The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin – 29
The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin continues here:
Part 29 – A New Deal: Rosebud – a new person in Abdullah’s life
Other than being fellow Penangites, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim share a common trait — both are fans of fellow Penang native P. Ramlee. If Anwar Ibrahim loves to croon the tune of Azizah, obviously referring to his own wife, Abdullah instead prefers the less well-known composition Anak Dara Rindu. Abdullah’s contemporaries at university used to relate how he would hum the tune and its longing lyrics, calling for a childhood sweetheart left in the home village by the river that runs eternally into the sea — though Abdullah’s rendition would be more akin to A.R. Tompel’s voice rather than P. Ramlee’s. When Abdullah served with Khairy Jamaluddin’s father in the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, both were often called to sing P. Ramlee songs to entertain their colleagues from neighbouring countries and, more often than not, Abdullah would opt for this same song.
This was more than a mere coincidence. Early on in his career in the civil service, Abdullah had met and married a junior civil servant hailing from a distinguished Selangor Civil Service family by the name of Endon Mahmood Ambak. It was a love match packaged with the obvious benefit of having a senior civil servant father-in-law at a time when Abdullah himself was a young, junior officer climbing the slow and slippery ladder of higher ranks in the PTD. Abdullah and Endon were always seen as the perfect couple. But those who know Abdullah since childhood, who grew up in the shadow of the ‘pondok’ that is the legacy of Abdullah’s great scholar grandfather, Sheikh Abdullah Fahim, knew that Abdullah’s heart was first stolen by someone local, and it was only later when situations had changed that he fell for Endon.
Of course, no one doubts that Abdullah’s marriage to Endon was a very happy one indeed and unusual in its strength. Endon was a crutch which Abdullah relied on almost too heavily and, in the old days before Khairy Jamaluddin appeared onto the scene, the twin towers of Endon and Abdullah’s late Political Secretary, Fatah, held Abdullah together like the sky-bridge astride KLCC Park. Fatah’s death just a few months after Abdullah’s ascension to the office of Deputy Prime Minister, followed by Endon’s debilitating cancer which led to her untimely death, makes Abdullah reliant on a circle of people whose loyalty to him is coloured more by the rewards and benefits they could obtain rather than the devotion to his person. This situation makes Abdullah vulnerable.
Abdullah is a man who does not know how to rely on his own counsel. Indeed, he probably has none. He therefore has to build up a circle of close advisors from whom he can formulate ideas and strategies. Often he does not even understand them but instead becomes a mouthpiece for their thoughts. Such is the way that this country is run under Abdullah.
Of course, these advisors act not for the good of the country, but often because they could gain some benefits. Even in Abdullah’s family, while he acknowledges that he is often reliant on the views of son Kamal and daughter Nori, these views have recently been skewed by the ever-present insatiable demands of Kamal’s business partners in Scomi, and Nori’s incessant request to shore up the political ambitions of her notoriously cunning husband. So, in the end, Abdullah’s advisors are more vultures than viziers, pecking at the meat until they reach the driest of bones.
A few months ago, after the final tahlil of Endon’s hundred days, Abdullah began to see some old friends from Kepala Batas. One of them, a man who had been a constant companion in the last days of Endon and who was responsible for organising the almost nightly Yasin reading in the ten days prior to her demise, suggested that Abdullah receive a delegation from his hometown of Kepala Batas. “Just some old friends,” said the man. What Abdullah did not know was that his friend was up to his old tricks again, acting as a chaperone, hoping to reintroduce ‘Rosebud’, the demure little lady from Kepala Batas who had stolen Abdullah’s heart fifty years ago when he was still a teenager, unsure of his place in the future.
Yes, Rosebud is still around. She is now in her fifties and a widow with children and young grandchildren whom she dotes upon. She spends her time amongst the local community, doing what most ladies of that age and background do — mainly social work and getting closer to God. But she has retained her lively nature and often asks about the well-being of the person who used to sit by the roadside in front of his two-storey wooden bungalow, waiting for her to pass by. She is at the moment fully occupied with her job as a full-time grandmother but who, according to Abdullah’s old friends, is more suitable to give support to the soft-spoken, gentle Abdullah. This lady has absolutely no political ambitions and is much less likely to use her station in life as the wife of a Prime Minister to demand things which other gold-diggers would no doubt want to pursue.
