and their loyalty (to Idris). I am not a vindictive person. Anyway, becoming a menteri besar was beyond my wildest dreams.

I believe that after a series of meetings and discussions with top party leaders, the problem is now well understood by everyone .

I do not want to elaborate on the problems but suffice to say that all the assemblymen have been forgiven. Anyway, they are my friends and we are in the same party and fight for the same cause.

I will not dismiss the possibility that some of them may be included in the exco.

Q: This episode has divided Umno members in the state and many are saying that Umno will have a tough time regaining the confidence of voters. How will you deal with this matter?

A:
This is a lesson that each and every Umno member must learn. We have been weakened by disunity. We will have to work hard to win back the confidence of voters and to ensure unity in the party.

The task will not be easy and I will need the support of party leaders at all levels. We will start working immediately.

Q: You had a meeting with the prime minister before you left for Kemaman. What was discussed?

A:
Yes, I met the prime minister before going to my parents' home in Telok Kalong. What transpired is not for the media to know.

Q: Will the controversy over your appointment affect your relationship with Idris?

A:
I have worked with Idris for a while. We were schoolmates. We have struggled together from 1999 to win back the state from Pas.

He is experienced and many people respect him for his vision. I may need to pick his brains. No, I don't think the controversy over my appointment has soured our relationship. We are still friends.

Q: The Monsoon Cup became an issue in the general election as the opposition claimed that it was a waste of public funds. Will the event be scrapped?

A:
I have no intention of scrapping the event. The Monsoon Cup is not just the pride of Terengganu but also the nation. What I plan to do is to introduce more side events which will benefit the locals. The approach will be different because this is what the people want.

Q: The people have also been talking about the mega projects that brought little benefit to them. This again raised the issue of money not being spent wisely to help the poor. The statistics showed that Terengganu is still among the poorest states in the country. What are your plans ?

A:
Poverty eradication will be among my priorities. We may have to look at new approaches and mechanisms to make sure future poverty eradication programmes are more effective.

Our focus will be on raising the income of the poor.

Q: With the political and economic challenges that you will face, how confident are you in taking Terengganu a step further as a developed state?

A:
We have to look at things positively. There are many challenges. Some we can overcome overnight, some may take time. We will take it in our stride and I am confident that the target of becoming a developed state will be met. Give us a chance to prove ourselves.
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