Monday, October 27, 2008

Jazlan episode - a non starter from day one

PULAI MP, Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed, was forced to abandon his intention to contest for the number two post in Umno. Having had not a single nomination to his name after three weekends of divisional meetings, Nur Jazlan, the son of former Umno Sec Gen Tan Sri Mohamed Rahmat, had to forget the idea this time around.

He's also the Ketua Bahagian of Pulai. Nur Jazlan caused a stir when he made known his intention last month, much to the surprise of his peers and political observers. His simple reason for offering himself was to help in the re-generation process within Umno.

Many had laughed at his intention. There were smirks all round too.

Nur Jazlan shouldn't be faulted for wanting to seek high office. But many felt that he has yet to finish his political tutelage. He can now continue his learning curve as he seek to improve himself.

In journalism, this is referred to as a 'non story.' The whole episode was nothing more than an attempt to get his name into the media, which he did.

Was his intention viewed seriously? Apparently the divisional delegates at their meetings didn't think so. Good Luck Jazlan!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Make your Deepavali fun & memorable

MY FIRST Deepavali celebration was in the TNB quarters in Bangsar almost 50 years ago. TNB was then known as the Central Electricity Board. There were no such thing as open house then, but we enjoyed the day as friends and neighbours gathered round for our share of muruku and other goodies.

The neighbourhood was always reminded that it's Deepavali as early as 5am when we are woken by the full blare of our neighbours' radio. Soon, my Indian friends would bring goodies in trays which we would have for breakfast. It was fun. I had this every year until my father was transferred out just before the '70s.

The kids in the neighbourhood would go house to house to visit and enjoy the bottled drinks - orange, sarsaparilla, Green Spot and whatever else were served. I suppose you could term it open house too, but not in the format that we see today.

After school, Deepavali was more exciting. Friends would gather and we would visit Puvi's family in Puchong and Raj's house in Brickfields. Raj has since died. May he rest in peace. Puvi later married Theresa and has settled down in Perth. I've not been able to get in touch with Tony though.

Puvi and Tony were my housemates and we would often go for supper - Tony on his Honda 350cc bike and Puvi on his Suzuki 250. It was fun and truly memorable. We learned much from each other.

Guys, wherever you are now - Happy Deepavali. The same greetings for all Malaysians!

Was there retraction on a Star alert?

A SUBSCRIBER to the Star newspaper alert asked me if I know anything about a news alert sent out on Thursday about the Umno assembly. He forwarded me the alert which says: "Abdullah: Umno supreme council meeting on Oct 30 to discuss holding party polls in December as original, but transition still in March."

The alert triggered much debate among Umno members and watchers.

I asked an ordinary supreme council member and he said he was "not unhappy" at the opportunity to try and convince the other council members to get the assembly be held in December as originally planned.

But later in the night, a television news bulletin made no mention of the supreme council meeting on Oct 30, and the discussion on assembly dates. Instead, the news bulletin said the assembly will still be held in March.

I waited for the newspapers the following day. Still no mention of anything that resembles the Star alert. What happened? The Star alert got it wrong? There was a retraction of the story?

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi made references to the Umno assembly in Beijing where he was on official assignment. I hope there could be some explanation to this. If none is forthcoming, Star alerts could lose of its credibility.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Say your piece and be damned!

MANY years ago, Datuk Rais Yatim was remembered for burning his bridge with Umno and its leaders. Umno was then led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, whose strong hold of the party didn't go down well with some people in the party which he led for 23 years.

Rais went on to support Semangat 46, led by Tengku Raaleigh Hamzah, the Kelantan prince. Semangat 46, a splinter born from Umno's cradle, didn't last. Tengku Razaleigh returned to Umno on Dr Mahathir's invitation, as did Rais and many others.

Rais has apparently rebuilt his bridge, and is today seen as one of Dr Mahathir's strongest supporters. When many of Dr Mahathir's Cabinet and supreme council colleagues shunned him, especially in public, Rais was the opposite.

Rais never failed to attend Tun Mahathir's Hari Raya open house at The Mines, prompting tongues to wag. His Cabinet colleagues watched from the sidelines, thinking that Rais' days in Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's Cabinet were numbered.

Those who shunned Dr Mahathir did so for what they believe to be their political survival, especially when Dr Mahathir began taking potshots at Abdullah, which escalated to be what it is today - an open war.

Simply put, being seen with Dr Mahathir wasn't the best of moves, and was viewed as politically incorrect. We hear stories of how Cabinet Ministers who used to call on Dr Mahathir gradually stayed away from him, treating him like a leper and is to be avoided at all cost.

They, however, did openly visited him when he went for his heart by-pass at the IJN last year. It was the right thing to do then, who knows what would happen when the old man was fighting for dear life in the ICU.

Today, Rais once again sat tongues wagging. Another round of speculation as to his position in the Cabinet made its way through the rumour mill. Would he still be in the Cabinet after such a show of defiance to his boss?

Rais' statement which was in defence of Dr Mahathir after Abdullah's angry retort shown on national television and widely quoted in the media make interesting reading.

Today, many Umno leaders cushioned their remarks when asked to comment on Dr Mahathir's repeated criticisms on Abdulah. Before the general election in March, many had blasted Dr Mahathir without too much of a second thought. But with the groundswell as it is, their comments on Dr Mahathir seemed more subdued, cautious even.

