It began with a half-baked coup – the revanchist ‘Sheraton Move’ to restore the ruling Malay elite’s grasp on total power (established through a period of emergency government from 1969) but lost at GE14.
Post-2018, too many cosy contracts to the dominant families had been cancelled and the network of kickbacks and sinecures that had kept their henchmen happy throughout the corridors of power and patronage had also been disrupted by an elected government that was tentatively setting out on a querulous path of reform for the benefit of the wider Malay population, minorities and also sidelined East Malaysia, which pays for the party but gets nothing in return.
Mahiaddin’s own motives were evidenced by the apparent joyous whooping of his wife captured at the celebration after he was suddenly appointed PM by the Agong – a leader without a proper party. ‘We have waited so long, you have all worked so hard’ was the gist of the gushing heard. So much for stepping in to save the situation.
The moment vindicated all those who’d long suspected that the thuggish, ever ambitious former deputy UMNO leader had only ever taken issue with prime minister Najib over 1MDB as part of a failed bid to gain advantage from the situation and seize leadership over the corrupted party he was part and parcel of.
How could this senior player (and ex-Menteri Besar of Johor) not have known for years that UMNO was funded out of graft and GE13 out of 1MDB?
However, Mahiaddin had been able to re-brand in the aftermath of his sacking as previously estranged political figures convened under PH to tackle the blatant looting and oppression by Rosmah and Najib and went on to win the popular vote.
The warlord of Johor became ‘Muhyiddin the reformer’, understood to be aspiring alongside his former boss Dr Mahathir in their newly formed Malay-focused Bersatu party “to fight for integrity and transparent governance” as a recent statement by its information chief still seeks to claim, long after anyone is left to believe it.
The opposite has of course turned out to be the case as jaw-dropping graft, conflicts of interest and secretive cover-ups have become the signature elements of his year in power.
PH was indeed hamstrung from the start by the lack of reforming zeal amongst the minority Bersatu contingent around Mahathir’s leadership, whose similar reluctance to fulfil his promise to hand over power to the majority PKR leader in a timely manner created tensions to be exploited.
And from the start the hard-men of UMNO, together with their backers from the social and business elite and their new friends from the remaining rump of the rightwing islamic party PAS (desperate to get a first look inside the federal coffers) had immediately got to work on their traditional methods for reversing negative elections, namely buying over MPs.
The chosen disrupters were PKR’s deputy Azmin Ali, who had been frustrated by his own failure to grasp the leadership and succession position to be PM and was then undermined by a crippling sex scandal, and also Mahiaddin himself as a long-term crony of his powerful local sultan of Johor and a man still champing at the bit for the top job, despite the effects of pancreatic cancer.
Orchestrators included the UMNO mole Hamzah Zainudin, a long-term fixer for the likes of Najib himself, whose ‘court’ faction in the party must have regarded the over-turning of the election outcome as their best get out of jail option as the charges and convictions started piling up over 1MDB.
Indeed, Najib has confessed just last week that he was advised right at the time of his election loss to institute an immediate State of Emergency in order to reject and overturn the decision of the people and seize back power.
He had balked, but this of course is the tactic Mahiaddin has now resorted to himself. The nostalgic line of reasoning is clear – it was a state of emergency that had enabled UMNO to fix the structures that kept them in power behind a sham democracy for the half century which followed 1969.
Those who benefited want to re-set the clock: to hell with changing times and to hell with the electorate.
However, the initial planned mass defection turned out to be a damp squib. Azmin secured a mere 10 MPs from his own party, mainly sad impressionables from Sarawak, despite years of channelling Selangor coffers into buying loyalty (blackmail tactics have since secured a couple more).
Likewise, Bersatu failed to bring their promised leader Dr M. who had been manipulating matters with a different failed outcome in mind (a national government run by him).
However, the plotters knew they held a trump card in the support of the newly ensconced latest Agong from Najib’s home state of Pahang. It was this that provided the opportunity that Mahiaddin had waited a lifetime for. Days before the so-called Sheraton coup he had flown to Johor to confer with his local patriarch the Sultan, himself the brother-in-law of the Pahang royal now occupying the Astana.
It was clear certain rulers who were already angered by Mahathir wished for the Anwar succession to be stopped, along with the PKR/PH addiction to a reform agenda. Their constitutional weapon was the Agong’s duty to determine and appoint the leader who holds the most support amongst MPs.
Thus when the botched defection proved far from adequate in terms of numbers to depose PH (the majority of MPs expressed support for either Anwar (92) or Mahathir (60) with none for Mahiaddin) the Agong nonetheless flagrantly announced he would appoint Mahiaddin PM.
Apparently to help justify the baffling move he called the entire Council of Rulers to the palace and invited a bizarre gathering of white clad petitioners led by two ex-IGPs in support of one Yusuf Rawther, who had made unsubstantiated allegations of impropriety against Anwar, already dismissed by official prosecutors. The former top police officers from a force that has hounded Anwar over the years on behalf of various governments demanded ‘no one tainted by scandal’ should become leader.
Foreign media therefore interpreted the appointment of Mahiaddin instead as a ‘royal coup‘ not least because the scheduled return of Parliament, which would have tested the new PM’s highly dubious standing amongst MPs was hastily postponed (by the Agong on the advice of his newly appointed prime minister).
Mahiaddin had a plan to repair the awkward flop in the number of defecting MPs, of course. Everyone has heard it, since his boasts were recorded and then leaked. His stated plan of action, based on his experience of years of UMNO tactics, would be to abuse this misappropriation of the levers of power into his own hands in order to seduce further defectors and handsomely reward his current fellow travellers from the likes of PAS.
