The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin – 26
The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin continues here:
Part 26 – A New Deal: The bag-carriers
The attendance was wafer thin — only about 50 or 60 Umno Youth members milled around the village hall when Khairy Jamaluddin arrived. It was another event organised by Umno Youth’s newest wing, Putera Umno, and Khairy was there to grace its function. This time it was the launching of an English tuition programme for junior secondary school students. The irony was that the activity had been a long-standing of Umno Youth. In fact, it was started back in the days when Aziz Sheikh Fadzir helmed the Vice Head position, but Khairy wanted the programme to be seen as his own idea; in keeping with his declared intention of bringing English, especially Shakespeare, to rural Malay kids.
So, in this balmy Kedah kampung, Khairy arrived in his Volvo with an entourage of two Mercedes and several Wajas in tow. Khairy wore his trademark Umno short-sleeved white shirt with the many pockets which some call ‘Khairy’s magical pockets’, as sometimes RM50 and RM100 notes emerge from them as if by magic. Not today, it seems.
Khairy was greeted by a Kedah Youth leader, Mohd Zulfekri Awang. He tapped Zulfekri on his shoulders; Khairy’s usual style of charming his followers. His questions are always the same: “How’s things? How’s the movement? How are the local folks?” Khairy’s droopy eyes did not change when the answers were given, as they were always the same: “Everything OK, Boss!”
The two of them went up to the stage. As the function kicked off with a dreary comment from the local Umno Youth Chairman, Khairy glanced at his bag-carrier who sat in the third row of the village hall. Let’s call him Wan Gemuk (not his real name, but close enough for people in the know). Wan Gemuk instantly knew what Khairy meant. It was time to do the groundwork. Such has been the case since around six months ago when Khairy began to change his tactics in cornering Umno Youth.
Prior to this, Khairy thought that the charm offensive was sufficient in getting him support from the ground. This was no longer the case. Khairy changed his mind when he realised all other Umno Youth leaders used money to buy support. Hishammuddin Hussein and to a greater extent Khir Toyo has been doing the same for many years. They are the biggest paymasters; basically because they can afford to do so. Other well-known Umno Youth paymasters include Mahathir’s sons, Mokhzani and Mukhriz, who have been known to build groundwork not only in Umno Youth but also in other organisations such as ANSARA (MARA Science College Alumni Association) through their largesse.
Wan stood up and went to the back of the hall. He picked up his phone, a Nokia 9300 Communicator, to send an SMS to a certain Kedah Umno Youth leader. In fact, he could have just tapped the person on the shoulder as they were both in the same room. But the SMS had a special purpose. Wan wanted to inform that particular Umno Youth leader (let’s call him Razak — actually they call him Razak Kuda, but let’s just call him Razak for short) to come and ‘collect his dues’, as Khairy had instructed.
Razak received the SMS almost immediately. It read simply ‘JOM SAT’. He noted that the number was Wan Gemuk’s. He looked up and saw Wan leaving the hall. Razak immediately stood up and followed Wan out of the hall. Once outside, they summoned Khairy’s driver who in a flash drove up with the Volvo and both got into the back.
Razak asked, “So how’s things?”
“OK,” answered Wan Gemuk. “Boss wanted me to give you what you requested last week.”
“That’s good,” said Razak. “I am running dry. It’s not easy keeping these Putera Umno people on our side. Mukhriz is doing his best to get them to support him. He has been very generous.”
Wan keyed in the combination 010, which was the number of Khairy’s favourite car, and took out a brown envelope from the black leather case. “Even if Mukhriz is generous, he will run out of money. Khairy is the man to watch and he is piling up money fast. He will have money for years to come, whereas Mukhriz will dry up.”
“I hope so,” said Razak. “Last week, at Titi Gajah, he gave RM100 to each of the Putera Umno boys. That’s a lot of money to the kampung people.”
“Well, we can give more,” countered Wan Gemuk.
“How much more?”
“RM5,000?” said Razak. “But Khairy gave more than that to Balik Pulau last week. Shah Headan said Khairy distributed RM10,000 at the Balik Pulau function.”
“What does Shah Headan know? I am the bag-carrier. I know how much I gave them. It’s RM5,000, no more no less.”
“Not enough. Kedah is different from Penang. In Penang, Khairy can count on Salim Bari and Shah Headan. In Kedah there is stiff competition. Aziz Sheikh Fadzir, Azimi Daim and Mukhriz are all big guns and Khairy has to compete with them. Kedah is not Penang. Kedah is Mahathir territory. Penang is Pak Lah territory. Penang will support Pak Lah even if Pak Lah does the stupidest of mistakes. Kedah can fall to Mahathir anytime. And the new MB Mahadzir Khalid does not like Khairy.”
“OK-lah,” said Wan Gemuk. “RM8,000 OK?”
“RM15,000 lagi baik.”
“RM15,000 is impossible. That’s too much. That’s how much Hishammuddin gave the whole of Pemuda Umno Kedah last year for the Tsunami disaster. If he gave RM15,000 for the Tsunami, it’s impossible for Khairy to give that much just for your bahagian.”
“How much do you have in the envelope?”
“I have RM12,000, but Boss asked me to reserve RM4,000,” smiled Wan.
