The look on Anwar’s face said it all
Anwar never thought this day would come. He smiled to himself and said, “The Lord is great.” Mahathir went to court thinking he had pulled off a coup that would shake Najib like never before. Anwar, however, while the drama was too great for him to not reveal his excitement, thought to himself, “Najib, you have done a great job on this old man. You have forced him to come crawling to see me.” In short, Najib was able to push Mahathir to the point of the lowest of the low, to lick back his own spit.
THE CORRIDORS OF POWER
Raja Petra Kamarudin
Some say the 8th of June 2015 ‘Nothing to Hide 1.0’ forum, which Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad used to challenge Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, is Mahathir’s biggest coup and Najib’s lowest point. Mahathir’s court appearance on 5th September 2016, however, where he paid homage to Anwar, tops it all. Nothing can match that so far and it will go down in history as Mahathir’s lowest point where he had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to seek out the man he would rather have died than kowtow to not too long ago.
What changed? Well, what changed is that Mahathir is now playing his last card. And that plainly means Mahathir does not have any other card to play — if not it would not be called ‘last card’. Muhyiddin Yassin is finished. His son Mukhriz is finished. It is now either Anwar Ibrahim or nothing. And ‘nothing’ cannot be an option at this stage because the RM100 billion matter is yet to be resolved and he needs to browbeat his proxies and nominees to get back that money.
Mahathir loves telling us the story about how he wanted Anwar to join Umno to prevent him from joining PAS. That is not entirely true because at that time the opposition was very weak and was no threat to Umno while PAS and DAP would never work together. In fact, when Mahathir first took over as Prime Minister in 1981 after using Sulaiman Palestin to oust Tun Hussein Onn, he was adamant that Anwar was not to be accepted into Umno.
But then, not long after Mahathir took over, there emerged two rivals to the throne who, if not handled properly, could become a serious contender and threat. And these two were Tun Musa Hitam and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. Musa was the Deputy Prime Minister who was elected by the members (and not chosen by Mahathir) while Tengku Razaleigh was the Finance Minister appointed by the previous Prime Minister, Hussein.
So both were not ‘Mahathir’s men’ and owed Mahathir no loyalty. And both felt they and not Mahathir should be the Prime Minister. And these are dangerous people to have around you unless you can have a watchdog to keep them in check and that will growl and snap its teeth if you make one wrong move.
And that was when Mahathir changed his mind about Anwar. While he felt that Anwar was too dangerous to have around as well, Mahathir knew that Anwar posed no threat as long as Musa and Tengku Razaleigh were still around because they would block Anwar’s rise. And if Anwar wanted to rise up then he would need to first get rid of the two obstacles, Musa and Tengku Razaleigh. So it made good political sense to allow Musa and Tengku Razaleigh to fight it out with Anwar snapping his teeth at both their heels.
In short, Mahathir reinvented the whole concept of Machiavellian politics — neutralise two enemies and potential threats by adding a third party to the equation. As they say, in a three-corner fight the designer wins the game, and in this game Mahathir decided the rules.
Some ask why did Mahathir not just get rid of Tengku Razaleigh? Doing that would just make Musa even stronger. Mahathir needed Tengku Razaleigh to check Musa, which both Musa and Tengku Razaleigh knew. And if Musa and Tengku Razaleigh decide that enough is enough and they both gang up on Mahathir, then it is game over for the Prime Minister. So Anwar would be useful to have around in the event Musa and Tengku Razaleigh turn ally and unite.
And this is precisely what happened and Mahathir was proven right. To garner Anwar’s support, he was ‘given’ the post of Umno Youth Leader. However, to become the Youth Leader, Anwar had to throw his lot behind Mahathir. To make sure that Tengku Razaleigh and Musa do not form an alliance with Anwar (which they did try to do through Ibrahim Ali), Mahathir spread the rumour that Anwar is his successor-in-waiting. That meant Musa and Tengku Razaleigh saw Anwar as also an enemy and a threat.
