On July 6th 2008 we wrote an article in response to a Malaysiakini report where it is headlined as “Muhyiddin blames Anwar for political crisis“By then Muhyiddin was already showing his lofty ambition and who could blame him as Age was really catching up with him.Today he is 63 years old and if he does not try to go for the No.1 posts what chances has he got left. In 2008 Muhyiddin was seen as the Knight in Shining Armour and also the Kingmaker.
In recent months several events point to familiar UMNO (United Malay National Organisation) intrigue. This occurs whenever there is a tussle for power at the highest level. Is Muhyiddin (who just launched his blog – Muhyiddin Yassin for Malaysia), Prime Minister Najib’s Deputy, attempting to overthrow his boss? Najib, who only came into power in April of 2009, is in real danger of not completing a term as Prime Minister (read here).
Muhyiddin has taken some tangential positions to his “boss”. Muhyiddin’s stance on hot button issues such as the “Allah” Court ruling — insisting that Christians drop the usage of the word “Allah” and backtracking on the formation of an inter-faith council to resolve the “Allah” issue through dialogue — were ominous. In fact, Muhyiddin demonstrated his fundamentalist credentials as soon as he became Deputy Prime Minister in April 2009 but strengthened them further in October 2009 (he made racist statements against Anwar Ibrahim), when it was clear that fundamentalists were gaining the upper hand in UMNO.
The context to this is simple — UMNO has two different views on how to remain in power — to become a Malay/Muslim extremist party to capture the Malay votes or to return to the middle ground — which had served it well for the past 52 years. Muhyiddin represents the first view while Najib the second. Unfortunately, due to Najib’s indecisiveness, he is considered the new “Pak Lah” (the former Prime Minister) while Muhyiddin is seen as the new “Mahathir” (read here). Despite, Najib’s policy prescription of “Malay Leadership”, it appears that UMNO is still about “Malay Supremacy” as represented by Muhyiddin.
Najib’s 1Malaysia slogan and policy agenda (read here, here and here) has been systematically rubbished by UMNO hardliners with the support of key government Ministers such as Muhyiddin and Malay/Muslim civil servants and non-governmental organisations bent on ensuring continued “Malay Supremacy” (more here, here and here).
Then there were the fire-bombings of places of worship (mostly Christian) after the “Allah” court ruling which shattered Malaysia’s facade as a peaceful nation where people of different faiths and races live harmoniously. Furthermore, a recent forum organised by JAKIM (the Islamic Development Department) blamed Christians for tensions in the country and a forum panellist threatened Christians with a repeat of May 13 (race riot organised by certain UMNO members after losing 2/3 majority in the Peninsula Malaysia in 1969) — a view which is supported by Muhyiddin but not Najib.
Several startling events point to insiders sabotaging Najib. The story of two missing jet engines which occurred during Najib’s tenure as Defence Minister surfaced after being “…solved…”. It was surprising that the scandal resurfaced under the eyes of Najib’s once trusted ally, the current Minister of Defence, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. Since the scandal broke, two individuals, believed to be scapegoats have been charged.
The biggest set-back came a few days ago when the Prime Minister’s special aide, Nasir Safar , allegedly called ancestors of Malaysians of Indian heritage beggars and thieves and women ancestors of Malaysian Chinese prostitutes. This happened at, of all places, a 1Malaysia forum attended by the UMNO’s partners from the Barisan Nasional. Nasir also threatened to revoke the citizenship of non-Malays who challenged the limit of 12 subjects that a student can take at the SPM (Malaysia’s equivalent to O-level) examinations (Muhyiddin is the current Education Minister who came up with this ruling which reduces the value of subjects such as Tamil, Mandarin and Bible Knowledge).
Several commentators have already suggested that Najib is facing unprecedented resistance to his reform agenda and is being sabotaged in the process (read here) as his middle of the road approach goes against the very being of UMNO.
Najib’s position is weak — both in UMNO and nationally. His ruling coalition is unstable with all key component parties facing leadership crises. The economy continues to falter and Malaysia’s weakening reserves suggests capital flight. Anwar’s Sodomy Trial and the “Allah” issue may drive moderates further away as fundamentalists push UMNO further to the right. Judging by previous UMNO intrigue (e.g. May 13, 1969; Operasi Lalang, October 1987; Reformasi, September 1998), it is likely that Najib will have to resort to underhand tactics to save his position in UMNO — and as always it is innocent Malaysians — mostly likely opposition leaders and democracy that will pay the price.
Read Is Najib On His Way Out (Part II)
Is Najib On His Way Out? Part II
February 15th, 2010 by Greg Lopez ·
Two recent developments have conspired to further jeopardise Najib Razak’s position as Prime Minister of Malaysia. First, there is the precedent set by the Federal Court’s decision in the Perak Constitutional Crisis — where the Sultan (a monarch) now has the power to remove a democratically elected leader. Some argue that this has created a binding effect on the Prime Minister and the Federal Government. Therefore, any individual (whether from the opposition or within the ruling party) can now seek the consent of the Sultan or the Supreme Head of State (Agung) to remove a Chief Minister or the Prime Minister by convincing the Monarch that the person does not command the confidence of the legislature/parliament (read here, here and here).
Second, the latest Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) report on Malaysia confirms serious doubts among international investors concerning the political stability of Malaysia. It also raises serious doubts about Prime Minister Najib’s ability to lead Malaysia through this turbulent times, especially reigning in vested interests within his party, the United Malay National Organisation (UMNO). This report seriously undermines Najib’s position because without economic growth, the UMNO/BN patronage machine cannot function and also lead to further discontent among the electorate.
