The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin – 3
The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin continues here:
Part 3: The enemies within
Most of Khairy Jamaluddin’s enemies within UMNO are made up of younger leaders who believe that he is an upstart. They do not acknowledge that he has substantial knowledge in government though having served in Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s office for the last four years. They think that he is put there merely because he married the daughter of the Prime Minister. At the same time, they are disgusted by the way Khairy puts his cronies in charge of various branches of government ministries, ranging from the Communications Office of the Prime Minister’s Department to Khazanah Nasional.
This is not of course simply a matter of puerile jealousy. They believe that Khairy is a real threat and quite a significant one at that too, given his meteoric rise to power. They too have ambitions of their own to become Prime Minister. Indeed, some of them even feel the Prime Minister’s seat is their God-given right. So they try their best to parry Khairy’s every move and block it by hook or by crook. The normal UMNO method of poison pen letters, backstabbing SMSes, and secret alliances grafted in smoke-filled rooms are some of the normal methods employed to keep Khairy at bay. But Khairy is not the usual UMNO political enemy by far….
Many of Khairy’s enemies are content to bide their time and wait for the day when Abdullah Badawi is kicked out of the office of UMNO president. They believe that, then, Khairy will lose his godfather and protector, laying himself bare and exposed to attacks from the grassroots. Khairy’s enemies hope that the seething anger at Khairy so openly displayed at the last UMNO General Assembly will reach boiling point and explode once Abdullah is removed from office. Then Khairy will be led to the altar of sacrifice and his throat slit from ear to ear.
Yet, Khairy understands this plus that he has to strike first. And the last two years since Abdullah became UMNO President has been spent precisely doing that.
Khairy utilises two methods: neutralising what enemies that can be neutralised, and extinguishing the dangerous ones who cannot be mollified by titles and positions. There are many of the first category, such as Azimi Daim, Norza Zakaria and Aziz Sheikh Fadzir. All three used to be seen as potential challengers to Khairy’s position, especially in UMNO Youth.
However, they could be easily bought as they are in politics merely to gain positions and make money. They fear ‘going the whole way’ and doing things that may risk their comfortable current positions. So Azimi was given the UMNO Youth Information Chief title as well as an EXCO position. Aziz was given a seat in the last general election. Norza not only got a post in the UMNO Supreme Council, but a license to ‘print money’ through the powerful ‘toll-keeper’ position he was awarded in the Second Finance Ministry. UMNO politicians such as these are not a real threat to Khairy because, whenever they rear their ugly horns, they could be led to the trough of patronage and fed to their fat stomach’s content.
The more dangerous threats come from the second category made up of established politicians who are scions of UMNO leadership even before Khairy appeared on the scene. One such personality is Khairy’s own boss, Hishamuddin Hussein, who was instrumental, prior to 1999, in bringing Khairy to the attention of then Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. Hishamuddin believes that it is his birthright to be a future Prime Minister of Malaysia given that, like Najib (his cousin – his mother Tun Suhailah being Najib’s mother Tun Rahah’s elder sister), his father had held that august office before being deposed by Dr. Mahathir.
At first Hishamuddin thought that Khairy would do like what he is doing – play the ‘patience game’. Hishamuddin started out a strong supporter of Mahathir and his then heir-apparent Anwar Ibrahim. Through his constant brown-nosing of Anwar, Hishamuddin quickly found himself Deputy Minister of Finance and Minister of Youth and Sports, jumping over the head of his own boss, UMNO Youth Chief Mohd Zahid Hamidi. But Hishamuddin did this in his late thirties after years of legal practice and with at least the perception of patient unobtrusive building of his political career.
But Khairy does not believe in such things. He wants what he wants fast and he wants them now. So he has become the youngest Vice Youth Chief of UMNO since Nazri Aziz. Though this was suggested by Hishamuddin himself to save his own position, Hishamuddin now realises Khairy is a bigger threat than Aziz Sheikh Fadzir or anyone else could be.
In addition, Hishamuddin is unhappy that Khairy set up his own network within the UMNO Youth machinery, e.g. nominating Norza to the Supreme Council over and above Hishamuddin’s own choice. Khairy also set up an informal network of UMNO Vice Youth Division Chiefs throughout the country, a phenomenon unheard of when Hishamuddin himself held that post. Hishamuddin realises that he now holds office by the grace and favour of Khairy. When the latter is ready for the post of Youth Chief, the former must go.
If the situation continues, Hishamuddin might find it is time to go to the only place where he can go, which is the position of UMNO Vice President. But the stage is already filled to the brim with aspirants to the leadership. Hishamuddin may well find that, in the next UMNO election, Khairy will win the post of UMNO Youth chief with ease while he will lose the battle for the UMNO Vice-Presidency.
Hishamuddin is stuck because Khairy has already laid a trap for him. He makes pronouncements that forces Hishamuddin to accept his view of national politics. Hishamuddin cannot play the Malay racial card because Khairy has played that first, especially in areas such as education, which comes under his own ministerial purview. More importantly, Khairy is opting in several of Hishamuddin’s ex-allies such as Dr. Adham Baba and Razali Ibrahim (the MP for Muar) to slowly begin accepting the duality of UMNO Youth, where Hishamuddin is just the nominal official chief, but Khairy runs the daily show.
This is how Khairy is ‘fixing’ Hishamuddin. He has already planted key allies within Hishamuddin’s ministry. Some of Hishamuddin’s former loyalists have been given ministerial responsibilities and parliamentary seats, not to strengthen Hishamuddin himself but to distance his advisors from him and make them preoccupied with their own careers. This has created vacancies in Hishamuddin’s office and Khairy has filled them with his own allies, notably from the YPCS (Young Professionals Consultative Society), people of Khairy’s own batch, nominally loyal to Hishamuddin but in reality stooges of Khairy himself. Nothing goes by Hishamuddin’s office that is not reported to Khairy. Indeed, Hishamuddin’s own Special Officers are the eyes and ears of Khairy.