While they don't want to appear disloyal to Abdullah, they also feel less obliged to come to his aid. So, when Abdullah asked a rhetorical question as to who is Dr Mahathir to try and influence Umno members when he's not even an Umno member, having left the party some three months ago, Rais had this to say:

"There are many who are blasting Dr Mahathir for making statements about Umno. This should not be an issue. He has the local standi to make any statement on Umno. He led the party for 23 years.

"If they want to say something to him, look him straight in the eye and tell him."

Woh! I thought that's very brave of Rais (his detractors may say that's foolish and could be politically suicidal). Whatever, his statement is a reflection of the times we are in - say your piece and be damned with it!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Anak blogger-jurufoto di ICU, IJN

MOHD Ali Hafizudin, 21, anak lelaki blogger-jurufoto Anuar Hj Hashim kini di ICU, Institut Jantung Negara, Jalan Tun Razak selepas pembedahan jantung semalam (Isnin). Anak muda ini dibedah untuk membetulkan injap jantungnya.

Pembedahan yang memakan masa kira-kira lima jam itu selamat dijalankan dan Mohd Ali kini dibawah penjagaan rapi di ICU. Anuar memberitahu saya anaknya itu seorang remaja yang aktif, tetapi kesihatannya mula terganggu apabila sering demam.

Bagaimanapun, pembedahan ini dijangka memperbetulkan keadaan Mohd Ali agar dia boleh kembali aktif seperti dahulu. Marilah kita sama-sama berdoa agar Mohd Ali sihat seperti sediakala secepat mungkin. Ameen.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Beware of secret mtgs and shady deals

AMIDST the barbs that were traded over the weekend, some behind-the-scene manouvering may have gone unnoticed. In fact, these hush-hush caucuses are expected to continue before the next round of Umno divisional meetings.

As widely expected, Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein, Datuk Shafie Afdal, Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Datuk Khaled Nordin, Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, Datuk Sharizat Abd Jalil and Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir have qualified to contest for their respective posts.

After two weekends of divisional meeting, these are the frontrunners. They shuld be happy for securing what some people view as an early justification of their inclusion in the list of qualifiers, and would serve as a strong boost to their confidence as the big battle looms.

Among the qualifiers, Sharizat, with 40 nominations, one more than the required number, may face with a small dilemma. Would she accept the nominations and challenge her Wanita boss, Rafidah, despite the former's declaration that she's quite happy to wait for the post be handed to her next year, in accordance with the movement's transition plan?

That there are are 40 wanita divisions who dared to show their preferred choice, is a tell-tale by itself. It showed that every one of three divisions which had held their general meetings thus far, Sharizat scored one. Of the 120 divisions which had already met, Sharizat gets one-third.

I imagine that the bigger dilemma is with Rafidah. Would she stick to her guns and continue to defend her post? Or would she rather pass the baton now, having seen that she no longer enjoy the full support of the movement?

The other front runners, with the notable exception of Najib, the incoming president and Prime Minister-in-Waiting, aren't really out of the woods yet. There's now talk and whispers that these individuals should't get a monopoly of the nominations. Let's give the others a chance too, the hush-hush campaigners are saying.

In this case, the race for the deputy president's post is the main target. Muhyiddin, seen as a vocal critic of his party and Cabinet boss, is the target. While he may have secured passage to contest with 44 of the 64 divisions which have already met, attempts are being made to get the other contenders to "catch up."

One needs 39 nominations to qualify. Thus far, Malacca Chief Minister and incumbent vice president Datuk Mohd Ali Rustam, have garnered 12 and Umno Information Chief and Rural Development Minister, Senator Tan Sri Muhammad Muhd Taib, pulled eight.

The Muhyiddin detractors, Umno insiders said, are pooling their efforts to make sure than Ali rather than Muhammad, get sufficient nominations so as to give Muhyiddin a run for his money. Many Umno leaders know that Muhyiddin is better positioned to help Najib in running the party and country, but this has not deterred them from trying their best.

Muhyiddin has also been singled out by Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi for going against the wishes and decision of the party supreme council, which had endorsed the transition plan that Najib would take over from Abdullah in March next year.

In fact, Abdullah also took to task former PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who has been openly showing support and preference for Najib and Muhyiddin. The three of them appeared cheerfully at a Hari Raya open house a week ago, as a signal to Umno members that the incoming new leaders of Umno are on the same page and taking the same route to restore party unity and work towards consolidation.

On Muhyiddin, Abdullah had this to say (according to press reports): "Is he so impatient to become DPM? That is, if he gets the he trying to stop me from making reforms?" Abdullah is also of the view that there are attempts to get him to quit in December, instead of in March as per the transition plan.

On Dr Mahathir, Abdullah said: "Who is he? He has left Umno but he still issues orders to members of Umno. The party does not need to take orders from anyone who is no longer a member of the party."

The Abdullah-Dr Mahathir spat has not shown any sign of abating. In fact, it is no longer a spat, having escalated to an open political battle with consequences far and wide, viewed and scrutinised across the world.

The front runners will be among the first to agree that getting the required nominations is only the half the battle. The real combat will be during the assembly. This is when delegates pick and choose from the menu then. And as menu goes, there will be a price to pay, and priced items don't come cheap.

In the coming week, the catch-up guys will up the work rate and criss-cross the country again. Work, be they in the Cabinet or State, will take a back seat. Political survival and self preservation will be the order of the day

Which leads me to ask Datuk Shahrir Samad - how would this affect efficiency as he sees it? I read somewhere that Shahrir had scoffed at Muhyiddin's earlier comments that the long campaign period would be counter-productive because the possibility of character assassination (fitnah) and undermining would intensify.

