Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Machiavelli to the max

Artikel di bawah adalah satu sinopsis, ringkasan, sejarah Malaysia yang tidak ditulis. Ia melakarkan kemelut belakang tabir -- 'bertetak tengah malam' kalau dalam slanga PAS Kelantan -- tentang kebangkitan pengaruh dan penguasaan Tun Dr Mahathir ke atas Malaysia.

Artikel ini memandu pembaca melewati milestones -- tanda jarak -- dalam sejarah UMNO dan sekaligusnya Malaysia; bermula dengan kisah kematian insan bernama Raslan, akauntan Melayu pertama yang diamanahkan menubuh Bank Bumiputra yang akhirnya dibunuh oleh Tun Daim dengan bangkainya kini dipanggil CIMB Bank; bagaimana Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah dicatur sebagai pengganti Raslan; bagaimana pula takdir menyaksikan kerusi timbalan perdana menteri yang dimaksudkan untuk Ku Li dirampas Tun Dr Mahathir yang berkesudahan dengan Tun Dr Mahathir dilipat oleh rakan selanun-nya Tun Daim Zainuddin, dengan kemenangan Tun Daim dalam percaturan itu telah dipialakan dengan perlantikan Abdulla Badawi proksi Tun Daim sebagai perdana menteri.

Kali pertama saya bertemu artikel ini beberapa tahun dulu ialah dalam blog Malaysian Today, tetapi malangnya sistem arkib blog tersebut agak tidak sophisticated, menyebabkan artikel ini sukar dicari semula. Sila lawat blog ini untuk membaca artikel dalam keadaan asal.

A flurry of trials and litigations are going through the Malaysian courts, reminiscent of days gone by when court decisions spelled doom and the end of the political careers for those who walk through the corridors of power. Will 2007 be a repeat of 1957, 1967, 1977, 1987 and 1997? Are we seeing yet more political upheaval and turmoil that swamps Malaysia’s shores every decade like the dreaded Tsunami that taught Malaysians, who had never heard of such things before, the meaning of the word? Marriages are said to suffer the ‘seven year itch’ when spouses decide to graze in greener pastures. Political ‘marriages’ are no less spared this ‘seven year itch’, only that it comes around every ten years instead.

Not all Malaysians were born around the time of Merdeka. Then, Malaysia’s population was less than half of what it is today. Many were also not born before the ‘historic’ race riots of 13 May 1969 -- and what they know about that most infamous black mark in Malaysia’s history is what has been related by those who witnessed it firsthand or by those who heard about it from others before them. At best the stories are hearsay and subject to additions and omissions according to the taste buds of the story tellers.

What really happened every ten years since Malaysia gained independence from Britain in August 1957? The history books do not tell us everything. Many remain an untold story. For that matter, Malaysian history books allowed into the classrooms are a load of hogwash that tell us nothing but crap. And those books that do relate the truth are banned because the government needs to ‘protect’ Malaysians who are not able to think for themselves. Malaysians cannot handle the truth and the truth may hurt their feelings. And once feelings get hurt Malaysians may act on it and run riot in the streets. That is how gullible and immature Malaysians are, or so the government thinks. So Malaysians need to be protected from the truth for their own good. Better the truth remains hidden than Malaysians become upset. What you don’t know can’t hurt you, the old saying goes.

1957 was when this nation was born. That was the first change to Malaysia’s political landscape; the first ‘upheaval’ and ‘turmoil’ if you wish. The first ten years till 1967 were bliss and paradise for this newly emerged nation-state. Then the bubble burst. The honeymoon lasted just ten years, but after that the ‘ten year itch’ set in. Tunku Abdul Rahman was great. He was the man who brought this country into nationhood. He was the Father of Independence who led the movement to remove the cloak of imperialism from what was then one of the few remaining western colonies in this region. But it was now time for him to go. A leadership change was in the cards. New blood needed to be infused into the political system. And the old blood, the pre-Merdeka generation, needed to be flushed out of the political system.

