Anwar or Ku Li? The race is on

THE CORRIDORS OF POWER

Raja Petra Kamarudin

TAWAU, March 27 (Bernama) — Kalabakan Member of Parliament Datuk Ghapur Salleh relinquished his post as Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister effective yesterday. He told Bernama today that he submitted his resignation letter to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in Putrajaya last night. Dismissing talk that he would hop over to the opposition, which is said to be trying to lure several MPs from Sabah and Sarawak, Ghapur, who won the seat unopposed in the March 8 general election, said he would continue to be an elected representative and Kalabakan Umno division head. He is the second MP from Sabah and the third person to resign as a federal deputy minister since the election.

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Umno elections could be postponed

Needing time to ‘regroup’ after GE, party may defer polls till next March

By S JAYASANKARAN, Business Times, 26 March 2008

ELECTIONS in the United Malays National Organisation (Umno), Malaysia’s dominant political party that leads the ruling Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition, are likely to be postponed because of the political uncertainty gripping the country. Umno officials say this was the impression they got after meeting Umno president and Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Monday. Mr Abdullah also told them the party needs to stamp out ‘money politics’ because that would only make the people angrier.

On March 8, the Barisan Nasional (BN) was given a hiding at a general election, losing control of five states and its two-thirds majority in Parliament. Originally, Umno was supposed to hold its elections in August. The party’s constitution stipulates elections every three years for all posts from the president down, but also allows for deferment. In this case, elections must be held by March next year. Umno officials openly admit they never expected such a drubbing at the GE, at which voters from all the country’s races, including the majority Malays, rebuffed the BN.

‘The feeling now is that we have to unite and avoid any in-fighting because that could split the party,’ an official told BT. ‘For that, we need to time to regroup.’ Whether this will happen is uncertain. Waiting in the wings is Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, 71, who is offering himself as an alternative to Mr Abdullah as leader of Umno and the government.

Tengku Razaleigh is a prince from Kelantan, founder-president of national oil corporation Petronas and a former finance minister under two prime ministers – Hussein Onn and Mahathir Mohamad. In 1987, he challenged Dr Mahathir for the Umno presidency and lost by a narrow 43 votes. Ironically, at the time, Mr Abdullah was on the Tengku’s side and was one of the few on his team who made the cut as one of Umno’s three vice-presidents.

Whether the Tengku will be allowed to challenge Mr Abdullah is the big question. After the 1987 elections, the rules were changed to make a presidential bid against the incumbent all but impossible. The rules now demand that a presidential challenger obtain nominations from 30 per cent of Umno’s divisions – or 58 nominations. Asked recently about Tengku Razaleigh’s chances, Dr Mahathir said he did not think there would be divisions ‘brave’ enough to support him openly against an incumbent prime minister. But in the present climate, Dr Mahathir could be wrong.

Political analysts say it would take only a few brave souls to speak up for a stampede to begin. And a trickle of support has begun. Over the weekend, 80 Umno branches in Muar, Johor, spoke up in support of the Tengku, who has asked for an extraordinary meeting of Umno to be convened to discuss the election debacle. Indeed, the postponement of the Umno polls could help the Tengku’s cause, giving him time to canvass divisions across the country. That would help get his message directly to his audience, given his inaccessibility to the mainstream media which is resolutely pro-Mr Abdullah.

The Tengku could also be helped by repeated mis-steps on Mr Abdullah’s part that suggest weak leadership. For example, the impasse over the Terengganu crisis could be resolved soon, but only with damage inflicted on Mr Abdullah.

Last Saturday, the state’s Sultan (who is also Malaysia’s King) appointed Umno assemblyman Ahmad Said as chief minister over Idris Jusoh, Mr Abdullah’s nominee, who was also supported by 22 other state assemblymen. The appointment triggered a constitutional crisis. If Mr Abdullah’s numbers were right, the Sultan acted unconstitutionally – a word Mr Abdullah himself used.

Yesterday, however, Mr Abdullah seemed to back down. He said he was seeking an audience with the King. And at a news conference, Mr Idris apologised to the King for ‘everything’ that had angered him. While Mr Idris maintained that Mr Ahmad does not deserve the chief minister’s position, he seemed to throw in the towel, saying he would accept any position given to him.

