Perhaps feeling a bit worse for wear, Prime Minister Najib Razak offered a rare glimpse into his private thoughts that probably reflects the way he feels about the current political situation in his Umno party.
"Even though you are very competent, if you back the wrong horse, it can be quite tragic for you,” he was reported as telling a dialogue at the ASEAN 100 Leadership Forum.
Najib was responding to participants who had asked him which was the most demoralizing period of his career. The 57-year old Malaysian leader has been feeling the heat of late, unable to make any meaningful progress despite having been in power since April 2009.
And these include his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin and former premier Mahathir Mohamad. In fact, so obvious is their disagreement that even foreign research publications have taken note and now cite the power tussle within Umno as a risk factor for Malaysia’s political stability.
At almost every major crossroad, Najib appears to have been foiled by the Mahathir-Muhyiddin combo, who lead the powerful conservatives within Umno. Even during Najib’s six-day visit to the United Nations last week, Muhyiddin and his supporters lost no time in undermining Najib's call to the world body for “moderation not extremism”.
In particular, Muhyiddin started tongues wagging when he agreed with British tycoon Richard Branson that the sodomy charges brought against Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim was damaging the economy.
“If you ask me, personally, would you like this case to be in the Malaysian court? I wouldn’t like this case to be in the Malaysian court. Of course, it is true that if there are no cases of such profile, then Malaysia will be much better positioned. The sooner this matter is resolved, the better for us,” Muhyiddin said earlier this week.
Anwar has previously accused Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor of having plotted the charges to derail his political comeback. As such, Muhyiddin's reply was a shocker because it implied that Najib was to blame for negative economic impact.
|Anwar jailed by bitter foe Mahathir|
This morning, Najib told the ASEAN forum that his darkest period was when he only managed to retain his Pekan parliamentary seat by a mere 241-vote majority in 1999, during the height of Anwar’s first sodomy case brought about by Mahathir.
Mahathir's ruthless and aggressive move not only split Umno down the line, it also brought great disrepute to Malaysia and sparked the beginning of the Reformasi or reform movement that swept the Pakatan Rakyat to power nearly 10 years later in 2008.
"There were times when I felt very frustrated with the situation, (that was) not as a result of my own personal action. It's the circumstances that you find yourself in. You are collateral damage - I don't know if that's the right word - of the process," Najib said.
|Tian - do the right thing|
“We don't want to get involved in Umno's vicious cycle. But not only has Richard Branson said that the government should stop it because it is a blot on the economy and the country’s reputation, his own deputy Muhyiddin has also acknowledged that the trial has hurt Malaysia,” Batu MP Tian Chua toldMalaysia Chrnonicle.