Part 2: The betrayal


It was just another birthday party like the hundreds of other birthday parties I have attended over the last half century, and probably hundreds more I shall attend before I leave this world. This one was slightly different, though, and in that sense maybe a bit special.

Tonight’s birthday party was being held at the Hard Rock Café in Kuala Lumpur. And after dinner we were going to adjourn next door to the Havana Club for a drink and a cigar, one of my favourite haunts. The second session was the more interesting part of the night, as far as I was concerned, because it is too noisy to talk over dinner. Talk, of course, means gossip, and that was what makes the night really interesting — when we can talk about others.

If gossiping were an event in the Olympics, Malaysia would sweep all the medals — gold, silver and bronze. There is no doubt about that. Gossiping is the favourite Malaysian pastime, what we would call lepak or lepaking. In the UK we call it chilling out. Malaysians, however, chill out by talking about others. And in Malaysia there is certainly a lot to talk about when it comes to ‘the others’.

That was my first time in the Hard Rock Café although I had been to the Havana Club many times. I just do not see why I should pay triple for a slice of a dead cow when I could get the same thing elsewhere for a fraction of the price. But then I was not paying that night so the price really did not matter.

What I found unique about the Hard Rock Café was the unisex toilet. Men and women shared the same toilet. Now that is what I would call advancement. I mentioned this to the chap on my right and he appeared puzzled. “Unisex toilets?” he asked me.

I pointed to the toilet in question and he smiled as he informed me that I had gone in to the ladies toilet. Shish…no wonder the ladies were all smiling at me. Why don’t they post clear signs on the door for short-sighted people like me? Now it explains why I could not find any urinals in the ‘unisex’ toilet! Well, it was not my fault, really. I was stumbling in the dark and asked the waiter where the toilets were and he did point to the ladies toilet.

It was about eleven. I was taking a deep drag on my cigar when the phone call from Rusdi came in. “Where are you?” he asked me.

“At the Havana Club in the Concorde in KL.” I replied.

“How long you going to be there?”

“Maybe a couple of hours more.”

“Can we meet tonight?”

“Can. What time?”

“I’m at a wedding. I have to send my wife home first and can be there by midnight. You’ll still be there midnight?”

“Should be.” I told Rusdi.

Rusdi walked in around midnight and I pulled up a chair for him. “We need to talk,” he said.

“Sure,” I replied.

“In private.”

“Okay, let’s go out on the veranda.”

The veranda was deserted. Even at midnight it was hot and dusty and the traffic was noisy. Malaysia is not the best place for an open-air meeting but then Rusdi wanted privacy so we would have to tolerate the heat, dust and noise.

“Let me get straight to the point,” said Rusdi, with a very serious look on his face as if he was about to break some earth-shattering news.

“Sure. Let’s,” I replied. This was beginning to sound like cloak-and-dagger stuff and I just love cloak-and-dagger. It is what I live for.

“How much do you want?” he asked me.

I was stumped for a while and did not fully understand what he was driving at although I suspected he was talking about money here.

“Excuse me! What do you mean?”

“How much do you want? To stop writing about Najib.”

I did not expect this and was pondering on how to respond to this very direct question, which I regarded as a bit of an insult. I mean there are other ways you can broach this subject such as, “How can we explore how we can work together that will be mutually beneficial to both parties?” or something like that.

“I can’t promise you that Najib will agree to the amount,” Rusdi continued. “But I can bring this message back to him. If the amount is reasonable I am sure he can agree to it.”

“Did Najib ask you to meet me to make this offer?” I asked him.

“He knows we are meeting tonight. I informed him we are meeting. But he does not know the details of our meeting.”

“So this offer is your initiative then?”


“Thirty cents.”


“My price is thirty cents.”

“Look, I am serious.”

“So am I. My price is thirty cents.”

“What do you mean thirty cents?”

“I mean my price is the cost of a phone call. Thirty cents!”

“I don’t get you.”

“All it takes is a phone call from Dr Mahathir, which costs thirty cents, telling me to stop writing about Najib and I will stop writing about him.”

“Why are you dragging Mahathir into this? What has Mahathir got to do with this?’

“Mahathir has everything to do with this.”

Rusdi had a stunned look on his face as his jaw dropped. “You mean you are working for Mahathir?”

“Who did you think I was working for? Anwar?”

“You mean you are not with Anwar?”

“Is that what you thought? Then you people are more stupid than I thought. What makes you think I am with Anwar? I do not even like him.”

I was enjoying every minute of this banter. Najib’s people think I work for Anwar. Anwar’s people think I work for Mahathir. Mahathir’s people think I work for Tengku Razaleigh. And Tengku Razaleigh’s people are incapable of thinking. Isn’t politics just lovely? I think I will become a politician when I grow. It sounds like fun.

