The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin – 16
The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin continues here:
Part 16 – The walls that talk
The plan hatched by Khairy Jamaluddin to bring back Anwar Ibrahim into UMNO as a counterbalance to the powers of the designated heir to the UMNO Presidency, Najib Tun Razak, and to shore up his own long-term political future within the party, has reached a defining point through the meeting held between Anwar and Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Although both sides are coy about the details discussed at that rendezvous, there have been many reports that indicate the main items as being laying the ground for Anwar’s eventual return to UMNO. The stumbling blocks remain: Anwar refuses to apply for a pardon (though he would not be able to turn down one if it was ‘offered’) and prefers merely to be readmitted on the basis that the Federal Court has proven his innocence. On the other hand, both Abdullah and Khairy want Anwar readmitted only if it is clearly seen to be a prerogative of the UMNO President — thereby making Anwar indebted to Abdullah’s signal efforts in bringing him back.
However, these stumbling blocks become less a hindrance as the day passes. Anwar realises that his own party, PKR, is bogged down by factional strife and unable to rouse the interest of the majority of the voters, at least in the very near future. Any effort to strengthen PKR would only be successful in the long run, and Anwar does not want to wait too long. His other partners in the opposition coalition are unable to drive a cross-ethnic force of sufficient strength to place him in a position of power. There remains, therefore, only UMNO.
For Khairy, the screws are tightening too. Day by day, Abdullah seems less able to fulfill the promises he had so stridently made prior to the last General Election. Mahathir’s forces have created reactionary ripples which Abdullah is unable to effectively counter. The ‘feel-good factor’ is gone and the early successes in convincing the people of the seriousness of the anti-corruption drive have dissipated. More importantly, Najib is fast aligning forces to ensure that his team wins the groundwork of the next UMNO party election.
Bearing in mind that most current UMNO Division leaders had served under Najib during his tenure as UMNO Youth Leader in the 1980s, he has a ground support which Abdullah does not and which Khairy is yet to build. At the same time, Najib can rely on his cousin to ensure that UMNO Youth does not stray too much in the direction of Khairy. He is also helped by Mahathir’s children who are active in creating a fifth column within UMNO Youth to act as a vanguard against Khairy’s ambitions. These are the guardians of Mahathir’s legacy and their success is measured by the fact that, in recent months, Khairy has been foolish enough to think that Najib and his officers have made serious efforts to align themselves to Abdullah’s agenda. It took nothing more than a few SMSes in praise of Khairy’s speech at the UMNO Youth Assembly to create the impression he is finally getting Najib’s pat on his back. Yet Najib is the consummate politician of years of training whereas Khairy is the young politician trying to brush off the disappointing catcalls made by UMNO Youth members just last year.
But Khairy’s effort in imposing this coup-de-grace is hampered by the walls that talk. For their own peculiar reasons, Khairy’s friends and enemies both find it necessary to leak information about Khairy’s impending deal with Anwar. It creates a problem for Khairy because, unlike other efforts in the past, he has little control over the leaks. Khairy cannot shut them up for the simple reason that most of the leaks would not or could not be controlled by either Khairy or his father-in-law. These continuous information breaches have made Khairy’s life one almost completely occupied with fire-fighting. Khairy has to fend off the suspicions of his fellow UMNO politicians. Najib does not trust him and, to a lesser extent, even his own boss in UMNO Youth, Hishamuddin Hussein, finds it difficult to rely completely on Khairy’s protestations of loyalty.
More importantly, UMNO leaders are not sure of Khairy’s future leanings. Isa Samad’s present predicament, due to Khairy’s machinations, has caused both Ali Rustam and Muhyiddin Yassin to fall into cautious silence. Yet, they and other important UMNO luminaries such as Khir Toyo are fully aware that should Anwar be brought back into UMNO, only Khairy will benefit whereas most of the others will have to fend off the knowing glances of Anwar supporters who have been blackballed in the last seven years. They would no doubt look at Anwar’s re-entry as the opportunity to avenge themselves at the expense of the leaders who had risen in the wilderness years to fill the vacuum.
And, of course, Khairy would support them. Removing Khir Toyo means strengthening his position in UMNO Youth. Ali Rustam’s ouster would lead to the creation of two new vacant high positions which can be filled by Khairy’s allies. Already Ali Rustam’s deputy in the 4B movement, Noh Omar, is eyeing the seat in an effort to consolidate his own long-term ascension to power.
The allies of former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad have long awakened to the fact that this ‘budak hinguih’ (as Mahathir once called him) spells trouble for their long-term political success. More importantly, Mahathir’s children realise that the rise of Khairy means the wiping out of their father’s 22-year old legacy.
The Anwar camp of course talks like chattering sparrows. They need to show that Anwar is still relevant. To that end, every single meeting held between Khairy and Anwar confidante Ezam Mohd Nor is immediately broadcast to the Keadilan leadership — partly to make Ezam feel important and partly to portray Anwar’s continued political value. The fact that Ezam and another Anwar confidante, PKR Vice-President Azmin Ali, are currently in a catfight and competing against each other for their boss’ favour means that they also compete in showing of their closeness to Khairy and their discussions regarding Anwar’s future political career.
