Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Khairy Chronicles

Posting this article from Malaysia Today (2005), just in case there might be somebody who would still be interested to read about this person who had recently been relatively low-profiled...

Sunday, July 03, 2005

THE KHAIRY CHRONICLES

MALAYSIA TODAY SPECIAL REPORT

PART 1 SYNOPSIS: The most powerful man in Malaysia

Political journalist Yahaya Ismail recently wrote a book called Khairy Jamaluddin: Bakal PM?. While the book contains many facts and educated guesses on the future of Khairy, the title itself is in gross error. Khairy Jamaluddin is not a future Prime Minister. He is already the de facto Prime Minister.

Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is legally the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia, having taken office in November 2003. However, even before he assumed office, it was quite clear that Abdullah Badawi was not his own man – that all his thoughts, actions and deeds were heavily influenced, if not directed by his then 28-year old son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin, and his coterie of friends. While some talked of the three Ks being the power behind Pak Lah, namely Khairy, Kalimullah (the Group Chief Editor of the New Straits Times) and Kak Endon (Datin Paduka Seri Endon Mahmood Ambak, wife of the Prime Minister), there is no doubt that the first K is the most powerful, having appointed the second K to his post and having married the third K’s daughter at a time when the third K was and is fighting breast cancer, an illness that has already claimed the third K’s twin sister.

Many say that this is not unusual. After all Nixon had his Kissinger and the Tsar of Russia had Rasputin. There are similarities between these figures and Khairy. For one thing, all seem to act as puppet-masters, pulling the strings of the wooden characters who are the rulers of the country in name. All came from rather obscure backgrounds to emerge suddenly upon the national scene in a blaze of glory. Yet all had the fatal flaw of a congenital defect which led them to believe that they were immortal, invincible and all-knowing. In the end, all succumbed to the temptations of power. Will this also happen to Khairy?

The signs of discontent are quite clear. The person who perhaps is most wary of Khairy is former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad. While Dr Mahathir himself at first warmed to Khairy and his friends, appointing for example Khairy’s bosom buddy from Oxford, Dr Vincent Lim Kian Teck, as his second Chinese political secretary, he eventually found Khairy an overbearing presence upon Abdullah. But at that time it was already too late. Mahathir had announced his retirement and Abdullah Badawi was the heir-designate. For whatever bad that Mahathir had done, he knew he could not afford to change his mind on the succession after the crippling failure of the removal of Anwar Ibrahim.

So Khairy was kept on in the Deputy Prime Minister’s office in spite of Mahathir’s misgivings. Mahathir turned red when Khairy Jamaluddin asked him in a Pemuda UMNO gathering whether he was really serious about stepping down. He thought it discourteous that Khairy insisted Mahathir send Abdullah for an overseas tete-a-tete meeting with the US President, even when Mahathir had dismissed the idea as “premature” and “unnecessary”. Mahathir rankled when his former political secretary, Matthias Chang, reported to him that Khairy had mentioned in an informal student gathering in London that both Mahathir and Daim deserved to go to jail after Abdullah Badawi takes over.

But like all of Khairy’s enemies, Mahathir underestimated “the boy”. He thought that as leader of the country for 22 years, and the most powerful man in the country, Khairy could be pushed off the scene as and when Mahathir likes even when he was no longer in charge. Mahathir trusted that his immensely strong iron grip on UMNO could be utilised behind the scenes to bend Khairy to the Mahathir whim. But it was not to be. Mahathir’s son, Mukhriz found himself humiliated when he tried to challenge Khairy for the deputy leadership of UMNO youth. In spite of Mahathir’s monetary support, several large gatherings to pep up the Youth voters and the far-reaching tentacles of ANSARA (the former Mara students alumni group headed and funded by Mukhriz as a closet political tool), Mukhriz found that the rising son-in-law was more powerful than the fading son. He humiliatingly lost the UMNO Youth Head position in his father’s own constituency and got pitiful support for his national ambitions.

Mahathir at last realised that he had stepped down in November 2003, the most powerful man in the country, only to be replaced by a 28-year-old. Khairy is now and for the near future the most powerful man in the country. Even more so than Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Najib Tun Razak or anyone in the UMNO Supreme Council who are mere tadpoles in Khairy’s big pond.

Here is how he influences decisions that affect you and me.

First, Khairy is the main gatekeeper in Abdullah Badawi’s office. No letter, fax, proposal, document, appeal, communication, correspondence or presentation lands onto Abdullah’s desk without first going through the screening of aides Datuk Wan Farid and Zaki Zahid. Both Wan Farid and Zaki Zahid act as Khairy’s eyes and ears. When any proposal comes through to them, they immediately make copies for Khairy Jamaluddin. Copies are necessary because Khairy is no longer officially with Abdullah’s office. Yet, official or not, he is still the gatekeeper and needs to see all that comes to Abdullah’s office.

Wan Farid and Zaki Zahid together with Khairy also vets the appointment list to see Abdullah. In spite of the existence of the post of Chief Private Secretary held by Dato’ Thajudeen Abd Wahab (a long-time Abdullah Badawi loyalist and civil servant), those appointments made through Dato’ Thajudeen’s office inevitably get copied to Khairy and get vetted by him. Make no mistakes. Though Dato’ Thajudeen is annoyed by this unorthodox arrangement, his long-time friendship with Abdullah is not strong enough to overrule his boss’ son-in-law.

Of course it is not cheap to get an appointment to see Abdullah. The gatekeepers also act as toll-collectors. And UMNO is rife with mutterings of dissatisfaction, due to the high price (some say up to RM50,000) exacted by people close to Abdullah merely to secure an appointment with the Prime Minister. While this “custom” has always existed in varying degrees throughout the rule of all five Prime Ministers of Malaysia, it has never been so thorough and blatant as it is now. This is because payment of RM50,000 alone is not sufficient to secure an audience. There must also be promises of involving some of Khairy’s companies in eventual projects if such audiences are to be successful.

Some may argue why this happens in spite of Abdullah Badawi’s image as Mr Clean. But that image is merely a perception. Compared to other ministers Abdullah is relatively clean, but this was not because of want of trying. Abdullah was in charge of ministries with little “opportunity” to exact “tributes” such as the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and for many years he was out of the government. His political position as a former Tengku Razaleigh–Musa Hitam supporter was always very precarious and Abdullah Badawi was too fearful to drink from the poisoned chalice of corruption.

However the situation has now changed. Abdullah Badawi is all-powerful as Prime Minister and relies on Khairy to prop up that position. Khairy Jamaluddin knows that it is not long before Pak Lah will be challenged by Najib or anyone else backed by Dr Mahathir. Thus he must make hay while the sun shines.

The second method by which Abdullah is controlled by Khairy is through Khairy’s insistence on appointing key personnel at the decision-forming level within Abdullah’s office and also in other powerful ministries. No less than ten of Khairy’s friends from his university days who are all in their late twenties or early thirties currently occupy posts equivalent to chief executive in many of the ministries (more will be detailed in later parts of this report). Abdullah Badawi cannot function if these figures do not function. In other words, he is completely reliant on their actions.

For example, let us say that Abdullah goes for a foreign trip to Venezuela for a trade mission. The person who prepares the itinerary is a Khairy appointee (a fellow ex-student from the UK). He submits the paper to Khazanah’s Director of Investments (another Khairy appointee) for discussion. It is discussed with people from Ethos Consulting (a Khairy-related company) and finally gets approved by a meeting of Foreign Ministry civil servants which willy-nilly is often attended by Khairy himself in spite of him having no official position in government. When Abdullah comes back from Venezuela, discussions with President Hugo Chavez is discussed with the private office of the Prime Minister (headed and made up completely of Khairy’s appointees) and decisions are made by Abdullah Badawi after a night’s discussion at home with Khairy himself. Little wonder that Khairy Jamaluddin has such an extensive control on Abdullah – and this was exactly how the Venezuelan trip of the Prime Minister took place!

Thirdly, Khairy Jamaluddin controls Abdullah Badawi through his insistence on exerting his unofficial role as the Prime Minister’s closest advisor. An incident that took place in the foreign ministry shows it all. A meeting was called by Minister Syed Hamid Albar. It was a top-level meeting, a briefing to the Prime Minister in a closed session. In attendance were the Prime Minister, the Minister, the Deputy Ministers, the Secretary General of the ministry and his deputies – and Khairy Jamaluddin, at that time neither in the Prime Minister’s office nor holding any official post. Syed Hamid insisted that the meeting be closed to Khairy. Abdullah demurred, partly out of fear that if Khairy was not in the room he would be ill-advised. So Khairy stayed. Such a situation shows not only how strong Khairy is, but how weak Abdullah can be.

Therein lies the danger of Khairy Jamaluddin. He is an unelected person within the government, yet his influence outweighs that of the whole cabinet; even that of the Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. As long as Abdullah is in power and Khairy is married to his daughter, Khairy Jamaluddin will continue to be the actual ruler of Malaysia. Whether knowingly or not, democracy in Malaysia has been reduced considerably since Khairy Jamaluddin came to the fore and there is no longer any check and balance within the government.

Surely the people of Malaysia should know about the phenomenon of Khairy Jamaluddin since their lives now so much depend on it. Malaysia Today will chronicle the rise of Khairy, how he influences UMNO and the government, name his allies and enemies and how he interacts with them. More importantly, Malaysia Today will try to lay bare the mystery of Khairy and identify the tentacles he uses to reach for power…

PART 2 Out of the wormhole

Before we delve into the heavy stuff, let us start with the basics. Where did this guy KJ come from?

Today, Khairy Jamaluddin has become the most powerful man in the country. Unlike most politicians whose origins can be easily traced and whose records are in the realm of public knowledge, Khairy is like a “dewa kayangan” (fairy godfather) who appeared from nowhere into the mainstream of Malaysian politics. Many began to wonder whether he was planted by certain sinister forces, such as the CIA or maybe the Singapore intelligence services. After all, no one can attain power so easily and so quickly unless they had some help, could they?

Certainly this is what Yahaya Ismail tried to hint at in his book. Dr. Mahathir was so worried about this that, at the end of his premiership, he commissioned the Special Branch to prepare a file on Khairy, which was also copied to Najib (another report was also prepared on Khairy’s bosom buddy, NST Group Managing Editor Kalimullah Masheerul Hassan – but that is another story for another time). But for all its promise to be “Mesra, Cepat dan Betul”, the officers in charge of the report did not want to risk rousing the anger of Khairy’s father-in-law and Prime Minister-designate Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. After all, at that time, he was only a few months away from power. So the report reported that there was nothing to report.

Though it is not unusual for members of the administration to be recruited as foreign spies (remember Mahathir’s former secretary, Siddiq Ghouse, who turned out to be a mole for the KGB), the truth about Khairy and his relationship to foreign intelligence services will not be publicly known for the simple fact that he is already too close to the seat of power. Unlike Siddiq Ghouse, Khairy is a member of the Badawi family and you cannot really say a member of the Prime Minister’s family is a spy, can you? But people still wonder: could he have gone so far without some “extra” help?

The truth is that Khairy did get “extra” help, though probably not from foreign agents. The time was quite ripe for the appearance of an eloquent, well qualified UMNO leader such as Khairy because twenty two years of Mahathir rule had made UMNO a party of dead zombies. There was simply no one else, as few had the courage to say anything remotely critical of the current (i.e. Mahathir’s) system. In the party of the yes-men and the corrupt, the slightly more intelligent fellow who can speak well is king.

So Khairy became the biggest worm in the giant wormhole that is UMNO.

Let’s start from the beginning. Khairy Jamaluddin was born 29 years ago to career diplomat Datuk Jamaluddin Abu Bakar (now deceased). Datuk Jamaluddin came from a little kampung in Rembau and is politically connected enough to be a relation of several Negeri Sembilan politicians. One of Datuk Jamaluddin’s nephews is Datuk Shahziman Abu Mansor, currently a deputy minister in Abdullah Badawi’s administration and MP for Tampin.

The late Datuk Jamaluddin served in various diplomatic overseas posts but died during one of his postings there. It was this nomadic lifestyle which resulted in Khairy receiving an overseas education, including in Singapore and the United Kingdom. Suffice to say, Khairy never went to a local school and, for a very long time in his life, could hardly speak a word of his native language, being ill at ease with Malay and unable to converse with his own relatives.

While he spent most of his time overseas, Datuk Jamaluddin did have one important posting locally. This was at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, during the time the late Tan Sri Samad Idris was Minister. It so happens that at that time the Director of Youth and later Deputy Secretary-General of the Ministry was a certain Abdullah Badawi. Fellow civil servants, the two shared some common interests including being part of the so-called “Malay ultra” group and when Abdullah left the civil service in 1974 to become MP for Kepala Batas (a seat previously held by his father, former PAS Youth Chief Ahmad Badawi Sheikh Abdullah Fahim), Jamaluddin kept in touch.

When Jamaluddin died, Abdullah and his wife, Endon Mahmood Ambak, continued to keep in touch with Jamaluddin’s widow, a lady from Kedah. Frankly speaking, Datuk Jamaluddin’s reputation as a civil servant was lackluster. He was seen as aloof, pompous and arrogant. Often despised by his subordinates, he was a stickler for form rather than substance. A former subordinate of Datuk Jamaluddin once remarked that he valued a person more for “his ability to do a proper knot in his tie rather than the quality of his reports”.

As a student Khairy was a fast learner, though a bit of a rebel. He was critical of government policies. In spite of his later pronouncements of admiration for Mahathir, he was not a Mahathir worshipper. Indeed, he was opposed to many of Mahathir’s actions – though only on the sly and never publicly.

As a student at Oxford, expressing his doubts about Mahathir to fellow Malaysians overseas, he came to the attention of a certain Omar Ong.

Omar Ong, as can be seen from his rather peculiar name, is an ethnic Chinese. He is the son of Mustapha Ong, former Private Secretary to longtime Minister of Information Mohamad Rahmat and for some time in the diplomatic service in New York and Brazil. Currently living in New Zealand, Mustapha Ong became infamous during the Anwar Ibrahim trials when it was revealed he had tried to bribe a New York ethnic-Arab taxi driver called Jamal Amro to “confess” that he had procured boys and women for Anwar. Jamal Amro refused and instead made police reports accusing Mustapha Ong of trying to bribe him. Of course Mustapha Ong was shielded by Mahathir, even though his over-enthusiasm in trying to “fix” Anwar caused some embarrassment to the government, especially amongst the diplomatic community overseas.

Anyway, Omar Ong was a bit of a social climber and very ambitious. He tried to hitch his star to rising politicians as a means of fast-tracking his own ascent to power. He knocked on the door of Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim through the good graces of some of his political secretaries.

This was partially successful, as Anwar was persuaded to receive Omar Ong and his group in a private audience. Several more meetings followed and Omar Ong was hopeful that Anwar would be his ticket to heaven. In spite of that, there was still some opposition from Anwaristas such as Suhaimi Ibrahim, Fuad Hassan and Zahid Hamidi, who really wanted to keep Anwar all to themselves.

But a chance meeting with Daim Zainuddin made Omar Ong soon realise that something was brewing in the very highest circles and Anwar was going to be hit by a runaway bus, so to speak. Quickly, while thanking his lucky stars, Omar Ong dropped “the Anwar project” like a hot potato and tried to go for Najib Tun Razak instead. This was around three months before Anwar was sacked by Mahathir.

Najib, however, was a hard nut to crack. Omar Ong realised that Najib was surrounded by long time loyalists from his earlier days in government who screen newcomers to his circle with a parent’s protective eye. So it was decided that the next best thing would be Hishamuddin Hussein.

Hishamuddin Hussein was then just a junior UMNO politician. But he had a very big name behind him. There was no doubt that, after Hussein Onn died, Dr Mahathir felt that he owed a debt of gratitude to the former third Prime Minister and his family. Dr Mahathir began to put Hishamuddin on the fast track of politics, even over and above Hishamuddin’s superiors in the UMNO Youth movement such as Nazri Aziz and Zahid Hamidi. Hishamuddin got promoted several times within a year.

These fast promotions took its toll on Hisham. He was never a bright student or a sharp intellectual. Neither was he a good speaker nor a great orator. He had an unfriendly face and almost permanent crooked smile which reminded a fellow Minister of “the dead pope – after he had died”. Omar Ong set about helping Hishamuddin and his fellow student from Oxford, Khairy, came along as well. Soon, Hishamuddin began to rely more on Khairy than on Omar Ong.

To pay his debt, Hishamuddin introduced Omar Ong and his group to people close to Dr Mahathir such as his Political Secretary, Datuk Johari Baharom, and ISIS Director-General, Dr Noordin Sopiee.

A coincidence at the time was that Abdullah Badawi’s daughter had joined ISIS as a research assistant. And it was Noordin who introduced the two. Abdullah Badawi was then a Vice-President of UMNO and next inline should, for example, Anwar Ibrahim’s helicopter fall suddenly from the air.

Anwar’s helicopter did fall (though he was not on it at that time) but Anwar himself was booted out in September 1998. Like most other Malaysians, Khairy did not believe some of the more bizarre accusations hurled against Anwar by Mahathir. But it was the best of times, and the worst of times. There was opportunity and both Khairy and Omar took it.

A myth developed after Anwar’s fall from grace that Khairy had always been sympathetic to Anwar’s “Reformasi” struggle. Rumours grew that a student who had publicly asked Mahathir to resign in a gathering in London was really Khairy. Another story was that Khairy was the then boyfriend of Anwar’s daughter, Nurul Izzah, but they broke up when Anwar’s wife, Dr Wan Azizah, refused to make Khairy her political secretary but instead appointed another young man by the name of Nik Affendi Jaafar (now Senior Public Relations Manager of the EPF).

It seems all these rumours were created later by some hallucinating Anwar supporters who wanted so much for the young and powerful Khairy to be on their side, at least on the sly. But, in reality, Khairy saw a vacuum created by Anwar’s sudden “fall from paradise” (as Anwar himself described it) and he took the chance to catapult himself to the highest reaches of political power in the country.

At this time, Khairy tried to get close to the man in trouble at that time, Dr Mahathir. Khairy used Noordin Sopiee to try and get a job in the Prime Minister’s office. In this he was backed by Hishamuddin. But when Mahathir rebuffed the offer, seeing through Khairy’s ambitious moves, Khairy went for the next best person. No, not Abdullah - he went to Najib again.

Najib was then seen as the most likely candidate to succeed Anwar as Deputy Prime Minister. In fact, Asiaweek went so far as to say that Najib was the man to watch when it came to that post. But Najib was careful not to include new people who may arouse the jealousy of his already tightly knit inner circle. Indeed, he had no reason to take on Khairy as he had strong confidence that Mahathir would choose him and no one else. This was a decision Najib was to regret bitterly.

What Najib dreamed of was not to be. Mahathir thought he could better control the country by having Abdullah as his deputy. To Mahathir, Abdullah was a non-entity due to his onetime support for the Team B faction in UMNO (or more correctly to Tan Sri Musa Hitam). These types of people make better puppets.

When Abdullah’s name was announced, Najib and his wife Rosmah wept outside the meeting room, desolate and disbelieving. At this stage, as the new Deputy Prime Minister, Abdullah began to pack new people to fill in posts of which he had many to fill. For example, as Deputy Prime Minister, Abdullah would have two political secretaries instead of one, and eight Special Officers instead of two. One of these Special Officer positions went to Khairy.

How did he clinch it? It was a scratch-your-back-scratch-my-back situation. Abdullah had asked Noordin Sopiee in his capacity as the Prime Minister’s brain to suggest a few names of bright chaps who could fill posts in his office. Two names came out – Khairy’s and another ISIS researcher (now also ensconced in government). But the ISIS researcher failed the security check (his mother was a Reformasi supporter). And Abdullah’s lovesick daughter Nori warmly and enthusiastically endorsed the first name.

So far, so good. The climb of Khairy Jamaluddin had begun. And he quickly paid his dues by ensuring that the person who put him on track to these successes got his rewards as well. Omar Ong was swiftly installed in Najib’s office as Special Officer in order to ensure that all went smoothly in the deep, dark wormhole that is UMNO politics…

PART 3 The enemies within


Most of Khairy Jamaluddin’s enemies within UMNO are made up of younger leaders who believe that he is an upstart. They do not acknowledge that he has substantial knowledge in government though having served in Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s office for the last four years. They think that he is put there merely because he married the daughter of the Prime Minister. At the same time, they are disgusted by the way Khairy puts his cronies in charge of various branches of government ministries, ranging from the Communications Office of the Prime Minister’s Department to Khazanah Nasional.

This is not of course simply a matter of puerile jealousy. They believe that Khairy is a real threat and quite a significant one at that too, given his meteoric rise to power. They too have ambitions of their own to become Prime Minister. Indeed, some of them even feel the Prime Minister’s seat is their God-given right. So they try their best to parry Khairy’s every move and block it by hook or by crook. The normal UMNO method of poison pen letters, backstabbing SMSes, and secret alliances grafted in smoke-filled rooms are some of the normal methods employed to keep Khairy at bay. But Khairy is not the usual UMNO political enemy by far….

Many of Khairy’s enemies are content to bide their time and wait for the day when Abdullah Badawi is kicked out of the office of UMNO president. They believe that, then, Khairy will lose his godfather and protector, laying himself bare and exposed to attacks from the grassroots. Khairy’s enemies hope that the seething anger at Khairy so openly displayed at the last UMNO General Assembly will reach boiling point and explode once Abdullah is removed from office. Then Khairy will be led to the altar of sacrifice and his throat slit from ear to ear.

Yet, Khairy understands this plus that he has to strike first. And the last two years since Abdullah became UMNO President has been spent precisely doing that.

Khairy utilises two methods: neutralising what enemies that can be neutralised, and extinguishing the dangerous ones who cannot be mollified by titles and positions. There are many of the first category, such as Azimi Daim, Norza Zakaria and Aziz Sheikh Fadzir. All three used to be seen as potential challengers to Khairy’s position, especially in UMNO Youth.

However, they could be easily bought as they are in politics merely to gain positions and make money. They fear ‘going the whole way’ and doing things that may risk their comfortable current positions. So Azimi was given the UMNO Youth Information Chief title as well as an EXCO position. Aziz was given a seat in the last general election. Norza not only got a post in the UMNO Supreme Council, but a license to ‘print money’ through the powerful ‘toll-keeper’ position he was awarded in the Second Finance Ministry. UMNO politicians such as these are not a real threat to Khairy because, whenever they rear their ugly horns, they could be led to the trough of patronage and fed to their fat stomach’s content.

The more dangerous threats come from the second category made up of established politicians who are scions of UMNO leadership even before Khairy appeared on the scene. One such personality is Khairy’s own boss, Hishamuddin Hussein, who was instrumental, prior to 1999, in bringing Khairy to the attention of then Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. Hishamuddin believes that it is his birthright to be a future Prime Minister of Malaysia given that, like Najib (his cousin – his mother Tun Suhailah being Najib’s mother Tun Rahah’s elder sister), his father had held that august office before being deposed by Dr. Mahathir.

At first Hishamuddin thought that Khairy would do like what he is doing - play the ‘patience game’. Hishamuddin started out a strong supporter of Mahathir and his then heir-apparent Anwar Ibrahim. Through his constant brown-nosing of Anwar, Hishamuddin quickly found himself Deputy Minister of Finance and Minister of Youth and Sports, jumping over the head of his own boss, UMNO Youth Chief Mohd Zahid Hamidi. But Hishamuddin did this in his late thirties after years of legal practice and with at least the perception of patient unobtrusive building of his political career.

But Khairy does not believe in such things. He wants what he wants fast and he wants them now. So he has become the youngest Vice Youth Chief of UMNO since Nazri Aziz. Though this was suggested by Hishamuddin himself to save his own position, Hishamuddin now realises Khairy is a bigger threat than Aziz Sheikh Fadzir or anyone else could be.

In addition, Hishamuddin is unhappy that Khairy set up his own network within the UMNO Youth machinery, e.g. nominating Norza to the Supreme Council over and above Hishamuddin’s own choice. Khairy also set up an informal network of UMNO Vice Youth Division Chiefs throughout the country, a phenomenon unheard of when Hishamuddin himself held that post. Hishamuddin realises that he now holds office by the grace and favour of Khairy. When the latter is ready for the post of Youth Chief, the former must go.

If the situation continues, Hishamuddin might find it is time to go to the only place where he can go, which is the position of UMNO Vice President. But the stage is already filled to the brim with aspirants to the leadership. Hishamuddin may well find that, in the next UMNO election, Khairy will win the post of UMNO Youth chief with ease while he will lose the battle for the UMNO Vice-Presidency.

Hishamuddin is stuck because Khairy has already laid a trap for him. He makes pronouncements that forces Hishamuddin to accept his view of national politics. Hishamuddin cannot play the Malay racial card because Khairy has played that first, especially in areas such as education, which comes under his own ministerial purview. More importantly, Khairy is opting in several of Hishamuddin’s ex-allies such as Dr. Adham Baba and Razali Ibrahim (the MP for Muar) to slowly begin accepting the duality of UMNO Youth, where Hishamuddin is just the nominal official chief, but Khairy runs the daily show.

This is how Khairy is ‘fixing’ Hishamuddin. He has already planted key allies within Hishamuddin’s ministry. Some of Hishamuddin’s former loyalists have been given ministerial responsibilities and parliamentary seats, not to strengthen Hishamuddin himself but to distance his advisors from him and make them preoccupied with their own careers. This has created vacancies in Hishamuddin’s office and Khairy has filled them with his own allies, notably from the YPCS (Young Professionals Consultative Society), people of Khairy’s own batch, nominally loyal to Hishamuddin but in reality stooges of Khairy himself. Nothing goes by Hishamuddin's office that is not reported to Khairy. Indeed, Hishamuddin’s own Special Officers are the eyes and ears of Khairy.

Removing Hishamuddin will be easy because Hishamuddin is not a ‘fighter’ – unlike, for example, another potential Youth Chief, Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo, the Menteri Besar of Selangor. Khir comes from a different background than Khairy though they share the first syllable of their names. While Khairy comes from a diplomat’s family with a high ranking in the civil service, Khir’s father, known locally as “Wak Joyo”, is of peasant stock and a former PAS member to boot. Khir built himself into national politics by his good-natured bonhomie with Mahathir’s children, notably Mokhzani and Mukhriz. It was Mokhzani, who was then UMNO Youth Treasurer, who recommended that Khir, then a one-term assemblyman and not even a division leader, succeed Abu Hassan Omar as Menteri Besar of Selangor after the shameful revelation of Abu Hassan’s incestuous sexual scandals.

UMNO Selangor was of course not happy that this young upstart was suddenly propelled to the leadership. And Khir had more ambitions to fulfil. At only 37, Khir is by far the most visible Youth leader in the country after Hishamuddin and Khairy. He would not want to stop merely at being an UMNO Supreme Council member. Indeed, if Hishamuddin had decided to leave the post of UMNO Youth Chief last time, Khir would have been the frontrunner to succeed him. With money in his pocket due to the extensive giving away of land to the Lebar Daun group and other key business allies, Khir is well suited to assume the leadership of the UMNO Youth Wing - except he has to contend with Khairy…

Khairy had tried fixing Khir by exposing some mistakes he had made as Menteri Besar. Khairy is in luck because Khir has been greedy and rapacious in making money out of his position as Menteri Besar. Khairy merely needed to exploit some of these corrupt practices. One of the methods he used was to expose Khir’s wrongdoings in the award of development land within the Bukit Cahaya Seri Alam nature reserve. Khir had granted substantial pieces of land to companies related to his family and the family of his wife. The head of news at TV3, Datuk Kamarul Zaman Zainal (an ex-officer of Abdullah Badawi’s office) had a meeting with Khairy in which the latter gave the go-ahead for TV3 to air these misdeeds. Datuk Kamarul Zaman had no love for Khir as he is an Abdullah loyalist and believes that, in doing so, he is helping Abdullah strengthen his position against residues of the Mahathir era.

But Khir fought back and he had some powerful help. It was not only his related companies that had been given land in Bukit Cahaya Seri Alam but also companies associated with members of the Selangor royal family and other key political and business personalities close to Abdullah. When TV3 began airing the problems, they panicked and asked for help from Dato’ Thajudeen Abdul Wahab, Chief Private Secretary to the Prime Minister. Dato’ Thajudeen used his authority to ask Datuk Kamarul Zaman to back off and stop the attacks. So it gradually subsided.

Then Khairy used another tack. He tried to show that Khir was an incompetent administrator. At a Selangor UMNO Liaison committee meeting in May 2005, through a whisper from Khairy, Abdullah Badawi questioned the logic of declaring Selangor as a ‘developed’ state. His plan - which was hatched way back before Abdullah became PM - was to emphasise Selangor’s unique position as an economic powerhouse by declaring it a developed state on the 31st of August 2005. Admittedly, Khir had massaged the statistics and figures in order to make such a proclamation. However it is nothing unusual in the scheme of UMNO politics where even the former Prime Minister Mahathir had made unilateral declarations such as that Malaysia was an ‘Islamic state’.

Abdullah blasted Khir for making such a declaration during the closed-session meeting. In order to soften the blow, he emphasised that he had earlier criticised Kedah Menteri Besar Syed Razak Syed Zain for the impossible promise he made to make Kedah a ‘developed state’ by 2010. The real target of attack however was Khir. In Abdullah’s simple uncluttered mind, he was making a genuine criticism based on the lack of reasons for the declaration of a developed state. But, to Khairy, this carried a more valuable message, which was to show that Khir was a liar, incompetent and bumbling. After all, the aim to declare Selangor as a ‘developed state’ was something that Khir had been working on since 2001, and he had announced it far and wide to everyone.

This is just the beginning of the attack on Khir. Of course Khir will go ahead and make the declaration in August. But he is wounded by the collective attack on all fronts, especially in the mass media against his administration. Nor is he supported (at least in the public eye) by the Prime Minister. The most Khir could gather was lukewarm support at a Selangor UMNO meeting by Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.

By the time Khir announces that he is ready to go for the UMNO Youth leadership, many of his mistakes would have already been exposed by Khairy for public consumption. That is not to say that Khir is a less competent man than Khairy, but Khir does not control the media, whereas Khairy does. Either through his own plants such as Kalimullah Masheerul Hassan (the Group Chief Editor of the New Straits Times) and his breed of Singapore trained hired hacks such as Brendan Pereira, or the Heavenly Kings of The Star, or Datuk Kamarul Zaman in TV3, these will be the methods by which Khir is eventually destroyed. And Khir can scarcely fight back given his own past misdeeds and the fact that his press officer is a university dropout with not even an SPM credit in languages.

Hishamuddin and Khir are Khairy’s seniors, as far as ranking in UMNO is concerned. But Khairy also faces challenges from his peers in UMNO who are almost as close to Abdullah as he himself. He has not neglected these threats and, like the fratricides of the Middle Ages, Khairy has plans to strangle his own brothers…

PART 4 Strangling your own brothers


It was one thing for Khairy Jamaluddin to dispatch his challengers who openly stood in his way, but what was he to do with those young politicians who have Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s confidence? Before Khairy came along, Abdullah did have some other young protégés who he had groomed. These were the dark horses who might challenge Khairy for the throne in a few years time. One who has already declared this intent in private gatherings is UMNO Perlis Deputy Liaison Chief, Datuk Zahidi Zainol Abidin, 41.

Back when Hishamuddin Hussein contested the UMNO Youth Vice-Chief post, Zahidi was one of the few who dared challenge him -- even though Hishamuddin was the son of a former Prime Minister and Zahidi was a ‘nobody’. The former Air Force pilot with a UiTM mature student degree stood against Hishamuddin knowing full well he would lose, given Hishamuddin’s popularity and backing from Dr Mahathir. Yet he still went head on against Hishamuddin. Why?

Zahidi is one of those strange people in UMNO. One cannot call him a man of principles, yet he did have over-riding beliefs. He has an unshakeable confidence in his own abilities and he has always been proud of calling himself the underdog candidate. Zahidi does not think that UMNO should always be led by the scions of established political families such as Hishamuddin Hussein. He believes in going against this bangsawan mentality.

So Zahidi took up the cudgels against Hishamuddin. Though he lost heavily, he could always rely on a fallback ‘tilam’ as he had been a loyalist of Abdullah Badawi since his Team B days. Abdullah counted on Zahidi’s support throughout his wilderness years and even considered Zahidi an anak angkat. When Khairy appeared on Abdullah’s radars screen, Zahidi was annoyed. He felt that Abdullah was being led up the garden path by this young Oxford graduate with a smooth tongue. Zahidi wanted Abdullah to be more true to his Malay nationalistic background and not be swayed by Khairy’s new-age politics.

Zahidi tried his best to keep Abdullah on the straight and narrow. But of course he was no match for Khairy and his friends. Try as he might, he could not shake ‘the boy’ off -- and neither did Khairy succeed in turning Abdullah completely against Zahidi. Between the two, Abdullah struck an uneasy balance. Khairy stayed Abdullah’s closest and most influential advisor, but Abdullah still relied on Zahidi to give him an alternative view, though most times it did not matter as much as the opinion of his son-in-law. To soothe Zahidi’s wounded heart, Abdullah planned to make him the Perlis Menteri Besar during the last election if Shahidan Kassim failed to dent the PAS onslaught. To Zahidi’s chagrin, Shahidan pulled off a coup by defusing the PAS ‘green wave’ with the help of a few members of the Perlis royal family, thereby guaranteeing his stay in office. Nevertheless, Zahidi got promoted to Senior State EXCO Member.

Since then, he has openly announced his intention to challenge Khairy, ostensibly to teach these bangsawans a lesson. So Khairy planted a mole within Zahidi’s midst, in the form of a young and ambitious leader called Ben. Ben, or Rozabil Abdul Rahman, as his full name goes, is one of Khairy’s strongest supporters. In fact, since 1999, he has been a shareholder of Khairy’s mother’s company based in Penang and Kedah that supplies goods to schools in that area. Ben has ambitions to make it big in national politics, but Khairy told him to first prove himself by ‘fixing’ Zahidi in Perlis.

Ben is not even from Perlis. His father, Abdul Rahman Kader, an ex-trade union leader, is an Anwar loyalist, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) national chairman, and one-time PKR Chief for Penang. From 1999 to 2004 Pak Rahman was the PKR State Assemblyman in the Permatang Pauh Parliamentary constituency. Pak Rahman hails from Perak while Ben himself is based mostly in Kuala Lumpur. But anything can happen in Khairy’s weird and wonderful world of politics. So Ben suddenly became a Perlis ‘native’ and winged his way there to serve Khairy’s wishes. One of these wishes is to make sure that Zahidi gets politically tarnished.

In the last general election, Ben created a ruse on Khairy’s behalf. He arranged to meet with Zahidi on the pretext of seeking his support to win the post of UMNO Youth Chief in the Kangar Division. He promised Zahidi substantial ‘campaign funds’ to facilitate this task. Zahidi readily agreed, accepting RM300,000 as a first payment.

In fact, Ben was not doing this out of the goodness of his heart but to manufacture evidence that Zahidi was involved in money politics and therefore liable to be hauled before the UMNO Disciplinary Committee. That was what happened next. Zahidi found himself the object of an investigation by Tengku Ahmad Rithaudeen’s committee. Letters accusing him of paying bribes appeared on the Tengku’s desk and an anonymous tape-recording of a telephone conversation in which Zahidi had asked Ben to make prompt payment of the campaign funds to his bank account found its way to the committee’s hands.

Zahidi was duly convicted of the crime of money politics and given a warning. The public was told his offence was of blocking certain people from being elected UMNO delegates by bad-mouthing them. Secretly though, Tengku Ahmad Rithaudeen had warned Zahidi not to ‘rock the UMNO boat’ if he did not want them to announce his other offences, which included payments of up to RM1,000 each to members in the Kangar division. Zahidi was informed during the hearings that he was not to repeat to the press what the committee had said to him.

He was told that he was lucky to get off with a warning because he was one of Abdullah’s blue-eyed boys. But if he dared challenge the ‘status quo’ of the bangsawan leadership again, the committee would find a way to ‘sembelih’ him.

Of course, no one expects Zahidi to take this lying down. But he has no doubt been made aware that challenging Khairy would not be a ‘clean’ and friendly battle like the Hishamuddin Hussein challenge some years back.

There is another fellow like Zahidi, also a long time Abdullah loyalist and not a bangsawan. Reezal Merican Naina Merican is an Indian Muslim from Penang who had managed to bring himself to the attention of Abdullah Badawi three years before Khairy ever showed his face in the Jalan Bellamy house.

Reezal Merican (often called ‘Ustaz Reezal’) is an IIUM graduate with a penchant for high politics and beautiful women artistes. He was aghast when the years of relationship he had built with Abdullah prior to his being appointed Deputy Prime Minister was suddenly interrupted by the appearance of Khairy. When Abdullah ascended that high office, Reezal Merican thought that his time had come. His years of being the ‘lightning rod’ in IIUM -- attracting the ire of his fellow students who were mostly supporters of Anwar Ibrahim -- would finally pay off when Abdullah recognises his loyalty and perseverance in defending his image. Reezal had hoped that Abdullah would reward him with a suitably high post in government.

But when the call finally came and the appointment letter landed on his desk, Reezal found himself in the much less exalted office of Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, in charge of issues such as making sure that people hugged each other in the name of national unity. Khairy had blocked his way up by writing a memorandum to Abdullah Badawi containing the list of people who deserved to be promoted to the office of advisors to the new Deputy Prime Minister and Reezal Merican’s name was not one of them.

Reezal persevered. He tried to make himself out to be a more important part of Abdullah’s future government by showing that he had good ties with the student community in local universities. He promptly got himself elected head of the IIUM alumni and therefore a nominal head of quite a substantial group of the local student support base. Perhaps it was in view of this that Abdullah finally relented and, in November 2003, Reezal was made Political Secretary to the First Finance Minister. It was not as important as being Political Secretary to the Prime Minister himself, but as the two posts were conjoined in the same person, Reezal did not complain too much.

Khairy did not take this lying down though. He shot off another official memo to Abdullah, informing him that the IIUM graduate did not deserve the post as he added no value to the effort to show Abdullah’s administration as being a professional team of bright young things. Khairy also accused Reezal of involvement with several young recording artists and newsreaders. The letter found itself on Abdullah’s desk, but not before chief private secretary Dato’ Thajudeen Abdul Wahab (no friend of Khairy’s) had made a copy and given it to Reezal. Seething with anger, Reezal swore to eliminate Khairy from the Abdullah circle.

That promise was made in the white heat of anger. Eventually, Reezal realised that it was better to be seen to support Khairy, at least for the time being. He took a step back and allowed Khairy to go for the UMNO Youth Vice-Chief post while he himself contested as an ordinary EXCO member, though he had a longer relationship with the UMNO Youth delegates. In the meantime, he gathered his forces. While Khairy is largely supported by foreign graduates, non-Malays and the liberal Malay faction in UMNO, Reezal Merican is more popular with the under-30s from local universities.

A head-on clash was about to happen if not for one stroke of Khairy’s genius.

What could Khairy do to counter Ustaz Reezal’s influence? Khairy looked at it from a hierarchical point of view. If Khairy, as an Oxford graduate, was the highest chimp in the tree, Reezal, as an IIUM graduate, was the lower monkey. So, to topple the guy, Khairy needed an even lower ranking primate –- more aggressive, perhaps, but definitely a follower rather than a leader. This he found in the form of Datuk Abdul Azeez Rahim.

Abdul Azeez shared many of Reezal Merican’s attributes. A fellow mamak like Reezal, he had a weakness for beautiful women and both had married twice. More importantly, Abdul Azeez was a self-made businessman of a rather thuggish outlook and could counter Reezal’s influence among the locally educated UMNO Youth politicians. Khairy pushed through a new wing called Putera UMNO under Abdul Azeez’s stewardship that spread its tentacles to local universities and institutions of higher learning. Khairy understood that he himself lacked support from this political base and badly needed it. Abdul Azeez was tasked in getting this support while at the same time weakening Reezal’s influence.

So Reezal became a neutered tomcat, surrounded by the well-oiled and well-financed Putera UMNO. If at any time in the future Reezal tries to shake Khairy’s throne, the trap would be set for him and he would find himself on the receiving end of Putera UMNO’s whack. Khairy no longer needs to fear that he would be seen as an arty-farty Oxford graduate without support from the lower middle classes. Abdul Azeez would now take care of that for him.

The juggernaut rolls on. But Khairy cannot afford to confine himself only to dealing with potential threats from UMNO Youth. There was a bigger and more immediate threat to his plans to become PM of Malaysia by the age of 40. The most important fish for Khairy to fry is one called Najib…

PART 5
The heir and the pretender

Some time ago, a young UMNO politician began his meteoric rise to power. He was, to be very honest, young and inexperienced. But he had the distinction of coming from a powerful political family and it was on the back of this that he managed to secure positions in UMNO Youth at a very tender age.

Eventually, he rose to the highest rank of that wing. He became a minister and was always spoken of as a ‘sure bet’ for the exalted post of Prime Minister. With little political experience prior to joining UMNO, he built his reputation by playing off one group against another, even showing off the racial card, pronouncing his strong public support for ‘Malay rights’, ‘Malay dominance’ and ‘Malay supremacy’, in spite of having quite opposite beliefs in the practice of his private life. An almost wholly overseas education had left him tongue-tied in his own native language. And a rather prominent spouse, with (lesser) political ambitions of her own, helped spur his climb to power.

One may be forgiven for thinking that this is a description of Khairy Jamaluddin. In actual fact it is only what Khairy wants to be. It’s Khairy’s ‘wannabe’ dream - drawn on the back of an envelope as his plans for reaching the top political office in the country. But that trail had already been blazed by another man before Khairy – and his name is Najib Tun Razak.