And there are many such women. Actresses, singers, former wives of ministers, owners of unsold high-rise buildings and other such projects, single mothers with ambitious twenty-something children, even discarded pretty young things of some of the more senior members of Malaysian royalty, who would offer themselves for that vacant position. Some have even gone so far as to publicise their ‘interest’ in tabloids by depicting themselves as the ideal mother-figure for the nation. These women all hope that, like Azmi and Effendi, Abdullah too would fall for one of these doe-eyed young creatures who could twist him around their tiny little fingers. But Abdullah is no Datuk K and, in spite of rumours to the contrary, had been a rather timid husband who never strayed more than a metre from the bedroom that he shared with Endon, except to go to the bathroom. Unfortunately, or fortunately, all the promoters, events managers, introducers, and go-betweens, who include amongst them several members of the current cabinet, have all failed to make Abdullah fall the Normala-Tiara way.
How serious is Abdullah and Rosebud? Well, remember, you read it here first. Several months ago, a delegation visited Putrajaya, and amongst the seventeen ladies who went in that green and yellow bus from the Butterworth Padang Merdeka station was Mrs Rosebud. Abdullah recognised her almost instantly and was pleased that she had come with a packet of homemade bahulus which he used to remember her making those many Hari Rayas ago. No more than a few words were exchanged between them. Abdullah then instructed a trusted member of his security team to run a security check on Mrs Rosebud, just in case. Nothing untoward came up and a return visit by several womenfolk married to Abdullah’s uncles and cousins was quickly made to the lady’s dour house in Kepala Batas.
It was only after a certain ex-BTN Dato’ (a close friend of Abdullah and currently a Yang Berhormat) inadvertently mentioned the lady’s name at a lunch in the Prime Minister’s official residence that the children got wind of it. Surprisingly, no one recognised the significance of Mrs Rosebud, except Khairy. Khairy realised that of all the types of women in the world whom he did not want Abdullah to marry, this was the one — someone more likely to push Abdullah on the side of the straight and narrow and make him feel guilty of letting too many opportunities fall into the hands of his son-in-law and his business cronies rather than to more deserving people. It was fine if Abdullah had fallen for a young model who could be easily persuaded to shut her eyes to goings-on behind his back. Khairy could easily split the spoils with her. Nor would Khairy be threatened by someone in the form of Rosmah Mansor who could easily be persuaded to keep quiet by giving her the official respect and excessive protocol her ego demanded. Such women are no threat to Khairy who knows that he can put his ‘Hindustani good looks’ (as Greg Sheridan described them) to persuade the weaker sex to toe the line.
But against a god-fearing creature, the warlock that Khairy is, has no magic. He could not fight such purity by the cunning taught to him by his Oxford dons.
So Khairy persuaded Nori that it was a bad idea for Abdullah to dishonour the living memory of the unforgettable and irreplaceable Endon by marrying another wife, however much Abdullah needs a soul-mate at the moment. Nori’s argument was simple — that we four are enough, meaning Kamal, Azrene his wife, Nori and Khairy himself. That sufficed for Abdullah and they were all the crutches he needed. No more would be necessary, nor should anyone else enter the lonely halls of the Putrajaya official residence.
To a certain extent, Abdullah has given way to Nori’s persuasion, egged on by Khairy’s fear of a bahu (Hindustani for mother-in-law). But Abdullah’s friends have not given up so easily. Khairy was shocked to discover that just before the last cabinet reshuffle, during his brainstorming session with Kamal in Perth, Abdullah had chanced upon Mrs Rosebud and her grandchildren at a strudel shop in Perth. It was not a chance encounter. Indeed, several members of Abdullah’s secretarial team had arranged for Mrs Rosebud to go on a short holiday to Perth at the same time that Abdullah was there. Of course, Nori and Khairy were furious. But there would come a time when they will not be able to control Abdullah’s movements and, who knows, that ‘chance’ meeting might reoccur several more times in the future.
Gentle readers, you would love for me to tell you the name of Mrs Rosebud. In fact, the name is very well known. To those who remember P. Ramlee’s songs, if Anwar has his ‘Azizah’, the real name of Mrs Rosebud can be found in another of that great crooner’s litany of chansons. But it is enough for now to say that if Abdullah was caught in front of a window in his office in Putrajaya softly whispering the lyrics of Anak Dara Rindu, it would not be for boredom, but more out of loneliness, for what had been lost and could now be found again.
Sama sekampung, sedangkan dirindu
Inikan lagi hai jauh di mata
What God has put together, even the combined might of Kamal, Azrene, Nori and Khairy could not rent asunder….
The Truth About Khairy Jamaluddin continues…in Part 30 – The Battle Begins: Pekan Boy Strikes Back