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Monday, July 25, 2011

Intrigue at boiling point in Umno as Najib shortens holiday, deports lawyer

Sulaiman Kamal | 4:13 AM | | | | | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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It looks like Prime Minister Najib Razak is on his way out. Whether the next general election is called this year, 2012 or 2013 and whether BN secures a two-thirds parliamentary majority, Najib is unlikely to retain the UMNO presidency.
A concerted effort is now being made amongst the UMNO elite to oust him, even as they publicly profess support and smile indulgently at his Satu Malaysia clarion call. But make no mistake, the jury is in. The warlords know Najib is finished, he has lost too much credibility both inside and outside the country to be worthwhile to salvage as their leader, or even just as a 'front-man'.

And this may be the reason for the past month's binge of political madness that saw Malaysia completely transformed from being a nation of reason to one where Emergency rule or a police state was almost declared; which would have paved the way for Najib and his cousin Hishammuddin Hussein to stay in power as a last resort. The cousins were not only going against the massive popular support for the Bersih rally for free and fair elections, nor the political opposition put up by Pakatan Rakyat and Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, but also, most dangerous of all - against their own UMNO party.
Hence the slew of outlandish caveman-like tactics aimed to show the UMNO elite how to the brink they were willing to go to ensure that UMNO stays in power. But sadly for the cousins, the UMNO elite are not so gullible. If they allowed Najib to continue, he would only try to strengthen his grip further and this could mean a massive purge in UMNO once the general elections are over.
Hence, the UMNO warlords are not taking any chances and they have all begun drawing battle lines.
Scorpenes and Ku Li's Amanah
Rushing home to be with Malaysians was the saccharine reason Najib gave on Friday and also the news spun by the mainstream media to explain his sudden return from Europe. He had been scheduled to take another long holiday with his family in the Mediterranean, Europe's playground for the ultra rich and famous.
But instead of breezy yachting trips and hob-nobbing with other super-rich, Najib found himself on walkabouts in down-to-earth Subang Perdana, performed Friday prayers at the Subang Perdana Mosque and ate lunch at Sekolah Kebangsaan in Jalan U3, Subang Perdana. And all on the very same day that his plane landed. Unsual diligence indeed.
Najib also pointedly dropped information that he had told his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin, it was important that both of them and the other ministers go down to the ground and meet the people. Yes, it was all a publicity walk for Najib - a show of strength that he was still very much in control and was the boss.
But sadly, nobody believes in this sort of contrived hoopla anymore; this is a prime minister whom people are merely being polite with. His rivals are merely waiting at the gates of the city to remove him from his high seat. And his rivals are not the usual suspects - not Pakatan or Anwar although they too are circling close. Najib is now in clear and present danger from the party he proudly leads and lords over as president. The splinter groups in UMNO are poised to pounce on him at any time.
His sudden return to Malaysia was indeed prompted by the appearance of William Bourdon. But UMNO insiders also say he was worried by the launch of Tengku Razaleigh's NGO - Amanah.
Given the massive loss of faith in Najib's leadership, Razaleigh or Ku Li can really hammer in the final nail into the PM's political coffin. Ku Li offers a plausible centrist platform for wearied UMNO members to run to, now that it is clear that Najib has rushed to the right in a bid to impress Mahathir Mohamad, a top party power broker and ex-premier who ruled Malaysia with a fist of iron from 1981 to 2003.
Great measures but unconvincing: Dr M switches sides
Back in 2007, Abdullah Badawi had attempted to expose Najib's role in the Altantuya Shaariibuu murder to stop him from assuming the presidency of UMNO and hence becoming the prime minister of Malaysia.
But Abdullah failed in his attempt primarily because he was not only going against Najib, who was then his deputy, but also the person backing Najib - ex-premier Mahathir Mohamed. It was with Mahathir’s blessing that Najib became president of UMNO and thus prime minister.
Great measures were used to cover-up Najib’s involvement in the Altantuya murder case which is intertwined with the ministry of defense's RM7 billion purchase of the Scorpene submarines.
Najib was not only DPM but also defense minister. After ousting Abdullah, he became prime minister in April 2009 but by default as president of UMNO and not by a mandate from the people.
The mandate from 2004 to 2008 and from 2008 to 2013 was actually won by Abdullah, But because BN lost its two-third majority in Parliament, it gave Najib and Mahathir the excuse to push out Abdullah.