In an immediate response, Muhyiddin Yassin, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education and also Deputy President of UMNO, rubbished the report, stating that it was nonsense. Najib, however has yet to respond to the report.
The PERC report highlights several key problems plaguing Najib’s leadership. His strategy of “…trying to be all things to all people…” is ineffective. The PERC report also emphasised that “… a group of elite minorities…” were dominating the national agenda and this has affected Malaysia’s attractiveness to investors (read here). Both these events will only strengthen attempts to topple Najib.
There are several reasons why it is possible and likely that Najib will be toppled by UMNO insiders:
- The faltering economy: This will squeeze opportunities for dispensing economic largesse thus angering some groups, particularly the elites within UMNO that are lead by Najib and Muhyiddin. This will lead to a fight to control access to patronage;
- Najib ’s liberalisation measures: Due to Malaysia’s declining economic fortunes and burdening deficits, Najib must institute liberalisation measures to increase national competitiveness and which will be used against him by fundamentalists such as PERKASA (read here, here, here and here);
- Najib’s administrative reforms: the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) and National Key Results Areas (NKRA) while only having limited impact on Government Linked Corporations (which controls almost 40 – 50% of the Malaysian bourse), still allows for greater scrutiny of government decisions – further affecting opportunities for patronage;
- Najib’s strategy of reaching out to other races is perceived as a sign of weakness among UMNO & Malay fundamentalists such as PERKASA (read here, here and here);
- Progress in opposition controlled states: Reform measures in opposition controlled states (especially Penang) allow “the Rakyat” to see how effective governments can provide better welfare outcomes; and
- Rising fundamentalism: Policies of Islamisation and racist indoctrination during the Mahathir regime have created a segment in society that believes that Malay Muslims are the rightful heirs of Malaysia.
Two other key points also suggest that Najib will not last long.
The first point – history: It may seem unlikely, on the surface that Muhyiddin would challenge Najib but, then again, in UMNO politics nothing is impossible when the stakes are so high. UMNO history is littered with betrayal: Mahathir’s treatment of his “heir apparent”, Anwar Ibrahim in 1998 and since; how Anwar Ibrahim himself unceremoniously unseated party veteran Ghafar Baba in 1993 through highly dubious methods for the Deputy President post (when both Najib and Muhyiddin were in Anwar’s Wawasan Team); how two arch enemies, Tengku Razaleigh and Musa Hitam joined forces to challenge Mahathir in 1987…and the list goes on.
The second point – there is no loyalty in UMNO: While UMNO is often described as a feudal party where loyalty is measured on deference to leaders, it is — at the end of the day– a party driven by greed. Just ask Anwar. Once heir apparent, his “loyal friends” in UMNO treat him today in ways that no politician in Malaysia has ever been treated. This however is a common trend in UMNO. Onn Jaafar and Tunku Abdul Rahman — founding fathers of UMNO and Malaysia respectively — were totally discredited by UMNO once they disagreed with the directions UMNO were taking. The key message, once outside UMNO, one has no means to dispense patronage and therefore deserve no respect from UMNO members.
UMNO has grown into a powerful patronage dispensing machine. Members of this “elite group” are not about to give-up their power. UMNO is so rotten that even one of its most senior members, Tengku Razaleigh, has criticised the party and what it is doing to the country (read here).
In the 2004 election, UMNO – as a party – had a simple majority in Parliament – as BN decimated the opposition. In the process, non-Malay BN component parties were marginalised – unleashing unprecedented racial and religious bigotry against non-Malay/Muslims (you know the stories). In the 2008 election, the reverse happened; BN lost its two-third majority. However, UMNO’s percentage of the vote remained intact (reduced by about 5%) but its non-Malay component parties on the peninsular were nearly wiped out with non-Malay votes swinging by about 35% among Chinese and by about 50% among Indians away from BN.
Herein lies Najib’s immediate problem. The non-Malay/Muslim BN component parties have blamed UMNO for its disappointing performance while UMNO has blamed its partners for not delivering on their part of the bargain. Najib has decided to go at it alone in reaching out to the various communities directly as his BN partners are all in disarray (every single one of them have leadership crises). It is within this context that the tussle between Najib and Muhyiddin should be examined. Najib wants to extend a hand to the other communities (e.g. 1 Malaysia) which would require some economic, social and political reforms and concessions, while Muhyiddin wants to go the other way, become increasingly extreme in response to the perception that the Malay votes (in general) will be sufficient to tide UMNO through on the peninsular and gain an overall majority with support from East Malaysia.
There were suggestions that Najib and Muhyiddin are playing good cop – bad cop. This is highly unlikely: Muhyiddin‘s bad cop totally destroys Najib’s 1Malaysia and also BN’s long held power sharing concept. Furthermore, in Malaysian history there has never been a sitting Deputy Prime Minister that acts in such blatant ways.
With non-Malays deserting BN at the 12th General Elections and further alienated through recent events, Najib is left vulnerable to the threats from fundamentalists. Najib will definitely not last a term unless he tames the greedy warlords within his party, Malay fundamentalists and address issues raised in the PERC report.
Update (3): Trouble brewing in UMNO Youth (read here)
Update (2): The plot thickens (read here)
Harakah analyst Wong Choon Mei investigates the recent arrests of a political secretary and suggests that the fight for control of UMNO has begun.
Update (1): Hanky – panky in the Prime Minister’s Deaprtment
The political secretary to a senior minister in the Prime Minister’s Deaprtment was arrested with RM2 million in cash.