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Friday, December 30, 2011

Shahrizat and the ties that bind


Shahrizat and the ties that bind
The fates of Malaysia's first couple Rosmah Mansor and Najib Razak are truly intertwined as both of them have used each other for their own separate agendas since they day they met and found that they complemented each other and should be together, even it it meant going to the trouble of disentangling themselves from their then spouses.
Rosmah has used Najib to achieve her ambition to be the First Lady, just like Imelda Marcos and Elena Ceausescu. Seriously, would Rosmah go all out to chase after Najib if he were to remain a mere sidekick in someone's government, not his own?
Likewise, Najib was ambitious too and wanted to follow in his father's footsteps to be the prime minister. Now that he is PM in his own right, Najib wants his son with Rosmah - Norashman - to be the future prime minister when he steps down.
This sort of dynastic desire is not uncommon in authoritarian regimes, with the most common example being in North Korea where Kim Jong Un, the son of the late North Korean president Kim Jong Il , is now the president. Benazir Bhutto the assassinated prime minister of Pakistan was the daughter of the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, also an assassinated former prime minister of Pakistan. It is the same with Lee Hsien Loong, the son of ex-Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.
In Malaysia if Tunku Abdul Rahman had a son, it is possible he may have wanted his son to be the next prime minister too. Tun Abdul Razak had Najib. Hussein Onn had Hishamudin Hussein, the Home Minister who is already gunning for the DPM's post before targeting upwards. Then Abdullah Badawi has son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin to pacify, while Malaysians can take it as a certainty that Mahathir Mohamad will do all he can to ensure that son Mukhriz will become PM. And the sooner the better because time is not on the 86-year-old Mahathir's side.
High ambitions for their children
But holding court now are Rosmah and Najib. While their ship might be a fast-sinking one, like many of Malaysia's political leaders used to decades of power, the couple seem completely oblivious to new realities on the ground.
As far as Rosmah is concerned, she has already got what she wants and she just needs to maintain the present status quo. Najib will have to stay in power if his son is to be prime minister one day, something that Najib does not mind provided his strategist can beat off the wrangling from the Mahathirs, Badawis and Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin - all of whom want to unseat him in the 2012 Umno internal polls.
Knowing this, Najib is mulling several alternatives. The best would be that his son becomes the next prime minister when he steps down, like the Kims of North Korea. But this would certainly be stretching it. He also needs time to expose, groom and mould his son just like what Mahathir is doing with Mukhriz. For this, he needs Rosmah's help and already the couple have tried to sell their son Norashman via the mainstream newspapers as a gifted linguist, who wowed his classmates in China with his sweeping grasp of Mandarin.
Even so, Norashman is still too young, so the alternative is to strike a deal with cousin Hishamuddin Hussein. If Najib cannot convince the Umno elite to keep him as PM, then he will push for Hisham to be the next PM, and leave it to Hisham to repay the debt by giving Norashman the same chance later on.
Meanwhile, Mahathir is also planning ahead for Mukhriz and it is clear that Muhyiddin will be the one who will take over the PM's post from Najib after the GE-13. When that is done - regardless of whether BN or Pakatan is in charge of the country - Najib will be unceremoniously cut off in the same way that Najib ousted Abdullah Badawi in 2008.
Muhyiddin has no heir apparent and Mahathir's plan is to make him the interim stooge, and when GE-14 rolls around, Mukhriz will take over. But can Mahathir trust Muhyiddin? Chances are high Mahathir won't be around by then, so being the wily politician that he is, he would have an alternative plan up his sleeve. Whenever Mahathir is involved, there will always be surprises because he wants to surprise everyone with his ingenuity. Somehow, Mukhriz must be prime minister during Mahathir's life time even if it means he has to live to 100 years old!
College mates and best friends
Meanwhile, Rosmah Mansor is not sitting by and knitting socks for Najib. She too is busy plotting and scheming. She, Marina Mahathir and Shahrizat Jalil were fellow students in the Tengku Kursiah College in Negeri Sembilan and they are the best of friends, even until now.
They have not and will not let each other down since they share many secrets amongst themselves. They are fully aware that being public figures and connected to the VVIPs in Umno, any sort of gossip leaked to the public would be embarrassing for all of them. Thus their secrets are kept as 'real' secrets. No joke, not to be condescending but women can really keep secrets!
Now that Shahrizat is in trouble due to the NFC debacle, Marina being Mahathir's most beloved daughter has managed to persuade her father to spare Shahrizat or at least find ways not jeopardize her family’s future.
