Mahathir still does not know what hit him
Mahathir relentlessly attacked Najib for two years, giving the impression that the Prime Minister was under siege. However, when the dust settled, Mahathir lay wounded while Najib was unscathed. How did that happen? Well, while Mahathir focused on the brush strokes, Najib looked at the entire tapestry. And that is what gave Najib the big picture to Mahathir’s endgame
THE CORRIDORS OF POWER
Raja Petra Kamarudin
They say there are many ways man achieves greatness. Some are considered great in their lifetime while others become great after their death. Some are born great while others acquire greatness. Some have greatness thrust upon them while others become great by default. There is no single route to greatness and sometimes it is not your decision to make.
Of course, greatness is a matter of interpretation. How do you measure greatness? What yardstick do you use to determine greatness? That in itself is subjective and depends on your value system and moral compass. Time and place play a role in this because value systems and moral compasses change over time and across regions. A ‘great’ pirate and slave-trader like Sir Francis Drake who was honoured by Queen Elizabeth I would be considered a criminal in today’s day and age.
Alexander III of Macedonia carries the name of Alexander the Great because he conquered almost half the known world at that time. He ascended the throne at the age of 20 after the assassination of his father. To consolidate his power, Alexander had his cousins and other princes who would also have a claim to the throne murdered. Alexander eliminated all the competition before they even became competition. And yet he is called Alexander the Great in spite of his brutality.
What made Alexander the Great the person that he was? To understand that we must reflect on his education that started at the age of 13. Alexander’s father, Philip, chose Aristotle as his tutor and he provided the Temple of the Nymphs at Mieza as the classroom.
Alexander learned the doctrine of morals and politics and Aristotle taught him there are no absolutes in life. An analytical mind should never look at things from a single dimension but look at it multi-dimensionally. This is the difference between a linear thinker and a circular thinker.
Antonio Damasio‘s research at the University of Southern California found that a huge volume of information reaches our brains every day. We must attach a love-based or a fear-based emotion to a piece of information for it to become available to us in decision-making.
The problem arises when a circular thinker is up against a linear thinker and they do not recognise their differences. Each of these modes has a different set of operating conditions that are intuitively being applied. When this profound point is not recognised, then they operate in different modes, or, as they say nowadays, they are not on the same page.
Hence, in the Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad versus Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak case, the former is looking at things single-mindedly and in absolute terms while the latter is looking at things in relative terms. And everything in life is relative, even morals.
Mahathir plays the zero-sum game. It is all or nothing. Winner takes all; loser loses all. In this type of game it is do or die and you embark on a kamikaze mission to kill your adversary or die in the attempt. In this type of game you need brute force rather than strategy and at times you would be operating like a bull in a china-shop.
Some acclaim Mahathir as a great political strategist. And they say that because Mahathir has thus far won every political battle he has embarked upon, both internally and against external enemies, he is a great man. But if you do a proper and unbiased post mortem on Mahathir’s victories and achievements, you will see that his moves are never refined and are based on the bulldozer ‘strategy’. So what is so great about that?
There has been talk that Najib is Mahathir’s best student and that Najib is good because he learned from the best, meaning Mahathir. This is giving Mahathir too much credit. Najib never studied under Mahathir. Najib studied Mahathir. And there is a difference between the two. And if you are a student of Sun Tzu you will know precisely what Najib is doing.
It is not hard to ‘read’ Mahathir because he is such an open book. When you play the zero-sum game then there are no moral values. You are not guided by any moral compass. Anything goes. The end justifies the means. You must win at all cost either by fair means or foul. Winning, and not how you play the game, is what counts.
In short, you will make a deal with the devil and sell your soul if that is what it takes to get what you want. And that is why Mahathir does not find it weird when he cuddles up to his enemies like Lim Kit Siang, Anwar Ibrahim, or even George Soros, if that is what it takes to win. Mahathir can condemn the US and call them a Jewish stooge one day and the next day takes them as partners in his attempt to oust Najib.
You need to be really thick-skinned or tebal muka and shameless or takde maruah to play the type of politics that Mahathir plays. And this is not the mark of a great man or a great political strategist. This is the mark of a political desperado with no ethics. And Najib knows perfectly well this characteristic of Mahathir, which if you know how to manipulate you can exploit this weakness to your advantage.
