Beware the Ides of March, said Mahathir


There is a group in PAS that wants Hadi out. And there is a group in Umno that wants Najib out. And both these leaders are living on borrowed time. Both Hadi and Najib need to fight back with both guns blazing. But do they have it within them to do that?


Raja Petra Kamarudin

It looks like PAS is going through a serious internal crisis, which may eventually result in the party splitting into two. This is not the first time this is happening, though. It has happened a number of times in the past and which saw the creation of PAS splinter parties such Berjasa and Hamim.

The PAS internal crisis over the decades also resulted in a number of PAS leaders leaving the party to join Umno where they faded into oblivion and were never heard from again. In fact, the Kelantan riots and the declaration of an emergency in 1977 were also due to the same reason.

Yesterday, one PAS youth leader denied that the party has seen splits in the past. This youth leader is either too young to remember the history of his own party or he is living in denial. Maybe he was still in primary school at that time but PAS has definitely seen internal conflicts in the past that resulted in new parties being formed.

In fact, the creation of PAS itself, which was originally called the PMIP, was because of a split between the Islamists and the nationalists within Umno. Not happy about Umno’s ‘liberal’ and ‘secular’ policies, the Islamists left Umno to form an Islamic party.

This latest crisis, however, involves a conflict between the ulama’ group and what is being called the Erdogan faction, which is mainly pro-Anwar Ibrahim. It is merely a power-struggle and an attempt to oust the party president, Abdul Hadi Awang.

The only difference this time around is that this is not just an internal crisis but a rogue group within the party being supported by forces outside the party, namely PKR and DAP. The vehicle they are using is PasMa, which is being supported, financially as well, by PAS’ other two partners in Pakatan Rakyat.

Hence this time around it is more serious. If they cannot oust and replace Hadi then they will replace PAS within Pakatan Rakyat. PasMa is going to be Pakatan Rakyat’s new partner while PAS can either go solo or join Barisan Nasional if it so wishes.

One of the excuses for the move against Hadi is the so-called Umno-PAS-PKR Unity-Government talk, which was held in London in December 2013. There is no denying that such a meeting did take place but by the confession of the very people who were involved in that talk nothing was agreed. In fact, Hadi refused to attend the meeting even though he was in London.

Nevertheless, whether the meeting was successful or not is not really what is of concern to many people. What is of concern is the fact that there was an attempt at forming a Unity-Government, even though it may have failed.

Furthermore, the fact that this London meeting involved Umno (and not Barisan Nasional), plus PAS, and just the Malays from PKR (the non-Malays were not included), gives an impression that this is not about a Barisan Nasional-Pakatan Rakyat Unity-Government but a Malay Unity-Government.

Umno may be a Malay-based party but it can no longer be viewed as a Malay party, or worse, an Islamic party. Umno has many non-Malay as well as non-Muslim members and a number of its leaders, especially those from Sabah, are neither Malay nor Muslim.

Hence Umno has to be very careful lest it be seen as the party is presenting itself as a party just for Malays rather than a party for all Malaysians. And would this not contradict Umno’s 1Malaysia doctrine that it is propagating?

There are some in PAS who are pursuing the idea of a Unity-Government with Umno not because they sincerely want to make peace with Umno but because they want to use this against Hadi. In fact, Hadi refused to attend the London talk for this very reason. He felt that this meeting might be a trap to label him as a sell-out and then used to get rid of him.

Similarly, there are some in Umno who are pursuing this idea not because they sincerely want to make peace with PAS but because they want to use this against the Umno President and Prime Minister, Najib Tun Razak. They are hoping that if Najib is seen as in favour of an Umno-PAS Unity-Government then this may result in his downfall due to a rebellion from within his own party.

Many in Umno are concerned that Najib may not last the year. And the issue that is going to bring Najib down will be the 1MDB fiasco. The bone of contention regarding 1MDB is the lack of transparency and the vague statements coming out of Putrajaya.

Sarawak Report has just come out with its second very damaging report on 1MDB and it seems there are many more instalments to come. The fact that this report is in great detail together with documents, correspondences, and so on, makes people believe that there is a lot of truth in what is being revealed.

Putrajaya cannot, therefore, embark on a strategy of denial, which is the normal strategy of politicians — when confronted, just deny, deny, deny. Malaysians no longer accept denial as an explanation. They want details.

The only way that Najib can defend himself and fend off the move to oust him would be to open up the books to public scrutiny. There are no two ways about it. In short, as they say in America, show us the money. And if Najib cannot do that then the prediction of the soothsayers may come true after all.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is extremely upset about the 1MDB. His very close friend, Ananda Krishnan, has had to lend 1MDB RM2 billion to help pay for the overdue loans. But that is still not enough. Two weeks ago, Najib tried to get the Cabinet to approve an additional RM3 billion for interest payments. Last week, the Cabinet blocked the move and asked for more details.

This is probably the first time in Malaysian history that the Cabinet set up roadblocks for the Prime Minister and this does not augur well for Najib. Some see this as a vote of no confidence. Today, the Umno Youth Leader, Khairy Jamaluddin, tried to explain the reason why the Cabinet is not on the same page with Najib concerning the RM3 billion. Nevertheless, no amount of explaining can dispel the fact that the Cabinet is not behind Najib on this one.

Like it or not, Najib has to go back to the drawing board. On Saturday, Najib is calling the 190 Umno division heads for a meeting (191 if including himself). I really do not know what the purpose of this meeting is but most would see it as him seeking a fresh mandate from the Umno warlords. And this could, in fact, have negative repercussions on the Umno President.

Najib has to make sure that all 190 attend. Most likely they would, as no division head would want to be seen as boycotting the meeting or be viewed as anti-Najib. But is this a good enough yardstick to measure Najib’s support within the party? History has shown us that crowds do not translate to support or votes. In fact, it may even lull you into a false sense of security when actually you are walking on thin ice.

As Dr Mahathir said, beware of the Ides of March. And Najib had better not ignore this warning like Julius Caesar did, because we all know what happened to Caesar when he ignored the warning. And Hadi, too, had better not ignore this warning as well, although Dr Mahathir’s warning was aimed at Najib and not Hadi.

Malaysian politics has come a long way since the days of the 1970s and 1980s. Even then it was brutal. But today it is the politics of take no prisoners.

There is a group in PAS that wants Hadi out. And there is a group in Umno that wants Najib out. And both these leaders are living on borrowed time. Both Hadi and Najib need to fight back with both guns blazing. But do they have it within them to do that?

For Hadi it is probably more straightforward. He just needs to kill off those who are out to get him and show them no mercy. Blood needs to be spilled and heads need to be chopped off. For Najib, however, it is more complicating. Of course, Najib also needs to spill blood and chop off heads. But that blood he needs to spill and the heads he needs to chop are of those who are surrounding him, his so-called advisers.

Najib may survive this rebellion from within. However, even if he does, that is only part of the problem. The even bigger problem is to convince the voters that Barisan Nasional deserves another term. And what is Najib going to do to achieve that? Well, for starters he needs to come clean on the 1MDB and show the voters the details that they are demanding to see. And if that is not forthcoming then bye-bye to Najib, Umno and Barisan Nasional.