The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin – 6
The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin continues here:
Part 6 – Khairy’s media playground
History has laid testimony to that fact that there are as many ways to exterminate an UMNO politician as there are to skin a cat. Even powerful warlords can be easily sent into retirement; given the right combination of manufactured scandals and by using the correct medium to ‘spread the message’. Political assassinations can be easily achieved by use of the media. All one needs to do is to buy off a few hacks, journalists and political commentators. Nowadays, one need not even buy a proper journalist; an internet reporter will do.
The first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, was destroyed by the medium of poison-pen letters that accused him of bias against the Malays, giving in to the Chinese, womanising, hard drinking and gambling. The second prime minister, Tun Razak, was ‘saved’ by a premature death; or else he too would have been embarrassed by the same tactics engineered by then UMNO Youth Chief, Harun Idris, who accused the former of allowing Communist sympathisers to infiltrate his office. And, of course, everyone knows how Anwar Ibrahim was brought down. A combination of ‘revelations’ and ‘exposes’ through the official media as well as the infamous ‘50 Dalil’ by Khalid Jafri – only recently convicted of libel and slander – portrayed Anwar as a corrupt sodomist masquerading behind a mask of Muslim piety.
But these are ‘old’ tactics and Khairy Jamaluddin knows better than to rely merely on these outdated methods. Times have changed. If anything, the Reformasi movement has proven the effectiveness of the cyber-media as well as the foreign press in disseminating information to the increasingly sceptical Malaysian masses who no longer have faith in the mainstream media.
It is no wonder, therefore, that the first attack initiated by Khairy against Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak was made through the internet and through the use of the foreign media.
To be sure, Najib has never been perceived as a ‘clean’ politician. He has been implicated in all sorts of scandals ranging from the award of forest land to close relatives during his tenure as Pahang Menteri Besar in the early 1980s to being caught in flagrante delicto with a well-known artist in a motel bed in Port Dickson. Yet, none of these scandals stuck – partly because the public now accepts that UMNO politicians will be, to a greater or lesser extent, corrupt and indiscreet. And almost everyone acknowledges, to a ‘T’, that women are Najib’s particular weakness – and that he is not alone among UMNO leaders in having this fault.
So, like in Anwar Ibrahim’s case, Najib’s ‘scandals’ had to be exaggerated, or even invented from scratch.
There have been at least two occasions when Khairy boasted that this would not be a difficult job to do. First was a few months ago, during a dinner attended by several business associates of UMNO Supreme Council member Datuk Norza Zakaria, when Khairy declared to a certain 35 year old businessman that creating a scandal to topple Najib would be “like eating peanuts”. The said businessman, who wanted to curry favours with and impress his friends with ‘inside knowledge’ that Najib would in time be kicked off his perch, promptly repeated this information to them.
The second occasion was in June 2004. Khairy was then in the running for the position of Chief Operating Officer of Khazanah Nasional and was confident he would be thus appointed by incoming Managing Director, Azman Mokhtar. Khairy had gathered a few friends from his old university days and was proclaiming his plans to “reform Khazanah”. A friend then asked what Najib felt about his new (and very powerful) anticipated appointment. Khairy retorted that if Najib did not like it, he would “put Najib in jail”. To the incredulous gathering, Khairy further explained that Najib would fall “like a deck a cards” if he ever chose to boot out the deputy prime minister.
Such arrogant and egotistical boasts are not without foundation. While they could easily be dismissed as the bravado of an overconfident Young Turk, Najib is a much easier opponent than many previous occupants of the post he currently holds. For one thing, Najib was not elected to the post in a free and open election but by voters cowed into nominating him; the sole candidate nominated for the post of UMNO Deputy President. Najib has never, throughout his political career, contested any post in which there was a real danger of anyone defeating him; nor has he ever been defeated in any contest he has entered. An indecisive man with a distinctly chicken-hearted political view, Najib will never risk a real contest nor face a real opponent. He has always secured high office by the whims of a higher power.
Given the right conditions, to defeat such a person is not difficult. Khairy knows this full well and it is with this in mind that he welcomed Najib’s appointment as DPM. In spite of the UMNO members’ outward show of support for Najib, he is not a tried and tested leader. So, he is only the equal, if not the lesser, of Khairy himself. But, unlike Khairy, Najib’s deepest scandals are well-known to a public that for thirty years have become used to seeing his face. Najib’s blood runs thick with scandals and corruption, whereas, even if Khairy was equally corrupt, the public at large knows very little about it.
Another reason for Khairy’s tremendous confidence in his strength as opposed to Najib is because of a ‘test’ he carried out soon after the conclusion of the Eleventh General Election where Najib ended up a victim of a scandal of Khairy’s own making.