Khairy and Najib share many similarities in their rise to power. Yet there is no love lost between them. Khairy knows that Najib will ‘kill him off’ as soon as Abdullah Ahmad Badawi leaves the political stage. Likewise, Najib is uneasy about Khairy’s influence on Abdullah and is conscious that his chances of becoming Prime Minister would dramatically improve with Khairy out of the way.

The enmity between Khairy and Najib stems from Khairy’s impatient and open ambition to reach the highest office in UMNO before he reaches the age of 40. Najib is the opposite in his outlook. He is patient, almost to the point of being seen as slow and lethargic. But Najib has played a ‘careful’ game whereas Khairy is more ‘in your face’.

Both understand that UMNO is too small a party for the two of them. At only 52, Najib is easily able to block Khairy for twenty-five years or more. If a week is a long time in politics, then twenty-five years would seem like an eternity. Even worse, Khairy thinks Najib will turn back the clock, abolish Abdullah’s (and therefore Khairy’s) reforms and return UMNO to the ‘bad old days’ of Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.

Najib is the most prominent protégé of former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad of his generation. His appointment as Deputy Prime Minister was part of a package arranged by Dr Mahathir prior to his abdication and was pre-conditional upon Abdullah prior to him assuming the office of UMNO President. Even after Dr Mahathir had received the tacit but private consent of Abdullah Badawi for Najib to be appointed as Deputy Prime Minister, Mahathir tried to reinforce the future succession plans by putting very broad hints in the media that Najib was the most capable person to become Abdullah’s deputy.

Mahathir went so far as to instruct certain members of the cabinet to push hard and often for Najib to be appointed Deputy Prime Minister as soon as possible. Khalil Yaakob, then Information Minister, pushed Abdullah so often that Khairy became incensed. By the 2004 election, Khalil found himself packed off to his wife’s state of Melaka as governor.

At one point, Dr Mahathir even hinted that the Deputy Prime Minister should be appointed at the same time as Abdullah takes the oath of office as the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia. Abdullah bit his lips and said nothing. The prize was too close for him to rock the boat now.

Abdullah did, however, try to play ‘chicken’ with Mahathir. He wanted the Deputy Prime Minister to owe him that appointment and not be indebted to his predecessor. So he kept the nation waiting for awhile and gave an indication to people such as Muhyiddin Yassin that they were also potential candidates. Abdullah’s then political secretary, Ramzi Abdul Rahman (now Chairman of KESEDAR), was asked to inform Dr Shaharuddin Mohd Salleh that “Najib is in only as long as Mahathir is in”. On the back of this promise, Shaharuddin went to Muhyiddin telling him that they would soon be moving to new offices in Putrajaya.

But the hints were never serious because Abdullah Badawi knew that if he did not appoint Najib as Deputy Prime Minister, Mahathir would ensure that Abdullah became the shortest ever serving Prime Minister of Malaysia…

Knowing full well that his father-in-law had no choice but to appoint Najib, Khairy tried to place himself in Najib’s good books. First, he tried to convince Najib that, as the most powerful advisor to Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, he would be instrumental in influencing the decision to appoint the new Deputy Prime Minister.

Khairy reassured Najib several times that Abdullah was really in favour of Najib, rather than Muhyiddin or any other candidate. He just needed a ‘little push’ – a sign to show that Najib would be absolutely loyal to Abdullah. Khairy even told Najib that he himself had dissuaded Abdullah from considering Muhyiddin because the latter was seen as being too close to Anwar. On the other hand, Najib was a ‘loyal party leader’ who gave his best to anyone who holds the office of UMNO President. Khairy told Najib that he had reassured Abdullah of Najib’s loyalty and competence.

At that point, when Najib was most apprehensive about his political future, Khairy took advantage of Najib’s weakness by putting several of his people in Najib’s office. Khairy knew that many of Najib’s officers were 110% loyal to Najib and served him selflessly. Amongst them was Najib’s key point-man and trusted advisor, Datuk Alies Anor. But Khairy was very wary of Alies Anor. Alies was close to ABIM (his wife is a famous ABIM activist) and therefore close to Anwar Ibrahim. Indeed, many of Najib’s junior officers were drawn from the pro-Anwar camp as Najib had served Anwar as his Vice Youth Chief in the 1990s. As Anwar’s star rose, Najib wanted to please him so he sheltered several Anwar supporters in his office.

Other than Alies Anor, Najib had other advisors who were more cosmopolitan and therefore opposed to Alies’ worldview. Chief amongst them was Abdul Razak Baginda and a shadowy business figure called Rohana who controls Najib’s and his family’s estates overseas -- such as their flats in London and houses in Australia’s Melbourne and Gold Coast. Khairy approached these two figures and convinced them that the best person to advice Najib was a certain Omar Ong (see part 2 of the Khairy Chronicles).

Omar Ong became Khairy’s point-man in Najib’s office. He installed himself in an office a few doors away from Najib’s own and was given a chauffeur-driven car as well as ranking in the civil service just one step below the Deputy Secretary-General of the ministry.

But even that was insufficient. Khairy was worried that Najib might stray from the narrow road set before him by Omar Ong. After all, Omar Ong was hardly the most charismatic of individuals and as a Chinese convert to Islam he could be deemed an ‘outsider’ by Najib supporters.

Khairy then used another close friend called Dr Liew, his partner in his proxy company, Ethos Sdn Bhd, set up to dabble in government contracts. Khairy introduced Ethos to Najib and quickly hired personnel on large monthly retainers to advice Najib on several key Ministry of Defence jobs. Through their joint participation, Najib’s advisors and civil servants found their roles reduced and instead Liew and his officers began to take charge of sensitive decisions made in the Ministry of Defence. Closed tender contracts began to be awarded to companies associated to Omar Ong and Dr Liew.

Najib’s old advisors, in particular Alies Anor, found this situation extremely stifling. They realised they no longer had the undivided attention of Najib. Instead, Najib began to listen more to Khairy’s people who would also furnish Khairy reports on Najib’s daily movements. Further to that, they used their position to block several key Najib allies from seeing the Minister -- to such an extent that these people began to angrily distant themselves from Najib.

They disrupted daily briefings made by Alies Anor and the old officers, causing severe rifts in Najib’s office. But Najib himself felt that this was a price worth paying. He knew Alies was absolute loyal to him, even if he was removed from office. Najib wanted the post of Deputy Prime Minister and he was willing to pay any price, even kowtowing to Khairy’s boys if necessary.

Eventually, Abdullah could not hold back the decision any longer and Najib found himself Deputy Prime Minister as Dr Mahathir had planned. Khairy tried to take full credit with Najib, even arranging huge media coverage through Kalimullah Hassan Masheerul Hassan (Group Chief Editor of NST and a Khairy stooge). However, once safely in office, Najib began to wise up. He no longer felt he needed to pay as much attention to Khairy or his boys as he did before. In short, Najib began to fight back and loosen the chains that Khairy and Omar Ong had placed around him.

Najib began to develop parallel young talents in his office, in direct competition to Khairy’s boys. He chose Khairil Annas Yusof, an IIUM and Oxford law graduate with an ABIM background (and therefore diametrically opposed to Khairy’s worldview) as an additional Special Officer. Najib also began to reduce Omar Ong’s role in writing his speeches and relied more and more on Khairil Annas. Khairil Annas also began to train Najib and help him improve his Malay speaking talents, including the use of rhetoric and gestures, something out of sync with Najib’s previous character.

Although Omar Ong is the son-in-law of Fatwa Council chairman Ismail Ibrahim, his talents in the religious department were severely lacking. Khairil Annas made up for these deficiencies and quickly became Najib’s most trusted blue-eyed boy. Khairy’s boys in Ethos also began to find that, since he became Deputy Prime Minister, Najib was listening less and less to them. Dr Liew, who was previously tasked with finding a solution to the Felda problem, found himself muscled out by a new appointee in charge of Felda affairs, a certain Ahmad Maslan, a Johor UMNO stalwart of Anwar Ibrahim and former political secretary to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Mustapa Mohamad.

Khairy instructed Dr Liew to propose that Felda dispose of its shares in several First Board publicly-listed companies, such as Maybank, to parties close to ECM Libra, a boutique investment bank owned by Kalimullah Masheerul Hassan that employed Khairy as its director of Corporate Advisory. Dr Liew thought he could easily push this matter through as it was more or less an ‘instruction’ from Khairy. Instead, Najib used Ahmad Maslan to block the deal while ordering a reassessment of the proposal based on its merits.

Khairy’s most formidable opponent in the old Najib camp, Alies Anor, although now no longer in Najib’s office, began to be seen more and more in Najib’s unofficial inner circle. Instead of meeting at his office in Putrajaya, they often gathered together either in Najib’s private home in Taman Duta or at the Tun Rahah Foundation office in Pekan during Najib’s weekly constituency visits there. Decisions were now being made away from the official Deputy Prime Minister’s office and Khairy began to get less and less detailed reports of Najib’s movements.

Najib also cultivated an alternative to Khairy’s loyalists within UMNO Youth in Pahang. Najib created a group called the Pekan Youth Society that began to be seen as the rival to UMNO Youth there. Najib paid these people permanent salaries and the Pekan Youth Society began to realise that they were more influential in getting Najib’s attention than the official UMNO Youth channel. UMNO Youth in Pekan soon became aware they were no longer trusted by Najib as they were seen as an extension of Khairy’s political arrangements.

With all these goings-on, Khairy found that his meticulous plan to control Najib was beginning to unravel. The final straw was when Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah received the nomination from the Gua Musang UMNO division for the post of UMNO President. But the same division also nominated Najib for UMNO Deputy. In other words, Abdullah received one less nomination than his own deputy. Gua Musang was giving a signal that they liked Najib, but hated Abdullah.

In several private meetings, Tengku Razaleigh said he wanted to contest the presidency to ensure that Najib eventually succeeds Abdullah Badawi as UMNO President and to ensure that Abdullah Badawi or his people would not play Najib for a fool. Tengku Razaleigh went so far as to have meetings with several key Mahathir allies such as Daim Zainuddin and Sanusi Junid to make known his reasons for challenging Abdullah. One week before Tengku Razaleigh announced his ‘stalking horse’ challenge for the presidency, both Daim and Sanusi were seen lunching with him.

Khairy now realised that Najib is a dangerous foe who could not be easily pushed around. It was natural that Najib believed Khairy to be an upstart who did not deserve his position and who lacked the political experience. Though both Khairy and Najib rose in politics at a young age, Najib had previously served in various apprenticeships in UMNO and government including as a Deputy Minister in the federal government and Menteri Besar of Pahang. Khairy, on the other hand, chose another route to power -– one deemed ‘more suspect’ by Najib’s supporters.

So Khairy is currently laying down plans on how to embarrass Najib and ensure that Najib falls, or at the very least to convince Najib that his long-term political survival depends on Khairy’s grace and favour. In Khairy’s mind, there are three weapons he could use. One would be the ultimate weapon of using Abdullah to ‘chop Najib’s head off’. But that would be a far too risky move. While Najib is no Anwar Ibrahim who would fight kicking and screaming against the dying of the light, he would probably mount a challenge if Dr Mahathir announces his tacit support for a ‘change in leadership’. As such, removing Najib like how Dr Mahathir removed Anwar is out of the question.

The second way would be to use his extensive tentacles in the media. And here’s how he plans to do it...

PART 6
Khairy’s media playgrounds

History has laid testimony to that fact that there are as many ways to exterminate an UMNO politician as there are to skin a cat. Even powerful warlords can be easily sent into retirement; given the right combination of manufactured scandals and by using the correct medium to ‘spread the message’. Political assassinations can be easily achieved by use of the media. All one needs to do is to buy off a few hacks, journalists and political commentators. Nowadays, one need not even buy a proper journalist; an internet reporter will do.

The first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, was destroyed by the medium of poison-pen letters that accused him of bias against the Malays, giving in to the Chinese, womanising, hard drinking and gambling. The second prime minister, Tun Razak, was ‘saved’ by a premature death; or else he too would have been embarrassed by the same tactics engineered by then UMNO Youth Chief, Harun Idris, who accused the former of allowing Communist sympathisers to infiltrate his office. And, of course, everyone knows how Anwar Ibrahim was brought down. A combination of ‘revelations’ and ‘exposes’ through the official media as well as the infamous ‘50 Dalil’ by Khalid Jafri – only recently convicted of libel and slander – portrayed Anwar as a corrupt sodomist masquerading behind a mask of Muslim piety.

But these are ‘old’ tactics and Khairy Jamaluddin knows better than to rely merely on these outdated methods. Times have changed. If anything, the Reformasi movement has proven the effectiveness of the cyber-media as well as the foreign press in disseminating information to the increasingly sceptical Malaysian masses who no longer have faith in the mainstream media.

It is no wonder, therefore, that the first attack initiated by Khairy against Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak was made through the internet and through the use of the foreign media.

To be sure, Najib has never been perceived as a ‘clean’ politician. He has been implicated in all sorts of scandals ranging from the award of forest land to close relatives during his tenure as Pahang Menteri Besar in the early 1980s to being caught in flagrante delicto with a well-known artist in a motel bed in Port Dickson. Yet, none of these scandals stuck – partly because the public now accepts that UMNO politicians will be, to a greater or lesser extent, corrupt and indiscreet. And almost everyone acknowledges, to a ‘T’, that women are Najib’s particular weakness – and that he is not alone among UMNO leaders in having this fault.

So, like in Anwar Ibrahim’s case, Najib’s ‘scandals’ had to be exaggerated, or even invented from scratch.

There have been at least two occasions when Khairy boasted that this would not be a difficult job to do. First was a few months ago, during a dinner attended by several business associates of UMNO Supreme Council member Datuk Norza Zakaria, when Khairy declared to a certain 35 year old businessman that creating a scandal to topple Najib would be “like eating peanuts”. The said businessman, who wanted to curry favours with and impress his friends with ‘inside knowledge’ that Najib would in time be kicked off his perch, promptly repeated this information to them.

The second occasion was in June 2004. Khairy was then in the running for the position of Chief Operating Officer of Khazanah Nasional and was confident he would be thus appointed by incoming Managing Director, Azman Mokhtar. Khairy had gathered a few friends from his old university days and was proclaiming his plans to “reform Khazanah”. A friend then asked what Najib felt about his new (and very powerful) anticipated appointment. Khairy retorted that if Najib did not like it, he would “put Najib in jail”. To the incredulous gathering, Khairy further explained that Najib would fall “like a deck a cards” if he ever chose to boot out the deputy prime minister.

Such arrogant and egotistical boasts are not without foundation. While they could easily be dismissed as the bravado of an overconfident Young Turk, Najib is a much easier opponent than many previous occupants of the post he currently holds. For one thing, Najib was not elected to the post in a free and open election but by voters cowed into nominating him; the sole candidate nominated for the post of UMNO Deputy President. Najib has never, throughout his political career, contested any post in which there was a real danger of anyone defeating him; nor has he ever been defeated in any contest he has entered. An indecisive man with a distinctly chicken-hearted political view, Najib will never risk a real contest nor face a real opponent. He has always secured high office by the whims of a higher power.

Given the right conditions, to defeat such a person is not difficult. Khairy knows this full well and it is with this in mind that he welcomed Najib’s appointment as DPM. In spite of the UMNO members’ outward show of support for Najib, he is not a tried and tested leader. So, he is only the equal, if not the lesser, of Khairy himself. But, unlike Khairy, Najib’s deepest scandals are well-known to a public that for thirty years have become used to seeing his face. Najib’s blood runs thick with scandals and corruption, whereas, even if Khairy was equally corrupt, the public at large knows very little about it.

Another reason for Khairy’s tremendous confidence in his strength as opposed to Najib is because of a ‘test’ he carried out soon after the conclusion of the Eleventh General Election where Najib ended up a victim of a scandal of Khairy’s own making.

In this episode, a certain independent news portal was used to help Khairy carry out his crafty scheme. A story about Barisan Nasional owing several small-time Malay printers and poster suppliers millions of Ringgit was leaked to this news portal. According to the suppliers, the purchase order to print hundreds of thousands of campaign material was issued by the Barisan Nasional headquarters with instructions to distribute them directly to the candidates. Unbeknownst to even the reporters of the scandal, the trail led to Najib’s people that included a certain Chinese-Muslim businessman Datuk who is closely associated to Najib and a known substantial donor to causes championed by Najib’s mother, Toh Puan Rahah, and wife, Rosmah Mansor.

What happened was simple yet cunning. Khairy had arranged for the BN Executive Secretary, Yaacob Muhammad, to ask the Chinese-Muslim businessman Datuk to issue several orders for election campaign material through a certain company (formed especially for this purpose). The company awarded the contract to small-time Malay printing shops. However, instead of delivering the items to the BN headquarters, they were delivered directly to the BN candidates using letters of instruction emanating from the Chinese-Muslim Datuk and using the letterhead of a certain foundation associated with Najib.

When the printers submitted claims for payments due to them, they were discreetly informed by Khairy’s people in the UMNO headquarters that these purchase orders had actually been issued by Najib through his Chinese-Muslim Datuk friend. It was Najib’s name that was besmirched and, to save his patron’s skin, the Chinese-Muslim Datuk businessman had to pay off much of the monies owed. He could not, of course, pay off everything, but at least for the moment the scandal was kept under control.

This was how Khairy sharpened his teeth. He used this ‘manufactured’ scandal as his first ‘strength test’ against Najib. Khairy learnt a few valuable lessons from this episode – one which was that Najib had the (albeit limited) ability, given his wide range of businessmen friends, to nip the scandal in the bud by paying off the aggrieved parties. However, the problem was only a test and is a small-scale attempt to shake the Najib tree to see what falls out from it. And it was purposely ‘floated’ through an internet news portal rather than via the official or mainstream press where it might backfire and instead cause embarrassment to Abdullah himself.

The second test was to try and embarrass Najib through the foreign media. This opportunity cropped up when Malaysia and Indonesia fell into a tiff over the disputed oil fields between the coast of Sabah and Sulawesi. As Defence Minister, Najib was called upon to explain Malaysia’s stance. An Indonesia newsmagazine promptly published a report that Najib had ‘apologised’ for the behaviour of the Royal Malaysian Navy ships patrolling the disputed area.

Najib, of course, was embarrassed and quickly denied that he had ever done such a thing. But the Indonesian newspaper tarried awhile before printing a retraction. And the reason: the source of the story was a certain Nahdatul Ulama Youth leader closely associated with Khairy - who informed the reporter that it was Khairy who told him about the ‘apology’. It is not clear whether that NU leader was just a ‘patsy’ in this whole thing. But why should he doubt Khairy? Wasn’t Khairy the Malaysian prime minister’s trusted aide and son-in-law who had been sent, even when he was without a government or political party position, as a personal envoy to meet Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono? Whatever the intention of the newspaper, Najib could hardly fault them when the source was Khairy himself – nor could Najib take legal action against the publisher for fear of exposing Khairy and thereby angering Abdullah.

Khairy’s ‘mini tests’ were designed to just test the waters without pushing too far. He understands that the effort to remove Najib must be done slowly, building up to a crescendo over a period of time. And the traps are being laid all over through Khairy’s connections with the media.

When Abdullah Badawi was named future Prime Minister, one of the first things he asked for from Dr Mahathir was control over the media. Abdullah had understood from the time Anwar Ibrahim was in power that the media in the hands of an heir-apparent would be the most effective insurance against removal from office. After all, Anwar had put in his own people in charge of the news section of various newspapers and TV stations in order to promote his future accession to the office of PM. It was the removal of these Anwar stalwarts which paved the way for his September 1998 sacking.

Abdullah had to ensure that the same ‘tragedy’ would not befall him and Mahathir also knew that surrendering media control to Abdullah was the only way he could convince the latter he was serious about choosing Abdullah as his latest anointed successor. Mahathir reluctantly relented and, swiftly, Abdullah looked to Khairy for names to fill into the powerful media positions.

Khairy’s most prominent appointment was that of Kalimullah Hassan Masheerul Hassan, a former Singaporean journalist closely associated with certain Chinese businessmen with whom he had built a successful business based on the Chinese doing the thinking and Kalimullah himself pulling the cables. ‘Kali’, as he calls himself, has visions of grandeur. Although a bad writer and an even worse editor, Kali knew that he could buy talent. It is an open secret that NST editorials published as Kali’s piece were ghost-written by both internal and outsourced hacks. Such was a man after Khairy’s own heart – who knew that being a figurehead was no bad thing, as one could always pick and choose one’s lackeys to finish the job.

However, Kalimullah had a stain on his character. He is known to be exceptionally close to the Singapore government, in particular to Home Minister Wong Kan Seng, who is in charge of intelligence operations. Another close associate of Kalimullah had once blabbed to Dr Mahathir’s then political secretary, Matthias Chang, that the man was a ‘Singapore spy’, either deliberately or by inadvertently giving information to the Republic through his ‘big mouth’. A few months before conceding power, Dr Mahathir commissioned the then Director of Military Intelligence to compile a report on Kali. The report, copied to Najib, concluded that Kali was not a proven spy - nor did the report absolve him completely either. The report concluded that enough doubts existed to question his appointment to the NST Group Chief Editorship.

But the appointment was pushed through nevertheless - simply because the only other candidate for the position, close Abdullah associate Anuar Zaini, was already slated for Bernama, as a replacement to Mahathir ally, Kadir Jasin. Kalimullah, ensconced in office, quickly created a cabal of Singapore-trained hacks that would do Abdullah’s (and Khairy’s) biddings.

One such scion is Brendan Pereira. Brendan was a former journalist of the Singapore Straits Times and a long-time friend of Khairy; having been introduced to him by Khairy’s former classmates in the United World College in Singapore. Brendan wrote long odes and paeans to Khairy in the Singapore Straits Times, to such an extent that he was known in journalistic circles as ‘Khairy’s Press Secretary’. Every piece Brendan wrote would quote Khairy and Khairy’s key ally, Norza Zakaria, even when both were only minor Youth EXCO members and relatively unknown to the Malaysian public. In fact, Khairy’s name ‘exploded’ on the Singapore scene way before he even appeared big time in any Malaysian newspaper.

Of course, Brendan’s only intention was to hitch a ride on Khairy’s rising star and eventually transplant himself to a higher position in the New Straits Times. Together with Brendan and several former Singapore Straits Times hacks, Khairy is assured of the subservience of the New Straits Times.

Yet, it is not the NST that Khairy will be using against Najib – as that would indeed be too obvious. It is Kali and Brendan’s contacts across the Causeway that will instead be used to publish the first stories about Najib’s ‘scandals’. The plan is not yet ripe though – but don’t forget, when the time comes, you will read it here first!

And, of course, let’s not forget Khairy’s connections with the internet media, in particular the Malay language internet newspaper, AgendaDaily, currently edited by Rosli Ismail, which Khairy and Norza Zakaria helped fund.

Originally, AgendaDaily was set up by a certain Rozaid Abdul Rahman, the elder brother of Rozabil Abdul Rahman (Khairy’s mother’s business partner mentioned in Part 4 of this series). Rozaid was a journalist-for-hire who started out in September 1998 writing books about Anwar Ibrahim and the Reformasi movement, which he then coerced Reformasi activists into buying in bulk to sell at their functions and ceramahs. When that source of funds began to dry up, Rozaid looked to former UMNO Vice President Muhammad Muhammad Taib to help fund AgendaDaily, intended as the Malay vernacular alternative to Malaysiakini. Muhammad came up with the first RM200,000 for the venture, which dried up in a few months in the face of the failure of AgendaDaily to attract paying readers.

To recoup his losses, Rozaid began to ‘sell’ pieces to UMNO politicians – basically writing ‘favourable news’ about them for a fee. In this capacity, his brother Rozabil, already a business associate of Khairy’s family, introduced Rozaid to both Khairy and Norza Zakaria. As Muhammad refused to further fund the failed venture, Norza stepped in. A week after Norza transferred RM100,000 to AgendaDaily’s bank account, a prominent piece on Khairy appeared – extolling the praises of this new ‘bright young thing’.

The relationship continued even after Rozaid ‘officially’ left AgendaDaily to take up the position of Press Secretary to Entrepreneurial Development Minister, Khaled Nordin. The new editor, Rosli Ismail, continued to present favourable reports on Khairy that almost always comprised of unexplained denials by Khairy of the various rumours associated with him.

No one can deny that Khairy has adopted the right approach towards influencing the minds of the younger generation, media-savvy, better-educated Malaysians. In using the foreign media and the internet as his playground for publicity, Khairy has outdistanced himself from the older politicians such as Hishammuddin Hussein (who once chickened out of a column in Malaysiakini) and even Najib himself.

But the media can only assist to a certain extent. The real onslaught against Najib needs a special and more powerful secret weapon. And Khairy has that. And this weapon is called Anwar...

PART 7
The beginning of a beautiful friendship

Hundreds of people thronged the double-storey suburban bungalow in Jalan Setiamurni. Word of Anwar Ibrahim’s unanticipated release from jail had spread far and wide, shocking the nation to the very core. As well as the hundreds of foreign pundits unsure of what to make of this sudden development, many of Anwar’s supporters had gathered in triumph to rejoice the return of the man who for six years had been kept hidden from public view by the government of Mahathir Mohamad and, for a short while, by the administration of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. There was no denying that the crowd was in a jubilant mood, savouring their victory and yet, almost to a man, unsure of what was to happen next.

Suddenly, a black Mercedes appeared at the crossroads, stopping a few metres away from Anwar’s house. Out stepped a man whom the crowd immediately recognised as an Umno member of minor prominence. The crowd immediately turned hostile, mocking and jeering the man with the vehemence reserved for a common criminal. Some spitted on the ground. Others threw empty mineral water bottles, one hitting the man on the shoulder. A few shouted, cautioning the man not to take another step forward for the sake of his own safety. He was told in no uncertain terms that he was not welcome at the house. When the man protested that he merely wanted to bestow good wishes to Anwar Ibrahim, the heckling became so loud it alarmed the people inside the house. One, who was beginning to go berserk, even rolled up his sleeves, intending to bash the man in his face if he took one step further.

While all of this brouhaha was going on and that Umno man, Ruslan Kassim, was suffering verbal abuse at the hands of the Reformasi supporters, another car quietly pulled up almost unnoticed at the end of the road and the occupant stepped out into the welcoming arms of Anwar’s former political secretary, Ezam Mohd Nor. Khairy Jamaluddin was swiftly sneaked in through the back of Anwar Ibrahim’s house via the kitchen door, straight up to the second floor bedroom to meet the man so recently reviled by Umno and its leaders as a traitor.

In the bedroom, the two men who would be Prime Ministers eyeballed each other at first warily, then warmly. Anwar extended his hand which was taken by Khairy and they swiftly got down to business. It was later publicly announced to the nation that Khairy was there only to extend the warm wishes of his father-in-law, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, and also to personally assure Anwar that all efforts to provide him an international passport for his medical trip to Munich would be done with utmost haste. Anwar remarked later that he had jibed Khairy about his sudden climb in Umno Youth and warned the younger man that it was a difficult task indeed which might end up in Khairy having to shed much tears. Both Anwar and Khairy later stated publicly that ‘nothing happened’ between the two of them and that no ‘serious discussion’ took place.

But the nation found that explanation strangely irreconcilable. One or both of the men must have been lying. After all, Anwar was until very recently persona non grata in Umno circles. Even his name could be mentioned only in tones of disgust. Whereas Khairy was the young up-and-coming leader anointed by his father-in-law as his closest advisor and most trusted confidante. Surely there must have been more to it than meets the eye.

Indeed there was.

Both Anwar and Khairy would eventually deny that there was any deal struck between Abdullah Badawi and Anwar Ibrahim for the former to withhold any process should the judiciary decide to finally do the right thing and release the latter from his six-year incarceration. The deal was actually hammered out many months before the last General Election and definitely after Abdullah had officially assumed office as the nation’s fifth Prime Minister. Yet, few, including the upper echelons of both ruling and opposition parties, understood that the end game was being played out in its final moves.

The meeting that took place in Jalan Setiamurni was the sealing of a pact. Abdullah was of the opinion that the Anwar issue was left over baggage from the Mahathir days which he definitely had to unravel. Anwar was reaching the most critical period of his incarceration where he could no longer endure the excruciating pain afflicting his back and which was turning him into a semi-invalid. Khairy was the instrument that made it clear to Anwar that Abdullah gave his implicit approval to the deal, without himself appearing in public to endorse it and thereby provoking the ire of his predecessor, Dr Mahathir.

Once safely in Munich, Anwar told several close allies that included former Berita Harian Editor Nazri Abdullah, former MRCB Managing Director Khalid Ahmad and former Guthrie CEO Khalid Ibrahim that Khairy had come to his house to deliver a letter from Abdullah. Khairy himself later told Norza Zakaria, a fellow member of the Umno Youth Council, that such a letter had been delivered into Anwar’s hands. More importantly, the letter was said by both parties to contain explicit instructions as to how the next few months would be played out.

Immediately after the meeting with Anwar, Khairy became the target of several ministers closely allied to former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Spearheaded by Samy Vellu, ministers such as Rafidah Aziz, Azmi Khalid and Aziz Shamsuddin openly questioned Abdullah about his motives in sending Khairy to see Anwar. When Abdullah explained that it was merely to facilitate his immigration needs, Samy Vellu laughed it off and told Abdullah in no uncertain terms, “Next time I need a passport you can send your son-in-law to see me.”

Rafidah Aziz accused Khairy of embarrassing the Prime Minister, using the old Malay tactic of hitting the target indirectly. Aziz Shamsuddin, accused by Anwar Ibrahim as a conspirator responsible for his sudden downfall, angrily remarked that Anwar could have been met by a junior official of the immigration department instead of the son-in-law of the Prime Minister himself. Azmi Khalid felt that, if at all, Anwar should have gone to meet Khairy and not the other way around. Almost to a man the cabinet felt that Khairy was reckless and his move idiotic. Secretly, they all knew that Abdullah had agreed to it, but since Abdullah himself did not acknowledge that the move was under his specific instructions, the ministers took the line of attacking Khairy as a stupid young man, wet behind the ears and untutored in the art of fine politics.

The disbelief of the ministers was compounded by the seething silence of Najib who knew that an Anwar unleashed is an Anwar unbound, and an Anwar unbound is a Najib insecure. His hold on power and his chances of becoming the future Prime Minister not only depended on the longevity of Abdullah Badawi’s rule, but was now further complicated by the presence of Anwar who was adding a new dimension to the established political scheme set by Mahathir in his legacy.

Ministers allied to Mahathir were bitterly unhappy about Khairy’s visit. They felt something was afoot. They openly consulted Mahathir and reported to him the goings-on in the few cabinet meetings held after the release. Mahathir’s office in the Petronas Twin Towers suddenly became the site of a ‘shadow’ cabinet meeting, an extension of the regular cabinet meeting in Putrajaya. Ministers began to congregate at Mahathir’s office on Thursdays to voice out their displeasure at the threats posed by Anwar’s release and Khairy’s backroom deals with the once heir-apparent.

One visit was particularly damaging to Khairy. A certain Malay minister (whose name is not mentioned above) was so incensed by Khairy’s visit to Anwar that he initiated a list of all Umno Youth leaders in the various divisions, segmented into two columns labelled ‘pro-Khairy’ and ‘anti-Khairy’. He showed the list to Dr Mahathir and encouraged the former Prime Minister to allow one of his sons to be put forward as a challenger to Khairy. The minister remarked that this was the time to do it as Khairy had yet to gather strength in the divisions and was still seen by most ordinary members as an elite outsider. The minister further reinforced the suggestion by saying that a challenge to Khairy would either result in a victory that removes him from the future leadership of Umno or a loss, but one that will finally shatter the myth of Khairy’s invincibility. Dr Mahathir demurred, no commitment was made, but plans are being laid for Khairy to be the target of a concerted attack.

It was then that Mahathir began to realise that the young man he so dismissively discounted had now become the key instrument of a threat against his legacy. Mahathir remarked to his secretary, Datuk Badriah, that Abdullah was digging his own grave by letting Anwar go. Mahathir remarked that he himself found Anwar difficult to handle and he had no confidence that Abdullah could do any better. In Mahathir’s eyes, Abdullah was an inept fool who miscalculated by releasing Anwar.

What Mahathir did not know was that Abdullah did not really fully comprehend the ramifications of Anwar’s release. In fact, it was Khairy who reckoned that Anwar’s release would be beneficial to his own political career. Firstly, Khairy felt that Anwar would always be a useful tool against other Umno politicians who might threaten Abdullah’s throne; people such as Tengku Razaleigh and Najib. Secondly, Khairy felt releasing Anwar and meeting him openly would increase his popularity (and Abdullah’s).

In the first instance, Khairy proved to be right. In fact, Anwar became the best advertisement for Abdullah’s government and which helped enhance his reputation for fair play. In the second instance, Khairy severely miscalculated the first damaging attack on his career.

Khairy’s decision to meet Anwar was met with a severe backlash. In Khairy’s mind, Umno leaders would be glad to finally resolve the Anwar albatross. Instead, they felt that Khairy and Abdullah had threatened Umno’s position by releasing its most feared critic. Khairy’s former strong supporters such as Hishamuddin Hussein began to doubt the sincerity of this brash young man. For the first time, Hishamuddin tried to reach out to his bitter rival in family and in politics, Najib Tun Razak. The cousins became closer as a result of Khairy’s doings and they started to strengthen their collective resolve to ensure that Khairy would no longer take them for a ride.

Indeed, some Umno Youth leaders allied to Mahathir’s son and former Umno Youth Treasurer Mokhzani began to orchestrate attacks on Khairy, ranging from the release of poison-pen letters to SMSes accusing him of accommodating Anwar and of threatening the established succession of Najib. Meetings were held by core groups of Umno Youth members allied to the Mukhriz camp, notably in the Gopeng division, led by Aziz Shamsuddin. Meetings were also held under the umbrella of the Ex-MARA Students Association (ANSARA) led by Mukhriz.

Khairy was roundly booed by elements organised by Mokhzani and Mukhriz Mahathir and for a time the situation was worrying enough for Abdullah to send his wife to personally attend Umno Youth sessions so as to embarrass the jeerers into toning down their attacks.

For the first time in his political career, Khairy felt the brunt of open displeasure. Always sheltered by Abdullah, Khairy was not used to being at the receiving end of brickbats. He immediately changed tack and, while only a few weeks before he had praised Anwar’s release as the realisation of a free and fair democracy, he now roundly criticised Anwar as a traitor to Umno’s cause and further stated that the doors to Umno are forever closed to him. He even went so far as to say that Anwar was finished, perhaps forgetting that however much he tried to convince the Umno delegates, few believed him as he had already done the unthinkable by visiting Anwar’s house and paying his respects to the former Deputy Prime Minister. As a party of interests, Umno was not willing to suddenly throw open its doors to a man who had for six whole years roundly denounced Umno as corrupt and incapable of self-reform. Most importantly, Hishamuddin did not believe him and Mukhriz did not believe him.

Khairy’s about-turn became the laughingstock of the Umno delegates. In the words of former Umno Deputy Youth Chief Nazri Aziz, “Those who sought to change Umno instead often find that it is Umno which changes them.” Khairy felt the wrath of an Umno whose anger had been roused and it dawned upon him that the party would only give him support if he toed the line -- and that it may even go so far as to punish him for acting independently and out of Umno’s character.

Khairy had become a prisoner of Umno’s whims.

Anwar’s release could not have been achieved by the mere fiat of the judiciary. It was clear that the cowed Malaysian judiciary was a mere tool of the powers-that-be, and it was the tacit admission by Abdullah that he would not interfere in the due process of the law which allowed justice to finally prevail. But it is tainted justice that only presumes to act fairly when it is told to do so in no uncertain terms. And there is no doubt that Khairy played a very important role in influencing the court’s decision.

In a sense, Khairy lost some significant support from Umno circles. But it was a small price to pay for gaining the reputation as the person who finally managed to pull off the unthinkable, that is the release of Anwar Ibrahim from jail. Of course, the public at large, not being members of Umno, would identify Khairy as the sensible leader of that party who could be relied upon to ‘do the right thing’.

In Munich, Anwar’s officers kept in constant touch with Khairy. Khairy received almost daily updates of the goings-on at the Alpha Klinik, including the number of Umno Division Heads who visited Anwar in hospital. Anwar’s secretaries proudly showed visitors Khairy’s SMSes, thereby proclaiming that Khairy’s sympathies lay with their cause. The clear implication of these happenings was that, firstly, there was a deal between Anwar and Abdullah which was heavily influenced by input by Khairy. Secondly, that Anwar was an equation in a political plan concocted by Khairy to secure Abdullah’s rule, plus for his own ascendancy to the highest office in the land. Thirdly, Anwar would not be an irrelevance in the great political scheme that is Malaysian politics, at least under the rule of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

The big question is, what are the steps being planned?

PART 8
Sunset, sunrise

Several weeks ago, one of Anwar Ibrahim’s closest confidante and former Political Secretary, Azmin Ali, gave a rather revealing interview. In that interview he remarked quite casually, as if it was a matter of course, that since his release in September 2004, Anwar Ibrahim had spent quite a bit of time on telephone conversations with Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Azmin was coy about the subjects of discussion though, referring to them as “general conversations” about current issues and government policies.

In a sense, Azmin was hinting that Anwar was giving Abdullah advice on how to make his government perform better. Presumptuous though it may sound - considering the lofty nature of the office of the Malaysian Prime Minister – Azmin’s statement nevertheless reveals that while Anwar was persona non grata for six long years, he is now back in the thick of Malaysian politics.

Sceptics may be forgiven for thinking that what Azmin said was mere boast to counter the frustrations of many opposition supporters who feel that Anwar is currently spending too much time overseas. Perhaps Azmin was reflecting on the days when he played a role as the key ‘insider of insiders’ within the Anwar office to shape and mould the daily strategies for the powers-that-be. Yet, such open and casual remarks belie at least a glimmer of the truth.

The fact is, within Anwar’s inner circle, where the walls are more porous than a sponge cake, such juicy titbits are rarely kept confidential. In fact, while Abdullah’s conversations may take place out of sight of other government leaders, on Anwar’s side, phone calls are often made through a mobile in front of visitors and other courtiers. Nowadays, Anwar’s telephone conversations are often witnessed by sundry others such as visiting Islamic scholars, fellow opposition leaders, and certainly close aides who are never far from Anwar’s person. No doubt, quite justifiably, Anwar’s aides take a certain pride in the fact that their leader is in frequent communication with the Prime Minister of the country.

Immediately upon his release, Anwar stated that he wanted to formally meet up with Abdullah, a request repeated from his hospital bed in Germany. However, his request for an appointment, submitted by Azmin, went unheeded. In the midst of immense fear by the UMNO leadership that Abdullah was about to re-accommodate a ‘traitor’ to the UMNO cause, Anwar took the initiative of meeting Abdullah in a public function during Hari Raya.

The gesture was meant to be an open signal to Abdullah that Anwar poses no danger to him, at least as far as threats to Abdullah’s tenure is concerned. In spite of UMNO’s fear that Anwar’s ghost will return to haunt those who reviled him during those six years, it appears that Anwar is no threat to the Prime Minister and President of UMNO himself. Indeed, Anwar has become a useful icon to project Abdullah’s image internationally as a fair leader who backed genuine reforms, while at home amongst the common people, the testimony of Abdullah giving tacit acknowledgement that judges should be free and independent to decide Anwar’s case would forever remain a mark of his integrity. In spite of the view by UMNO leaders that Anwar should never be readmitted to the party, Abdullah evidently holds a different personal view.

Of course, this view may not appear obvious at this stage. Anwar’s release had provoked UMNO leaders into a frenzy of irrational attacks where they criticised ‘groups’ (read: Abdullah and his inner circle) who might intend for Anwar to come back into UMNO. The fear by UMNO leaders such as Hishammuddin Hussein and Mahathir’s sons, Mukhriz and Mokhzani, was real. Few of the leadership can match Anwar’s charisma and, in a fair contest where Anwar is allowed to be on equal footing with other contenders, he might just win. Nevertheless, the brickbats against Abdullah and his son-in-law (who had presumptuously visited Anwar on the night of his release) was sufficient to make both back down from their apparent support of Anwar’s case in the early days of September 2004.

However, behind the scenes, both Abdullah and Khairy have continued to at least maintain some form of relationship with Anwar. Abdullah himself has said nothing about any telephone calls to or from Anwar. Khairy, on the other hand, has been very open to his inner circle about his constant communication and, indeed, about meetings with Anwar’s stalwarts such as PKR Youth Leader Ezam Mohd Nor. Those in the know include Khairy’s men who are obvious Anwar supporters; such as Zambry Abdul Kader as well as the usual suspects such as Norza Zakaria.

The reason for these different attitudes between Abdullah and Khairy is quite evident. Abdullah is already Prime Minister and has little real and immediate needs for Anwar unless, for example, he is challenged by forces aligned to his predecessor, Mahathir, and perhaps led by his own deputy Najib Tun Razak. On the other hand, Khairy wants to be Prime Minister but is not yet there, so he needs as many allies as possible given the great big battles that would most certainly come in future.

The relationship between Khairy and Anwar’s inner circle started in the early days of Abdullah’s appointment as the Deputy Prime Minister. At that time, both Anwar and Ezam were in jail - the former in Sungai Buloh Prison, the latter in the Kamunting Detention Centre followed by Kajang Prison. In an effort to pressure the government, Ezam had communicated with Abdullah’s son, Kamaluddin, through an intermediary within UMNO Youth, to solicit Abdullah’s help in exerting some influence in their particular cases. But Kamaluddin was a businessman with little interest in politics, and although several notes passed between Ezam and Kamaluddin, nothing happened until Kamaluddin one day remarked to his sister, Nori, that he had been in communication with Ezam.

Nori took some interest in the correspondence. She referred the matter to Abdullah and, according to Ezam, asked Abdullah to see what he can do about releasing the ISA detainees. Nori also informed Khairy who immediately realised that there might be some value in making some small concessions to Ezam, with a future view of assessing the situation once Abdullah finally becomes Prime Minister.

