Wednesday, March 11, 2009

14 days is a long time in politics

14 days is a long time in politics
11 Mar, 2009

The Federal Constitution merely states that the Agong shall appoint the Prime Minister from amongst a Member of the House who, in Tuanku’s opinion, commands the confidence of the majority of the Members of the House. It says nothing about the Prime Minister having to be the President of Umno or the Chairman of Barisan Nasional.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Moreover, Mr. Najib brings to the job much political baggage. In particular there is the case involving an adviser to Mr. Najib of a Mongolian woman who was shot and blown up with specialized C4 plastic explosives in Malaysia in 2006. The adviser, the woman’s former lover, was cleared of ordering her death in a protracted court case that drew harsh public criticism and left vital questions unanswered. Two members of an elite police bodyguard unit assigned to Mr. Najib, who were asked by the adviser to “do something” about the woman because she was blackmailing him, have to answer murder charges. The adviser said he had contacted the two policemen through Mr. Najib’s aide-de-camp, and one of them, a chief inspector, testified that the aide-de-camp had instructed him to help the adviser.

Before the adviser was charged, Mr. Najib sent a text message to a lawyer representing his adviser saying that the adviser “will have to face a tentative charge but all is not lost,” according to a transcript of their exchanges. One of the country’s most popular bloggers and online journalist-editors, Raja Petra Kamarudin, faces sedition and libel charges after allegedly implicating Mr. Najib and his wife in the killing. Although Mr. Najib has denied ever knowing the victim, taking the unusual step of swearing his innocence in a mosque, he has been unable to stem an avalanche of gossip, speculation and serious analysis, much of it circulated on the Internet.

Mr. Najib also has long been embroiled in allegations of corruption in the purchase of big-ticket weapon systems during his two lengthy terms as defense minister (1990-95, 1999-2008; he retained the defense portfolio after becoming deputy prime minister in 2003), when he drove an aggressive military modernization program. According to Foreign Policy in Focus, a Washington-based think tank, foreign arms manufacturers use well-connected Malaysians as lobbyists, paying them commissions of 10% to 20% to win contracts. Malaysia’s political opposition says much of the money goes to people closely associated with UMNO, including Mr. Najib’s contacts, though the police and anticorruption authorities have not investigated particular cases to the satisfaction of complainants.

For example, the 115 million euros “coordination and support services” payment for Malaysia’s purchase in 2002 of two new Scorpene and one reconditioned Agosta submarine for 1 billion euros was paid to Perimekar Sdn. Bhd. Perimekar at the time was owned by a company called K.S. Ombak Laut Sdn Bhd — later by two other companies as well — which was in turn owned by Abdul Razak Abdullah Baginda, the Najib adviser who stood trial for abetting the murder of the Mongolian woman. The Defense Ministry denied paying a commission and said Peremkear was awarded a genuine contract to support the acquisition of the submarines.

Najib's Challenge: Clean up UMNO by Barry Wain, Far Eastern Economic Review (


What a day to have lunch together. On a day when Najib is announcing his staggering RM60 billion stimulus package, Abdullah has lunch with Anwar.

I haven’t seen Abdullah looking so relaxed and cheerful for a long time. Click here to have a peek. (

According to PKR Youth chief Shamsul Iskandar in his blog, both leaders were invited by Al-Fadhil Tuan Guru Syeikh Mahmud Al-Majzubdi (better known as Tok Ayah) for the Maulud Rasul celebrations at the Madrasah Nurul Iman, Hulu Langat in Selangor.

Anwar says people are reading too much into the encounter. But hey, it’s not everyday the PM and Anwar have lunch together; so tongues are bound to wag.

Anyway, 49 per cent of over 5,000 respondents to the poll on this blog think that Abdullah will remain as PM after March while only 11 per cent of you think Najib will take over. Let’s wait and see what happens.

