The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin – 13
The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin continues here:
Part 13 – He loves me, he loves me not
After the rumblings of 1998, many Malaysians began to care less about the personal lives of politicians. It was deemed that politicians should be judged by the merits of their work, integrity and ability rather than by the goings-on in their bedrooms. When former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad used Anwar Ibrahim’s alleged homosexuality as an excuse for the latter’s sacking, the reaction was more sympathy towards Anwar. Maybe the tide has turned and, in Malaysia’s new political culture, the private lives of politicians should not be of concern unless it also encroaches on their public work.
But the tide has not completely turned. Accusations of sexual misdeeds continue to dog many politicians. Some of these accusations do have elements of truth in them, but they are often exaggerated to create lustful ogres out of the targeted individuals. For example, while it is true some ministers have dalliances with artistes, models and other such ilk, hardly any had ever been caught in flagrante delicto, except in the minds of their enemies. The accusations of sexual misconduct are used mainly by opponents within the same party, as well as by opposition figures.
It is ludicrous that, after 1998, the opposition parties in Malaysia, while criticising the behaviour of UMNO politicians who described Anwar Ibrahim’s alleged trysts in graphic detail, also conjured up many other fictitious accusations such as naming them as mistresses to Mahathir and saying that they knew a person who knew a person who had allegedly caught Najib Tun Razak in bed with a famous singer in a Port Dickson hotel room. Perhaps the most unbelievable account yet was one related by a PKR Youth Information Chief who accused Abdullah Ahmad Badawi of carrying out an affair with an alleged (non-existent) female police escort.
Khairy Jamaluddin too has not escaped these accusations. In 2002, a high-ranking civil servant made a remark to Dr Mahathir’s then Political Secretary, Aziz Samsudin, that Khairy, then Special Officer to Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, had been an active homosexual during his university days. Khairy had apparently been involved with several members of the gay community of Oxford University, including a certain Malaysian-Chinese undergraduate. Such juicy stories were too good to be kept silent and it wound its way up to the very top.
Some of Mahathir’s aides made some enquiries to ascertain the truth of these allegations. They concluded that the stories were indeed true and they reported it to their boss. However, Mahathir did not take it up as he felt that Khairy was a non-entity and would remain so at least for the foreseeable future. Mahathir was right about Khairy not being gay, but he was obviously wrong about the rapid propulsion of this Young Turk.
Unknown to Aziz Samsudin as well as to Mahathir’s other aides, the story about Khairy’s alleged homosexuality was planted by Anwar Ibrahim’s men. A certain former deputy minister who had been a close Anwar supporter (and therefore dropped by Mahathir in the 1999 General Election) had been used to bring the rumour to Aziz’s attention through his civil service friend. The rumour itself was created by then PKR Youth Leader Ezam Mohd Nor who had allegedly ‘heard about the rumour’ from a senior civil servant who was a reformasi sympathiser and who had a child in the same school as Khairy. It was completely untrue. The idea that Khairy is gay is a figment of the imagination of the PKR leaders who desperately wanted to tar Abdullah Badawi whom they felt, at that time, was less sympathetic to the plight of their boss; having been his mortal enemy in UMNO for more than one and a half decades.
But the rumour took on a life of its own. From merely being gay, Khairy was now said to have even served as a rent-boy to the wives of ministers visiting London during his university days. At one time, the rumours became so flagrant that it even reached the ears of Anwar Ibrahim, then serving his prison sentence. Anwar enthusiastically asked his lawyers to verify the details of Khairy’s alleged homosexuality. It was a tool that would have been useful to the opposition, if only it had been true.
On the contrary, Khairy is not attracted to men. He had once been propositioned by a certain homosexual Malaysian newspaper columnist during a party at his house in Jalan U Thant. The columnist fell head over heels with Khairy. This is not unusual. After all, Greg Sheridan, one of the most worthless and sycophantic political hacks ever produced from Down Under, had once started a whole chapter on Malaysian politics by describing how enamoured he was with Khairy’s Hindustani movie-star looks. It was no wonder that the columnist fell for the then TV compere.
This columnist usually invited sets of young men to his house, which he shared with his life partner. These soirees were occasions where the columnist promised the world to the young men in return for being their ‘special friend’. While many fell for it and found themselves propelled to the inner circle of politics through this highly influential columnist’s efforts, Khairy himself rebuffed the columnist’s advances. While they remained friends, it was soon made clear to the columnist that Khairy would have his own way of reaching the pinnacles of power and it would be he who would be called Master and the columnist who would be the Servant.
That is not to say that Khairy did not use his looks to achieve his ambitions. Amongst the circle of young Oxford and Cambridge men who circulated around UMNO Youth in the years following the outbreak of reformasi, Khairy was deemed the most likely person to be able to use his marriage bed as a catapult to success.
It was one of his friends, Vincent Lim Kian Teck, now Chinese Political Secretary to the Prime Minister, who introduced Khairy to Nori Abdullah, then a part-time researcher at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS). Khairy did not need to try so hard. Nori fell almost instantly for the young and articulate Oxford graduate who was at least her intellectual equal.
