Raja Petra Kamarudin
We have to admit that there is never a dull moment in Malaysia, especially as far as politics is concerned. The latest hot talk in the kopitiams and hotel coffeehouses is regarding who is the one who is going to get ousted first, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak or Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
At the moment the odds are 50:50. There is as much chance that Muhyiddin will go before Najib so don’t be too hasty about placing your bets just yet. No doubt many predict that Najib is on his last leg and will soon ride out into the sunset. I am not too sure about that, though. It may be Muhyiddin who will be sent off packing instead.
A few days ago a video of a secret or closed-door meeting was leaked and went viral on Youtube. If you believe this then you probably also believe in Santa and the tooth fairy. This so-called ‘leak’ was not a leak but was engineered so that Muhyiddin can send a message to Najib that the former is not with the latter.
In the first place Muhyiddin was not supposed to address that closed-door meeting. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was. Muhyiddin, however, elbowed Zahid aside and hijacked the meeting.
Of course Zahid could not protest and say no so he had to ‘gracefully’ step aside and allow his boss to take over. And much to Zahid’s surprise Muhyiddin used this meeting to prove to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the entire world that he is not on the same page as the Prime Minister.
Since 2013 Muhyiddin has been very cleverly hiding his ambition to take over by saying that he wishes to retire because of health reasons. He would like to step down if Najib can find a replacement Deputy Prime Minister but he is willing to ‘reluctantly’ stay on until then.
The signal to Najib was: I am not interested in your job and if you can find my replacement I am prepared to leave. Then, very quietly and behind the scene, he started preparing the groundwork to oust Najib and take over.
This is reminiscent of how he ousted his Johor boss and took over as the new Menteri Besar of Johor back in the 1980s. Hence Muhyiddin has enough experience in how to ‘play stupid’ and then when you least expect it he will swing his sword and cut off your head.
The plan to undermine Najib began when secret documents regarding 1MDB were leaked to Sarawak Report. These documents could only have come from inside and from very high up on the inside. Of course, Sarawak Report will not kiss and tell but we can more or less guess who that was although at this point of time we can only still guess.
Muhyiddin actually chaired one Cabinet meeting when Najib was overseas and the matter of 1MDB was raised and discussed at this meeting. Muhyiddin was given all the details about what was happening but he did not want the Cabinet to make any decision on the matter.
Instead of getting the Cabinet to resolve the matter — the meeting that Muhyiddin chaired — better the problem is allowed to continue until it reaches explosive point. It was clear that Najib was being set up to take the fall so the Cabinet must not help resolve the matter, even though it could have done so.
The other issue that is being used to push Najib out is the ‘escape’ of Sirul Azhar Umar to Australia. How did Sirul end up in Australia and who engineered his ‘escape’? Evidence is beginning to surface that someone in Team Muhyiddin, no other than Khairy Jamaluddin, was behind this exercise.
And is it any surprise that Khairy has suddenly revealed his true alliance; that he, too, is in the group that wants Najib to answer to the allegations regarding 1MDB? Now the picture is beginning to become very clear. If Muhyiddin takes over then Khairy will be slotted as the successor for Deputy Prime Minister.
And that would prove what Khairy has been telling his friends these last ten years: that he is going to become the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia by age 40 and Prime Minister before he touches 50. Khairy will be 40 in January 2016 so he has just eight months to go for his prediction to come true.
If Najib cannot see that he has been set up for a fall this year then he is stupid and deserves to fall. He needs to make sure that the Muhyiddin-Khairy alliance fails and the only way to do that would be to replace the Deputy Prime Minister with someone who can cover his back instead of stick a knife into it.
The new Deputy Prime Minister must not only be someone who will not sell him down the river but also someone the Umno grassroots can support. And he must be someone young enough who can appeal to the younger generation voters in the next general election expected around three years or so from now.
When Tun Musa Hitam could no longer see eye-to-eye with his boss he had to leave and Dr Mahathir replaced him with Tun Ghafar Baba even though he was not an Umno Deputy President. Najib may have to do the same. And the Umno Vice President who has the highest support of the Umno grassroots is Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Zahid then has three years to ‘sell’ Umno and Barisan Nasional to the voters to ensure that they stay in power. As Deputy Prime Minister he will have to come out with his transformation program to show the voters that Umno and Barisan Nasional are serious about introducing reforms.
And it must be a complete package involving political, economic, social, judicial, etc., reforms. And three years is not really that much time to do all this so the work has to start today. Short of that Umno and Barisan Nasional will become a footnote in history in 2018.
If Umno kicks Najib out and replaces him with Muhyiddin then it is just going to be old wine in a new bottle. The only way out would be for Umno to replace Muhyiddin with Zahid and then give him the task of convincing the voters that there is still hope for Malaysia under a Barisan Nasional government.
Will Najib bite the bullet or will he allow the wound to fester until gangrene sets in? Well, let’s see how smart Najib is because he cannot save Umno and Barisan Nasional unless he has by his side a co-pilot who wants to save the party instead of a co-pilot who wants to throw him out of the cockpit at 35,000 feet.
— This article has been replicated from Raja Petra Kamaruddin’s ‘Malaysia Today.’