At first the trail went cold. Then, through former Keadilan Vice Youth Chief Hamdan Taha who had left the party to rejoin UMNO, a message was passed to Khairy that the Anwar camp was open to negotiations.

Hamdan Taha had spent many years as Ezam’s right-hand man. His re-entry into UMNO was never made officially, but quietly. Nevertheless, he found himself advising several key members of the UMNO Youth Exco, notably former Anwar supporter Zambry Abdul Kader. Zambry often invited Hamdan to attend some sessions of UMNO Youth meetings where he was introduced to the rising star Khairy Jamaluddin. After several meetings, Khairy realised that Hamdan was a useful source of info regarding happenings in the opposition parties, as Hamdan still maintained relationships with several key opposition leaders, including Ezam himself. Though he was now in UMNO, Hamdan often spoke to Ezam either by phones smuggled into the prison or through personal meetings during Ezam’s many court hearings. Indeed, Hamdan was Ezam’s closest friend.

After a certain UMNO Youth Exco meeting, Hamdan took Khairy aside and told him of his ‘solution’. According to Hamdan, Khairy could play off Anwar against anyone threatening Abdullah’s position. Hamdan remarked that Mahathir’s deputies had an unfortunate trait of falling by the wayside before becoming Prime Minister. While Keadilan had originally attacked Abdullah’s appointment as Deputy Prime Minister, they could be easily persuaded to change tack and instead focus their vitriol only on Mahathir, but not Abdullah. In return, the cases of Anwar and the ISA detainees should be viewed favourably by Abdullah (then Home Minister) even if he could not openly interfere.

The idea intrigued Khairy enough to cause him to begin sending Ezam feelers through Hamdan.

These feelers did not result in any immediate relief for either Anwar or Ezam. Khairy was being very cautious, as he was being intensely watched by both the Mahathir camp and his enemies within Abdullah’s office. Some of Abdullah’s supporters such as the late Fawzi Basri and Dr. Nordin Kardi were intense enemies of Anwar since the 1970s when they took up the ultra-nationalist position against Anwar’s liberal Islamic view. Indeed, Abdullah’s inner circle included such personalities as Aziz Shamsuddin who had openly celebrated Anwar’s sacking in September 1998 with a kenduri. If Khairy was to play the role of communicating with the Anwar camp, he had to do it in a way so as not to rock the boat that was very fragile indeed.

At this point, Ezam stepped up his moves. He instructed Keadilan supporters to attack Khairy through the Internet. He also made sure that Khairy was criticised, especially in student gatherings which at that time were heavily infiltrated by both PAS and Keadilan supporters. The message eventually got to Khairy that he should accommodate Ezam or face enemies not only within UMNO but amongst the opposition as well. While a battle on two fronts is not unusual, it would make Khairy’s life simpler by only facing the enemy within who can be easily controlled by the power of the name of his father-in-law.

Khairy sent Ezam a message that he was open to negotiations.

From then on, things went smoothly. Khairy began to acquire knowledge of what Ezam wanted, namely that Anwar should be released by whatever means, even if it did not fully clear his name. The most important thing was that Anwar should no longer be in jail - even exile was preferable. All sorts of permutations were discussed. These included the idea of sending Anwar overseas for medical treatment and remaining there for at least some time. Khairy even sent a note during a meeting in the United States to Ezam confidante Adlan Benan, a fellow Oxbridge graduate, on whether it was possible for Anwar to consider rejoining UMNO. The message was duly passed through the lines to Ezam and the answer given back to Khairy. Ezam’s contacts in Selangor UMNO communicated with his strongman, SD Johari, that Khairy was very positive about cooperating with Ezam.

At all times, Anwar was kept informed of the negotiations.

The situation became clearer once Ezam was released by the Shah Alam High Court. Khairy now held open meetings with Ezam who came accompanied by one or two of his supporters. At this point of time, the Keadilan leadership was frantic because Anwar was getting seriously ill and all efforts were geared towards his release. Khairy was one of many UMNO leaders believed close to Abdullah who was approached by Anwar’s inner circle. Other UMNO leaders such as Aziz Shamsuddin and Mahathir’s political secretary (but really an Abdullah man) Johari Baharom were also approached. Yet none were as receptive as Khairy. The others felt that Anwar was historical baggage. Khairy had a different view. Anwar had a place in his future universe, where Khairy was the brightest sun.

It was at this time that Khairy began to think of future threats to Abdullah’s rule. When it was clear that Abdullah was indeed going to succeed Mahathir and that his appointment as successor was not a mere ruse, Khairy began to think of how to secure his long-term political future. It had been an easy rise as son-in-law of the leader of the country, but what if your father-in-law was no longer the leader? What if Abdullah’s tenure was shortened? Relying on Najib Tun Razak would be useless as he saw Abdullah as a rival and would never entertain putting Khairy in a prominent position within his own government. Setting up a rival to Najib within UMNO was also impossible given Najib’s seniority and apparent support from forces aligned to the Mahathir camp. The only alternative was to put a constant threat to Najib in the form of a man more likely to beat him in an open and fair contest. Such a man was Anwar Ibrahim, and Khairy understood that for at least the first term, if not throughout Abdullah’s tenure, Anwar could play this role.

It was a role that Anwar and his inner circle were willing to play. After Anwar’s release, Ezam continued to meet up with Khairy. While Khairy was secretive about the subject of discussion, it was a one-sided secret. Ezam told many of his followers about his meetings. Indeed, he often remarked that Khairy gave him information regarding the goings-on in UMNO far before such information became public.

Recently, Ezam had a meeting with both Khairy and Reezal Merican Naina Merican - where Khairy apparently told Ezam that UMNO Vice-President Isa Samad would be handed down a six-year suspension for money politics and other corruption offences. Ezam told the same to some of his closest friends, including allies of Isa himself. The information itself was not unusual but for the fact that the meeting allegedly happened six days before Isa was called up to face the judgement of the UMNO Disciplinary Committee.

The trust shared between the two is more likely the trust of political allies rather than friends. While both share the traits of rising young to the inner circles of power in Malaysia, both are also very ambitious men, skilled in the art of political deception. It remains to be seen whether the friendship between Khairy and Ezam is a genuine one, or merely a marriage of convenience.

In the meantime, Anwar Ibrahim continues to make his long-distance calls to Abdullah. As Anwar himself has said, he should not be written off. No one has done that, definitely not Abdullah and Khairy. Should the scenario change and the attacks by Mahathir upon Abdullah’s administration grow stronger, there will be no doubt that the setting sun may rise again to illuminate Abdullah’s rule. Together with Anwar, Khairy believes he can defeat any UMNO leader who tries to challenge him, including the people who are backed by Mahathir himself. While waiting for the time to come, Khairy prepares another important weapon always necessary for any big battle within UMNO – the weapon called money…

PART 9
Birth of a salesman

It is a sad but true fact that in Malaysia money is the lifeblood of politics. Corruption is endemic within political parties and money is the grease that smoothens one’s climb up the slippery pole of power. It is useful not only to reward the voters and supporters but also to make other people fear challenging your position. The more money you have, the more able you are to defend your position simply for the fact that other people who look at your immense wealth get cold feet from being a potential challenger. A person who is not capable yet but backed by hundreds of millions would triumph over a much more capable person who has nothing to show in terms of wealth except his own intelligence, track record and hard work.

Khairy Jamaluddin fully realises this. The history of UMNO Youth is laden with such examples and it is clear that, at least since the 1990s, UMNO Youth has chosen money instead of ability. This is a reflection of the main party, but UMNO Youth’s preoccupation with wealth was emphasised by the rule of Zahid Hamidi who used the immense millions he gathered as Bank Simpanan Nasional chairman to steamroll his way into politics while a still relatively unknown in terms of political quality. All other challengers such as Rahim Thamby Chik and Isa Samad then realised that a person like Zahid could only be matched with an equal if not better power at patronage. Money politics was born in the heady days of the 1990s when UMNO lost its conscience and went headlong to worship at the feet of Mammon.

Khairy Jamaludin did not start out immensely rich, although his family was well off due to the position of his father as a prominent member of the diplomatic community. The family could not equal other notable scions of UMNO Youth such as Hishamuddin Hussein - Najib Tun Razak clan who are descended from the first Malay billionaire, Tan Sri Noah, or the Sheikh Fadzir family, comprising of Kadir, Aziz, Musa and Haidar whose palatial Kulim mansion dwarfed even the National Palace in Kuala Lumpur. So Khairy realised he had to build up his wealth fairly quickly especially since, by Malaysian standards, Abdullah Badawi was a rather poor fellow.

Khairy laid the ground for his political treasury by setting a base from which his supporters could spread their tentacles. Unlike other UMNO politicians who relied almost entirely on government contracts to enrich themselves, this was but a small part of Khairy’s own tactics. That is not to say that Khairy doesn’t engage himself in getting government contracts for some of his political cronies. Rozabil Abdul Rahman is one of the major recipients of government largesse and in many countries through which he has gained government contracts, indirect shareholdings are gained by members of Khairy’s family. Contracts which have been awarded to Rozabil (and therefore Khairy) include such diverse projects as the provision of clean drinking water to the hundreds of schools in East Malaysia to the provision of pipes in government offices in Kedah. As time grew by, UMNO politicians trying to curry favour with Khairy gave contracts to people who they thought were aligned to him. For this reason, Kedah Menteri Besar Syed Razak Syed Zain appointed Khairy’s mother, Datin Rahmah, to 'advisory positions' within the state economic and financial structure.

Of course, many already know by now that the AP King, Haniff Aziz, is a first cousin to Khairy. Fingers point towards Khairy’s family relationship as the reason for Haniff, a former MITI official, being given tens of thousands of APs without any proper qualification. The APs are being granted in spite of the lack of showrooms and are immediately sold off to other car importers who are not able to exert the same influence on the minister in charge. But herein lies the real reason for Haniff’s success. Being a cousin to Khairy is of course useful but not key to him succeeding to the throne of AP King. It was his ability to woo the Queen, Rafidah Aziz, since at least for some five years Haniff Aziz has been an important part of Rafidah’s life. His intimate relationship with Rafidah was the door opener to his hundreds of millions.

But while these contracts are certainly significant, they are peanuts compared to the stripping of national assets that happened, for example, at the hands of people such as Daim Zainuddin, Rafidah Aziz and Zahid Hamidi. Indeed, it does not gather for Khairy more than a few million dollars, which pale in comparison to the amount of money needed to pay your way to the top of the UMNO hierarchy. They also are blatantly illegal and therefore a political minefield for the future of any politicians in an era where the Prime Minister has openly announced his so-called war on corruption. So Khairy had to think of bigger plans by which money could be obtained, firstly in large quantities, and secondly in ways which do not appear too illegal.

The first vehicle which Khairy exploited to lay a base for acquiring his wealth is, again, through Ethos Consulting. There are two main reasons for Khairy wanting to plant Ethos Consulting in Najib’s office. The key reason of politics has already been explained in the earlier series of these chronicles. And the second reason, of course, is economic. Najib Tun Razak is a cash cow because of his control over large amounts of defence spending. Further to that, his connection with Mahathir and the support he receives from the former Prime Minister allows him a greater access to opportunities in the national asset system. Ethos Consulting was placed there to provide a stepping stone for Khairy to tap into some of these resources. The head of Ethos Consulting, Dr Liew, was officially given the task of providing ideas to revamp defence spending and procurement procedures (in spite of him having extremely close ties to politically sensitive Singaporeans). In actual fact, Dr Liew provided Khairy with information on the many avenues where his cronies could be brought in to secure important contracts at jacked-up prices, as is the norm in the Defence Ministry for many decades.

The other source of money within Najib’s purview is Felda. Mahathir had previously given the task of looking into Felda to Second Finance Minister Jamaludin Jarjis, a known Najib supporter. Abdullah had demoted Jamaludin, but because much of the work done by Jamaludin to implement 'changes' in Felda had reached penultimate stages of planning, as a compromise it was then put under the overlordship of Najib. By putting Felda under Najib, Abdullah hoped that Jamaludin would not be too disappointed and Najib would be placated that this huge cash cow would not be totally out of his grasp.

However, though Felda may be under Najib, key decisions regarding the agency are being heavily influenced by Khairy and Ethos Consulting. Initially, the task of restructuring FELDA and managing the sale of its assets was given to Jamaludin’s favorite vehicle, Avenue Assets. Avenue was supposed to identify areas where Felda could be privatised, whereby plump assets would then be sold off to key Jamaludin cronies. Jamaludin, the second Finance Minister who acted as if he was first Finance Minister, had placed people loyal to him and (therefore loyal to Najib) in key positions in the restructuring project. When Abdullah became Prime Minister and Jamaludin was removed from this responsibility, Ethos Consulting was brought in to replace Avenue. Jamaludin’s people were booted out and Khairy’s came in. One of the first recommendations by Ethos Consulting was the divestment of non-core assets, for example, in the banking and service industry. Ethos immediately suggested that people associated to Khairy be appointed as advisors to the deal, therefore making a huge percentage on the sell off. This nets Khairy commissions in terms of millions which are ostensibly perfectly legal.

While Felda continues to be a 'non-decision', Ethos Consulting, on behalf of Khairy, is slowly trawling through the assets list. The so-called revamp of government, economic and asset interests heavily disguises the more sophisticated ways in which Khairy makes his money. The common voters believe that politicians get rich by getting government contracts, patronage and other perks. In reality, this has long been discarded by the Abdullah government in favour of providing commissions through financial advisory roles to people associated with the Prime Minister and his son-in-law’s team.

It is in this capacity that Khairy serves as Director of Corporate Advisory in ECM Libra. It was not his first choice, quite obviously. When the rumours flew that Abdullah had no brain and Khairy ran the show in almost everything in the Prime Minister’s office, Khairy started looking for a new way out that would put him in an equally powerful position as being inside the PM’s office. In fact, he wanted a position powerful enough to build a treasure trove that would scare his enemies from the 'old guard' within Abdullah's office and shut their mouths once and for all. So he used the restructuring of GLCs as the avenue to success.

The restructuring of Khazanah was the first opportunity. It was based on the usage of Key Performance Indices (KPIs), an idea mooted to the government of Malaysia by Ethos Consulting as a so-called original idea, where in actual fact, copied almost whole from the government of Singapore’s policy on Temasek Holdings, a well-known government investment vehicle. In restructuring Khazanah, Khairy hoped that he would be appointed to the most important position there, namely the position of Chief Executive Officer. But the people within Khazanah were mainly civil servants of long tenure and career experience who were hostile to the idea of a 28-year old CEO. In addition, Khairy had absolutely no business or economic background, having never worked for any such entity in his entire life. The only position Khairy had ever held outside of government was that of a part-time journalist in a foreign newspaper - and even that only for a few short months.

So the pressure within Khazanah to refuse Khairy’s demands grew. High-ranking civil servants got on their side several top accountants and corporate leaders who told Abdullah in quiet whispers that such a move would be fatal to his political career so early on in his premiership. They argued that if Abdullah really wanted a young, vibrant heading Khazanah, they could instead be chosen from the many consultants and restructuring experts that grew out of the 1997 crisis. So Azman Mokhtar was chosen instead.

But Khairy did not give up. Azman’s appointment carried an implicit condition that while Azman was the CEO with the responsibility of deciding Khazanah policies, a Chief Operating Officer (COO) would be appointed to run Khazanah's day-to-day affairs. Azman was called in by Second Finance Minister, Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yackop, to officially announce the offer and it was hinted to him that Khairy should be appointed the COO. Indeed, Nor told Azman that Abdullah had already given instructions to prepare a letter appointing Khairy to that position.

Azman said nothing. After settling in, he summoned Khairy to his office. Khairy thought Azman wanted to tell him when he could start work as the COO. Khairy confidently strutted into Azman’s office and plonked himself in the seat opposite Azman. Azman casually started by saying that there was a position in Khazanah which he was supposed to fill. Khairy replied that he knew. Azman then said that Khairy’s name had been mentioned for that office. Khairy then again smugly replied that he knew that too. Azman said that Khairy seemed eminently suited for that position and to confirm his initial finding, he would appreciate Khairy sending him a CV so that he could check Khairy’s credentials. Khairy was crestfallen and left the interview in a huff.

Subsequently, Khairy realised that Azman was politely saying to him that he was not suited for that position and that he was being too greedy. It was clear that Azman was hinting at Khairy’s lack of economic and financial experience. While Khairy was initially angry at Azman, he also realised that Azman had saved him from a potential political minefield. So he set about aiming to be a future CEO of Khazanah instead of a current COO. To do that he needed to gain at least some perception of experience.

Khairy went to see his old stooge Kalimullah Hassan Masheerul Hassan. Kali was the 'relationship partner' of the troika of two Chinese and one Indian who had successfully built ECM Libra into a powerful financial group from scratch. Kali, from his own experience, realised that Khairy would be at sea and lost in a real financial job. As a young go-getter and impatient politician, Khairy was not suited to make discounted cash-flows and read spreadsheets. So Kali suggested instead that Khairy join the corporate advisory team of ECM Libra as a relationship person. In other words, Khairy would use his contacts rather than his brains to make ECM Libra richer. The common people who are not well-versed in finance matters would be forgiven to think that Khairy’s position as director of corporate advisory means that he is responsible for financial decisions. Despite having the title of 'Director of Corporate Advisory', Khairy is not a real director in the sense of being a company director. A director of ECM Libra simply means that he is a bigshot but does not entail that he is an actual management board member. Corporate Advisory is a cover-all term which looks financial but in reality only means that the people in this position are glorified salesmen that bring business in for the company.

The poor, innocent, common and ordinary UMNO Youth member would not know that in actual fact their Vice Youth Chief is a mere salesman, albeit with a grander title. And yet that grand title is not mere glory. Khairy, unlike other salesman, has access to some powerful money-making opportunities. Khazanah is the first of many government institutions he would sink his teeth into...

PART 10
The National Auctioneer

Azman Mokhtar’s rejection of Khairy Jamaluddin’s demands to be the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Khazanah was a massive blow to his ego. Khairy had hoped his appointment to Khazanah would be a mere formality. Instead, he found himself politely turned away and in no uncertain terms labelled as young and inexperienced. It was the same reason that saw him catapulted out of the Prime Minister’s Office after successfully planning Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s historical victory in the 11th General Election.

As the main campaign officer of the General Election, Khairy not only devised the image which projected Abdullah as a kinder, gentler man than Mahathir, but he was also instrumental in selecting the Barisan Nasional candidates. A three-man committee comprised of Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, Barisan Nasional Executive Secretary Yaacob Muhammad and Khairy himself were given an almost completely freehand in picking and choosing the ‘lucky ones’ who would be given the watikah (authority letter) to become candidates. But the other two members of the committee were left without doubts that it was Khairy who was the eyes and ears of the Prime Minister and had the most sway in making decisions.

In the aftermath of the General Election, Khairy could not help but preen and boast about his role in masterminding the glorious victory that was secured by the BN. This angered not only Najib but other officers in Abdullah’s circle who had been in service longer. Led by Chief Private Secretary Thajudeen Abdul Wahab, they mounted enough pressure to call upon Abdullah to cease the unnecessary brickbats that he attracted through Khairy. By removing the young man from his immediate official circle, Thajudeen told Abdullah that he could still rely on Khairy as a family member, but it would be wrong to continue having him as an official advisor. Fawzi Basri, another Abdullah confidante, suggested that Khairy be given a role in another ministry. It was then that Khairy ally, Ahmad Zaki Zahid, who was also an officer in the PM’s Department, suggested that Khairy be made Chief Executive Officer of Khazanah.

Abdullah discussed the matter with second Minister of Finance Nor Mohamed Yakcop. Both agreed that the then CEO, Anuwar Aji, was incompetent and bumbling. Nevertheless, Nor Mohamed thought that a 28-year old CEO was ridiculous given Khairy’s absolute lack of experience in running a business. In fact, other than being a Special Officer to the Prime Minister, Khairy had absolutely no other working experience except as a trainee journalist in the print and electronic media. Nor suggested instead that Khairy be made the Chief Operating Officer, only one step below the hierachy. In that capacity, Khairy would be responsible for the day-to-day running of Khazanah, while the CEO concentrated on major policy decisions. It was in fact very much the job that Khairy had been doing in Abdullah’s office.

Nor Mohamed Yakcop came to power on the back of advising former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in imposing capital controls and a Ringgit peg as a cure to the Asian financial crisis of 1997. Previously allied to Anwar Ibrahim protégé Wan Hasni as advisor to the Abrar group of companies, Nor Mohamed had also worked as a Bank Negara officer, a role where he lost RM15 billion on bad foreign currency trading bets. It was said that Nor Mohamed made so much money from the foreign exchange foray that he bought a racehorse for the Melbourne Cup race and named it after Bank Negara.

In his stint as Special Advisor to the PM, Nor Mohamed had brought in some bright young things, mostly graduates from Oxford and Cambridge (but not all). These thirty-somethings were either accountants or lawyers who had worked in various capacities as restructuring experts. It was one of them, Azman Mokhtar of Binafikir, who Nor Mohamed chose as CEO of Khazanah. Nor Mohamed had thought that being from this group, Azman would be amenable to having fellow Oxford graduate Khairy as his effective deputy.

But Azman was never enthusiastic about Khairy. In the first place, he did not like someone watching his every move. He could have made much more money as a Binafikir Managing Partner than doing ‘national service’ in Khazanah. In order to perform his Khazanah duties, he wanted a free rein. Having assets of over RM60 billion through 11 subsidiaries, 16 associate companies and hundreds of other minority investments, both in Malaysia and overseas, Khazanah was also too rich a plum for one like Khairy who would be so easily tempted. But the most important reason for Azman rejecting Khairy’s immediate move to Khazanah was that Azman had his own bunch of bright young things who were in no way sympathetic to Khairy. Equally educated with first class degrees from the top universities of the world, these young man in their late 20s and early 30s were swiftly put in various positions in Khazanah, ranging from Personal Assistants to Directors of Investments, Equities and Corporate Finance, where they were expected to concentrate on the job.

These young men did not like Khairy because Khairy represented the scheming face of politics. They knew that Khairy’s presence would force them to compromise business principles in favour of political expediencies. Khairy would bring in cronies and involve them in Khazanah deals. More importantly, Khairy would be a negative influence on the professionals as he would demand every bit of information to be directed to him. It was this group of Azman’s boys who sighed the loudest when they heard that Khairy was going to be made COO, and it was the same group who felt greatly relieved when Azman tore up the appointment letter which had been prepared by Nor Mohamed Yackop’s Political Secretary, Norza Zakaria, waiting only to be signed by Khazanah Chairman and Khairy’s father-in-law, Abdullah Badawi.

Khairy knew that the young things in Khazanah were not in the same boat as his own Oxbridge supporters in Ethos Consulting and other commercial arms used by him as political vehicles. Whereas the latter could be expected to bend and bow to Khairy’s every wish, the former often made fun of Khairy, even if only behind his back. They laughed at his inability to understand basic business procedures, including the reading of spreadsheets and business plans. Khairy was not a complete idiot in such matters, but the six months he spent as a compere for a TV show was hardly the experience needed to understand corporate finance. In spite of that, Kalimullah Hassan had appointed Khairy to a Corporate Finance position in ECM Libra on the basis that he himself (Kalimullah) had no such experience but could just rely on his networking to get deals for his partnership.

Khairy realised he could not leave Khazanah totally in the hands of these young people who were so indifferent to his political ambitions. When Azman rebuffed him, he used another tactic to put his tentacles within the Khazanah system. The swift appointment of Azman meant that many of the old brooms within Khazanah also had to be replaced. Abdullah was persuaded by Khairy to get rid of long-time civil servants and replace them with so-called professionals. Azman nominated the majority of these, but there were some who managed to squeak through by the grace and favour of Khairy. Khairy wanted to use them in the same way that Omar Ong was being used in Najib’s office. They were his spies and they were also responsible for giving him the inside details of the most juicy of Khazanah’s pick of business deals.

Foremost amongst these was a friend of Khairy’s from the Ethos Consulting circle called Gianendra Sarvananthan. Sarvananthan had studied with Khairy in England and had been an active participant in his study circles. When Khairy ascended to Abdullah’s office, Sarvananthan was his main advisor on business and economic matters. At that time, Sarvananthan worked as a corporate advisor to a Singapore-based bank. In this capacity, he introduced Khairy to various Singapore business interests, including the key investment officers of Singapore government-owned Temasek Holdings and DBS Bank (more about this later). When Khairy failed to get appointed to Khazanah, he decided that the next best thing was to have Sarvananthan there in his place.

So Sarvananthan was quickly made Director of Investments in Khazanah. At the age of 29, Sarvananthan, who had no business experience at all in Malaysia, was put in charge of restructuring Khazanah’s businesses and most importantly its equity investments. In spite of his apparent qualifications, Sarvananthan knew nothing about Khazanah’s agenda, nor was he knowledgeable about the Malaysian financial and business environments. This seemed no obstacle though as he was made the most important decision-maker in the so-called Khazanah revamp.

Through Sarvananthan, Khairy put in many of his proposals to Khazanah. The modus operandi is simple. Khairy would identify business deals where he or ECM Libra could have a role. He would then inform Sarvananthan who would go to Azman with the same proposal as if it had been his (Sarvananthan’s) own suggestion. When Khazanah made a decision to execute the deal, Khairy (or his people) would be chosen by the counter-party as their advisors. A percentage of commission would be given to Khairy for managing the deal. While commissions are fairly small in other business circles, Khairy’s was massive due to the huge size of Khazanah’s deal.

One example was Temasek’s entry into TM (previously known as Telekom Malaysia). Temasek had bought 5% of TM for a price of RM1.6 billion in the early days of Abdullah’s administration. It was supposed to be a signal of the major cross-strait thaw in the relationship. As everyone knows, Temasek is also a substantial shareholder of SingTel, run by Lee Hsien Yang, the youngest son of Singapore founder Lee Kuan Yew. It was a massively important political and business deal. What the public did not know was that Temasek had made payments to Khairy through a Singapore based company closely associated to Khairy proxy and UMNO Supreme Council member, Norza Zakaria. The company had its registered address in the Singapore Land Tower at 50 Raffles Place. Seemingly, payments were made to the company for ‘consultancy services’, but in effect it was nothing more than kickbacks.

The deal was made known to the highest levels of the UMNO leadership. Mustapa Mohamad told former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad at his office in the Petronas Twin Towers. Mahathir was outraged. While Mahathir himself was never free from blame in his political and business deals, he always ‘kept it in the family’, i.e. within Malaysian business circles. Never would he countenance selling anything to arch-enemy Singapore.

Mustapa was entrusted to gather a number of ministers to express through them that the Temasek sale was not a wise move. In almost every country, telecommunications is considered a strategic industry which is jealously guarded due to potential internal security implications. Abdullah was informed that many of the engineers at SingTel (a Temasek company) were experts trained by countries such as Israel, which had also provided input for SingTel’s sophisticated satellite system. Gilat, an Israeli-owned satellite equipment specialist, were technical advisors not only to SingTel but to the Singapore government. Ministers such as Aziz Samsudin and Azmi Khalid said to Abdullah that opening up strategic industries to Singapore could be dangerous especially since Singapore had already been given footholds in other strategic concerns such as banking, insurance, construction materials and the print media. Singapore’s agents such as Kalimullah Hassan were installed in major positions and there was always the problem that the investments made by Singapore could hardly be reciprocated by the poorer Malaysians.

The troika of Mustapa, Azmi and Aziz were powerful ministers because they were remnants from Mahathir’s era and were known to be honest with Abdullah. Abdullah had no choice but to agree to listen to their objections. However, Khairy persisted in his attempts to get more money out of the Singapore-made deals. Almost all his business connections were with Singapore. Norza Zakaria, his proxy, had Singapore-based interests. ECM Libra, his employer, had a Singapore sister company whose main task was to marry Singapore money to Malaysian assets. Kalimullah Hassan, his stooge, was a Singapore apologist who built his career on delivering good press reports in Malaysia on behalf of Singapore. Sarvananthan, his economic advisor, was Singapore trained and beholden to the interest of Temasek. It was no wonder that Khairy is known in Singapore press circles as ‘The Quiet Singaporean’.

No major foreign investor would ever want to be in a minority position for too long. So Temasek pushed hard to increase their holdings in TM by another 5%. Given current market capitalisation, this would mean a purchase of almost RM1.7 billion. Khairy would normally attract a commission of 1% to 2% to be shared amongst his associates – that would come to approximately RM17 million to RM34 million Ringgit. In addition to the 16 million Ringgit received for the previous transaction, it was a lucrative business by any means, as the only exertion on Khairy’s behalf would be to persuade Abdullah to agree to the deal.

Since March this year, Abdullah has been persuading the cabinet to accept an increase in Temasek’s share of TM. But each time he has faced opposition from some of the ministers who have been prepared and briefed by allies of Mahathir. In addition, Najib Tun Razak has kept studiously silent on the move. In post-cabinet meetings, Najib has been consulting with Mahathir and even former Finance Minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah on what to do next. The advice has been the same, i.e., to delay it for as long as possible, if not, to outright block the deal. If Temasek was allowed to gain further shares, Malaysia’s interests might be compromised.

To break this scenario, Khairy had a discussion with Sarvananthan. They came up with the idea of emphasising Malaysia’s increasing prominence in Singapore. Both hoped that if Malaysian companies were seen to be buying bigger shares of Singapore entities, the opposition to Singapore’s purchase of TM would be significantly compromised. Sarvananthan suggested to Khazanah and TM CEO Abdul Wahid Omar that they increase their shares in M1, the third major telecommunications provider in Singapore. However, the deal came at a much higher price than it was really worth. Singapore would not sell their assets cheap and Malaysia had to pay a massive premium for it. The effect of this is that TM shares dived on the back of investor concerns that the move was unwise and expensive. An immediate result of TM’s dip is that a purchase by Temasek of a new block of shares would of course then be much cheaper. Such is the intelligence of Khairy’s boys in Khazanah. Singapore: 2; Malaysia: 0.

At the current moment, Khairy is still hopeful that the deal will go through. But even if it doesn’t, there are many more deals he could broker for Singapore. One such deal is the restructuring of Felda’s assets. Felda is mainly concerned with plantations. But unknown to many, it also has minority investments in major Malaysian banks such as Maybank. These minority investments come to billions in real terms and are ripe picking for a foreign investor if Felda were ever to decide that it would concentrate only on its core business of plantations and divest its non-core holdings. Using ECM Libra, Khairy made a presentation to Felda and Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak for these non-core assets to be sold to Singapore interests. Khairy lined up both Temasek and DBS Bank to prepare for the sale of these assets. Commission to Khairy? Somewhere in the range of RM30 million to RM50 million.

The problem with Felda is that the restructuring was not planned by Khairy. It was in fact the idea of former Second Finance Minister Jamaludin Jarjis. Jamaludin had appointed his nephew to prepare a plan through the Avenue Capital group. But when Abdullah took office, the plan was shelved in favour of another proposed by Ethos Consulting, the Khairy business arm. Abdullah thought that it would be easy to get Najib to agree to Ethos’ plan. But Najib countermanded Ethos by placing Felda under a new officer, an ex-Mustapa Mohamad ally named Ahmad Maslan. So the situation is at a deadlock. But both parties are lobbying hard to get their hands on the juicy bits of Felda. What started out as Tun Razak’s NEP initiative to help rural Malays has now become the pot of gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow.

So far, Khairy has only taken commissions from these major deals. However, there is one major government asset worth around RM1.7 billion which is about to become Khairy’s road to the Forbes’ Billionaires List. The planning has taken some time due to the complexity of the transactions. But Khariy and Norza Zakaria have now managed a breakthrough. In the next few months, the plan will come to fruition...

PART 11
Khairy and his Money Factory

It’s not that difficult to be a millionaire in Malaysia. In fact, it’s not difficult even to be a multi-millionaire - if you have the right connections. Almost always, having the right connections means having a patron in UMNO, whether you are Malay, Indian or Chinese. A godfather in UMNO will give you access to various money-making opportunities for which you may not even need to lift a finger. Take, for example, Haniff Aziz, Khairy Jamaluddin’s first cousin and one of the three ‘Heavenly Kings’ of APs.

As a former civil servant, Haniff would have made no more than RM100,000 per year. Minus all his debts and living expenses, that would give him a saving of around RM30,000 per year, if he is frugal. Definitely, the amount is not enough to build a showroom for imported cars. And yet, today, merely by having APs for two years, Haniff Aziz is worth more than RM300 million. This obscene amount he obtained is not only a reflection of Rafidah Aziz’s increasing disregard for honesty in government, but also a symbol of how people close to Khairy are now becoming the New Untouchables of Malaysian business.

Khairy, like other UMNO warlords of the past, protects his friends even when they are involved in blatant corruption. In Haniff’s case, he has so far escaped any action because Khairy does not want a person who shared the same grandfather as him to be tarnished by scandal, which will of course reflect badly on Khairy himself. So the distributors of Wald automobiles have been first to take the brunt of the government’s reaction to Dr Mahathir’s outburst over the misuse of APs. Wald was deemed responsible for rousing the anger of Dr Mahathir because they were importing the same cars as Dr Mahathir’s son but under-declared them by RM50,000-100,000 below the prices that were sold by Dr Mahathir’s family business. Khairy hopes that by taking action on Wald, at least for the time being, Haniff will escape being the target of public anger.

Perhaps, to politicians, loyalty is the most prized of values. Certainly, Khairy is loyal to his circle of friends who now help him to amass great wealth. One of his Oxford contemporaries managed to use Khairy’s name to escape paying a RM5 million overdue loan to asset restructuring company Danaharta. The man’s father, a failed property developer from Negeri Sembilan, went strutting up to see Danaharta’s officers and merely proclaimed that they could not go after him ‘as his son is a friend of Khairy’s’. The end result was that Danaharta grew scared and the man was allowed more time to repay his loan. The mere use of Khairy’s name is now as useful as getting a passage straight to the inner reaches of the gardens of wealth.

Khairy cannot be accused of being the only person in Abdullah’s administration who is corrupt. Far from it, there are other figures in Abdullah’s circle who are also involved in giving contracts, licenses, permits and commissions to selected supporters. No big fish has ever found himself in trouble with Abdullah unless he is seen by Abdullah and his circle as a Mahathir loyalist. That is the only criteria for being hauled up to face the judges.

The last billionaires in Malaysia created by government corruption were the allies of former Finance Ministers Daim Zainuddin and Anwar Ibrahim. Khairy intends to regain that title for himself. However, unlike them, he shuns the glamour of being a tycoon. Instead, his long-term view is to make money through proxies, while he himself plays the role of budding politician, perceived free from the taint of business. The reality of the situation is that the group making money for Khairy acts almost always under his tutelage and moves only when he says so.

The biggest coup that is being planned is a potential sale of residual assets of Danaharta, currently being brokered by Khairy proxy Norza Zakaria through his allies in Singapore. Norza’s company in Singapore is a joint venture with a certain Mr S who is a Singaporean ex-classmate of Khairy in the United World College (UWC). Mr S, ostensibly, is a corporate finance specialist with interests in real-estate and multimedia. He meets up with Khairy and his Khazanah cronies to discuss various ways in which to strip the assets of Malaysian GLCs and make a percentage commission on them. One of the advisors to Khairy is a shareholder of Ethos Consulting who currently works with Deutsche Bank in Kuala Lumpur.

Why Danaharta? The reason is quite simple. Danaharta was set up as a reaction to the Asian financial crisis. It acquired, with the help of government funds, non-performing loans from various Malaysian banks. In other words, it was a purchaser of debt at a discount. Since its inception, Danaharta has successfully paid of RM11 billion in monies borrowed from the government. However, it still has some RM1.7 billion in assets yet to be sold. Danaharta, however, has a finite life. By the end of the year, it will close down and all the assets must be sold.

Khairy, Norza, Mr S and the Deutsche Bank friend are planning to buy up all the assets from Danaharta at massive discounts. Each will play his role. The Deutsche Bank friend has been preparing a proposal to Danaharta Managing Director Zukri Abdul Samad to purchase all of the assets. In this role, Deutsche Bank would act as a fronting bank, whereas the monies to purchase the assets will come from a fund created by Khairy and Norza. Currently, the proposal is being considered. Deutsche Bank is asking for a discount of around 70% to the market price of the remaining assets, thus making a profit of around RM1.2 billion. Danaharta is reluctant to lose so much to Deutsche Bank, given that many of the assets have the potential of at least 80% recovery value.

But Danaharta is faced with a dilemma. Firstly, the decision to sell is not theirs to make. Instead, it really is up to the Ministry of Finance, a ministry answerable directly to Khairy’s father-in-law, Abdullah Badawi. Even though Abdullah is not personally involved in making such decisions, relying instead on 2nd Finance Minister Nor Mohamed Yakcop, the decision will be heavily influenced by three allies of Khairy in the ministry. In making such decisions, Nor Mohamed will refer to two Special Officers to the Minister of Finance, who are both Oxbridge cronies of Khairy and in fact appointed to their post by Khairy’s own recommendations. The third ‘advisor’ is Norza himself, who is Political Secretary to Nor Mohamed. No prizes for guessing what they would recommend…

As corporate advisory director in ECM Libra, Khairy will lobby for the plan to be accepted. Deutsche Bank will come in as the apparent buyer. In actual fact, the main beneficiary will be the Khairy and Norza fund, which needs only around RM500 million to acquire the billion Ringgit profit. Of course, neither Khairy nor Norza has enough cash at the moment to fulfil this plan. But if they cannot come up with the cash, a bank guarantee will suffice until they successfully sell off the assets at a higher price than what they paid during the purchase. The key point here is that anyone can make quick bucks as a middleman, but only one middleman, Khairy, has the clout to influence such important decisions without having to face the prospect of a rival offer.

No one believes that the assets will be valued properly. Khairy has planted many people in the Ministry of Finance, Bank Negara and other such financial institutions who answer directly to him. Most of them were his contemporaries in Singapore and the United Kingdom. While they do not aspire to get half as rich as Khairy, in performing their services to Khairy, they are rewarded by a fast-track career and side perks of being involved in lucrative insider dealing projects.

Khairy gets a copy of the minutes of Ministry of Finance, Bank Negara, Khazanah and Danaharta’s meetings as soon they are printed. Norza and the other Special Assistants to the Ministers of Finance make sure that Khairy gets to see the choicest deals. The other young Khairy allies in these institutions report to Khairy on any potential rivals. They also use various tactics to thwart other businessmen from securing deals which have been identified by Khairy as his to take. When a purchaser, for example, of a Khazanah asset gives a proposal to that organisation, the information goes through two channels – the official Azman Mokhtar route and the unofficial Khairy route. If Khairy objects to the deal, it will be blocked. Usually no reply is given to the proposal except that it is ‘being considered’. But it never reaches execution because not long afterwards a ‘more acceptable’ proposal from one of Khairy’s contacts appears.

In such a way are the national assets stripped.

PART 12
Ringing in the cash till

There is certainly an element of dishonesty in the government-owned economic and financial institutions. Norza Zakaria has openly admitted to fellow UMNO Youth Exco Members that he reads important minutes even before it reaches the table of Second Finance Minister Nor Mohamed Yakcop. Of course, there are a few honest souls in these organisations who are disgusted by what Khairy Jamaluddin is doing. But they are a very small minority. As young men in their 30s who are just starting out in life, they are hopeful that one day they can reach the heights of their contemporaries who are close to Khairy and therefore now leading the management of the many GLCs under Khazanah. So, most of them grumble only in private. None dare take up the issue with the top, knowing full well that their bosses are also on Khairy’s payroll. One recent employee of a government financial institution who reported a case to the Anti-Corruption Agency found, instead, himself the subject of an internal investigation. The ACA dropped the case like a hot potato when they discovered that the real purchaser of the asset was a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) owned by Mr S, Khairy’s and Norza’s proxy. It was the honest employee who found himself transferred to a desk job in Bank Negara.

Khairy’s ‘consultants’ far outnumber these honest souls. Many were brought in during the heady days of 1998 and 1999 when Malaysia fawned on the young Oxbridge graduates who were seen as saviours of the country. Take, for example, the case of Azman Yahaya, the bright young administrator from the London School of Economics who was a deft and able steward in the days immediately following the 1997 Asian Economic Crisis. Azman was rewarded by being given business interests in Scomi as well as awarded a contract to his own company, Symphony, which did nothing more than take over the job of distributing shareholder circulars previously carried out by a government department. In a sense, Azman was being rewarded for doing a good job. But it was a way of removing him from being in the thick of what was to happen next. Many of the boys in the CDRC (Corporate Debt Restructuring Committee), Ministry of Finance and Danaharta that he trained are now Khairy loyalists who do his bidding in the hope of being another Azman Yahaya.

Khairy knows that all this is happening and yet he does nothing to stop it. The natural presumption is that Khairy is building his own empire. But since most of his cronies are relative unknowns to the general public, the goings-on behind closed doors never attract the public condemnation it deserves. The opposition parties in Malaysia are so out of touch that they still focus their attacks on the corruption of Mahathir’s days instead of dealing with current reality. They do not know that far from getting better, the power of patronage in Malaysian political life has been greatly enhanced by the new circle of Abdullah Badawi’s Young Turks.

The only murmurings against Khairy’s stripping of national assets have come from some dissenting voices in UMNO allied to former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad. In June this year, some BN Members of Parliament tried to ask questions related to the abuse of GLC, Khazanah and Danaharta funds. One of them actually posed a question to Second Finance Minister Nor Mohamed Yakcop, questioning the logic of giving away such important assignments on a commission basis to untrained and inexperienced companies such as ECM Libra, Ethos Consulting and Binafikir. The hidden agenda of the question was supposed to be an attack on Khairy’s malignant role in the government’s economic activities. When that Member of Parliament put his question on paper, the message was swiftly relayed to Khairy by a woman senator. Khairy promptly called Abdullah’s office, who arranged a private session with that Member of Parliament. In no uncertain terms, he was told that such questions were ‘unhelpful’. No more was heard of the question and probably in the next few years no more will be heard of that Member of Parliament either.