Many do not know that Nori Abdullah is perhaps the most intelligent of all the children of Malaysian Prime Ministers. A precocious child, Nori often asked for books from Abdullah’s many foreign trips when he was Minister for Foreign Affairs. While the children of other ministers clamoured for jewellery and expensive high-tech gadgets, Nori always settled for the more intellectual gifts that her father could provide. She is one of the most well-read persons of her age group and is no shrinking violet when it comes to arguing intellectually with other prominent thinkers.
So it is odd indeed that Nori chose to be the wind beneath Khairy’s wings. She could have been more upfront in herself making a political name. But as the couple’s aim is to reach the highest peak of politics, it was unlikely that both could reach there. So, by all means, let Khairy be there as Prime Minister and Nori will exercise the function of a thinking First Lady. Indeed, were the couple able to achieve their aims, they would be the most learned First Couple in Malaysia’s history, even surpassing Dr Mahathir and his wife Dr Siti Hasmah.
But we are thinking too much of the future. Khairy definitely realised full well that being married to Nori was like getting an express ticket to his targeted destination. He might not have felt as strongly as Nori who has Khairy’s picture in her handbag, as her computer wallpaper at the office, and even on the coffee mug from which she drank. But he played the game well and though there may not be love, there is certainly affection. Khairy’s collection of international girlfriends which he had amassed in Singapore, Oxford and London were now chucked aside for the Japanese doll that is Nori.
What about the rumours of Khairy’s alleged infidelities? Again, these are often exaggerated by Khairy’s enemies. Take, for example, the so-called khalwat incident. In that story, widely circulated in the opposition press, Khairy was said to have been caught in the act with a Burmese girl (some say Filipino). According to the story, Nori and one of her other fellow Puteri UMNO Exco Members suspected Khairy of two-timing and had arranged for JAWI officers to spy on and catch the lovebirds. When they did so at Khairy and Nori’s apartment in Pantai, Khairy and Nori were allegedly summoned by Abdullah Badawi who gave the couple a dressing-down. Abdullah had been so angry — so the story goes — that he even slapped Khairy in the face. The couple were told in no uncertain terms that for political reasons they must stay together and be seen to still be totally in love.
Some say that the slapping incident took place at Putrajaya, in the Prime Minister’s Office. Others allege that this happened in Abdullah’s family home in Kepala Batas — and they even pointed out that Abdullah suddenly re-routed his return from a Kedah UMNO meeting to make a short and unexplained private visit to his Kepala Batas home. Still others insist that Khairy and Nori were hauled up not only in front of Abdullah but also in attendance were Abdullah’s brother, Ibrahim, and Nori’s elder brother, Kamaluddin.
The truth of this story is far less juicy. In Khairy’s office at the Prime Minister’s Department is a former female colleague. The story was made up after the lady was seen in Khairy’s company during a certain official function. But it was nothing so sinister. Khairy had offered to chaperone the lady when her other boss, Special Officer to the Prime Minister, Ahmad Zaki Zahid, was not able to accompany her to the meeting. So, as a gentleman, Khairy had stepped in as he was also due to attend the same meeting.
What is interesting is who made up this story. Several chains of narration, including amongst them Wanita UMNO Chief Rafidah Aziz, newly-married Minister for Home Affairs Azmi Khalid, and even Deputy Internal Security Minister Noh Omar, eventually were traced to Najib Tun Razak’s circle. The story was concocted by several of Najib’s inner circle of advisors in the hope that it would shake the image of Khairy’s loyalty to Abdullah. Of course, leaks were planted to the opposition through the intermediary of a senior journalist who worked freelance and often writes for international newspapers. In reality, there was not a shred of truth in the story.
Funny enough, the idea of the so-called JAWI raid stems from Najib’s own brush with the religious police. While many say that he was caught in a hotel room in Port Dickson by the JAWI counterpart in Negeri Sembilan, JAINS, Najib eventually countered the allegation by producing the report book of JAINS’ raids. Nowhere in the book is Najib mentioned, nor of any raid in the alleged hotel in Port Dickson around the date alleged by his enemies. In fact, the JAINS rumour was a smokescreen. Najib had indeed been caught with that actress, but not in Port Dickson but in a hotel in Kuala Lumpur. Najib’s special Branch officers had inserted the story of it being in Port Dickson in order to lay the ground for his alibi.
Contrary to the views of opposition leaders, Khairy is neither a homosexual nor an adulterer. But he is not an angel either. His closeness to Islamic norms is only the result of his being married into Abdullah’s family, but he is not the debauched, narrow that is painted by his enemies.
Khairy realises that his fortune, at least while Abdullah is in power, is the result of Nori’s unbending love for him. The devotion that Nori showers upon Khairy is the backbone of his strength in Abdullah’s circle. In spite of many Abdullah’s close friends and even relatives accusing Khairy of using his marital bed as security for keeping power, Abdullah will do nothing to hurt Nori — and he knows the way to hurt Nori is to accept that the criticism levelled against her husband is true.
The American ambassador to Malaysia, when attending the reception for Khairy’s and Nori’s wedding, gave the Freudian comment that Khairy ‘is a very lucky man’. It was funny that the same was not said for Nori. But all is fair in love and politics, and it is that love that makes Khairy invincible.
The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin continues…in Part 14 – Crowning the king