Anwar dug his own grave

Raja Petra Kamarudin

They say one goes through many changes or transformations throughout one’s life. In your teen years you would invariably only be concerned with having a good time. For me, other than partying all night long, motorcycle racing was my greatest passion of all and was my idea of a good time. In between the annual Malaysian Grand Prix and novice ‘Clubman’s Races’ that used to be organised monthly or so at the Shah Alam racing track, we also had our Saturday night races along Jalan Kuching in Kuala Lumpur, which would be held way past midnight when the streets of KL would be practically deserted and all the police would be at home in their beds.

By my mid-twenties, by then I was already married with one kid, doing business was what occupied my entire waking hours. I even stopped riding for awhile as biking did not quite suit an image of a stable and serious businessman. When I started dealing in motorcycles I of course took up riding again, but more as a business promotion effort rather than because of the joy of riding, though it was sort of like combining business with pleasure.

By my late twenties, my business had grown and was practically running on its own steam. It was then that I took a long and hard look at myself and reflected on where I was heading to. You could say I was auditing the first 27 or 28 years of my life and pondering where I would be the next 27 or 28 years by the time I retire at 55. Well, I reached 55 last September, so officially I am now retired.

That time of my life, 27-28, coincided with the Islamic Revolution of Iran. Ustaz Haji Abdul Hadi Awang had also just returned from the Middle East and was beginning to become very popular in Rhusila, Terengganu. And Anwar Ibrahim had already been released from ISA detention and was taking the country by storm with his Islamic youth movement, ABIM. I sort of got carried along by the tide of ‘Islamic revival’ and began to yearn to learn more about the religion I was born into but hardly knew or practiced.

Anwar made many a visit to Terengganu to give talks organised by PAS. I attended some of them though I stayed very much in the shadows so that I would not be recognised. Trying to survive as a businessman is not compatible with being seen at an opposition event. I must admit I was taken in by the many speeches. I began to realise that there is more to life than just having a good time and making money. I wanted to discover Islam and find out how I could serve Islam and how Islam could serve me.

I flirted with PAS for awhile and even parroted the often quoted statements of its leaders that Malaysia must be an Islamic country, that Hudud must be the law of the land, and that Umno is a party of infidels (Kafir) for rejecting Islam and violating the teachings of the Quran. I looked upon Anwar as Malaysia’s version of the saviour of Iran.

Then Anwar joined Umno. And this really upset me to no end. In 1982, during my Hajj, I travelled with the late Ustaz Fadzil Noor, Haji Hadi, Mustapha Ali, Wan Mutallib Embong and two others to Medina where we stayed for about a week. I spent many a late night talking to these most illustrious PAS leaders about Islam in general and the PAS struggle in particular. Surprisingly, though Ustaz Fadzil did express his sadness at Anwar joining Umno, he did not condemn him. He even said he understood why Anwar joined Umno. PAS struggles from the outside to bring Islam to the nation. Anwar has chosen instead to do it from inside Umno.

But Anwar will fail, said Ustaz Fadzil. And Ustaz Hadi added, “You can’t clean the shit by jumping into the shit pot. Instead, you will get covered by shit and become dirty.”

Yes, Ustaz Hadi was younger then, 24 years ago, and more hot-blooded, but the elder Ustaz Fadzil looked at things from a more pragmatic angle. If Anwar is sincere in joining Umno for the betterment of Islam, then we should help him as much as we can. Not everyone needs fight from the outside. Some should do so from inside Umno as well. Struggles are not just about fighting but also about educating.

In short, I replied, changes can be both revolutionary as well as evolutionary. While PAS chooses the revolution route (not to be interpreted as ‘armed revolution’ but ‘abrupt change’) others can go the evolution route (meaning education or slow change).

I found the fact that Ustaz Fadzil had come to terms with Anwar joining Umno most settling and it made it easier for me to accept it as well. And I took special note of his statement that we must help Anwar as much as we can.

When Anwar decided to contest the Umno Youth leadership, some ABIM chaps approached me and asked for help, in particular in Terengganu which somehow was very hostile towards Anwar. Wan Mokhtar Ahmad, the Terengganu Chief Minister, resented the fact that Anwar was brandishing his ‘Islamic credentials’ when he is neither a Cairo nor Medina university graduate. Wan Mokhtar, an ulamak (Muslim scholar), just like most ulamaks, is very jealous of anyone who projects himself as a Muslim leader if they come from an ‘English’ school; in Anwar’s case the Malay College Kuala Kangsar. It seems ‘membership’ to the ulamak ‘club’ is restricted to only those who schooled in the Middle East or Pakistan.

Anyway, we managed to open up Terengganu for Anwar by ‘capturing’ four of the eight Umno divisions in the state. Wan Mokhtar was outraged and he told his boys to kill me off. “His forehead has Anwar’s name tattooed on it,” said Wan Mokhtar, as related to me by Cikgu Adam, his political secretary. I realised then that my life in Terengganu was going to be most unpleasant indeed. (Later, Anwar told me that Wan Mokhtar had complained to him about my ‘activities’ in Terengganu and Anwar had the gall to ‘wash his hands’ and ‘disown’ me, leaving me to the mercy of Umno Terengganu).

While I never severed my relationship with PAS, I continued ‘flirting’ with Anwar; sort of like having a wife and a mistress on the side as well. Fadzil Noor, Haji Hadi and Mustapha Ali all knew this but they accepted it as a sort of ‘necessary evil’. When Umno split into Team A and Team B, I decided to go along with Team B. I felt that Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah is a better man than Dr Mahathir Mohamad; the lesser of the two evils so to speak.