In this episode, a certain independent news portal was used to help Khairy carry out his crafty scheme. A story about Barisan Nasional owing several small-time Malay printers and poster suppliers millions of Ringgit was leaked to this news portal. According to the suppliers, the purchase order to print hundreds of thousands of campaign material was issued by the Barisan Nasional headquarters with instructions to distribute them directly to the candidates. Unbeknownst to even the reporters of the scandal, the trail led to Najib’s people that included a certain Chinese-Muslim businessman Datuk who is closely associated to Najib and a known substantial donor to causes championed by Najib’s mother, Toh Puan Rahah, and wife, Rosmah Mansor.
What happened was simple yet cunning. Khairy had arranged for the BN Executive Secretary, Yaacob Muhammad, to ask the Chinese-Muslim businessman Datuk to issue several orders for election campaign material through a certain company (formed especially for this purpose). The company awarded the contract to small-time Malay printing shops. However, instead of delivering the items to the BN headquarters, they were delivered directly to the BN candidates using letters of instruction emanating from the Chinese-Muslim Datuk and using the letterhead of a certain foundation associated with Najib.
When the printers submitted claims for payments due to them, they were discreetly informed by Khairy’s people in the UMNO headquarters that these purchase orders had actually been issued by Najib through his Chinese-Muslim Datuk friend. It was Najib’s name that was besmirched and, to save his patron’s skin, the Chinese-Muslim Datuk businessman had to pay off much of the monies owed. He could not, of course, pay off everything, but at least for the moment the scandal was kept under control.
This was how Khairy sharpened his teeth. He used this ‘manufactured’ scandal as his first ‘strength test’ against Najib. Khairy learnt a few valuable lessons from this episode – one which was that Najib had the (albeit limited) ability, given his wide range of businessmen friends, to nip the scandal in the bud by paying off the aggrieved parties. However, the problem was only a test and is a small-scale attempt to shake the Najib tree to see what falls out from it. And it was purposely ‘floated’ through an internet news portal rather than via the official or mainstream press where it might backfire and instead cause embarrassment to Abdullah himself.
The second test was to try and embarrass Najib through the foreign media. This opportunity cropped up when Malaysia and Indonesia fell into a tiff over the disputed oil fields between the coast of Sabah and Sulawesi. As Defence Minister, Najib was called upon to explain Malaysia’s stance. An Indonesia newsmagazine promptly published a report that Najib had ‘apologised’ for the behaviour of the Royal Malaysian Navy ships patrolling the disputed area.
Najib, of course, was embarrassed and quickly denied that he had ever done such a thing. But the Indonesian newspaper tarried awhile before printing a retraction. And the reason: the source of the story was a certain Nahdatul Ulama Youth leader closely associated with Khairy – who informed the reporter that it was Khairy who told him about the ‘apology’. It is not clear whether that NU leader was just a ‘patsy’ in this whole thing. But why should he doubt Khairy? Wasn’t Khairy the Malaysian prime minister’s trusted aide and son-in-law who had been sent, even when he was without a government or political party position, as a personal envoy to meet Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono? Whatever the intention of the newspaper, Najib could hardly fault them when the source was Khairy himself – nor could Najib take legal action against the publisher for fear of exposing Khairy and thereby angering Abdullah.
Khairy’s ‘mini tests’ were designed to just test the waters without pushing too far. He understands that the effort to remove Najib must be done slowly, building up to a crescendo over a period of time. And the traps are being laid all over through Khairy’s connections with the media.
When Abdullah Badawi was named future Prime Minister, one of the first things he asked for from Dr Mahathir was control over the media. Abdullah had understood from the time Anwar Ibrahim was in power that the media in the hands of an heir-apparent would be the most effective insurance against removal from office. After all, Anwar had put in his own people in charge of the news section of various newspapers and TV stations in order to promote his future accession to the office of PM. It was the removal of these Anwar stalwarts which paved the way for his September 1998 sacking.
Abdullah had to ensure that the same ‘tragedy’ would not befall him and Mahathir also knew that surrendering media control to Abdullah was the only way he could convince the latter he was serious about choosing Abdullah as his latest anointed successor. Mahathir reluctantly relented and, swiftly, Abdullah looked to Khairy for names to fill into the powerful media positions.
Khairy’s most prominent appointment was that of Kalimullah Hassan Masheerul Hassan, a former Singaporean journalist closely associated with certain Chinese businessmen with whom he had built a successful business based on the Chinese doing the thinking and Kalimullah himself pulling the cables. ‘Kali’, as he calls himself, has visions of grandeur. Although a bad writer and an even worse editor, Kali knew that he could buy talent. It is an open secret that NST editorials published as Kali’s piece were ghost-written by both internal and outsourced hacks. Such was a man after Khairy’s own heart – who knew that being a figurehead was no bad thing, as one could always pick and choose one’s lackeys to finish the job.
