The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin – 2
The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin continues here:
Part 2: Out of the wormhole
Before we delve into the heavy stuff, let us start with the basics. Where did this guy KJ come from?
Today, Khairy Jamaluddin has become the most powerful man in the country. Unlike most politicians whose origins can be easily traced and whose records are in the realm of public knowledge, Khairy is like a “dewa kayangan” (fairy godfather) who appeared from nowhere into the mainstream of Malaysian politics. Many began to wonder whether he was planted by certain sinister forces, such as the CIA or maybe the Singapore intelligence services. After all, no one can attain power so easily and so quickly unless they had some help, could they?
Certainly this is what Yahaya Ismail tried to hint at in his book. Dr. Mahathir was so worried about this that, at the end of his premiership, he commissioned the Special Branch to prepare a file on Khairy, which was also copied to Najib (another report was also prepared on Khairy’s bosom buddy, NST Group Managing Editor Kalimullah Masheerul Hassan – but that is another story for another time). But for all its promise to be “Mesra, Cepat dan Betul”, the officers in charge of the report did not want to risk rousing the anger of Khairy’s father-in-law and Prime Minister-designate Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. After all, at that time, he was only a few months away from power. So the report reported that there was nothing to report.
Though it is not unusual for members of the administration to be recruited as foreign spies (remember Mahathir’s former secretary, Siddiq Ghouse, who turned out to be a mole for the KGB), the truth about Khairy and his relationship to foreign intelligence services will not be publicly known for the simple fact that he is already too close to the seat of power. Unlike Siddiq Ghouse, Khairy is a member of the Badawi family and you cannot really say a member of the Prime Minister’s family is a spy, can you? But people still wonder: could he have gone so far without some “extra” help?
The truth is that Khairy did get “extra” help, though probably not from foreign agents. The time was quite ripe for the appearance of an eloquent, well qualified UMNO leader such as Khairy because twenty two years of Mahathir rule had made UMNO a party of dead zombies. There was simply no one else, as few had the courage to say anything remotely critical of the current (i.e. Mahathir’s) system. In the party of the yes-men and the corrupt, the slightly more intelligent fellow who can speak well is king.
So Khairy became the biggest worm in the giant wormhole that is UMNO.
Let’s start from the beginning. Khairy Jamaluddin was born 29 years ago to career diplomat Datuk Jamaluddin Abu Bakar (now deceased). Datuk Jamaluddin came from a little kampung in Rembau and is politically connected enough to be a relation of several Negeri Sembilan politicians. One of Datuk Jamaluddin’s nephews is Datuk Shahziman Abu Mansor, currently a deputy minister in Abdullah Badawi’s administration and MP for Tampin.
The late Datuk Jamaluddin served in various diplomatic overseas posts but died during one of his postings there. It was this nomadic lifestyle which resulted in Khairy receiving an overseas education, including in Singapore and the United Kingdom. Suffice to say, Khairy never went to a local school and, for a very long time in his life, could hardly speak a word of his native language, being ill at ease with Malay and unable to converse with his own relatives.
While he spent most of his time overseas, Datuk Jamaluddin did have one important posting locally. This was at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, during the time the late Tan Sri Samad Idris was Minister. It so happens that at that time the Director of Youth and later Deputy Secretary-General of the Ministry was a certain Abdullah Badawi. Fellow civil servants, the two shared some common interests including being part of the so-called “Malay ultra” group and when Abdullah left the civil service in 1974 to become MP for Kepala Batas (a seat previously held by his father, former PAS Youth Chief Ahmad Badawi Sheikh Abdullah Fahim), Jamaluddin kept in touch.
When Jamaluddin died, Abdullah and his wife, Endon Mahmood Ambak, continued to keep in touch with Jamaluddin’s widow, a lady from Kedah. Frankly speaking, Datuk Jamaluddin’s reputation as a civil servant was lackluster. He was seen as aloof, pompous and arrogant. Often despised by his subordinates, he was a stickler for form rather than substance. A former subordinate of Datuk Jamaluddin once remarked that he valued a person more for “his ability to do a proper knot in his tie rather than the quality of his reports”.
As a student Khairy was a fast learner, though a bit of a rebel. He was critical of government policies. In spite of his later pronouncements of admiration for Mahathir, he was not a Mahathir worshipper. Indeed, he was opposed to many of Mahathir’s actions – though only on the sly and never publicly.
As a student at Oxford, expressing his doubts about Mahathir to fellow Malaysians overseas, he came to the attention of a certain Omar Ong.
Omar Ong, as can be seen from his rather peculiar name, is an ethnic Chinese. He is the son of Mustapha Ong, former Private Secretary to longtime Minister of Information Mohamad Rahmat and for some time in the diplomatic service in New York and Brazil. Currently living in New Zealand, Mustapha Ong became infamous during the Anwar Ibrahim trials when it was revealed he had tried to bribe a New York ethnic-Arab taxi driver called Jamal Amro to “confess” that he had procured boys and women for Anwar. Jamal Amro refused and instead made police reports accusing Mustapha Ong of trying to bribe him. Of course Mustapha Ong was shielded by Mahathir, even though his over-enthusiasm in trying to “fix” Anwar caused some embarrassment to the government, especially amongst the diplomatic community overseas.
Anyway, Omar Ong was a bit of a social climber and very ambitious. He tried to hitch his star to rising politicians as a means of fast-tracking his own ascent to power. He knocked on the door of Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim through the good graces of some of his political secretaries.
