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Friday, January 29, 2016

MAHATHIR, THE MAN BEHIND THE CHINESE TSUNAMI (PART 2A OF 2)

THE THIRD FORCE 2
During the 2009 UMNO elections, Khairy defeated Mukhriz in a contest for the youth leadership. While Dato’ Seri Mohd Ali Rustam was disqualified from contesting the party’s deputy presidency after being found guilty of money politics, Khairy was spared, which baffled critics and observers.
The Third Force
“Damn.”
It may have been the word whizzing in and out of Tun Dr. Mahathir’s conscience, again and again like a mantra. It may have been so loud, even the pundits felt his chagrin. The month was April and the year, 2006. Already, there was talk of simmering tensions between then Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Haji Ahmad Badawi and his predecessor, Mahathir.
Mahathir Abdullah
“Mahathir began to pick holes in Abdullah’s leadership as early as in 2005, although back then, the Prime Minister was never referred to directly. Issues that cropped up included the cancellation of the Johor crooked bridge project, the undermining of Proton by the leadership and the purchase of MV Augusta, an unviable, debt ridden European company that was purchased by Proton under dubious pretexts”
On the 31st of October 2003, right after handing over the reins of government to Abdullah, Mahathir vowed never to stick his oars in government, or as many had understood him, dabble in its politics.
But none of that was for real.
Exactly two years, seven months and seven days later, Mahathir rolled back on that promise, citing ingratitude worse than the sin of witchcraft – the sin of betraying him. He shocked the whole nation with expressions of discontent over what he claimed was his successor’s failure to deliver on his promises.
In the many, many words he spoke, Mahathir but implied this – Abdullah was not fit to run government. “I have the habit of choosing the wrong people,” he said.
It was a direct hit. The attack brought such disrepute to Abdullah – the question was not if, but when he would be brought down. In the next few months, Abdullah stayed apathetic, had a cow-to-mule session with Mahathir, and almost as if to commemorate the first anniversary of the attack, got remarried.
And all the while, Mahathir poured every ounce of scorn and guilt he could on Abdullah, such that the latter’s onetime loyalists retreated to a corner, afraid to move an inch. The crisis moderated the enthusiasm over Abdullah’s once neoliberal ideals to such an extent, that in just two years, he was regarded a fraud and a half.
Hadari
“Islam Hadhari, an idea that was originally founded by the late Tunku Abdul Rahman, was really an extension of Islam Madani, an age old concept that was advocated by the Prophet Muhammad and his faithful companions. But Mahathir would have none of that, and strongly criticized Abdullah for “confusing the people.” In his own words, “…the Prophet brought only one Islam. He never mentioned anything about Islam Hadhari…(laughter by audience)”
But the question remains – what had prompted the grand old man of Malaysian politics to pound on his hand-picked successor with sledgehammer fists? More importantly, how does this all relate to the 2013 Chinese Tsunami, which Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak was falsely accused of inspiring?
The battle of the kin
Present day UMNO youth Chief Khairy Jamaluddin was once touted ‘the next big thing since Mahathir’. Desperate for a sliver of controversy, journalists hearkened on that saying and began to caption his meteoric rise to prominence on a queer note – that Khairy was Mahathir’s political son.
But that meant the unthinkable – that both Khairy and Dato’ Seri Mukhriz Mahathir were in fact, political ‘step-brothers’. While the former was the son in-law of a (then) reigning Prime Minister, the other was the son of a former Prime Minister.
With a touch of kinship stroked onto the canvas, all that was needed was what lacked – the big picture. This, the social media did with ingenuity, resulting in the rumour that both Khairy and Mukhriz were locked in a battle of cunning and kinship for a greater presence within the party’s youth wing.
The insinuation was clear – the younger of the ‘step brothers’ was the doer, while the elder Mukhriz was the ‘late-bloomer’. Admittedly, there had been a drive of sorts to push Mukhriz to the brink of an oblivion which, I think, he would have done a fine job getting to on his own, one way or the other.
Khairy Mukhriz
“During the 2009 UMNO elections, Khairy defeated Mukhriz in a contest for the youth leadership. While Dato’ Seri Mohd Ali Rustam was disqualified from contesting the party’s deputy presidency after being found guilty of money politics, Khairy was spared, which baffled critics and observers”
By late 2004, speculation was rife that there existed a chain of command that stretched beyond the corridors of power. The story goes that even a bearer of good deed was required an audience with Khairy before being admitted to the Prime Minister. Worse – it was said, that if Abdullah stayed any longer at his post, it would spell the end of Mukhriz, something Khairy would have made absolutely sure of without a moment’s hesitation.  