However, Kalimullah had a stain on his character. He is known to be exceptionally close to the Singapore government, in particular to Home Minister Wong Kan Seng, who is in charge of intelligence operations. Another close associate of Kalimullah had once blabbed to Dr Mahathir’s then political secretary, Matthias Chang, that the man was a ‘Singapore spy’, either deliberately or by inadvertently giving information to the Republic through his ‘big mouth’. A few months before conceding power, Dr Mahathir commissioned the then Director of Military Intelligence to compile a report on Kali. The report, copied to Najib, concluded that Kali was not a proven spy – nor did the report absolve him completely either. The report concluded that enough doubts existed to question his appointment to the NST Group Chief Editorship.
But the appointment was pushed through nevertheless – simply because the only other candidate for the position, close Abdullah associate Anuar Zaini, was already slated for Bernama, as a replacement to Mahathir ally, Kadir Jasin. Kalimullah, ensconced in office, quickly created a cabal of Singapore-trained hacks that would do Abdullah’s (and Khairy’s) biddings.
One such scion is Brendan Pereira. Brendan was a former journalist of the Singapore Straits Times and a long-time friend of Khairy; having been introduced to him by Khairy’s former classmates in the United World College in Singapore. Brendan wrote long odes and paeans to Khairy in the Singapore Straits Times, to such an extent that he was known in journalistic circles as ‘Khairy’s Press Secretary’. Every piece Brendan wrote would quote Khairy and Khairy’s key ally, Norza Zakaria, even when both were only minor Youth EXCO members and relatively unknown to the Malaysian public. In fact, Khairy’s name ‘exploded’ on the Singapore scene way before he even appeared big time in any Malaysian newspaper.
Of course, Brendan’s only intention was to hitch a ride on Khairy’s rising star and eventually transplant himself to a higher position in the New Straits Times. Together with Brendan and several former Singapore Straits Times hacks, Khairy is assured of the subservience of the New Straits Times.
Yet, it is not the NST that Khairy will be using against Najib – as that would indeed be too obvious. It is Kali and Brendan’s contacts across the Causeway that will instead be used to publish the first stories about Najib’s ‘scandals’. The plan is not yet ripe though – but don’t forget, when the time comes, you will read it here first!
And, of course, let’s not forget Khairy’s connections with the internet media, in particular the Malay language internet newspaper, AgendaDaily, currently edited by Rosli Ismail, which Khairy and Norza Zakaria helped fund.
Originally, AgendaDaily was set up by a certain Rozaid Abdul Rahman, the elder brother of Rozabil Abdul Rahman (Khairy’s mother’s business partner mentioned in Part 4 of this series). Rozaid was a journalist-for-hire who started out in September 1998 writing books about Anwar Ibrahim and the Reformasi movement, which he then coerced Reformasi activists into buying in bulk to sell at their functions and ceramahs. When that source of funds began to dry up, Rozaid looked to former UMNO Vice President Muhammad Muhammad Taib to help fund AgendaDaily, intended as the Malay vernacular alternative to Malaysiakini. Muhammad came up with the first RM200,000 for the venture, which dried up in a few months in the face of the failure of AgendaDaily to attract paying readers.
To recoup his losses, Rozaid began to ‘sell’ pieces to UMNO politicians – basically writing ‘favourable news’ about them for a fee. In this capacity, his brother Rozabil, already a business associate of Khairy’s family, introduced Rozaid to both Khairy and Norza Zakaria. As Muhammad refused to further fund the failed venture, Norza stepped in. A week after Norza transferred RM100,000 to AgendaDaily’s bank account, a prominent piece on Khairy appeared – extolling the praises of this new ‘bright young thing’.
The relationship continued even after Rozaid ‘officially’ left AgendaDaily to take up the position of Press Secretary to Entrepreneurial Development Minister, Khaled Nordin. The new editor, Rosli Ismail, continued to present favourable reports on Khairy that almost always comprised of unexplained denials by Khairy of the various rumours associated with him.
No one can deny that Khairy has adopted the right approach towards influencing the minds of the younger generation, media-savvy, better-educated Malaysians. In using the foreign media and the internet as his playground for publicity, Khairy has outdistanced himself from the older politicians such as Hishammuddin Hussein (who once chickened out of a column in Malaysiakini) and even Najib himself.
But the media can only assist to a certain extent. The real onslaught against Najib needs a special and more powerful secret weapon. And Khairy has that. And this weapon is called Anwar…
The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin continues…in Part 7 – The beginning of a beautiful friendship