Anwar-Abdullah lunch fuels speculation
by Anil Netto (


It is roughly two weeks to go before the coming Umno General Assembly. Two weeks is 14 days and 14 days is a long time in politics. Anwar went from becoming the successor to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to a sacked Umno member in only three days. And about two weeks later be found himself in jail facing a possible nine criminal charges, seven which were later dropped after they secured a conviction on the first two, which attracted a total jail sentence of 15 years.

Can Najib Tun Razak still make it as Prime Minister at the end of this month? There is no doubt he will become the Umno President, mainly because he will win uncontested and anyone can win in a walkover. But this does not mean he will also become the Prime Minister because there is no law that says the Umno President must also become the Prime Minister.

Tun Razak, Najib’s father, became Prime Minister while Tunku Abdul Rahman stayed on as the Umno President. Dr Mahathir stayed on as Prime Minister after Umno got deregistered and the MCA President, Ling Liong Sik, took over as the Barisan Nasional Chairman. For all intents and purposes, Dr Mahathir was an independent Member of Parliament and a man with no party for that brief period of time until the new Umno called Umno Baru was registered.

The Federal Constitution merely states that the Agong shall appoint the Prime Minister from amongst a Member of the House who, in Tuanku’s opinion, commands the confidence of the majority of the Members of the House. It says nothing about the Prime Minister having to be the President of Umno or the Chairman of Barisan Nasional. For that matter, Ibrahim Ali, the sole independent Member of Parliament, can become Prime Minister if at least 112 of the 222 Members of Parliament support him as Prime Minister -- heaven forbid.

And do at least 112 of the 222 Members of Parliament want Najib as the next Prime Minister come end of this month? Okay, maybe SOME of the 65 Umno Members of Parliament from Peninsular Malaysia do. And maybe SOME of the 13 Umno Members of Parliament from Sabah do as well. But that makes only 78 Members of Parliament who want him as Prime Minister -- assuming ALL 78 Umno Members of Parliament from Peninsular Malaysia as well as Sabah are unanimous in their support for Najib.

And this is only if we assume that ALL 78 Umno Members of Parliament are unanimous in their support for Najib. From what I have been told, at least 20 are with Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Amongst these 20 are of course Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Khairy Jamaluddin and Abdullah Badawi himself. So there is no way Najib can get the unanimous support of all the 78 Umno Members of Parliament. At best he can get the support of only 58 Umno Members of Parliament. This means Najib is still short of 54 Members of Parliament.

But then, can Najib afford to get the support of only 112 Members of Parliament? What if one were to get a heart attack while playing badminton and dies, or his/her nude photographs or sex video suddenly appeared on the Internet and he/she is forced to resign, or something like which is so customary nowadays. Then Najib would be left with only 111 Members of Parliament against 111 who are against him. This would result in a hung Parliament and Najib would find himself as the Prime Minister with the shortest term in Malaysian history.

No, a figure of 112 is just too close to the bone. Najib would need at least 130 to 140 to be home with a comfortable margin. And that means he cannot depend solely on the Umno Members of Parliament. Umno alone can’t give him the numbers. Umno has only 78 while just 58 are with him. He also needs the 30 non-Umno Members of Parliament from Sarawak and the balance 11 from Sabah plus the 20 from MCA, MIC and Gerakan as well.

Najib is banking on full support from Umno. He can of course get full support from the 2,500 or so Umno delegates who will be attending the Umno General Assembly in about two weeks time. But not all the 2,500 Umno delegates are Members of Parliament. Only 78 are while just 58 are with him. Najib has far from secured the job of Prime Minister of Malaysia whatever the outcome of the Umno General Assembly.

Ali Rustam will win the Umno Deputy Presidency and Najib’s cousin, Hishammuddin, is going to lose the Vice President’s post, while Khir Toyo will become the Youth Leader. Najib is going to automatically become the Umno President only because no one is able to challenge him. But he is going to be isolated and surrounded by those who are not aligned to him as far as the other Umno positions are concerned.