Not forgetting that Khairy is one of the three who make the penultimate decision on who becomes a Barisan Nasional election candidate, the government backbenchers are muted and dare only raise questions on issues that are connected to the former administration of Mahathir Mohamad. No smell except that of mountain roses comes out whenever they speak of the administration of Abdullah Badawi.

There is, of course, the seething discontent. But as long as Abdullah Badawi is Prime Minister, Khairy and his cronies would be free to enrich themselves. The examples of the previous administration are not lost on these bright young things from Oxford and Cambridge, who have found a legal way to make corruption and patronage work for them.

Khairy is free to propose his money-making deals to the government’s many agencies because there are people who would be left free to cream some other deals in return for cooperation and silence. For example, in Khanzah, Azman Mokhtar himself is seen as relatively clean. However, his former company, Binafikir, now headed by his ally Mohd Rashdan Yusof, another Cambridge graduate, is desperately bidding for a multi-million dollar deal that can catapult itself to the highest reaches of Malaysian financial life. To that end, Mohd Rashdan has been lobbying Khairy to allow him to take over Aseambankers on the back of Binafikir’s alleged successes in restructuring government companies.

In reality, Binafikir is no more than a collection of fresh Cambridge graduates led by several accountants who got lucky in 1998 by being tapped by Nor Mohamed Yakcop to split MAS into an asset holding as well as operations companies. Since then, Binafikir has done little business worthy of mention. But Mohd Rashdan feels that by acquiring Aseambankers the deal-flow will be automatic. Aseambankers has a reservoir of ready-made clients, whereas Mohd Rashdan considers Binafikir a reservoir of talent. This view is not shared by veteran bankers and other industry players who deem Binafikir a company with no tangible assets and definitely without the track record it boasts of.

Nevertheless, the deal will go through on the back of Rashdan’s relationship with the Oxbridge mafia led by Khairy. The recent failure of MAS to emerge with flying colours from the crisis of 1997 has served to show that many of the so-called successes of the Khairy allies are no more than hot air. Yet, no one stops the rolling juggernaut because few amongst the people understand what goes on behind the Malaysian government’s very tightly closed doors.

Khairy makes his money not only through the Khazanah deals, but also by making other side deals through his connections in the Finance Ministry headed by his father-in-law. Two such examples are the award of Bumiputra shares in public-listed companies which have foreign majority ownership. Again, Khairy relies on Norza to give him information on such deals. In these particular cases, Khairy promised to allocate the shares to two potential allies. The first company will see its shares allocated to members of a certain royal family closely allied to Khairy. The other, which is also being targeted by one of Najib Tun Razak’s brothers, will see around 19% of its shares given away to a Bumiputra nominee of an existing Chinese billionaire who has often been seen accompanying Abdullah during his many trips to the United States to visit ailing First Lady, Endon Mahmood.

What is the net income for Khairy in these two deals? The first transaction will involve shares worth RM526 million. Commission to Khairy would be around RM15 million. On the second transaction, the sum involved is much bigger, i.e. RM883 million. Khairy is expected to make at least RM20 million on this transaction alone.

So, since March, a rough calculation of Khairy’s received and potential income would be as follows:

1. Commission from sale of 5% of TM to Temasek Holdings, Singapore – RM16 million.
2. Commission from the purchase of M1 shares by Khazanah and TM – RM6 million.
3. Expected commission from further sale of 5% of TM to Temasek Holdings, Singapore – RM17 million.
4. Expected commission from sale of Danaharta assets – RM85 million.
5. Expected commission from sale of Felda non-core assets to Temasek Holdings and DBS Bank – RM30 million.
6. Expected commission from allocation of Bumiputra shares in foreign-owned company 1 – RM15 million.
7. Expected commission from allocation of Bumiputra shares in foreign-owned company 2 – RM20 million.

The total amount? A cool RM189 million. And that’s only the ones that have been in the public eye.

Why is Khairy able to engineer these deals with very little opposition? Firstly, the opposition in Malaysia is extremely fragmented and unable to bring itself together against the hugely popular government of Abdullah Badawi. DAP couches its objections in an academic language that is not easily understood by the majority of the voters. PAS has no economist worth its salt. And PKR is more interested in attacking Mahathir than criticizing Abdullah, the man they credit for releasing Anwar Ibrahim.

Secondly, potential opponents of Khairy within UMNO are tainted by their own cases stemming from the long administration of Mahathir Mohamad. Mahathir’s children, for example, can hardly criticize Khairy for getting the economic benefits of being an insider when they themselves benefited from national assets such as Petronas to the tune of hundreds of millions.

Thirdly, the young professionals who were brought in over the last few years are too worried about their long-term careers to raise objections. They consider Khairy one of their own and hope to share in his achievements on the way to the top.

Fourthly, many of the administrators of the affected organisations have been bought by Khairy, Norza and their allies to the extent that they are themselves involved in the deception of the public.

So Khairy is well on the way to becoming a billionaire by the end of this year. Who knows, like Thai Prime Minister Thaksin, Khairy may yet be the first billionaire to be appointed prime minister of Malaysia.

Of course, the most important reason is that Khairy is a member of the First Family of Malaysia. His marriage to Nori Abdullah gave him the same opportunities that were taken by other Asian luminaries such as General Prabowo (the son-in-law of Suharto), Taufik Kiemas (husband of Megawati Sukarnoputri) and Mike Arroyo (husband of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo).

PART 13
He loves me, he loves me not

After the rumblings of 1998, many Malaysians began to care less about the personal lives of politicians. It was deemed that politicians should be judged by the merits of their work, integrity and ability rather than by the goings-on in their bedrooms. When former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad used Anwar Ibrahim’s alleged homosexuality as an excuse for the latter’s sacking, the reaction was more sympathy towards Anwar. Maybe the tide has turned and, in Malaysia’s new political culture, the private lives of politicians should not be of concern unless it also encroaches on their public work.

But the tide has not completely turned. Accusations of sexual misdeeds continue to dog many politicians. Some of these accusations do have elements of truth in them, but they are often exaggerated to create lustful ogres out of the targeted individuals. For example, while it is true some ministers have dalliances with artistes, models and other such ilk, hardly any had ever been caught in flagrante delicto, except in the minds of their enemies. The accusations of sexual misconduct are used mainly by opponents within the same party, as well as by opposition figures.

It is ludicrous that, after 1998, the opposition parties in Malaysia, while criticising the behaviour of UMNO politicians who described Anwar Ibrahim’s alleged trysts in graphic detail, also conjured up many other fictitious accusations such as naming them as mistresses to Mahathir and saying that they knew a person who knew a person who had allegedly caught Najib Tun Razak in bed with a famous singer in a Port Dickson hotel room. Perhaps the most unbelievable account yet was one related by a PKR Youth Information Chief who accused Abdullah Ahmad Badawi of carrying out an affair with an alleged (non-existent) female police escort.

Khairy Jamaluddin too has not escaped these accusations. In 2002, a high-ranking civil servant made a remark to Dr Mahathir’s then Political Secretary, Aziz Samsudin, that Khairy, then Special Officer to Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, had been an active homosexual during his university days. Khairy had apparently been involved with several members of the gay community of Oxford University, including a certain Malaysian-Chinese undergraduate. Such juicy stories were too good to be kept silent and it wound its way up to the very top.

Some of Mahathir’s aides made some enquiries to ascertain the truth of these allegations. They concluded that the stories were indeed true and they reported it to their boss. However, Mahathir did not take it up as he felt that Khairy was a non-entity and would remain so at least for the foreseeable future. Mahathir was right about Khairy not being gay, but he was obviously wrong about the rapid propulsion of this Young Turk.

Unknown to Aziz Samsudin as well as to Mahathir’s other aides, the story about Khairy’s alleged homosexuality was planted by Anwar Ibrahim’s men. A certain former deputy minister who had been a close Anwar supporter (and therefore dropped by Mahathir in the 1999 General Election) had been used to bring the rumour to Aziz’s attention through his civil service friend. The rumour itself was created by then PKR Youth Leader Ezam Mohd Nor who had allegedly ‘heard about the rumour’ from a senior civil servant who was a reformasi sympathiser and who had a child in the same school as Khairy. It was completely untrue. The idea that Khairy is gay is a figment of the imagination of the PKR leaders who desperately wanted to tar Abdullah Badawi whom they felt, at that time, was less sympathetic to the plight of their boss; having been his mortal enemy in UMNO for more than one and a half decades.

But the rumour took on a life of its own. From merely being gay, Khairy was now said to have even served as a rent-boy to the wives of ministers visiting London during his university days. At one time, the rumours became so flagrant that it even reached the ears of Anwar Ibrahim, then serving his prison sentence. Anwar enthusiastically asked his lawyers to verify the details of Khairy’s alleged homosexuality. It was a tool that would have been useful to the opposition, if only it had been true.

On the contrary, Khairy is not attracted to men. He had once been propositioned by a certain homosexual Malaysian newspaper columnist during a party at his house in Jalan U Thant. The columnist fell head over heels with Khairy. This is not unusual. After all, Greg Sheridan, one of the most worthless and sycophantic political hacks ever produced from Down Under, had once started a whole chapter on Malaysian politics by describing how enamoured he was with Khairy’s Hindustani movie-star looks. It was no wonder that the columnist fell for the then TV compere.

This columnist usually invited sets of young men to his house, which he shared with his life partner. These soirees were occasions where the columnist promised the world to the young men in return for being their ‘special friend’. While many fell for it and found themselves propelled to the inner circle of politics through this highly influential columnist’s efforts, Khairy himself rebuffed the columnist’s advances. While they remained friends, it was soon made clear to the columnist that Khairy would have his own way of reaching the pinnacles of power and it would be he who would be called Master and the columnist who would be the Servant.

That is not to say that Khairy did not use his looks to achieve his ambitions. Amongst the circle of young Oxford and Cambridge men who circulated around UMNO Youth in the years following the outbreak of reformasi, Khairy was deemed the most likely person to be able to use his marriage bed as a catapult to success.

It was one of his friends, Vincent Lim Kian Teck, now Chinese Political Secretary to the Prime Minister, who introduced Khairy to Nori Abdullah, then a part-time researcher at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS). Khairy did not need to try so hard. Nori fell almost instantly for the young and articulate Oxford graduate who was at least her intellectual equal.

Many do not know that Nori Abdullah is perhaps the most intelligent of all the children of Malaysian Prime Ministers. A precocious child, Nori often asked for books from Abdullah’s many foreign trips when he was Minister for Foreign Affairs. While the children of other ministers clamoured for jewellery and expensive high-tech gadgets, Nori always settled for the more intellectual gifts that her father could provide. She is one of the most well-read persons of her age group and is no shrinking violet when it comes to arguing intellectually with other prominent thinkers.

So it is odd indeed that Nori chose to be the wind beneath Khairy’s wings. She could have been more upfront in herself making a political name. But as the couple’s aim is to reach the highest peak of politics, it was unlikely that both could reach there. So, by all means, let Khairy be there as Prime Minister and Nori will exercise the function of a thinking First Lady. Indeed, were the couple able to achieve their aims, they would be the most learned First Couple in Malaysia’s history, even surpassing Dr Mahathir and his wife Dr Siti Hasmah.

But we are thinking too much of the future. Khairy definitely realised full well that being married to Nori was like getting an express ticket to his targeted destination. He might not have felt as strongly as Nori who has Khairy’s picture in her handbag, as her computer wallpaper at the office, and even on the coffee mug from which she drank. But he played the game well and though there may not be love, there is certainly affection. Khairy’s collection of international girlfriends which he had amassed in Singapore, Oxford and London were now chucked aside for the Japanese doll that is Nori.

What about the rumours of Khairy’s alleged infidelities? Again, these are often exaggerated by Khairy’s enemies. Take, for example, the so-called khalwat incident. In that story, widely circulated in the opposition press, Khairy was said to have been caught in the act with a Burmese girl (some say Filipino). According to the story, Nori and one of her other fellow Puteri UMNO Exco Members suspected Khairy of two-timing and had arranged for JAWI officers to spy on and catch the lovebirds. When they did so at Khairy and Nori’s apartment in Pantai, Khairy and Nori were allegedly summoned by Abdullah Badawi who gave the couple a dressing-down. Abdullah had been so angry -- so the story goes -- that he even slapped Khairy in the face. The couple were told in no uncertain terms that for political reasons they must stay together and be seen to still be totally in love.

Some say that the slapping incident took place at Putrajaya, in the Prime Minister’s Office. Others allege that this happened in Abdullah’s family home in Kepala Batas -- and they even pointed out that Abdullah suddenly re-routed his return from a Kedah UMNO meeting to make a short and unexplained private visit to his Kepala Batas home. Still others insist that Khairy and Nori were hauled up not only in front of Abdullah but also in attendance were Abdullah’s brother, Ibrahim, and Nori’s elder brother, Kamaluddin.

The truth of this story is far less juicy. In Khairy’s office at the Prime Minister’s Department is a former female colleague. The story was made up after the lady was seen in Khairy’s company during a certain official function. But it was nothing so sinister. Khairy had offered to chaperone the lady when her other boss, Special Officer to the Prime Minister, Ahmad Zaki Zahid, was not able to accompany her to the meeting. So, as a gentleman, Khairy had stepped in as he was also due to attend the same meeting.

What is interesting is who made up this story. Several chains of narration, including amongst them Wanita UMNO Chief Rafidah Aziz, newly-married Minister for Home Affairs Azmi Khalid, and even Deputy Internal Security Minister Noh Omar, eventually were traced to Najib Tun Razak’s circle. The story was concocted by several of Najib’s inner circle of advisors in the hope that it would shake the image of Khairy’s loyalty to Abdullah. Of course, leaks were planted to the opposition through the intermediary of a senior journalist who worked freelance and often writes for international newspapers. In reality, there was not a shred of truth in the story.

Funny enough, the idea of the so-called JAWI raid stems from Najib’s own brush with the religious police. While many say that he was caught in a hotel room in Port Dickson by the JAWI counterpart in Negeri Sembilan, JAINS, Najib eventually countered the allegation by producing the report book of JAINS’ raids. Nowhere in the book is Najib mentioned, nor of any raid in the alleged hotel in Port Dickson around the date alleged by his enemies. In fact, the JAINS rumour was a smokescreen. Najib had indeed been caught with that actress, but not in Port Dickson but in a hotel in Kuala Lumpur. Najib’s special Branch officers had inserted the story of it being in Port Dickson in order to lay the ground for his alibi.

Contrary to the views of opposition leaders, Khairy is neither a homosexual nor an adulterer. But he is not an angel either. His closeness to Islamic norms is only the result of his being married into Abdullah’s family, but he is not the debauched, narrow that is painted by his enemies.

Khairy realises that his fortune, at least while Abdullah is in power, is the result of Nori’s unbending love for him. The devotion that Nori showers upon Khairy is the backbone of his strength in Abdullah’s circle. In spite of many Abdullah’s close friends and even relatives accusing Khairy of using his marital bed as security for keeping power, Abdullah will do nothing to hurt Nori -- and he knows the way to hurt Nori is to accept that the criticism levelled against her husband is true.

The American ambassador to Malaysia, when attending the reception for Khairy's and Nori’s wedding, gave the Freudian comment that Khairy ‘is a very lucky man’. It was funny that the same was not said for Nori. But all is fair in love and politics, and it is that love that makes Khairy invincible.

PART 14
Crowning the king

Malaysia’s first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, once joked that he was too happy doing his job as Prime Minister he did not wish to let go too soon. In fact, he remarked lightheartedly, his deputy, Tun Razak, was ‘too young’ to succeed him. Of course, the Tunku meant it all in the jocular mood for which he is famous. But that incident remained long in the mind of Tun Razak to such an extent that he began to seethe with anger. It was not many years later that the Tunku found himself on the receiving end of Tun Razak’s discontentment and swiftly found his throne seized from him in the aftermath of the May 13 melee.

Such is the way with crown princes. Though near to the throne, they are often very much aware of the instability of their position. Unless and until they ascend the throne and become kings in their own right, their position continues to be insecure for they are always the egg at the end of the buffalo’s horn. The king holds powers of life and death over their crown princes and woe betide any man who faces either a strong king or one who is made mad by his years in power.

At the present moment, though the premiership of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is but a couple of years old, it is already showing the signs of a weary and tired reign. The king is weak and uninspiring. The crown princes, on the other hand, are eager to get their chance at playing that role. Let there be no mistake about it, although Najib Tun Razak is the heir and Anwar Ibrahim the pretender, the real successor to Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s leadership is his son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin. At the young age of 30, Khairy has become the undisputed Man of the Future.

Khairy fully realises his position is precarious. Though ensured through his marriage, he cannot rely on being long in a safe position due to the inability of Abdullah Badawi to steward a steady ship of state. Khairy must quickly become king himself or replace his own father-in-law with a new ruler indebted to him. Since the last few days, this need has become more urgent. Instability has come creeping into Abdullah’s government as Malaysians wake up to the realisation that the man they overwhelmingly backed in the last General Election has been unable to deliver on his promises.

In November 2003, when Abdullah first became Prime Minister, Khairy was cocky enough to remark to his friends that he would soon put former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir in jail, together with his bosom buddy Daim Zainuddin and other luminaries of that bygone era. Two years on, it is Mahathir who has proven himself still king of Malaysian politics by his deft remote control tactics exercised in the style that is so uniquely his. Mahathir quite openly challenged Abdullah’s authority by bringing up the AP issue and making Abdullah’s government look more corrupt than his own. In other matters too, Mahathir has shown he is no pushover. Abdullah is fully aware that he cannot make any move, even within UMNO, without considering the opinion of Dr Mahathir.

Take, for example, the appointment of Mahadzir Khalid as Acting Menteri Besar of Kedah. Everyone is aware that the current Menteri Besar, Syed Razak, is an invalid and has been so for several months. Yet, Abdullah took his time in appointing a surrogate Menteri Besar, not for lack of candidates, but as he himself admitted to a delegation of Kedah UMNO deputy ministers and Exco members, Syed Razak cannot be removed because he is ‘Mahathir’s man’. Such is the weakness of Abdullah Badawi -- he has been thwarted in appointing his own man as Menteri Besar in Perlis, Kedah, Selangor, Johor and Sabah. Only in Negeri Sembilan has Abdullah been able to put his nominee as the local boss.

The fear that Abdullah has of Mahathir’s power is very real. Abdullah knows Mahathir will not tolerate any attack on his legacies. Even worse, Mahathir is now fully awake to the potential disaster on his legacy that can be wrought by Khairy and his friends. So Abdullah lies in his Putrajaya office, half-dozing, half-shaking, unaware of Mahathir’s moves yet fully conscious of the threats they may bring.

Najib Tun Razak has been nothing but a disappointment. While paying lip-service to Abdullah’s call for reform, Najib has been tepid in his support for Abdullah’s policies. Even in the AP issue, Najib, who is no friend of Rafidah, played the role of spokesman, as if he was in a second-rate school play. Najib plays the careful game, not willing to put his neck out for the boss, because he knows once that neck is slit, it will be him who becomes king.

So Khairy lies awake at night, seeing his plans, conjured two years ago, come only partly to fruition. Threats remain to his ascension to the ultimate prize of being Malaysia’s youngest ever Prime Minister. He hopes that Anwar’s popularity may help him once he finds a way for Abdullah to readmit Anwar into UMNO. But Anwar is also fast losing his lustre. Spending too much time overseas, Anwar has distanced his closest supporters by playing favourites that was his hallmark when previously in power. More importantly, Anwar has failed to fulfil his promise of leading the opposition or deliver the much-needed funds as a result of his sojourn in distant lands which he had promised. His failure to win over DAP to accommodate PAS, which was his main contribution to the 1999 General Election, is a taint on his abilities.

The PAS leadership is increasingly distrustful of Anwar and his lieutenants, fully aware that Anwar is toying with Khairy in the hope of again being a part of UMNO’s leadership. While the two leaders at the very top, that is PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang and Kelantan Chief Minister Nik Aziz Nik Mat, continue to honour Anwar whenever he deigns to visit their territories, other senior PAS leaders including the so-called ‘professional’ group have been holding secret strategy meetings to discuss their response in the event that Anwar pulls a surprise and leaves the opposition for UMNO’s greener shores.

One PAS Vice President has even gone so far as to discuss the issue with Khairy himself, meeting him two months ago in a room in the Crown Princess Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. The meeting was casual but two messages were exchanged. The PAS leader told Khairy that Anwar would not be able to bring PAS back into the Barisan Nasional fold -- a move in which Abdullah Badawi was a key player during the early days of Tun Razak’s government. Secondly, Khairy told the PAS leader that Anwar is acceptable to UMNO but not his party, PKR, which must be dissolved before Anwar would be allowed in.

Though he denies this in public, Anwar could not resist telling the crowds that UMNO has begun sending messages for him to consider rejoining the party. A few days ago in Kota Bharu, Anwar remarked that a former Menteri Besar and division leaders of UMNO had invited him to return to reform their party. The audience would have been less impressed if Anwar had been more candid and named those people.

The former Menteri Besar is Osman Aroff, a Kedah politician synonymous with the most extreme degrees of corruption and is currently almost a complete non-entity within the UMNO leadership. Osman Aroff was Anwar’s bag-boy in Kedah, playing the role of Anwar’s proxy in the battle to subdue Mahathir’s inept, bumbling and almost insane nominee, Sanusi Junid. But Osman Aroff had lost big time and is no longer a force to be reckoned with. The division leaders whom Anwar coyly did not name include Afifudin Omar, another Anwar loyalist who tried to play the same role with Abdullah but got fooled into accepting a mere State Assembly seat in exchange for the cabinet post he ardently begged for.

All these people came to see Anwar because no one else would see them.

Since Khairy’s departure from the Prime Minister’s office, Abdullah has begun receiving Special Branch briefings in the comfort of his home rather than at the office. The reason? So that in the middle of these briefings, Khairy can casually enter the room as if by coincidence and plonk himself in the nearest chair to also absorb the information being dispensed.

In the matter of Anwar Ibrahim’s goings on, it is Khairy that is entrusted in gauging their value and to produce the next strategy for Abdullah. Abdullah knows that Anwar is more valuable to Khairy than to himself. After all, bringing Anwar back into UMNO’s fold would help Khairy’s credentials as a young but fair politician of the future. Also, Anwar would help prop Khairy up in the face of a Najib onslaught. But as for Abdullah himself, bringing Anwar back can only mean pitting himself for a head-to-head confrontation with the pincer movements of both Mahathir Mohamad and Najib Tun Razak. So, bringing Anwar in is Khairy’s way of transforming himself in the long term from a mere crown prince to a king with real powers.

Strangely enough, Anwar never mentions the dealings he has with Khairy in his public addresses. Yet, in private, Anwar admires Khairy almost to the point of envy. Regardless of whatever faults Khairy may have, in Anwar’s eyes, he is the key to him returning to power. Khairy is also Anwar’s key to retribution for Mahathir Mohamad. Ludicrous though it may sound, the very closest of Anwar’s circle has been instructed not only to treat Khairy with respect and to try to establish a relationship with him, but also to begin cozying up to Khairy’s trusted advisors such as Omar Ong and Ahmad Zaki Zahid.

But the tide of politics is a strange phenomenon. Its ebb and flow cannot be determined with exact accuracy. In the next few weeks, the game will be played out to its climax. Moves are being made on Khairy’s side as well as that of all the other dramatis personae to an endgame that will change the face of Malaysian politics. Khairy is about to face the biggest test of his short but meteoric career...

PART 15 The game of high stakes

Politics is a game of high risk. The ebb and tide cannot be estimated and often those who ride the surf, even after many years, find that the great big ocean swallows them up the moment they make the smallest slip. It is not a game for the faint-hearted, as a fall often breaks or even completely kills off one’s career. When a politician falls, he is often shamed as well. The price of such a collapse is much too high for the majority of us and yet people line up for their fifteen minutes of power in order to taste what is so often described as the headiest thing a person can experience – the power to lord over your fellow human beings. The gamble of politics produces an adrenalin rush which, as Henry Kissinger said, is the most powerful aphrodisiac.

For Khairy Jamaluddin, power has come quick and fast. He has risen far in a short period of time at an age when most people would only be thinking of where to find their next rent or car instalment. More powerful than most politicians thirty years his senior, Khairy has had a taste of power which the majority of us will never experience, even up to our dying days. He sits within the ranks of those whose actions can, if they so wish, determine the confluence of our own lives.

Yet Khairy has reached there by playing a game of low risk. He is not much of a gambler and his rise to power has been relatively easy. Instead of relying on the roll of the dice and the decisions of Fate, Khairy has instead opportunistically weaved his way to the top on the back of others. His accession, for example, to the second topmost post in UMNO Youth was more an anointment rather than an election. Acclaimed by the cowed and dumbfounded UMNO Youth Members, Khairy would not have got where he is today if not for the grace of his father-in-law. Admittedly, he is far more intelligent than most UMNO leaders, even those who have been in this game for a few decades. However, there have been many UMNO leaders with more promising intelligence, abilities and charisma who have fallen by the wayside, simply because the majority of UMNO leaders are not selected for their talents but for their connections and, nowadays, their ability to dispense patronage.

Khairy’s politics has never been tested. While the sycophantic journalists of foreign newspapers and Brenda Pereira’s coterie of spin-stringers in Jalan Riong constantly attribute Khairy to many of the so-called successes of present-day UMNO, the claims are largely hollow. For example, Khairy cannot be credited for diffusing the Suqiu affair for the simple reason that Suqiu had already backed down under pressure from the UMNO thugs led by Aziz Sheikh Fadzir. Khairy’s contribution to the stunning success of the Barisan Nasional in the last General Election was limited to selecting the motto ‘Cemerlang, Gemilang, Terbilang’ (together with the quote-machine Kalimullah Masheerul Hassan), selecting candidates (who would have been selected anyway on the Barisan Nasional onslaught if they had been cows instead of humans) and promoting a more presidential image for the lacklustre and uninspiring Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. For Khairy to be credited with actually snatching victory from the jaws of defeat is to give a lie to the signs that were shown many months before the election. Malaysians, tired of the Anwar affair and pushed to the brink by the hard fist of Mahathir Mohamad, simply welcomed the kinder, gentler government that Abdullah promised, including the soon-to-be-broken pledges of eradicating the choking corruption of the last 22 years.

Brendan Pereira, Phar Kim Beng, Reme Ahmad, Zainuddin Affendi, Leslie Lau, Rosli Ismail and other journalists of that ilk knew full well when they praised Khairy that they were exaggerating the circumstances. Yet those news reports allowed them access to the inner circle of Khairy’s politics and, more importantly, direct access to the man himself. To a certain extent, it is advance payment for services rendered in the future. They know that Khairy is the current ‘rent-a-quote’ and they needed to have good relations with a man so eager to show the world how markedly different and superbly intelligent he is compared to the previous generation of doddering UMNO fools.

Can Khairy play this game endlessly? Already there are rumours of the impending instability of Abdullah’s government caused by intense pressure from all sides. Abdullah is facing political enemies within UMNO from amongst the allies of his predecessor as well as his potential successor, Najib Tun Razak. The economy is extremely bad and the government presented a hopeless budget which in its detail shows that there is no way the Malaysian deficit problem can be addressed anytime before the end of the next parliament to be elected sometime in 2008. Inflation is rife, running at 9 to 10% and only slightly lower elsewhere. The crushing inability of the GLCs to produce quick solutions to Malaysia’s cashflow problems is compounded by the extreme reliance on the Oxbridge circle, regardless of their moral and corporate governance issues. UMNO resists almost to a man efforts to transform it from a corrupt, scandal-ridden and patronage-infested clan of self-interested individuals to a more responsible political party in the real sense of the word.

Khairy’s solution is to use the spirit of the time to bring in reforms that will benefit Abdullah’s image as well as his future. Yet these reforms are increasingly seen by the public to be obviously catered towards Khairy’s own survival. He brushes aside these concerns at his peril, because together with openness comes open criticism and Khairy is sorely untested when it comes to that. Khairy has never faced anything but praise from within his party. Nor has he been challenged by an effective opposition leader of his stature. The best PAS can produce is Husam Musa who early on had compromised his principles by making a deal with Khairy on the court challenges that each party had initiated regarding seats in Kelantan and Terengganu. Charismatic politicians in PKR have been killed off by the implicit instructions of Anwar Ibrahim not to criticise Abdullah and other members of the current government such as Khairy. Ezam Mohd Nor is a leader lost in his own dreams, not realising that he is treated as a joke in Khairy’s circle due to his incessant demands to be given a Deputy Minister’s post when he returns to UMNO. The DAP is still in transition, Lim Guan Eng being the future yet in many ways already a man of the past, too closely tied to his father’s politics to make a major impact against the charisma of Khairy Jamaluddin.

And so Khairy plots his imminent rise, almost unchallenged. The only dangers are if his gambles become bigger and riskier, later failing to deliver. For example, Khairy had recently arranged a meeting in London between Anwar and Abdullah. Ostensibly, Abdullah was on a roadshow to showcase the potential of Malaysian investment. It was a disaster as far as the economy was concerned for the simple reason that Abdullah has not shown any innovative approaches to the Malaysian economy. The two questions he could not answer were why his policies were borrowed almost wholesale from the guidelines of Temasek Holdings in Singapore and, secondly, why he was harping on sectors such as agriculture and biotechnology which, worldwide, contribute to a miniscule proportion of the world economic engine.

Of course, Abdullah could not answer those questions for the simple reason that his mind was on other things. The RM2.3 million visit was important, yet not as important as the visitor he received in an anteroom of the hotel where the meetings were held. Too bad for Abdullah, he was unable to keep it secret as a certain Menteri Besar accidentally walked into the room during the four-eyes meeting. But that did not matter. Anwar and his boys would have leaked news about the meeting anyway….

According to Zunar, former cartoonist and current editor of Suara Rakyat, the exchanges between Anwar and Abdullah were mainly concerned with Abdullah expressing his frustrations with the counter-reactionary forces of Mahathir and Najib. Zunar may have exaggerated the whining of Abdullah, yet the message he wanted to put across was obvious. Abdullah is a man under strain and he needed an ally in the form of Anwar. Secretly, Khairy tells his friends that Anwar’s popularity amongst the common people, if combined with Abdullah’s, would make his own future politics much more assured and less risky.

Of course, Zunar is merely a propagandist. He is paid to make Anwar seem like a god. His livelihood depends on Anwar believing that he has done a good job in making Anwar seem like the infallible political genius that any thinking person knows he is not. Zunar, therefore, plants stories that any spin-doctor worth his salt knows in his heart of hearts is only 10% accurate.

People like Zunar want the world to think that, without Anwar Ibrahim, Khairy would die the moment Abdullah leaves office. Of course, as a cartoonist, Zunar’s politics is based on satire and parody which is almost always an exaggeration of the truth. Yet, there is no denying that several key Khairy allies have made implied comments receptive to Anwar’s return to UMNO. Khairy wants to gamble on this but he is slowly playing to the gallery, trying to feel out the reactions of the public before he rolls the dice. According to Zunar, the entry of Anwar into UMNO has often been discussed in his meeting, telephone conversations and discussions with Abdullah. However, to preserve the dignity of both top players, it is Khairy and Anwar’s protégé, Ezam Mohd Nor, who are planning the actual details. More meetings over the coming months are being arranged between Abdullah and Anwar.

In spite of Anwar’s public pronouncements against rejoining UMNO, the truth is both Anwar and Khairy are testing the waters before the actual gamble is made. Khairy needs to test UMNO members’ reaction to the re-entry of Anwar by denying the ease with which Anwar hopes he could re-enter UMNO. Anwar, on the other hand, needs to test his followers’ perception of his leadership before actually telling them that that choice has been opened up for him. He could not afford to alienate too many of his former Reformasi supporters. Though Anwar knows some will fall away in disgust at his opportunism, yet many others will remain simply for the fact that seven years is too long for most of them to be without any political power at all.

But Anwar’s risks are lesser than Khairy’s. Anwar has had the biggest fall of all the UMNO politicians, being beaten almost to death on the instructions of a man who until the very last moment was still described by Anwar as a father figure. There is nothing more in the world that can be used to test his mettle for he and his family have gone through it all. On the other hand, Khairy has always been cushioned by his proximity to Abdullah Badawi. If he were to fail in this gamble, not only he but Abdullah would be swept away by the UMNO members and raged by the machinations that would destroy their comfortable world of ill-gotten gains and wealth by patronage. Khairy is testing the waters because this gamble is of much too high a stake. It may secure his position in the long term, yet it may also fail and plunge both he and Abdullah into the abyss in which Anwar was thrown not so many years ago...

PART 16
The walls that talk

The plan hatched by Khairy Jamaluddin to bring back Anwar Ibrahim into UMNO as a counterbalance to the powers of the designated heir to the UMNO Presidency, Najib Tun Razak, and to shore up his own long-term political future within the party, has reached a defining point through the meeting held between Anwar and Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Although both sides are coy about the details discussed at that rendezvous, there have been many reports that indicate the main items as being laying the ground for Anwar’s eventual return to UMNO. The stumbling blocks remain: Anwar refuses to apply for a pardon (though he would not be able to turn down one if it was ‘offered’) and prefers merely to be readmitted on the basis that the Federal Court has proven his innocence. On the other hand, both Abdullah and Khairy want Anwar readmitted only if it is clearly seen to be a prerogative of the UMNO President -- thereby making Anwar indebted to Abdullah’s signal efforts in bringing him back.

However, these stumbling blocks become less a hindrance as the day passes. Anwar realises that his own party, PKR, is bogged down by factional strife and unable to rouse the interest of the majority of the voters, at least in the very near future. Any effort to strengthen PKR would only be successful in the long run, and Anwar does not want to wait too long. His other partners in the opposition coalition are unable to drive a cross-ethnic force of sufficient strength to place him in a position of power. There remains, therefore, only UMNO.

For Khairy, the screws are tightening too. Day by day, Abdullah seems less able to fulfill the promises he had so stridently made prior to the last General Election. Mahathir’s forces have created reactionary ripples which Abdullah is unable to effectively counter. The ‘feel-good factor’ is gone and the early successes in convincing the people of the seriousness of the anti-corruption drive have dissipated. More importantly, Najib is fast aligning forces to ensure that his team wins the groundwork of the next UMNO party election.

Bearing in mind that most current UMNO Division leaders had served under Najib during his tenure as UMNO Youth Leader in the 1980s, he has a ground support which Abdullah does not and which Khairy is yet to build. At the same time, Najib can rely on his cousin to ensure that UMNO Youth does not stray too much in the direction of Khairy. He is also helped by Mahathir’s children who are active in creating a fifth column within UMNO Youth to act as a vanguard against Khairy’s ambitions. These are the guardians of Mahathir’s legacy and their success is measured by the fact that, in recent months, Khairy has been foolish enough to think that Najib and his officers have made serious efforts to align themselves to Abdullah’s agenda. It took nothing more than a few SMSes in praise of Khairy’s speech at the UMNO Youth Assembly to create the impression he is finally getting Najib’s pat on his back. Yet Najib is the consummate politician of years of training whereas Khairy is the young politician trying to brush off the disappointing catcalls made by UMNO Youth members just last year.

But Khairy’s effort in imposing this coup-de-grace is hampered by the walls that talk. For their own peculiar reasons, Khairy’s friends and enemies both find it necessary to leak information about Khairy’s impending deal with Anwar. It creates a problem for Khairy because, unlike other efforts in the past, he has little control over the leaks. Khairy cannot shut them up for the simple reason that most of the leaks would not or could not be controlled by either Khairy or his father-in-law. These continuous information breaches have made Khairy’s life one almost completely occupied with fire-fighting. Khairy has to fend off the suspicions of his fellow UMNO politicians. Najib does not trust him and, to a lesser extent, even his own boss in UMNO Youth, Hishamuddin Hussein, finds it difficult to rely completely on Khairy’s protestations of loyalty.

More importantly, UMNO leaders are not sure of Khairy’s future leanings. Isa Samad’s present predicament, due to Khairy’s machinations, has caused both Ali Rustam and Muhyiddin Yassin to fall into cautious silence. Yet, they and other important UMNO luminaries such as Khir Toyo are fully aware that should Anwar be brought back into UMNO, only Khairy will benefit whereas most of the others will have to fend off the knowing glances of Anwar supporters who have been blackballed in the last seven years. They would no doubt look at Anwar’s re-entry as the opportunity to avenge themselves at the expense of the leaders who had risen in the wilderness years to fill the vacuum.

And, of course, Khairy would support them. Removing Khir Toyo means strengthening his position in UMNO Youth. Ali Rustam’s ouster would lead to the creation of two new vacant high positions which can be filled by Khairy’s allies. Already Ali Rustam’s deputy in the 4B movement, Noh Omar, is eyeing the seat in an effort to consolidate his own long-term ascension to power.

The allies of former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad have long awakened to the fact that this ‘budak hinguih’ (as Mahathir once called him) spells trouble for their long-term political success. More importantly, Mahathir’s children realise that the rise of Khairy means the wiping out of their father’s 22-year old legacy.

The Anwar camp of course talks like chattering sparrows. They need to show that Anwar is still relevant. To that end, every single meeting held between Khairy and Anwar confidante Ezam Mohd Nor is immediately broadcast to the Keadilan leadership -- partly to make Ezam feel important and partly to portray Anwar’s continued political value. The fact that Ezam and another Anwar confidante, PKR Vice-President Azmin Ali, are currently in a catfight and competing against each other for their boss’ favour means that they also compete in showing of their closeness to Khairy and their discussions regarding Anwar’s future political career.

Whether Khairy realises it or not, most of the stories circulating around town regarding his efforts to allow Anwar an easy passage back into UMNO come from sources that are in direct communication with him. While officially denying that Anwar will rejoin UMNO, in private, nothing else is as important. Ezam and Azmin have for some time been dropping Khairy’s name as their source of inside information within UMNO. They have gone so far as to even suggest that Khairy is the main conduit for discussions between Abdullah and Anwar. They say that Khairy is helpful where other officers such as Thajudeen Abdul Wahab are not.

Lackeys such as PKR party organ editor and propagandist Zunar have gone a step further by repeating these leaks not only to Keadilan leaders but also to PAS figures to whom he claims to be close -- having been a former staff of the PAS organ, Harakah. In turn, these stories create an atmosphere of distrust amongst some of the top leadership of PAS regarding Anwar’s future intentions. PAS has its own way of checking these stories -- some of their younger leaders have direct ties with Khairy and converse with him by telephone on a regular basis. Khairy could not deny for too long his discussions with the PKR leadership because, sooner or later, the truth would come out and he cannot afford, at this stage, to be seen too much as a lying schemer.

There is no denying that for people like Zunar there is a bittersweet feeling in leaking these information. He revels in getting in the good books of senior PAS and PKR politicians by being an important source of information to them. On the other hand, as head honcho of the official party propaganda machinery, he cannot be seen as being too favourable to Anwar’s eventual re-entry to UMNO. As such, his pronouncements on this matter have been chaotic to the extent that PKR’s political bureau recently met to discuss Zunar’s leaks. The bureau felt that he had given too much prominence to the so-called discussion between Abdullah and Anwar that the PKR leaders became confused and the UMNO leaders, on the other hand, became angry at the so-called revelations, some of which Zunar had intended to publish in the party newspaper.

Indeed, these leaks are often deliberate efforts in which some individuals believe that they are world-class experts. In fact, they are not so and have often blundered, giving the wrong information to their supporters and enemies alike. The party information machinery is out of control and relies more on unofficial sources whispered via the grapevine than the official media nominally responsible for distributing the correct information to the public.

But not all the leaks come from Anwar’s side. There are also people close to Khairy who have been doing the same. These are mostly his closest confidantes in the Ethos Consulting circle who move within the more Western-educated liberal young professional network. To them, Anwar’s sacking and humiliation by Dr Mahathir Mohamad was a travesty of justice and, in spite of their lack of open opposition to that cruel episode, they continue to pronounce that it was a black period in Malaysian politics. Khairy’s friends defend his record by openly espousing that, in his personal capacity, Khairy is sympathetic to Anwar’s plight. In fact, time and time again, these groups are reminded of Khairy’s magnanimous visit to Anwar’s house the night of the latter’s release from incarceration.

Khairy’s circle of friends comprise some young lawyers, bankers and political aspirants who believe that Anwar’s rehabilitation is a giant step in the effort to rid UMNO of the dregs of the Mahathir years. They tell themselves that Anwar would bring back UMNO’s lost popularity amongst the Malay heartland and revive Abdullah’s credentials as a liberal reformer. Therefore, in their discussions, they often leak Khairy’s efforts to reinstate Anwar within UMNO in order to portray Khairy as the voice of the future. In other words, to the more liberal groups who comprise the backbone of Khairy’s support, the discussions with Anwar is no bad thing. On the other hand, it is the undisputed proof that Khairy is serious about reforms and is not a politician shaped by UMNO’s older mould.

Leaks from Khairy’s circle usually comprise of two groups. The first group, those who are in immediate contact with Khairy such as Omar Ong, Ahmad Zaki Zahid, Norza Zakaria, Lim Kian Teck, Rozabil Abdul Rahman and others of that calibre, do not usually discuss these issues in public. However, some are forced to do so. For example, Omar Ong is nominally responsible to Najib Tun Razak as his Special Officer. He is often provoked by Najib’s other officers into giving them bits of information about Khairy’s movements and political planning. In other words, information is often squeezed out of Omar Ong as if he was a tube of toothpaste. Of course, in the end, the news gets back to Najib and in separate meetings with his more trusted advisors this information is sifted, analysed and examined more thoroughly.