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Ghapur Salleh actually wanted to resign from Umno Sabah just before the 8 March 2008 general elections so that he could contest the election on a PKR ticket. Anwar Ibrahim, however, would not allow him to do so. Ghapur grumbled to his friends that all Anwar needed to do was to give the word and he, plus a few other close associates in Umno Sabah, would cross-over and contest the election under the PKR banner. Anwar, of course, had his reasons. He wanted Sabah and Sarawak to be the ‘reserve team’ in the event the opposition wins enough seats to form the federal government.

As it now stands, the opposition has won 82 seats in Parliament and all it needs is another 30 to give it a two-seat majority over Barisan Nasional. 30 seats would make the score 112:110, all that is needed for His Majesty to do what the Federal Constitution of Malaysia requires him to do. And what His Majesty the Agong would have to do would be to appoint a new Prime Minister from amongst any of the 222 Members of the House who, in His Majesty’s opinion, commands the confidence of the majority of the Member of the House. It is certainly very ‘loose’ though clearly worded but the way it has been written gives enormous powers to His Majesty the Agong to interpret ‘opinion’, ‘commands’ and ‘confidence’ the way His Majesty sees it. Most important of all, though, is that His Majesty need not ‘seek advice from the Prime Minister’ but instead can exercise his ‘own discretion’ in arriving at ‘his opinion’.

Isn’t the English language just lovely? And that is what it all boils down to, so the legal eagles can just stay out of this whole thing and allow the English teachers to step in to help properly interpret what the Federal Constitution of Malaysia says — which is written in the Queen’s English anyway. And ‘Queen’ here refers to Elizabeth II and not Freddie Mercury who died of AIDS.

So, does Anwar have 30 Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament safely tucked away? No, he does not have 30. Instead, he has thus far 38, the majority from Sabah and Sarawak. Did you not notice Anwar flying off to Sarawak the morning of 9 March and to Sabah the following day? And rest assured it was not to buy some Iban or Dayak hats. It was to conference with the Barisan Nasional leaders from these two East Malaysian states.

Abdullah Ahmad Badawi knew all this of course, as did his advisers on the fourth floor. However, instead of trying to win the hearts and minds of the East Malaysians, he antagonised them further when he offered the East Malaysian warlords just five Deputy Minister posts, and in very unimportant ministries on top of that.

Sabah and Sarawak brought in 54 Parliament seats to match the 86 from Peninsular Malaysia. Without these 54 Parliament seats from Sabah and Sarawak, Barisan Nasional would be having a mere four-seat majority over the opposition coalition of PKR, DAP and PAS — while the popular votes garnered by Barisan Nasional would be less than half. It became slightly over half only when the Sabah and Sarawak votes were included.

20 of the 30 Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament from Sarawak have agreed to cross-over to the opposition while 16 of the 24 from Sabah will follow suit if Sarawak first takes the plunge. To start the ball rolling, Anifah Aman, brother to the Sabah Chief Minister, rejected the offer for the post of Deputy Minister and with about half a dozen or so other Sabah warlords flew off to Melbourne to meet the other warlords from Sarawak. They have been there since last week; planning, plotting and scheming their moves, which they will make when the time is right. Rest assured Anifah would not act without the consent of his brother, Musa Aman.

They will of course not make their move now. They are waiting for May 2008. By midnight of 14 April 2008, Anwar will be eligible to contest the elections and probably Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim will resign his Bandar Tun Razak seat or Zulkilfi Nordin his Kulim seat. A by-election will then be called and Anwar will of course be that PKR candidate to contest the by-election. On 5 May 2008, Parliament will be convened with Anwar now a Member of Parliament. From 7 May 2008 onwards, 82 opposition Members of Parliament will be able to table a motion of no confidence against Abdullah, supported by no less than 38 Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament, as it now stands. The 38 Members of Parliament from Barisan Nasional is of course the latest tally taken this morning. 7 May 2008 is still more than a month away and one day is a long time in politics, what more 40 days. So expect this 38 to grow further and it should not come as a surprise if the final tally is no longer just a simple majority but a resounding two-thirds majority. Will we see, therefore, Anwar finally taking office as the Sixth Prime Minister of Malaysia?

