IN the modern, Internet-driven world of everything, a discussion about a certain popular subject is referred to by the spooks and the spies as “chatter”.
A spike in such a discussion is interpreted to mean that something significant is happening behind the scene.
So lately in the ever-noisy Malaysia political arena, the chatter is centred around the so-called attempt to break up the Pakatan Harapan (PH).
It may not be an unfamiliar chatter at all. Breaking up PH has always been the objective of the Barisan Nasional (BN).
But in the run-up to the 2018 General Elections (GE), the BN was so weak that it not only failed to break up the PH but went on to lose to it.
The BN was further weakened when several of its top leaders, led by the former Prime Minister, (Datuk Seri I Mappadulung Daeng Mattimung Karaeng Sandrobone Sultan Abdul Jalil) Mohd Najib Abdul Razak, were charged with corruption.
Others include the former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is now Umno President, and Najib’s right hand men, Datuk Seri Panglima Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim and Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad.
Since then, however, with the PH seen as losing popularity and the people are becoming disinterested in the lengthy Najib’s trial, some elements in Umno have broken rank and are promoting their own brand of Malay-Muslim agenda.
Najib’s prolonged trial could turn to become a liability to the PH government. Even senior journalists are asking if Najib is guilty of those hideous crimes that he was charged with, why does it take so long to prove his guilt?
It may sound like an uninformed question, but they may be right. Look at the hero treatment Najib is getting from the “bossku” crowd. The court of public opinion could be turning to his favour.
The softening of attitude towards Najib and his cohorts – partly because of the slow progress of their criminal trials – is emboldening some Umno leaders.
They may not necessarily be on Najib’s or Ahmad Zahid’s side. On the contrary, they want to take Umno away from these tainted people.
In the absence of a clear stewardship and with the current Umno leadership line-up being seen as a throwback of the Najib’s era, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, has emerged as a de facto leader.
It appears that his words are being taken more seriously by Umno members and the public than those of Najib and Ahmad Zahid.
For a while, the party’s deputy president, Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, was seen as a ray of hope when he was acting as president. Not far behind was the Rembau MP, Khairy Jamaluddin.
But when Ahmad Zahid came back to run the party, Mohamad appeared to have lost his shine and the hope for change diminished.
Thus, the rise of Hishammuddin and, to a lesser degree, Khairy is a very exciting development. Personally, I believe these two moderate Malays could be the answer to Umno’s leadership conundrum.
If they could laugh together, why can’t they lead together
Bringing Umno back to its original moderate stance is the key to its survival. In the current form, it is in danger of being overwhelmed by its ummah collaborator, PAS.
During Najib’s final years, in order to counter the 1MDB and other corruption scandals, he resorted to hiding behind the Malay supremacy and survival slogan.
After the May 9, 2018 defeat and the handing over of leadership to Ahmad Zahid, Umno donned the Islamic cloak in order to entice PAS. This had culminated in the Unity of the Ummah Assembly in Kuala Lumpur last month.
But not everyone in Umno is comfortable with the “rojok” (reconciliation) with PAS. They know that PAS will sooner or later take over the household. PAS operates on religious zeal and Umno on cash. And cash is short for Umno right now.
People like Hishammuddin, whose late father, Tun Hussein Onn was among the founders of Umno, and Khairy are out of place in this Umno-PAS ummah movement.
As for the Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, he meets whoever that wants to meet him. So, what is so terribly surprising if he meets Umno and PAS leaders? He is the Prime Minister for all!
If he can work with his worse political adversaries to topple the BN, why can’t he meet Hishammuddin or Khairy?
But the story becomes a bit more sensational when the Najib’s era Minister of Domestic Trade, Cooperative and Consumerism, Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin, came into the picture.
Hamzah was an important member of Umno and became entangled in the 1998 sacking of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim from the government and Umno.
Earlier this year, he joined Dr Mahathir’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) and was one of the key players in the recent Malay Dignity Congress (Kongres Maruah Melayu), which was purportedly organised by four public universities.
So, when Hishammuddin’s name was linked to Hamzah and the congress, it gave birth to the theory that the two are working to bring Umno closer to Dr Mahathir, and this is then linked to the PH succession plan.
But I think people like Hishammuddin and Khairy are more important to the survival of Umno than to the PH succession plan. Left to current leadership, Umno will be fighting an uphill battle to stay alive.
Whereas the PH succession plan is a done deal in as far as the transfer of power from Dr Mahathir to Anwar.
But still we have to accept that fate is not always in our hands and the democratic process is never straight forward.
Remember, had a certain monarch had his way, Dr Mahathir would not have become the PH Prime Minister.
So don’t get too uptight. Sit back, relax and keep your heartbeat steady.