The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin – 27
The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin continues here:
Part 27 – A New Deal: Crash and Burn
The government of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi started with much promise and on the backdrop of many pledges, resolutions, manifestoes and assurances. For a brief moment, the gullible Malaysian public was led to believe that the dark ages of Dr Mahathir Mohamad had come to an abrupt end and changes were about to hit the country like a Tsunami to sweep away the disasters of the past and bury Mahathir’s legacy into the history books.
Yes, happy days are here again, or so we visualised, which some would rather label as fantasise. Being the unsophisticated lot that we are, we gave the benefit of the doubt to a man whom many had described as ‘Mr Clean’ — even though there was hardly any reason for that epithet to be bestowed on someone who had never been exposed to the temptation of being crooked. The fact is Abdullah has never been able to use any of his past government positions to gain riches basically because they were never strategic positions in which money could easily be made. Therefore, he remained relatively poor compared to other ministers not out of choice — and it was due to this that he got the ‘clean’ image. It was not due to lack of trying, mind you, but lack of opportunities that made Abdullah by ‘accident’ a cleaner man than others of his ilk.
More than two years into his premiership, the spin that Abdullah’s aides, headed by Khairy Jamaluddin, gave to the public is rapidly unravelling. Previously, the bumbling incompetence of a man unfit to hold the highest office of the land could be hidden behind the razzmatazz of so-called new initiatives and differentiation of style. Unfortunately for Abdullah however, even the simplest of crises had become a problem for him to tackle. He is simply ill-equipped to manage government, whether it is the routine cabinet meetings in which he often falls asleep midway through discussions, or at international forums where he sometimes forgets which country’s president he is meeting. To a certain extent, Abdullah is the Ronald Reagan of Malaysia — prone to gaffes, but charming, yet deeply flawed when it comes to policies; and definitely one of the shallowest intellects ever to grace the corridors of power.
The most pressing problem for Abdullah has been the problem of timing. While his administration aims to lengthen his life by doing everything slowly and with the utmost caution, the closest around him — including his immediate family — have been hasty, reckless and greedy in their attempt to enrich themselves. Abdullah closes his eyes to the rampant misuse of government position by Khairy’s cronies like an ostrich with its head buried in the sand. The sudden wealth of Scomi, ECM Libra, Ethos Consulting, Binafikir and Dewina can all be ignored because Abdullah continuously spins the white lie that he has nothing to do with their movements or activities.
To a certain extent this is true — Abdullah does not directly involve himself with the efforts of his brother, sister-in-law, son, son-in-law and daughter-in-law in acquiring millions within the short space of the last two years. But neither does he stop them from doing so, and neither does he concern himself with telling them to slow down. Abdullah is an indulgent fellow who sees nothing wrong with what his family does. Unfortunately, with the death of Endon Mahmood, the brakes are no longer there. The circle around Abdullah, made up of the younger and greedier members of his family, blatantly use their position as Malaysia’s ‘First Family’ to force government departments to give them contracts — and, in the case of Khairy, to use a Ministry of Finance-owned company to bail out a business directly linked to him.
The frustration felt by the public does not match the frustration of Abdullah’s close friends from the old BTN and GPMS days. They had hoped that Abdullah would begin to reward them by dishing out some of the patronage that he is now empowered to dispense. In fact, Abdullah pointed out several close friends from his days at BTN and GPMS to his private secretaries to indicate that ‘these people should be given contracts’. However, whenever they pay homage to Thajudeen Abdul Wahab to enquire about their apportioned largesse, they are often blocked by Khairy’s cronies in the PM’s Department, especially ‘Mr Twenty Percent’, Ahmad Zaki Zahid — the very man whom Abdullah trusts almost completely on all economic and financial affairs, yet the same man the UMNO Disciplinary Committee convicted of corruption.
This is the paradox of Abdullah Badawi. He sees nothing wrong with corruption in his own family, but opposes it vehemently when others do it. He considers Tan Sri Isa Samad a traitor to UMNO for giving out money to win political positions within UMNO. But when Zaki Zahid does the same, Abdullah treats it as an innocent mistake. When Kasitah Gaddam uses government funds to help out companies associated with his family, Abdullah goes after him like a charging lion. But when Kalimullah and Khairy pressure Nor Mohamed Yakcop to instruct Avenue Capital to buy out ECM Libra, Abdullah says ‘he knows nothing’ about the deal. Either the man is an incorrigible liar or he is simply the most stupid Prime Minister we have ever had.
Let’s assume that it is the latter, that Abdullah is innocent of corruption in spite of the fact that his family is deeply mired in it. Even so, Abdullah becomes a dangerous liability to the country. Nothing is worse than a man who goes about his work unaware that his very closest and dearest are rapidly getting fat at the public’s expense. Stories about Abdullah’s incompetence and stupidity are too many to recount. Former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad complains to his friends that Abdullah often sleeps away, even during times when he is supposed to keep important appointments with foreign dignitaries and corporate leaders.
Ministers such as Syed Hamid Albar find to their chagrin that Abdullah had given Khairy top-secret documents regarding negotiations between Malaysia and Singapore for his ‘bedtime reading’. Already uncomfortable with the in-depth knowledge of Malaysian foreign policy decisions that is known to his Singaporean counterparts, Syed Hamid Albar has become so suspicious of Khairy that he brings his briefing papers to the Prime Minister in person instead of forwarding them in advance to the Prime Minister’s desk.
