Raja Petra Kamarudin
I said in an earlier article in this same column that Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi should be out of office by Christmas. And his successor, I predicted, could either be Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, aspirant Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, or opposition head honcho Anwar Ibrahim. I have also always said that seven days is a long time in politics. What more seven months. And the fact that political fortunes change, subject to both internal as well as external factors beyond your control, means that the situation is always very fluid indeed.
Soon after the 12th General Election of 8 March 2008, the pressure mounted, not only for Abdullah to resign, but also for him to confirm his exit plan with details such as his resignation date and the name of his successor. The pressure, in fact, started in mid-2006 when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad first launched his salvo against Abdullah at a dialogue session in Kelab Century Paradise jointly-organised by Malaysia Today and a couple of NGOs. For almost two years Mahathir continued his attacks on Abdullah, interrupted in between by a couple of heart attacks and a heart operation.
Abdullah was up against two fronts -- internally from the Najib and Tengku Razaleigh forces and externally from Pakatan Rakyat led by Anwar Ibrahim. Of course, Pakatan Rakyat did not really pose that much a threat until after the general election when it managed to grab five states and 82 Parliament seats -- which resulted, for the first time, in Barisan Nasional losing its two-thirds majority in Parliament. It did happen once before, of course. But, then, it was the Alliance Party of Umno, MCA and MIC that lost its two-thirds majority -- but they managed to regain their majority when Barisan Nasional was formed and all the opposition parties except DAP joined the new coalition (although PAS left the coalition almost three years later and has remained in the opposition ever since).
There is another internal force, a fifth column, which is headed by Muhyiddin Yassin. But Muhyiddin has been very cautious in not openly siding with any of the three factions of Abdullah, Najib and Tengku Razaleigh. He is very cleverly building up his support base, which can later swing to any of the three factions depending on who has the best chance of winning. In that sense, Muhyiddin can play the role of kingmaker if he so wishes and in the event he feels he can never make it on his own unless he joins forces with Abdullah, Najib or Tengku Razaleigh.
Muhyiddin is no direct threat. He will only become a threat if he manages to build up enough support and then throws this support behind one of the three contenders. And that contender will most certainly be the candidate who has the best chance of winning. But then, who is it the contender that has the best chance of winning? That is something that is very fluid and keeps changing week to week.
By mid-June 2008, it appeared like Najib and Anwar were the two hot favourites. When Najib visited the Umno divisions, the grass-root members cheered him and ‘proclaimed’ him the new Umno President cum Prime Minister. This even happened in Abdullah’s own division. And Muhyiddin, who was there by his side, was cheered as the new Umno Deputy President -- although he feigned ‘shyness’ in typical Malay fashion. It looked like Najib was set to become the new Umno President with Muhyiddin as his running mate, which means they will be Malaysia’s new Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister respectively.
But then this will only happen if Anwar does not pull a coup. Anwar had boldly proclaimed many times that he will form the new federal government by Malaysia Day, 16 September 2008, and that at least 30 Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament are waiting in the wings and ready to cross over. The race was on. Either Najib pushes Abdullah out before 16 September or else he will be pushing Abdullah out just to become the opposition leader in Parliament and not the Prime Minister of Malaysia.
It was now either Najib or Anwar. And there was also Tengku Razaleigh and Muhyiddin to contend with, though not as potent as Najib and Anwar. Tengku Razaleigh and Muhyiddin are not too serious a problem, though problems nevertheless. It was Najib and Anwar who have to be dealt with, and dealt with before the Umno branch elections start this month and the division elections in August.
Suddenly, Najib and Anwar are facing controversy -- Najib with his Altantuya murder controversy and Anwar in a new sodomy allegation. Now Najib and Anwar have their hands full. They are busy clearing their names and have no time to worry about taking over the Prime Ministership. The issue is no longer which of the two can become the next Prime Minister but whether they can even stay out of jail. That is a more pressing problem. The job of Prime Minister will have to wait.
Saiful, the man who alleged that Anwar had sodomised him met Najib just before he lodged that police report against Anwar. At first Najib denied meeting the young man. Then, later, he admits that he did meet the chap after all, but only to discuss the young man’s career and future and to help him obtain a scholarship.
The earlier denial followed by the later admission does not augur well for Najib. The fact that a very busy Deputy Prime Minister has all the time in the world to meet a school dropout so that he can act as the latter’s career guidance counsellor is also a story many find hard to buy. Events and statements point to the fact that Najib is behind this latest sodomy allegation against Anwar.
