July 30, 2019.
Recollections & Reflections – A commentary by Aziz Hassan
FOR sure it was not such a revelation from PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang but it was something Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali was quick to react to, given that it sounded favourable to his quest for higher political office while at the same time nudging aside a former boss he has been at war with since last year.
Favourable to Azmin because the longer Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad remains as prime minister, the more likely Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s influence will wane and the more space Azmin will have to enhance his influence in PKR. The over-riding argument is not difficult to comprehend – the longer Mahathir stays in office, beyond his repeated assurances about relinquishing his position to Anwar “within two years” and then “within three years” or “a willingness to stay on if the people want him”, the more people will read this negatively about Anwar: that Mahathir indeed has no intention of giving up his office, not to Anwar anyway.
Hadi was quoted by the PAS party organ as declaring again recently his support for Mahathir to complete his term but unlike what he had said last year, this time Hadi added that this position was one adopted by both PAS and Umno.
Never mind the reason alluded to by Hadi but political insiders say Hadi and many others in PAS and Umno know what Anwar was and is like and it’s not a pretty picture for them. Someone with access to the PAS leadership in the late 90s told a friend about how many of the party’s senior leaders were negative about Anwar even then but party president Datuk Fadzil Noor, an old Anwar friend from their Abim days, managed to convince them to agree to publicly support Anwar post his 1998 case. These leaders only agreed because they saw that declaration of support would also give PAS extra votes in the next general elections and it did.
Similarly if it’s true that Umno leaders too now agree that Mahathir should serve his full term, it’s not so much about being excited with Mahathir being there for much longer than earlier thought but it’s more about not wanting to see Anwar take over.
Despite what Hadi had said recently, those who track politics will surely remember that it was only in April last year, mere weeks before the general elections, that Hadi asked Malaysians not to give Mahathir a second chance. Come June the same year there was Hadi and a couple of other PAS leaders calling on Mahathir, plus another personal meeting between the two leaders, after which Mahathir reiterated what he said was a pledge that PAS would not support Umno in the Semenyih by-election. Instead PAS did work together with Umno to help the latter win.
It shouldn’t take a genius to anticipate that problems at the top in PKR will eventually have a negative impact on Pakatan, further clouding the succession issue.
Momentum for Umno checked unnecessarily from within when Zahid decided to resume office
For this reason, Umno should be smart enough to also be able to read the situation which should favour the party. It managed to repair part of the damage on its image, especially due to the so many corruption charges former party president Datuk Seri Najib Razak and the incumbent Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi are facing, when deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan took over temporarily the functions of the president when Zahid agreed to take leave of office in mid-December, only for him to surprise everyone by resuming duties end of June.
When Zahid was away, the momentum swung the way of Umno/Barisan Nasional to hand the opposition three consecutive by-election victories in the peninsula. Comments at social media also indicated that non-party members were agreeable with Mohamad’s leadership.
It cannot be disputed that it is within Zahid’s power and right to continue as party president because he was lawfully elected but the thinking is that Najib and him are best advised to keep their distance while they face all those charges and Umno be given every opportunity to make good, especially due to the frailties in Pakatan.
Of course Najib and Zahid are innocent until proven guilty but because of the number of charges, only the most optimistic of Malaysian will give them the benefit of the doubt that they will be able to ultimately convince the courts of their innocence. Zahid has to deal with 54 charges, which is a record in Malaysian judicial history for corruption. Only god knows how many years he has to go in and out of the courts before all the cases come to an end.
And if both are set free after all the cases have been dealt with, it’s time for the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and the Attorney-General’s Chambers to be disbanded for good.