But change must have a ‘reason’. A reason would be needed to act as the trigger. Change for the sake of change is not on. Change in reaction to events would be more palatable. And a ‘special’ event would be needed to trigger change. The move to cast the Tunku aside was mooted. The plan was put into motion. And the greatly required trigger came in the form of the 1969 general election that saw the ruling party demolished in many parts of Malaysia, rural as well as urban.

The Tunku’s fate was sealed in 1967. The final nail in his coffin was hammered in 1969. The following year, 22 September 1970, Malaysia received its blood transfusion so much sought after. The Old Guard moved aside to allow the Young Turks to take over. New personalities now walked through the corridors of power. The Tunku was now in forced retirement. Tun Abdul Razak Hussein was now Malaysia’s new Prime Minister.

As they say, man proposes, but God disposes. And divine intervention invariably always changes the course of history. What we see today is not what was planned. What was planned is something else. But God, in His wisdom, decided that some divine intervention was in order to influence the political landscape of Malaysia. Raslan died in that most tragic car crash in front of what, today, is the Federal Territory zakat department next door to the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station. Raslan, one of the first Malay accountants -- and the head of the first Bumiputera bank mooted soon after the First Bumiputera Economic Congress even before the advent of the New Economic Policy in 1970 -- met a fiery death when his Lamborghini burst into flames after it hit the wall. The tragedy of his death was not just about the loss of one of the most prominent Malays of that time. It was the fact that the seat belt he was wearing trapped him in the ball of flame while his wife, who was not using a seat belt, got thrown out of the car and survived.

That ended the life of Raslan who would probably have taken Malaysia by storm in time to come had he lived. No longer would Malaysia benefit from his acumen and expertise. A vacuum was created. And, according to the laws of physics, vacuums have a way of filling itself. So enters Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah to fill this vacuum. Ku Li is the beneficiary of circumstances. He did not ask for it. Divine intervention determined he would be it. And Ku Li took over where Raslan left off and took the bank to new heights. As they say, one man’s loss is another man’s gain.

By then the Tunku had already moved aside for his deputy, Tun Razak, to take over. It was not a natural succession or a career progression for Tun Razak. It was a coup, though not of the military kind. Malaysia can never accommodate military coups. Coups can happen though, but it must be a political coup. And a political coup it certainly was. And the Tunku exited and Tun Razak entered. It was political chaos at its best. It was calm on the outside but turmoil on the inside. It was like a deep river that is calm on the surface but churning at its bed. And that is what Malay politics is all about. It is like the Malay art of self-defence called silat. A lot of dancing and prancing but one never knows when that most fatal thrust will be delivered. But it will be just one thrust. It will be a thrust when the dancing ends and the players have had enough. And that one thrust is all it takes to end the match.

But divine intervention came into play yet again. A smooth succession had been planned. Tun Razak was in the driver’s seat. And he had placed his successor in the co-driver’s seat ready to take over when the time came for him to exit from the corridors of power. Unfortunately, Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman died an untimely death on 2 August 1973 leaving Tun Razak the job of steering the country forward all by himself.

Tun Razak now needed a new co-driver. But the anointed co-driver was just too busy. He had much on his plate. He was the man who was busy charting Malaysia’s economic growth. He was the man who would be the architect of Malaysia’s new found wealth. He would set up the system on how Malaysia’s liquid gold would be managed, which today is the blueprint for all oil producing nations. Many do not know that Malaysia set the trend for the rest of the world to follow. The Petronas model would be the yardstick used by all oil producing countries to negotiate their profit sharing agreements with the oil exploration companies. And this acclaimed architect was Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, the new guru of the oil industry, the man whose career was pushed to new heights after the death of Raslan.

Ku Li should have been the new deputy. He should have been the successor to Tun Dr Ismail. But Ku Li is too valuable to waste as a mere deputy prime minister. His brain is needed in another area. He must be the architect and engineer of Malaysia’s economic growth. He would chart Malaysia’s journey from an agricultural-based country into a modern industrial-based and oil producing nation. Why waste his talents as a mere deputy prime minister? His time will come. After all, he is a mere 36 years old, still too young to sit in the co-driver’s seat. His time will come when he has completed his most important assignment. And when Tun Razak is ready to move aside in years to come, when Tengku Razaleigh would then be old enough, he would most certainly be the one to take over.