Nevertheless, while all this is going on, another candidate for the post of the Sixth Prime Minister of Malaysia is also moving very rapidly in the background. And this man is the resident of that very imposing White House-like abode along Langgak Golf.

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has not been sleeping. He has been aggressively meeting hundreds of people from all over Malaysia. Even as you read this Tengku Razaleigh is hosting more than 100 Umno division and branch leaders to a sumptuous feast in his office cum home behind the United States Embassy.

Tengku Razaleigh is going a slightly different route though. While Anwar is working on a ‘no confidence’ vote in Parliament, Tengku Razaleigh is working on the 193 Umno divisions. And he, thus far, has 74 Umno divisions with him. He needs at least 58 nominations to be able to contest against the party President cum Prime Minister. But that is only if he wishes to contest the August 2008 party elections, which Abdullah is trying to postpone till 2009.

August 2008 is too late. 2009 even later. By then Anwar may already be Prime Minister. So Tengku Razaleigh can’t afford to wait till August. He must move now. And, on 4 April 2008, Tengku Razaleigh is organising a rally at his home base in Gua Musang. If he can get more than 100 Umno divisions to attend his rally, then he can push for an EGM on 11 May 2008 whereby the party constitution can be amended to allow the ‘normal’ two-nomination-only to contest, just like what it is for all the other positions — plus he probably can get a vote of no confidence against the party president passed as well.

Yes, it is certainly going to be a close race. Tengku Razaleigh will make his move on 4 April while Anwar can make his only after 14 April. Then, Anwar can make his second move after 7 May while Tengku Razaleigh will make his on 11 May.

It will be a photo-finish and a win by the nose. But whose nose will it be that will cross the finishing line first? Hey, I can’t reveal all just yet. Khairy Jamaluddin and his boys are reading this too, you know. Let’s first of all see if they succeed in postponing the August 2008 Umno party elections to 2009. If they fail, then Tengku Razaleigh is well-poised to become the next Prime Minister. If they succeed in postponing the party elections, well, then I suppose my money will have to be on Anwar. Did I not tell you that Malaysia is an exciting country?

Oh, and one more thing, observe what the Rulers have been doing these last three weeks since 8 March 2008 and what they will be doing these next few weeks. That should give you a good hint as to what’s in store for us. In the meantime, read the following piece by Mathias Chang, which also gives us an insight into what’s in store for us in the not too distant future.

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Barisan Nasional is finished if Pak Lah is not replaced by end April 2008

Matthias Chang

I just could not believe my eyes, when I read in the New Strait Times newspaper, business section – Business Times – that Bank Negara projects 5.6 pc growth this year. Bank Negara Governor, Tan Sri Dr. Zeti Akhtar Aziz was quoted as saying:

“We have done several simulations of different packages which can be implemented in the event of any significant slowdown, which we do not see on the horizon at this point in time.”

I am sure that the “simulations were all done and tested prior to the 12th General Elections of March 8, 2008. So they are no longer valid as they failed to take into account the post-election reality.

Bank Negara must be wearing blinkers or under directions from Pak Lah and his spin-doctors to spin a story that all is well and good. The observation that no significant slowdown can be seen on the horizon at this point of time can be tested by reviewing some independent observations.

Spiegel reported on Wednesday, March 26 2008 that:

“Germany and other industrialised countries are desperately trying to brace themselves against the threat of a collapse of the global financial system. The crisis has now taken its toll on the German economy, where the weak dollar is putting jobs in jeopardy and the credit crunch is paralyzing many businesses.”

Why is the Governor of Bank Negara playing down this acknowledged global financial meltdown – the financial tsunami? Is there a conspiracy of silence among the world’s central bankers?

