Hishammuddin Hussein: Prime Minister?


Looking for the long game in Hishammuddin’s handling of MH370.

Scott Ng, Free Malaysia Today

There are many ways by which a politician may make the case for himself to ascend to power. Some pander to the right and some to the left, and others go down to the grassroots. A few try to let their actions speak louder than their media statements.

But for a politician to lead a nation, he must make his case not just to the electorate, but also to the international community. He has to find a platform large and visible enough that it will attract the notice of the most casual observer.

One wonders what ambition hides behind Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein’s quiet, subtle positioning over the past couple of months as he continues to make use of the international stage afforded to him as the de facto government spokesman on the MH370 and MH17 tragedies.

Now, it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth to suggest that someone may use the tragedies as a political opportunity, but the game of politics is a ruthless one, and an opportunity is an opportunity. Used well, it raises the stock of a politician as he can look involved, competent, and in control of the situation. Politics is made of gambles like this, and if this is indeed Hishammuddin’s poker play, he has practically gummed his cards to his chest, keeping himself well in the public eye without making it seem like he’s playing for the spotlight.

So how did we get any inkling of this play? To see the hints, one must observe the statements made by the Defence Minister over the past few months. Three quarters of them involve either MH370 or MH17 in some way. While in the case of MH17, Hishammuddin arguably travels under the banner of his post as Defence Minister, one would imagine the duty of updating the public and holding high level talks in the still-unsolved case of MH370 would fall within the jurisdiction and responsibility of Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai.

Secondly, one must consider the upcoming Umno Annual General Assembly.

Politics will be thick in the air at the AGM, with whispers of a coup against the party president, as usual, running abundant. This is the place for Umno’s elite to harvest power, either by pandering or by demonstrations of competence in their jobs.

When it comes to competence, Hishammuddin has acquitted himself quite well, the security of Sabah’s coastlines notwithstanding. While a coup may or may not come to pass, it’s likely that Hishammuddin will look to reap the reward of his work in the form of support from the warlords of the party and it’s other influential figures.