This was partially successful, as Anwar was persuaded to receive Omar Ong and his group in a private audience. Several more meetings followed and Omar Ong was hopeful that Anwar would be his ticket to heaven. In spite of that, there was still some opposition from Anwaristas such as Suhaimi Ibrahim, Fuad Hassan and Zahid Hamidi, who really wanted to keep Anwar all to themselves.
But a chance meeting with Daim Zainuddin made Omar Ong soon realise that something was brewing in the very highest circles and Anwar was going to be hit by a runaway bus, so to speak. Quickly, while thanking his lucky stars, Omar Ong dropped “the Anwar project” like a hot potato and tried to go for Najib Tun Razak instead. This was around three months before Anwar was sacked by Mahathir.
Najib, however, was a hard nut to crack. Omar Ong realised that Najib was surrounded by long time loyalists from his earlier days in government who screen newcomers to his circle with a parent’s protective eye. So it was decided that the next best thing would be Hishamuddin Hussein.
Hishamuddin Hussein was then just a junior UMNO politician. But he had a very big name behind him. There was no doubt that, after Hussein Onn died, Dr Mahathir felt that he owed a debt of gratitude to the former third Prime Minister and his family. Dr Mahathir began to put Hishamuddin on the fast track of politics, even over and above Hishamuddin’s superiors in the UMNO Youth movement such as Nazri Aziz and Zahid Hamidi. Hishamuddin got promoted several times within a year.
These fast promotions took its toll on Hisham. He was never a bright student or a sharp intellectual. Neither was he a good speaker nor a great orator. He had an unfriendly face and almost permanent crooked smile which reminded a fellow Minister of “the dead pope – after he had died”. Omar Ong set about helping Hishamuddin and his fellow student from Oxford, Khairy, came along as well. Soon, Hishamuddin began to rely more on Khairy than on Omar Ong.
To pay his debt, Hishamuddin introduced Omar Ong and his group to people close to Dr Mahathir such as his Political Secretary, Datuk Johari Baharom, and ISIS Director-General, Dr Noordin Sopiee.
A coincidence at the time was that Abdullah Badawi’s daughter had joined ISIS as a research assistant. And it was Noordin who introduced the two. Abdullah Badawi was then a Vice-President of UMNO and next inline should, for example, Anwar Ibrahim’s helicopter fall suddenly from the air.
Anwar’s helicopter did fall (though he was not on it at that time) but Anwar himself was booted out in September 1998. Like most other Malaysians, Khairy did not believe some of the more bizarre accusations hurled against Anwar by Mahathir. But it was the best of times, and the worst of times. There was opportunity and both Khairy and Omar took it.
A myth developed after Anwar’s fall from grace that Khairy had always been sympathetic to Anwar’s “Reformasi” struggle. Rumours grew that a student who had publicly asked Mahathir to resign in a gathering in London was really Khairy. Another story was that Khairy was the then boyfriend of Anwar’s daughter, Nurul Izzah, but they broke up when Anwar’s wife, Dr Wan Azizah, refused to make Khairy her political secretary but instead appointed another young man by the name of Nik Affendi Jaafar (now Senior Public Relations Manager of the EPF).
It seems all these rumours were created later by some hallucinating Anwar supporters who wanted so much for the young and powerful Khairy to be on their side, at least on the sly. But, in reality, Khairy saw a vacuum created by Anwar’s sudden “fall from paradise” (as Anwar himself described it) and he took the chance to catapult himself to the highest reaches of political power in the country.
At this time, Khairy tried to get close to the man in trouble at that time, Dr Mahathir. Khairy used Noordin Sopiee to try and get a job in the Prime Minister’s office. In this he was backed by Hishamuddin. But when Mahathir rebuffed the offer, seeing through Khairy’s ambitious moves, Khairy went for the next best person. No, not Abdullah – he went to Najib again.
Najib was then seen as the most likely candidate to succeed Anwar as Deputy Prime Minister. In fact, Asiaweek went so far as to say that Najib was the man to watch when it came to that post. But Najib was careful not to include new people who may arouse the jealousy of his already tightly knit inner circle. Indeed, he had no reason to take on Khairy as he had strong confidence that Mahathir would choose him and no one else. This was a decision Najib was to regret bitterly.
What Najib dreamed of was not to be. Mahathir thought he could better control the country by having Abdullah as his deputy. To Mahathir, Abdullah was a non-entity due to his onetime support for the Team B faction in UMNO (or more correctly to Tan Sri Musa Hitam). These types of people make better puppets.
When Abdullah’s name was announced, Najib and his wife Rosmah wept outside the meeting room, desolate and disbelieving. At this stage, as the new Deputy Prime Minister, Abdullah began to pack new people to fill in posts of which he had many to fill. For example, as Deputy Prime Minister, Abdullah would have two political secretaries instead of one, and eight Special Officers instead of two. One of these Special Officer positions went to Khairy.
How did he clinch it? It was a scratch-your-back-scratch-my-back situation. Abdullah had asked Noordin Sopiee in his capacity as the Prime Minister’s brain to suggest a few names of bright chaps who could fill posts in his office. Two names came out – Khairy’s and another ISIS researcher (now also ensconced in government). But the ISIS researcher failed the security check (his mother was a Reformasi supporter). And Abdullah’s lovesick daughter Nori warmly and enthusiastically endorsed the first name.
So far, so good. The climb of Khairy Jamaluddin had begun. And he quickly paid his dues by ensuring that the person who put him on track to these successes got his rewards as well. Omar Ong was swiftly installed in Najib’s office as Special Officer in order to ensure that all went smoothly in the deep, dark wormhole that is UMNO politics….