The panic attack
While Mahathir was invariably affected by all of this, he remained silent.
Privately though, he began to sift the rumours of corruption that involved both Abdullah and Khairy to the bottom. Looking for that single, powerful reason to throw down the gauntlet, he turned to his aide for help, who, in 2005, whispered the four words that turned him white as a sheet – “Khairy is a spy.”
Khairy
“It was whispered to Mahathir that Khairy was not who he seemed. What bothered Mahathir most was the whisper of Khairy’s involvement with the Singaporean Intelligence, the echo of which crept up in his conscience and probably even in his dreams, over and over again”
The accusation was outright – Khairy had allegedly been recruited while he studied in the United Kingdom (UK) by MI6, an agency that furnished the British government with foreign intelligence. And if that wasn’t enough, Dato’ Seri Kalimullah Masheerul Hassan, a dignitary once associated with The New Straits Times and The Malaysian Insider, was fingered as the person responsible to have recruited Khairy into yet another agency – the Singaporean intelligence.
As pale as snow, Mahathir approached the blogging roundtable and discussed what it would take to turn the in-laws into the outlaws. But even as the plot hatched on the anvil, he delivered his first salvo on the 7th of June 2006, when he accused Abdullah of backtracking on his pre-inaugural pledge to uphold the policies of government.
This, of course, got political pundits busy, in a sense that they were either explaining the outburst, or explaining it away. “Khairy Jamaluddin had become a threat to Mukhriz, which is why, Mahathir needs Abdullah to go,” or “It’s nothing serious. All Abdullah has to do is to keep a check on Khairy, and everything will be alright.”
By 2006 however, the chatter among political railbirds was congenial, and the insinuation was one –that Khairy would have to go in order to salvage the nation’s leadership.
A prelude to the attack on the Chinese
With such talk, it was no surprise that Khairy had become the most quoted man on the street. After having delivered the low on his backstairs cunning, the blogging roundtable, which had by then begun to work its miracles, called into question his cloaked commission in government.
The reason?
There were many. One in spotlight was a decision by the Ministry of Finance (MoF) to sanction a non-competitive merger, the outgrowth of which was a restructured entity that weighted heavily towards the favour of Khairy, and interestingly, Kalimullah.
The merger helped ECM Libra Capital Berhad – a Kalimullah concern – consolidate control over Avenue Capital Resources Berhad, a subsidiary holding of the MoF’s Ministry of Finance Incorporated. The deal was negotiated through a share swap that didn’t just beef ECM up, it gave the securities firm access to licenses it probably would never have been able to own.
Pak Lah
“The scandalous ECM-Avenue merger was touted the conspiracy of the decade. What irked critics was not only the fact that Khairy was the son in-law of the person who ultimately sanctioned the merger, but the fact that the merger made absolutely no sense from an economic standpoint”
Critics were chewing nails trying to figure how a meagre securities firm could swallow up a company four times its size. But a convolution of market acrobatics took care of that – it helped narrow the gap between the core values of the companies, bringing ‘goodwill’ right down to a minimum and making it the story of ‘a beggar purchasing a candy at a sweetshop’.
There was every indication that a deal may have gone through the kitchen door – both Khairy and Kalimullah were believed to have negotiated terms of reciprocity between partnership and merger before a proposal was put to the MoF, the portfolio of which was (then) held by Khairy’s father in-law.
The said negotiation resulted in the announcement by ECM’s board and founding members – Lim Kian Onn, David Chua and Kalimullah –that they were each selling one percent of their stockholding in ECM to Khairy. The announcement came days before a 19th of January statement by ECM, which not only spoke of merger – it put into perspective an element of corruption and political chicanery that may have been at play.
Exchange filings later revealed transactions worth 71 sen per share, accumulating to RM 9.2 million for the purchase of 12,990,000 shares by Khairy. When asked how he afforded to make such a purchase, Khairy simply answered, “I borrowed RM 9.2 million to buy shares.”