The second group of Khairy leaks comprises those who were brought in by the first group as their support technocrats. These include the younger members of Ethos Consulting, YPCS and other such groups associated with Khairy. While they are known to Khairy, they are definitely not his bosom buddies. Nevertheless, whatever information they heard about Khairy’s movements is quickly disseminated for the simple fact that each and every one of these young and eager aspirants want to be seen by others as Khairy’s trusted lieutenants. Often, their unguarded and exaggerated claims are passed on to other friends who in turn make their own conclusions to the detriment of Khairy.

So, not all the leaks come from Khairy’s enemies. In fact, the majority of the sources of information about Khairy’s movements are collected from those who are his so-called friends and allies. The problem about being so young in politics is that Khairy’s circle of friends are also young and inexperienced. They do not have the political kicks of the older and more experienced group of politicians who can twist and turn every word to their favour. This lack of experience in Khairy’s circle also creates a lack of probity. Too much ambition causes them to want too much for themselves. As a result, they also talk too much and Khairy often finds that people’s negative perceptions about him originate from his own circle of friends. Such is the unfortunate result of Khairy surrounding himself with the young and ambitious. There is no escaping that, amongst these, there will be at least some who are also greedy and foolish.

And then, of course, there are those who are high enough to get the information and use it for their own purposes to destroy Khairy...

PART 17
The comforting branch breaks

In spite of the reassurances that accompanied the return of Datin Paduka Seri Endon Mahmood from the United States recently, the very closest of political circles had known for quite a while that her passing would just be a matter of time. Newspaper editors and those in charge of the electronic media have been put on standby since the first day of her return. Senior writers were put to work writing Endon’s obituary about ten days ago. It was expected that her situation had reached a point of no return when even the highest ranking ministers of the Abdullah Ahmad Badawi government were not allowed to visit her at the Putrajaya hospital.

Two days prior to her death, Abdullah’s closest friends had congregated for daily Yaasin readings at the official residence of the Prime Minister. The public was given an implicit signal of the worsening condition of the Prime Minister’s wife through a statement which urged them not to impose on Abdullah as he had to spend “quality time” with Endon. A further indication of the increasing concern of Abdullah’s family regarding Endon’s health was evident by several sudden cancellations of public functions to be attended by Khairy Jamaluddin and Nori Abdullah in the days preceding Endon’s demise.

There is no doubt that Endon Mahmood is a far more popular politician’s wife than many others of that ilk. Certainly, she is comparable to Tun Siti Hasmah in her ability to play a soothing influence on those who have been wounded by her husband’s actions. Both come from similar backgrounds, being career women who abandoned their individual ambitions to support their husbands’ foray into politics. Both Hasmah and Endon are Selangor-born children of high level civil servants whose families have either produced or been related to many of the Malay ruling and administrative elite of the first half of the 20th century. No one mistakes Hasmah’s and Endon’s mannerism for those of the shrew-like behaviour of many other political wives. They carry themselves with the grace that complements their husbands’ necessary more abrupt style.

No one, for example, criticised Endon for being an unduly bad influence on Abdullah in the way that Rosmah Mansor is often deemed to be for her husband, Najib Tun Razak. More importantly, either by choice or because of her long debilitating illness, Endon did not play the role of gatekeeper to Abdullah like Rosmah does for Najib. It is a well-known fact that Najib could easily be influenced through Rosmah’s appeals on behalf of various interested politicians and hopeful businessmen. But Endon did not really play that role -- although in the short period following Abdullah’s ascension to the premiership, her sisters, nephews and nieces (the Mahmood Ambak family) received many favours. Mahmood Ambak’s children and grandchildren quickly found themselves in control of various government projects ranging from the supply of software to schools under the Ministry of Education’s RM100 million programme to the brokerage of products between OIC member countries engineered by the Malaysian presidency of that organisation.

Yet it is doubtful Endon herself played a role in securing these contracts for her family. She was, after all, far from the maddening hive of activity that surrounded the early days of Abdullah’s tenure in office. Instead, she spent her time largely in overseas hospitals and local recuperating clinics. If the awards to Mahmood Ambak’s family were at all influenced by anyone, it was through the good graces of Khairy Jamaluddin on behalf of his wife, Nori. In addition, one cannot forget that many of the awards were given by sycophantic ministers eager to curry favour and brown-nose the new government of Abdullah Badawi. Within the high ranks of politics, it is known that Abdullah Badawi’s own family had little favours given to them by Abdullah himself. On the other hand, they received their largesse from Mahathir in the dying days of his premiership. It was Mahmood Ambak’s family that eagerly sought after government contracts and were generously rewarded for their persistence.

Endon’s role was therefore not dissimilar to that of Dr Siti Hasmah whose relatives too benefited at the expense of Mahathir’s own kin. Yet, with the passing of Endon Mahmood from the scene, it is unlikely that her siblings and relatives of similar age would continue to get the favourable treatment they received in the last one and a half years. More likely, attention will now shift to those who are of the same generation as Endon’s own two children.

Endon’s role in Khairy Jamaluddin’s life was relatively benign. She did not object to Nori’s head-over-heels and sometimes irrational obsession with Khairy during their courtship. She had remarked with bemusement when Nori used one of Khairy’s portraits as the wallpaper to her computer at ISIS. However, one of the main reasons for Endon’s reception of Khairy was the close ties she had with Khairy’s mother, Datin Rahmah Abdul Hamid. Their friendship went back to the old days, even prior to their respective marriages to two men who ended up working as senior civil servants in the same ministry some time in the middle of the 1970s.

When Khairy was a budding politician and only recently ensconced to the role of chaperone extraordinary to Nori Abdullah, Endon placed Rahmah in a key position within a newly-favoured setup called the Muslim Women’s Action Association (PERTIWI). In that capacity, PERTIWI played a role of generating ground support for Khairy from amongst the ‘Mak Datins’ and other similar middle-aged women who are wives or widows of former high-ranking civil servants. When Khairy came under criticism for his lack of experience in what seemed to some an obscene meteoric rise to power, it was PERTIWI which led letter campaigns in the New Straits Times, The Star and Utusan Malaysia to describe Khairy as an ‘able, competent and highly-educated’ young man.

PERTIWI and others of that ilk were used by Khairy in order to generate debate in his favour. This was often started off by a planted piece written by Khairy’s unofficial Press Secretary Kalimullah Hassan Masheerul Hassan and other paid journalist of that persuasion. PERTIWI would then be free to write letters in support of these articles, painting a favourable picture for Khairy. Of course, letters to the contrary were also received but they were never published. This concerted effort seems hardly necessary now that Khairy is so high up the political hierarchy of the nation. But in the early days, when his hold on office was tenuous and shaky, it assisted him to give the public a perception of grassroots support. In actual fact, the old aunties who wrote these letters were bored and desperate housewives who hoped to gain favour with Endon and Datin Rahmah.

Endon herself looked upon Khairy as a genuine pillar of support for Abdullah. She was, in fact, quite grateful that Khairy was able to assist Abdullah and did not demand too much attention from Nori, who herself had to carry the role her mother was unable to play. Endon was not someone who put pressure on Khairy’s marriage, even when she sometimes expressed her disappointment of the slowness of the Khairy-Nori couple in starting a family. But she was comforted by the fact that she already had grandchildren from her other child, Kamaluddin, and resigned herself to the fact that Khairy had a far more important role to play in assisting the political life of her husband.

Instead, Endon reserved her opprobrium for those whom she felt were encroaching on Abdullah and her own status as the senior-most woman in public life. One such person was Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, for whom Endon often gave the coolest of receptions. According to a close advisor of Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, Rosmah was often reduced to a nervous wreck whenever she had to confront Endon. Usually, Rosmah can just push her way through with people. She was in the Mahani Daim league; a pushy, contemptuous and temperamental woman with an exaggerated sense of dignity. She often made disparaging remarks about Najib in front of other people, lacking the good sense to reserve such comments to the confines of the bedroom.

Yet, with Endon, Rosmah couldn’t get her own way. Endon was a gentle lady with a soft approach to conversation. But, when challenged, she could be fiery and whenever Rosmah raised her voice, Endon would swiftly put it down with a cutting ‘sindiran’ or ‘perli’. This, Rosmah could not stand. Rosmah felt, as a far more educated woman, she should be given more prominence than Endon. Yet Endon is a far more politically experienced consort compared to Rosmah and won public plaudits where Rosmah had none.

Rosmah expects, now that Endon is gone from the scene, she could play a more important role, being the senior-most wife of a minister. On the morning of Endon’s funeral, the atmosphere in Najib’s house in Taman Duta was like a Ramadhan bazaar. Hundreds paid court to Rosmah -- something which she no doubt enjoyed.

But this will not be the case.

With the passing of Endon, another lady called Nori will now play a more important political advisory role to Abdullah. While Abdullah’s daughter-in-law, Azrene, will probably play host to social functions on behalf of her father-in-law, Nori, who shares many of her mother’s populist traits, will become the main solace for Abdullah. In that sense, Khairy’s position will strengthen and as long as he keeps on the straight and narrow, not straying too far from his marital bed and giving due deference to his role as only half a member of Abdullah’s family, he should be protected from the attacks of those eager to influence Abdullah against him.

A few days before Endon’s death, some very close friends of Abdullah, who had been with him through thick and thin from the early days of his foray into the realm of politics, remarked that things weren’t going the way they had predicted. Previously, they thought that with Endon gone from the scene, Abdullah would go back to the old circle of friends who have been the most tried and tested of his most loyal of followers. Instead, they found that, in the dying days of Endons’ life, Abdullah had begun to cling more tightly to Nori and Khairy’s younger set of advisors.

Their position looks unassailable.

No woman can replace Endon in Abdullah’s life. Their partnership was far closer than that of politician and wife. That is often the case in Malaysian politics. Malaysian Prime Ministers are often fiercely devoted to their spouses, such as proven in the case of the strictly monogamous Razak-Rahah and Mahathir-Hasmah duopoly. Abdullah is unlucky in having that relationship terminated so early on in his tenure. But he has comfort that unlike, for example, the Najib-Rosmah relationship, his was one of genuine affection and not merely a mutual alliance of ambition and interest. Such a partnership would be difficult to replicate even if someone else comes along to reduce Abdullah’s loneliness. For the time being, the passing of Endon Mahmood creates a vacuum in Abdullah’s life that is filled by Nori and her husband. They are the shoots that have replaced the comforting branch that was broken off by death last Thursday morning...

Part 17 is a special analysis on the passing of the late Datin Paduka Seri Endon Mahmood. Part 18 will now be the article “Cannons to the right and left” as announced before.

PART 18
Cannons behind his back

Does Khairy Jamaludin really know who his friends are? Sure, he surrounds himself with the young and bright, but have they become a liability to him? Is Khairy so naïve, thinking that these people could be trusted to not leak details about his plans and activities to his enemies?

One of the privileges of being young is that one can afford the luxury of a carefree and devil-may-care life. Being young also means one can afford to be naïve and can be allowed to make mistakes in one’s long journey to maturity. But Khairy cannot enjoy such luxury. His fast rise in politics has resulted in him being caught in the middle of a situation where every one of his actions are closely scrutinised by his political enemies as well as the public at large.

Khairy lives life under a microscope and the fascination people have about him means he is unable to make the slightest move without somebody, somewhere, reading into it and making an interpretation about it. Often these interpretations are helpful but sometimes they could be very detrimental and negative to his image. Even the most innocent praise heaped upon him by his admirers could be seen to have ulterior motives, which in turn generate nausea among the general public.

Khairy cannot pretend to be innocent in the roller coaster world of Umno politics. That is a poor excuse few will tolerate. They believe that given his Oxbridge background he should have the ability, acumen and intelligence to anticipate the consequences that his actions will bring. Sometimes, however, people forget that Khairy is merely a naïve 30-year old who rose in politics much faster than many of his peers.

He has been cushioned from major attacks by Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and has so far had a smooth ride. So have his friends who have been given the fast track to the higher reaches of government, politics and the corporate world. When they stumble, they stumble hard and they pick themselves up very slowly for the simple reason they do not know what to do. They are leaders of an opportunistic band which tolerates little mistakes but are extremely critical of big ones. They are vicious when assessing their leader and one who doesn’t perform will be devoured quickly and thrown aside.

Some of Khairy’s friends have been useful in giving him advice on how to spin an image, yet they themselves have had little experience in addressing the problem of how to maintain their image in the face of evidence to the contrary. Take, for example, Kalimullah Hassan Masheerul Hassan, the Singapore Special Branch-trained NST group editor. Kalimullah fancies himself as Khairy’s mentor. He often tries to 'sell' Khairy even when it is not necessary to do so. Almost inevitably, in every meeting with foreign journalists and government leaders, he mentions Khairy before mentioning the actual boss, Abdullah Badawi. Kalimullah is prouder of his association with Khairy than Abdullah.

As a result, people believe, rightly or wrongly, that Khairy, and not Abdullah, runs the government. Kalimullah does not help by putting more Singapore Special Branch-trained sycophants in charge of NST and Berita Harian. In their previous incarnation of PAP hacks, their job was to build up the image of Lee Hsein Loong as the undoubtedly superior heir apparent for Singapore and perhaps the most intelligent man ever to walk the face of this earth.

And this is what they are now doing to Khairy.

But they forgot that in Lee Hsien Loong’s case there was no other heir apparent other than Lee Jr. However, in Malaysian politics, there are many others who count themselves as heir to Abdullah or even to Dr Mahathir Mohamad. By overselling their 'product', Kalimullah and his bunch of Singapore-trained journalists are hurting Khairy’s image far more than it is helping him.

Khairy’s friends in Umno Youth have not been very helpful either. Take, for example, Norza Zakaria. This non-entity from Negeri Sembilan somehow made his way up the ladder to become the Youth Chief of Wangsa Maju. Norza would not have gone anywhere if he had not been plucked by Khairy as his right-hand man. But, in being that, Norza has become intoxicated. Firstly, he uses his position in order to portray himself as the most likely candidate to lead Umno Youth if Khairy, by a stroke of luck, falls by the wayside. He has even gone so far as to have discussions with webmasters where he denies that Khairy was instrumental in putting him where he is today.

Norza denies that he is ‘Khairy’s man’ and instead credits his success to his own intelligence and abilities. He tries to out-boss the boss and be seen as the mature alternative to Khairy. When confronted with the notion that he is nothing more than a Khairy front man, he ferociously denies this and claims that he is just putting on a charade and playing along to ensure that Khairy does not target him for assassination in the event the truth was to surface.

Secondly, Norza talks too much. He will talk about Khairy to any banker, businessman, journalist, contractor or civil servant who walks into his Treasury office in Putrajaya. Norza tells them that Khairy wants this done or Khairy wants that project to happen, at times without any reference to Khairy. As a result, people get the impression that Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop and the officials who run the Ministry of Finance are powerless puppets and that Norza is the one running the show on behalf of Khairy. Maybe this is only half true, because for all the intelligence Khairy may have, Nor Mohamed Yakcop is still a hands-on man. But the image that it gives to the public is that the Minister of Finance II is a puppet of Norza who in turn is the puppet of Khairy.

Thirdly, Norza has business interests, which gets its way by dropping Khairy’s name. Norza’s boys play up the fact that their chief is a close Khairy confidante in order to get their way from the smallest of contracts from the Federal Territory Ministry to the biggest banking jobs in KL. This can only hurt Khairy’s image; but does Norza care?

Even Khairy’s friends whom he has slotted in key government and political positions have been a major source of leaks. Take, for example, Khairy’s boys in the Deputy Prime Minister’s office. In front of Khairy they give the impression that they are providing him with valuable information regarding Najib’s movements. On the other hand, being the young, naïve, ambitious people that they are, they are actually playing a double game. While they keep Khairy informed, they also leak information about Khairy to Najib.

As a consummate politician, Najib knows how to handle them and uses them to find out about the latest moves Khairy is making against him. Khairy does not realise this, but the boys he has placed in Najib’s office are his biggest critics. Whenever they speak to Najib’s people they give the impression that they do not agree with Khairy’s moves. At first this starts out as a lie, but slowly, as the lie becomes bigger, they have to insert a few home truths in it. These are quickly seized upon as Khairy’s evil plans to dethrone their heir apparent.

Some of Khairy’s allies have quite obviously turned against him. In the last Umno party election, Hishammuddin Hussein pushed very hard for Khairy to be installed as his Deputy. Hishammuddin personally called other challengers to Khairy’s position and even telephoned Muhkriz Mahathir to ensure that Khairy’s ascension was given a smooth ride. But just mention Khairy’s name in front of Hishammuddin now and one can feel the burning vitriol. Hishammuddin is angry with Khairy and he is angry enough to say it in public to other members of Umno Youth.

Khairy is being used by Hishammuddin’s opponents to get their way. Whenever Hishammuddin refuses to do something they want him to do, they quote Khairy’s name in his face. Hishammuddin just hates that, and quite rightly so. He is angered by Khairy’s blatant moves to meet up with Umno Youth members behind his back. He believes that Khairy is committing a ‘derhaka’ and should be put in his place. Slowly, Hishammuddin drifts away from Khairy’s circle.

Those who work for Hishammuddin have noticed how paranoid their boss has become of late. Hishammuddin is always looking over his shoulders, fearing the knife that Khairy wants to plant in his back. Hishammuddin knows that some of his officers are loyal to Khairy and he has been extremely careful to exclude them from his discussions. He does not do so blatantly, but they are being phased out. Preparations are being made for the great showdown where Hishammuddin will take sides against Khairy with the people who want to secure the post-Abdullah succession.

Sycophantic letters to the press written by Mustapha Ong, PERTIWI, Sisters in Islam and Phar Kim Beng have also not been helpful to Khairy. People can immediately see through them and Khairy has been foolish enough to think that the connection is not visible. The world has become much more porous and transparent. These connections are there for all to see. Even in groups that are ostensibly seen by the unknowing public as being supportive of Khairy, subtle distinctions can be made which show them to actually be agents for Khairy’s enemies.

One example is the many so-called youth and professional groups that exist today. Many are badly-run self-serving fronts for ambitious Young Turks who imagine themselves too good for direct involvement in Umno. Some create this façade of supporting Khairy and his ideals but in reality pressure him to do what he cannot afford at this stage of his political life. They try and give the lie to his promises to eradicate corruption and money politics. Instead of supporting Khairy, they are trying to kill him softly.

Some of Khairy’s trusted lieutenants have been important sources of information. For example, Khairy’s movements during the last days of Endon Mahmood were reported to this website by no other than those within the Seri Perdana residential complex. Ostensibly, they should be Khairy supporters, but given the choice between Abdullah and Khairy, they would not plump for the young pretender. Instead, their loyalty lies with the big boss who faced up and down with them.

When Khairy went missing for long periods of time during Endon’s last days, it was the Seri Perdana sources who talked. Soon, top Umno leaders who came to read Yaasin were made fully aware that Khairy’s whereabouts had become a major source of concern. It was the talk of the Umno circles, especially those who are of Abdullah’s age and immediately below. They felt that this had become too much and that Khairy should be more respectful to the man who made him into what he is today.

One of Khairy’s traits is to favour foreign journalists against Malaysian ones. Khairy is more comfortable in addressing the Singaporean, American and Australian journalists who in the past have been full of praise for him. To them, Khairy spills more beans. Malaysian journalists have bosses who report directly to Khairy and can therefore be controlled by him. Foreign journalists, on the other hand, do not have such problems. They are free agents, even mercenaries, and what they say about Khairy to other Umno politicians and opposition figures in Malaysia have made Khairy’s life difficult.

A favourite of foreign journalists is the former Finance Minister, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who is probably the most well-informed Umno politician today. Almost every move Khairy makes is reported by these foreign journalists to those who can best exploit the information. In Khairy’s naïve world where foreigners should respect him for his Oxford background, Khairy often finds himself the most important source for all the leaks about his life, plans, plots and movements.

What Khairy does not understand is that he surrounds himself with loose cannons. But those loose canons do not aim at random figures. Instead, they swivel towards him and, sooner or later, the cannonballs will begin hitting him hard. Khairy’s worst enemies are actually the people closest to his circle. He has reached the stage often felt by a politician in high power; loneliness at the top. Even his friends cannot be trusted anymore...

PART 19
A republic of fear

Some leaders command respect from their followers. Others are loved and cherished, maybe even revered or idolised. However, according to that great political theorist Machiavelli, the mark of a successful leader is one who rules by fear. Fear prompts a person to do more than he usually would, to go that extra mile for the sake of self-preservation. Fear is an effective weapon by which following and loyalty can be procured. A person who manages to make others fear him can very quickly rise from being the school bully to the leader of a huge nation.

Those close to Khairy Jamaluddin say that he is a studious aspirant of the Machiavellian mould. Though at this stage of his political career Khairy needs to nurture popularity, he believes that in the long run, in order to remain the most potent political force in Malaysia, he has to make people fear him. Slowly, that is beginning to take shape. Khairy has elevated himself above his peers to the extent they now have to acknowledge that they live and die by his will. Their future advancement, be it in the field of politics, industry, or even the media, is dependent on their ability to toe Khairy’s line of thinking. Those who overstep the boundary and believe themselves equal to Khairy (or even worse, better than him) quickly find themselves out in the cold.

Even the most senior of UMNO leaders have to pay their respects to the son-in-law of the Prime Minister. Menteris Besar such as Abdul Ghani Othman of Johor and Adnan Yaakob of Pahang even go so far as to make sure that they are present at the tarmac when Khairy’s plane touches the ground during his visits to their home states. Those such as Taib Mahmud of Sarawak and Khir Toyo of Selangor who refuse to give Khairy the due respect find themselves quickly out of favour. Khairy whispers into the ears of Abdullah Badawi that people such as these should be next on the list of traitors to be hauled to the chopping block. No doubt, Taib and Khir are two of the most corrupt state leaders currently in power. But are they any more corrupt than, for example, Ali Rustam of Melaka? Yet, Ali Rustam escapes assassination for the simple reason he pays his dues to Khairy and kowtows to the hand he cannot bite.

In actual fact, Abdullah Badawi’s so-called war against corruption is but a selective and self-interest vendetta. Hardly any within Khairy’s favoured circle get hauled up to face the wrath of the enforcers, even if they are more blatant and open about their corrupt acts. In politics, UMNO Youth Heads who bow to Khairy rarely get punished for paying for votes. In the GLCs, corrupt CEOs get away with tens of millions through countless scams and scandals because they pay court to Khairy. A good example is the recent losses in MAS, where those who were installed to clean up Tajudin Ramli’s mess have been proven incapable of doing the job in spite of their Oxbridge qualifications. Yet they are promoted, not punished, for the simple reason they are Khairy’s poster boys.

Khairy’s main role in Abdullah Badawi’s administration is as a spin-doctor. He builds up Abdullah’s image. But there is no substance in that image. Now the cracks are beginning to show but it is a little too late for the damage to be repaired. Khairy persuades analysts in the foreign banks (many who swoon over the opportunity to have tea with him) to write ‘analyses’ saying that Abdullah’s reforms have to be given time to bear fruit. This is mere hogwash. Many of Khairy’s apologists such as Kalimullah Hassan Masheerul Hassan, Brenda Pereira and Phar Kim Beng are masters of spin who owe their lives and careers to Khairy. One can scarcely hope for them to be genuinely critical in their assessments. They are servants of the master propagandist – no more, no less.

One of the most recent victims of Khairy’s republic of fear is the Federal Territory UMNO Youth Chief, Datuk Norza Zakaria. Norza started out in UMNO Youth before Khairy appeared on the scene. It could therefore be said that Norza is Khairy’s senior in politics. But Norza’s promotion as the Federal Territory UMNO Youth Chief and his sudden elevation to the UMNO Supreme Council, coupled with his lucrative position as Political Secretary to Second Finance Minister Nor Mohamed Yakcop, were all the result of Khairy’s grace and favour. Norza has only average intelligence, which of course puts him way ahead of ordinary UMNO Youth Exco Members. Nevertheless, without Khairy, Norza’s name would have been quickly forgotten.

When the Khairy Chronicles first hit the Internet, Norza was one of those who panicked upon the revelation of the millions he has thus far gained through his friendship with Khairy. Several attempts were made to contact this website in order to persuade Malaysia Today to reduce its expose on Norza’s activities. When this proved unsuccessful, Norza went to see a certain ‘Reformasi’ activist who conveyed the message to this website that Norza wanted to tell his side of the story. According to Norza, he was never close to Khairy. In fact, Norza openly remarked, his rise in UMNO Youth had all to do with his own abilities and not because of favourable treatment from Khairy.

Norza’s big mistake was to repeat this same line of argument to several of Khairy’s boys in the Finance Ministry. Word quickly got back to Khairy that the dog was trying to disown its master. Khairy promptly gave Norza the silent treatment and for awhile Norza went into a state of depression. All he wanted to do was cover up the scandals he had been cooking in the Finance Ministry by distancing himself from Khairy and denying his role as Khairy’s bag-carrier. Instead, Norza found himself at the receiving end of Khairy’s anger and even as you read this article he is still frantically trying to repair the damage done.

Of course, we already know what is going to happen. Norza will crawl to Khairy with his tail between his legs and, like Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List, Khairy will ‘forgive’ Norza. That is his prerogative as the boss. Hands will be kissed and all will be honky dory again. Norza will now forever remember never to cross Khairy’s path again.

The self-preservation attitude of most UMNO Youth members is what makes Khairy unassailable in the ranks of that organisation. To be honest, Hishammuddin Hussein is only the temporary head of UMNO Youth, the seat-warmer for when Khairy feels he is in the best position and ready to take over. Any loyalty given to Hishammuddin is transient and at least two of Hishammuddin’s nominees as ‘Yang Berhormats’ in his home state of Johor have now switched sides to Khairy’s camp. After Khairy’s visit to the Batu Pahat division a few months ago, these two, whose seats had been the personal gifts of Hishammuddin, met with Khairy in a hotel room in Johor Baru and spilled the beans. They told Khairy in minute detail how Hishammuddin reports Khairy’s every move to his cousin and Deputy Prime Minister, Najib Tun Razak, while at the same time pretending to agree with his deputy’s actions.

In actual fact, Hishammuddin is disgusted with Khairy’s self-seeking pronouncements, in particular his unilateral decision to form a club comprised solely of UMNO Division Youth Vice-Chiefs throughout the country and his unbalanced speeches during the UMNO General Assembly, supporting Hishammuddin’s stance on the NEP in one speech only to refute them in another speech a mere two days later.

Hishammuddin knows that time is running out for him and the journey to the top (i.e. the UMNO Vice-Presidency) is a road fraught with difficulties. But he has little choice in the matter. He is trapped by his own misguided belief that Khairy was a raw and untalented young man in a hurry who could be easily checked by Hishammuddin’s vast experience in UMNO Youth over the last decade.

The Permatang Pauh UMNO Youth Head, Mohd Zaidi Said, says that Khairy has now become the most feared UMNO politician. His wealth accumulated over the short space of two-and-a-half years has allowed him to be transformed into one of the most successful patrons of young UMNO politicians. According to Mohd Zaidi, UMNO Youth leaders are falling over each other to swear their loyalty to Khairy and enjoy a piece of the pie. They are making hay while the sun shines and they believe that hitching a ride on the Khairy bandwagon will at the very least give them some money to live well. And if things go smoothly, when Khairy finally ascends the highest position within UMNO, he will drag some of them along on his coat-tails.

Take, for example, the current situation in Pengkalan Pasir. All the potential candidates from UMNO only pay lip-service to the Kelantan State Liaison Chief, Annuar Musa. When it comes to getting blessings for their efforts to be named the official candidate of Barisan Nasional, the names of Annuar Musa, Mustapa Mohamad, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Zaid Ibrahim, Awang Adek, or any of the Kelantan UMNO stalwarts do not matter a jot. Nor do they make a beeline to see the UMNO Management Committee Chairman, Najib Tun Razak. It is Khairy’s blessing that they seek.

The very day after the death of PAS assemblyman Wan Aziz, both Hanafi Mamat and Che Johan Che Pa, the Deputy and Vice-Heads of UMNO’s Pasir Mas Division, sent at least three messages each to Khairy asking for an appointment. Not only that, they also trawled through their phone books to search for the names of Khairy’s friends who could put in a good word for them with the Boss of Bosses. One of the potential candidates tried to butter up UMNO Information Chief Muhammad Muhammad Taib only to find that Muhammad’s advice to him was to “talk to Khairy”. Another potential candidate, after finding out that Khairy was attending the Executive Committee meeting of the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) last week, even tried to get himself appointed as Kelantan representative to the meeting in order to “get closer” to the man.

When UMNO finally announces its candidate, there will be no doubt that that person will be Khairy’s choice. The charade that Annuar Musa is playing, saying that he has the authority to decide on the candidate subject to the final blessing of Abdullah Badawi, is the perfect example of the master ‘dalang’ playing his ‘wayang kulit’. Annuar Musa is adept at playing that role and the ‘dalang’ always plays the story he is paid to play.

The fatal miscalculation for any UMNO politician now would be to cross Khairy’s path. That is the kiss of death. From Perlis to Sabah, every UMNO politician knows, though Khairy may not be the king, he is definitely the kingmaker. But fear can sometimes trigger a revolution that sweeps out the dictator...

PART 20
Does UMNO really want to win?

A Special Report on Khairy Jamaluddin’s role before and during the Pengkalan Pasir by-election

It is 8.00 am. Khairy Jamaluddin is stuck in the usual Monday morning traffic jam synonymous with Kuala Lumpur. He is running 15 minutes late for a meeting with some UMNO Youth leaders who had insisted on an early morning breakfast to discuss the latest power struggle in their division. Khairy had taken the precaution of sitting in the shotgun seat of his car. He often does that to avoid the impression of arrogance. The chauffeur swerves sharply along the meandering route to the Crown Princess Hotel where the meeting is to take place. Khairy quickly checks his wallet. He does not know what the boys want to discuss, but he is sure of one thing: whatever it is they had to say, he would be the one paying the bill that morning.

The special shirt that Khairy wore had extra pockets for the three handphones that he carries around. The First Handphone is the Maxis 012 that is his public number. Everyone knows what it is because Khairy puts it on all his name cards as well as the Pemuda UMNO website. Khairy uses it to send SMSes and the phone is always kept on silent mode because it rings every other minute. Everyone feels that Khairy owes them an audience and they range from the lowest member of UMNO Youth and part-time Internet buff who had come across the number in the old UMNO Youth website, to a Chinese towkay trying his luck with the man Singapore businessmen are already dubbing ‘Mr 20%’.

Khairy’s Second Phone carries a 019 number that he gives out only to important contacts. The editors of the mainstream newspapers both in Malaysia and Singapore have this number, as do two of the most prominent young opposition politicians in the country, Husam Musa and Ezam Mohd Nor. The number is also available to ministers who nowadays feel it necessary to call Khairy once in a while just to touch base and shoot the breeze. He never uses this phone except for the closest of acquaintances and he knows that when it rings he should not pick it up in full view of the general public.

It was this handphone that suddenly beeped. An SMS had come through. The time was 8.05 am. The news was brief and necessarily succinct. It read: “Wan Aziz, ADUN Pengkalan Pasir, dies at 6.05 am this morning”. Khairy knew immediately what this meant. For three months, both UMNO and PAS had been on a bedside vigil, waiting for Wan Aziz to pass away. The state assembly member for Pengkalan Pasir, a small but significant state seat in the Parliamentary constituency of Pasir Mas, had been suffering from liver cancer and his condition had been deteriorating rapidly. So all knew that it was a matter of time before UMNO and PAS would have a real fight on their hands. Khairy also knew that the giant of Pasir Mas, Dato’ Ibrahim Ali, would be a factor in this race and had to be extinguished once and for all.

Khairy instinctively picked up the Third Handphone. This is an iPAQ, the number which is pre-programmed with his codename and known only to the Prime Minister, his immediate family, and their security detail. This is also the number that Abdullah Ahmad Badawi would use to speak to his son-in-law. Abdullah Badawi himself has only one phone which is almost always carried by the Private Secretary following him at any given function. Abdullah’s number is on a secure line, unlisted and cannot appear in any phone because it has been pre-programmed as such by a security expert. It even has the ability to send out SMSes and other messages through an anonymous router so that the number does not appear at all. Khairy thought that he should call Abdullah’s number and inform him of Wan Aziz’s death. But then Abdullah would probably have known about it first and it was no use telling him something he already knew. In any case, Khairy remembered that an incident in March 2004 had turned Abdullah off Kelantan politics.

Back then, Abdullah was heavily dependent on Khairy to devise his election victory. Though the image-building and spin-doctoring had been a success, Abdullah still felt that Kelantan was out of reach for UMNO. If Abdullah was now being sold as an ulama, then Kelantan Menteri Besar Nik Aziz is the father of all ulamas. His leadership of the state looked unassailable because of the high respect accorded his straight attitude by the local Malays. Admittedly, he was prone to gaffes, but then so was Abdullah.

Abdullah had sent an emissary to see Nik Aziz to offer a compromise where UMNO would give PAS an easy passage in certain seats. Of course, UMNO would not shirk from fielding a candidate there as well, but it would conduct a half-hearted campaign in these selected seats where it had no chance of winning. Nik Aziz was agreeable to the idea but the plan was shot down by other PAS leaders, in particular the Young Turks in Kelantan. So Abdullah had to go back to the drawing board and together with Khairy devise a new strategy of putting professional faces as candidates in Kelantan.

Khairy presented the candidates' list to Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak who was chairing the committee tasked with the job of selecting BN candidates for the General Election. Najib was highly disturbed. The Kelantan list excluded almost every man who had previously been an ally of Najib. Instead, these figures who had served with Najib in UMNO Youth had been replaced by ‘outsiders’ – i.e. fresh blood from Kuala Lumpur. These new lawyers, accountants, businessmen and former civil servants were Khairy’s choice to change the face of Kelantan UMNO. It also matched the new image of the leadership of Kelantan UMNO Liaison Chief, Mustapa Mohamad, who is seen as uncharismatic, wooden and boring, though a genius at economics.

Najib did not say a word to Khairy. But he immediately asked his Political Secretary, Datuk Fatmi (the former UMNO Youth Head of Kota Baru), to fax a copy of the list to Najib’s allies in Kelantan. They were understandably upset, angry and demoralised. To them, Khairy’s list represented the end of their political careers. Though they knew they could not say anything now, they would devise a plan to humiliate Khairy later on. The young man went to sleep unaware that at least 20 UMNO leaders in Kelantan were sharpening their knives and had now suddenly become his sworn enemies.

A few days before Nomination Day, the list drawn up by Khairy and approved by Abdullah was sent by messenger to Kota Baru. UMNO Kelantan was supposed to keep the list in a safe so that the surat watikahs can be prepared for Nomination Day. At least that was the plan. Unfortunately, Khairy did not count for the wily behaviour of his Kelantan party colleagues. When flight MH1388 touched down at the Sultan Ismail Petra airport in Pengkalan Chepa, the UMNO messenger was immediately met by 10 burly figures in UMNO Youth uniforms. Thinking that they were his minders, he quickly got into one of the cars on standby for him. However, instead of heading for the UMNO headquarters, the car made a detour and the bag carrying the list was quickly snatched away. The messenger was detained in a safe-house in Jalan Long Yunus and ‘advised’ to stay there until the ‘bosses’ had done their work. What happened next was like a bedroom farce. All those UMNO leaders whom Khairy had dropped; some whom were qualified lawyers and many of them former members of the state government of the 1980s; were put back into the list to replace the names of all those whom Khairy had picked. This new list was then deposited as the proper list to be used for the 2004 General Election. It was just a matter of hours before the press conference by the Kelantan UMNO State Liaison Committee to announce their line-up for the coming polls.

Of course, the messenger’s silence was procured through a suitable bribe. Nevertheless, the secret could not be kept for long. People like Dato’ Nordin Razak, who had been tipped to contest the Kota Baru parliamentary seat and had told his friends accordingly, suddenly found themselves dropped from the list. Others like Dato’ Mustapa Taib saw their names appearing elsewhere. Parliamentary and state candidates were switched around, including Hanafi Mamat who had been slated for a parliamentary seat rather than the state constituency of Pengkalan Pasir which he ended up contesting. Those who were dropped or switched around swiftly called up Abdullah’s office to complain. But it was too late in the day. Abdullah was too busy to entertain them as he had to face other problems such as the appearance of a so-called ‘Mahathir list’ and the Sultan of Johor’s rejection of Abdullah’s candidate for Menteri Besar. Instead of finding a firm offer from Abdullah to reinstate his son-in-law’s list, the decision was made that the doctored list would now become the official one. Abdullah did not want a scandal so early in his premiership, so he shrugged it off as irrelevant because UMNO probably had little chance of winning Kelantan anyway.

Surprisingly, things turned out very differently. PAS managed to hold onto the Kelantan State Assembly by the narrowest of margin and quickly found themselves under pressure to hang onto their last bastion. It was then that Khairy committed his second Kelantan blunder. He received a call from Husam Musa to explore the idea of both parties holding a ceasefire in their election petitions against each other. Khairy began negotiations and concluded them with Husam without even referring to the state leadership. He of course called up Mustapa Mohamad but neglected to discuss it with other top UMNO leaders in Kelantan, many of whom would not be told of the decision because they were not on speaking terms with Mustapa.

The decision to ‘make a deal’ with Husam resulted in Khairy losing the support of some of the Kelantan UMNO Young Turks eager to seize the day and depose PAS from Kelantan once and for all. They did not want PAS to have even an inch of opportunity in recovering from the setback they had suffered at the General Election. Many of them also felt they had good cause to challenge some of the narrow PAS victories, especially in seats where votes had been counted twice or where ballot papers had disappeared or had been wrongly distributed between candidates. Even some of the older UMNO leaders like Hashim Safin openly opposed Khairy’s decision to make a deal with Husam on their behalf. One thing the Kelantanese UMNO leaders hate more than PAS is any UMNO leader from outside Kelantan who makes decisions on their behalf. Fiercely independent, they resented the brash, young Oxford graduate whom they felt had been easily tricked by Husam; who is at least ten years Khairy’s senior and much more experienced in local politics and therefore seen as wilier in local politics.

So, in spite of the mass media saying that Khairy is a popular leader with Kelantan UMNO, he had a fair share of enemies from the state. He may not realise it, but even if he had meant well in making a deal with PAS, it would have been better if someone else rather than he make that decision. The resentment he caused seethed down to the divisions and seriously affected Kelantan UMNO, which will now have a major impact on the Pengkalan Pasir by-election.

A few hours after Wan Aziz’s death, Khairy received a phone call from Dato’ Rahim, the Pasir Mas UMNO division head. Dato’ Rahim told Khairy what he already knew, namely that Wan Aziz was dead. Dato’ Rahim said nothing else other than whoever was chosen to contest the by-election would get his full support. Of course, this was not what Dato’ Rahim really wanted. He had been eyeing the seat for several months. Though he was a Parliamentary candidate in the last general election, Dato’ Rahim was desperate to prove that the weakness of Pasir Mas UMNO was not a result of his ineffective handling of the antics of his sacked predecessor, Dato’ Ibrahim Ali, but a result of ‘other people’s incompetence’. More importantly, Dato’ Rahim had the money to pump into the by-election and would more willingly spend it on his own candidacy rather than someone else’s.

Khairy did not see it that way though. To him, Dato’ Rahim is a big name who had failed to deliver. In any case, he was too old, and Dato’ Rahim must have realised from the tone of his voice that Khairy did not want him to fill in Wan Aziz’s shoes.

Instead, Khairy was more amenable to a younger candidate. There were two: Hanafi Mamat, who as a 51-year old businessman was not overly old yet nor too young to be described as a Khairy puppet. Then there was Che Johan Che Pa, an Arts graduate from the University of Malaya who had made good as a lawyer with his second degree from the UK. Both called up Khairy and told him that, like Dato’ Rahim, they too would give their support to whoever was chosen as the candidate.

At first, Che Johan had the upper hand. Khairy felt that Che Johan was more presentable than Hanafi. Che Johan also had an impeccable student activism record, something which Khairy himself sorely lacks. Khairy was persuaded by Che Johan’s friends who sent him countless SMSes to extol the lawyer’s candidacy. More importantly, the Special Branch had reported that Che Johan had successfully infiltrated PAS circles by putting ‘pretend’ PAS Youth members in their midst. Some had even been chosen as members of the Pasir Mas PAS election strategy team. The sneakiness of Che Johan’s work commended himself to Khairy.

Khairy’s mistake, however, was in revealing his preference too soon. Amongst others, Khairy ‘checked’ Che Johan’s name with other local UMNO leaders including Dato’ Rahim. Though they tried their best to bite their lips and fake their agreement, secretly they planned to bring Che Johan down. Dato’ Rahim’s strategy was simple. He would lull Che Johan into thinking that his candidacy was assured because he had the blessing of Khairy. Dato’ Rahim planned for Che Johan to accompany visiting UMNO dignitaries such as Secretary-General Dato’ Radzi Sheikh Ahmad and Information Chief Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib in their visits to the constituency. Che Johan believed the nomination was his for the taking.

Dato’ Rahim then started a whispering campaign to oust Khairy from running the election. In the beginning, Khairy had been nominated as the man responsible for the UMNO campaign in Pengkalan Pasir. In preparation for this, Khairy began appearing in newspapers in the act of greeting villagers and shaking hands with elderly folk. At first, the strategy worked. Newspapers showed Khairy in the guise of a pious mendicant, sporting a watch bearing signs of the kiblat and wearing something on his wrist which even Jeff Ooi was fooled into saying in his blog were ‘prayer beads’ or tasbih. Khairy was portrayed as a man for all seasons, someone who was equally comfortable with kings as well as paupers.