“So if Mahathir asks you to stop writing about Najib you will do so?”

“Yes, one phone call from Mahathir telling me to stop whacking Najib and I will stop whacking him. All Mahathir has to do is to tell me, ‘Najib is our friend. Stop whacking him.’ And I will stop whacking Najib.”

“But why would Mahathir want to whack Najib?”

“Because Najib is a traitor.”

“What do you mean?”

“Would Najib be the Deputy Prime Minister if not because of Mahathir? If not because of Mahathir, Muhyiddin would be the Deputy Prime Minister. Not Najib. And then Najib goes and publicly proclaims that he is loyal to the Prime Minister. Do you remember him saying that? He said it publicly.”

“But Najib has no choice. He needs to demonstrate loyalty to the boss.”

“There you are. You have just proven what I said. Who is the boss?”

“Pak Lak of course. He is the Prime Minister.”

“See! You people regard Pak Lah as the boss. Pak Lah may be the Prime Minister. But he is not Najib’s boss. Najib’s boss is Mahathir. Mahathir made him the Deputy Prime Minister and Mahathir, not Pak Lah, will decide if he will become the Prime Minister. If left to Pak Lah he would choose Muhyiddin. So who is the boss? Mahathir or Pak Lah? That is the problem with you people. You are confused as to who is the boss. The boss is Mahathir lah, brader, not Pak Lah. And because of that we need to whack Najib until he understands who the real boss is.”

Rusdi was at a loss for words and he gave me a blurred look so I continued the attack. 

“Najib is Bugis. So am I. Najib is also the son of the most illustrious Old Boy, Tun Razak. Tun Razak is revered by us MCKK Old Boys. So I have a soft spot for Najib. But he is a disgrace to our Bugis race. The Bugis never turn on the boss. And for that we must whack Najib, until he understands who made him and who can unmake him. We must teach Najib a lesson.”

“Do I have your permission to tell Najib what you have just told me?”

“Of course. Repeat word-for-word what I just told you. Can you remember everything I said? You want me to repeat it so that you can write it down?”

“No. I can remember what you said.”

“Good. Then go tell Najib what I told you. He is a traitor and a disgrace to our Bugis race. If Najib wants to become the PM then he has to challenge Pak Lah. If he is loyal to Pak Lah then he will be ousted alongside Pak Lah.”

The next morning I phoned Datuk and told him that I have to meet Mahathir urgently. At three I walked in to Mahathir’s office at the Petronas Twin Towers, together with my wife. Datuk was already waiting for us. I related what had happened the night before and Mahathir listened without comment. When I had finished my story Mahathir asked me, “So how much did you ask for?”

I was taken aback by the question and said that I did not ask for anything. “You should have asked for twenty million,” Mahathir said with a smile on his face. “Then you can keep ten million and give me ten million.”

I never asked him whether he was serious or just joking but I would like to believe that this was one of those rare moments when the old man actually cracked a joke.

That evening I again received a phone call from Rusdi. “No bullshit,” Rusdi said. “Just tell me the truth. Did you tell anyone about our meeting last night? The truth please.”

“I did.”


“Tun Dr Mahathir.”

“Oh shit! No wonder Najib called me. He sounded very angry and said that he wants to meet me the first thing tomorrow morning. Why the hell did you tell Mahathir about what we spoke?”

“I had no choice. What if I don’t tell Mahathir and he finds out about our meeting? He will think that I made a deal with Najib. So I had to tell him to protect my arse. If not then Mahathir will think I sold out to Najib.”

I then phoned Datuk and he confirmed that after our meeting Mahathir asked someone to go and see Najib to inform him that he is aware of ‘the offer’ and to back off. “Mahathir told Najib to ‘stop trying to buy off my people’,” said Datuk.

Hmm…my people. I like that. I never thought of myself as ‘Mahathir’s people’. I must say it’s got a nice ring to it.

“So what does Mahathir want me to do now?” I asked Datuk.

“Continue whacking Najib. Don’t stop until we say so. The old man wants to force Pak Lah to resign. And Najib must be the one to pressure Pak Lah to resign. So unless Najib challenges Pak Lah we will continue to whack him.”

“Okay. So the game plan is we will bring Najib down unless Najib brings Pak Lah down. Is that it?”

“That’s about the gist of it,” confirmed Datuk. 

“Hmm…so in this high-stakes political game I am merely the assassin and when the job is done the assassin eventually gets assassinated,” I joked.

Little did I know that many a true word is said in jest and that my joke was about to become a reality. But then that is politics for you. The Queen checkmates the King and the pawns get sacrificed in the process. That is what the Americans would call collateral damage. But it would be many months before I would find out that when the shit hits the fan you are entirely on your own.

Part 1: The deal