Parti Pribumi rising star stirs controversy

Joceline Tan, The Star

WHAT on earth is going on with the golden boy of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia?

Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, the Armada or youth chief of Pribumi, seems to have talked himself into a big messy corner the last few days.

It began as a suspense game with the media over whether he was going to give up politics for a place in Oxford University that came with a generous scholarship.

It has since morphed into a complicated tale of blackmail over “sensitive photos”, threats, accusations of bribery and police reports. He has been called the “Five Million Dollar Man” after he claimed that he was offered RM5mil by someone close to a top leader to quit politics and to launch attacks on Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

It has been a dramatic few days for this tall, good-looking 24-year-old politician who was once Asia’s top debater.

He has lots of admirers, especially among those of his age group, but the serious political players are starting to wonder what he is really about.

Syed Saddiq was clearly being groomed to contest in the general election and he had leveraged on his debating fame to become one of the most visible and outspoken figures in Pribumi.

His decision to hold a press conference in a hotel just to announce that he was choosing politics over Oxford University has been seen as the action of a drama king, especially when he became emotional and almost broke down in tears. It has also been quite embarrassing after a number of people now studying in the university questioned the scholarship amount of RM400,000 that he claimed to have been offered.

He also made allegations that his former party colleagues quit Pribumi because of monetary inducements. The next day, Datuk Hamidah Othman, his former vice-president and one of those he named, lodged a report against him with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission even as he himself was lodging a police report about blackmail and threats to him and his family.

And as if that was not enough, the equally colourful activist and lawyer Siti Kasim took the opportunity to slam him for his signature campaign against the Oktoberfest beer party.

It is not only raining over Syed Saddiq, it is pouring.

It is said that in politics, there is no such thing as bad publicity. That is not exactly true because the opinion among some politicians is that Syed Saddiq is a confused young man and talks too much.

They also think he is not respectful of those older to him. For instance, some of his own party people thought it was unbecoming of him to tell Hamidah to “berambus” or get lost when she quit.

He is basically a rather inexperienced politician who is still learning the ropes. A former party figure recalled that shortly after the party was registered, there was a discussion whether there should be separate youth and women wings for the party.

Syed Saddiq wanted the youth and women to come under a single wing but when it was put to a vote, he lost. He was very upset, cried and wanted to resign, and those around the table had to coax him out of it.

He has the gift of the gab but there is some disconnect with the realities on the ground. Once when he was campaigning for Pakatan in a kampung in Sungai Besar, he babbled on about the university student election. People in the audience didn’t have a clue what he was talking about.

Some people think he is an attention-seeker but then again, there are very few politicians who are not publicity-crazy.

He has made some very serious allegations against his former party colleagues and he had better have the evidence to back it up.

He seems to be an idealistic person who wants to make a difference and who thinks he can save Malaysia.

But Umno information chief Tan Sri Annuar Musa put it well when asked about the younger man: “Do you think he is worth RM5mil? He still has long way to go in politics, I wish him all the best.”