Perhaps Shahrir can enlighten us. Wouldn't all this criss-crossing the country in trying to secure nominations not affect work? Should these people also resign, as he had suggested to Muhyiddin?

Whatever the case may be, let's see how the catch-up game is going to be played. There will be more hush-hush caucuses. There will also be more barbs traded. You and I know there will be.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Tee Keat, Soi Lek - show them the way!

A NEW day begins for the MCA. With Datuk Ong Tee Keat at the helm, and assisted by Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek as his number two, the MCA is on a path of reinvention. In fact, some say that the second biggest party in the BN coalition is actually on a path of redemption.

That OT Keat, the Pandan MP, was going to win was a given in many people's mind. Cool and articulate, OT Keat has done well for himself to have reached the pinnacle in the party which he has served so much and so well.

I remember visiting his operations room in Kg Pandan just a few days before the 1999 general election. He was with his party colleagues, strategizing. He was known as the Lone Ranger, preferring not to be identified with any faction or group.

His rise has been gradual, slowly but surely. His supporters may disagree, insisting that their man has been spectacular. While this may be so, OT Keat have much to do to convince the party and BN components that he's the best person to redeem damaged MCA pride.

He'll do well, I think, partly because he's unassuming. He may not be a charismatic person, but he's known to work hard and have his heart in the right place. Much is expected of him, not just within the MCA but within the bigger BN entity.

He once told me: "I know only one thing - that I have a lot of work to do and so little time to do them. But I'm determined, and the people know that. I don't give up. I intend to stay the course and serve the party and country as best as I can."

As for Dr Chua, I've known him when he was an EXCO member of the Johore Government under Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman. Dr Chua was the exco in charge of the environment, and I remember participating in 'Environmental Walk' campaigns in JB.

I last met him in Kuching just before the fasting month. There was already talk then that he would be making a bid for one of the top posts. I asked him what post and what his plans were: "I see vast changes in our country's political landscape. Obviously, we can't win back those lost grounds using the same old tactics. We must change, and I want a role in that change-making exercise."

His return to national MCA politics is short of a miracle, a point his supporters will protest vehemently! What else can it be? Their man has never stopped working for the party, they said. For MCA members to accept him after his video scandal which resulted in his resignation from his Health Ministry portfolio, Dr Chua must have felt greatly vindicated.

Will he seek revenge and re-enter MCA top decision-making body with a heart of vengeance? I don't think so. The perception, by and large, is that Dr Chua is a good party person, and has the capabilities to deliver.

We will see if the top two leaders can work well as a team. This can only happen if they remove whatever excess baggages they may have and focus on party rebuilding. Mind you, the re-inventing process includes the rise of Datuk Ng Yen Ten as a vice president.

I believe the changing political mindset is being manifested at all fronts and levels, the MCA included. The members have shown their preferences. It's now time for work and set the direction for the coming years and battles.

This has been a watershed MCA assembly. If the new leaders can start work immediately, stop undermining each other, there is no reason why it can't do well and perhaps regain some of its lost glitter.

PS - Is there a lesson here for Umno and the MIC, the other two original partners of the then Perikatan or Alliance?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Warning of 'clear and present danger'

THERE are Press Statements and Press Statements. But when the the Malay Rulers issued their statement yesterday, it serves as a warning that we are, as the move title suggests, within sight of a 'clear and present danger.'

The statement was issued in two languages - Malay and English. When statements are issued in these two languages, it can only have one intention - to make sure everyone understands it, and it leaves no room for misinterpretation or ambiguity.

Issuing it in both languages would also enable everyone to understand the tone with which the statement was issued.

The newspapers and various news portals have used the statements in full, whether instructed, advised or otherwise. Regardless of one's position and/or platform/affiliation, the statement should serve as a reminder to all that enough is enough, and that all the public debate and outcry on matters already enshrined in the Constitution, some of which are very emotional and unbridled, could have dire consequences for the country.

Extracts from the statement: "The Conference of Rulers also calls on the Malays to be united to safeguard the privileges, position, eminence, and greatness of the Malay Rulers, safeguard Islam, Malay as the national language, and the genuine interests of the other communities in Malaysia as enshrined in the Constitution.

"It has to be emphasised that this agenda is more important and foremost than than political or factional interests.

"Non-Malays should not harbour any apprehension or worry over their genuine rights because these rights are guaranteed under the Federal Constitution and provisions of the state constitutions of Malaysia contained in Article 153 of the Federal Constitution.

In Malay, the statement said: "Raja-Raja Melayu juga membuat seruan kepada orang Melayu supaya bersatu-padu untuk mempertahankan kedudukan, kemuliaan dan kebesaran Raja-Raja Melayu, melindungi agama Islam, bahasa Melayu sebagai bahasa kebangsaan, dan kepentingan sah kaum-kaum lain di Malaysia seperti yang termaktub dalam Perlembagaan Persekutuan. Penekanan juga perlu dibuat bahawa agenda ini adalah lebih penting dan utama dari kepentingan politik dan kelompok.

"Kaum bukan Melayu tidak perlu merasa khuatir dan bimbang tentang hak-hak sah mereka kerana hak-hak tersebut telah dijamin mengikut Perlembagaan Persekutuan dan peruntukan-peruntukan yang terkandung dalam Undang-Undang Tubuh Negeri-negeri di Malaysia yang termaktub dalam perkara 153 Perlembagaan Persekutuan."