Kamaruddin Jaffar, then political secretary to Deputy Prime Minister Ghaffar Baba, and I, met Azmi, Ibrahim Ali’s brother, at the Merlin Hotel, now called Concorde. Azmi showed us his computer printout. Tengku Razaleigh and Musa Hitam were ahead by at least 10%. “If Anwar’s boys support Ku Li and Musa for President and Deputy President,” said Azmi, “We will also support Anwar for Vice President.”

Kamaruddin and I rushed to Anwar’s house to deliver Azmi’s message. Anwar went berserk. “No deal!” he screamed. “I have promised Mahathir my support. If Ku Li and Musa win, I will resign even if I win the Vice Presidency. So if you want me to stay in the government, then better make sure Mahathir wins.” Kamaruddin and I looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders. We both felt this was a major mistake.

I went back to the Merlin and met Noor Azam, Mahathir’s political secretary, and told him that Ku Li and Musa were ahead by 10%. It was apparent that Ku Li was very well organised with three operation centres equipped with computers while Mahathir’s campaign team had nothing other than the fact he was already Prime Minister. I had no confidence Mahathir could win and I told Noor Azam so. I also told him that Kamaruddin seemed to share this view.

Noor Azam looked very perturbed. He was sweating, though the air conditioning in the Merlin was very cold and it was 3.00am, and he kept taking out his handkerchief to wipe his forehead.

The next day we met in one of the hotel rooms of the Merlin and pondered on what to do to save Mahathir’s arse. Dr Wan Ismail (Anwar’s father-in-law), Ahmad Sebi Abu Bakar (TV3’s CEO), Noor Azam, Kip Bahadum (Umno’s executive secretary), Syed Ibrahim (who recently died of gunshot wounds in his Kenny Hills home), plus a couple of other chaps I should not mention by name sat gloomily around the table.

There was clearly no other way. We would have to cheat. That would be the only way to save Mahathir and, for me, to ensure that Anwar stays in the government.

Two speeches were prepared for Mahathir, one long one and another short speech. He would read the short speech first and if the crowd of 1,800 delegates (there was no Umno Sabah yet then) seem to have been swayed, then he would stop there. Only if it appears like we have not yet won the crowd’s support would Mahathir need to read the long speech.

Then we met Tajol Rosli, Khalil Yaacob, Annuar Musa, Bakar Daud, Farid Ariffin, Ghani Othman, Saad Man, Bakar Dewa, Zubir Embong, Rashid Mohamad, Rashid Ngah, Rahman Bakar, and a few other Umno ‘Mafia bosses’ to inform them of the plan and to solicit their support. We would organise about 200 ‘observers’ with ‘urusetia’ (secretariat) tags in the front rows who would stand up to shout “hidup Mahathir!” halfway through his speech. The divisions aligned to Mahathir would be placed immediately behind the ‘cheering squad’ while those against at the back of the hall. Once everyone in front stands and cheers, those at the back would have no choice but to follow suit. This would give the impression that the entire hall is with Mahathir and those undecided or fence-sitters would not take the risk of voting for Ku Li but would vote for Mahathir instead.

Tajol Rosli appeared reluctant at first. He did not think it would work. Perak had one of the largest number of divisions, so the support of this state was crucial. We suggested that a very grateful Mahathir might fulfil his (Tajol’s) dream; to be the Chief Minister of Perak like his father before that. Finally, after many minutes of silence, he said he would join the group but only if we can get support from other divisions as well. If not, he would not take the risk as he felt Mahathir was doomed.

Mahathir was not told of the plan and he was genuinely taken by surprise when half the hall suddenly stood up to shout ‘hidup Mahathir!’ Those at the back of the hall slowly and reluctantly stood up to join the chorus. They could certainly not continue sitting and not shout as well, which would reveal they were with Ku Li.

Mahathir just stood there, speechless, as the shouting went on. He then said, “Terima kasih” (thank you) and sat down without completing his speech. The Chairman, Sulaiman Niman Shah, then asked that the voting commence immediately. There was a protest from some delegates as the schedule said ‘tea break’. But Sulaiman was firm. “You can go for your tea break but you cannot come back into the hall to vote,” he said. “If you want to vote then do so now, after which you can go for your tea break.”

Teh takkan kemana! (The tea will not go anywhere)” said Sulaiman.

This move was meant to prevent any last minute campaigning by Ku Li’s boys. We had already psyched the crowd so it would be dangerous to allow them to be turned, which would happen if we allowed them to mingle and talk outside the hall.

Of course, many other things (cheating) were done as well to enable Mahathir to win and Ku Li knows he actually won that day and was legally the Prime Minister of Malaysia, if not for the cheating. For all intents and purposes, Mahathir stole the win from Ku Li, and I blame Anwar entirely for this. We did not like Mahathir but we wanted Anwar in the government, so we accepted Mahathir as a necessary evil that came with the package.

That was probably the biggest mistake we ever made.

Well, we all know what happened in 1998. Anwar paid dearly for his crime of keeping Mahathir in power. Ku Li was the one who brought Anwar into Umno against the wishes of Mahathir. Finally, Anwar sided with Mahathir against Ku Li. Do you think Ku Li might yet have the last laugh when he goes on to become Malaysia’s next Prime Minister? You never know. In politics anything is possible.