That, at least, is what we are being led to believe. But what we have not been told is that Saiful was trained by the BTN (Biro Tata Negara), Malaysia’s propaganda outfit and an outfit headed by Abdullah loyalists. We are told that Saiful first surfaced a week or so before the 8 March 2008 general election when he reported to PKR’s party HQ as an election volunteer. Where did he come from and who brought him into the party HQ?
Yes, that is the most crucial question. Saiful did not just turn up on the doorstep of the party HQ from nowhere. He was brought in by his very close friend, the son of the late Dato Nasaruddin Jalil and an Anwar aide. That’s right. According to Dato Nasaruddin’s wife, her son and Saiful are bosom buddies. Then, something strange happened. Dato Nasaruddin’s son was mysteriously killed by a hit-and-run driver. No one knows how it happened or who killed him. But, after that most tragic ‘accident’, Saiful stayed on to become one of the temporary staff of the party.
Was Dato Nasaruddin’s son’s death an accident? Is there something more sinister than just an unsolved hit-and-run accident? I suppose we shall never know the answer to that one and it may forever remain in the books as an accident or a victim of a hit-and-run. But what we do know is that the young man whom Dato Nasaruddin’s son brought into the party got elevated from a volunteer to a temporary staff of the party.
The Muftis of Perlis and Perak have suggested that Anwar come out and swear an oath that he is innocent of the allegation of sodomising Saiful. That would be the only way he can clear his name. It is not known yet if he will do that but, if he does not, then the dark cloud hanging over his head will remain there. There would be no other way that Anwar can clear his name.
Anwar also has to explain what he was doing at that upmarket condo. Yes, I too have clandestine meetings with my many Deep Throats at secret locations such as hotel rooms and apartments. But then I always bring along witnesses to ensure that I have an alibi in the event someone spots me and accuse me of having secret rendezvous for purposes of sex.
But Anwar’s case is more complex. I was told they have photographs of Anwar and Saiful going into one of the rooms of the One World hotel escorted by another man. If these photographs surface and Anwar cannot explain what is going on, then he may cease to be a threat to Abdullah. Abdullah then has only to take care of Najib.
The Statutory Declaration (SD) by the private investigator, Bala, has hurt Najib a lot. But the retraction or second SD the following day, which deletes all references to Najib, is even more damaging than the first one. If anyone had any doubts and thought that maybe Bala was fixing Najib up with his first SD, the second SD removed those doubts. Now, people are even more convinced that Najib is guilty. If not then why amend the first SD but only as far as Najib’s name is concerned whereas all the other allegations remain the same?
Bala’s first SD was not done in a hurry. It took numerous meetings over two months to finalise the SD. Bala had plenty of time to change his mind over those two months. And how can you say that you signed the SD under duress when it was done over many meetings over two months?
But the second SD was done only a few hours after the first one surfaced. And it was done after his visit to the police station. That gives an appearance of duress. And the fact he does not say that the entire SD is false but only as far as Najib’s name is concerned gives an impression that Najib is behind the second SD and that it was done to clear his name. Why would Najib go to all this trouble if he were innocent?
I met Bala on 2 July 2008 and was with him for about six hours from 6.30pm. He was jovial and chatty and joked that my SD two weeks earlier had stolen the thunder from his. Now, his has become the second SD instead of the first as he had hoped. After the press conference of 3 July 2008 we had lunch and he was still as jovial and chatty as the night before. He was now the superstar and he was relishing every minute of it. We agreed to meet on Saturday night (tonight) to party and celebrate the ‘success’ of his SD. Then, yesterday, the bombshell.
Yes, this looks bad for Najib, as well as for Anwar. And it certainly looks like Najib is behind the second SD as well as the sodomy allegation against Anwar -- while Anwar, in turn, is seen as behind the first SD that links Najib to Altantuya. In one swoop, both Najib and Anwar are brought down. And this means Abdullah has now rid himself of two serious problems. And with these two serious threats neutralised Abdullah can now take care of the lesser threats of Tengku Razaleigh and Muhyiddin.
I might not like Abdullah but I must certainly admire his skills. He looks stupid, he talks stupid, he acts stupid, but a man who can make you think he is stupid is actually cleverer than you.
Yes, it looks like Abdullah will still be Umno President and Prime Minister of Malaysia come Christmas. I would not have said this three weeks ago but today I say this with confidence. And while Najib and Anwar finish each other off, Abdullah is giggling in the background and choosing the Christmas tree that he will erect in Putrajaya come December.
Well done, Pak Lah. Brilliant moves. Now let’s see how Najib and Anwar extricate themselves from the mess they are currently in.