It is best that everyone studies the Rulers statement word for word. I believe they speak after much thought and deliberations. I wouldn't want to speculate too much on the reasons for them to issue the statement, but events and statements made in recent months must have triggered them to make known their collective views on matters of deep national interests.

The statement's last paragraph said: "It is hoped that with this emphasis, all confusion among the people regarding these matters can be contained and an atmosphere of peace and harmony and mutual respect can continue to exist among the people for the maintenance of order in the country."

In Malay, it said: "Adalah diharapkan dengan penegasan tersebut, segala kekeliruan berhubung dengan perkara ini dikalangan rakyat jelata dapat dibendung dan suatu suasana yang harmoni, aman dan sikap saling hormat menghormati dikalangan rakyat dapat terus diwujudkan demi menjaga ketenteraman negara."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Don't know, Don't do, Don't Care!

THREE seasoned travellers - one an engineer, one a junior (young) millionaire and one an NGO person - took a ride to the east coast yesterday and couldn't find the hotel which they've confirmed booking.

The KLites, they were returning from Terengganu and moving towards Kuantan after stopping for dinner at Kuala Kemaman. It was about 11pm when the trio made their way to Cherating, looking forward to a hot shower and a big bed.

They've travelled this road for years. And yet they couldn't locate the resort which was located between the Impiana and The Legends - all because the resort signage has faded, and the resort management did not bother to make good the old signboard.

In the end, after about 45 minutes of searching, the trio checked in into the Residence Inn and immediately jumped into bed after a road tour that started from 5.30am on Wednesday (Oct 15). The tour includes several boat rides, climbing steep staircase and a mandatory stop for satar and otak-otak at Kuala Kemaman.

How are we going to seriously promote domestic tourism when those in the business cares very little about such things as the signage guiding paying tourists to the resort. Cherating, as I've written before, have much to offer but is missing out simply because many are indifferent about their work and industry.

I feel like informing the Pahang MB, Datuk Seri AdnanYaacob, about such unprofessional attitude of those in the tourism business. I can't expect Adnan - Pak Long to some of his buddies - to inspect every signage and keep reminding the tour operators to be more aggressive.

But where's his Tourism EXCO? Shouldn't he or she make proper effort to find out what else is lacking? If the State or the industry doesn't pay attention to such details, Pak Long should just haul these people up or sack them.

What about the resort - forget about it. Check in into the Residence Inn instead.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What's the message from these pictures?

POLITICS is about power. Or the perception of power. And this was amply shown in these pictures posted on Agenda Daily tonight. The pictures carry significant meanings of their own in the country's changing political landscape.
When I was told that Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin would attend a Hari Raya open house hosted by one-time Umno Youth Secretary Datuk Raof, I found it a bit hard to believe.
But when I was told the two would be joined by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his wife, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, I knew my friends were pulling a fast one, with due respect. But when the sms kept coming, I knew that Raof was serious. I got a lift to Raof's house and saw an anticipating crowd. Muhyiddin was already there, as did a host of VIPs. Tun Mahathir and wife came around 8.45pm and the couple were immediately swarmed by adoring fans. Waiting at the main table was Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar. Najib was the last to arrive and made his way through the crowd to the main table. All eyes were on the three main actors. There were smiles and handshakes and everything seemed alright. Or in place. Strange, but not so strange. At one time not too long ago, it wasn't politically correct to be seen with Tun Mahathir! You and I know how some VVIPs took the safe route and not want to be caught dead in the company of Tun Mahathir. Today, it's the coolest thing to be seen with him! It was quite obvious that the other guests were fond of the two Tuns. Favourite singer Datuk Siti Norhaliza sang two songs, much to the delight of her fans and guests. Everyone was watching everyone else's body language. The three special guests were seated side by side. When I asked a friend to describe the scene, he said the encounter was 'warm.' In fact, at one point, Tun Mahathir moved his chair closer to Muhyiddin (probably to make sure that nothing was amiss in their conversation). Or was it discussion. Najib left first, followed by the two Tuns. The crowd clapped as the couple left, followed by Muhyiddin. I did say in a previous posting that it's worthwhile to observe who does what with whom, who's seen with whom, and where they are sighted. Tell me, what do you make out of this encounter?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Najib-Muhyiddin ahead; others withdraw?

THE more likely Prime Minister-in-waiting - as his supporters keep saying - Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak, can more or less imagine what's in store for him when he assumes full power come March '09.

A quick walk through the blogs, news portals, and mainstream newspapers reveal that the main contender (and at this point the only contender) for Umno's top job gives an early indication of what he can expect when he officially takes over next year.

I doubt very much he'll be given the usual 100-day honeymoon period that's customarily given to PMs and presidents. As it is, Najib is already the subject of much allegations from numerous parties, and some of them are not necessarily coming from the Opposition.

The other PM-in-waiting, Permatang Pauh MP and the de facto Pakatan Rakyat leader who is also Opposition chief, had a field day in the Dewan Rakyat, chiding Najib who had recently been given the Ministry of Finance portfolio.

There's also the so-called "sms conversation'" Najib was said to have had with a top lawyer. The accusation that Najib and wife, Datin Sri Rosmah Mansor, are involved in the murder of the Mongolian model, continues to make the rounds.