Spiegel has let the cat out of the bag when it reported further that:

“For some time, there has been a tacit agreement among central bankers and the financial ministers of key economies not to allow any bank large enough to jeopardise the system to go under – no matter what the cost. But on Sunday, the question arose whether this agreement should be formalised and made public. The central bankers decided against the idea, reasoning that it would practically be an invitation to speculators and large hedge funds to take advantage of this government guarantee. Everyone involved knows how explosive the agreement is. It essentially means that while the profits of banks are privatised, society bears the costs of their losses. In a world in which the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer, that is political dynamite.”

There you have it – the global conspiracy of silence by central bankers and finance ministers. Yet, it is I that has been accused of being a conspiracy theorist.

The Malaysian Ticking Time Bomb

Besides the impending global financial tsunami hitting our shores in the very near future, Malaysia is waiting for a ticking time bomb to explode that will leave our country totally defenceless.

No one has even given a thought to this time bomb. What is this time bomb? It is the total dislocation and disruption of the entire 9th Malaysian Plan.

How can this be? Simple! The informal Barisan Rakyat has captured four critical states, more precisely the four critical economic states of Penang, Perak, Selangor and Kedah (part of the rice bowl of Malaysia) and retained Kelantan. There used to be a MIMALAND (Mini Malaysia) in Gombak. But that was a mere tourist attraction. These five states is the real deal, the Real Mini Malaysia, without which the BN government is useless, a toothless tiger.

The 9th Malaysia Plan (and all previous Five Year Plans) envisages that a substantial portion of the RM200 billion budget spread over five years will be allocated to the “state economic engines” of the Malaysian economy, namely Selangor and Penang – the crown jewels. When combined with Perak and Kedah, these states provide the crucial infrastructure, human resources and more importantly the critical mass for the massive investments needed to prepare the economy to meet the impending threat of the global tsunami and at the minimum, to enable the country to float just above the water till the tsunami rolls back to deeper waters.

Just a few days ago, Pak Lah acknowledged this stark reality and conceded that some of the mega-projects will have to be scaled back. Pak Lah and the corrupt and greedy politicians of the Barisan Nasional cannot bear the thought that they will not be in control of these massive investments in the states of Selangor, Perak, Penang and Kedah.

The 9th Malaysian Plan cannot be implemented successfully without the close cooperation between the central Federal Authority and the state counter-parts. This is a given the BN state partners-in-crime to loot the national treasury is absent. Pak Lah and his family have the money but the same cannot be diverted to the coffers of cronies at the state level, when they are no longer in power and control of the state governments.

The nightmare for the Barisan Nasional is not that they lost their 2/3 majority in Parliament and the massive reduction in the popular votes, but that they can no longer enrich themselves as before.

The whole system of patronage that confers absolute power to the President of UMNO and Prime Minister has been rendered ineffective and the rewards for a subservient power hierarchy cannot be guaranteed. Pak Lah and his goons will no longer be able to wield the threat that should the leaders of the political multi-level organisation fail to toe the line, the gravy train will not stop at their stations.

The gravy train stations are now in control of Barisan Rakyat!

So long as Pak Lah and his family are control of the levers of power and the treasury, the economy will be in a grid lock and the entire system will come to a standstill. Checkmate! There are enough reasons to remove Pak Lah as demanded by the electorate in the just concluded elections. But the nail that hammers in the lid of the coffin is the consequences of this stark economic reality.

The Prime Minister who replaces Pak Lah must be one who is without controversy, baggage and more importantly must be acceptable to the leaders of the Barisan Rakyat. This will provide the minimum basis for cooperation between the two “Barisans”. And such a leader will then be able to reform the present system and save the economy from dislocation and disruption and the unimaginable consequences that will assuredly flow from the present gridlock.

Time is against us.

Pak Lah must be removed when Parliament convenes, if the Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament have the interest of the country at heart and not their warped interest for power and self-enrichment.

No one to date has the guts and the convictions to take on Pak Lah and his goons except Tengku Razaleigh. He has offered to serve the country. He should be given a chance.

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has also called for Pak Lah’s removal. Members of Barisan Nasional must heed their call to remove Pak Lah. The nation must ensure that the momentum generated by the results of the General Election must gather speed and force to sweep away the political debris of Pak Lah, his family and his goons!

And God help us and Malaysia should we fail!

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