July 25, 2019.
Recollections & Reflections – A commentary by Aziz Hassan
IT is a distraction no doubt, which judging from remarks in social media, is not what Malaysians would like to see happen but still it doesn’t look like it’s something that is about to go away soon. And those who have created this situation are no less than the most senior politicians in the ruling coalition, with Umno wisely deciding to stay out.
Despite the allegation that a minister was involved in the homosexual act in a video that went viral some weeks ago, the case should have been treated like any other, with politicians and the police saying nothing until investigations are completed and a decision made on whether it should go to court.
But Malaysian politics works in its own peculiar ways, with anyone who is everyone making one statement after another. It further becomes clouded when even the police want to give their two cents worth of political inclined opinions.
Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has tried his best to convince the country that he is not favouring or defending Economics Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, the man former political aide Haziz Abdullah Abdul Aziz openly declared was the other person in the video besides himself, but almost everything that Mahathir has said points exactly to his bias for Azmin. Mahathir would have looked much better, especially since he is PM, if he had remained neutral from the outset. By making known his stand, Mahathir has made it very difficult for the investigators to act with impartiality, given that the national police chief is appointed on his ticket.
The strange thing is although it is obvious the official focus has been on a possible offence regarding how the video went public and not if there was indeed a sexual offence in the first instance, Azmin has gone out of his way to defend his innocence, participating in a kind of mini road-show. The latest from him is that he knows who’s the mastermind behind the video but is not telling. The logic is that if indeed he was not in fact the man in the video, why bother to convince people of his innocence because the onus to prove an allegation is on the accuser.
Given too how damaging Haziq’s claim is to Azmin, one would expect a police report and the filing of a suit by Azmin but until now, weeks later, there’s been nothing close to this. An allegation of this nature against a married man with a few grown-up kids cannot be likened to just another day in the office.
Those who been making premature statements about the innocence or otherwise of the main characters in this titillating merry-go-round do not seem to realise that if this case goes to court – and the signs are that it will – there is absolutely no way to escape scrutiny. That’s the beauty about a court case.
From another perspective, most people see this as another chapter in the Azmin-Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim fallout and possibly by extension, how the succession to the highest political office in the country will pan out.
Many doubt if Anwar will indeed be the next PM
Despite Mahathir’s oft repeated assurances that he will eventually hand over the reins to Anwar in another year or two from now, not many are convinced that this is what will happen. If Anwar thinks he should not have any worries due to the assurances, he must be one naïve politician.
Even if he does get the nod, there is the problem of securing the majority support of the MPs and this is not going to be a stroll in the park for him given the split in the PKR he leads. Similarly if Mahathir changes his mind and picks Azmin instead. That of course will be going against convention because Azmin is Anwar’s No. 2 in the party.
It is this requirement for majority support from MPs that is going to be tricky for whoever is chosen to be the next PM because apart from the split in PKR, the Pakatan Harapan coalition itself doesn’t have an overwhelming hold in Parliament, which could eventually make Umno and PAS the ultimate kingmakers.
While what the Umno and PAS MPs think of Azmin is not widely known, what can be gauged from past remarks is that many have their reservations about Anwar in terms of his trustworthiness, with those in Umno remembering what he did to people when he was with them for 16 years after his most unexpected decision to join Umno in 1982 after being active for so many years as a social activist and government critic.
With the succession far from being a done deal, a chaotic situation can be expected if Mahathir dies in office.
Malaysians are not expecting his deputy, Datuk Seri Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, to take over and because it won’t be her and because of this Anwar-Azmin spat, it’s impossible at the moment to think who will succeed Mahathir.
It is in fact something which Mahathir needs to reflect on seriously if he doesn’t want to leave behind a government in tatters and a country in turmoil.