THE whispers are getting louder at PWTC, the UMNO headquarters. In fact, some of the whispers emanating from the top floors can be heard far away, and they don't sound so good, and much less upbeat.
The whispers are also heard from Putrajaya, the national administraive capital of the nation. The mood has not been very cheerful in the last few weeks, which prompted some so-called political pundits to forecast more dark days ahead.
Last Thursday, the whispers turned to groans as news filtered out that the party's Supreme Council had endorsed Kijal assemblyman Datuk Ahmad Said as the Terengganu Menteri Besar. The council also agreed not to pursue the nomination of Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh for the post.
Party president Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced this to a packed Press Conference after a long meeting held behind closed doors. Ahmad was the pick of the Terengganu Regency Advisory Council and while Idris was the Prime Minister's choice.
This should end the tussle between the Executive and the Palace for the choice of MB. Ahmad's swearing in should be done soon, a ceremony that will further test the resolve of 22 Umno assemblyman who had earlier publicly declared their rejection of the chosen one.
Before Thursday, the Prime Minister had stood his ground and insisted that he would push for Idris' second term as MB. This had given Idris and the 22 assemblymen who had given a written memorandum to the Terengganu Palace continued hope that their man would be the state CEO.
But Pak Lah's audience on Wednesday with the Yang DiPertuan Agong, who is also the Sultan of Terengganu, changed all that. Whispers coming out from the royal encounter indicated bad news for Idris and those on his side. And Pak Lah's news conference confirmed the whispers.
This was the second retreat (some of his detractors used the word defeat) for the Prime Minister. Less than two weeks ago, the Prime Minister had to backtrack from his earlier proclamation that Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim would be made MB of Perlis. Instead, the Palace chose Datuk Mohd Isa Sabu, thus ending another impasse which played itself out as yet another political sandiwara after the general elections.
But now fresh whispers are heard. The grapevine is full of rumours about the possibility of at least a couple of Cabinet ministers from Sabah quiting their post. Why they would want to do so is anybody's guess, but the whispers talk about unhappiness and grievances.
The whispers gained credibility when Tawau MP Datuk Ghafur Salleh tendered his resignation as deputy minister just eight days after he took his oath of office. The official reason was said to be personal but everyone knows that Sabah Umno is less than happy with seat allocation in the federal cabinet.
Sabah, mind you, brought the biggest haul of parliamentary seats in the March 8 election. And state leaders said more Sabah MPs should be promoted to the Cabinet. Just after Pak Lah announced his Cabinet about 10 days ago, the Kimanas MP from Sabah, Datuk Anifah Aman, snubbed the PM by rejecting his offer.
All these dramas do not augur well for the Prime Minister and the Barisan National. In recent days, these episodes have been the butt of jokes making their rounds via text messages and e mails. These are not laughing matters, I tell you. These are national issues never before seen, at least not in the proportion that we are now witnessing.
That the whispers will get louder is a given, to borrow a golf term. That the Executive is forced to 'concede' to the Palace in the issue pertaining to the appointment of the MBs of Perlis and Terengganu is a subject that has caused sleepless nights to the main cast.
There are big questions which play in the minds of MPs and State Assemblymen like Idris. When push came to shove, Idris was left to dry without much of a defence from his boss. After such open display of steadfastness, the executive had to back down, leaving a lot of unanswered questions in its wake.
It is now quite obvious that Ahmad's appointment is a fait accompli, similar to that of Isa Sabu in Perlis. Lest some of you think that this is a game of one upmanship, this is certainly not the case.
What the whole nation witnessed was a gross mishandling of engagements which, in the past, had taken place smoothly and with the minimum of fuss. Almost none in fact.
I'm not sure whether we have seen the last of these episodes. In private discussions, the Umno hierachy speak critically of the PM's handling of the episodes. I anticipate a lot more whispers in the coming weeks, and I dare not speculate what they will be this time.