The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin – 14
The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin continues here:
Part 14 – Crowning the king
Malaysia’s first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, once joked that he was too happy doing his job as Prime Minister he did not wish to let go too soon. In fact, he remarked lightheartedly, his deputy, Tun Razak, was ‘too young’ to succeed him. Of course, the Tunku meant it all in the jocular mood for which he is famous. But that incident remained long in the mind of Tun Razak to such an extent that he began to seethe with anger. It was not many years later that the Tunku found himself on the receiving end of Tun Razak’s discontentment and swiftly found his throne seized from him in the aftermath of the May 13 melee.
Such is the way with crown princes. Though near to the throne, they are often very much aware of the instability of their position. Unless and until they ascend the throne and become kings in their own right, their position continues to be insecure for they are always the egg at the end of the buffalo’s horn. The king holds powers of life and death over their crown princes and woe betide any man who faces either a strong king or one who is made mad by his years in power.
At the present moment, though the premiership of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is but a couple of years old, it is already showing the signs of a weary and tired reign. The king is weak and uninspiring. The crown princes, on the other hand, are eager to get their chance at playing that role. Let there be no mistake about it, although Najib Tun Razak is the heir and Anwar Ibrahim the pretender, the real successor to Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s leadership is his son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin. At the young age of 30, Khairy has become the undisputed Man of the Future.
Khairy fully realises his position is precarious. Though ensured through his marriage, he cannot rely on being long in a safe position due to the inability of Abdullah Badawi to steward a steady ship of state. Khairy must quickly become king himself or replace his own father-in-law with a new ruler indebted to him. Since the last few days, this need has become more urgent. Instability has come creeping into Abdullah’s government as Malaysians wake up to the realisation that the man they overwhelmingly backed in the last General Election has been unable to deliver on his promises.
In November 2003, when Abdullah first became Prime Minister, Khairy was cocky enough to remark to his friends that he would soon put former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir in jail, together with his bosom buddy Daim Zainuddin and other luminaries of that bygone era. Two years on, it is Mahathir who has proven himself still king of Malaysian politics by his deft remote control tactics exercised in the style that is so uniquely his. Mahathir quite openly challenged Abdullah’s authority by bringing up the AP issue and making Abdullah’s government look more corrupt than his own. In other matters too, Mahathir has shown he is no pushover. Abdullah is fully aware that he cannot make any move, even within UMNO, without considering the opinion of Dr Mahathir.
Take, for example, the appointment of Mahadzir Khalid as Acting Menteri Besar of Kedah. Everyone is aware that the current Menteri Besar, Syed Razak, is an invalid and has been so for several months. Yet, Abdullah took his time in appointing a surrogate Menteri Besar, not for lack of candidates, but as he himself admitted to a delegation of Kedah UMNO deputy ministers and Exco members, Syed Razak cannot be removed because he is ‘Mahathir’s man’. Such is the weakness of Abdullah Badawi — he has been thwarted in appointing his own man as Menteri Besar in Perlis, Kedah, Selangor, Johor and Sabah. Only in Negeri Sembilan has Abdullah been able to put his nominee as the local boss.
The fear that Abdullah has of Mahathir’s power is very real. Abdullah knows Mahathir will not tolerate any attack on his legacies. Even worse, Mahathir is now fully awake to the potential disaster on his legacy that can be wrought by Khairy and his friends. So Abdullah lies in his Putrajaya office, half-dozing, half-shaking, unaware of Mahathir’s moves yet fully conscious of the threats they may bring.
Najib Tun Razak has been nothing but a disappointment. While paying lip-service to Abdullah’s call for reform, Najib has been tepid in his support for Abdullah’s policies. Even in the AP issue, Najib, who is no friend of Rafidah, played the role of spokesman, as if he was in a second-rate school play. Najib plays the careful game, not willing to put his neck out for the boss, because he knows once that neck is slit, it will be him who becomes king.
So Khairy lies awake at night, seeing his plans, conjured two years ago, come only partly to fruition. Threats remain to his ascension to the ultimate prize of being Malaysia’s youngest ever Prime Minister. He hopes that Anwar’s popularity may help him once he finds a way for Abdullah to readmit Anwar into UMNO. But Anwar is also fast losing his lustre. Spending too much time overseas, Anwar has distanced his closest supporters by playing favourites that was his hallmark when previously in power. More importantly, Anwar has failed to fulfil his promise of leading the opposition or deliver the much-needed funds as a result of his sojourn in distant lands which he had promised. His failure to win over DAP to accommodate PAS, which was his main contribution to the 1999 General Election, is a taint on his abilities.