Rosmah on the other hand has also managed to persuade Najib to do the same for Shahrizat. This may be why Plan B, where a scapegoat “Datuk Fixit” was remanded for trying to bribe NFC investigators, has been brought out and put on standby pending a final decision on how to resolve the issue by the top Umno leaders.
If Najib and Mahathir agree to give her second chance, Shahrizat can use Plan B to maneuver her way out as long as she is sensible enough to realize that over and above, and much more powerful than Najib and Mahathir combined, are the Malaysian people. If she forgets this and overplays her 'Datuk Fixit' scapegoat or become too greedy, then she is in trouble all over again!
Limits to what friendships can do
Whilst Shahrizat can coax or even threaten Marina and Rosmah into saving her because she knows their dark secrets, she also knows that the favors from her best friends have limits.
This is why she is still pushing ahead with her own Plan C, which includes exposing the secrets of her Umno colleagues, especially those who betrayed her - which essentially is the Najib camp.
There is talk that Shahrizat has already struck an alliance with Isa Samad, the scandal-tainted former Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar. To make it simple, Shahrizat wants the dirt on Najib, and Isa has it. He is purportedly the one who saved Najib form the Ziana Zain scandal and Majlis Agama Islam Negri Sembilan (MAINS) has proof and physical evidence of the alleged 'khalwat' encounter, with witnesses to boot.
Whether Isa will really sell his Najib 'files' to Shahrizat remains to be seen, but for sure, he will use the leverage to force Najib into bringing him back to mainstream politics in Negri Sembilan. Najib made him Felda chairman to appease Isa's rivals in Negri Sembilan Umno, who do not want him to return to active state politics, but Isa still hungers for his MB days.
Weapon of mass destruction and massive internal bleeding
For sure, Isa will play this card carefully and to his advantage. So too will a score of other Umno chieftains and warlords. This is a golden opportunity for them to get onto Najib's list of winnable candidates for GE-13 - of course, provided they have access to Najib's dark secrets or Rosmah's.
Indeed, the NFC debacle has turned out to be the Pakatan Rakyat's weapon of mass destruction against Umno, the boss of the BN coalition. Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim's PKR party is holding back before it releases the next pair of torpedoes.
Meanwhile, the internal bleeding in Umno is strong enough to infect and kill the already weakened party. Both Najib and Mahathir know this and are fully aware of the impact and repercussions on their plans for their heirs.
An imploded Umno simply means, no premiership for their sons to inherit. Instead, jail and corruption charges may be the order of the day if Pakatan sets investigators onto the mountain of corruption allegations stacked against the two men and their families.
Family ties an Achilles heel
Right now, their more pressing dilemmas involve the two most beloved women in their lives - how to appease the ladies and at the same time show Umno and Malaysia that justice has been done.
Mahathir has done his part by saying that Shahrizat must resign, smartly leaving the ball in the dullard Najib's court. Mahathir is telling Najib that if he insists on saving Shahrizat because Rosmah ordered him to, he would be doing so at his own peril. If the debacle blows out of control, Mahathir will just roll his eyes and say “I told you so Najib, and I even told you not to let Isa Samad be the candidate for Bagan Pinang for the state by-election”.
All eyes are now on whether Najib will stay his hand and decide against using Shahrizat to get back at Muhyiddin, Badawi and Khairy. It is an open secret that his faction stirred up the NFC scandal to consolidate his hold on the Umno presidency, which is bound to be challenged at the Umno internal polls next year.
Will he put the brakes on his strategy team after they spent so much effort to craft the devious plan and follow the orders of his wife Rosmah Mansor instead? If Najib does that, the internal revolt brewing in Umno will only blow up faster, with members smelling a free-for-all  in his weak leadership. He would only be dumped faster and all his and Rosmah's hopes of seeing Norashman one day becoming the PM of Malaysia dashed.
No prizes then for guessing who Najib would choose to listen to. One wonders though, what would Rosmah say to Shahrizat? My children are more important than yours? That would hardly be diplomatic although it is close to the truth. Another factor that is bound to add speed and fury to the explosion brewing in Umno as leaders scramble to not only to best each other politically, but to also ensure the safety of their respective families.
Family connections are indeed a double-edged sword, especially when taken to a stage near to 'incest' in the Umno elite circles.They provide strength and support when the going is smooth, but can become be a deadly Achilles heel when the going gets tough.
Malaysia Chronicle

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