Even Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was drawn into the fray. At a press conference, Abdullah defended Najib, and insisted that the latter would be a good leader and he couldn't possibly have any part in the murder.

Come to think of it, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, also have some good words for Najib. (In recent times, Dr Mahathir and Abdullah doesn't see eye to eye on many issues. But they both seemed to have some agreement on Najib this time around)!

Najib have also been getting strong support from his deputy-in-waiting, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, the Pagoh MP and International Trade Minister. This, as everyone knows, is how the game is going to be played in the coming months.

In the run-up to the March Umno General Assembly and party election, it's all (almost) about the Najib-Muhyiddin combination. Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, the Gua Musang MP and former Umno treasurer who declared his willingness to run for the top job, have yet to get even one nomination.

Those wanting to bid for the number one post must get at least 30 per cent of the nomination. Ku Li is even behind two other hopefuls, Tan Sri Muhammad Muhd Taib (Umno Information Chief) and Datuk Wira Mohd Ali Rustam (Chief Minister Malacca), who broke the duck on Sunday with a couple of nominations.

In the next three weeks, we can expect the Najib-Muhyiddin pair to be more demonstrative of their partnership. They may even appear at the same open houses (a coincidence of course!) and make statements that complement each other.

The other hopefuls are also to be closely watched. Would they continue to go for it, or withdraw when there's still time for them to offer themselves for junior posts. Should they do this, it'll be at the expense of their credibility. It's a simple desire of self preservation - survival!

Monday, October 13, 2008

The body language at Umno reality show

WHAT a weekend! Personally, I had a most satisfying time, having gathered clan members for a family get-together. Almost 200 family members - young and old - gathered in Sg Merab, Kajang for a hari raya do. They were all from my paternal side.

The maternal side of the clan meets every year. But today's gathering was the first ever. There were tears too, when cousins and second cousins who have not met for years hugged each other at the re-union. Hopefully, everyone can stay together and work on the silaturrahim so that it can be enhanced.

That, plus a few family errands kept me away from updating my blog - something which kept me agitated, considering there are so many activities which beg to be commented. At the clan gathering, talk was on Shah Rukh Khan, who's a Malacca Datuk now.

There were many SRK fans at the gathering, but even they could not make out why the Bollywood hearthrob was awarded the title. Is this a trend that the Malacca Government is starting? Will we see Ashwariya Rai getting a Datukship next year? Or what about Mel Gibson? Come to think about it, maybe Mr Ban also deserves a title!

In the Umno reality show, things are getting exciting. Some aspirants may be losing sleep, especially when they have been promised nominations but not getting it when the time comes. I caught up with former Selangor Menteri Besar, Datuk Seri Mohd Khir Toyo, on Saturday, when Youth divisional meetings and some the anxiety on his face.

Mohd Khir is one of four aspirants for the post of Umno Youth chief. As at Saturday evening, Mohd Khir haven't had more than a couple of nominations, and he was on his cellphone often to get feedback from the ground.

As at this evening, Mohd Khir is still trailing Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, who has already qualified to contest the post. His closest rival, Khairy Jamaluddin, is still trying to get the numbers.

After the first round of nominations, neither Mukhriz nor Khairy can sit back and wait for next week's round. Even though Mukhriz has qualified, it would be foolish on his part if he is to relax, enjoy a quiet cup of tea and rest.

Khairy and Mohd Khir will redouble their efforts while waiting for Round 2 at the coming weekend. Nothing can be left to chances. One does so only at one's peril. Getting the required number of nominations is no guarantee of a safe passage!

What will the aspirants do while waiting for Round 2?

Many will gather their troops and sit around to strategise. Some deep analysis will be done. How come that division didn't deliver the nomination even after promising so? The 'incentives' (read money) didn't come down? Or not enough?

We'll monitor what happen in the next few days. Watch the body language. Who's present at so and so's open house, for instance. So and so was spotted having a cup of tea at a coffee house. Or so and so's special officer was having lunch with another so and so's aide. All these are tell-tale signs, and worth keeping an eye to.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Ada Laksamana Do Re Mi dalam Umno?

APAKAH yang membuat Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, MP Bagon Datoh dan ahli Majlis Tertinggi Umno, mengubah fikiran dari mahu bertanding jawatan Timbalan Presiden kepada Naib Presiden?

Yang tersurat memang jelas. Menteri di Jabatan Perdana Menteri itu menyatakan bahawa beliau menarik balik hasrat bertanding jawatan nombor dua demi 'kepentingan dan perpaduan parti.'

Yang kita semua ingin tahu ialah yang tersirat. Apakah penarikan itu hasil pertemuan empat mata antara beliau dan Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak awal minggu ini? Atau apakah pengumuman awal itu semata-mata untuk mendapat perhatian ahli parti dan mereka yang akan mengundi di pemilihan parti di perhimpunan Mac depan?

Apapun, pengumuman Zahid itu sedikit sebanyak mengurangkan 'pening kepala' perwakilan, terutama di mesyuarat agung bahagian yang bermula hari ini (Khamis). Mungkin ada yang membuat kesimpulan bahawa Zahid menarik balik keputusannya setelah sedar bahawa kemenangan bukan automatik.

Dalam pergelutan untuk jawatan timbalan presiden, setakat ini Datuk Wira Mohd Ali Rustam dan Tan Sri Muhammad Muhd Taib adalah dua pembesar Umno yang menawarkan diri untuk bertanding.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin dijangka menyatakan hasrat yang sama esok dalam sidang akhbar khas di Putrajaya.