Removing Hishamuddin will be easy because Hishamuddin is not a ‘fighter’ – unlike, for example, another potential Youth Chief, Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo, the Menteri Besar of Selangor. Khir comes from a different background than Khairy though they share the first syllable of their names. While Khairy comes from a diplomat’s family with a high ranking in the civil service, Khir’s father, known locally as “Wak Joyo”, is of peasant stock and a former PAS member to boot. Khir built himself into national politics by his good-natured bonhomie with Mahathir’s children, notably Mokhzani and Mukhriz. It was Mokhzani, who was then UMNO Youth Treasurer, who recommended that Khir, then a one-term assemblyman and not even a division leader, succeed Abu Hassan Omar as Menteri Besar of Selangor after the shameful revelation of Abu Hassan’s incestuous sexual scandals.
UMNO Selangor was of course not happy that this young upstart was suddenly propelled to the leadership. And Khir had more ambitions to fulfil. At only 37, Khir is by far the most visible Youth leader in the country after Hishamuddin and Khairy. He would not want to stop merely at being an UMNO Supreme Council member. Indeed, if Hishamuddin had decided to leave the post of UMNO Youth Chief last time, Khir would have been the frontrunner to succeed him. With money in his pocket due to the extensive giving away of land to the Lebar Daun group and other key business allies, Khir is well suited to assume the leadership of the UMNO Youth Wing – except he has to contend with Khairy…
Khairy had tried fixing Khir by exposing some mistakes he had made as Menteri Besar. Khairy is in luck because Khir has been greedy and rapacious in making money out of his position as Menteri Besar. Khairy merely needed to exploit some of these corrupt practices. One of the methods he used was to expose Khir’s wrongdoings in the award of development land within the Bukit Cahaya Seri Alam nature reserve. Khir had granted substantial pieces of land to companies related to his family and the family of his wife. The head of news at TV3, Datuk Kamarul Zaman Zainal (an ex-officer of Abdullah Badawi’s office) had a meeting with Khairy in which the latter gave the go-ahead for TV3 to air these misdeeds. Datuk Kamarul Zaman had no love for Khir as he is an Abdullah loyalist and believes that, in doing so, he is helping Abdullah strengthen his position against residues of the Mahathir era.
But Khir fought back and he had some powerful help. It was not only his related companies that had been given land in Bukit Cahaya Seri Alam but also companies associated with members of the Selangor royal family and other key political and business personalities close to Abdullah. When TV3 began airing the problems, they panicked and asked for help from Dato’ Thajudeen Abdul Wahab, Chief Private Secretary to the Prime Minister. Dato’ Thajudeen used his authority to ask Datuk Kamarul Zaman to back off and stop the attacks. So it gradually subsided.
Then Khairy used another tack. He tried to show that Khir was an incompetent administrator. At a Selangor UMNO Liaison committee meeting in May 2005, through a whisper from Khairy, Abdullah Badawi questioned the logic of declaring Selangor as a ‘developed’ state. His plan – which was hatched way back before Abdullah became PM – was to emphasise Selangor’s unique position as an economic powerhouse by declaring it a developed state on the 31st of August 2005. Admittedly, Khir had massaged the statistics and figures in order to make such a proclamation. However it is nothing unusual in the scheme of UMNO politics where even the former Prime Minister Mahathir had made unilateral declarations such as that Malaysia was an ‘Islamic state’.
Abdullah blasted Khir for making such a declaration during the closed-session meeting. In order to soften the blow, he emphasised that he had earlier criticised Kedah Menteri Besar Syed Razak Syed Zain for the impossible promise he made to make Kedah a ‘developed state’ by 2010. The real target of attack however was Khir. In Abdullah’s simple uncluttered mind, he was making a genuine criticism based on the lack of reasons for the declaration of a developed state. But, to Khairy, this carried a more valuable message, which was to show that Khir was a liar, incompetent and bumbling. After all, the aim to declare Selangor as a ‘developed state’ was something that Khir had been working on since 2001, and he had announced it far and wide to everyone.
This is just the beginning of the attack on Khir. Of course Khir will go ahead and make the declaration in August. But he is wounded by the collective attack on all fronts, especially in the mass media against his administration. Nor is he supported (at least in the public eye) by the Prime Minister. The most Khir could gather was lukewarm support at a Selangor UMNO meeting by Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.
By the time Khir announces that he is ready to go for the UMNO Youth leadership, many of his mistakes would have already been exposed by Khairy for public consumption. That is not to say that Khir is a less competent man than Khairy, but Khir does not control the media, whereas Khairy does. Either through his own plants such as Kalimullah Masheerul Hassan (the Group Chief Editor of the New Straits Times) and his breed of Singapore trained hired hacks such as Brendan Pereira, or the Heavenly Kings of The Star, or Datuk Kamarul Zaman in TV3, these will be the methods by which Khir is eventually destroyed. And Khir can scarcely fight back given his own past misdeeds and the fact that his press officer is a university dropout with not even an SPM credit in languages.
Hishamuddin and Khir are Khairy’s seniors, as far as ranking in UMNO is concerned. But Khairy also faces challenges from his peers in UMNO who are almost as close to Abdullah as he himself. He has not neglected these threats and, like the fratricides of the Middle Ages, Khairy has plans to strangle his own brothers…
The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin continues…in Part 4 – Strangling your own brothers