The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin – 22
The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin continues here:
Part 22 – A fatal miscalculation
All politicians are concerned with their legacy. How they are remembered matters more to them than anything else. To start with, a politician usually has an ego that moves him to look at the world in a very narrow form. In the mind of a politician, every event that happens revolves around himself. They have what some have described as a ‘genetic disorder’ of extreme belief in the ability of oneself to do almost anything in the world. Only very rarely do we come across politicians who are able to transcend that vicious trait and think more of others than they do of themselves. For most, the legacy they leave behind is the end-all and be-all of everything that they do.
As a young man in a hurry, Khairy Jamaluddin has gone beyond the norm in trying to secure his legacy. A few days ago, Khairy participated in a forum organized by UMNO Youth in collaboration with their sympathisers in the Universiti Sains Malaysia campus in Penang. Perhaps unusual for a university, the forum was openly in support of UMNO, and Khairy made no qualms to hide the fact that UMNO drove the event in order to inculcate its dogma in the minds of the participants. Khairy likes to start them young and it therefore comes as no surprise that the participants were all young people. What may be surprising, though, is that all the participants are still in Forms One and Two of the secondary schools and therefore, strictly speaking, still children.
Therein lies the fatal flaw of Khairy. He started out and still professes that he is in favour of reform. In fact, he presents himself as the candidate of change against the lethargy of past regimes. Khairy is the Renaissance Man who would like to teach Malaysians how to appreciate Shakespeare and drag them kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. But like all UMNO politicians (and yes, even many in the opposition too), Khairy has missed the woods for the trees.
Even when he fights to proclaim his image as a morally superior reformer, Khairy goes on and on to break the rules. He sees nothing wrong about dragging politics into campuses in contravention of Malaysian law, especially the Universities and University Colleges Act which was introduced with the help of his father-in-law (then a ranking senior civil servant). Khairy sees nothing wrong with influencing children with UMNO propaganda, while at the same time criticising PAS for building their own nurseries and schools. Khairy, in fact, sees nothing wrong with whatever he does in the face of the unarguable fact that, as one of the most brilliant young men in the country, he is more than qualified to exercise exceptions to the rule. The law that applies to the common people, or even other politicians, do not apply to him. They are dumb, stupid and backward, and unable to match his Oxbridge intellect. Because he is far cleverer than the rest, the rules do not apply to him.
What Khairy enjoys from such events is the ability to show off to people far less intellectual than him that he is a man to look up to. Yet, slowly, some are beginning to notice that Khairy never dares to be with others who are equally intelligent, or perhaps even cleverer than him. He plays to the galleries only when the galleries are made up of people who are either too scared to speak up or unable to do so; because they are bewildered by the jargon that Khairy uses. Khairy’s ability to sustain himself in politics is purely based on the fact that he has not allowed himself to be made a fool by another who is equally able as him. Abdullah Badawi in his closeted life thinks that Khairy is the best thing since sliced bread because he has never met anyone else equal to Khairy. But Khairy is responsible from preventing these people from having access to Abdullah.
Unlike Mahathir, Abdullah Badawi does not have a wide circle of intellectuals that he can rely upon. Most in his circle is made up of people who have shared his BTN background. Other than that, there are a few academics who have made their living by instilling an ultra-Malay culture in their outlook. Abdullah has no intellectual friends. If you exclude the few journalists who write toadying articles about his so-called political tribulations, even within the circle of civil servants that he likes to surround himself with, Abdullah is never considered the brightest of the lot. It was, in fact, Abdullah’s lack of intelligence that commended him to Mahathir, because the latter thought that a man with so little intellect would be more likely to follow the policies set before him and not question them.
The flaw that Khairy has developed since his ascension as Vice Youth Chief of UMNO is that he no longer tolerates criticism. In the first place, he has never had a valid circle of friends. His closest companions are foreigners, mainly Singaporeans or Malaysians who have never been schooled in Malaysia. Like him, they are the elite who rarely touch ground with the common people. Khairy tried to transcend this disability by acquiring new friends within UMNO Youth whom he felt was more in touch with the grassroots. Unfortunately, most UMNO Youth leaders turn out to be people who use their alliance with Khairy either to threaten other political rivals or enrich themselves at the expense of genuine businessmen. Khairy, in fact, has no real friends within UMNO, and the few that he has outside it have been rewarded with high posts that they are now afraid to lose. So they have all stopped speaking the truth to Khairy.
All leaders face this problem: it is lonely at the top. But Khairy has reached this stage far too soon. Even before he could assume his unabashed objective of becoming Malaysia’s Prime Minister before the age of forty, he has already reached this groupie mentality. Yes, Khairy’s circle is now only made up of groupies. Anyone who dares to say anything against him soon finds himself being boycotted by the other groupies. Slowly they fade away as the others tighten the circle around Khairy.
Mahathir Mohamad realised too late that this was the case with him in 1998. He no longer had people who could speak up without fear or favour. In that sense, he comes only as the latest in a long run of UMNO leaders. Tunku Abdul Rahman had the same problem in 1969 when he refused to listen to the Young Turks (which included Mahathir and Musa Hitam) and relied only on his closest advisors like Khir Johari, Sardon Jubir and Senu Abdul Rahman. Tun Razak would have been destroyed by the insipid influence of Abdullah Ahmad had he not died before his time. Hussein Onn, too, failed to read the writings on the wall and by the time he ceased to rely on Ghazali Shafie, it was too late for him to salvage his leadership. Abdullah Badawi too will fall in the exact same way. He is already beginning his slow tumble downwards from the heights of power. Abdullah’s inability to judge people correctly and his obsessive reliance on Khairy will cause him to anger those very UMNO leaders upon whom he should rely on for support. Abdullah will be kicked out of office for the same reason that others before him have found themselves flat on their face. It is always the advisors that kill off their own leader.