Mohd Ali, Ketua Menteri Melaka dan salah seorang penyandang jawatan Naib Presiden, yakin boleh menang atas popularitinya yang memang susah ditandingi. Namun, populariti sahaja belum tentu boleh memberi kemenangan untuk jawatan kedua terpenting dalam parti, dan seterusnya, dalam kerajaan.

Begitu juga dengan Muhammad Taib, Mike Tyson Umno ini. Sejarah hitamnya akan menghantui orang kuat Umno ini. Ketua Penerangan Umno ini memerlukan 'satu keajaiban politik' jika mahu menang dalam pertandingan ini.

Pemerhati politik tanahair tahu bahawa keajaiban atau 'miracle' bukanlah satu perkara yang sukar ditempah. Tidak ada yang mustahil dalam politik. Ini jugalah yang menjadi pegangan Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, MP Gua Musang, seorang gergasi dalam politik Umno dan tanahair.

Jika Ku Li mendapat cukup pencalonan, bekas Bendahari Umno ini akan berdepan dengan Mohd Najib, anak bangsawan Umno yang bakal dinobatkan sebagai Perdana Menteri Mac ini (jika dia lulus ujian pemilihan parti).

Dalam sejarah Umno Baru, pemilihan Mac ini adalah satu-satunya yang boleh disifatkan sebagai pemangkin kepada apa juga reformasi yang perlu dibuat untuk memastikan parti itu terus relevan dalam landskap politik tanahair.

Kita lihat juga bagaimana dua anak muda yang berhasrat menerajui Pemuda Umno masing-masing dapat satu pencalonan dari dua bahagian yang bermesyuarat hari ini - Khairy Jamaluddin (Machang) dan Datuk Mukriz Mahathir (Kimanis).

Apapun, Umno berada dalam keadaan terbaik atau terburuk dalam usaha menentukan masa depannya. Terbaik kerana pemilihan Mac betul-betul boleh mengembalikan keyakinan ahli dan rakyat terhadap kepimpinannya jika pemilihan dibuat berasaskan kejujuran dan keikhlasan.

Terburuk kerana keghairahan dan sifat gila kuasa yang tiada sempadan boleh meranapkan sebuah wadah yang telah lama berjasa. Mundur maju Umno terletak kepada kewarasan dan kematangan pejuang-pejuang dalam parti tua ini.

What's next after Abdulah's quit notice?

WHAT'S next? After Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi made his announcement yesterday, the political bandwagon continues. After lunch today, Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak is scheduled to declare that he's ready to accept nominations for the Umno president's post.

This will be followed by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is expected to declare that he is ready to be nominated for the number two post. Najib and Muhyiddin is expected to garner substantial number of nominations as divisional meetings start today.

Machang and Kimanis are the first two divisions to hold their AGMs today. Tumpat, Besut and Kuala Kangsar will have theirs tomorrow. Checks with some Umno grassroot leaders indicate that Najib and Muhyiddin are expected to be nominated to the top two posts.

Another aspirant, Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, will probably be nominated to contest for deputy presidnt's post when his Bagan Datoh division have its AGM on Sunday. Altogether, six divisions in Perak will have their AGMs on Sunday.

If Zahid is to have any chance of getting the required 58 nominations to be eligible to contest, he must get all six to back him. Anything less may make it extremely difficult for him.

In the Federal Territory, Cheras's Datuk Syed Ali Alhabshee's division is expected to go for the Najib-Muhyidin combination. Syed Ali had already made known his division's interest last month.

Muhyiddin's division, Pagoh, will also meet this Sunday. It's a given that Pagoh will opt for Najib as president and the Pagoh MP for deputy.

There's also talk of Muhyiddin's so-called partnership with Gua Musang MP and presidential aspirant, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. But Muhyiddin told his boys and ground troops that there's no such thing.

Abdullah's announcement would not necessarily stop divisions from nominating him. There could be one or two divisions who may want to nominate him for whatever reasons, including a show of defiance against those who Abdullah's supporters view as
having plotted for his downfall.

By end of Sunday, we will have got nominations from 34 divisions. Sabah have seven divisions meeting, Selangor two, Penang two, Malacca one, Johor five and Negri Sembilan two.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Abdullah to go in March; not contesting Umno post

WORD coming from the Putra World Trade Centre is that Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will not seek re-election for his post as President of UMNO in the March party elections.

PWTC sources said he will also step down as PM and pass the baton to his deputy, Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak.

Abdullah conveyed the decision to his colleagues at the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council this evening. Earlier, Abdullah chaired his weekly Cabinet meeting in Putrajaya.

It is not immediately known if he had notified his Cabinet. He had earlier had an audience with His Majesty the Yang DiPertuan Agong, a routine which preceded the weekly Cabinet meeting.

Abdullah dinasihat pertahankan jawatan

SEJAUH manakah perjumpaan antara beberapa orang Ketua Bahagian Umno dari Kedah, Pulau Pinang dan Perak dapat mempengaruhi Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi supaya mempertahankan jawatannya sebagai presiden parti?

Menurut berita yang dibawa orang politik, beberapa orang Ketua Bahagian dari tiga buah negeri yang ditakluki Pakatan Rakyat telah turun berhari-raya di Sri Perdana hari ini, membawa kata-kata panas dalam usaha memberi Abdullah semangat untuk jangan melepaskan jawatannya.

