Friday, October 16, 2015

Umno: Mahathir and Najib in a Titanic Struggle by Ishmael Lim

Umno: Mahathir and Najib in aTitanic Struggle

din-merican-UCCOMMENT: It is a stalemate at this point in time. Najib clings precariously to power while the anti-Najib camp led by Tun Dr. Mahathir receives a boost from a number of developments.

The continued detention of Khairuddin and Matthias Chang, the  Court’s handling of the Azmi Sharom case, the unprecedented Council of Rulers decree on the 1MDB matter, the Red Shirt racism, the resignation of Saifuddin Abdullah from UMNO to join Parti KeADILan Rakyat, the TPPA, and the state of the Malaysian economy and our government’s finances which resulted in the toll rate hikes have contributed to  a reversal of fortune in favour of the Mahathir camp. 

 Najib’s days in power are numbered. His resort to draconian measures only underscores his desperation, not a source of strength.

So far he has been able to stay in office because he bought support from UMNO leaders like Sharir Samad, Ahmad Maslan and the son of Keruak from Sabah.  How much more will he spend buying loyalty, and where is he going to find the money. 

Our Treasury is running dry. IMDB is under scrutiny ,and his capacity to raise money from the capital markets is restricted and our new loans can be expensive. Maybe he has to go to Saudi Arabia for additional donations or sell some of his assets held overseas to retain his party’s fidelity.

At the end of the day, he should realise that unless he can deal realistically with the economy (and we have to wait for his Budget 2015-2016 proposals to know what he has in mind for the economy), he is done for. There is actually nothing much that he can do to boost confidence in his administration. We no longer trust him and want him out the sooner the better.

His resignation is the antidote needed to prevent a serious economic recession. The signs of economic hardship are there for us to experience. 

But neither he nor his panel of economic experts led by Wahid Omar are prepared to acknowledge that our economic woes are serious and must be resolved as a matter of top priority. But he cannot be the man to do it, since he created this mess in the first place.

When the economy turns against him and he can no longer provide the cash to retain the loyalty  of his UMNO greedy and corrupt supporters, Najib will be thrown out of his premiership and UNMO Presidency. And he is smart enough politically to know his end is near. He must now negotiate his way out. Wishful thinking?–Din Merican

Mahathir and Najib in the same UMNO pod 
The Titanic Struggle must end soon

It looks like the Samosa law is giving our senior and veteran politicians the thunder belly. Could it be that the triangular pastries from Najib’s kitchen were too spicy for them?
Matthias Chang and Khairuddin Abu Hassan, who are known Mahathir helpers, have been sent to the dungeon under the Sosma law. Tummy aches aside, the indignant Chang has sworn not to eat or drink until he is released.

The irrepressible Tun has little choice but to turn the detention of his two proxies into a war cry to extract outrage from the flagging anti-Najib campaign. Any energising drink will do at this stage.

The anti-Najib polemic has worn a little thin in recent days with the media having to recap the same arguments over and over. And now that two of Mahathir’s star proxies have been neutralised, how does he keep the momentum going? The impetus is clearly driven by Mahathir’s efforts. No effort, no budge.

The dissident camp has had a hard time overcoming its inertia since the UMNO Supreme Council met last month. Muhyiddin effectively painted himself into a corner by saying that he would work for the good of the party above all else. 

So he couldn’t well be seen to be disruptive soon after making such conciliatory sounds. The nonagenarian Tun has had to do all the heavy lifting by himself since and spirits have been on the ebb.

Whether arranged or just fortuitous for the Tun, the pre-council meeting of the Rulers’ Conference produced a rare statement, calling for a swift resolution to the damaging 1MDB debacle and for those responsible to be brought to book. This provided the much needed shove to get Muhyiddin rolling once again so that the Tun would not have to play it solo.

There is no doubt that the royal decree, or “advisory” as those in the Najib camp would prefer, has invigorated the moderate seniors and veterans of UMNO and BN enough to grace the press meet at Mahathir’s Perdana Foundation. 

Ku Li was seated conspicuously on Mahathir’s left and Muhyiddin on the right. That the old foes might have buried the hatchet speaks volumes for what could be a sign of interesting days to come. Others seated at the high table were Sanusi Junid, Shafie Apdal and Ong Tee Keat.

While all the talk is about moving a “no-faith vote” at the next sitting of parliament, which starts this Monday, Ku Li said it would be an exercise in futility as it is widely expected that the Speaker would disallow the move. He promised to enlighten the media on the other options later. Ku Li’s cryptic options could possibly hinge on the role of parliament as well, provided there are sufficient numbers for the upcoming showdown.

Titanic struggle

All investigative efforts to take the lid off 1MDB’s pot of alleged improprieties have come to nought. Whether by hook or by crook, the lid has stayed stubbornly shut, and for whatever reasons, the investigators seem too scared or unsure if they are even supposed to follow the scent trail to conclusion.

Malaysians have never seen a titanic struggle of wills on this scale and with as many bends and twists.

The face-off between Najib and Mahathir was never going to be a duel fought according to Marquis of Queensbury rules. That was clear from the get-go. 

But it is ironic that the veterans, coordinated by Mahathir, should be the innovators by seeking to boldly go where no one has gone before, while the junior incumbents have taken siege positions behind fortress walls, quite willing to stamp out any perceived threats via old-fashioned iron-fisted might and draconian laws dressed up as new. 

There’s not even the pretence any more that the shoe must fit the Cinderellas in detention.

The PM’s style has regressed towards the kind of iron-fisted authoritarianism that he vowed would not happen under his watch. And the famously conservative and dictatorial style of Mahathir has undergone an unexpected reversal. 

He actually sounds like a progressive democrat when he talks about people’s right to protest and the current dangers of having a dissenting view.

This duel is pulling the middle ground apart and the people must decide on which side of the middle they would prefer to be when the dust finally settles.

Whatever Ku Li’s cryptic “other options” may be, it must bypass the Speaker of the House and be constitutional. They most probably hinge on parliamentary support being effective against the PM. So the crucial deal is still whether they can muster the numbers in time for D-Day.

We leave the readers to work out what those “other” possibilities might be.This clash of might against savvy is steering our adolescent democracy to a path where no Malaysian has trod before. Just as there is a risk of chaos, there is also a huge opportunity to learn from – and correct – the mistakes that have made the system open to abuse.

Hopefully, the right people will be chosen to advance the system to a higher ethical and moral standard. That would be a governance model that listens and rights the wrongs that are inherent in poorly made laws. 

It would be a system that is sensitive to the peoples’ need for space to express themselves within reason, a system equipped to serve all citizens fairly and squarely without having to resort to oppression to justify its existence.

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