Then Dato’ Rahim struck. Early on in the pre-campaign period, Khairy had briefed all the major newspaper editors not to carry any news regarding Dato’ Ibrahim Ali, the independent candidate who was a would-be spoiler in the race. A vote for Ibrahim Ali would probably have come from UMNO partisans, and therefore an advantage to PAS. Khairy’s idea was to shut out Ibrahim Ali completely and make him ‘disappear’ from the radar screens.

The plan backfired badly. Word soon leaked to Dato’ Ibrahim Ali that Khairy had given the gagging instruction. Ibrahim Ali however had a trump card up his sleeve. In the run-up to Nomination Day, UMNO began to panic. Efforts were made to coax Ibrahim Ali into changing his plan. A meeting was held between UMNO Secretary-General Radzi Sheikh Ahmad and Ibrahim Ali to ‘negotiate’ his withdrawal from the race. Unknown to Khairy though, Ibrahim Ali had agreed to withdraw only if he was given back his UMNO Pasir Mas division head post and replaced Annuar Musa as the Kelantan UMNO Liaison Chief.

But that in itself was not the trump card. There was another person in that meeting who was representing the UMNO President. Strangely enough, this was none other than SPR Chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman. The purpose of his attendance was to convince Ibrahim Ali that he could garner no more than 700 votes whereas he had achieved double that in the election before this. Tan Sri Rashid showed Ibrahim Ali the calculations regarding the ten voting channels or UPU of which, according to Tan Sri Rashid, UMNO had a clear majority in at least seven of them, including several previously considered Ibrahim Ali ‘possibles’. Only Kubang Bemban, Jalan Pasir Pekan and central Pengkalan Pasir seemed to be slightly favourable to PAS. It was all a bluff of course. Tan Sri Rashid had culled his report from a certain Major entailed to make preliminary enquiries – in any case highly inaccurate. But Ibrahim Ali now threatened to make public the fact that Tan Sri Rashid, a supposedly neutral election commissioner, had really been quite openly acting for UMNO and indifferent to public opinion if not for the coverage by the local media.

Ibrahim Ali’s intention is not to win the by-election but to garner enough votes and stay relevant in Kelantan politics. If Ibrahim Ali can get more than 1,500 votes, this in itself would be a tight slap on the face of the UMNO leaders, Khairy included, who had sidelined him from the state leadership years ago. Ibrahim Ali knows the state assembly seat means nothing to either party if he wins it. But it matters both to UMNO and PAS that they themselves get it.

Dato’ Rahim is blaming Ibrahim Ali’s move on Khairy. So Khairy was ‘persuaded’ to lay off Pasir Mas for awhile and leave things to the locals to handle. Instead, Khairy was given the task of coordinating efforts in KL and to mobilise campaigners from outside Kelantan to get Pengkalan Pasir voters in Kuala Lumpur to go back to vote on 6th December. In the meantime, in Khairy’s absence, Dato’ Rahim outmanoeuvred Che Johan. He arranged for Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to ‘receive’ a poison-pen letter with certain documents proving that Che Johan had been involved in forging the cheques of an UMNO foundation called Yayasan Pasir Mas to the tune of RM200,000.

Najib panicked and immediately summoned Che Johan who stammered and explained that he signed the cheques on the instructions of the then foundation chairman, namely Dato’ Ibrahim Ali. Najib refused to listen and swiftly deleted Che Johan’s name as the candidate for the Pengkalan Pasir by-election.

It was too late for Khairy to do anything about it. By that time Dato’ Rahim had played his second card. He immediately announced that he himself did not want to be the candidate and left the door open to Hanafi Mamat, who of course is now not expected to challenge Dato’ Rahim in the next UMNO divisional election. Che Johan had no choice but to give grudging support to Hanafi. But he did not lie still, bemoaning his bad luck. Instead, Che Johan began to block his supporters from attending campaign meetings conducted by UMNO. Their numbers began to dwindle and became starkly evident whenever top UMNO leaders including Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and UMNO Youth Leader Hishamuddin Hussein came to visit.

Che Johan now knew he had no chance against the united alliance of Dato’ Rahim and Hanafi Mamat. The only way he could remain relevant in future Kelantan politics is to have a godfather bigger than the two of them combined. His immediate thoughts went to getting Khairy on his side. Though he might have lost his chance now, backing Khairy would ensure that, at least in the long term, he would be carried as baggage on Khairy’s coattails.

So it was important that Khairy came back to Pengkalan Pasir. The UMNO leadership was now crippled by the Pasir Mas civil war and the incompetence of the top state leaders. It was also noted that, whereas other UMNO leaders came only to give grand speeches in orchestrated public ceremonies, Khairy had a knack for going down to dirty his hands with the common people. The arrival of Anwar Ibrahim on the evening of Nomination Day convinced UMNO that they too needed a hard-hitter who could not be so easily dismissed as another UMNO stereotype.

But Khairy’s return to Pengkalan Pasir is not universally welcomed. Many top UMNO leaders are unhappy that he is drawing too much attention to himself and drawing away publicity from their own appearances. Wanita UMNO Head, Rafidah Aziz, seethed with anger when she discovered that only RTM followed her around during her brief sojourn in Pengkalan Pasir, while all the other news stations and print media went tailing Khairy to a surau-painting exercise. According to an RTM reporter, Rafidah sarcastically remarked that she was merely an old ‘makcik’ and ‘they should follow that young man around instead of her’. In addition, several UMNO leaders from outside Kelantan now began to carry some unsavoury material to share with their friends. This included a 25-page poison pen letter detailing Khairy’s financial scandals which had previously been circulated in Kedah during the tussle between Menteri Besar Syed Razak and his heir-apparent Mahadzir Khalid. Because other states had not received such letters, some of the Kedah boys made it a point to make several copies and share them with their fellow party members from outside. One copy found its way into the hands of Adnan Yaakob and a certain Menteri Besar from the south asked his secretary to make a copy for each division head in his state – of course, ‘only for information purposes’.

More importantly, Khairy’s re-emergence in Pengkalan Pasir has made UMNO Youth leader Hishamuddin Hussein even more suspicious of Khairy’s future plans. Already angry that Khairy divided Pengkalan Pasir into east and west between the two of them, as if they are equals, Hishamuddin lacks the ‘star quality’ that Khairy exudes. Hishamuddin knows that a victory in Pengkalan Pasir would not be attributed to him as he is scarcely there, even in the five voting channels he is slated to be in charge of. Hishamuddin’s runner, Akhbar Khan, had to beg a reporter from The Star to cover Hishamuddin’s badly attended functions rather than cover Khairy’s more popular ceramah. All the newspapers have dubbed the Pengkalan Pasir by-election as ‘Khairy’s election’ and it will be Khairy who gets the kudos if BN wins.

So a PAS victory in Pengkalan Pasir will be a disappointment to only certain UMNO leaders. Abdullah Badawi himself could not care less what happens because with a sizeable four-fifths majority in Parliament he is nominally the most powerful Prime Minister ever. But to Najib and Hishamuddin, a BN victory is Khairy’s victory and a sure sign that their days are numbered.

On the other hand, a PAS victory in Pengkalan Pasir will only further dent Khairy’s invincible image. He cannot afford to be seen by his fellow UMNO members as having failed to deliver. If he plays his cards wrong, Pengkalan Pasir may be Khairy’s Pearl Harbour, the beginning of when people start to realise that Khairy is not the giant that the NST and TV3 paints him out to be.

Khairy is trying hard to make sure that BN wins in Pengkalan Pasir. All out efforts are being made to bring back nearly three thousand voters who live outside the constituency, either in other areas in Kelantan, in Kuala Lumpur, or even as far away as Singapore. The SPR has been told to hold off efforts by PAS and Dato’ Ibrahim Ali to get information regarding the 'immigrant' voters. At the same time, money is pouring into Pengkalan Pasir as if this was an election for the whole state of Kelantan. While the newspapers have been downplaying BN’s inroads in the constituency, this is merely to stave off PAS voters from turning out in large numbers on Polling Day.

For all intents and purposes, Pengkalan Pasir is no longer just a by-election in a small town that no one knew existed until a couple of weeks ago. Pengkalan Pasir is a proxy war. It is also a war being fought on many fronts. It is a war between the Ibrahim Ali faction, that wishes to prove he is still relevant to Kelantan politics, and the current Kelantan UMNO leadership, that wishes to retire him for good. It is a war between UMNO and PAS to determine who would probably form the state government come the next general election in 2007 or 2008. It is a war between Khairy, who wants to prove his prowess, and those who would like to bring him down and deny him the Prime Ministership in 2015 or so.

Never before has so many political futures rested on a mere by-election.

Khairy knows that in the current situation, where the ratings are 50:50, UMNO will still squeak through with a majority of around 500 votes. A small ‘skewing’ of votes will not be that suspicious. But if PAS ever finds an issue that swings the voters on the ground to more than 60% support for the Islamic party, then Khairy might have to kiss Pengkalan Pasir goodbye. And PAS seems to have found such an issue; the issue being the Kelantan UMNO state chief himself.

Khairy realises that the infighting in Kelantan UMNO is even fiercer than that between it and PAS. The greatest liability to UMNO is its state chief, Annuar Musa. The Chinese despise him for his ‘China baruah’ retort in the Kelantan State Assembly that has been reproduced into a VCD and is being circulated amongst the Chinese voters. The other Kelantan UMNO leaders despise him and want Pengkalan Pasir to fall to PAS just so that Annuar Musa can be brought down. With Annuar Musa heading the by-election, UMNO might as well pack its bags and allow PAS a walkover.

Then the uphill battle would begin, not for Kelantan UMNO, but for Khairy Jamaluddin as the UMNO politician.

Khairy is now playing his last card. He has just sacked Annuar Musa and replaced him with Muhammad Muhammad Taib. Mat Taib is supposed to be the saviour, the man who will turn UMNO’s fortunes in Pengkalan Pasir around. But Kelantan politics, just like its land laws, is unique. Even Malays cannot buy land in Kelantan unless they were born there or, in the event they are a ‘foreigner’ Malay from another state in Malaysia, have lived there for three generations. Putting Mat Taib, a non-Kelantanese, as the election chief is only slightly better than asking the MCA President, Ong Kah Ting, to manage the by-election.

Is this eleventh hour move by Khairy his biggest blunder yet in Kelantan? In three days' time we will know. Khairy will either emerge from the aftermath of Pengkalan Pasir as the undisputed political guru, or he will be seen as a bumbling fool. This is going to be the turning point for Khairy’s political career, one way or another...

PART 21
The Aftermath: Whose little victory?

The morning of the Pengkalan Pasir by-election, the Barisan Nasional election machinery was confident of an 800-vote majority win. Hanafi Mamat, the candidate for Barsian Nasional, predicted that he would capture around 8,000 votes, giving a comfortable lead over his rival from PAS. On the other side of the fence, the PAS operations room was still hopeful for a victory but predicted that the numbers, whatever they may be, would be wafer-thin. In the end, both camps got it right. BN got their victory, and PAS correctly predicted that the victor would obtain a minute majority, almost a blip amongst the 83% turnout.

No doubt BN secured their predicted victory, but tongues were soon a wagging about whether Khairy Jamaluddin had delivered what he promised. Early on in the campaign, Khairy had gone into Pengkalan Pasir in a blaze of glory. He had muscled in a massive publicity trail on the back of his down-to-earth approach, where he made personal appeals directly to the voters by attending to their individual needs. Khairy was seen painting houses, repairing toilets and cleaning up the streets as if that was the natural thing for a director of financial giant ECM Libra to do.

Somehow or other, Khairy had confidently announced he would be able to capture almost all the 2,000 young voters of Pengkalan Pasir. Given that in the last General Election PAS had won by only a 53-vote majority, this would translate into a 1,600-vote jump in the BN vote and a very comfortable 1,000-vote majority. Khairy had also promised that UMNO would be able to shake PAS to the core by obtaining the whole-hearted support of the 1,000-strong non-Malay community of the area.

Nevertheless, this promise did not come true. The victory Barisan Nasional ‘bought’ was derisory and difficult to justify in the face of the millions that had been poured into the area by both Barisan Nasional and the government. Based on the allocation given to Hanafi Mamat alone, each vote he garnered was worth at least RM11,500. It was a costly and ridiculously extravagant affair by Barisan Nasional for a seat that only produced a whisper instead of the storm of change they had expected in Kelantan politics.

Why did Khairy fail to deliver on his promise this time around? What happened to the genius that managed to score Barisan Nasional’s massive four-fifths landslide victory in the 11th General Election? Did Khairy’s magic turn out to be no more than a conjuring trick, a flash in the pan unable to sustain itself when it came down to real politics, instead of the spin doctoring that marked his earlier phase in politics?

Khairy’s failure was predicated on several reasons, some of which were his own doing. The first failure was the result of his ‘in-your-face’ style of campaigning which would have worked if he himself had been the candidate, but unfortunately distracted the UMNO machinery into an internal dispute. Khairy hogged the limelight and ruffled the feathers of the senior UMNO leadership in Kelantan. He had thought that the power of his superstar status would have made him a magnet to the voters.

Khairy was half-right. Many had come to observe out of curiosity the little ‘wunderkind’ from Kuala Lumpur who had been described by many as ‘the next Prime Minister but one’. But the voters of Pengkalan Pasir, the ones who really counted, did not flock to Khairy like the many groupies from other parts of the country that did so. To them, Khairy, like Anwar Ibrahim, was a curiosity – a freak that entertained them while the circus was in town. Anwar Ibrahim, too, had drawn many onlookers during his brief sojourn in Pengkalan Pasir. Tens of thousands had flocked to see him speak. But the majority of these did not have a vote in Pengkalan Pasir. Pengkalan Pasir was merely the circus and the spectators all came from outside. So, like Anwar, Khairy drew the crowds who in the end mattered least.

The voters of Pengkalan Pasir realised that, in the end, Khairy would go back to Kuala Lumpur and their hovels would still be rundown, their toilets dirty and their roads blotched. It was of no consequence to them that Khairy, for a few brief days, became the centre of attention in their tiny town.

So the media-hungry attitude of Khairy actually caused little effect on the voting pattern of Kelantan. It was a hard sell that did not work. On the other hand, it managed to rouse the anger of other UMNO leaders, notably Hishammuddin Hussein, Khairy’s ostensible boss, who was heard to grumble that his events were badly-attended due to the Pemuda machinery being commandeered by Khairy to follow in his tow, rather than serve the needs of Hishamuddin. The distrust between Hishammuddin’s camp in Pemuda UMNO and Khairy’s bunch of Young Turks has now reached boiling point. Hishamuddin took no credit for the victory or otherwise of BN in Pengkalan Pasir, knowing that it was Khairy’s intention to rub the shine on himself. For the time being, Hisham grits his teeth but the water is coming to a boil and will soon result in one of the two killing off the other.

But Hishammuddin is only a tentacle of the man who has now become Khairy’s real political rival. This man is heir-apparent Najib Tun Razak. In the past, Khairy’s friends who were close to Najib tried to build a consensus between the two camps. Najib also went to great pains to pander to Khairy’s whims and fancies -- such as bowing to his choice of officers in the Deputy Prime Minister’s Department. However, Pengkalan Pasir was the turning point in that relationship. It is now obvious to Najib that Khairy intends to rush headlong into UMNO politics instead of patiently awaiting his turn. At risk is Najib’s own tenure as the future Prime Minister and the position of his allies, including that of his cousin Hishammuddin. The self-seeking publicity Khairy sought in Pengkalan Pasir made it patently obvious to Najib’s camp that this young man was too much in a hurry and was willing to bulldoze his way through.

Khairy’s insistence, for example, that his preferred choice of Che Johan Che Pa as the candidate for Pengkalan Pasir was a challenge to Najib’s power. It is known in UMNO circles that Hanafi Mamat, having served as a former Youth Chief of Pasir Mas division during Najib’s tenure as UMNO Youth Head, was closer to and more trusted by the Deputy Prime Minister. Khairy’s dogged attempt to sell Che Johan as the more professional, youthful and forward-looking candidate irked Najib to no end. Finally, Najib exercised his prerogative by shooting down Che Johan over a corruption scandal involving a few hundred thousand ringgit. In actual fact, Najib was shooting down Khairy.

Of course, the Najib camp also did its best to discredit Khairy in Pengkalan Pasir. Accusations of Khairy’s misdeeds as the son-in-law of the Prime Minister were circulated not only by the PAS camp, but more by Najib supporters who used Pengkalan Pasir as an excuse to trade poison-pen letters about Khairy. Originally, supporters of outgoing Kedah Menteri Besar Syed Razak Syed Zain (no fan of Khairy) distributed details of Khairy’s devilish behaviour to visiting UMNO division leaders, and they were soon joined by people who were doing the same on behalf of potential UMNO Youth Head and Selangor Menteri Besar Khir Toyo.

Details that emerged showed quite clearly that forces within the government and UMNO were out to expose Khairy by using the opposition as a front. It was a proxy war which saw Khairy being attacked on a scale so personal and unprecedented since the time Anwar Ibrahim used the Reformasi movement to bash Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Khairy, of course, could contain the damage due to his control of the media. But the media has also become a Pandora’s Box. Khairy’s people in the media sniffed the air of freedom in the early days of Abdullah’s ascent to power and now felt that they had a little more guts than during Mahathir’s time. So, while they still toed the line, they have not been completely obedient to Khairy’s instruction to kill off all stories touching his personality. It became an issue in Pengkalan Pasir and voters were gleefully regaled with attacks on Khairy, as if he was the Prime Minister himself. No one bothered about deadpan, uninspiring, lethargic and tired Abdullah Badawi. Instead, they attacked what certain bloggers described as the Czar’s Rasputin.

All this made Khairy’s attempt to turn Pengkalan Pasir into a personal triumph a complete disaster. For the first time, UMNO members realised that Khairy was not a demigod but flesh and blood. They also knew for the first time that he could become a liability to the long-term survival of UMNO. Khairy’s unpopular attempts to replace the rank of UMNO leadership with his own cabal struck fear into the hearts of the veterans who are now beginning to realise to their chagrin that Abdullah Badawi could not be trusted to protect their careers against his rising son-in-law.

More importantly, Khairy’s narrow power-base within Pemuda UMNO are now waking up to the reality that there will be times when Khairy cannot deliver his promises. He failed to put in their preferred candidate. He did not manage to secure the support of the young men and women of Pengkalan Pasir. He is a potential source of rift between the leaders of Pemuda UMNO. And, most glaringly, Khairy was unable to shirk off the image that he is an opportunist who exploits the fact he is married to the Prime Minister’s daughter to make his way in the world. The most disappointed of all the UMNO machinery was the Pemuda ranks from whom Khairy hoped to launch his groundswell of support.

When a demigod becomes mere human, he also becomes prone to mortality. Pengkalan Pasir was the first salvo of a concerted attempt by forces opposed to Khairy to gather their collective strength and finish the boy wonder off. Let there be no mistake, even in the opposition there are people who are allied to Khairy’s cause, for example PAS Vice-President Husam Musa. Husam had built his reputation after the last General Election upon good relations with Khairy. His deal with Khairy to mutually withdraw both parties’ election petitions against each other and his reliance on Khairy to deliver monetary support to the ailing Kelantan government backfired badly. It looks like Husam is finished as the future Menteri Besar of Kelantan. He is no longer a trusted man amongst the members of the elite of PAS. Though he may still be the right-hand man of Menteri Besar Nik Aziz Nik Mat, he pulled his punches too often and will face an uphill struggle to regain credibility. In any case, Nik Aziz is living out his last days as Kelantan Menteri Besar. As Khairy’s star dims, Husam’s too will fade away.

Khairy’s enemies both within UMNO and the opposition will find common cause in defeating him. It would be easier for the senior UMNO leaders to openly back Najib Tun Razak against Khairy, as it will be Najib who is credited with the BN victory in Pengkalan Pasir. Najib’s choice of candidate, his personal attention to the ground machinery, his use of the established network in the Special Branch as well as the Election Commission, and his knack for building a consensus amongst the UMNO leadership was far more successful than Khairy’s abrasive steam-rolling.

Najib made friends in Pengkalan Pasir, whereas Khairy only created more enemies. The situation now is not an easy one for Abdullah Badawi. He is placed in a similar position as Dr Mahathir Mohamad was in 1998 where the heir-apparent had become a threatening figure to his legacy. Uneasy days lie ahead for both Najib and Khairy. But it is a turning point for both men. Najib has salvaged his reputation as the sitting duck, waiting for Khairy’s rifle to shoot him down. On the other hand, Khairy faces the first of his many internal challenges within UMNO. Whereas Khairy has risen effortlessly through the ranks thus far, the next steps in his climb up the pole of UMNO politics will be met with the bristle of thorns.

Armageddon comes soon for many in Malaysian politics. Within UMNO and within PAS, the post-mortem of Pengkalan Pasir will be followed by the drawing of daggers. Some will stab and some will be stabbed. The dirty rush of Malaysian politics will again lead to an interesting time for the people and other observers alike.

PART 22
A fatal miscalculation

All politicians are concerned with their legacy. How they are remembered matters more to them than anything else. To start with, a politician usually has an ego that moves him to look at the world in a very narrow form. In the mind of a politician, every event that happens revolves around himself. They have what some have described as a ‘genetic disorder’ of extreme belief in the ability of oneself to do almost anything in the world. Only very rarely do we come across politicians who are able to transcend that vicious trait and think more of others than they do of themselves. For most, the legacy they leave behind is the end-all and be-all of everything that they do.

As a young man in a hurry, Khairy Jamaluddin has gone beyond the norm in trying to secure his legacy. A few days ago, Khairy participated in a forum organized by UMNO Youth in collaboration with their sympathisers in the Universiti Sains Malaysia campus in Penang. Perhaps unusual for a university, the forum was openly in support of UMNO, and Khairy made no qualms to hide the fact that UMNO drove the event in order to inculcate its dogma in the minds of the participants. Khairy likes to start them young and it therefore comes as no surprise that the participants were all young people. What may be surprising, though, is that all the participants are still in Forms One and Two of the secondary schools and therefore, strictly speaking, still children.

Therein lies the fatal flaw of Khairy. He started out and still professes that he is in favour of reform. In fact, he presents himself as the candidate of change against the lethargy of past regimes. Khairy is the Renaissance Man who would like to teach Malaysians how to appreciate Shakespeare and drag them kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. But like all UMNO politicians (and yes, even many in the opposition too), Khairy has missed the woods for the trees.

Even when he fights to proclaim his image as a morally superior reformer, Khairy goes on and on to break the rules. He sees nothing wrong about dragging politics into campuses in contravention of Malaysian law, especially the Universities and University Colleges Act which was introduced with the help of his father-in-law (then a ranking senior civil servant). Khairy sees nothing wrong with influencing children with UMNO propaganda, while at the same time criticising PAS for building their own nurseries and schools. Khairy, in fact, sees nothing wrong with whatever he does in the face of the unarguable fact that, as one of the most brilliant young men in the country, he is more than qualified to exercise exceptions to the rule. The law that applies to the common people, or even other politicians, do not apply to him. They are dumb, stupid and backward, and unable to match his Oxbridge intellect. Because he is far cleverer than the rest, the rules do not apply to him.

What Khairy enjoys from such events is the ability to show off to people far less intellectual than him that he is a man to look up to. Yet, slowly, some are beginning to notice that Khairy never dares to be with others who are equally intelligent, or perhaps even cleverer than him. He plays to the galleries only when the galleries are made up of people who are either too scared to speak up or unable to do so; because they are bewildered by the jargon that Khairy uses. Khairy’s ability to sustain himself in politics is purely based on the fact that he has not allowed himself to be made a fool by another who is equally able as him. Abdullah Badawi in his closeted life thinks that Khairy is the best thing since sliced bread because he has never met anyone else equal to Khairy. But Khairy is responsible from preventing these people from having access to Abdullah.

Unlike Mahathir, Abdullah Badawi does not have a wide circle of intellectuals that he can rely upon. Most in his circle is made up of people who have shared his BTN background. Other than that, there are a few academics who have made their living by instilling an ultra-Malay culture in their outlook. Abdullah has no intellectual friends. If you exclude the few journalists who write toadying articles about his so-called political tribulations, even within the circle of civil servants that he likes to surround himself with, Abdullah is never considered the brightest of the lot. It was, in fact, Abdullah’s lack of intelligence that commended him to Mahathir, because the latter thought that a man with so little intellect would be more likely to follow the policies set before him and not question them.

The flaw that Khairy has developed since his ascension as Vice Youth Chief of UMNO is that he no longer tolerates criticism. In the first place, he has never had a valid circle of friends. His closest companions are foreigners, mainly Singaporeans or Malaysians who have never been schooled in Malaysia. Like him, they are the elite who rarely touch ground with the common people. Khairy tried to transcend this disability by acquiring new friends within UMNO Youth whom he felt was more in touch with the grassroots. Unfortunately, most UMNO Youth leaders turn out to be people who use their alliance with Khairy either to threaten other political rivals or enrich themselves at the expense of genuine businessmen. Khairy, in fact, has no real friends within UMNO, and the few that he has outside it have been rewarded with high posts that they are now afraid to lose. So they have all stopped speaking the truth to Khairy.

All leaders face this problem: it is lonely at the top. But Khairy has reached this stage far too soon. Even before he could assume his unabashed objective of becoming Malaysia’s Prime Minister before the age of forty, he has already reached this groupie mentality. Yes, Khairy’s circle is now only made up of groupies. Anyone who dares to say anything against him soon finds himself being boycotted by the other groupies. Slowly they fade away as the others tighten the circle around Khairy.

Mahathir Mohamad realised too late that this was the case with him in 1998. He no longer had people who could speak up without fear or favour. In that sense, he comes only as the latest in a long run of UMNO leaders. Tunku Abdul Rahman had the same problem in 1969 when he refused to listen to the Young Turks (which included Mahathir and Musa Hitam) and relied only on his closest advisors like Khir Johari, Sardon Jubir and Senu Abdul Rahman. Tun Razak would have been destroyed by the insipid influence of Abdullah Ahmad had he not died before his time. Hussein Onn, too, failed to read the writings on the wall and by the time he ceased to rely on Ghazali Shafie, it was too late for him to salvage his leadership. Abdullah Badawi too will fall in the exact same way. He is already beginning his slow tumble downwards from the heights of power. Abdullah’s inability to judge people correctly and his obsessive reliance on Khairy will cause him to anger those very UMNO leaders upon whom he should rely on for support. Abdullah will be kicked out of office for the same reason that others before him have found themselves flat on their face. It is always the advisors that kill off their own leader.

Khairy’s fatal flaw of being unable to judge between enemies and genuine critics has been exacerbated by his rolling-stone-like ability to gather powerful enemies. Khairy’s enemies can be classified into several key groups. The most powerful group is made up of supporters of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. These people feel that Khairy is an overrated brat who is a theorist out of touch with reality. They think that Khairy will lead the nation up the garden path and fool the people into a long and intolerable dictatorship led by himself and fuelled by his cronies of young Oxbridge graduates. Time and time again, members of this group, including serving and former cabinet ministers, have tried to bridge an alliance of UMNO veterans and current leadership to check Khairy’s rise to power. Their most hopeful scenario is for Abdullah Badawi to be removed from office either by force or subtle pressure and have a new leader, probably Najib Tun Razak, who will then decapitate Khairy.

Does Mahathir Mohamad himself support this group? In a sense, Mahathir is already giving them the best support anyone can give by undermining many of Abdullah’s new policies. As a conservative Malay politician, Mahathir is a genius at causing people to question Abdullah’s ability merely by uttering a few indirect comments which seem an attack on others, but in reality is a veiled stab at Abdullah himself. No one expects Mahathir to go further than that, but by doing so, Mahathir provides an avenue where those dissatisfied with Abdullah and Khairy can gather and plot.

Khairy’s other enemies are those young leaders of UMNO who are afraid of his connections with Anwar Ibrahim. Khairy does have some sympathy for Anwar, but it is fair to say that Anwar loves Khairy more than Khairy loves Anwar. In fact, Anwar is besotted with Khairy, seeing in him a mirror image of his own fabled meteoric rise to power. Anwar thinks that Khairy models himself after him and tries to play the father figure by giving Khairy unsolicited advice on how to manoeuvre within UMNO Youth. Anwar thinks that Khairy is a genuine article, in the mould of a charismatic leader, the only type that Anwar respects.

By being close to Anwar, Khairy has formed an alliance seen by many in UMNO as a pact with the devil himself. Certainly the old guard is fearful of Anwar, but the young leaders too are worried that Anwar will come back in and bring along his own cadres, thereby displacing them, especially those who made their careers after 1998 by brown-nosing Mahathir. In reality, Khairy’s attempt to use Anwar for his own popularity has back-fired. The visit to Anwar’s house on 2 September 2004 is the one thing UMNO leaders remember about Khairy and it will mark him with the brand of Brutus for many years to come.

Khairy’s enemies are not all politicians. Some of them are businessmen who feel that they have been cut out by ECM Libra and other Khairy ‘investment vehicles’. A certain Tan Sri from Penang recently remarked to his friend that it is almost impossible for him to have any business with the Penang government because all the contracts have been taken up young Chinese cronies of Khairy Jamaluddin. He pointed to several key construction projects which involve Khairy’s nominees. The allegations are not all true of course. Some of the nominees are not Khairy’s but those of the late Endon Mahmood’s family and of Kamaluddin Abdullah Badawi. But since Khairy is the most visible member of the Prime Minister’s family, he is automatically seen as the deal-maker.

No matter that the accusations are only partly true. Even those that are makes Khairy seem like a greedy young man out to earn hundreds of millions at the expense of far more established businessmen. The perception is that Khairy influences business decisions made by the government. For example, those involved in the DRB shares sale think that Khairy had instructed Kalimullah Hassan Masheerul Hassan, his Singapore Special Branch buddy, to jump the gun and tie the government’s hands by announcing that Tan Sri S.M. Nasimuddin had won the bid for the late Yahaya Ahmad’s shares. News spread that Khairy had leaked the information to the NST, knowing full well that others in the government were in favour of Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar’s bid. But Khairy wanted to push the decision in his favour so he took the unprecedented step of using the press as a method to influence the decision.

Those who dislike Khairy comprise some of the richest Malay and Chinese businessmen. The Malays hate him for creating a new circle of young Malay businessmen allied to himself; those such as Rozabil Abdul Rahman, the Perlis Youth Chief, and others of that persuasion. The Chinese businessmen hate him for selling major business opportunities to his Singaporean friends. The fact that Khazanah now deals only with the big players from Singapore and Indonesia means that many locals are excluded. All this is deemed to be Khairy’s fault and all lead to the same conclusion: that business is bad because of Khairy.

Perception is everything in politics, therefore whether the accusations levelled against Khairy are true or not, people in politics and business who each have their own interest will always take the side of the story that favours their own line of thinking. Therein lies Khairy’s own problems. Because of his eager (some say too eager) efforts to aggrandise and self-publicise, he has become the main target for the elites’ dissatisfaction. The people know too little about Khairy at the moment for them to have a negative opinion on him. But those who move and shake the country, who make a living by wheeling and dealing, who thirst at the opportunity of power-broking, who feel that it is their birthright to secure politics’ highest offices, and who spend their days thinking of what’s the best alliances to make, these people have all formed their opinions about Khairy and it is too late for him to change them. It is time for the battle to begin.

During Khairy’s monologue at USM, he was at his most self-indulgent best. He gave a press conference which extolled all the efforts he is doing to create a morally upright group of young citizens. But away in a corner where the press conference was held, a group of UMNO Youth leaders were gathering. All shared the same feeling: they were sick of Khairy. One suggested that the time was now right for them to push forward an equally potent rival within UMNO Youth, someone who can match Khairy’s intellect. A state Youth leader proposed several names and the small gathering broke off after agreeing to shortlist the names mentioned. Khairy will not have an easy year ahead...

PART 23
Faster, Higher, Stronger

Khairy Jamaluddin is involved in only one sports organisation, the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM). The Sultan of Pahang, who in his infinite wisdom wanted to be close to the boy who would be Prime Minister, offered him a seat on the Exco; even though Khairy never played a day of soccer in his entire life. Another proponent of his entry into FAM is Raduan Sheikh Ahmad, brother of UMNO Secretary-General Radzi Sheikh Ahmad, who is more interested in Khairy’s money and how he could allocate that to causes related to Malaysian football. Khairy doesn’t mind this. In a ‘scratch your back, scratch my back’ world, any alliance is an advantage; especially since public support for Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is getting thinner and the patience of UMNO members with the Abdullah family’s greedy ways has grown into seething discontent.

The only game that matters to Khairy is the 100 metre dash. Early on in his political career, Khairy decided not to be a marathon man, pacing himself with the older generation and waiting patiently for his turn. Khairy wants to kick the opposition to pieces and shatter the glass ceiling, making himself the youngest ever Prime Minister. He is well on his way to that. But a few obstacles remain, and Khairy wants to wish them away. In the coming year, he will try his best to remove these obstacles and smoothen his path to power.

Already he has had to move quicker than planned. The intense attacks through poison-pen letters by his rivals in UMNO, such as Khir Toyo and Hishammuddin Hussein, have caused Khairy to lose the goodwill of many of the rank-and-file. The Pengkalan Pasir by-election showed UMNO Youth members that Khairy was not the magic elixir that could produce massive support. Khairy’s claim that he was the leading light of a new generation which had the support of the majority of young people in the country proved to be a hollow boast. The 2,000 young voters he promised to deliver in Pengkalan Pasir failed to materialise and the ones that actually gave him support were attracted to his money rather than his charisma.

In his dream of dreams, Khairy wants 2006 to be the year he becomes a mainstream player. To that end, he has laid the ground for several changes. Khairy’s wish list for 2006 is as follows:

1. Influence the Cabinet reshuffle

A cabinet reshuffle is long overdue. The Abdullah Badawi XXL cabinet created after the last general election has proven to be weak and uninspiring. Abdullah’s choice of ministers at that time was dictated by the ghost of Mahathir and the need to reward several unsavoury characters who had helped him sustain his slow ascent to the Premiership. However, he failed to deliver on the promises made and it has regressed into a Third World Cabinet with Third World mentalities.

Khairy is eager to stamp his mark. He wants to kick out or at least reduce the power of several senior ministers who have been disrespectful of his powers -- Samy Vellu, Lim Keng Yaik and Rafidah Aziz have been too long in the teeth and do not kowtow to Khairy as he thinks they should. These ministers will be running their last laps in irrelevant ministries or find themselves with understudies eager to play the top billing.

Khairy also wants to promote his cronies. He wants to secure higher positions for Noh Omar, Shaziman Abu Mansor, Adham Baba and promote to the cabinet people such as Ahmad Shabery Cheek. To do so, some older leaders must be kicked out and these Young Turks rewarded with positions of responsibility.

The cabinet reshuffle, which is due anytime between now and the Sarawak state election, is also a useful tool to scare some potential rivals. Khairy has been telling people that Hishammuddin Hussein, for example, has not ‘performed’ as Minister of Education. Khairy has planted the seed of doubt by accusing Hishammuddin of being mired in appointing too many Special Officers in his ministry. Indeed, Hishammuddin has 15 such officers, double the number that of the Prime Minister himself. Khairy wants Hishammuddin to know that if he were to be allowed to continue holding powerful portfolios, it would only be by the grace and favour of the all-powerful son-in-law.

2. Remove Khir Toyo

Khir Toyo continues to be the most apparent challenger to Khairy’s throne. Whether as a future UMNO Youth Head or even as a stalking-horse to the post of Vice Youth Head, Khir Toyo commands the support of rank-and-file UMNO members even though he inspires mostly disgust amongst non-UMNO citizens. The magic of Khir Toyo comes from the fact that, unlike Khairy, the fruits of his corruption are shared with other leaders. For example, Khir Toyo never forgets to give cash payments in the hundreds of thousands to all the divisions of Selangor UMNO for them to trickle down the largesse to ordinary members. Khairy does not do that and he only rewards his closest friends and those within his circle. As a result, though both are intrinsically corrupt, Khir is an immensely popular politician.

Khairy’s deal with TV3 News and Current Affairs Director, Dato’ Kamarulzaman Zainal, boils down to attacking Khir Toyo on almost all the wrongs happening in Selangor. To some extent this has been successful. But Khir is not as stupid as he looks. He hides behind Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and uses his links to Mahathir’s son, Mokhzani, to maintain his position. He has very cleverly deflected threats from Abdullah loyalists in Selangor by giving them tasks they could not possibly perform and allocating them problematic portfolios.

2006 will show Khairy trying very hard through the media to tar Khir Toyo and bring him crashing to the ground. At the moment, Khairy is planning an expose through an English newspaper about Khir’s role in personally approving projects in certain areas to relatives of his wife, Zaharah Kecik, and other such cronies. The stories will begin as an environmental scandal and end up questioning the probity of the Menteri Besar himself. By such means, and with the aid of TV3, Khairy hopes that Khir will finally leave the scene blemished and unelectable.

3. Promote Wan Farid to a higher position

Wan Mohd Farid Wan Salleh is Khairy’s new ally in the PM’s office. As Political Secretary to the Prime Minister, Wan Farid has taken on the role of Khairy’s unofficial gatekeeper in that office. Whereas Khairy himself used to play this role, he is now too busy to do so and trusts Wan Farid, the 42-year old politician from Terengganu, to be the toll-collector from businessmen who seek the Prime Minister’s stamp of authority for their projects. Wan Farid has been so successful at this that he is soon to be made a Senator, and if word on the ground is correct, he will soon ascend to the office of Minister, where he is then expected to be totally indebted to Khairy.

Already Wan Farid has been instrumental in securing a large chunk of Terengganu oil royalties for a pet project of one of Khairy’s businessmen friends, Patrick Lim. The businessman, who flies Khairy around in his private jet, recently obtained RM89 million from the Terengganu Special Fund, without having to refer to the Menteri Besar, Idris Jusoh, or the State Exco. It was Wan Farid who did the deal and ensured that Khairy got his appropriate cut. The money was supposed to be allocated towards development projects for the poor, but has instead gone towards building a tourist complex, shopping mall and condominiums. Inflated by over 40%, the Chinese businessman has allocated a sizeable portion of the profit to Wan Farid and Khairy.

One of the major movers and shakers of 2006 will be Wan Farid. Khairy is now contemplating whether he should be more prominent and be made a minister, or continue to play a background role, thereby ensuring lack of public knowledge over the secret goings-on in Abdullah’s office. Either way, both men will become richer by the millions in this New Year.

4. Crush Reezal Merican

There are some who are stupid enough to think that because Reezal Merican and Khairy used to work in the same office and are both UMNO Youth Exco members, they should then be bosom buddies. In fact, the reverse is true. Reezal Merican hated Khairy the moment that young upstart walked into the corridors of power. The feeling was mutual -- Khairy too felt that Reezal Merican was an IIUM graduate who was decidedly stupid, backward and good for nothing more than reciting a few doas. As Khairy became more and more powerful, Reezal had tried to be more accommodative, but Khairy continues to regard Reezal with contempt.

The blunder caused by Reezal’s over-enthusiastic challenge to Anwar ally Suhaimi Ibrahim in GPMS is the perfect opportunity for Khairy to tarnish Reezal further. Already Khairy has circulated copies of Reezal’s irregular claims upon the Finance Ministry coffers. As Political Secretary to the First Minister of Finance, Reezal gets certain out-of-pocket expenses for his official duties. But Reezal has also charged many other expenses to this account, including political lunches, IIUM Alumni Association Dinners and GPMS meetings. Another source of Khairy’s anger with Reezal is that the latter has openly canvassed support for him challenging Khairy in the UMNO Youth leadership elections to come. Reezal uses a network of IIUM alumni who are now working as Special Officers to certain ministers to canvass their support. So Khairy has decided that 2006 will be the year that Reezal Merican gets his just desserts.

5. Clip Najib’s wings

Khairy has been counting on Najib Tun Razak’s timidity to ensure that no challenges would be forthcoming from that scion of ‘wait-and-see’. After all, Najib has all the time in the world to wait and the Khairy camp has lulled Najib into thinking that Khairy is warming up to him. Khairy has even gone so far as to say that Najib has proven himself time and time again as the most loyal and genuine of all the ministers in the current cabinet.

Famous last words! Khairy has never ceased planning Najib’s downfall. The only reason why Khairy has not acted thus far is because he is not strong enough to override the support given to Najib by Mahathir’s former supporters and other UMNO leaders fearful that Khairy is trying to bring back that old bugbear, Anwar Ibrahim, into UMNO. Another reason why Khairy has so far failed to act is because Najib is able to rally far more support from rank-and-file leaders than Abdullah and Khairy can. Dissatisfaction amongst ordinary UMNO members against weak, tepid and irresolute Abdullah who is seen to be totally under the control of a greedy, conniving Khairy cannot be underestimated. Since the last UMNO elections, the focus of discontent have settled on Khairy’s shoulders and, in a showdown between Abdullah and Najib, Abdullah will lose hands down. So Khairy cannot act now without devising a foolproof plan on how to remove Najib.

So Najib’s wings will be clipped. Khairy intends to:

I. Remove Najib’s supporters from the Cabinet
II. Defeat Najib’s candidates in the Divisional and Youth elections
III. Destroy Najib’s credibility through the media

In addition to that, Najib’s economic strength is to be severely compromised. The rise and rise of CIMB, led by Najib’s sibling, Nazir Razak, is less the target, given that there is less opportunity to create a scandal in such a public company. Furthermore, Nazir is a scrupulously straightforward businessman. However, Najib’s other brothers have been involved in behind-the-scene deals with potential Khairy enemies in the business world, including a few top Malay and Chinese businessmen. These siblings, notably Nizam and Johari Razak, are the main targets for Khairy. In the next year, some of their more secret deals will be made public by Khairy’s friends in the media to try and paint Najib as a politician mired in cronyism, much in the mould of Mahathir Mohamad.

