Politics is about the attainment of power

Raja Petra Kamarudin

Hello…..brother…..that is not how the political game is played. Gratitude for past deeds has no place in politics. It is what you can do now and contribute to the future that counts. This is not a sign of ingratitude. It is what one would call real-politics.

Abim faction may quit Keadilan
Malaysiakini – Friday, 23 November 2001

The Malaysian Muslim Youth Movement (Abim) faction in Keadilan may quit the party if their presence is no longer welcome and are seen as ‘troublemakers’, said the movement’s president Ahmad Azam Abdul Rahman today.

“They (the Abim members) have informed me of their intention to quit the party but I told them to stay put until we decide on the next course of action,” he added.

Even Abim’s alignment with Keadilan will have to be reconsidered after the ‘ferocious attacks’ levelled against the Abim faction by other factions within the party, stressed Ahmad.

The Abim and non-Abim factionalism in the party was widespread and erupted during the Keadilan annual general meeting early this month which also saw the party’s inaugural elections.

Certain factions had labelled the Abim faction as “power-hungry individuals who wanted to take control of Keadilan”.

Ahmad said Abim members were “almost totally rejected” because they did not support the proposed Keadilan-PRM merger and Abim itself was subjected to heavy criticism.

The proposed merger has been agreed in principle by delegates from both parties which had separate meetings to vote on this matter.

However, the merger is put on hold following Keadilan’s failure to obtain the required two-third majority to amend its constitution. The party is expected to call for a special meeting for a vote on this matter later next year.

“I think we should consider everything. The wall is too thick to penetrate now. And based on their (non-Abim faction) response in the media, I don’t see a future for Abim members in Keadilan,” he told malaysiakini.

According to the Abim leader, the ball is now in Keadilan’s court. “If they are still arrogant and not magnanimous, I think everyone can predict the next course of action”.

Following the AGM, four Abim-linked members were offered places in the supreme council by party president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

However, the quartet – Mohd Anuar Tahir, Dr Muhammad Nur Manuty, Ruslan Kassim and Mustafa Kamil Ayub – rejected the offer.

“When the four former Abim members turned down the appointments as supreme council members, it was made in a good faith in order to give the newly elected leaders the opportunity to lead the party into a brighter future.”

“It also helps to prove that they (Abim faction) are not power greedy. And I personally support their decision,” said Ahmad.

He also revealed that he turned down an invitation to discuss the current situation with Keadilan leaders.

“I refused because the moment I am seen with Wan Azizah, it could be interpreted as interfering in Keadilan affairs. I do not want to be dragged into this mess.”

“I don’t want to influence them because I still want Abim to maintain its non-partisanship,” he said.

However, he said, a thorough analysis of the events before and after the Keadilan elections will be conducted.

“Unless and until the new party leadership is prepared to accept the reality there are factions in Keadilan, it will be difficult to mend the strained relationship between Abim members and other factions in the party,” he said.

Ahmad said Keadilan is very close to the heart of Abim members because the movement was the prime mover in the formation of the party.

“Abim was the first to organise the reformasi campaign after the dismissal of Anwar Ibrahim (jailed ex-deputy premier), the formation of Adil and eventually Keadilan, when most of the present party leaders were abroad,” he said.

Abim faction’s opposition to Keadilan-PRM merger plan triggers party split
Malaysiakini – Friday, 23 November 2001

Stiff opposition to the proposed merger with PRM is the main cause for the fissure between Keadilan’s Islamic Youth Movement (Abim)-affiliated leaders and other party leaders.

Abim president Ahmad Azam Abdul Rahman said his movement’s disagreement with the merger was politicised by other ‘factions’ in Keadilan to sideline Abim-linked leaders in the recent party elections.

“The results in the elections, where almost all leaders linked to us had been defeated, makes it possible for them to ditch Abim’s opposition to the proposed merger,” Ahmad Azam told malaysiakini.

In the party’s inaugural elections held on Nov 10 and 11, almost all Abim-affiliated candidates for the top posts were defeated by other candidates who were in favour of the merger.

The non-Abim faction consists of a loose grouping of former Umno members and individuals from the NGOs including the Jemaah Islah Malaysia.

According to Ahmad Azam, the animosity between the pro-Abim faction and the rest started when negotiations on the merger between the two parties began early last year.

“Abim members felt that the opposition front (BA) component parties can continue to work together and complement each other in the present set-up.”

The opposition pact was formed by Keadilan, PAS, DAP and PRM before the 1999 general elections. However, DAP pulled out of the coalition in September over its dissatisfaction over PAS’ stand on the Islamic state.

Ahmad Azam added that, however, the other ‘factions’ in the party started politicising Abim’s opposition to the merger to gain support for the proposed plan.

