THINGS are not getting any better politically. A major confrontation between the Executive and the Monarchy appears inevitable, and this is going to be very, very costly. No one knows yet what the outcome is going to be, but I doubt if it's going to be pretty.
The dispute over the selection of a Menteri Besar for oil-rich Terengganu is about to turn for the worse if no steps are taken quickly to find an amicable solution. While the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the ruling Barisan National insists that Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh continue to be the MB, the Palace prefers Kijal State Assemblymen Datuk Ahmad Said.
And we all saw the open display of support for Ahmad Said when he returned to Kemaman after his audience with the King in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Ahmad Said insisted that he also has the support of enough assemblymen, some of whom had earlier written a memorandum expressing their support to the Prime Minister and his MB nominee, Idris.
One can discuss and argue on the legal merits or otherwise of the issue at hand until the cows come home, but this will not guarantee a solution given the seriousness with which the feuding parties are trying to advance their case.
The truth of the matter is that the irony of the issue is not lost on the ordinary rakyat. Having spent millions in the March 8 general election, and having succeeded in defending their hold on Terengganu, the BN is about to shoot its own foot.
More than two weeks after retaining the state, the position of the MB is still a disputed affair. States under the control of Barisan Rakyat (DAP, PAS and PKR) have sorted out their leadership hierachy and is gradually starting their work in earnest.
Amidst the confusion (at least to the layman), Pak Lah's hold on the national leadership is being increasingly questioned. If the report in yesterday's Star is to be believed, some 80 branch leaders from Muar has joined the chorus urging Pak Lah to step down. The Star, while reporting the matter, buried the story deep in page 29.
It is not known who these branch leaders are, but when viewed alongside Gerakan's statement that the 'arrogance of some Umno leaders' had caused their defeat in Penang and elsewhere cannot but get the PM's attention.
The BN and its leaders have several major fights on their hands, that with the Monarchy being one of the major ones. Despite the plea by some of them not to engage in the blame game, the accusations and counter accusations are coming in thick and fast, providing much merriment to the Barisan Rakyat.
If Pak Lah is unable to see through Idris's appointment as the MB, especially after publicly declaring his support of his nominee, things can get pretty rough for the PM. In fact, many political observers say a lot more than just Pak Lah's reputation and dignity is at stake should he fail to push his man through.
There's talk that the Rulers are getting together among themselves to deliberate on the matter. A senior Umno leader is fearful of what the Rulers will do after they meet. Will they soften their stand, or take on a more hardened position?
While some may argue that the current dispute is nothing more than mind games for the ruling elite and the royal households, others fear that a more open and direct confrontation can have a disastrous effect on the country's credibility, its national leadership and the public's respect for the institutions.
I like to think that common sense will prevail. This country cannot afford to have a constitutional crisis of the proportion seen in the '80s. But really, the damage has been done. I hope I'm wrong, but I believe there will be casualties before a solution is found.