If Najib is assured of becoming the Prime Minister then he can be guaranteed the support of the non-Umno Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament from MCA, MIC, Gerakan, Sabah and Sarawak. He will of course not get the support of the 83 Pakatan Rakyat Members of Parliament. But he has a chance of getting the support of the 61 non-Umno Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament.

This, however, will depend on whether he is assured of becoming Prime Minister. People have a habit of supporting the winner. If you are winner everyone wants to be associated with you and wants to become your friend. No one, however, wants to become associated with a loser. And unless Najib can show he is a winner and not a loser he will not be guaranteed the support of the 61 non-Umno Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament.

Abdullah Badawi has more or less resigned to the fact that by 1 April 2009 he would be sent into retirement. He has even bought an iPhone, which he intends to use to communicate with his grandkids. Does he even know how to use that very complicating iPhone? Not yet, but since he will soon be retiring he has plenty of time to learn how to use it and then spend hours chatting with his grandkids. Hell, he may even set up his own Blog and Facebook since he would not have much work come 1 April 2009.

His wife, Jeanne Danker, is also looking forward to retirement. This simple lady does not enjoy the limelight of ‘First Lady’ and will not miss life in Seri Perdana. She would rather spend her time with her husband and kids. But she abhors the thought of handing this country over to Najib. And Abdullah Badawi’s kids share Jeanne’s view. They are not opposed to Abdullah Badawi retiring. They are opposed to the idea of Najib taking over with the porky Rosmah Mansor gracing the halls of Seri Perdana as the ‘First Lady’ and ‘Queen Elizabeth’ both rolled into one.

They say there is no such thing as hell on earth. But then these people have not imagined life with Rosmah Mansor calling the shots as to how this country should be run. In fact, it would be more like run into the ground with her at the helm. And this is also the view of the Agong.

No doubt Malaysia is a Constitutional Monarchy and the Agong ‘shall act on the advice of the Prime Minister’ -- and ‘shall’ has been wrongly interpreted as ‘must’. But there are certain things that the Agong does not act on the advice of the Prime Minister and instead uses his own discretion. And one of these things is with regards to the appointment of the Prime Minister who in Tuanku’s opinion commands the confidence of the majority of the Members of the House.

We have seen, of late, the Rulers exercising their discretion in the appointments of the CEOs. Perak, Selangor, Terengganu and Perlis are examples of this. The Rulers and not Umno decided on who should lead the states. The recent Perak crisis, where the state changed hands from Pakatan Rakyat to Barisan Nasional, is yet another case in point. The Rulers have the power to decide and they have not backed down from exercising this power. And the same applies with regards to the appointment of the Prime Minister.

Anwar Ibrahim’s meeting with Abdullah Badawi yesterday laid the foundation for cooperation between Pakatan Rakyat and some dissenting voices in Barisan Nasional who feel Najib should not be the next Prime Minister. With the 83 Pakatan Rakyat Members of Parliament and another 20 from Umno that makes 103 in all. So all they need is another nine to deny Najib the job of Prime Minister. And MCA has 15, MIC 3, Gerakan 2, Sarawak 30, while the non-Umno Members of Parliament from Sabah come to another 11. Getting just nine from amongst that large group of 61 is not that difficult.

Anwar Ibrahim may never become Prime Minister. But even if he does he is still the lesser of the two evils compared to Najib as far as Abdullah Badawi is concerned. And as far as Anwar is concerned, whether he becomes Prime Minister or not is not the key issue at the moment. What is would be that the Prime Minister must not be Najib. So even if all that Anwar achieves in the end would be for Abdullah Badawi to stay on, that too would be the lesser of the two evils in Anwar’s book.

Abdullah Badawi may have to keep his iPhone in the box awhile longer. He may not have the time to learn how to use it after all. Many are bent on assuring that Najib never takes over as Prime Minister. And if the new Prime Minister is not going to be Anwar, then Abdullah Badawi would have to instead stay on for some time to come. And if this happens then I will personally go to meet Abdullah Badawi to help him with his iPhone. Hell, I might even buy one myself so that I can learn how to use it before I go teach Abdullah Badawi how to use his.

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