“We were said to have the intentions of ‘Abimising’ Keadilan. Our people in the party were said to be interested in Islamising Keadilan. Words were spread that we saw the rest, especially the PRM members, as being lesser Muslims,” he said.

“All these are untrue. In fact, our opposition to the merger was purely on tactical reasons. It is more effective to complement each other within the BA.”

He added there will also be problems relating to the party posts if the merger took place.

“Questions of seniority will be an issue. Newcomers to Keadilan (from PRM) will be made leaders. Our members will not be happy about it. We (Abim) were involved in the formation of Keadilan from the beginning, but these people become leaders.”

Ahmad Azam also said that Abim was wary of PRM’s history as a socialist party.

He added that Keadilan had started with a clean slate and should not let the ‘red’ history of PRM be a burden.

“This can drag down Keadilan and we don’t want to see that happen,” he said.

He added that the pro-merger Keadilan leaders had failed to convince party members of the benefits of the merger.

“They are for it just because Anwar Ibrahim is in favour of the merger. Why can’t we disagree with what Anwar wants, even if we agree that he had been victimised by the government?”

“In the end, it has become Abim versus the rest. That is the problem and it is unrepairable,” said Ahmad Azam.

Meanwhile, party sources told malaysiakini that Abim opposed the merger plans to maintain its influence and control over Keadilan. According to a source, Abim was worried that the entry of PRM might dilute its clout within the party.

“The previous Abim-affiliated leaders in the party had used their positions to consolidate Abim’s influence in the party, as well as the number of Abim-backed delegates that attended party meetings,” said a highly placed Keadilan leader.

He said that it would take some time before the present leadership would call for an emergency general meeting to revisit the merger issue.

“As we see it, we still have about 42 divisions that are pending approval from the Registrar of Societies. Only after that has been done, can we call for a special meeting to vote on the constitutional aspects of the merger. This may take up to a year,” said the source.

The party held a special meeting in June where its delegates agreed in principle to the merger but narrowly failed to obtain the two-third majority needed to amend its constitution for the merger. For its part, PRM delegates had agreed for the merger in their annual congress in July.

Keadilan will need to obtain the support from at least two-thirds of its party delegates before the merger can proceed.

Not only Keadilan, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was also frightened of ABIM. He was so frightened of ABIM that he allowed Anwar Ibrahim, its President, to join Umno. The purpose of allowing Anwar to join Umno was merely to neutralise ABIM. If Anwar could be taken out of ABIM, then the Islamic youth movement would be robbed of Anwar’s leadership and it would eventually become crippled. Furthermore, if Anwar was not allowed into Umno, then he would most definitely join PAS, which would be worse.

Dr Mahathir, being the political animal that he was, and still is, was proven right. Of course, the idea of Anwar joining Umno was not mooted by Dr Mahathir. It was Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah who came up with the idea. At first Dr Mahathir was not agreeable to the idea. However, Tengku Razaleigh managed to convince Dr Mahathir on the rational of bringing Anwar into Umno and he eventually relented and agreed to it.

One overriding factor for Dr Mahathir agreeing to the idea of Anwar joining Umno was the fact that ABIM’s deputy president, who was also the PAS deputy president, was laying the ground for Anwar to take over the PAS presidency after Asri Muda’s resignation. The late Fadzil Nor could have taken over the presidency, but he preferred leaving the post vacant to enable Anwar to eventually take over. As a stopgap measure, Fadzil allowed Yusof Rawa to hold the post as a caretaker while awaiting Anwar to make up his mind when he would like to take over the presidency of the party.

But Anwar did not take over the PAS presidency as what Fadzil had hoped. Though extremely disappointed with Anwar’s decision to instead join Umno, Fadzil knew that Anwar wanted to become Prime Minister and this could never be achieved through PAS. It has to be through Umno. In that sense Fadzil forgave Anwar and still maintained a good relationship with his comrade from the enemy camp.

When Anwar was sacked from Umno and the government in September 1998, Fadzil and the ABIM crowd were amongst the first to rush to Anwar’s side. The setting up of ADIL, the forerunner to Parti Keadilan Nasional, was also initiated by ABIM and Fadzil, as what the Malaysiakini report above said.

One thing, however, that the idealistic ABIM crowd overlooked is that politics is about the attainment of power. When you are sitting on the sidelines as a conscientious objector, you can afford to be idealistic. You are after all only criticising the excesses, abuses and transgressions of the powers-that-be. However, once you are in the thick of the political game, then you have to play the game — and all’s fair in love, war and politics. Enemies become friends and friends become enemies. An enemy of your enemy becomes your friend, even if the former is also your enemy, but as long as the latter is a bigger enemy. An enemy of your friend also becomes your enemy, even if the former is also your friend, but as long the latter can serve your political interests. That is the political game. And you must learn to treat all political friends as potential enemies and keep them close where you can watch over them — plus keep your political enemies even closer so that you can monitor them and neutralise their every move.