Recently, Second Finance Minister Nor Mohamed Yakcop discovered to his horror that a list of contracts to be awarded under the Ninth Malaysia Plan had been scribbled with names of companies to be awarded such projects, even before the tenders have been drafted and called. The scribbling was in the longhand of Khairy.
After a recent Cabinet meeting, Rural Development Minister Aziz Shamsudin met with a certain UMNO Youth leader from Pahang who came asking for contracts. Aziz was surprised to find that the young Dato’ was requesting for a project that had been approved by the Cabinet only two days before that. When he probed further, Aziz was astonished to find that the contract-seeker had a copy of the last Cabinet meeting which he claimed Khairy had given him. While privately angry at the breach of secrecy and protocol, there was nothing Aziz could do except to grant the request. Though a long-time friend of Abdullah, Aziz had realised many months ago that he no longer had any clout with the Prime Minister who now listens only to his son-in-law and to no one else.
The problem even goes down to the level of the state administration. A certain Chinese businessman recently told Penang Chief Minister Koh Tsu Koon that Khairy had granted him the rights to develop the extension of the Bayan Lepas airport through land reclamation — in spite of the fact that the state government had not even discussed the project outside of its policy circle. At least two Gerakan Exco members have said that when Koh Tsu Koon is eventually transferred to a Federal ministry, they would become the new Chief Minister — after all, Khairy had ‘promised this’ to them.
Perak Menteri Besar Tajol Rosli Ghazali received a letter from a small RM2 construction company based in Lumut saying that Khairy had given them permission to quarry sand from the Lumut shores for sale outside Perak. This is in spite of the ban currently in place for the sale of sand between states and even though it contravenes Perak’s efforts to preserve its shoreline for purposes of environmental protection. But it did not matter to the owner of the said construction company. He is the Vice Youth Chief of an UMNO Division and therefore a member of Khairy’s ‘Vice Youth Chief Club’. When Tajol Rosli protested, the Vice Youth Chief threatened to inform Khairy and bring it up ‘to the very top’.
Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman has been trying very hard for some time to get Danaharta to sell the Sutera Harbour project to a Kadazan business associate of his named Melvin. Previously, the effort met with little success until Musa instructed a certain Sabah UMNO Youth leader, Hasnul Ayub Aman, son of the Sabah Times Chairman, to approach Khairy with the deal and offer him a certain percentage. With Khairy’s hands now in the pie, the Ministry of Finance is about to approve the sale of Sutera at a much lower price than that previously set by Danaharta, and the sale is being done on a negotiate-without-tender basis.
These are but some of the many events which have happened over the last two years involving Khairy and the maladministration of Abdullah’s government — which are but a scratch on the surface. Previously, ministers and politicians were too scared to talk about them. But now they are so angry with Abdullah they are becoming quite open and vocal about Khairy’s misdeeds. Slowly, the stories are filtering through and while the official media — controlled by Khairy’s lackeys like Kalimullah Hassan Masheerul Hassan, Brendan Pereira, Wong Sulong and Wong Chun Wai — keep an ominous silence about the son-in-law’s movements, the UMNO grassroots have been getting information by word of mouth and through the ‘underground’ media. Only the very stupid of UMNO members do not now realise that Khairy is king and puppet-master whose control over Abdullah is almost absolute.
A danger for Khairy is that people are no longer afraid to talk about the corruption perpetuated by Abdullah’s family. After all, they have had enough of the same happenings under Mahathir. But Mahathir never promised them reforms. So, while people always thought it was ‘natural’ for Mahathir’s family to be corrupt, they are more disappointed that Abdullah, with his so-called Islamic and intellectual background, can allow the same to happen at even greater speed, more blatantly, and with visible disregard for public decency. Many are saying that Abdullah is dangerous to UMNO and should be removed as soon as the opportunity arises. Still, none want to make the first move and be the one to bell the cat. But there are many who are being cajoled into leading such a charge. Former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad is the most obvious choice for the many disgruntled UMNO members who are looking for a sympathetic ear, as are other veteran leaders such as Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.
The only saving grace for Khairy is that Malaysians have become too immune to official corruption, having been so long under the rule of Mahathir Mohamad. While they are still cautious, Khairy has time to increase his wealth and consolidate his power of patronage over those UMNO leaders who can still be bought. Khairy can also rely on Mahathir’s greatest fear, the return of Anwar Ibrahim into UMNO politics, which no doubt Abdullah will support. If any of Mahathir’s followers — for example, Najib Tun Razak — dare openly criticise Abdullah, Anwar is the pawn that Khairy will use in the battle against Mahathir. As long as Anwar can distract the public by continuing his vengeful pursuit of Mahathir and others involved in the 1998 conspiracy that brought about his downfall, then Khairy is still safe.
But Anwar is rapidly losing popularity and Khairy too faces this same problem. Both are at the losing end of the perception battle and there are many within UMNO who would love to see both Khairy and Anwar destroyed once and for all. It is tempting for many of the older UMNO leaders to imagine a situation where they can remove Khairy, topple Abdullah and thereby make sure Anwar remains an obsolete and powerless leader of a rump and limp opposition.
Those who describe Khairy as high-flying may have now seen that the engines are on fire. Given the right ingredients, Khairy’s plane might yet crash and burn…
The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin continues…in Part 28 – A New Deal: Losing the Plot?