6. Destroy Mahathir’s legacy

Khairy’s biggest enemy is not the up-and-coming politicians of UMNO, but that great has-been, Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Mahathir continues to be the main critic of the government of Abdullah Badawi. The public knows that Mahathir is not happy with many of the moves initiated by Abdullah, not because he thinks these policies run contrary to his legacy, but because Mahathir sincerely believes that many of these policies were concocted by Khairy and his cronies in Ethos Consulting and ECM Libra in order to enrich themselves.

Although some may say that Mahathir had done the same thing for his own cronies, Mahathir believes that his plan also produced many successful Malay tycoons whom he had hoped would be able to engineer a wealthier Malay business class. In Mahathir’s eyes, what Khairy is doing is just for the sake of his own pocket. Mahathir also believes that Abdullah is immensely stupid and totally out-of-touch with the purposes of national development. Mahathir thinks that the Abdullah government has now become too dangerous to be allowed to survive much longer.

Mahathir’s intention for 2006 is to further expose what he feels are mistakes made by Abdullah and also use these criticisms to level a veiled attack on Khairy. While Khairy can quickly answer the attacks of other UMNO leaders, Mahathir is a different kettle of fish. Khairy cannot be brash and disrespectful towards Mahathir as he is with Najib, Ali Rustam, Muhyiddin, Khir Toyo and others of that persuasion. Mahathir is indeed Khairy’s biggest PR problem.

But perhaps 2006 may yet see Khairy winning over Mahathir. After all, Mahathir is now 81 years old and has just recently survived a minor heart attack, disguised as a ‘routine check-up’. It cannot be expected that Mahathir is healthy enough to launch a strong challenge against Khairy. When Mahathir backs down due to ill-health, won’t Najib also do the same -- knowing that his biggest supporter will not be around him to weather the whole attack?

7. Make another RM300 million

Khairy understands the first rule of UMNO politics is to make enough money to buy the votes. So far, Khairy has done very well from selling government-linked stocks to certain parties, including foreign government investment companies. Khairy has built up a treasure chest far bigger than that of Hishammuddin Hussein and has been lucky that the opposition does not attack him as much as they do other UMNO leaders. PAS does not understand Khairy’s complex ways of raising secret funds through corporate exercises for the simple reason that the best economists in PAS such as Dr Rosli Yaakob, Husam Musa and Dr Dzulkifli Ahmad are second-rate businessmen, more in tune with the inner workings of goat’s milk pills rather than high finance. DAP, too, is too far removed from the world of GLCs to understand the intricacies of Khairy’s deals. Anwar Ibrahim’s group does not know very much about what is going on as well; other than the few things which should be kept hidden in case Khairy proves a valuable ally in the efforts to bring Anwar back into UMNO’s fold.

Meanwhile, while the political opposition continues to sleep soundly, Khairy has been making more deals. The recent purchase of 3% of ECM Libra is in preparation towards the company acquiring more and more deals to sell off other government ‘non-core assets’. It would be difficult to explain payments made to Khairy (which are enormous) if he was merely an employee rather than a shareholder of ECM Libra.

One thing for sure, 2006 will see the beginning of the process to remove some financial tools that Khairy needed before to give a perception of reform but are now only obstacles to his future success. The end of 2006 will see Binafikir founder and Khazanah Managing Director Azman Mokhtar’s final contract year. Soon he will not be needed anymore and Khairy would either assume that role himself or appoint one of his chosen boys currently on the second level of the Khazanah management to be the seat warmer while he strips that institution of its crown jewels.

Likewise, Second Finance Minister Nor Mohamed Yakcop has gone past his sell-by date. The smooth-talking castrati, with an appetite for tear-jerking poetry has served his purpose in securing the image of transparency and good corporate governance in major government-owned businesses. Now Khairy feels the country is more prepared to let a younger man take that role -- obviously a younger man who is pliant to Khairy. Nor Mohamed will be removed as Second Finance Minister no later than the end of 2006.

Whatever happens in 2006, it will be Khairy’s year to make sure that his dream becomes a reality. The short-term objectives as stated above are the prelude to Khairy securing a parliamentary seat, probably in a by-election sometime in 2007, and entering the cabinet almost immediately after the 12th General Election. The countdown to Khairy assuming the Prime Ministership of the country, which began only around four years ago, has now less than a decade to run. Khairy is not wasting any time and neither should his enemies. At the moment, the odds are on Khairy making the cut while his opponents seem headed towards having themselves sacrificed upon his political altar...

PART 24
Khairy Chronicles in review

You may have noticed that the last episode of The Khairy Chronicles, part 23, came out about three weeks ago on 2 January 2006. Well, the long gap is unavoidable and due to a cat-and-mouse game I am playing with certain parties. You see, about 10 days or so ago, these ‘certain parties’ met to discuss how to close down Malaysia Today and end The Khairy Chronicles once and for all.

It seems Khairy Jamaluddin is not happy with The Khairy Chronicles. And when Khairy is not happy, he must be made happy. These ‘certain parties’ do not work for Khairy. They, in fact, answer to the government. Indirectly, they are responsible to the people. Their job is to uphold the law and punish the law-breakers, not to serve certain political interests. Their function is to defend our constitutional rights, including freedom of expression and the independence of the media. But that is only a pipedream. In reality, they bow to the will of the powers-that-be. In this case, they bow to Khairy.

Khairy has no position in the government of the day. He is officially only a ‘corporate advisor’. No doubt he is deputy head of UMNO Youth, but that role too is not one that allows him to run the country as he wishes. Nevertheless, he does. For some time now, these ‘certain parties’ have been feeding him reports (as well as to his father-in-law), including the results of their snooping on opposition politicians and functions. Khairy has no right to these reports, but he receives them anyway -- because the ministers and deputy ministers in charge are too afraid to raise their objections.

What makes Khairy uncomfortable with The Khairy Chronicles is the fact that it has pre-empted many of his moves since the middle of last year -- and now that he is beginning to make these moves we can turn round and say, “I told you so.”

The problem faced by these ‘certain parties’ is how to directly link The Khairy Chronicles to me. No doubt my name does appear in Malaysia Today, but if they charge me in court, they have to prove I wrote The Khairy Chronicles (the ‘maker of the document’ in legal jargon). And the way they were going to do this was to wait for the next episode to come out, part 24, then, on that day, they would raid my house, confiscate my computer, and arrest me. From my computer they would then be able to prove I wrote part 24. The evidence could then be used to press charges against me.

The thing is, what they do not seem to realise, one can always write online. In that case, how would the evidence be in your PC? And have they not heard of these software programmes which cost a couple of hundred Ringgit, exceeds US military and intelligence agency specifications, and can wipe off all your tracks without a trace? No doubt, the Bukit Aman and Mimos boys may have been trained six months at Langley some years back, but technology changes very fast and every day there are new things on the market. (Of course, there is more than this that I am doing, but I am not telling all).

In light of the present developments -- the death of Dr Liew Boon Horng, the managing consultant of Ethos Consulting, Khairy buying into ECM Libra, the merger between ECM Libra and Avenue Capital Resources, the impending cabinet reshuffle, the rumoured arrest of the Putera Umno Chief in a vice raid, and so on -- there is certainly much more that The Khairy Chronicles will reveal in the weeks to come, if we are given the chance to do so...

Anyway, let us review the first 23 episodes of The Khairy Chronicles and recap what we said then:

Part 1 - SYNOPSIS: The most powerful man in Malaysia

Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is legally the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia, having taken office in November 2003. However, even before he assumed office, it was quite clear that Abdullah Badawi was not his own man -- that all his thoughts, actions and deeds were heavily influenced, if not directed, by his then 28-year old son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin and his coterie of friends. While some talked of the three Ks being the power behind Pak Lah; namely Khairy, Kalimullah (the Group Chief Editor of the New Straits Times) and Kak Endon (Datin Paduka Seri Endon Mahmood Ambak, wife of the Prime Minister); there is no doubt that the first K is the most powerful, having appointed the second K to his post and having married the third K’s daughter at a time when the third K was and is fighting breast cancer, an illness that has already claimed the third K’s twin sister.

Part 2 - Out of the wormhole

Today, Khairy Jamaluddin has become the most powerful man in the country. Unlike most politicians whose origins can be easily traced and whose records are in the realm of public knowledge, Khairy is like a ‘dewa kayangan’ (fairy godfather) who appeared from nowhere into the mainstream of Malaysian politics. Many began to wonder whether he was planted by certain sinister forces, such as the CIA or maybe the Singapore intelligence services. After all, no one can attain power so easily and so quickly unless they had some help, could they?

Part 3 - The enemies within

In addition, Hishammuddin is unhappy that Khairy set up his own network within the UMNO Youth machinery, e.g. nominating Norza Zakaria to the Supreme Council over and above Hishammuddin’s own choice. Khairy also set up an informal network of UMNO Vice Youth Division Chiefs throughout the country, a phenomenon unheard of when Hishammuddin himself held that post. Hishammuddin realises that he now holds office by the grace and favour of Khairy. When the latter is ready for the post of Youth Chief, the former must go.

Part 4 - Strangling your own brothers

Abdul Azeez shared many of Reezal Merican’s attributes. A fellow Mamak like Reezal, he had a weakness for beautiful women and both had married twice. More importantly, Abdul Azeez was a self-made businessman of a rather thuggish outlook and could counter Reezal’s influence among the locally educated UMNO Youth politicians. Khairy pushed through a new wing called Putera UMNO under Abdul Azeez’s stewardship that spread its tentacles to local universities and institutions of higher learning. Khairy understood that he himself lacked support from this political base and badly needed it. Abdul Azeez was tasked in getting this support while at the same time weakening Reezal’s influence.

Part 5 - The heir and the pretender

Khairy and Najib share many similarities in their rise to power. Yet there is no love lost between them. Khairy knows that Najib will ‘kill him off’ as soon as Abdullah Ahmad Badawi leaves the political stage. Likewise, Najib is uneasy about Khairy’s influence on Abdullah and is conscious that his chances of becoming Prime Minister would dramatically improve with Khairy out of the way.

The enmity between Khairy and Najib stems from Khairy’s impatience and open ambition to reach the highest office in UMNO before he reaches the age of 40. Najib is the opposite in his outlook. He is patient, almost to the point of being seen as slow and lethargic. But Najib has played a ‘careful’ game whereas Khairy is more ‘in your face’.

Both understand that UMNO is too small a party for the two of them. At only 52, Najib is easily able to block Khairy for twenty-five years or more. If a week is a long time in politics, then twenty-five years would seem like an eternity. Even worse, Khairy thinks Najib will turn back the clock, abolish Abdullah’s (and therefore Khairy’s) reforms and return UMNO to the ‘bad old days’ of Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.

Part 6 - Khairy’s media playgrounds

Khairy’s most prominent appointment was that of Kalimullah Hassan Masheerul Hassan, a former Singaporean journalist closely associated with certain Chinese businessmen with whom he had built a successful business based on the Chinese doing the thinking and Kalimullah himself pulling the cables. ‘Kali’, as he calls himself, has visions of grandeur. Although a bad writer and an even worse editor, Kali knew that he could buy talent. It is an open secret that NST editorials published as Kali’s piece were ghost-written by both internal and outsourced hacks. Such was a man after Khairy’s own heart -- who knew that being a figurehead was no bad thing, as one could always pick and choose one’s lackeys to finish the job.

Part 7 - The beginning of a beautiful friendship

It was then that Mahathir began to realise that the young man he so dismissively discounted had now become the key instrument of a threat against his legacy. Mahathir remarked to his secretary, Datuk Badriah, that Abdullah was digging his own grave by letting Anwar go. Mahathir remarked that he himself found Anwar difficult to handle and he had no confidence that Abdullah could do any better. In Mahathir’s eyes, Abdullah was an inept fool who miscalculated by releasing Anwar.

What Mahathir did not know was that Abdullah did not really fully comprehend the ramifications of Anwar’s release. In fact, it was Khairy who reckoned that Anwar’s release would be beneficial to his own political career. Firstly, Khairy felt that Anwar would always be a useful tool against other Umno politicians who might threaten Abdullah’s throne; people such as Tengku Razaleigh and Najib. Secondly, Khairy felt releasing Anwar and meeting him openly would increase his popularity (and Abdullah’s).

Part 8 - Sunset, sunrise

However, behind the scenes, both Abdullah and Khairy have continued to at least maintain some form of relationship with Anwar. Abdullah himself has said nothing about any telephone calls to or from Anwar. Khairy, on the other hand, has been very open to his inner circle about his constant communication and, indeed, about meetings with Anwar’s stalwarts such as PKR Youth Leader Ezam Mohd Nor. Those in the know include Khairy’s men who are obvious Anwar supporters; such as Zambry Abdul Kader as well as the usual suspects such as Norza Zakaria.

Part 9 - Birth of a salesman

Khairy Jamaludin did not start out immensely rich, although his family was well off due to the position of his father as a prominent member of the diplomatic community. The family could not equal other notable scions of UMNO Youth such as the Hishammuddin Hussein-Najib Tun Razak clan who are descended from the first Malay billionaire, Tan Sri Noah, or the Sheikh Fadzir family, comprising of Kadir, Aziz, Musa and Haidar, whose palatial Kulim mansion dwarfed even the National Palace in Kuala Lumpur. So Khairy realised he had to build up his wealth fairly quickly especially since, by Malaysian standards, Abdullah Badawi was a rather poor fellow.

Part 10 - The National Auctioneer

One example was Temasek’s entry into TM (previously known as Telekom Malaysia). Temasek had bought 5% of TM for a price of RM1.6 billion in the early days of Abdullah’s administration. It was supposed to be a signal of the major cross-strait thaw in the relationship. As everyone knows, Temasek is also a substantial shareholder of SingTel, run by Lee Hsien Yang, the youngest son of Singapore founder Lee Kuan Yew. It was a massively important political and business deal. What the public did not know was that Temasek had made payments to Khairy through a Singapore-based company closely associated to Khairy proxy and UMNO Supreme Council member, Norza Zakaria. The company had its registered address in the Singapore Land Tower at 50 Raffles Place. Seemingly, payments were made to the company for ‘consultancy services’, but in effect it was nothing more than kickbacks.

Part 11 - Khairy and his Money Factory

The biggest coup that is being planned is a potential sale of residual assets of Danaharta, currently being brokered by Khairy proxy Norza Zakaria through his allies in Singapore. Norza’s company in Singapore is a joint venture with a certain Mr S who is a Singaporean ex-classmate of Khairy in the United World College (UWC). Mr S, ostensibly, is a corporate finance specialist with interests in real-estate and multimedia. He meets up with Khairy and his Khazanah cronies to discuss various ways in which to strip the assets of Malaysian GLCs and make a percentage commission on them. One of the advisors to Khairy is a shareholder of Ethos Consulting who currently works with Deutsche Bank in Kuala Lumpur.

Part 12 - Ringing in the cash till

So, since March, a rough calculation of Khairy’s received and potential income would be as follows:

1. Commission from sale of 5% of TM to Temasek Holdings, Singapore – RM16 million.
2. Commission from the purchase of M1 shares by Khazanah and TM – RM6 million.
3. Expected commission from further sale of 5% of TM to Temasek Holdings, Singapore – RM17 million.
4. Expected commission from sale of Danaharta assets – RM85 million.
5. Expected commission from sale of Felda non-core assets to Temasek Holdings and DBS Bank – RM30 million.
6. Expected commission from allocation of Bumiputra shares in foreign-owned company 1 – RM15 million.
7. Expected commission from allocation of Bumiputra shares in foreign-owned company 2 – RM20 million.
The total amount? A cool RM189 million. And that’s only the ones that have been in the public eye.

Part 13 - He loves me, he loves me not

Unknown to Aziz Samsudin as well as to Mahathir’s other aides, the story about Khairy’s alleged homosexuality was planted by Anwar Ibrahim’s men. A certain former deputy minister who had been a close Anwar supporter (and therefore dropped by Mahathir in the 1999 General Election) had been used to bring the rumour to Aziz’s attention through his civil service friend. The rumour itself was created by then PKR Youth Leader Ezam Mohd Nor who had allegedly ‘heard about the rumour’ from a senior civil servant who was a reformasi sympathiser and who had a child in the same school as Khairy. It was completely untrue. The idea that Khairy is gay is a figment of the imagination of the PKR leaders who desperately wanted to tar Abdullah Badawi whom they felt, at that time, was less sympathetic to the plight of their boss; having been his mortal enemy in UMNO for more than one and a half decades.

Part 14 - Crowning the king

In the matter of Anwar Ibrahim’s goings on, it is Khairy that is entrusted in gauging their value and to produce the next strategy for Abdullah. Abdullah knows that Anwar is more valuable to Khairy than to himself. After all, bringing Anwar back into UMNO’s fold would help Khairy’s credentials as a young but fair politician of the future. Also, Anwar would help prop Khairy up in the face of a Najib onslaught. But as for Abdullah himself, bringing Anwar back can only mean pitting himself for a head-to-head confrontation with the pincer movements of both Mahathir Mohamad and Najib Tun Razak. So, bringing Anwar in is Khairy’s way of transforming himself in the long term from a mere crown prince to a king with real powers.

Part 15 - The game of high stakes

In spite of Anwar’s public pronouncements against rejoining UMNO, the truth is both Anwar and Khairy are testing the waters before the actual gamble is made. Khairy needs to test UMNO members’ reaction to the re-entry of Anwar by denying the ease with which Anwar hopes he could re-enter UMNO. Anwar, on the other hand, needs to test his followers’ perception of his leadership before actually telling them that that choice has been opened up for him. He could not afford to alienate too many of his former reformasi supporters. Though Anwar knows some will fall away in disgust at his opportunism, yet many others will remain simply for the fact that seven years is too long for most of them to be without any political power at all.

Part 16 - The walls that talk

Whether Khairy realises it or not, most of the stories circulating around town regarding his efforts to allow Anwar an easy passage back into UMNO come from sources that are in direct communication with him. While officially denying that Anwar will rejoin UMNO, in private, nothing else is as important. Ezam and Azmin have for some time been dropping Khairy’s name as their source of inside information within UMNO. They have gone so far as to even suggest that Khairy is the main conduit for discussions between Abdullah and Anwar. They say that Khairy is helpful where other officers such as Thajudeen Abdul Wahab are not.

Part 17 - The comforting branch breaks

A few days before Endon’s death, some very close friends of Abdullah, who had been with him through thick and thin from the early days of his foray into the realm of politics, remarked that things weren’t going the way they had predicted. Previously, they thought that with Endon gone from the scene, Abdullah would go back to the old circle of friends who have been the most tried and tested of his most loyal of followers. Instead, they found that, in the dying days of Endons’ life, Abdullah had begun to cling more tightly to Nori and Khairy’s younger set of advisors.

Part 18 - Cannons behind his back

What Khairy does not understand is that he surrounds himself with loose cannons. But those loose canons do not aim at random figures. Instead, they swivel towards him and, sooner or later, the cannonballs will begin hitting him hard. Khairy’s worst enemies are actually the people closest to his circle. He has reached the stage often felt by a politician in high power; loneliness at the top. Even his friends cannot be trusted anymore.

Part 19 - A republic of fear

Khairy’s main role in Abdullah Badawi’s administration is as a spin-doctor. He builds up Abdullah’s image. But there is no substance in that image. Now the cracks are beginning to show but it is a little too late for the damage to be repaired. Khairy persuades analysts in the foreign banks (many who swoon over the opportunity to have tea with him) to write ‘analyses’ saying that Abdullah’s reforms have to be given time to bear fruit. This is mere hogwash. Many of Khairy’s apologists such as Kalimullah Hassan Masheerul Hassan, Brenda Pereira and Phar Kim Beng are masters of spin who owe their lives and careers to Khairy. One can scarcely hope for them to be genuinely critical in their assessments. They are servants of the master propagandist -- no more, no less.

Part 20 - Does UMNO really want to win?

The special shirt that Khairy wore had extra pockets for the three handphones that he carries around. The First Handphone is the Maxis 012 that is his public number. Everyone knows what it is because Khairy puts it on all his name cards as well as the Pemuda UMNO website. Khairy uses it to send SMSes and the phone is always kept on silent mode because it rings every other minute. Everyone feels that Khairy owes them an audience and they range from the lowest member of UMNO Youth and part-time Internet buff who had come across the number in the old UMNO Youth website, to a Chinese towkay trying his luck with the man Singapore businessmen are already dubbing ‘Mr 20%’.

Part 21: The Aftermath: Whose little victory?

In the past, Khairy’s friends who were close to Najib tried to build a consensus between the two camps. Najib also went to great pains to pander to Khairy’s whims and fancies -- such as bowing to his choice of officers in the Deputy Prime Minister’s Department. However, Pengkalan Pasir was the turning point in that relationship. It is now obvious to Najib that Khairy intends to rush headlong into UMNO politics instead of patiently awaiting his turn. At risk is Najib’s own tenure as the future Prime Minister and the position of his allies, including that of his cousin Hishammuddin. The self-seeking publicity Khairy sought in Pengkalan Pasir made it patently obvious to Najib’s camp that this young man was too much in a hurry and was willing to bulldoze his way through.

Part 22: A fatal miscalculation

The flaw that Khairy has developed since his ascension as Vice Youth Chief of UMNO is that he no longer tolerates criticism. In the first place, he has never had a valid circle of friends. His closest companions are foreigners, mainly Singaporeans or Malaysians who have never been schooled in Malaysia. Like him, they are the elite who rarely touch ground with the common people. Khairy tried to transcend this disability by acquiring new friends within UMNO Youth whom he felt was more in touch with the grassroots. Unfortunately, most UMNO Youth leaders turn out to be people who use their alliance with Khairy either to threaten other political rivals or enrich themselves at the expense of genuine businessmen. Khairy, in fact, has no real friends within UMNO, and the few that he has outside it have been rewarded with high posts that they are now afraid to lose. So they have all stopped speaking the truth to Khairy.

Part 23: Faster, Higher, Stronger

Whatever happens in 2006, it will be Khairy’s year to make sure that his dream becomes a reality. The short-term objectives as stated above are the prelude to Khairy securing a parliamentary seat, probably in a by-election sometime in 2007, and entering the cabinet almost immediately after the 12th General Election. The countdown to Khairy assuming the Prime Ministership of the country, which began only around four years ago, has now less than a decade to run. Khairy is not wasting any time and neither should his enemies. At the moment, the odds are on Khairy making the cut while his opponents seem headed towards having themselves sacrificed upon his political altar.

PART 25
A New Deal: Running Out of Time

One of Khairy’s closest allies is a London-trained Malaysian-Indian lawyer who currently works for an international bank. Several years Khairy’s senior, he deliberately stays hidden from Khairy’s direct political and business links. This is not without reason. Although proud of Khairy’s achievements, he confides to his friends his innermost thoughts that Khairy is about to make the greatest mistake of his life. In fact, this person believes that Khairy stands at perhaps the shakiest moment in his entire career and that he is caught between the devil and the deep-blue sea -- and that the moves Khairy makes may well lead to his downfall from which he will never recover.

Several months ago, the lawyer had gone to see Khairy to offer some friendly advice. He told Khairy in no uncertain terms that while he understands Khairy is intelligent enough to have his own reasons for doing things as he has done, Khairy should also be more cautious and wary. The lawyer advised Khairy that the latter was beginning to look like a ‘young man in a hurry’.

The advice was well meaning. In the past, Khairy had quietly listened to this lawyer friend and kept his own counsel. Often, he would be able to accept the criticism and act accordingly. But the Khairy of today is a very different man. Nowadays, such advice is dismissed as ‘unsolicited’. Khairy feels that his friends are getting too clever for their own good. He no longer feels obligated to listen to them, nor follow their advice. After all, if his friends knew better than him, surely they would be where he is today. Instead, it is he, the youngest of the clique, who managed to secure the highest position in the fastest time.

This attitude of Khairy bewilders many of his friends. The lawyer somehow feels that the reason Khairy is acting so poorly is because he has lost sight of reality. Power and wealth is a heady combination that has made Khairy very, very drunk and completely deaf to the voices of dissent that are beginning to gather around him. Even the closest of Khairy’s admirers feel that the recent months have shown that Khairy too can make false steps. He has replaced the friends who could give him sound advice and dispassionate views with Umno Youth lackeys who carry bags of money for him. Often, Khairy is accompanied by twenty-somethings with RM10,000 or more in brown paper envelopes, from which they dole out payments to loyal supporters at branch and division-level meetings. These sycophants are what remain of Khairy’s circle of friends.

Khairy’s actions over the last few months demonstrate immense immaturity and stupidity. The obvious corrupt and insider dealing involved in the purchase of ECM Libra and the use of government-owned Avenue Capital to bail out Khairy’s business cronies and make them multi-millionaires overnight are actions that could have been better handled and with greater finesse. Instead, its execution bears all the hallmarks of a rushed job, the handiwork of an amateur in politics and business. The image that Khairy portrays has transformed from an intelligent, confident young man to a greedy and corrupt opportunist. The ‘smooth operator’ has gone, to be replaced by the ‘grab-and-run’ conman.

Perhaps there is pattern in this madness. Maybe the fast-paced actions were not a headlong rush created out of chaos but a calculated attempt to salvage whatever remains of the teetering administration of Abdullah Badawi. The administration that started out promising Malaysians the sun and the moon, and that enjoyed the biggest majority since the General Election of 1955, has begun to be seen as the most inept and bumbling government ever. Abdullah Badawi is lurching from crisis to crisis; unable to deal with issues with the decisiveness that Malaysians have become so accustomed to over the last two decades or so. Swaying from right to left, Abdullah Badawi leads a government rife with internal conflict and unable to grapple with the simplest of ordinary issues.

Khairy knows that his future -- political, business or otherwise -- depends on Abdullah Badawi’s longevity in office. That now seems increasingly shaky. Unlike his predecessor, Abdullah Badawi is unable to capitalise on his strength in Parliament. Led astray by the silly ideas of people such as Nazri Aziz and Backbencher Club President Shahrir Abdul Samad, Abdullah Badawi lost control of his own Parliament and saw senators and backbenchers attacking his government with a ferocity unseen since the days of Tunku Abdul Rahman. While thinking that Parliament should be allowed more say, Abdullah failed to realise that many of the backbenchers could think and speak better than him or his menagerie of hapless ministers. As a result, when Parliament began to take up the mantle of criticising ridiculous government policies, Abdullah finds it difficult to respond in a convincing manner. Slowly, the rickety sinews that bind his fragile government begin to appear for all to see.

Abdullah’s ministers too have become a very serious liability. Many of them were promoted in spite of their complete uselessness. A good example is Shafie Salleh, who in any other administration would not have been worth more than a Parliamentary Secretary. Abdullah does not seem to realise that Shafie Salleh is completely dependent on a bunch of political secretaries and special officers who have the finesse of a bulldozer in running the most sensitive of ministries. Yet Abdullah cannot do anything about it because of own weakness and inability to judge good ministers. He is caught in a world of mediocrity and completely reliant on the Young Turks who were brought in by Khairy rather than his own ministers.

It is common knowledge that many cabinet ministers do not respect Abdullah. The recent episode of the nine non-Muslim ministers presenting a memorandum to Abdullah is a farce that would have been unthinkable in any other administration. The public is told that the ministers have withdrawn their memorandum and decided to present their case through the ‘proper channel’ of a cabinet meeting. However, in reality, this announcement was a lie and a desperate attempt by Abdullah’s spin-doctors to salvage the reputation of the bumbling prime minister.

What the public does not know is that the memorandum was presented by the ministers during a cabinet meeting and not outside as reported by the official press. Abdullah was so stunned by the presentation of the memorandum that he was speechless and did not know how to respond to it. At a loss for words, he tried to brush off the presentation by saying that he would ‘think about it’. By the time the news leaked to the press, Abdullah’s reputation had already suffered. Never in Malaysian history had a Prime Minister faced so bold a revolt from within his own cabinet, including from several of the presidents of key component parties in the Barisan Nasional.

So the decision was taken to use the media to lie to the public. Bernama and the usual bunch of brown-nosers at the NST were told to report that the memorandum was ‘improper’ as it had not been presented in a cabinet meeting. This gave Abdullah the chance to portray the ministers as being out of line. Najib Tun Razak was then immediately instructed to blast the ministers for acting ‘out of norms’ and ‘not in keeping with the BN spirit’. In actual fact, every one of the ministers in the XXL cabinet knew that the memorandum was duly presented in the most proper way and Abdullah had simply failed to respond correctly in the face of the biggest revolt since his assumption of the premiership.

It was one thing for the ministers to demonstrate blatant disrespect to Abdullah by submitting the memorandum, following that episode, several other ministers, including those from UMNO, gleefully leaked confidential cabinet papers proving that the nine ministers had indeed done the correct thing; and that it was Abdullah who had reacted improperly. During the UMNO Supreme Council meeting of 24 January 2006, two particular ministers closely allied to former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad even photocopied Cabinet minutes outlining the episode and circulated them to other UMNO leaders after the meeting ended.

During that meeting, while Abdullah was explaining the ‘misconduct’ of the nine non-Muslim ministers, one of the UMNO Supreme Council members received an SMS that said, “PM SILAP. MENTERI2 IKUT PROSEDUR”. The SMS had come from 019-331XXX2, the mobile phone number of a minister who sat directly across the said Supreme Council member. The same SMS was then circulated to several other Supreme Council members present in the meeting.

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak looks at all this with great excitement. He tells friends that the situation is drastic, but he must play his cards carefully lest what befalls Anwar Ibrahim afflicts him too. He is of course acting with the utmost secrecy. Najib has been trying to find out if Abdullah is planning any moves that may become potential obstacles to his rise in power. Aware that Abdullah is communicating with Anwar Ibrahim through Khairy, Najib himself has tried to cushion the impact by making conciliatory moves to several members of Anwar Ibrahim’s camp. At the same time, Najib is laying the ground for trapping Khairy because, in the end, he knows that the last hope for Abdullah is to draw upon Khairy’s genius to save the day. Removing Khairy, therefore, would mean destroying Abdullah’s strategic base. Najib knows the old group around Abdullah Badawi is no longer 100% in support of the Prime Minister.

Some key supporters such as Nordin Kardi and Mahadzir Khalid are now estranged from their former ally, Thajudeen Abdul Wahab, Abdullah’s Chief Private Secretary. While all may be Khairy’s enemies, they have been rendered impotent by their own quarrel with each other. Thajudeen Abdul Wahab’s greediness in granting contracts to selected businessmen allied to him, over and above the recommendation of other long-time Abdullah supporters, has caused the old group to break up.

All of this is a cause for concern to Khairy. Time is fast running out and another big crisis will deal a body blow to the government of Abdullah Badawi. History teaches us that weak, insecure Prime Ministers last scarcely a term in office. Hussein Onn for example, although lauded upon his ascension as the anointed heir of Tun Razak, and a strict disciplinarian deemed able to keep Umno in check, fell unceremoniously after being challenged by that non-entity Sulaiman Palestin in the 1978 Umno elections.

Abdullah may not face such a challenge due to his own manipulation of Umno election rules, but he faces many other attacks from inside Umno. Umno division leaders openly laugh at his incapacity to control the government and seethe with anger at the sudden enrichment of his son-in-law. Sooner or later, the last fall will fall and the camel’s back will be broken and the Bedouin will be thrown off to hit the dust.

Khairy understands that Abdullah Badawi is fast becoming the biggest joke in Malaysian politics. Whether he likes to or not, Khairy must face the fact that he too will fall with Abdullah unless he acts fast with ruthlessness and decisiveness. His enemies are rapidly closing in on him and he must engage them now before it’s too late....

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.”

“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....

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...

PART 28
A New Deal: Losing the Plot?

It was billed as a minor reshuffle, but within hours of the announcement of the new cabinet line-up, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was already thrown into serious damage-control mode. The backlash was almost instantaneous. Reporters who covered the event scarcely knew what to ask the Prime Minister because the expectations built up for a proper reform of the XXL dinosaur cabinet that Abdullah and Khairy Jamaluddin had stitched up after the last General Election had been badly dashed. While some foreign journalists expressed cynical comments regarding the retention of scandal-ridden, bumbling and corrupt ministers, the local newsmen, who had only a few days earlier been chastised for being too ‘foreign’ in their outlook, were left asking the silliest questions, such as the so-called ‘expectations’ of the prime minister of his new line-up. Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak could scarcely hide his glee at the obvious discomfort Abdullah was feeling at the disappointing announcement. No Malaysian watching the broadcast on TV missed noticing the body language of the two top leaders, which said it all.

Has Abdullah lost the plot? Over the last few months, some of Khairy’s closest associates had been told to spread the rumour that Abdullah was seriously changing the face of the cabinet to reflect more of his own avowed policy against corruption. Khairy had leaked information to foreign journalists including to his favourite stringers at the Singapore Straits Times that certain ministers such as the highly unpopular Rafidah Aziz would be removed, if not transferred to a less important ministry. But in the end the decision to retain her and other similar relics of the Mahathir era, plus the addition of a former minister, Tengku Adnan Mansor, who is facing bankruptcy charges in court, seem to show that Abdullah no longer listens to the whims of his favourite advisor and son-in-law.

Only hours before Abdullah made the announcement, Khairy had called up Reme Ahmad of The Straits Times to tell him of his ‘frustration’ at the line-up. The spin was working fulltime. Kalimullah Hassan Masheerul Hassan was told to inform his friends from the foreign media that Khairy was ‘disappointed’ with Abdullah’s appointments and that he had no hand in the new structure. Brendan Pereira and Hishamuddin Aun went the whole way by actually using the New Straits Times and Utusan Malaysia to mildly criticise Abdullah’s choices. So did The Star’s Wong Chun Wai who received an instruction from Khairy to ‘slap the new line-up with a silken blouse’. It was all a lie -- a big ruse to cover-up what is perhaps Khairy’s most devious action to date.

The laymen amongst us could be forgiven for thinking that Abdullah was finally his own man. Lacklustre though it may seem, Abdullah had appointed a cabinet without consulting Khairy and basically deciding with little regard to the thoughts of the increasingly unpopular UMNO Youth Vice Chief. Certainly Khairy would like it to appear as if Abdullah was finally his own man. Over the last six months or so, one of Khairy’s main problems is the perception by both UMNO members and the public at large that he has become too powerful and influential and was the hand behind Abdullah. Khairy was seen as a meddler, an immensely powerful Svengali who plays puppet-master to the tired and sleepy puppet Prime Minister. It was becoming increasingly dangerous for Khairy because most of Abdullah’s gaffes and failures were being blamed on his ill advice and greediness.

Khairy’s PR problem resulted from these perceptions -- be it true or not. Abdullah’s administration started out with the razzmatazz of an American imperial presidency but is now ending up looking like the silly farce that it really is. The civil servant turned politician is proving unable to shake off his flaccid image and he is beginning to inspire little confidence amongst the voters who had just recently put him in charge of the biggest majority ever enjoyed since the time of Tunku Abdul Rahman. For his own selfish long-term future, Khairy wants to seem as if he is no longer the Rasputin behind the Czar.

But a closer look at the cabinet line-up shows that Khairy’s fingers are still very much in the pie. Firstly, the retention of the so-called ‘dinosaurs’ such as Rafidah Aziz, Azmi Khalid, Aziz Samsudin, Rais Yatim, Samy Vellu, Lim Keng Yaik and the like. While seen by many as the failure of Khairy to reform the cabinet, it is actually Khairy’s very clever camouflage tactic. For the long term of his political career, Khairy does not need to drop these ministers now and make enemies of them more than two years before the next UMNO elections, when he is expected to challenge Hishammuddin for the post of UMNO Youth Chief. Dropping them now would not be a good move, as it would create animosity and strengthen the hand of Khairy’s enemies, especially Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his protégé Najib Tun Razak.

With this in mind, Khairy chose to retain these ministers and he persuaded Abdullah to do such. After all, if it becomes necessary, he can always take his time to drop them in the next few years. In any case, by retaining them, Khairy builds up the already steaming public anger towards these incompetent public individuals who are seen as enemies of the people by virtue of their propensity to enrich themselves at public expense. Khairy knows, not removing them would allow the devil to play in their idleness. Futhermore, if slighted, these people have sizeable treasure chests which they would readily spend to score their revenge on Khairy. So the tactic is to retain them, increase the public anger towards their misdeeds, and push for their removal only after the next General Election when some of them would have already reached the threshold age of 70 years or beyond.

Instead of disturbing or disrupting the top leadership, Khairy has instead strengthened his hand at the second echelon level. He has rescued a key loyalist, Noh Omar, from the frying pan of the Ministry of Internal Security and put him in the safer and relatively powerful (as far as UMNO eyes are concerned) post of Deputy Education Minister. Noh Omar is one of those people whom Khairy can rely on to secure a good stream of information about the activities of his current boss and potential rival, Hishammuddin Hussein. The truth of the matter is Noh Omar has been placed in that position for only two purposes.

Firstly, Khairy wants Noh to spy on Hishammuddin and sabotage any attempts he may make to strengthen his position ahead of the next UMNO elections. Secondly, Noh is a prominent member of the UMNO Club Alumni Organisation of overseas student graduates and, in the position of Deputy Education Minister, Noh would be able to enhance efforts of creating a powerful support base for Khairy among overseas Malay graduates. In the one year left leading to the next General Election, Noh would be in a powerful position to supply Khairy crucial tactical and strategic information. Simultaneously, Noh has been placed in the most senior federal position for a Selangor politician. By dropping Shafie Salleh from the Ministry of Higher Education, Noh is now the most senior Selangor candidate who Khairy can use as a potential menteri besar to replace the dangerous Khir Toyo, a man who is a potent obstacle to Khairy.

Another Khairy loyalist who got rewarded was Johari Baharom, the former Political Secretary of Dr Mahathir who turned traitor when he realised his boss' days were numbered. Abdullah and Khairy had been using Johari as their eyes and ears in Mahathir’s office when the latter was in the dying days of his premiership. When Mahathir’s son, Mukhriz, tried to challenge Khairy for the post of UMNO Youth Vice Chief, Khairy had instructed Johari to destroy Mukhriz’s attempt by sabotaging his election in the Kubang Pasu UMNO Youth division. Johari’s success at tarnishing Mukhriz resulted in Khairy winning unopposed and Mukhriz was left licking his wounds in order to possibly stake his claim only in the next UMNO elections. By making Johari the Deputy Internal Security Minister, Khairy was making sure that the independent-minded minister of that department, UMNO Secretary-General Radzi Sheikh Ahmad, would be kept in check. Johari wanted to be promoted to a full minister like his fellow Political Secretary, Aziz Samsudin, but Khairy felt he needed Johari to continue being his agent and saboteur.

While Abdullah had explained, unconvincingly, that popularity in the UMNO elections means nothing in his decision to appoint cabinet ministers, the demotion of Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to one of only two positions in the Information Ministry was another of Khairy’s key tactics. Zahid was a popular UMNO Youth Head (popular to his own members, but scarcely so to the outside world). In fact, his strong showing in the UMNO Supreme Council elections a few years ago made Khairy quake. Like former UMNO Youth Head Syed Jaafar Albar, Zahid could quite easily make a comeback should Hishammuddin go for the higher post of Vice President. In such a situation, if Khir Toyo chickens out, Zahid could easily mount a challenge and defeat Khairy, knowing full well that he has the support of both the Najib faction (he was Najib’s former political secretary) and also the supporters of former Deputy President Anwar Ibrahim (who admire Zahid for having been detained under the ISA during the early days of Reformasi). In such a contest that would easily score him 60% of the votes.

Khairy cannot take the risk of facing such a challenger, especially if he is a minister. By the next UMNO elections, Khairy could not expect to be a minister, as it would appear too obvious that nepotism had become the policy of this tottering administration. The most Khairy could expect to become was a parliamentarian with perhaps a minor Deputy Minister’s post. That would scarcely be enough, given Zahid’s position as a highly popular former UMNO Youth Chief, Supreme Council member, his previous experience as BSN Chairman, and a huge treasure chest built up over two and a half decades from selling himself to the highest bidding businessman.

So Zahid loses his chance at a cabinet position yet again. He can scarcely be expected to fight back as he is still retained as a Deputy Minister, which is better than anything ever given to him by Dr Mahathir during the latter’s premiership. Dangling a carrot before Zahid is enough to keep the donkey in check and prevent him from becoming a stallion that might challenge Khairy’s throne.

Another key Khairy strategy is bringing back Tengku Adnan Mansor, the Melaka-born thug with royal pretensions. Khairy had earlier committed a blunder by removing Tengku Adnan after he had convincingly won the Putrajaya parliamentary seat. In an act of desperation and revenge, Tengku Adnan tried to kill off Khairy’s key ally, Ahmad Zaki Zahid, as Putrajaya Youth Chief. While he failed in that attempt through his nominee, the son of Home Ministry Secretary-General Aseh Che Mat, he had not kept quiet at his demotion. To placate him in spite of having promised the position of Federal Territory Minister to Tengku Adnan’s erstwhile deputy in the UMNO Liaison committee, Zulhasnan Rafique, Khairy placed him back in the cabinet. The position of Tourism Minister is one very suited to the womanising and fun-loving Tengku Adnan whose other key interests include shares in gambling companies and escort agencies. Khairy knows that, by the next election, he can always put Ahmad Zaki Zahid as the new Putrajaya MP and remove Tengku Adnan once and for all. But now is not yet the time. He can still accommodate Tengku Adnan for awhile. At the same time, appointing Zulhasnan as cabinet minister removes the possibility of him going to Najib’s side and instead make him forever grateful to the son-in-law.