Utusan Online melaporkan kira-kira 20 orang Ketua Bahagian berkumpul di kediaman rasmi Perdana Menteri hingga lewat malam. Beberapa orang penasihat Abdullah juga difahamkan berada dalam perjumpaan tertutup itu.

Abdullah akan mempengerusikan mesyuarat Jemaah Menteri pagi Rabu dan seterusnya mempengerusikan Majlis Tertinggi Barisan Nasional di sebelah petang. Abdullah dijangka memaklumkan keputusan samada mempertahankan jawatannya atau tidak.

Pertemuan ini dilihat sebagai tindak tanduk penyokong Abdullah untuk cuba memujuknya supaya jangan mengaku kalah sebelum bertarong dalam pemilihan parti Mac depan. Mereka mahu Abdullah membuat keputusan untuk menawarkan diri sebagai calon presiden. Seterusnya, mereka mahu Abdullah mengumumkan keputusan sebelum mesyuarat tahunan bahagian yang bermula Khamis ini.

Sebanyak 191 bahagian Umno diberi masa dari 9 Oktober hingga pertengahan November untuk mencalonkan sesiapa yang mereka fikir layak untuk memegang jawatan tertinggi dalam parti. Hanya calon yang dapat sekurang-kurangnya 58 pencalonan layak bertanding jawatan presiden dalam pemilihan Mac ini.

Setakat ini hanya Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, MP dan Ketua Bahagian Gua Musang, yang telah menawarkan dirinya untuk bertanding jawatan presiden. Abdullah dijangka tidak akan bertanding, dan sekaligus memberi laluan kepada timbalannya, Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak, untuk menawarkan diri sebagai calon.

Pemerhati politik menyifatkan pertemuan malam ini sebagai permainan politik yang mempunyai impak besar terhadap percaturan politik Umno. Jika mereka berjaya mempengaruhi Abdullah untuk bertanding, senario di mesyuarat tahunan peringkat bahagian akan menjadi panas dan rumit.

Abdullah berhadapan dengan beberapa situasi: mampukah beliau mendapat 30 peratus kuota untuk layak bertanding? Jika gagal mendapat cukup pencalonan, bukankah ini memalukan? Bagaimana pula kedudukan Najib. yang diura-urakan akan bertanding jawatan presiden?

Mungkinkah kita akan melihat pertandingan tiga penjuru - Abdullah, Najib dan Ku Li?

Najib telah beberapa kali menyatakan bahawa dia tidak akan melawan bossnya. Beliau hanya akan bertanding jika kerusi presiden kosong, iaitu jika Abdullah tidak bertanding.

Bagaimana pula dengan Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, MP Pagoh dan Menteri Perdagangan dan Industri Antarabangsa? Muhyiddin dijangka menawarkan diri untuk jawatan timbalkan president pagi Jumaat ini.

Dalam masa 24 jam akan datang, penasihat dan penyokong Abdullah akan bekerja keras untuk mendapatkan pencalonan. Abdullah akan membuat keputusan muktamad hanya selepas mendapat gambaran jelas berapa banyak bahagian akan mencalonkan beliau.

Oleh kerana hanya dua bahagian - Machang dan Kimanis - yang bermesyuarat Khamis ini, pemerhati politik tidak hairan jika Abdullah mengumumkan keputusan pada hari Khamis, dan bukan hari ini (Rabu).

Sama-sama kita tunggu dan lihat.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Najib queried Zahid Hamidi on top post?

CAN someone confirm this for me - I was made to understand that Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, an aspirant for the deputy president post in Umno, had a pow-wow with Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak earlier this evening (Monday).

Zahid, once Najib's political secretary and now a Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, had announced his interest to vie for the number two post. I'm not sure whether Zahid sought the meeting with Najib or he was summoned by the Deputy PM.

Zahid's declaration to make a bid for the top post was met with much talk on the ground. I'm also told that a few divisions had begun to give a second thought as to who they would nominate to contest the number two post, especially in Perak.

These divisions, who had earlier hinted strongly that they would back Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, a front runner in the race despite not officially announcing his interest, had begun to waver and may opt for Zahid instead.

Sources close to senior Umno leaders said it wasn't a happy meeting the two had. In Umno's tradition, the behind-the-scene deals are just as important, if not more, than the public announcements.

Zahid's announcement had caught many people by surprise, and Najib was believed to be one of them. In Umno politics, not telling your boss of your intentions can yield a somewhat awkward situation.

Questions: What transpired at the meeting between Najib and Zahid (if indeed it took place?). Would Najib discourage Zahid from proceeding to seek nominations? What reasons Zahid offered by way of justifying his intention?

At this point in time, Zahid, Malacca Chief Minister and Vice President Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam and Tan Sri Mohamad Rahmat's son, Datuk Nur Jazlan, are the only ones who had openly declared their interest to contest. The other vice president, International Trade and Industry Minister, Muhyiddin, has yet to publicly expressed his desire to contest.

Question: Must an aspirant explain to his boss his reasons to contest? Would Ali and Nur Jazlan be also hauled up like Zahid? Is this a form of an unofficial 'vetting' before a potential candidate can try to advance his political career?

This is the Umno way, the intrigue that's been practised over the years. Some commentators said Zahid is being planted to contest to put a check on Muhyiddin, seen to be a strong critic of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Muhyiddin has been speaking up and made strong statements that Umno must reform itself, starting from the top.

In the next few days, some of these questions will be answered. Just be patient.