The PAS leadership is increasingly distrustful of Anwar and his lieutenants, fully aware that Anwar is toying with Khairy in the hope of again being a part of UMNO’s leadership. While the two leaders at the very top, that is PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang and Kelantan Chief Minister Nik Aziz Nik Mat, continue to honour Anwar whenever he deigns to visit their territories, other senior PAS leaders including the so-called ‘professional’ group have been holding secret strategy meetings to discuss their response in the event that Anwar pulls a surprise and leaves the opposition for UMNO’s greener shores.
One PAS Vice President has even gone so far as to discuss the issue with Khairy himself, meeting him two months ago in a room in the Crown Princess Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. The meeting was casual but two messages were exchanged. The PAS leader told Khairy that Anwar would not be able to bring PAS back into the Barisan Nasional fold — a move in which Abdullah Badawi was a key player during the early days of Tun Razak’s government. Secondly, Khairy told the PAS leader that Anwar is acceptable to UMNO but not his party, PKR, which must be dissolved before Anwar would be allowed in.
Though he denies this in public, Anwar could not resist telling the crowds that UMNO has begun sending messages for him to consider rejoining the party. A few days ago in Kota Bharu, Anwar remarked that a former Menteri Besar and division leaders of UMNO had invited him to return to reform their party. The audience would have been less impressed if Anwar had been more candid and named those people.
The former Menteri Besar is Osman Aroff, a Kedah politician synonymous with the most extreme degrees of corruption and is currently almost a complete non-entity within the UMNO leadership. Osman Aroff was Anwar’s bag-boy in Kedah, playing the role of Anwar’s proxy in the battle to subdue Mahathir’s inept, bumbling and almost insane nominee, Sanusi Junid. But Osman Aroff had lost big time and is no longer a force to be reckoned with. The division leaders whom Anwar coyly did not name include Afifudin Omar, another Anwar loyalist who tried to play the same role with Abdullah but got fooled into accepting a mere State Assembly seat in exchange for the cabinet post he ardently begged for.
All these people came to see Anwar because no one else would see them.
Since Khairy’s departure from the Prime Minister’s office, Abdullah has begun receiving Special Branch briefings in the comfort of his home rather than at the office. The reason? So that in the middle of these briefings, Khairy can casually enter the room as if by coincidence and plonk himself in the nearest chair to also absorb the information being dispensed.
In the matter of Anwar Ibrahim’s goings on, it is Khairy that is entrusted in gauging their value and to produce the next strategy for Abdullah. Abdullah knows that Anwar is more valuable to Khairy than to himself. After all, bringing Anwar back into UMNO’s fold would help Khairy’s credentials as a young but fair politician of the future. Also, Anwar would help prop Khairy up in the face of a Najib onslaught. But as for Abdullah himself, bringing Anwar back can only mean pitting himself for a head-to-head confrontation with the pincer movements of both Mahathir Mohamad and Najib Tun Razak. So, bringing Anwar in is Khairy’s way of transforming himself in the long term from a mere crown prince to a king with real powers.
Strangely enough, Anwar never mentions the dealings he has with Khairy in his public addresses. Yet, in private, Anwar admires Khairy almost to the point of envy. Regardless of whatever faults Khairy may have, in Anwar’s eyes, he is the key to him returning to power. Khairy is also Anwar’s key to retribution for Mahathir Mohamad. Ludicrous though it may sound, the very closest of Anwar’s circle has been instructed not only to treat Khairy with respect and to try to establish a relationship with him, but also to begin cozying up to Khairy’s trusted advisors such as Omar Ong and Ahmad Zaki Zahid.
But the tide of politics is a strange phenomenon. Its ebb and flow cannot be determined with exact accuracy. In the next few weeks, the game will be played out to its climax. Moves are being made on Khairy’s side as well as that of all the other dramatis personae to an endgame that will change the face of Malaysian politics. Khairy is about to face the biggest test of his short but meteoric career…
The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin continues…in Part 15 – The game of high stakes