Basically, it was back again to Machiavellian politics — applying the concept of divide and rule. Pit Musa against Tengku Razaleigh and then pit Anwar against both. And then when Musa and Tengku Razaleigh united against Mahathir, Anwar led the charge with the Youth Movement behind him. And Mahathir won with a razor thin majority — that many say, if not because of the Youth Movement, Tengku Razaleigh would have become Prime Minister with Musa as his deputy.
It would not be overstating a fact if one were to say that Mahathir depended on Anwar to deliver the goods, which he did on the back of the Youth Movement. Last year, Najib also revealed that he saved Mahathir from death in 1987, which is true considering he was Deputy to Anwar and was of equal strength in the Youth Movement.
The truth is, Mahathir did not really intend to pass the post of Prime Minister to Anwar. But he needed everyone to believe this was going to be so. Then there would be three people who wanted to become Prime Minister who would not trust each other — rather than all united against the Prime Minister, which would guarantee Mahathir’s death.
Once Musa and Tengku Razaleigh were finished off, Mahathir appointed Tun Ghafar Baba as the new Deputy Prime Minister. Ghafar had no ambition to become Prime Minister (in fact, he did not even have any ambition to become Deputy Prime Minister) so he was a safe candidate, plus he was weak enough to oust when the time comes. Having a weak Deputy Prime Minister might also give Anwar ideas.
In short, Ghafar was the bait and if Anwar made his move on the Deputy Prime Minister that would mean Anwar has ambitions to become Prime Minister. Why would Anwar oust Ghafar to take over as Deputy Prime Minister if he did not have any ambition to become Prime Minister? The post of Deputy Prime Minister is the stepping-stone to the post of Prime Minister.
Anwar did what Mahathir suspected he would do. In 1993, Anwar made his move on Ghafar and took over as Deputy Prime Minister. Then, in 1996, Anwar made his move on Mahathir. But Mahathir was ready. He had been waiting for three years since 1993. And the weapon Mahathir was going to use against Anwar, which he already started sharpening since 1993, was the sodomy issue.
Since 1993 Mahathir had been ‘fattening’ Anwar’s file. And the man Mahathir tasked with the job of preparing this file was the then IGP, Tun Mohammed Hanif Omar, who retired as IGP in 1994. In fact, according to Hanif’s testimony in court, he had been working on this file for a number of years, which means it must have been long before 1993 since he retired in 1994.
This means Mahathir had been waiting for Anwar to make his move on Ghafar, which he did in 1993, and once Anwar made his move on Mahathir in 1996, Mahathir struck back and brought out the sodomy issue to bring Anwar down. It was a trap Mahathir laid even as far back as in the late 1980s and which he sprang only when Anwar made his move, a long ten years wait.
So, if Mahathir prepared his file on Anwar and sat on it for ten years, this can only mean Mahathir never trusted Anwar from the very beginning and was just using Anwar to get rid of all his (Mahathir’s) threats and enemies — after which Anwar himself would be disposed off once the job is done and Anwar himself becomes a threat. And Anwar knows this can and will happen a second time once he works with Mahathir to oust Najib.
After Mahathir killed off Anwar with the Sodomy 1 allegation, he appointed Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as his new deputy. This was a man perceived as weak and someone with no ambition who would be safe to be given the job of Prime Minister. And he would be given the job of Prime Minister with a number of preconditions attached, which Mahathir said he spent 15 months from mid-2002 to October 2003 discussing with Abdullah.
One of those preconditions was his son Mukhriz getting elected the Deputy Youth Leader in 2004 and the Youth Leader in 2009. But Mahathir miscalculated his moves by not including Khairy Jamaluddin in the equation and this upset the entire plan. Mahathir lamented that Abdullah failed to deliver his promises and that was why he needed to replace him with Najib.