That is what Dr Mahathir did to Anwar, a very clever move indeed. However, somehow, that is what Dr Mahathir did NOT do to Team B. Instead, Dr Mahathir got rid of Team B by deregistering Umno and forming a new party in February 1988 where he excluded his enemies from the new party. That was a gross mistake. He gave Tengku Razaleigh and the remnants of Team B no choice but to create a new party, Semangat 46, which eventually teamed up with PAS to knock Umno out of Kelantan. Umno never recaptured Kelantan even after Semangat 46 wound up and most of its members joined Umno — and it would probably never again retake Kelantan far into the future.

Anwar used ABIM to frighten the daylights out of Dr Mahathir. He used it again in his climb up the Umno ladder. But once he got what he wanted, power, he neutralised ABIM so that it would no longer be a threatening force. ABIM practically became a pro-government movement and a pale comparison of its former self. That was when JIM was formed, to take over where ABIM left off. ABIM was seen as selling off and betraying the Islamic cause. JIM was going to continue the Islamic struggle started by ABIM but later abandoned once Anwar had climbed the Umno ladder.

ABIM may have been instrumental in the formation of Parti Keadilan Nasional, as claimed by Azam. It may also have been the initiator of and brains behind the Reformasi Movement. But that was in 1998. By 1999, the party had already faced its first general election and did reasonably well for a seven-month old party. But the party now needed to move on and certain structural changes were necessary. And ABIM did not fit into this new plan and, again, ABIM needed to be cast aside, like it had been many times before. ABIM was the small picture. Anwar now had to look at the bigger picture and ABIM was just one cog in the wheel, it was no longer the big wheel. This ABIM could not understand. They felt that Anwar owed the movement a lot and he should at least show some gratitude.

Hello…..brother…..that is not how the political game is played. Gratitude for past deeds has no place in politics. It is what you can do now and contribute to the future that counts. This is not a sign of ingratitude. It is what one would call real-politics.

The one-time deputy president of Keadilan, Dr Chandra Muzaffar, used to talk about politik baru (new politics). That is what the party is all about, he argued, to introduce new politics to Malaysia — clean politics.

I disagreed with him and told him so, much to his chagrin. It is people like you we want to change, he said. It is because of people like you that Malaysian politics has become so dirty, he told me.

You cannot become a politician and try to change the way the political game is played, I told Dr Chandra. Politics is a dirty game. The best politicians are Machiavellian, I explained. That is why Dr Mahathir is a good politician and Tengku Razaleigh is a bad politician. Tengku Razaleigh is too principled. He will never become prime minister. As much as I dislike Dr Mahathir, I admire him for his political acumen. Dr Mahathir is where he is, and will remain where he is, because he is Machiavellian. Anwar too is Machiavellian, I told Dr Chandra. Maybe you have not realised it, but he is. And Anwar will have to become even more Machiavellian if he wants to make a comeback. And if ‘comeback’ to Anwar means to become Prime Minister, then it has to be in Umno, not in the opposition. And Anwar will have to use the opposition, like he did ABIM in the 1970s, to frighten Umno so that they bring him back just to neutralise the opposition, like what Dr Mahathir did with ABIM in the early 1980s.

Dr Chandra was totally disgusted with me. Anuar Tahir, the party’ secretary-general who was present in this discussion, also shook his head in disbelief. Well, I told the both of them, if you want to become politicians, then this is how the game is played. So, if you cannot stomach the game, then get out of politics. Politics is dirty. In politics you use people. There is no such thing as clean politics or politik baru. There is only the old and well-tested dirty politics — the politics of winning, the politics of attaining power, the politics of using anything and anyone to achieve what you aspire, even money and offering positions if necessary.

Dr Chandra eventually did get out of politics, as did Anuar and many of the other ABIM activists. They realised that politics is not about idealism. Politics is about the ends justifying the means. Politics is about using anything and anyone available to get what you want. And that is why Tengku Razaleigh will never become prime minister, not until he can grasp the fundamentals of politics and is prepared to play the game; the dirty political game.

Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is seen as a clean man, a man of religion. But Abdullah is very rapidly learning the political game. He knows he cannot be clean or hold to his religious principles. He has Dr Mahathir gunning for him. He has Tengku Razaleigh who still aspires to become prime minister. He has Anwar hoping to make a comeback through Umno. He has Najib Tun Razak who plans to become his successor in the not too distant future. With all these threats hanging over his head, Abdullah has to be more Machiavellian than Dr Mahathir, Tengku Razaleigh, Najib and Anwar combined.