Hurry up! Any more Nur Jazlans?

WITH all due respect, is Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamad really serious in offering himself as a candidate for the Deputy President's post in Umno? Is his political tutelage complete, or is he still on a learning curve?

Offering oneself as a candidate for such a top post is a serious matter. Jazlan has every right to make a bid for any posts in Umno, but has he got the credentials to go for the number two spot?

It's one thing to have balls, and he showed that in JB when Johor Umno met Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi after the general election. That meeting set the discussion for the transition plan. And Jazlan was one of the few who spoke for change in Umno top leadership.

But offering himself to be a candidate for Deputy President takes more than balls. You know what I mean.

Or is Jazlan trying to capitalise on the issue and make himself seen and heard amidst all the political hoo-ha that's going on! In politics, it's very important that one is heard and seen, never mind if one makes sense or not.

Politicians need visibility. They need to be talked about. They need to position themselves. From time to time, they need to remind the electorate that they are still around, still making noises, still relevant.

I won't be surprised if Jazlan makes another announcement soon that he's dropping the idea, and that he'll be happy to be nominated to serve as Supreme Council member, and still able to contribute at the highest level.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Malays have too much guilt; morbid too

THIS is Hari Raya week - a happy week - but the TV stations made it to be a very morbid week indeed. Well, that's my conclusion after having had to endure several Malay dramas these past few days.

Since I was playing house nurse, I had to sit through several dramas shown on various channels. There were a few repeats as well.

Almost all the dramas had deaths in them. Either the parents die, or the children die. In one drama, father and son died. And all these deaths take place on the eve of Hari Raya or on Hari Raya day itself.

The central theme of these dramas is filial piety, and the balik kampong phenomenon. There was an episode where three sisters whose parents are blind returned to their kampong in Perlis only to be greeted by their father's death.

Yes, you guessed right - the siblings had not gone back to their kampong for several years, having left the blind parents to fend for themselves while they found fortune in the big towns.

The one shown earlier tonight showed the death of a daughter who was trying her best to get back her estranged parents together. She died on the eve of Hari Raya. When her mother came to visit on Raya morning, she came smack into her daughter's dead body in the hall of her father's big mansion.

I also concluded there's a lot of guilt in the Malay community. Almost every drama depicted guilt on the part of the lead and supporting roles - guilt for neglecting parents, for neglecting children, for living a life of sin.

And inevitably, on the eve of Hari Raya, they all came to realise they have erred and frantically made their way to the kampong to seek forgiveness from their loved ones. And very, very few succeeded.

However, one drama stood out. Produced by Sheila Rusly and her husband, Hanya Aku was shot in a drug shelter home managed by Pengasih. With well-known singer Hattan playing a lead role, the drama showed how several addicts tried to kick the habit, and how their efforts were made more difficult by uncaring family members such as parents and spouses.

I thought the dialogue was realistic too, and the acting better than most. I must admit that I'm not a drama critic, but Hanya Aku is worth seeing for those who missed it on Astro Ria.

Of course there were deaths - a girl addict on the road to recovery went back to her bad ways when her uncaring parents surprised her with their divorce plans; and Sheila's husband was found dead in an alley of Aids.

When will we see these dramas graduate to become outstanding good movies, such as HBOs 'Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee' shown earlier today? Never you say?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Zahid, DAR, Mat Taib - any more names?

SMS QUESTION in the last couple of days - is Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi serious about bidding for the deputy president post in Umno? Same question was asked of Malacca CM Datuk Ali Rustam. A day later, an SMS asked if I know that Umno Information Chief Tan Sri Muhammad Haji Muhammad Taib was also contemplating a similar challenge?

And of course there's the usual follow-up questions - what about current VP Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, is he not going to announce that he's also keen to bid for the post? Isn't he a favourite and front-runner already, even when nominations are not yet in?

Well, if you ask me - these guys aren't just floating a test balloon! Zahid must feel that since he was once the political secretary of UMNO president in waiting, Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak, he stand a good chance of making it to the main office this time.

One must think big in politics; show one has the balls to go for it; willing to take calculated risks; and stand and be counted. I believe Zahid must have thought about this when he made known his intention to vie for the number two post.

An old hand in Umno politics have a somewhat different view. She's of the opinion that someone is putting Zahid up to it. When I asked who could that person be, she smiled and hinted that it's someone who doesn't want to see Muhyiddin have a walk-in to the deputy president's post!

Should Muhyiddin be worried then? I don't know. He seemed confident, and probably encouraged by recent declarations by a few divisions that they would nominate him for the deputy president post when the time comes.

As for Ali Rustam, the man is a hugely popular leader, especially among grassroots members. Everyone knows that if he's been invited to 10 weddings in a day, he'll make every effort to attend all, even if for a few minutes. What are his chances?

Well, you never know. He's a state wakil rakyat, and not an MP. His rivals may argue that he can't be Deputy PM even if he gets to be Umno deputy president! Woh! If you ask DAR (as Ali Rustam often refers himself when replying to SMS), let's cross the bridge when he comes to it.

I know many people may look at Muhammad with considerable dismay, disgust even. This is because of his Australian history, a rather embarrassing one at that. But be that as it may, Muhammad believes he's a loyal servant of Umno, and therefore harbours hope of going further than an Information chief.

In a few days time, the Umno divisional meetings will take place. Nominations will start, and the ground troops are all set for some serious political maneuverings. Things are going to be hot in the next few weeks.