The shutting down of Parliament would give him time to do that and, of course, the ever biddable GPS mafia from Sarawak were soon persuaded to swap allegiances in return for the usual promises to be allowed to continue to plunder their own state unfettered.
It was a deal that gave Mahiaddin, as the leader of one faction of the smallest of the major parties, just enough seats through a cobbled coalition of rivalling political interests to be within a hair’s breath of a razor thin majority, give or take how many future MPs could be bought over or prevented from defecting from his own side.
He has been bribing and blackmailing MPs to secure that tenuous and fractious majority ever since – with the price of ‘loyalty’ rising ever higher by the day as those with their shaky hold on office have sought to maximise their opportunities to profit from it whilst they can.
This was the beginning of Mahiaddin’s Mess which has dragged Malaysia spiralling downwards over the ensuing year into deeper and darker corruption, less and less transparency and the kind of political instability that tempts would-be strongmen or demands a return to the polls.
Take the UMNO grass roots assembly resolutions last weekend. Fed up party members want their leaders out of this rivalling back-stabbing administration, where a State of Emergency has now finally been called by the continuingly supportive Agong to avoid a vote of no confidence by a fractured Parliament once more.
They want to see an election and do straight battle with ‘usurpers’ from Bersatu and treacherous new ‘allies’ from PAS
However, the bloated, bought-up ranks ministers from all sides, who have wallowed in Mahiaddin’s bribes and courted public fury as a result, are unsurprisingly reluctant to play ball.
The UMNO ‘minister’ faction say they are staying put and PAS ministers are plainly determined to do whatever it takes to swap their decades as leaders of the ‘humble, barefoot, religious’ party for chauffeured limos, control over contracts and the sort of status that allows them to ignore the Covid 19 movement control orders that they have imposed on everybody else.
‘Law Minister’ Takiyuddin Hussain has even lectured those inclined to protest at the bogus ’emergency’ suspension of the now fully vaccinated Parliament on grounds of Covid that there is no reason he can see for not continuing with an ’emergency’ to give this unelected minority executive arbitrary powers until the next election is due in three years time.
The 1969 ‘Emergency’ lasted till the 1971 election, he said, so why can’t Mahiaddin also evade accountability for years and years as well? Indeed, it is questionable the fellow favours elections at all, since the present PAS brand of teaching appears to prefer a Middle Eastern authoritarian model of society with enhanced punishments and social controls (no democracy).
Naturally, such tendencies and statements are provoking deepening concern and unease amongst all those from all sides for whom the worsening situation has not provided perks or benefits, including much of UMNO, the majority of electors and the young people whom Mahiaddin has just excluded from their legislated right to vote. A recent poll in Mahiaddin’s home constituency in Pagoh gave PN a miserable rating of less than 20%.
The result is now open warfare within PN ranks, with open back-stabbing and open bartering, all at the expense of governance and any semblance of the rule of law. Foreign investors have flown; whilst the ordinary people have become increasingly desperate and deprived thanks to the economic consequences of being hammered by Covid and ’emergency’ restrictions which are blatantly being abused as instruments of political control (and are naturally ignored by the PN bigwigs themselves).
To hang on to control of the situation Mahiaddin has had to feed his followers and feed his patrons ever increasing rewards.
First there was the bloated budget, forced through under ‘royal command’ and the threat of an emergency. Then there was the emergency order anyway to prevent PN from being voted out by MPs, thereby allowing vast new unscrutinised spending to be raised on top of the budget – such as the RM15 billion 5G project, which is hardly an obvious priority as the people suffer hunger thanks to Covid 19 restrictions.
However, last week even these funding excesses proved insufficient for the task as the yet to be legally endorsed (by Parliament) ’emergency’ regime announced its latest ‘Emergency Ordinance’ to allow itself to raise as much more money as it likes and as secretly as it likes without the slightest accountability to Parliament whatsoever.
So much for the claims of Wan Saiful just days before about Mahiaddin’s commitment to “integrity and transparency“.
Secrecy has of course already been introduced to conceal the handling of one major source of hard currency accruing to PN, namely the settlements obtained over 1MDB thanks to the initiatives of the former elected government. Who can blame the rumours that have been swirling round as a result of yet another pretentious cover-up by Takiyuddin, who claims ‘non disclosure agreements’ are forcing the secrecy on his government.
Given the open remarks of the PAS Law Minister, the desperate attempts to buy over more MPs and the increasing raids on the country’s coffers, the Malaysian public can see full well how minds are working within this coup coalition cornered by its own lack of majority support.
Let’s keep the emergency and dig into as much money as possible and suspend Parliament to do so for as long as we possibly can, because we have landed ourselves in a situation where the only likely alternative….. is the ‘Najib route’ towards eventual prosecution and eventual jail.
This is the dangerous mess that Mahiaddin has now landed himself in along with his hotchpotch of supporters and they have done it all in plain sight. A total abuse of the democratic process; a vile corruption of the rules of governance; conflicts of interest; graft and all for the pursuit of power and through that wealth.
These players do not therefore want to be held accountable, either to Parliament or to the people. Ever. It is how oppression starts.
Perhaps those who supported them and remain their patrons outside of politics have themselves already come to the conclusion that democracy no longer delivers the financial dividends they deserve and are planning a different system more along the lines of friendly nations in the Middle East or China?
Whatever the reasoning, there is no way out now for Mahiaddin and his gang except a continuance of the abuse of power and suspension of the democratic process accompanied by a raid on the public wealth to pay for the above and their own aspirations as men of power.
It is a mess created by hubris, greed and ambition and it is dangerous for the welfare and liberties of the people of Malaysia. Malaysians will have to confront the problem by demanding an election, whichever side of the political divide they may choose to vote, or risk stepping into darkness altogether.