This has been mentioned before: you need to study what Mahathir does and not what he says. Mahathir will say one thing but mean the opposite. Mahathir knows how to weave fact and fiction and lace lies with the truth. Once you know how to separate the wheat from the chaff, you will be able to triangulate Mahathir’s real intentions — and in this case it is to make his son Mukhriz the Prime Minister.
One you know Mahathir’s matlamat tersirat, as opposed to his matlamat tersurat, you will be able to foil his every move even before he makes it. And that was why over the last two years Najib has been able to stay ahead of the game. Each and every move that Mahathir made went wild. Najib did not even receive a flesh wound let alone a deathblow.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, let me rehash what we have been saying over the last 18 months since early 2015. At that time some brushed it off as mere speculation but now much of that so-called speculation has been proven fact. And, no, I will not say ‘I told you so’.
1. Mahathir has a single-minded objective, which is to oust Najib and replace him with Mukhriz as the new Prime Minister. That will also achieve the objective of reclaiming Umno’s wealth held by his proxies, nominees and trustees, which would be lost if Mahathir does not attain political power through his son.
2. Mahathir has no files of any wrongdoing that he can use against Najib. Hence he was forced to use the 1MDB issue as that catalyst to oust Najib. And, to make sure it became a ‘worthy cause’, Mahathir sabotaged the IPO so that 1MDB fails.
3. On the international scene, Mahathir used the 1MDB issue as the main thrust of his attacks on Najib, mainly because that was all he had and he did not have anything else to use. Mahathir wanted the international media to create a worldwide negative perception on Najib using the 1MDB issue as that platform.
4. Once the 1MDB issue because an international issue, Mahathir then used this as the main thrust at home to discredit Najib and push for his ouster. Basically, Mahathir applied the same methods and strategy that he used to topple Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
5. Once Najib is ousted, and that was supposed to have happened in July 2015, Muhyiddin Yassin was supposed to take over as the temporary Prime Minister. He would then appoint Mukhriz as his Deputy. And after the 2018 general election, which this time Mukhriz would contest a Parliament seat, Muhyiddin would retire and Mukhriz would take over as Prime Minister.
6. But this exercise was still not the real objective. This was merely a cover for the real objective that was going on in the background. This exercise was to project a position of strength so that Mahathir can recover Umno’s wealth held by his proxies, nominees and trustees. The amount is said to be in the region of RM100 billion but if he can recover just RM20 billion that would be good enough.
Najib knew all this. And Najib knew that this whole thing was not really about 1MDB but about ousting him by using the 1MDB issue as the catalyst. And Najib also knew that Muhyiddin was going to take over once he is ousted, but just as the temporary Prime Minister with Mukhriz as his number two, after which he would retire and Mukhriz would take over. More importantly, Najib knew that all this was aimed at protecting the RM100 billion, which would be lost if Mahathir was seen as a spent force and someone with no political clout.
Once Najib knew this he was able to plan his moves. Najib looked at Mahathir’s attack from three dimensions — first from the perspective of a game of chess, then from the perspective of a magician, and finally from the perspective of a jigsaw puzzle.
In a game of chess you do not look at just one square but you focus on all 64 squares at the same time. And a chess master would tell you that there are really 204 squares, not 64, when you compartmentalise four or more squares into one. Mahathir looks at each move on the chessboard as one square. Najib looks at the 64 or 204 squares at the same time and computes the many different variations.
And that is why each move Mahathir makes is to go in for the kill. Najib, however, considers how strategic withdrawals can be made to give the impression that he is retreating while he is really drawing his adversary into his territory and on his terms. After all, was that not what Sun Tzu said you must do? And while Mahathir is very hasty in his moves, Najib is more collected and calculative and is very patient and observes. But once Najib makes his move, it is final and a deathblow, unlike the moves that Mahathir makes.
So, to meet his objective, Mahathir goes straight for the king and ignores all the other chess pieces. Najib, however, just observes each move and takes out all the other pieces one by one, which to Mahathir are mere collateral damage. While Mahathir is running all over the chessboard trying to take out the king, Najib removes Mahathir’s castles, knights and bishops one by one until all that Mahathir has left are his pawns such as Matthias Chang and Khairuddin Abu Hassan. And then Najib finishes off Mahathir’s pawns as well.
