The impotence of being earnest

It’s Day 4 after the DoJ lawsuit against The Wolf of Wall Street and its producers Red Granite Pictures and revelations and there’s a hodgepodge of views on what is to come next.

Mohamed Najib Razak celebrated his 63rd birthday on July 23, 2016 with family and friends. Pic from Najib Razak’s Facebook account.

Some say Mohamed Najib Razak is surely on his way out, but the long view – and rather realistic – is that he is bound to stay for a while, at least until the coming general elections due by 2018. As one can see from his birthday celebrations over the weekend, he retains the support of his Cabinet and party colleagues.

What has been interesting is the views held by the Hong Kong-based media such as the South China Morning Post, Wall Street Journal and Asia Sentinel. All three have reported or quoted Malaysians who believe that there is a perceptible movement within Umno to unseat Najib Razak.

The South China Morning Post reported this yesterday, with a throwaway line from a known Dr Mahathir Mohamad supporter.

“Umno is jittery to the core … a few senior leaders have started moves to ‘discuss’ with Dr Mahathir,” said Firdaus Abdullah, former political editor of the government-owned New Straits Times, referring to former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Mahathir, who led the country for 22 years, has been Najib’s harshest critic, calling on him to step down over the 1MDB scandal. Last week, he announced plans to set up a new party to challenge his one-time protégé.

“They are top Umno members, cabinet members and leaders of the ruling coalition component parties,” Firdaus added.

And the Wall Street Journal wrote this opinion a few days ago.

The longer UMNO waits to disavow Mr. Najib, the more likely the opposition is to regroup by the time the 1MDB fallout hits. Former Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is publicly mulling the formation of a new, cleaner version of UMNO. That could be the chance for reform-minded members of the ruling party to step off Mr. Najib’s sinking ship.

While the Asia Sentinel reported this, along the lines of what the South China Morning Post had covered earlier.

One extremely well-wired analyst in Kuala Lumpur called the Justice Department’s statement a “game-changer.” Another said he had conversations overnight with some of UMNO’s most powerful mandarins, including senior supreme council members and members of the administration, who think Najib will be unable to twist his way out of this, as he has so often in the past.

“They are realistic and said they were already getting calls and messages from colleagues looking for escape routes from the sinking ship Rosmah,” he said, referring to Najib’s imperious wife Rosmah Mansor. “Once the exodus begins, it will come to a crescendo fast. That’s how UMNO works. The question is, who will be the first Brutus? Mark my words – they will soon be scrambling to outdo each other in distancing themselves from both Najib and Rosmah.”

All three reports or opinions believe the change will come from within Umno, be it Najib’s hand-picked Supreme Council members or division leaders who don’t want to be associated with the man euphemistically called Malaysian Official 1.

The truth of the matter is, as we have said yesterday, they agreed with Najib Razak last year when he kicked out Muhyiddin Yassin from the Cabinet and recently when he was sacked from the party. Has there been that much of a peep from Muhyiddin save for a few statements circulated on Facebook or local media?

The 91-year-old Dr Mahathir has done more than Muhyiddin and Shafie Apdal, who quit Umno recently after being suspended as vice-president and fired from the Cabinet last year.

A cake for the birthday boy at Najib Razak’s official Seri Perdana residence last night. Pic from an attendee, who did not want to be identified.

Presumably, the three outlets have been talking and listening to a set of people who are earnest about their views or what they believe is happening in Umno. The problem is, they are not Umno, just people who are impotent and unable to effect change.

But the three media outlets have said one truth. Change can only come from within Umno, and not the fragmented opposition. The names being bandied about are Dr Mahathir or Muhyiddin, both of whom do not resonate as well as Anwar Ibrahim did when he was fired in 1998.

That is where Malaysia stands now, looking to the past for leadership and not quite sure of the present crop of opposition leaders or any future leader for that matter. Umno is stuck with Najib Razak as much as the media is stuck with reporting names from Malaysia’s recent past.

There’s the other thing, Malaysian opposition parties are relying on Bersih 2.0 to organise what they now call Ber5ih due earliest the September 16 or Malaysia Day to protest and highlight the DoJ suit, issues surrounding 1MDB and Najib Razak’s role in the financial scandal.

That just tells you the uphill task they have to organise a crowd without the help of the Islamist party PAS, and the dearth of ideas among the opposition parties to capitalise on Najib Razak’s tarnished image.

After all, this is the man who came to the highest political office in the land with the promise to transform Malaysia. Well, he has, although not quite according to the plan.

He has made 1Malaysia official, or rather is now Malaysian Official 1.

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