The line-up of Abdullah’s cabinet seems lacklustre because the public focuses on only the first level of headline grabbers. However, everything falls into place when we look at the second tier of future leaders -- those expected to provide fuel and fodder to Khairy’s attempt to seize the premiership of the country before the age of 40. The cold ruthless machinations of the young pretender can be seen at every nook and cranny of the new cabinet. Those who think that Abdullah has lost the plot may well be correct in thinking so, but Khairy has certainly not lost his. In fact, his position is strengthened. The scorecard for the new cabinet is that Abdullah is seen as placating the Mahathir-Najib faction and therefore could not be expected to be challenged by them anytime soon -- while Najib himself could not propel forward, as many ministers equally if not more senior to him remain in the cabinet and could scarcely be expected to kowtow to their more junior colleague in spite of his role as nominal Deputy Prime Minister.

However, it is Khairy who benefits in the long term. The cabinet now may be made up of dinosaurs, but even as you read this Khairy is nurturing a new pit of vipers that will help him hiss his way onto the main stage of UMNO politics....

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....

PART 30


It was a dark and stormy night. The Visitor made his way in an unpretentious car along Taman Duta, past the Indian High Commission, and into the private home of Deputy Premier Najib Tun Razak. The car was one of those Wajas you see on almost any road in Malaysia, but the occupant in the shotgun seat was shielded by dark tinted screens which are not regulation windows approved by the JPJ. This was a necessary precaution, given the sensitivity of the meeting. Both men held high offices within UMNO and in the current administration of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and neither wanted the world to know, especially Khairy Jamaluddin, what they were planning.

The initiator of the meeting is the occupant of the Taman Duta house. Najib Tun Razak emerged from the main hall of the house which had been converted into a temporary surau for the guests he had invited earlier that evening for an informal dinner. By now all 40 of them had left and those who tried to linger (including former editor of New Straits Times Abdullah Ahmad and several former ministers) were persuaded by Najib’s Special Officers to make an early exit. Najib was expecting an important visitor soon, giving the impression as if Najib was going to meet his boss the Prime Minister. But in reality it was someone totally unrelated, except for the fact that both he and Najib were out to discuss how to overthrow Khairy at the next UMNO General Assembly.

The Visitor is a titled person, not yet middle-aged, who has nursed a long grievance against Khairy. Up until recently Najib has refused to see him in private for fear of tipping Khairy off that he is out to remove the young man from UMNO politics. But the time has come for Najib to act. The Rembau boy is about to be slapped politically by the patrician from Pekan. The first blow of the battle for UMNO and the leadership of the government post-Abdullah Badawi has begun.

The Visitor did not step out of his car until it reached the very steps of Najib’s house. He very quickly clambered up the hall, Najib greeting him only when he was inside. The Visitor would have been recognised due to his prominence in Malaysian politics as a serving member of Abdullah’s Supreme Council in UMNO. Any whisper of him meeting Najib would have rocked the capital and made their subject of discussion the speculative frenzy of UMNO.

It was no surprise that Najib was to expose his plans first to his Visitor. For one, the Visitor, like Najib, knew if Khairy continued to be the power behind Abdullah’s throne, both their days were numbered. Najib and the Visitor realised their longevity in politics was highly dependent on the political death of Khairy. There can be no accommodation or feigning of loyalty to the boy whose sole purpose is to become Prime Minister of the country at the age of 40. The only way Khairy could achieve this was to kill off Najib and the Visitor, and both were not going to commit seppuku just to curry favour with Khairy.

Almost everyone in UMNO knows Khairy has only contempt for Najib. According to former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Khairy has gone so far as to threaten Najib that he holds many of Najib’s secrets, most supplied to him by the Singapore Secret Service. Amongst these are the corrupt dealings of the Deputy Prime Minister during his tenure as Minister of Defence and even after Abdullah had become Prime Minister. Singapore was keen to ensure that Najib stayed away from the office of Prime Minister until they at least had gained all the benefits of Abdullah’s weaker and ‘more friendly’ attitude to Lee Hsien Loong and his government. Also, in the dossier held closely by Khairy, are details of Najib’s scandals. True, after the Anwar Ibrahim episode, many could not care less if Najib buggered a goat, but it was still fodder for the conservative Malay heartland that wanted their leaders to be as pious as saints.

The most damaging attack on Najib would have been the usage of close personal contact Razak Baginda and other personalities to skim off the budget of the Ministry of Defence used in procuring certain machineries. These go into the double digit millions and could easily be proved as Najib’s account holder and nominee in Singapore is someone who sniffs money and follows its scent rather than maintain loyalty to his political master.

Khairy had once remarked to Kalimullah Hassan Masheerul Hassan that removing Najib would be ‘peanuts’. This is the absolute truth. With the control of the media that Khairy has in which even Mahathir Mohamad could scarcely whisper a discouraging word, Najib has no chance to present his own case against accusations by Abdullah and Khairy. A trumped-up levelling of fingers pointing to Najib’s shenanigans would be easier to prove than anything Mahathir had attempted on Anwar Ibrahim. Najib could only weakly defend his record as no one believes what he says. With the po-faced visage that he has been increasingly trying to reduce but failed to achieve, Najib is as convincing a liar as Umi Hafilda when she said she was still a virgin. In other words, no one believes the Pekan Boy even when he is telling the truth.

Mahathir Mohamad learnt through his own contacts that Khairy has worked very hard to gain these documents from Singapore. Much has been offered to obtain them and most of the cost has been borne by the GLCs that now answer to new masters. This is one reason why Mahathir is so seething. When statements were made recently implying some leaders were selling the nation, Mahathir made that accusation in the future tense. He should have made it in the past. The sale has already been made, the price already paid by Singapore, and Khairy has got what he wants: enough to remove Najib from the scene.

Najib’s closest circles, including those who often call Malaysia Today, have often remarked that Najib has no backbone to fight anyone, even a two-legged mangy cat. But this time things have gone too far. Najib knows he would not survive sixty days in prison if he had to face the same fate as Anwar. It has not been easy for Najib to come to this conclusion as he has always been a cautious player. Previously he could count on the support of Mahathir Mohamad as his godfather and his most ardent supporter, however, AND THIS IS OFFICIAL, Mahathir Mohamad no longer supports Najib as the alternative to Abdullah Badawi. Najib has lost so much credibility with Mahathir that the Grand Old Man is now thinking of anointing a new challenger to Abdullah. As far as Mahathir is concerned, Najib is a cowardly politician, unlike his late father who he regards as a mentor. While Mahathir has tried to play the same role to Najib, he has reached his own conclusion that his efforts have failed miserably and Najib does not share the characteristics of his late father. Mahathir has realised after many, many years that Najib is not fit to carry the mantle of successor-in-chief to the legacy of Mahathir.

Currently, Mahathir is still looking for somebody to replace Najib as his blue-eyed boy. He has yet to find one though. Whatever it may be, he is giving Najib one last chance to rise up and defend the old guards’ legacy. Any protestations of loyalty to Abdullah would no longer be tolerated by Mahathir and he is ready to unceremoniously dump Najib as he did Anwar.

In his latest remark upon his return from visiting ailing former Indonesian President Suharto, Mahathir said it would have been better if Najib claimed his place in Ghafar Baba’s grave. He has not been able to defend any of Mahathir’s legacies and is as useful as all the other residents of Makam Pahlawan. While cutting, the remark - made to a former Deputy Chief Minister of Sabah - was the complete truth as Mahathir saw it.

Najib and the Visitor are now laying plans on how to sabotage Khairy’s meteoric rise to the UMNO Vice-Presidency. Yes, you heard it right! Khairy is not going for UMNO Youth Chief. He is targeting the vacant post of UMNO Vice President, so quickly emptied by Isa Samad. Plans are being laid out that all potential challengers such as Mukhriz, Mokhzani and Zahidi Zainul Abidin will concentrate their limited resources on getting support from Pemuda. But it will all come to nought because it will not be the young ones who will give their support to Khairy, but the old ones, paid off handsomely and cowed by threats from Khairy’s supporters. They will announce their undivided support for the youngest Vice President of UMNO since the time of Ghafar or Anwar.

What glory is there of Khairy becoming Youth Chief? Why become a big fish in a small pond when you can become a shark in the ocean? In fact, Khairy has already selected the person who will become his proxy as the UMNO Youth Chief and, again, you read it first, he is not in the current UMNO Youth Exco line-up. But there is a strong agreement that this person will go for the Youth Chief post and get it as Khairy’s proxy, while the boy himself goes for the more exalted rank of Vice President.

Najib’s plan is for the Visitor to be the spoiler. He will play the role of stalking-horse and emerge as the most logical challenger as UMNO Youth Chief. But Najib already knows Khairy is not planning to go for the post of UMNO Youth Chief. All protestations to the contrary have been swallowed up by people such as Joceline Tan and other political commentators. Najib knows that this is all a façade. At the very last moment, the Visitor will announce that he is challenging Khairy for the Vice Presidency or any other post which he might decide to go for. He has made this a personal crusade to block Khairy and tail him wherever he goes and become the biggest stumbling block to the boy’s rise to power. By now, readers would want to know who the Visitor, the former deputy chief minister and Khairy’s proxy for UMNO Youth Chief are.

This is the beginning of a new series of The Khairy Chronicles which will chart the battle between the Old Guard and the Young Turks in UMNO as it happens. Over the next few weeks, these names will be revealed to you. But it is still too early to spoil the fun. UMNO is about to tear itself apart, just like PKR did before this. Revealing the names now would allow Khairy to react and remove his rivals. He will have to wait, just like any other reader of The Khairy Chronicles, for the identity of his bete-noir to be revealed when the time comes.

But one thing that we would like to reveal now is that in this battle between Najib and Khairy, Najib would be the loser. In fact, in the current state of play of the game, Najib has kissed away his last chance of becoming Prime Minister. But this is only one aspect of the battle. There is still the Battle Royale between the Grand Old Man and his Traitor cum Successor....

PART 31
Khairy Chronicles in review continued

Episode 31 of The Khairy Chronicles is supposed to be called The Battle Begins: Mahathir’s secret weapon, where we were going to tell you about Mahathir’s White Knight who will emerge to fight the Khairy Dragon. However, since the last episode of The Khairy Chronicles on 5 May, there have been many and fast-changing developments in the Malaysian political scene that what we write seems to become obsolete even before we can publish it.

You must note that it takes days, sometimes a week to research and write each episode of The Khairy Chronicles. The intimate details that we reveal means we need to meet many contacts and enter into long discussions on what is going on behind the scenes. Sometimes the source is willing to sing like a canary and at times is not really prepared to open up and remains tight-lipped. It therefore requires some very delicate probing and beating around the bush to slowly extract what we are looking for. Then there are those who delight in telling us half stories with the punch line, “I have told you what happened, now you go figure out the rest yourself.” Or they would say, “That is what happened, but I can’t mention names.” We then have to continue investigating and talk to others to put in the missing pieces to that story and plug the many gaps and holes that our source left us with.

In the latest episode of The Corridors of Power (Politics is about the attainment of power), we concluded by saying:
In the meantime, watch the ongoing power struggle in Malaysia. Much conniving and money changing hands will be seen over the next year or so. And the man left standing will be he who plays the game best. And all’s fair in love, war and politics. There will be no dirty politics, only real-politics. And the next prime minister, whoever it may be, will be he who outwits the others and outbids everyone with the best price. And the next prime minister will have to be the dirtiest player in the game; there are no two ways about it.

The impression created is that Malaysia’s political scene is calm and calculated. That is certainly the appearance given. But Malaysia’s politics is like a deep river. Deep rivers appear calm but the turbulence beneath the surface would drag you down if you were to suffer the misfortune of falling into it. Then there would be the many crocodiles lurking below waiting to pounce on you if you are spared drowning. The calmer the river, the more you should stay out of it for not many have been able to defy nature and walk away to tell their tale.

Yes, nature, mankind’s folly in thinking that he can shape this earth in his own image and not suffer the consequences. Whether it be the Highland Towers collapse (due to the shifting of the underground stream), the Tsunami tragedy (due to the destruction of mangroves along the shoreline), landslides (due to development on hill slopes), and much more, have all proven that nature has power over mankind.

And what is the nature of politicians? Politicians are animals that scheme, plot, connive, engage, survive, and kill. A politician is a modern-day gladiator. Politicians must kill or be killed. Politicians must make alliances and break alliances. In politics, the ends justify the means.

In the latest episode of The Corridors of Power (Politics is about the attainment of power), we said:

Enemies become friends and friends become enemies. An enemy of your enemy becomes your friend, even if the former is also your enemy, but as long as the latter is a bigger enemy. An enemy of your friend also becomes your enemy, even if the former is also your friend, but as long the latter can serve your political interests. That is the political game. And you must learn to treat all political friends as potential enemies and keep them close where you can watch over them -- plus keep your political enemies even closer so that you can monitor them and neutralise their every move.

Well, this is exactly what is happening in Malaysian politics today and, over the last couple of weeks while we were putting together episode 31 of The Khairy Chronicles, the behind the scenes goings-on has forced us to go back to the drawing board lest what we publish becomes obsolete as you read it or the rapid changing events make what we write highly in error.

For example, since the last episode of The Khairy Chronicles, the recently removed Umno Perlis Youth Leader has decided to take on Khairy Jamaluddin and give him a run for his money. He is now making his moves and laying the groundwork to launch this challenge.

The Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS) is attempting to bring together Ex-Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, his one-time deputy Anwar Ibrahim, and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah to team up for the good of the ‘Malay cause’. Is the hidden agenda really to challenge the Prime Minister?

Dr Mahathir has categorically stated in his Malaysiakini interview last week that there is no possibility of any reconciliation with Anwar. Then there are certain forces who are attempting to open a channel for Anwar to meet Dr Mahathir so that the former can apologise to the latter. It is hoped that once Anwar does this, then the old man would give his blessing in the event that Umno would like to take Anwar back.

Last Friday, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi met Dr Mahathir in Tokyo. Dr Mahathir returned to Malaysia the following day while Abdullah the day after that. It has been reported that Abdullah is trying to mend fences with the old man but the terms and conditions for reconciliation may be too much for Abdullah to endure. Other than the reinstatement of the cancelled ‘Crooked Bridge’, Dr Mahathir wants Abdullah’s son-in-law, Khairy, removed from the corridors of power.

Yes, there is much going on behind the scenes and it appears like all roads lead to Khairy, even the cancellation of the ‘Crooked Bridge’. Will Abdullah sacrifice his son-in-law to pacify him who still has the power to hire and fire and can shape the political environment of this country? Will Najib strike now while Khairy is teetering on the verge and about to be pushed over the edge by the many enemies he has made in such a short space of time, Dr Mahathir included? Will Anwar become the powerbroker and kingmaker in the redrawing of political boundaries, realignment of political loyalties, and new political alliances? Will the Dr Mahathir-Anwar-Tengku Razaleigh team become a reality or will the PAS effort fizzle just like the Dinar idea which it mooted recently?

There is so much to look into and the events swing from one extreme to the other within mere days. Anyway, while we are getting our hands on the latest and juiciest of the backroom political manoeuvres, let us continue with our Khairy Chonicles in review before we go to the next episode of our story on the young upstart who would be Prime Minister by the age of 40 and what he would have to do to eliminate the competition.

Part 24 - Khairy Chronicles in review

It seems Khairy Jamaluddin is not happy with The Khairy Chronicles. And when Khairy is not happy, he must be made happy. These ‘certain parties’ do not work for Khairy. They, in fact, answer to the government. Indirectly, they are responsible to the people. Their job is to uphold the law and punish the law-breakers, not to serve certain political interests. Their function is to defend our constitutional rights, including freedom of expression and the independence of the media. But that is only a pipedream. In reality, they bow to the will of the powers-that-be. In this case, they bow to Khairy.

Khairy has no position in the government of the day. He is officially only a ‘corporate advisor’. No doubt he is deputy head of UMNO Youth, but that role too is not one that allows him to run the country as he wishes. Nevertheless, he does. For some time now, these ‘certain parties’ have been feeding him reports (as well as to his father-in-law), including the results of their snooping on opposition politicians and functions. Khairy has no right to these reports, but he receives them anyway -- because the ministers and deputy ministers in charge are too afraid to raise their objections.

What makes Khairy uncomfortable with The Khairy Chronicles is the fact that it has pre-empted many of his moves since the middle of last year -- and now that he is beginning to make these moves we can turn round and say, “I told you so.”

Part 25 - A New Deal: Running Out of Time

Khairy’s actions over the last few months demonstrate immense immaturity and stupidity. The obvious corrupt and insider dealing involved in the purchase of ECM Libra and the use of government-owned Avenue Capital to bail out Khairy’s business cronies and make them multi-millionaires overnight are actions that could have been better handled and with greater finesse. Instead, its execution bears all the hallmarks of a rushed job, the handiwork of an amateur in politics and business. The image that Khairy portrays has transformed from an intelligent, confident young man to a greedy and corrupt opportunist. The ‘smooth operator’ has gone, to be replaced by the ‘grab-and-run’ conman.

Perhaps there is pattern in this madness. Maybe the fast-paced actions were not a headlong rush created out of chaos but a calculated attempt to salvage whatever remains of the teetering administration of Abdullah Badawi. The administration that started out promising Malaysians the sun and the moon, and that enjoyed the biggest majority since the General Election of 1955, has begun to be seen as the most inept and bumbling government ever. Abdullah Badawi is lurching from crisis to crisis; unable to deal with issues with the decisiveness that Malaysians have become so accustomed to over the last two decades or so. Swaying from right to left, Abdullah Badawi leads a government rife with internal conflict and unable to grapple with the simplest of ordinary issues.

Khairy knows that his future -- political, business or otherwise -- depends on Abdullah Badawi’s longevity in office. That now seems increasingly shaky. Unlike his predecessor, Abdullah Badawi is unable to capitalise on his strength in Parliament. Led astray by the silly ideas of people such as Nazri Aziz and Backbencher Club President Shahrir Abdul Samad, Abdullah Badawi lost control of his own Parliament and saw senators and backbenchers attacking his government with a ferocity unseen since the days of Tunku Abdul Rahman. While thinking that Parliament should be allowed more say, Abdullah failed to realise that many of the backbenchers could think and speak better than him or his menagerie of hapless ministers. As a result, when Parliament began to take up the mantle of criticising ridiculous government policies, Abdullah finds it difficult to respond in a convincing manner. Slowly, the rickety sinews that bind his fragile government begin to appear for all to see.

Part 26 - A New Deal: The bag-carriers

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.

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.

Part 27 - A New Deal: Crash and Burn

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.

Part 28 - A New Deal: Losing the Plot?

Instead of disturbing or disrupting the top leadership, Khairy has instead strengthened his hand at the second echelon level. He has rescued a key loyalist, Noh Omar, from the frying pan of the Ministry of Internal Security and put him in the safer and relatively powerful (as far as UMNO eyes are concerned) post of Deputy Education Minister. Noh Omar is one of those people whom Khairy can rely on to secure a good stream of information about the activities of his current boss and potential rival, Hishammuddin Hussein. The truth of the matter is Noh Omar has been placed in that position for only two purposes.

Firstly, Khairy wants Noh to spy on Hishammuddin and sabotage any attempts he may make to strengthen his position ahead of the next UMNO elections. Secondly, Noh is a prominent member of the UMNO Club Alumni Organisation of overseas student graduates and, in the position of Deputy Education Minister, Noh would be able to enhance efforts of creating a powerful support base for Khairy among overseas Malay graduates. In the one year left leading to the next General Election, Noh would be in a powerful position to supply Khairy crucial tactical and strategic information. Simultaneously, Noh has been placed in the most senior federal position for a Selangor politician. By dropping Shafie Salleh from the Ministry of Higher Education, Noh is now the most senior Selangor candidate who Khairy can use as a potential menteri besar to replace the dangerous Khir Toyo, a man who is a potent obstacle to Khairy.

Part 29 - A New Deal: Rosebud – a new person in Abdullah’s life

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.

Part 30 - The Battle Begins: Pekan Boy Strikes Back

Almost everyone in UMNO knows Khairy has only contempt for Najib. According to former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Khairy has gone so far as to threaten Najib that he holds many of Najib’s secrets, most supplied to him by the Singapore Secret Service. Amongst these are the corrupt dealings of the Deputy Prime Minister during his tenure as Minister of Defence and even after Abdullah had become Prime Minister. Singapore was keen to ensure that Najib stayed away from the office of Prime Minister until they at least had gained all the benefits of Abdullah’s weaker and ‘more friendly’ attitude to Lee Hsien Loong and his government. Also, in the dossier held closely by Khairy, are details of Najib’s scandals. True, after the Anwar Ibrahim episode, many could not care less if Najib buggered a goat, but it was still fodder for the conservative Malay heartland that wanted their leaders to be as pious as saints.

Khairy had once remarked to Kalimullah Hassan Masheerul Hassan that removing Najib would be ‘peanuts’. This is the absolute truth. With the control of the media that Khairy has in which even Mahathir Mohamad could scarcely whisper a discouraging word, Najib has no chance to present his own case against accusations by Abdullah and Khairy. A trumped-up levelling of fingers pointing to Najib’s shenanigans would be easier to prove than anything Mahathir had attempted on Anwar Ibrahim. Najib could only weakly defend his record as no one believes what he says. With the po-faced visage that he has been increasingly trying to reduce but failed to achieve, Najib is as convincing a liar as Umi Hafilda when she said she was still a virgin. In other words, no one believes the Pekan Boy even when he is telling the truth.

Mahathir Mohamad learnt through his own contacts that Khairy has worked very hard to gain these documents from Singapore. Much has been offered to obtain them and most of the cost has been borne by the GLCs that now answer to new masters. This is one reason why Mahathir is so seething. When statements were made recently implying some leaders were selling the nation, Mahathir made that accusation in the future tense. He should have made it in the past. The sale has already been made, the price already paid by Singapore, and Khairy has got what he wants: enough to remove Najib from the scene.

PART 32
The Battle Begins: Mahathir chooses his weapon

In December 1990, as he lay on his deathbed, First Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman received the unwelcome news that the then Prime Minister was about to come pay him a visit. According to Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s staff, it was a ‘courtesy call’ upon the dying Bapa Malaysia who was spending his last few hours on this earth, generally at peace with himself after having delivered his final message to the people at a gathering in Kuching several days earlier. The Tunku wanted to let the world slip away without any rancour.

But Mahathir had come to disturb that idyll. He wanted to make his peace with the dying Father of Independence. Nevertheless, the Tunku was no hypocrite. He was not about to pretend he had suddenly changed his 25-year old feelings of contempt for the man who once called him ‘traitor to the Malays’. The Tunku did not want to pretend that he could so easily forgive Mahathir for all that he had done -- including what the Tunku believed was the dismantling of the Malaysian democracy which he had so painfully established.

So the Tunku, in his usual puckish humour, decided to ‘fall asleep’. Mahathir came into the hospital room and addressed the Tunku respectfully, rambling on and on about how he really respected the man, all the while the Tunku ‘snored’ as if he was in a deep slumber. By doing so, he did not need to address Mahathir nor even acknowledge the presence of the Prime Minister. He faked a snooze in order to escape having to give a false impression that all was forgiven and forgotten.

16 years later, it was Mahathir’s turn to do the same to his own successor as Prime Minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. True, Mahathir is nowhere close to dying, nor is he even sick, but he too did not want to pretend that ‘all is forgiven’ nor that ‘all is well’ between him and Abdullah.

When Abdullah used a common friend (one of the doctors in his entourage) to arrange a meeting with Mahathir in Tokyo during the recent Nikkei conference in late May, Mahathir was of course reluctant to accept. But he could not refuse to meet the Prime Minister as he was told that Abdullah was already on his way to his hotel suite and could hardly turn back. Nevertheless, this did stop Mahathir from ‘doing a Tunku’. He pretended to be in a hurry and, after dismissing Abdullah with some hellos, grunts and umphs, the ‘courtesy call’ was all over in less than ten minutes. In spite of Kalimullah Hassan Masheerul Hassan’s and Brendan Pereira’s attempt to portray a reconciliation with the great giant of UMNO politics, the meeting had all the excitement of a hospital morgue.

As far as Mahathir was concerned, meeting Abdullah was an exercise in futility. Reconciliation with Abdullah was certainly something farthest from his mind. Mahathir had already decided to cross the bridge from which there is no turning back -- in fact, he was burning the bridge as far as Abdullah is concerned. Mahathir is no longer thinking of how to depose Abdullah as UMNO President and Prime Minister but has instead devised a plan to unseat what he considers a most unworthy successor. Mahathir is no longer a critic of the government but a potent opponent who is dedicated to its overthrow. The former Prime Minister is now officially the Leader of the Opposition to Abdullah’s rule.

There are those who still believe that Mahathir’s hopes lie with Najib. This is no longer so. Najib has been well and truly discounted in spite of several last-minute attempts to prove himself a worthy inheritor of the Mahathir legacy. For example, knowing that he has been accused by the Mahathir faction of not being able to take advantage of Abdullah’s many wrong turns and strategic blunders, Najib recently consolidated his support among the anti-Khairy faction. He gave the opportunity for Reezal Merican Naina Merican to lead GPMS in spite of the fact that Reezal is now the most virulent anti-Khairy force in Abdullah’s office. Najib also managed to secure the acquiescence of that wishy-washy Suhaimi Ibrahim by promising him the kiss of life when he is already politically dead. Najib hoped that by doing so, he shows his mettle and ability to solve a problem in a society where the traditional leader has been Abdullah himself.

But Mahathir knows that Najib is a lame horse whose legs have been crippled by the piles of incriminating evidence Khairy has gathered from the Singapore secret service which will eventually be used to slay Najib and end his career in a shower of scandals. So Mahathir, while willing to accept that the fall of Abdullah may lead to a temporary succession of Najib, no longer relies on Najib to spearhead the movement to unseat Abdullah.

Mahathir’s secret weapon lies in three particular areas. The first, strangely enough, is in UMNO Youth, though not through Mukhriz. Many feel that Mahathir will launch his attack on Khairy, his most hated target, through either one of his politically active sons, Mukhriz or Mokhzani. While these two may stand for key positions in the next UMNO elections, Mahathir has actually groomed someone else with the calibre to match Khairy and displace him in a swift blitzkrieg of surprise. Mahathir’s choice has fallen on a young Oxbridge graduate, the son of a former cabinet minister who is meticulously building up his war kitty and is rapidly accumulating millions to finance his expenses at the UMNO elections. Coming from a long established political family, Mahathir’s stalking-horse is young, able and rich. The element of surprise is the most vital component for this weapon as the figure chosen by Mahathir is yet to appear on the national scene.

Khairy thinks that Mahathir’s choice is a dud. Of course, it is natural he should think so, given that he himself was in the early years considered unable to gather the support he currently enjoys. Mahathir’s choice, however, has the advantage of being relatively unknown with hardly any ‘surplus baggage’ bogging him down. In the UMNO elections to come, should Khairy choose to stay in the ranks of UMNO Youth, he will find himself facing a new personality who has all of his good traits but none of the bad publicity which he has thus far accumulated resulting from his many business and political misbehaviours.

The way Mahathir’s choice builds his support is not only through UMNO Youth but also through those other organisations inching their way into Mahathir’s camp. Amongst these are many professional organisations whose members are frankly too sick of Abdullah’s inabilities or too jealous of Khairy’s pre-eminence. They feel that they are the equals, if not Khairy’s betters, and are eager to offer themselves to Mahathir in the hope that when the change comes, they will exchange their low stations for Khairy’s lofty clouds.

Mahathir has been secretly meeting many of Khairy’s contemporaries, collecting data about Khairy’s personal life plus on his every move. In spite of the many opportunities to do so while he was Prime Minister, Mahathir had made the tactical error of not pursuing those leads when he had the chance then. Now he is actively picking them up and meeting with those young people who count Khairy as one of their current or former circles. They are quite happy to trade information for a pat on the back from the Grand Old Man of Malaysian politics.

Another of Mahathir’s weapon is the civil servants who are staffed at Abdullah’s office and other relevant ministries such as the Ministry of Finance. It is an open secret that many senior civil servants are disgusted with what they regard as Khairy’s direct interference in government policies and his constant pestering for projects through his stooges like Ahmad Zaki Zahid and others of that ilk. These civil servants continue to report to Mahathir almost all the scandals and misbehaviour associated with Khairy -- including one recent case where Khairy influenced the sale of Malaysian government assets to a consortium of Singaporeans scouting for a company operating from the sensitive nation of Israel. Such information could not have surfaced if not for the connivance of insiders, just like most of the information in these Khairy Chronicles is obtained from disgruntled officers of many government agencies.

These scandals are indeed complex and difficult for the common public to understand. But if there is one knack which Mahathir has not lost, it is his ability to convey to the common people in the simplest of terms what is often a murky and intellectually challenging issue. Therein rests the biggest problem for Abdullah. Except when he is parroting Khairy’s words, Abdullah is not a great communicator like Mahathir. Faced with Abdullah, UMNO members quickly fall into la-la land whereas Mahathir can enthral an audience from start to finish. If Mahathir openly challenges Abdullah, there is no doubt that the latter would seem the weaker blunderer, stuttering from word to word, unable to form a coherent sentence or convince the audience.

In the meantime, anyone who has studied Mahathir in the last 25 years will know that he is the master of double-speak. Mahathir’s recent interviews should not be read at face value but instead examined for its hidden meaning. Mahathir is on a crusade, believing that only he can save the country from certain ruin. In such a crusade, all and every alliance should be considered. And even those whom Mahathir feel are spawns of the devil will eventually find themselves being considered in the great big fight against Abdullah. Readers may well think that we are suggesting some form of reconciliation between the battling figures which in the last eight years have coloured Malay politics. That may or may not be the case. What is true is that feelers are being sent by all parties and dogs may well marry cats before the next year is up.....

PART 33
The Battle Begins: The Mahathir attack - Caesar becomes Brutus

The time on the clock showed four in the morning. Former Deputy Prime Minister Musa Hitam just couldn’t close his eyes and fall asleep. The heat of the day was still bugging him in spite of the full blast of the air conditioner hanging over his bed. At 72, Musa had long left the world of politics, shying away from the dangers that he courted when he dared challenge the might of his boss, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, nearly 20 years ago. Since failing to wrest power from Mahathir, Musa has slipped quietly into oblivion, reaping scraps from corporate tables and pretending to be a diplomat. There were many nights before this when Musa could not sleep, but none were like this particular one. Cold sweat dripped from his forehead. It was as if some nightmare was haunting him and preventing him from falling into slumber-land. Alarm bells kept ringing in his head, harking back to the days when not only his political career but the fate of the nation hung in balance.

Earlier that day, Musa had attended the great fete celebrating UMNO’s 50th Anniversary. As a former top leader of the party, he had been placed on the dais together with other veterans lined up like ancient Chinese ancestral portraits. They looked down from the heights of the stage onto the current actors singing the sacrifices of leaders past and drawing all the credit they could for their own future benefits. Musa had been placed like a precious avatar next to the grandest UMNO deity, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the only living former UMNO President, a man with an almost god-like status amongst the ranks of the former leaders. But it was not the celebration that day that kept Musa from sleeping. It was what Mahathir had whispered to him throughout the day that was nagging him and prevented him from sleeping.

Actually, you could not really call it a whisper. It was obvious that Mahathir was unhappy, maybe even angry. And the brunt of his anger was the man who stood on the steps of the grand palace of Johor Bahru, his anointed successor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Mahathir could scarcely hide his contempt for the man; cursing Abdullah’s recent actions which he felt undermined not only his legacy but the future of the nation itself. Mahathir hissed. Finally, apparently quite perturbed with the constant needling of the man standing beside him, Musa asked Mahathir what he was going to do about it. And it was Mahathir’s reply that shocked Musa so much that now he could not fall asleep. Mahathir told Musa his plans for deposing Abdullah.

Musa knew what Mahathir had told him was a decision that the UMNO giant had no intention of reversing. Like Caesar crossing the Rubicon, Mahathir had cast all his doubts aside and was determined to pursue a final battle that would either mark him as the saviour of the nation or stamp his skin with the scarlet word ‘Traitor’. Mahathir had decided he would take up the role of chief conspirator in the great plot to kill the political career of Abdullah Badawi, once and for all. Only thus can he be assured that he will not be dying with his eyes wide open.

Musa reached for his phone and dialled a number, reaching a certain Member of Parliament from Johor who could be counted on to deliver a certain message to Abdullah. While he did not completely agree with what Abdullah was doing -- in fact, Musa was one of the first to voice his concern to Abdullah that his son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin, was becoming too powerful and too rich an advisor -- Musa did not want Malaysian politics to again be embroiled in the cutthroat savageness that he witnessed in 1987 and again in 1998. As a Johore Malay of the old school, Musa’s mantra, rightly or wrongly, has always been to yield to the lesser of two evils -- the other alternative being a full-blown war where both parties suffer casualties and every top leader gets killed. It was better, Musa felt, to be called timid and cautious rather than die fighting a battle that everyone will come out of fatally wounded.

So Musa decided to tip off the Member of Parliament and, in no uncertain terms, convey this most crucial message to Abdullah. The message was simple and came in three parts. First, Mahathir was about to strike and his aim was to remove Abdullah from power. Second, it was a decision that Mahathir had fully considered and any effort to mitigate the situation by trying to mediate would be fruitless. Third, he (Musa) had chosen his side, and his side is with Abdullah against the might of Mahathir from which he once shirked in terror.

Abdullah Badawi got the message later the next morning. He did not understand why Musa felt the attack was imminent. After all, he had gone out of his way to try and assuage Mahathir’s anger with the most subtle moves that would usually soothe the anger of the Grand Old Man. But Abdullah had long played a double game. While he tried portraying what Musa was later to call ‘ an elegant silence’, his underlings from the most sycophantic cabinet minister to the littlest of UMNO branch leader have been constantly told that many of Mahathir’s policies were no longer working and Abdullah was in repair mode, trying to make things better for everyone before it was too late.

The press under the control of Kalimullah Hassan Masheerul Hassan had been dressed up to appear more open in preparation for the day when they could, like a self-fulfilling prophecy, declare that they were freer and more critical now than they ever had been under Mahathir. Even so, when the attack finally came, the Khairy-controlled press scrambled to vilify Dr Mahathir. Some of the attempts were actually quite comical. For example, Datuk Kamarulzaman of TV3 went so far as to interview ketua kampungs and penghulus to voice their support for Abdullah. Even the often-erudite Rehman Rashid could do no more than write a so-called open letter to Dr Mahathir, nauseatingly praising Abdullah’s so-called ‘open press policy’ without declaring of course that this policy gave him back the job from which Abdullah Ahmad had dismissed him before. In other words, the small bit players came out with their little pen-knives to scratch Mahathir’s skin and laugh gleefully as it bled a little. The truth was that the efforts to undermine Mahathir began from day one of Abdullah’s administration. It was a deliberate and cohesive strategy devised by Khairy, presented many months before the handover to the team he had formed to play the role of Abdullah’s crutches.

In the first Khairy Chronicles, we had outlined how Khairy was going to demolish Mahathir’s legacy piece by piece. It has taken two years, but the plans that were hatched those many months before have now come to a boil. Mahathir’s engineered downfall will be disguised as a reform movement spearheaded by Abdullah, or at least tacitly endorsed by his administration.

The first fruits have already ripened. Mahathir’s blatant misuse of the judiciary, his favouring of certain business interests, the usage of government funds for grand projects, and other perceived abuses, have now been brought to the surface and laid bare for all and sundry to feast their eyes on. The next stage would be as Khairy himself remarked earlier to his close friends (and what these Chronicles had stated before): that certain figures from the Mahathir administration would now be hauled in front of show trials where their ‘sins’ would be exposed and ‘appropriate’ punishment meted out. The verdict would be a direct indictment of the middle leadership under Mahathir, but the actual target would be the Grand Architect himself. Mahathir’s name will be dragged through courts all over the land and he will be described as the evil genius who directed the corrupt and abusive actions of his underlings in his 22 years as Malaysia’s Prime Minister.

Eventually, Khairy’s target would be to put at least one or two former and key Mahathir underlings in jail. Prominent amongst these targets are the group of people who served as poster boys of Mahathir’s corporate agenda -- in other words, those who are closest to former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin. Daim has always been Khairy’s most obvious target. Although many credit him as being the planner of Malaysia’s economic growth in the 1980s and 1990s, because Daim had always attributed the credit to Mahathir, it is easy to tar Daim as the bad boy without feeling too guilty about it. Obviously, Daim’s record is not clean if compared to other Finance Ministers, with the possible exception of Anwar Ibrahim, Daim was known to have a circle of trusted lieutenants whom he fed with money, positions and contracts.

But surely Mahathir knows all this. Indeed he does. One of the factors that triggered Mahathir’s outburst was a recent discovery brought to his attention by one of his former political secretaries. It seems Khairy had had a meeting with several former judges who were planning an attack upon their more corrupt ‘brothers’ who had been promoted by Mahathir mainly for their subservience. Of course, some of Khairy’s new ‘friends’ were sincere in wanting to reform the judiciary. But let there be no doubt about it -- most of the others are as corrupt as their future victims and they only want to support Khairy in order to save their own skins. There is no black and white in the Malaysian judiciary, only shades of grey. All the clean judges have already been kicked out along with Salleh Abbas while many others had either died, depressed and broken, or have slipped into obscurity.

Can anyone say that Abdullah’s reforms are supported only by clean hands? It doesn’t take a genius to realise that the many voices speaking out in support of the Prime Minister against Mahathir are those whose life and career have been built on ill-gotten gains. These include almost all the current cabinet ministers, mere residue (saki-baki) from the Mahathir days. These people are not clean. Some like Nazri Aziz are so obviously corrupt you can smell the corruption like a dog that can smell a bitch in heat as he saunters into the room. Others, notably Muhyiddin Yassin, are as guilty of money politics as the deposed Isa Samad -- and who was spared execution only because he is perceived as a puerile nobody and not deemed dangerous to Khairy’s political career. It is laughable that these people now support Abdullah’s ‘reforms’. They would support any Prime Minister in office for that matter. If Hadi Awang was the Prime Minister, they would be clapping like seals, yelping his name.

What worries all these people is that they can no longer pretend to be the loyal sons of Mahathir while serving as Abdullah’s men. Now that the battle has begun, they must be seen to be the undivided loyal soldiers of the current commander-in-chief. That is expected of them and has always been the UMNO culture. Nevertheless, at least three of them have given secret support to Mahathir. Let’s call a spade a spade so that life can be more interesting. The three who have called Mahathir to give their support are Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, Azmi Khalid and Mustapa Mohamad.

But this of course comes as no surprise. The surprise instead lies in Mahathir’s reaction and counter moves. Surely no one is stupid enough to think that Mahathir is having an off day, having swallowed too much Panadol when he gave that watershed comment. Like the Anwar episode, Mahathir had thought long and hard about it. And this is the next move Mahathir will make. Mahathir toppled Anwar by having other people bell the cat. This time, however, he will do it himself. He himself has told everyone as much. Even his son Mukhriz admitted to the press that his father was now so angry he is making his own moves and is not delegating that responsibility to others.

First of all though, a no-confidence movement within UMNO needs to emerge. Like in the past, Mahathir will rely on the state UMNO machineries to do this. Of the many Menteris Besar, only two remain in Abdullah’s camp. These are Mahadzir Khalid of Kedah and Mohamad Hassan of Negeri Sembilan. Mahadzir Khalid is a non-entity in Kedah. He is too new to have any strong grassroots support and has ready-made enemies such as Ahmad Lebai Sudin, Aziz Sheikh Fadzir and even former Menteri Besar Syed Razak Syed Zain to contend with. In addition, his extravagance over these last few months where he has become the only Menteri Besar to use a private jet for overseas visits has further riled up the UMNO leaders in Kedah. He also openly scolds them as if they were children -- perhaps reminiscent of the days when he used to scold his wife’s pupils during his time in the political wilderness. He is scarcely someone who could be relied upon to deliver the important state of Kedah.

Mohamad Hassan, the Menteri Besar of Negeri Sembilan who resembles a baddie from a bad 1970s Tamil movie, is another non-entity placed as a puppet by Khairy to warm the seat until he is ready to assume the political leadership of Negeri Sembilan. Mohamad has ready-made enemies in Isa Samad, the Menteri Besar he displaced, and other Exco Members with many more years experience compared to his. He knows as much about running the state as the next car mechanic you see in Seremban -- and throwing his support behind Abdullah is the only way he can keep his job.

Of course, there are those like Idris Jusoh of Terengganu and Musa Aman of Sabah who will support anyone they think will win -- and if they think Mahathir is going to win they will abandon Abdullah like a hot potato and jump on Mahathir’s bandwagon. Of the rest, two have already given veiled support to Mahathir -- Shahidan Kassim, the arch-opportunist, who believes himself to be God’s gift to arbitration, and Adnan Yaakob, who is still sore at Khairy for not backing his efforts to stand as a Vice President during the last UMNO elections. But these two are clowns. Mahathir is relying on someone else to be his campaign manager for the states. That man is someone who already has a long-standing grudge, not only against Abdullah, but against Khairy. During the last General Election he had been on the list of those to be removed. Furthermore, Khairy had belittled him in his efforts during the last UMNO elections. More importantly, Khairy has gone over his head in allocating projects in his state. There were times he had been told by businessmen that Khairy had personally given them certain concessions -- for which he is forbidden from protesting. His anger at Khairy has good reasons and the removal of Abdullah and his son-in-law would be the culmination of the ideal dream.

Mahathir will rely on this person to move UMNO slowly but surely towards removing Abdullah. By whatever means, UMNO will be made ready for a contest that will see either Abdullah in triumph over Mahathir or Mahathir’s new man in place at the leadership of Barisan Nasional before the 12th General Election. Since Mahathir is so ardent in his efforts to remove Abdullah and Khairy, Malaysia Today will not spoil it by revealing his plans just yet. Suffice that we call Mahathir’s weapon ‘MB X’. And MB X will make himself known to the public soon enough.....



2 comments:

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