AS THE STOMACH TURNS: A STORY OF FICTION
“When are you next meeting the old man? I need to see you before you meet him,” said Ku Li.
“Today at seven,” I replied.
“Isn’t he still overseas?”
“He is. But he’s coming back at five and throwing an open house at seven.”
“But he already had his open house last week.”
“That was for the public. This one is for friends.”
“Oh, then I need to see you today, before you meet him. What time are you leaving the house?”
“About six I suppose. It will take me an hour to get there.”
“Can you leave earlier, say at four, and swing by my house on the way there?”
“I will be not swinging by your house,” I replied. “Your house is out of the way, not along the way. I will need to make a detour to go to your house.”
“Okay, make a detour then, and drop by my house, say around five. Then we can chat for an hour or so before your next meeting.”
“Okay,” I said, and hung up.
“Change of plans,” I told my wife. “We are leaving at four instead of six. We need to meet Ku Li first.”
“Why?” my wife asked, always the curious one, especially when it comes to politicians.
“I don’t know. He didn’t say. Just said he needs to see us first before we meet the old man.”
“Must be very important,” replied my wife. “He seldom calls unless he really needs something.”
“Isn’t that the same for all politicians?” I quipped.
A drive to Langgak Golf is not my favourite journey, especially at four when the peak hour starts. Why the hell do people still want to live in Ampang, a relic of the old British colonial era when Ampang meant upmarket? Today that place is just like one huge parking lot with cars inching along slower than you could walk that route. But I suppose the ‘White House’ along Langgak Golf would look out of place in the new upmarket areas springing up like mushrooms all over the Kelang Valley. An old man in his old house in an old area that has seen better days -- this sort of best describes the person I am about to meet.
We parked outside the ‘White House’ and smiled for the camera. I wonder how many shots the Special Branch has of me entering Ku Li’s mansion? It must cost them a bomb to station an officer 24-7 in front of the house to monitor the comings and goings at Ku Li’s office cum residence. Ah well, someone has to do it I suppose. It must puzzle them that more opposition people visit Ku Li than his own Umno people. I know of many who would never drive their own cars there and would sneak there in disguise so that Bukit Aman is not aware of their links to Ku Li.
My wife and I were ushered into what could easily be a replica of the Oval Room and Ku Li, in his usual English gentleman’s manner, strode across the room to shake our hands and gestured to our seats, the same seats we would always sit in every time we went there. And Ku Li too sat in his favourite chair with his large portrait as the backdrop, every bit a scene from an American President’s movie set.
Tea and cakes in the British tradition were passed around and we got down to business. We only had an hour so there was not much time for idle chit-chat. “So you are meeting the old man at seven,” said Ku Li, as we both looked at our watches.
“Yes, in two hours or so,” I replied.
“Okay, tell him I am ready,” said Ku Li.
“Yes, ready to take on the leadership of Umno. But I will do so only with his support. Without his support I will not go for it.”
“Okay, I will tell him that,” I replied. ”Anything else I should tell him?”
“No. Just tell him that. Then see what he says and we will take it from there.”
We do not need an hour to talk about this and he could have just told me over the phone without needing me to spend an extra hour in the car battling the rush hour jam along Jalan Ampang.
The one-hour meeting with Ku Li took only twenty minutes so we sat in the car outside Mahathir’s house for almost an hour to kill time. At sharp seven we walked in to Mahathir’s house and I whispered in the old man’s ear that I needed to talk to him whenever he could get away from his guests.
“What about?” Mahathir asked.
“About Ku Li”.
“What about Ku Li?”
“He has a message for you.”
I had to wait almost three hours for the crowd to thin before Mahathir could sneak away and sit down beside me. “So, what is the message?” he asked me.
“He said he is ready.”
“Ready for what?”
“Ready to take on Pak Lah for the Umno Presidency?”
“He told you this?”
“How did he say it?”
I related my twenty minutes meeting with Ku Li while Mahathir just listened without comment.
“What do you want me to tell him?” I asked.
“Let me think about it first. I will tell you later.”
That night Mahathir had a heart attack and was rushed to hospital at 3.00am. I never received the message that I was supposed to pass back to Ku Ki. Hmm…talk about bad timing. I suppose Ku Li is now going to have a long wait and he had better hope that Mahathir survives the heart attack if he wants this deal to happen.