No sooner did he say that than he found himself in the thick of another controversy. Rumour mills chugged the un-heavenly tone of a conspiracy in which the son in-law, deemed to be under the influence of questionable forces, coaxed his Prime Minister of a father in-law to sanction not only the merger, but the fix to get there.
The fix may have had to do with yet another rumour that was going around the block – about RM 9.2 million being secured though knotty and roundabout negotiations in which Khairy, and in this particular case, a lesser mentioned Kalimullah, acted with wilful negligence in a complicity that involved their affiliates.
The first attack on the Chinese
Notwithstanding the rumours, both Mahathir and his most trusted aide, lawyer Matthias Chang, began to tear Khairy apart in the media expanse with questions and insinuations that implied practices that were ethically and morally difficult to defend. On the 27th of June 2006 and at an event that was well attended, Mahathir had this to say;
“Fourth floor (an insinuation to Khairy and his boys) is more powerful than the fifth floor (Abdullah’s office) as the fifth floor did not go to Oxford University…Sometimes we go over to Singapore to play golf and pat each other on the back over every little thing, then send the son in-law…”
Those weren’t just his biggest applause lines – they were his biggest fears. Something told Mahathir that the neighbouring republic, the administration of which he was known to have been at loggerheads with since the days of Tunku Abdul Rahman, had wielded some form of authority over Abdullah. From then on, everything seemed to add up. He had Khairy’s links to Singapore factored into every other project that was cancelled. Seething with frustration and a desire to get even, he decided that the Khairy edifice needed to be destroyed once and for all.
4th Floor
“There was a joke, where it was said that the fourth floor was where everything was…from the copiers, fax machines, desks, chairs, etc…that so much so, all of Abdullah’s assistants and ministers stood in their empty rooms waiting for their phones, the only thing they had in their rooms, to ring”
Standing apart from bloggers in the intensity of his remarks, the former premier evoked suspicion over Khairy’s links to Singapore, insinuating that the latter was well placed within the island republic’s ‘sphere of influence’. The attacks were relentless – coupled with mudslinging from bloggers, Khairy was quickly reduced from being the Prime Minister’s son in-law to being the Prime Minister’s flaw.
After taking fire from both Mahathir and Matthias, Khairy turned to the Gerakan run Penang state government with buckets of hot soup – for its Chief Minister, Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon. With an abrasive tone and ill-chosen words, the UMNO youth second in command implied that the state government was positively Chinese chauvinist, which according to him, was to the detriment of the state Malays.
But he didn’t stop there. Khairy went on to suggest a rotary system for the post of Chief Minister, a notion that sparked frenzy among UMNO members who began to decry Gerakan’s leadership. Strongly worded statements of dissent from all corners of the Malay based party resonated on one theme – an UMNO -led Penang state government.
The bolt from the blue that Khairy delivered to the Penang Chinese sent ripples that impacted on Gerakan and MCA’s performance during the 2008 general elections to some extent. The attack was widely perceived to be a smokescreen, the result of a 12th of August 2006 decision by him to relinquish all of his stakes in ECM at 61 sen a share.
That decision, which many believe was out of fear, incurred him more wrath than did the purchase of the shares itself. On the defensive, Khairy ingeniously declared the need to prevent the dilution of shareholding by the Malays, and put it as the reason why he sold his stake to a Malay entrepreneur at a loss. As he more or less implied, the Chinese were prone to take advantage of UMNO’s weakness and trample over the Malays, which was reason enough to effect a leadership change in Penang.
Mysteryman
“Just a few months after the attack on the Chinese in Penang, a certain Chinese businessman was said to have relinquished his holding in a failed business venture and was planted in a Chinese based opposition party. The businessman turned politician was also said to have been funded by a certain Chinese tycoon, a Mahathir proxy”
It isn’t clear to this day why Khairy had zeroed in on Penang. Rumour has it, that it had something to do with the fact that both Singapore and DAP had their eyes set on the island state for the 2008 General Elections. It is no secret that DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang had for years, since the seventies, eyed the island state for a reason that I shall articulate, with no stone unturned, in a series of articles that will start to appear sometime late in March this year.
Be that as it may, the die was cast – the Chinese were hit, and so was the Gerakan leadership. It was an added bonus that Khairy had taken a pot-shot at the Chinese led state government, as it augured well with a plan by a certain politician that already was afoot – a plan to deliver Penang to DAP come the 12th General Elections.
To be continued…

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