Jumaat, 15 April 2011

As Sarawak decides, political intrigue grips Umno and the peninsula

As Sarawak decides, political intrigue grips Umno and the peninsulaOpposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim is not the only one giving Prime Minister Najib Razak and wife Rosmah Mansor nightmares and sleeplessness. It looks like Taib Mahmud - directly or indirectly - is also giving the chubby couple severe indigestion both at Putrajaya and in Umno.
When Najib touched down onto Borneo soil a couple of days ago, his first message was that he had reached an understanding with Taib and the latter had agreed to step down as the Chief Minister of Sarawak - soon.
Like Najib and Rosmah, Taib is dogged by a mountain of corruption scandals and there are even allegations of involvement in murder most foul. But at 74, Taib may have ingested more salt than Najib.
Certainly, Taib displayed more fire in his belly when he refused to 'obey' the federal leader's dictum. At a public rally held soon after Najib's discourteous hint in public to him, Taib made the shock announcement that he would pass the baton only in "two or three years'" time.
Although that put Najib in a spot, the PM found himself unable to do anything but to 'graciously' acquiesce and find other ways to deflect attention and save 'face'.
Not only is Najib already under fire over a sex video scandal implicating Anwar and a second suspicious death at the MACC - an anti-graft agency that directly reports to him - it would take a much stronger man than him to go head to head with Taib in Sarawak.

Wily Taib looks after himself first
Without doubt, the wily Taib took full advantage of the circumstances and snubbed Najib's advice to step down after the Sarawak state elections due to be balloted on Saturday.
To be fair to Taib, his reasons are not purely personal. He is also eager to give the impression that Sarawak BN component parties, such as his own PBB, cannot be dictated to by people from the peninsula even though these may be big-shots who walk the corridors of power in Putrajaya, Malaysia's administrative capital.
Seasoned politicians from Sarawak also testify that Taib still holds a significant amount of influence in the PBB heartlands. Most of the indigenous people there have been brainwashed through the years. To them, Taib Mahmud is the saviour of the Sarawakians for bringing in 'huge' development.
Indeed, Sarawakians are generally less bothered by BN leaders who only whizz in now and then from the peninsula, and Taib’s position as their unsung hero is still unshakable in some parts of the state despite the huge controversy and unpopularity that shrouds him elsewhere.
Ultimately, this signifies that Najib holds much less political standing compared to Taib in the Land of Hornbill, despite the government-controlled media faithfully playing up the PM's campaign to the hilt.
Intrigue and 'unpleasant' going-ons in Umno
While image-loving, there is more than the effects of negative publicity for Najib and Rosmah to contend with in the event of a shock defeat at Sarawak or a better-than-expected performance by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim's Pakatan Rakyat coalition.
Without a doubt, Najib Razak is up for some serious trouble if BN fails to recapture the state. Such a defeat would be first time in 10 state elections, and will immediately open the door for his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin to oust him from the presidency of Umno, the dominant party that forms Malaysia's federal government.
Apart from  the 64-year old Muhyiddin, who incidentally had a close shave with death when one of the helicopters ferrying his entourage crashed a few days ago, there are others who eye Najib's throne.
These include former premier Mahathir Mohamad and his son, deputy Trade minister Muhkriz, another former premier Abdullah Badawi and his son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin, the Umno Youth chief.
Also in the queue is Kelantan prince Tengku Razaleigh, whose former personal assistant John Pang has just been accused by blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin to be among a group that helped smear Najib and Rosmah in the sensational murder-and-corruption case involving Altantuya Shaariibuu.
These 'latest' developments have raised eyebrows in the highest quarters in the country, sparking speculation as to whether any unpleasant incident will befall the 34-year old KJ, who has been reported as saying he wants to be PM before he reaches 40.
It is also odd that amongst political pundits, few think anything will happen to Mukhriz who enjoys the protection of his still powerful dad.
Indeed, the intrigue at Umno grows and will continue to grow regardless of whether Anwar succeeds in taking Sarawak from Taib this Saturday. For sure, change is taking place in Sarawak and Malaysia, and even Umno will not be spared.

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