And he is. Abdullah is sending out signals that he is presently thinking about who will be the candidates for the next general election expected as early as next year. He is personally signing RM2 million in ‘development expenditure’ to each and every Barisan Nasional Member of Parliament. He is paying 10% of this RM2 million in advance for the MPs to use as they wish. He is building up a sizeable and formidable war chest through his son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin. Khairy is not the only front-man though. The RM5 billion PORR project is being executed through Yayasan Bumiputra Pulau Pinang Berhad, which he is heading.

By 2008, when the next party election is due, Abdullah will have in his war chest billions of Ringgit with which to fight against any onslaught from Dr Mahathir, Najib, Tengku Razaleigh or Anwar. Sure, the others have billions as well. But the others have no control over the RM200 billion RMK9 development fund. And the others cannot decide on the candidates in the next general election.

Abdullah is not as stupid as he looks. He may be a novice in the political game, but he is learning fast, and he has his very capable son-in-law to help him learn the ropes in super-speed mode. Some say that Khairy is moving too fast and this may result in his downfall. The veterans will not like a young man in a hurry. Well, Anwar was once where Khairy is today. Anwar too moved too fast and made many enemies along the way. But Anwar skilfully eliminated or bought off his enemies. As long as Anwar had the support of the prime minister he was okay. It is when he moved against the prime minister that he fell.

Khairy certainly has the support of the prime minister, so why should he not be okay as well? And I doubt Khairy will make a move against his own father-in-law as long as he can reap benefits from supporting him. But the instant Abdullah Badawi heads for a fall, Khairy would certainly move on. One must never swim near a sinking ship as one can get sucked down as well. Yes, Khairy will not betray his father-in-law as long as the man stays on top. But once he wavers or falls, then Khairy will be one of the wolves that will pick at the carcass, as is the nature of wolves.

Have no misunderstanding about this. I do not hate Khairy. I actually admire him. He is today what Anwar was more than twenty years before this. I suspect even Anwar admires Khairy as he sees much of himself in that young upstart. But I am of course opposed to Khairy because I am anti-establishment. I would oppose Anwar the same way I oppose Abdullah and Khairy, and Dr Mahathir before this, if Anwar was prime minister today.

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. So we must oppose those who hold absolute power to ensure they are not absolutely corrupted. That, in a nutshell, is what I am and will continue to be. And I will never become a politician. To become a politician I will have to do what good politicians do, and that is mostly bad things. So, the bottom line is, good politicians must become bad people. Good people become bad politicians.

ABIM cannot understand this. They thought they were sold out by Anwar. They thought that Anwar betrayed them. They thought that Anwar used them. But of course he did. But that is what all good politicians do. And if Anwar can continue doing this, then there is yet some hope that Anwar will become prime minister one day.

Do I support Anwar as prime minister? Of course not! I do not support Dr Mahathir, Tengku Razaleigh, Khairy, Najib or Abdullah as prime minister as well. This is nothing personal against Anwar, or any of the others. I actually love Anwar, Tengku Razaleigh and Najib. I have never met Khairy or Abdullah so it is impossible to love someone you have never met. And Dr Mahathir has his good and bad points — I just have not decided yet whether there is more good than bad in him, or the other way around.

What then is my beef? Simple! The prime minister is elected by 2,300 Umno delegates at the general assembly. Those who control the 191 Umno divisions control the 2,300 delegates. So he therefore becomes the prime minister. And only the prime minister is able to control the 191 Umno divisions and the 2,300 delegates. In short, only the prime minister has any chance of becoming prime minister. All the others can only try and fail trying.

Imagine 2,300 people deciding the fate of 26-27 million Malaysians. This is scary. There is something terribly wrong with such a system. Dr Mahathir proved this. And so is Abdullah proving it now as well. We need a system where more Malaysians can decide who becomes prime minister. This should not be left to just 2,300 Umno delegates who can be bought with a mere RM1,000 a head.

The general elections are rigged, so this system no longer works. But what system do we then change to? I really don’t know. Maybe we can limit the tenure of the prime minister to just two terms. Then the Anti-Corruption Agency should come under Parliament and the head of the ACA is appointed by Parliament. This would make the ACA independent and able to take action against the lawmakers, including the prime minister. Short of that I really don’t know what to suggest.

In the meantime, watch the ongoing power struggle in Malaysia. Much conniving and money changing hands will be seen over the next year or so. And the man left standing will be he who plays the game best. And all’s fair in love, war and politics. There will be no dirty politics, only real-politics. And the next prime minister, whoever it may be, will be he who outwits the others and outbids everyone with the best price. And the next prime minister will have to be the dirtiest player in the game; there are no two ways about it.

posted 11:39 AM