And knowing that he has yet to gain the mandate of the people, Najib is desperate to remain a popular figure among Malaysians. But despite the splurges on public relations, it looks like he has lost the battle and fairly conclusively. If not, he would have called for snap polls.
In the two years since taking over, Najib has shown his incapability to lead a nation. Popular, he may be but popularity cannot lead a nation. And it is this inability to lead that has been his Achilles heel. Najib, the poster boy of UMNO, should have remained just that.
Now due to his ineptness, he has lost the backing of the grand old man of Malaysian politics - Mahathir Mohamed. Mahathir has thrown his weight behind Muhyiddin Yassin; who saw it fit to leave Najib and his cousin Hishammuddin Hussein to fumble in handling the Bersih protest.
Headless chickens
Indeed, the two cousins have lost much support from their own backers in UMNO over the rally. They are now like a pair of headless chickens, rushing to the right to please Mahathir and running back a fews steps to the centre in case that void gets filled by the likes of Razaleigh's Amanah.
Amanah is a non-partisan NGO calling for better governance in Malaysia. It is interesting that on the day of its launch, Razaleigh or Ku Li threw his support behind Bersih’s call for free and fair elections. This in turn launch a round of support from former ministers such as ex-Tourism minister Kadir Sheikh Fadzir towards the need for free and fair elections.
Amanah's call for free and fair elections is similar to what Pakatan Rakyat and Bersih supporters have been advocating. The difference is that Ku Li is still an UMNO member and is seen to trying to force his party to shift back to a more centred position.
Make no mistake, the call for reform by Amanah is a call for Najib to step aside. And this call is now publicly coming from UMNO itself and not just Pakatan supporters. Najib is too scandal-plagued. Apart from Bersih, the Scorpenes-Altantuya is something impossible for him to wriggle out. The mess of shenanigans that Malaysians have been inflicted with as Najib and Hisham flail and feint their way out is a sign of how desperate and limited their solutions are.
Najib cannot trust a Mahathir-backed Muhyiddin and with Ku Li back in the picture at a most interesting timing, Najib is now desperately in need of support and he is turning to the Malay grass-roots.
Hence, the ever-more urgent need to remove William Bourbon from Malaysia. Not only are the French investigators closing in on the culprits, of which he is possibly one, Najib cannot afford to have a foreign lawyer walking around, exposing his involvement in corrupt practices and murder.
The stain to his already battered public image due to the Bersih, Queen E and Pope fiacso would be the proverbial final straw to break the camel's back. It is slowly becoming clear that there are more high-level officials involved in the kickbacks for the submarine purchases.
Could Najib now be facing pressure from his colleagues in the UMNO elite to close this case as fast as possible?
UMNO premier wrestling league
The 58-year-old Najib's political salvation is now in the hands of the UMNO grassroots, hence his watchfulness over Felda, the rural Malay land resettlement scheme.
But even in Felda, a huge time-bomb is ticking from his alleged mishandling causing hundreds of million to be lost. A once cash-rich entity, Felda's finances are now a Bermuda Triangle and the giant agency has to borrow RM6 billion from the EPF, of which half went to cover a loss-making overseas unit.
The eldest son of second prime minister, the late Abdul Razak Hussein, Najib has lost the support of the Malay intellectuals, who can now clearly see through his charades. So he has to gun for the support of the more simple-minded UMNO members, who traditionally believe in anything the party president would say.
This is the group that have been taught by UMNO all along that they can depend only on BN and no-one else. This is the group that has been trained to believe that only Malays can reign supreme in Malaysia. Sounds a bit like the group that Mahathir and Muhyiddin have been courting? Yes, it does look like a tag-team of Najib-Hishammuddin versus Mahathir-Muhyiddin is warming up in the UMNO premier wrestling league.
In the coming weeks, expect Najib to strut himself all over the nation. He needs to give the impression that he has the political upperhand and he will brave the giggles and the sniggers.
Bersih, the Malay and non-Malay intellectuals can forget about any olive branchs - please don't be naive. Reforms may be the only solution for Malaysia but Najib is not thinking for Malaysia.
He will be reaching out to the UMNO elite, offering all sorts of plans A, B or C. Just let him have one term, that's all he wants and that is what he will plead. But does Mahathir really need him anymore, when he has sullied his own image and credibility beyond repair.
Even Mahathir would not want his son, Mukhriz, to take over a bankrupted nation. Indeed, intrigue in UMNO is at boiling point and Najib is set to be boiled.

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