Sarajun Hoda Abdul Hassan explores the forces at play during a critical meeting just hours before the Sheraton Move.
A meeting held at Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s home called by Muhyiddin Yassin on the afternoon of Sunday, 23 February exposed a disturbing reality about our country’s mainstream politics.
It highlighted some of our worst fears: six decades of hard work in uniting a country and celebrating its multi-ethnicity and multiculturalism was severely compromised and diminished. It was clear one major party had never been honest with the other.
The cleavage dividing the Malays and other ethnic groups in the politics of suspicion and distrust seems wider than ever. Remember how Muhyiddin boasted he was “Malay first” and Malaysian second? Well, he is the PM today. We cannot be blamed for being frightened of what the future may hold.
Muhyiddin’s recent declaration that he is “the Prime Minister for all Malaysians” can only be taken with a huge pinch of salt. His integrity collapsed when he chose to work with notorious kleptocrats and religious bigots. A recent expose by Sarawak Report about Hadi Awang allegedly paying Clare Rewcastle Brown an out-of-court settlement suggests Pas leaders may not have been very upfront and candid on this matter.
Further, when Muhyiddin secured his PM position by ‘offering’ coveted ministerial and government-linked company posts to Pas, his remaining righteousness and virtues, if he had any, evaporated.
Back to Sunday, 23 February, immediately after failing to convince Mahathir at the Bersatu headquarters to commit to leaving the Pakatan Harapan coalition, big guns, all Malays, perhaps mustered by Azmin with Muhyiddin playing along, ‘ambushed’ Mahathir again at his house to talk him into it.
But Mahathir stood his ground. His refusal to accede subsequently forced the plotters, determined as they were, to make the next – and now infamous – Sheraton Move.
Now comes the worrisome part. Was that meeting aimed at resolving a national crisis, as the plotters claimed, or was it simply to fulfil a racist and religious agenda?
This piece is not about racism per se, but it questions the sincerity and motivation of those who attended the showdown talks. Was the meeting attended by only one section of our society? If it was, why were the minorities in the population not represented? Were they not relevant?
Were the non-Malay leaders of Barisan Nasional, Gabungan Parti Sarawak and Warisan invited to that meeting? If not, it leaves us with two ways of looking at it:
- In sharing power and deciding the collective future of our citizens, are the non-Malay leaders considered irrelevant?
- If it was about forming a government, why did they keep the agenda exclusively Malay? Did Umno betray their non-Malay coalition partners? Did Bersatu also betray its non-Malay coalition partners in PKR and the DAP? If so, what are these coalition partners? Simply poster boys?
Greed, betrayal and backstabbing
Three things come to mind.
First, if racial and religious bigots attended the covert meeting with a sole supremacist agenda, what were Warisan chief Shafie Apdal and GPS chief Abang Johari Openg doing there? Don’t they represent a multi-ethnic and multi-religious electorate?
I believe the parties they lead and the coalition they are a part of have equal numbers of non-Malay elected representatives both at the state and federal levels. Were they betrayed as well? How do Sabah and Sarawak parties find common ground with political parties that are based on race or religion?
For these two state chiefs who attended this clandestine racial and religious showdown, did they also commit for their non-Malay constituents? In the end, Warisan opted not to be part of that evil rebellion and that could be its saving grace.
We are aware of how Umno and Pas treat the MIC, the MCA and Gerakan as irrelevant poster boys. But what about the non-Malay MPs in GPS? Are they supportive of their state leader adding weight to a narrow racist and religious agenda?
Second, understandably, unlike Pas, Amanah was too honourable to be invited for such a treacherous event. But based on what we know now, the real motivation of this subversion had little to do with race or religion.
It would seem the plotters were motivated purely by greed for money and power. One uses race, and the other uses religion. Benjamin Franklin said it well: “tricks and treachery are the practice of the fools, that don’t have brains enough to be honest”.
Third, the covert meeting was probably also aimed at backstabbing the chosen successor to Mahathir, Anwar Ibrahim. Openly playing Brutus, and working on the game plan long before the 2018 general election, Azmin Ali was said to have rigorously ‘herded all the Judases’ to commit this infidelity that afternoon.
Azmin easily outwitted Muhyiddin to astutely pit him against Mahathir to achieve with the flow of events his own lust for drawing closer to the coveted PM’s chair.
In a new expose, if proven authentic, someone who sounds like Muhyiddin offers another felonious twist to the whole fiasco. The voice in the recording dangles ministerial and heads of government-linked positions to lure Umno MPs to jump ship to Bersatu.
Legal hawks say, under the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Act 2009, such offering and receiving of gratification amounts to corruption and those who are guilty should be charged in court.
If this interpretation is correct, Umno, Pas and GPS leaders supposedly committed this offence if they agreed to trade Muhyiddin’s promise to gratify them with positions as ministers and heads of government-linked companies for support to make him the PM.
If not for such collusion among dishonourable MPs, Muhyiddin would not have become the PM. Certain quarters claim that, at the material time, Muhyiddin did not have the support of the majority of MPs.
Other than being party to a design to cheat the voters who voted PH into power, Muhyiddin too committed the same alleged gratification offences. His first offence was when he allegedly became a party to a scam to ‘offer and receive’ gratifications arrangements before he came to power.
Muhyiddin’s second offence was when, after taking the oath as Prime Minister, he then allegedly used his public office to provide gratification in the form of positions as ministers and heads of government-linked companies in return for the support he had earlier received to become the PM.
Muhyiddin’s plot turned out exactly as had been proposed in the voice recording, meticulously according to script. He apparently fulfilled the alleged promises made to the plotters for helping to make him the PM by rewarding every one of them with positions in the cabinet or as heads of government-linked companies.
The consistency with which the whole drama played out without any apparent ambiguity is astonishing.
For their racist and religious misdemeanours, especially by the MPs who allowed themselves to be used, let’s wait for the voters to decide their fate at the next general election. Malaysians are generally smarter now.
But for the well-planned alleged crime of gratification Muhyiddin and PN leaders committed, the people of Malaysia expect the authorities to act swiftly without fear or favour. It is also suggested that the Bar Council and a team of lawyers file a public interest suit against Muhyiddin and his PN government.
Can we expect the attorney general and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief to act on this? Your guess is as good as mine.
Will the non-Malay MPs distance themselves from being a party to any racial or religious designs? Again, your guess is as good as mine.
Finally, who do you think these PN leaders are? Shepherds of integrity or butchers of our future? Your guess is as good as mine as well.
Sarajun Hoda Abdul Hassan, a long-time Aliran member, served previously in Bersih 2.0 and the National Water Services Commission. By profession, he is a cargo handling specialist