Before this Najib had never demonstrated any defiance streak and always gave the impression he was docile and compliant. So he was a safe candidate and someone who could be made to do what he was told, especially as far as Mukhriz was concerned. However, Najib is different from Abdullah or the rest. Najib propagates the teachings of Sun Tzu where even if you are strong you must appear weak and never show your enemy your potential strength. If at that time Najib showed his strength Mahathir and Anwar would have killed him off. So he bided his time and pretended to be weak and was of no threat to anyone. And Mahathir fell for it.
Then came the defeat of Mukhriz in 2013 and by then Anwar was facing the Sodomy 2 charge. Fearing that Najib might ally with Anwar to go after him — which he had reason to believe that may be a possibility since Anwar was acquitted of the charge and no appeal was launched — Mahathir asked the Attorney General, Gani Patail, to intervene.
And, to make sure that this time Anwar would lose the appeal and not win like in the Sodomy 1 case, Mahathir insisted that Shafie Abdullah lead the prosecution. The decision for Shafie to lead the prosecution was made by Mahathir, who spoke to Najib and told him that the decision was not to be reversed.
Mahathir wanted to be very sure that this time Anwar will not escape like he did in the Sodomy 1 charge. And Mahathir was worried if he did not step in and make sure Anwar went to jail for Sodomy 2, Najib might go easy on him and allow his acquittal to stand. All Najib needed to do was to do nothing and Anwar would get to go home a free man. But Mahathir would not allow this to happen.
So, while some say Mahathir put Anwar behind bars for Sodomy 1 while Najib put Anwar behind bars for Sodomy 2, it was actually Mahathir who put Anwar behind bars for both Sodomy 1 and Sodomy 2. And the Sodomy 2 case started in Abdullah’s time in 2008 and not Najib’s time in 2009. Mahathir’s greatest fear was that Najib would allow Anwar to walk and he made sure that this does not happen.
And Anwar knows this, which was why he called Mahathir a serpent. Anwar knows Mahathir used him to save his (Mahathir’s) neck in the 1980s and will, again, use him to save his (Mahathir’s) neck if need be. And that was the only reason Mahathir went to court on 5th September — to pay homage to Anwar. Mahathir needs to use Anwar again but this time against Najib.
Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali said that Mahathir’s visit to court on 5th September 2016 was an ‘arranged meeting’. Anwar was not really interested in meeting Mahathir because he knows the old man put him behind bars on both occasions plus he will not agree to the Free Anwar campaign to be part of the Save Malaysia campaign. But Anwar wanted to see Mahathir grovel at his feet. This would bring more pleasure to Anwar than even the pleasure of being released from jail. And the look on Anwar’s face that day said it all. The smirk on Anwar’s face was like the smirk of the cat that had swallowed the canary.
Mahathir’s only objective is to put Najib in a coffin and hammer it shut. What Mahathir does not realise is that more people would like to see him in that coffin instead. People like Musa, Tengku Razaleigh, Abdullah, Anwar, and so on, who Mahathir thinks are now allied to him are actually praying for the day that Najib finishes him off.
How ironical that Mahathir is now depending on those people who he once betrayed. They have never forgiven him and they find it amusing that Mahathir is now turning to them for help. Never in history does someone turn to their enemies for their lifeline. Mahathir must really be naive if he thinks his enemies can just forgive him because they happen to share a common objective.
To Mahathir this is no longer about power or about making his son the Prime Minister. That is now impossible. His only hope is to keep his proxies and nominees in check until he can get back that RM100 billion or at least part of that RM100 billion from them.
Mahathir has to give the impression he is still in control of the game and still very much in the game. That is why the spin-machine went into overdrive with the story of the handshake between Mahathir and Anwar, as if that was the coup of the century. It was a just a show to give an impression that the game has been taken up one more notch. In reality it is a blank shot without any lead, all noise but no bite.
Mahathir’s proxies and nominees are watching developments very closely. If they think Mahathir’s and Anwar’s handshake translates to a change of government in the next general election then they will all have to behave. But if they suspect that Pakatan might do worse in the next general election compared to in the 2013 general election, then move aside to make way for the rats as they rush to desert the sinking ship.