Dangerous times are ahead for Malaysia as its ruling party UMNO desperately twists and turns to redeem itself ahead of a general election that some believe will be won by the Opposition and others, that it may never even take place.
Political sources tell Malaysia Chronicle that UMNO divisions in three states – Johor, Terengganu and Perak – have already begun the ball rolling to get scandal-plagued Najib Razak to step down both as Prime Minister and UMNO president.
The latest tell-tale signs that infighting is reaching a head are the rumors of racial riots spread by several pro-UMNO bloggers.
Killing two birds with one stone
Coming eerily hot on the heels of warnings issued by UMNO-linked leaders such as Ibrahim Ali and Shahrizat Jalil, the rumors fueled fear of a reprisal of the May 13, 1969 racial riots that left thousands injured and hundreds dead.
During the 1969 mayhem, Malay youths were egged on by UMNO leaders to attack the ethnic Chinese community in a ‘kill two birds with one stone’ stratagem.
The first and primary goal was to replace first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman with Abdul Razak Hussein, who ironically is Najib’s dad. The second was to allow the UMNO leaders to grab complete political and economic dominance by accusing the Chinese of bullying the Malays and robbing them of their ‘birth rights’.
With the UMNO-led BN coalition now on the ropes following a torrent of corruption scandals that include sex and murder, there is fear that UMNO power brokers might again conspire to defend their grip on the federal government by making Najib and his controversial wife Rosmah Mansor the scapegoats.
These sinister ‘warlords’ would then create chaotic conditions that would allow Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to delay the country’s 13th general election and perhaps even impose martial law until the BN, which has ruled Malaysia since 1957, was again sure of winning.
That would be the worst of three possible scenarios as it would take Malaysia into no-man’s land. The country, the second-most modern in Southeast Asia after Singapore, would join the ranks of the turbulent African nations, where power-grabs, coup d’etats and militia rule are common. Fortunately, this is the least likely scenario.
Chances are higher that former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, the main puppet master in UMNO, will throw his weight behind Muhyiddin, effect a leadership change by ‘forcing’ Najib to quit, and then shepherding UMNO into elections banking on Muhyiddin’s pro-Malay battle cry to pull in the votes.
This way, Mahathir avoids the notoriety and responsibility of bloody riots as well as flushing the country and his family’s billion-dollar investments and business interests down the drain.
The third scenario is that Mahathir might decide to do nothing after all. While he has given Muhyiddin’s camp the tacit green light to do the best they can to upset Najib, he has not given the final OK. If after their best shots and Mahathir feels that an 11th hour switch would still be the political suicide that many have warned of, he may agree to let Najib lead UMNO-BN into GE13 and hope for the best.
Stirring up clashes using the Underworld
“Mahathir is a kamikaze fighter. He doesn’t need emergency laws or any law if he wants to do something. Look at how he dissolved the old UMNO and re-created UMNO Baru, look at how he threw Anwar Ibrahim into jail, declared all-out war on Abdullah Badawi,” a veteran political observer told Malaysia Chronicle.
“But the option of delaying GE13 and imposing martial law is out. The UMNO warlords know if they do that, they will really end up with nothing but jail and infamy. It is better to take a chance at the ballot boxes. After all, they have already done so much gerrymandering and they have so much wealth overseas, they might as well try their luck in the courts if the new regime prosecutes them for plundering.”
“There’s no doubt Mahathir is trying to change the PM to boost the morale in UMNO before going straight into GE13. He has always been the biggest gambler of them all. He is willing to put all his chips on winning big with Muhyiddin’s pro-Malay image. To do that, they will stir up Malay sentiments. So far, there has only been rhetoric. Now we are hearing talk of racial clashes. It is therefore possible that what happens next will be actual incidents. The grapevine goes that they may stir up small incidents here and there to rally the Malays together and they could do this with the help of UMNO hot-heads and the Chinese and Indian underworld.”
Dilemma for UMNO
All eyes are now on what new muck Deepakr Jaikishan, a former close friend of Rosmah’s, and Musa Hassan, the ex-Inspector General of Police, will rake up next. Both men are heavily suspected of being the hired ‘assassins’ of the Muhyiddin-Mahathir camp. They have already aimed very heavy body blows at Najib and Rosmah.
Deepak has minced no words accusing the Najibs of receiving “millions” for pushing through a military deal to benefit a political ally, the Selangor UMNO women’s chief. More damagingly, Deepak shocked the nation when he revealed that it was also Rosmah and Najib who sought his help to overturn an incriminating statutory declaration linking them to the controversial Altantuya Shaariibuu murder and Scorpenes corruption cases.
Waiting at the net, Musa Hassan hit bulls-eye by revealing that Najib’s cousin – Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein – “interfered” with police work, thereby influencing the outcome of investigations.
To UMNO watchers, the Deepak-Musa exposures are the last straw. It is like Najib’s rivals in UMNO are asking him, “ Are you still adamant to stay in power with all these exposés? Are you asking for more?”
“It is not so back-stabbing as it may seem to you outsiders. UMNO leaders are in a real dilemma. Yes, they are squabbling about who should be allowed to contest in GE13, they are also not happy with Najib’s ‘winnable’ list but he is willing to compromise too. No doubt, some of his enemies are jumping on the bandwagon to get rid of him before the elections because you can’t really tell how voters will react. Lastly, Najib himself is so tainted that he is the most un-winnable one to lead BN into GE13. This is why there are so many in UMNO pushing to replace him with Muhyiddin. To them, UMNO simply cannot afford to fall with Najib,” another party watcher told Malaysia Chronicle.
Najib likely to step down before GE13
So far, there has only been a deafening silence from Najib and Rosmah. As the sitting PM, Najib has at his command a wide array of powers. There is some talk his advisers are busy ‘planning’ a fight-back but given Najib’s indecisive temperament, the possibility of him laying a trap that will result in the arrests of his political rivals is close to zero.
Despite being the eldest son of a revered former UMNO president, or having been the Defense Minister, or having control of the police via his cousin Hishammuddin, Najib simply has not succeeded in stamping his control over the government machinery and its institutions.Both he and his wife are unpopular due to their scandals and spendthrift lifestyles and in the event of an internal tussle with Mahathir and Muhyiddin, chances are they will lose.
Feistier than her husband, Rosmah has allegedly threatened to get even by revealing their enemies’ equally dark and horrific secrets.This is a development that if it unfolds will surely be the final nail in UMNO’s coffin. As the saying goes, Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!
But at the end of the day, who has more money and is willing to spend to manipulate the outcome, will win the day at UMNO. That person is of course Mahathir, who has been accused of having a US$44 billion fortune stashed all around the world.
At this point in time, the situation in UMNO is very much in flux and from all accounts, no final decision has been made yet by Mahathir. But to UMNO bookmakers, the odds are Najib will have to step down within the next few weeks to pave the way for GE13, which in turn is expected to be held in the next 30 to 60 days.