Commentary Politics

Hisham the power-broker? Possible but highly unlikely

Liu (right) shot straight from the hip when he criticised Mahathir twice within a week recently.

Written by Aziz Hassan

October 28, 2019.

Recollections & Reflections

MORE political drama and Malaysians can rest assured they will continue to be entertained and titillated but while some may say they are getting a bit tired of the theatrics from people whose focus should be on governing, the consolation is that it’s all for free.

One that has gained some traction in recent weeks, although it may not necessarily be of much significance, is the role former Barisan Nasional minister Hishamuddin Hussein is said to be prominently involved in in trying to break up the ruling Pakatan Harapan government through the back door. Part of the plan by the former Umno vice-president – one of three elected – is apparently to have a new government minus the DAP and Amanah, two of the four Pakatan coalition members. Hisham will bring in MPs from Umno and god knows from where else to then fill in the blanks to make sure he has the required numbers.

The detractors within Pakatan have been quick to fire their arrows at Hisham over what has been described as an undignified move and one that ignores the wishes of the people as expressed through the elections on May 9, 2019. Dignity? Politicians are not always known to be dignified.

No compelling reasons why Hisham should be a power-broker

Anything is possible of course, especially when you are dealing with Malaysian politicians but no one has offered a compelling reason as to why Hisham is doing this, except to casually speculate that he will eventually be made PM, like his father was from 1976 to 1981. Hisham is credited by some political commentators as being the man who managed to convince several Umno MPs to defect to Pakatan many months ago but what was there waiting for him, in indeed he was the one? Nothing that we know. But if he was responsible, the question should be asked of the Umno leadership why no disciplinary action has been taken against Hisham for acting against the interests of the party. No one seems to ask the Umno leadership this.

On the other hand, if Hisham is doing this as a mole for Pakatan, he must be one lousy undercover agent because what he is said to have done has been widely written about, both in the traditional press, on social media and by bloggers. A mole who has been exposed bare….

In Umno, apart from just being an ordinary member, Hisham is only an MP and doesn’t seem to be part of the leadership group or any other that is perceived to be influential. Which again nullifies the notion that he is a power-broker extraordinaire. At the moment it does look like Hisham is neither here nor there and by convention someone in this position ends up not being fully trusted by everyone.

There is thus no compelling reason why Hisham should be doing this while remaining in Umno, where there is nothing significant left for him. If he is so influential, Hisham can surely entice Umno MPs to defect even if he is on the outside.

Just from where Hisham is supposed to get the numbers to replace the ousted MPs from DAP and Amanah is another point that has not been asked and answered. That’s a big number to replace – 53.

No one has also offered the reasons why anyone would want to break up Pakatan, either through the front or back door. If there is such a move, it can only be induced by internal factors and by those within the coalition itself.

Other Pakatan MPs had spoken out much earlier against Mahathir but surprisingly only Liu is being referred to his party’s disciplinary committee

There was also a bit of news recently involving DAP’s Sungei Pelek assemblyman Ronnie Liu, also the party’s central committee member, all for being critical of Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. Liu didn’t do that once but twice in less than a week, which makes him a standout critic.

The news reports on his comments didn’t show up anything incorrect or damaging but Liu is simply said to be disrespect of Mahathir and is being referred to this party’s disciplinary committee.

What this episode proves is that Malaysian politics is not one to tolerate dissent, even if the critic is right. It also proves that there is hardly any space for freedom of speech or expression, even among those who used to scream loud and clear for this when in the opposition because they take a complete turnaround when in the government.

Liu is not the first Pakatan MP to openly criticise Mahathir, with Ramkarpal Singh and Charles Santiago prominent of those before Liu but surprisingly the DAP didn’t think the opinions of the other two were bad enough to warrant a similar reference to the disciplinary committee.

What is it in there for Hisham if he is indeed a power-broker?

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About the author

Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.