And once Mahathir has been isolated, Najib’s castles, knights and bishops make their move and surround Mahathir’s king. And this is something Mahathir overlooked, the capacity of Najib’s castles, knights and bishops, whose names I do not need to mention. But still they do not kill Mahathir’s king. They just play a cat and mouse game with him and keep pushing the king to the edge of the chessboard until it no longer has any place to run. And then Najib kills Mahathir’s queen while the old man watches helplessly and cannot do anything about it.
So now Mahathir has no more chess pieces so he is looking for new ones. He needs a new queen, castles, knights and bishops. And for that he is now looking at the opposition. This is going to be his new army to fight Najib. But will the opposition allow themselves to be used as Mahathir’s new chess pieces? Actually, the opposition is trying to use Mahathir instead in the hope that the old man would be able to take Malay votes away from Umno.
When a magician performs his or her sleight of hand, the audience focuses on the hand that is raised and waving. The real trick, however, is performed with the hand that is hidden. So, while Mahathir was waving his right hand, Najib was watching the other hand that was hidden. And that was why when Mahathir was shouting about 1MDB Najib knew it was really about making Mukhriz the Prime Minister. And Najib also knew that Mahathir was using the Special Task Force as that weapon to bring him down.
In short, you must look at the tapestry and not just the brush strokes. You also do not just look at the moves Mahathir makes but the moves he has not made yet. The 1MDB issue is not the entire game. It is just one more piece in the game. And when you put the jigsaw pieces together and in their proper places, the whole picture emerges before your eyes.
And that was how Najib analysed Mahathir and the moves he was making. And that was how Najib managed to stay ahead of the game. He read Mahathir perfectly and knew what he needed to do. And Mahathir, until today, still does not know what hit him.
Basically, Mahathir’s moves are rough while Najib’s are more refined. Mahathir is always in a hurry while Najib is cool and calculated and never hasty. Najib believes you make better decisions when you fully understand things rather than if you shoot in the dark. Najib fully understands Mahathir while Mahathir does not understand Najib at all. Najib is the shepherd who controls the flock while Mahathir behaves like the obedient sheep. Najib’s moves are brilliant because he knows that when he denies Mahathir options, the old man will move in the direction that Najib wants him to move. Power is about having choices. When you have no choice then you are powerless, which is the corner Najib has pushed Mahathir into.
Mahathir practices Mahathirism. And the doctrine of Mahathirism is power must be combined with wealth and one without the other is not real power. And power for Mahathir translates to Mukhriz as Prime Minister while wealth is in the hands of his proxies, nominees and trustees.
Once you understand Mahathir’s doctrine and mission, then you will understand that Mahathir’s allegations that Najib is pro-Chinese, pro-Singapore, neglects the Malays, refuses to build the Crooked Bridge, messed up 1MDB, and so on, are mere excuses and not the real reason to oust the Prime Minister. Then you establish Mahathir’s final battle plan, which he used to topple Abdullah. You then develop a battle plan to counter Mahathir’s attacks.
Plan 1: Najib defused Mahathir’s effectiveness but he did not kill the old man.
Plan 2: Najib used Mahathir’s attack as a means to make himself powerful. The rule here is you are ‘made’ by your adversary. Mahathir had developed a reputation of being a powerful person so if you can defeat him you acquire a reputation of being even more powerful.
The example would be how Pompey made Julius Caesar powerful. Caesar became powerful because he defeated Pompey. If not no one would know the name Julius Caesar today. And that was why Najib refused to sue Mahathir or use the law to get rid of Mahathir. Then he would not acquire that reputation of beating Mahathir at his own game.
Plan 3: Najib eliminated his internal enemies by using Mahathir’s attacks as the excuse. In that sense Mahathir is the cause of it.
Plan 4: Najib saw he could use Mahathir to weaken the opposition so he used the old man to do that. Now Pakatan Harapan is in a limbo because of Mahathir. Najib knew that once he sacks Mukhriz, this would cause Mahathir to defect to the opposition ranks. And this would hurt the opposition, which was proven in the Sarawak state election and in the two by elections in Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar. The opposition does not realise Najib used Mahathir as the Trojan horse to weaken them. And now they do not know want to do with Mahathir.