Razak knew what Wan Gemuk was saying was a lie. Khairy meant to give the whole RM12,000, which is the bribe he had to pay to keep his machinery well-oiled and in check. But Wan Gemuk is not a dumb bag-carrier. While loyal to Khairy, he also understands that his role is a fleeting one. Khairy could choose to terminate his services anytime. Why not make hay while the sun shines? Wan often keeps some of the money for himself, and this is what he is doing today.
Razak knew this too. He realised that Wan Gemuk wanted to have his ‘cut’ but he was not going to get away that easy.
“OK,” said Razak. “But spare me a few hundred of your ‘reserve’.”
“No problem,” said Wan Gemuk as he counted out RM8,000 in fifty and hundred ringgit notes and handed them to Razak. It was just in time. The car which had driven off in a circle around the kampung had now returned to the front of the village hall. Khairy had just finished his speech. He had told the Putera Umno audience how he loves Shakespeare’s history plays which taught him the rudiments of politics — though they were far less ruthless than Umno. Khairy had enthralled the audience by telling of his fascination with football and his work with the FAM. The speech had been brief but enough to convince the crowd that the rumours of the Oxford graduate not being able to speak Malay were simply not true.
Khairy left the hall and entered his Volvo to move on to the next function. At the same time his bag-carrier stepped out of the Volvo and into one of the Wajas trailing behind. This scene will be repeated all over Kedah that day as Khairy makes his rounds. The Umno Youth members call it Hari Salam Khairy — the day to shake hands with Khairy. And shaking hands with Khairy means they will have a little to spend afterwards.
The above is an actual event which repeats itself across the whole of Malaysia wherever Umno holds sway, except in Sarawak. Money politics is well and alive in Umno and many have now forgotten that Abdullah Ahmad Badawi rode into power on the backdrop of a promise that he will clean up Umno of this affliction, which he has often described as ‘a cancer that kills’. Abdullah Badawi is proven no less a liar by his own son-in-law who now realises that his father-in-law’s tenuous hold on Umno can be perpetuated only if it is compounded by a show of generosity to the ordinary members. The pile of cash that Khairy is building up is not only a nest egg for himself and his family, but a necessity in the face of rivals who have much deeper pockets.
Khairy channels the money to the members by planting a person in each division who acts as the ‘umbrella’ or ‘payung’. The payung’s function is to distribute cash to people who are deemed Khairy supporters. These people must turn up at functions graced by Khairy and will then be able to receive their dues. From the money that Khairy circulates, each payung keeps something like RM1,000 to RM2,000 per month for himself for rainy days — i.e. times when rivals come to compete for the favours of the Umno members.
The payungs are often Vice-Heads of Umno Youth divisions or branches. Sometimes they are members of Khairy’s informal ‘Vice Heads of Umno Youth Club’. Often, they are also people who have served with Khairy in his previous incarnation as an appointed Umno Youth Exco member with responsibility for education affairs. Each and every time, they are invariably also people who spy on other Youth leaders who appear to be paying too much attention to Khairy’s potential rivals for the headship of Umno Youth in the party elections of 2007.
The bag-carriers are people one step up from the payung. These are Umno Youth members who have been especially entrusted by Khairy to become distributors of funds. Some, such as Wan Gemuk, handle sums to the tens of thousands of ringgit. Others such as Rozabil Abdul Rahman of Perlis deal in the hundreds of thousands. Even higher up are the bags themselves, creatures such as Wan Farid Wan Salleh of Terengganu who are actually responsible for collecting ‘tolls’ on behalf of Khairy and for directing the funds to special accounts from which the bag-carriers can draw their allocations. At the very top is Khairy himself, safely insulated from the dirty business, but nevertheless casting a watchful eye on all proceedings. Only when Khairy winks do the bag-carriers approach the payung. They dare not act otherwise.
Like royalty, Khairy does not handle any cash himself. He lets others do that work for him while he keeps his hands clean. This is actually nothing new in Umno politics. Since the time of Tun Razak it has been customary for Umno Youth leaders ranging from Syed Jaafar Albar to Harun Idris to Suhaimi Kamaruddin to Anwar Ibrahim to Najib Tun Razak and Zahid Hamidi to have bag-carriers and payungs. What has changed is the sum. In the past, where Umno members used to be satisfied with orange RM10 notes once every few months, they are now only happy if the money comes monthly and in the blue and purple denominations of fifties and hundreds.
Politics is alive and well in Malaysia and money continues to be its lifeblood. All the nonsense that Abdullah Badawi spouted at the damning of Isa Samad and others of the same character is belied by the fact that his own trusted advisors do exactly the same and in far more blatant fashion. The Umno disciplinary committee led by the aging and literally toothless Tengku Ahmad Rithuaddeen is nothing but a sham. In the face of the Young Turks who are bold enough to hand out these payments, the committee does little. After all, if Khairy’s best friend, Putrajaya UMNO Youth Head Ahmad Zaki Zahid, can get away with it with a mere limp slap on the wrist, even for the bold act of dishing out cash in broad daylight, why shouldn’t the others do the same?
It’s another day in Umno politics and the money keeps rolling on, oiling the Khairy bandwagon as it transforms into a juggernaut, swallowing support in its wake….
The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin continues…in Part 27 – A New Deal: Crash and Burn