Thursday, February 18, 2010

Is Muhyiddin sharpening his knife?

In recent months several events point to familiar Umno intrigue. This occurs whenever there is a tussle for power at the highest level.

Is Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's deputy Muhyiddin Yassin (who just launched his blog - Muhyiddin Yassin for Malaysia) attempting to overthrow his boss?

Najib, who only came into power in April of 2009, is in real danger of not completing a term as prime minister.

umno selangor najib muhyiddin event anti pak lah banners 160408  04Muhyiddin (left) has taken some tangential positions to his 'boss'. Muhyiddin's stance on hot button issues such as the 'Allah' court ruling - that Christians drop the usage of the word 'Allah' and backtracking on the formation of an inter-faith council to resolve the 'Allah' issue through dialogue - were ominous.

In fact, Muhyiddin demonstrated his fundamentalist credentials as soon as he became deputy prime minister in April 2009 but strengthened them further in October 2009, when it was clear that fundamentalists were gaining the upper hand in Umno.

The context to this is simple - Umno has two different views on how to remain in power - to become a Malay/Muslim extremist party to capture the Malay votes or to return to the middle ground - which had served it well for the past 52 years.

Unfortunately, due to Najib's indecisiveness, he is considered the new 'Pak Lah' (the former prime minister) while Muhyiddin is seen as the new 'Mahathir'. Despite Najib's policy prescription of 'Malay leadership', it appears that Umno is still about 'Malay supremacy'.

Najib's '1Malaysia' slogan and policy agenda have been systematically rubbished by Umno hardliners with the support of key government ministries, Malay/Muslim civil servants and non-governmental organisations bent on ensuring continued 'Malay supremacy'.

Shattering of a projected image

Then there were the fire-bombings of places of worship (mostly Christian) after the 'Allah' court ruling which shattered Malaysia's facade as a peaceful nation where people of different faiths and races live harmoniously.

NONEFurthermore, a recent forum organised by Jakim (the Islamic Development Department) blamed Christians for tensions in the country and a forum panelist threatened Christians with a repeat of May 13 (race riots allegedly organised by certain Umno leaders after the ruling coalition lost their two-thirds parliamentary majority in the Peninsula Malaysia in 1969).

Several startling events point to insiders sabotaging Najib. The story of two missing jet engines which occurred during Najib's tenure as defence minister surfaced after being 'solved'.

It was surprising that the scandal resurfaced under the eyes of Najib's once trusted ally, the current Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. Since the scandal broke, two individuals, believed to be scapegoats, have been charged.

The biggest setback came recently when the prime minister's special aide, Nasir Safar, allegedly called ancestors of Malaysians of Indian heritage 'beggars' and 'thieves' and women ancestors of Chinese Malaysian 'prostitutes'.

This happened at, of all places, a '1Malaysia' forum attended by the Umno's partners from the Barisan Nasional.

Nasir also threatened to revoke the citizenship of non-Malays who challenged the limit of 12 subjects that a student can take at the SPM (Malaysia's equivalent to the O-levels) examinations (Muhyiddin is the current education minister who came up with this ruling which reduces the value of subjects such as Tamil, Mandarin and Bible Knowledge).

Contrary forces digging in

Several commentators have already suggested that Najib is facing unprecedented resistance to his reform agenda and is being sabotaged in the process as his middle of the road approach goes against the very being of Umno.

Najib's position is weak - both in Umno and nationally. His ruling coalition is unstable with all key component parties facing leadership crises. The economy continues to falter and Malaysia's weakening reserves suggests capital flight.

Anwar's sodomy trial and the 'Allah' issue may drive moderates further away as fundamentalists push Umno further to the right.

Judging by previous Umno intrigue (for example, May 13, 1969; Operasi Lalang, October 1987; Reformasi, September 1998), it is likely that Najib will have to resort to underhand tactics to save his position in Umno - and as always it is innocent Malaysians - mostly likely opposition leaders and democracy - that will pay the price.

With courtesy first part of the article written by GREG LOPEZ from Malaysiakini

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