Khairy’s fatal flaw of being unable to judge between enemies and genuine critics has been exacerbated by his rolling-stone-like ability to gather powerful enemies. Khairy’s enemies can be classified into several key groups. The most powerful group is made up of supporters of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. These people feel that Khairy is an overrated brat who is a theorist out of touch with reality. They think that Khairy will lead the nation up the garden path and fool the people into a long and intolerable dictatorship led by himself and fuelled by his cronies of young Oxbridge graduates. Time and time again, members of this group, including serving and former cabinet ministers, have tried to bridge an alliance of UMNO veterans and current leadership to check Khairy’s rise to power. Their most hopeful scenario is for Abdullah Badawi to be removed from office either by force or subtle pressure and have a new leader, probably Najib Tun Razak, who will then decapitate Khairy.
Does Mahathir Mohamad himself support this group? In a sense, Mahathir is already giving them the best support anyone can give by undermining many of Abdullah’s new policies. As a conservative Malay politician, Mahathir is a genius at causing people to question Abdullah’s ability merely by uttering a few indirect comments which seem an attack on others, but in reality is a veiled stab at Abdullah himself. No one expects Mahathir to go further than that, but by doing so, Mahathir provides an avenue where those dissatisfied with Abdullah and Khairy can gather and plot.
Khairy’s other enemies are those young leaders of UMNO who are afraid of his connections with Anwar Ibrahim. Khairy does have some sympathy for Anwar, but it is fair to say that Anwar loves Khairy more than Khairy loves Anwar. In fact, Anwar is besotted with Khairy, seeing in him a mirror image of his own fabled meteoric rise to power. Anwar thinks that Khairy models himself after him and tries to play the father figure by giving Khairy unsolicited advice on how to manoeuvre within UMNO Youth. Anwar thinks that Khairy is a genuine article, in the mould of a charismatic leader, the only type that Anwar respects.
By being close to Anwar, Khairy has formed an alliance seen by many in UMNO as a pact with the devil himself. Certainly the old guard is fearful of Anwar, but the young leaders too are worried that Anwar will come back in and bring along his own cadres, thereby displacing them, especially those who made their careers after 1998 by brown-nosing Mahathir. In reality, Khairy’s attempt to use Anwar for his own popularity has back-fired. The visit to Anwar’s house on 2 September 2004 is the one thing UMNO leaders remember about Khairy and it will mark him with the brand of Brutus for many years to come.
Khairy’s enemies are not all politicians. Some of them are businessmen who feel that they have been cut out by ECM Libra and other Khairy ‘investment vehicles’. A certain Tan Sri from Penang recently remarked to his friend that it is almost impossible for him to have any business with the Penang government because all the contracts have been taken up young Chinese cronies of Khairy Jamaluddin. He pointed to several key construction projects which involve Khairy’s nominees. The allegations are not all true of course. Some of the nominees are not Khairy’s but those of the late Endon Mahmood’s family and of Kamaluddin Abdullah Badawi. But since Khairy is the most visible member of the Prime Minister’s family, he is automatically seen as the deal-maker.
No matter that the accusations are only partly true. Even those that are makes Khairy seem like a greedy young man out to earn hundreds of millions at the expense of far more established businessmen. The perception is that Khairy influences business decisions made by the government. For example, those involved in the DRB shares sale think that Khairy had instructed Kalimullah Hassan Masheerul Hassan, his Singapore Special Branch buddy, to jump the gun and tie the government’s hands by announcing that Tan Sri S.M. Nasimuddin had won the bid for the late Yahaya Ahmad’s shares. News spread that Khairy had leaked the information to the NST, knowing full well that others in the government were in favour of Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar’s bid. But Khairy wanted to push the decision in his favour so he took the unprecedented step of using the press as a method to influence the decision.
Those who dislike Khairy comprise some of the richest Malay and Chinese businessmen. The Malays hate him for creating a new circle of young Malay businessmen allied to himself; those such as Rozabil Abdul Rahman, the Perlis Youth Chief, and others of that persuasion. The Chinese businessmen hate him for selling major business opportunities to his Singaporean friends. The fact that Khazanah now deals only with the big players from Singapore and Indonesia means that many locals are excluded. All this is deemed to be Khairy’s fault and all lead to the same conclusion: that business is bad because of Khairy.
Perception is everything in politics, therefore whether the accusations levelled against Khairy are true or not, people in politics and business who each have their own interest will always take the side of the story that favours their own line of thinking. Therein lies Khairy’s own problems. Because of his eager (some say too eager) efforts to aggrandise and self-publicise, he has become the main target for the elites’ dissatisfaction. The people know too little about Khairy at the moment for them to have a negative opinion on him. But those who move and shake the country, who make a living by wheeling and dealing, who thirst at the opportunity of power-broking, who feel that it is their birthright to secure politics’ highest offices, and who spend their days thinking of what’s the best alliances to make, these people have all formed their opinions about Khairy and it is too late for him to change them. It is time for the battle to begin.
During Khairy’s monologue at USM, he was at his most self-indulgent best. He gave a press conference which extolled all the efforts he is doing to create a morally upright group of young citizens. But away in a corner where the press conference was held, a group of UMNO Youth leaders were gathering. All shared the same feeling: they were sick of Khairy. One suggested that the time was now right for them to push forward an equally potent rival within UMNO Youth, someone who can match Khairy’s intellect. A state Youth leader proposed several names and the small gathering broke off after agreeing to shortlist the names mentioned. Khairy will not have an easy year ahead…
The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin continues…in Part 23 – Faster, Higher, Stronger