Twists and turns in sex video case

Joceline Tan, The Star

A FIERCE storm continues to swirl around Datuk Seri Azmin Ali but the Economic Affairs Minister has gone about his Hari Raya rounds as if all is normal in his work and life.

He has been attending one festive open house after another, looking composed and wearing a big smile even as reporters peppered him with questions about the sex video issue.

There is an actor in every successful politician and it is at times like this that politicians have to bring forth their best acting skills.

Some in the press corps did notice that the big smile was at times a little too forced and he looked rather gaunt.

The PKR deputy president is fa­­cing the biggest crisis in his political career, accused of corruption as well as homosexual sex which is a big no-no in the Malay society.

But Azmin crossed an important hurdle when just hours after his accuser Haziq Abdullah Abdul Aziz made his stunning “confession”, the Prime Minister himself came to his defence.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was at an evening function when waylaid by reporters at about 11pm.

He would normally not have entertained the media at this late hour and the fact that he stopped to speak showed that he wanted to send out a clear and strong message.

He had a four-eyed meeting with Azmin earlier that day and wanted to state his stand.

The endorsement from the big man was quite stunning because the issue was still unfolding at a galloping pace.

Dr Mahathir did not mince his words, condemning the video as fake and something cooked up by people with a political agenda.

He even slammed those behind it as losers and those who believe the allegations as “stupid”.

In short, the man whom Azmin calls “uncle”, is standing by his mi­­nis­ter and what a powerful endorsement it was.

How and why Dr Mahathir came to that conclusion is unclear but those familiar with the elder man’s politics point out that he has a track record of standing up for his ministers.

It is possible Dr Mahathir could sense something darker behind the video scandal – that it is not only aimed at dragging down Azmin and that he could be the ultimate target.

He knows the inner circle around Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is growing impatient and he could see that what is happening is aimed at eli­minating the alternative candidate to succeed him.

A positive way of looking at it is that this will make it easier for Dr Mahathir to hand over power to the designated candidate.

But honestly speaking, why is it so difficult for Dr Mahathir to commit to a hand-over date?

That is what the circle around Anwar wants and a definite date would clear the air of suspicion and speculation.

However, those behind Haziq may have stirred the hornet’s nest if Dr Mahathir sees the issue as a means to tie his hand on the succession.

He may be an old tiger but he is still a dangerous tiger when cornered and especially if he sees this as a strike against him.

An indication of the damage done to Azmin can be seen in the chatter on social media.

But the backlash has been harshest on Haziq, something that must have come as a shock to the 27-year-old PKR politician.

He stepped into the limelight like the proverbial sacrificial lamb and like his predecessor Saiful Bukhari Azlan, he may have thought that he would be hailed as some sort of whistle-blower.

Instead, it has backfired going by the condemnation and derision on social media.

Netizens have been punching holes in his account of the story especially his claim that it was Azmin who leaked the sex video.

That did not make sense because why would anyone want to destroy their own career?

In hindsight, it was that audacious confession video that did him in – the mother of all kiss-and-tells damaged him as much as it did Azmin.

Regardless of whether Haziq eventually comes out the winner or the loser, the confession will follow him for the rest of his life.

It also did not help that the documents alleging corruption against Azmin have also been problematic, with one of the banks named coming out to deny the transaction.

Haziq’s arrest on Friday as he was about to board a flight to Manila sent ripples through political circles.

The spark that he lit has become a bonfire as police intend to investigate him for carnal intercourse and distributing obscene material.

But the most asked question about the controversy is: Who are the people behind it?

Haziq was clearly not acting alone.

What happened appears to be a well-organised and elaborate plot that is beyond the ability of one person.

Haziq needs to realise by now that he is not only taking on Azmin, but also the Prime Minister and the powers of incumbency that comes with the position.

The hidden hands behind him need to take good care of him, to make sure that he does not crack under pressure.

If Haziq is pressured to tell all and should the trail lead back to his own party, it is going to bring the whole house down.

Dr Mahathir has left for London. The time away will give him space to reflect on what has happened and what to do next.

Joceline Tan was an associate editor of The Star and continues to contribute political analyses.