Whether Khairy realises it or not, most of the stories circulating around town regarding his efforts to allow Anwar an easy passage back into UMNO come from sources that are in direct communication with him. While officially denying that Anwar will rejoin UMNO, in private, nothing else is as important. Ezam and Azmin have for some time been dropping Khairy’s name as their source of inside information within UMNO. They have gone so far as to even suggest that Khairy is the main conduit for discussions between Abdullah and Anwar. They say that Khairy is helpful where other officers such as Thajudeen Abdul Wahab are not.
Lackeys such as PKR party organ editor and propagandist Zunar have gone a step further by repeating these leaks not only to Keadilan leaders but also to PAS figures to whom he claims to be close — having been a former staff of the PAS organ, Harakah. In turn, these stories create an atmosphere of distrust amongst some of the top leadership of PAS regarding Anwar’s future intentions. PAS has its own way of checking these stories — some of their younger leaders have direct ties with Khairy and converse with him by telephone on a regular basis. Khairy could not deny for too long his discussions with the PKR leadership because, sooner or later, the truth would come out and he cannot afford, at this stage, to be seen too much as a lying schemer.
There is no denying that for people like Zunar there is a bittersweet feeling in leaking these information. He revels in getting in the good books of senior PAS and PKR politicians by being an important source of information to them. On the other hand, as head honcho of the official party propaganda machinery, he cannot be seen as being too favourable to Anwar’s eventual re-entry to UMNO. As such, his pronouncements on this matter have been chaotic to the extent that PKR’s political bureau recently met to discuss Zunar’s leaks. The bureau felt that he had given too much prominence to the so-called discussion between Abdullah and Anwar that the PKR leaders became confused and the UMNO leaders, on the other hand, became angry at the so-called revelations, some of which Zunar had intended to publish in the party newspaper.
Indeed, these leaks are often deliberate efforts in which some individuals believe that they are world-class experts. In fact, they are not so and have often blundered, giving the wrong information to their supporters and enemies alike. The party information machinery is out of control and relies more on unofficial sources whispered via the grapevine than the official media nominally responsible for distributing the correct information to the public.
But not all the leaks come from Anwar’s side. There are also people close to Khairy who have been doing the same. These are mostly his closest confidantes in the Ethos Consulting circle who move within the more Western-educated liberal young professional network. To them, Anwar’s sacking and humiliation by Dr Mahathir Mohamad was a travesty of justice and, in spite of their lack of open opposition to that cruel episode, they continue to pronounce that it was a black period in Malaysian politics. Khairy’s friends defend his record by openly espousing that, in his personal capacity, Khairy is sympathetic to Anwar’s plight. In fact, time and time again, these groups are reminded of Khairy’s magnanimous visit to Anwar’s house the night of the latter’s release from incarceration.
Khairy’s circle of friends comprise some young lawyers, bankers and political aspirants who believe that Anwar’s rehabilitation is a giant step in the effort to rid UMNO of the dregs of the Mahathir years. They tell themselves that Anwar would bring back UMNO’s lost popularity amongst the Malay heartland and revive Abdullah’s credentials as a liberal reformer. Therefore, in their discussions, they often leak Khairy’s efforts to reinstate Anwar within UMNO in order to portray Khairy as the voice of the future. In other words, to the more liberal groups who comprise the backbone of Khairy’s support, the discussions with Anwar is no bad thing. On the other hand, it is the undisputed proof that Khairy is serious about reforms and is not a politician shaped by UMNO’s older mould.
Leaks from Khairy’s circle usually comprise of two groups. The first group, those who are in immediate contact with Khairy such as Omar Ong, Ahmad Zaki Zahid, Norza Zakaria, Lim Kian Teck, Rozabil Abdul Rahman and others of that calibre, do not usually discuss these issues in public. However, some are forced to do so. For example, Omar Ong is nominally responsible to Najib Tun Razak as his Special Officer. He is often provoked by Najib’s other officers into giving them bits of information about Khairy’s movements and political planning. In other words, information is often squeezed out of Omar Ong as if he was a tube of toothpaste. Of course, in the end, the news gets back to Najib and in separate meetings with his more trusted advisors this information is sifted, analysed and examined more thoroughly.
The second group of Khairy leaks comprises those who were brought in by the first group as their support technocrats. These include the younger members of Ethos Consulting, YPCS and other such groups associated with Khairy. While they are known to Khairy, they are definitely not his bosom buddies. Nevertheless, whatever information they heard about Khairy’s movements is quickly disseminated for the simple fact that each and every one of these young and eager aspirants want to be seen by others as Khairy’s trusted lieutenants. Often, their unguarded and exaggerated claims are passed on to other friends who in turn make their own conclusions to the detriment of Khairy.
So, not all the leaks come from Khairy’s enemies. In fact, the majority of the sources of information about Khairy’s movements are collected from those who are his so-called friends and allies. The problem about being so young in politics is that Khairy’s circle of friends are also young and inexperienced. They do not have the political kicks of the older and more experienced group of politicians who can twist and turn every word to their favour. This lack of experience in Khairy’s circle also creates a lack of probity. Too much ambition causes them to want too much for themselves. As a result, they also talk too much and Khairy often finds that people’s negative perceptions about him originate from his own circle of friends. Such is the unfortunate result of Khairy surrounding himself with the young and ambitious. There is no escaping that, amongst these, there will be at least some who are also greedy and foolish.
And then, of course, there are those who are high enough to get the information and use it for their own purposes to destroy Khairy…
The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin continues…in Part 17 – The comforting branch breaks