In the meantime, yet another vacuum needs to be filled. And it shall have to be filled by a mediocre deputy who would not hold on to the job and refuse to let go when it is time for him to go. This man was Hussein Onn. He would be a safe enough deputy. He could be coaxed to retire when his time is up. And he is not strong enough to make an impact to an extent Malaysians would be sad to see him go.

But man proposes and God disposes. Tun Razak never lasted the full trip. He did not live long enough to install Ku Li as the new Prime Minister of Malaysia. He, just like Raslan and Tun Dr Ismail before that, died before his time on 14 January 1976. Another vacuum was now created. And this time the vacuum was right at the top. And the mediocre number two whose only job was to fill a vacuum and keep the seat warm for Ku Li ended up taking over instead. Tun Razak knew he was dying. He knew he did not have long to go. And he wanted Ku Li as the new number two when he takes his last breath. That was his death-bed wish. But Hussein Onn was not the bulldozer equipped to carry out this last will and testament of a dying prime minister.

Hussein Onn was under pressure. He wanted Ghazali Shafie as his number two. But King Ghaz was not an Umno Vice President. There are of course no rules to this game. The law does not require one of the three number threes fill the vacuum in the number two slot. It is mere tradition and traditions can be broken if one so wishes. But it takes a strong man to break tradition. And a strong man would have appointed King Ghaz as the new number two if that is what he really wished. But Hussein Onn was not a strong man. And he dared not fight tradition.

The three vice presidents confronted Hussein Onn and demanded that the new number two be from amongst them. Hussein Onn had three choices; Ghaffar Baba, Ku Li, or Dr Mahathir Mohamad. These are the three vice presidents. And one of them, not King Ghaz, must be that new deputy. Ghaffar Baba was the vice president with the highest votes. But he would not have made a suitable number two because of his educational background. So it would have to be Ku Li, the vice president with the second-highest votes and certainly the man with the best credentials. But Ku Li was barely 40. So he declined the job. Anyway, he still had much to do planning Malaysia’s economy. He asked instead that Hussein Onn choose Dr Mahathir, the vice President with the lowest votes, but certainly one with the right credentials. And with that Dr Mahathir became the new Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia. And when Dr Mahathir finally succeeds Hussein Onn as prime minister he would take Ku Li as his deputy. By then Ku Li would be ready and of the right age.

But Dr Mahathir was not one to wait his turn. Politics is not about waiting. Politics is about grabbing what you desire and realising what you aspire. Power cannot be offered. Power must be taken. And good politicians must be Machiavellian. That is the mark of a good politician. And being the Machiavellian politician that he is, Dr Mahathir made his move to wrest power from Hussein Onn just like Tun Razak did before that with the Tunku.

Dr Mahathir skilfully pushed Hussein Onn into a corner and sandwiched him between a rock and a hard place. Hussein Onn was weak in resolve. But he was strong in principles. Dr Mahathir pushed for Datuk Harun’s pardon. Umno had voted for Datuk Harun while he was still languishing in Pudu Jail. Datuk Harun was now one of Umno’s vice presidents. Umno had spoken. It wanted Datuk Harun. The strong-principled Hussein Onn would not budge. Umno must choose between him and Datuk Harun. It cannot be both. Umno chose Datuk Harun. Hussein Onn kept his word and left on 16 July 1981. A vacuum was created yet again and Dr Mahathir, the number two, filled the vacuum and took over as prime minister.

But Dr Mahathir is not a traditionalist. He never follows norm. He will not appoint one of the three vice presidents as the new number two. He will not fulfil Tun Razak’s deathbed wish by appointing Ku Li as his deputy. He will not abide to the ‘agreement’ that Ku Li would be his anointed second-in-command when he finally takes over as prime minister. He will let the party decide that. The prospective candidates will have to slug it out. And may the best man win! Tradition has been broken. For the first time they will need to contest the seat of number two. The successor will not be handpicked. He will fight for the job.

Musa Hitam and Ku Li slugged it out. Who does Dr Mahathir favour? The members need a signal who to vote for. But Dr Mahathir stayed neutral. Let democracy prevail. Let it be the members’ choice. The president will not interfere. But they read certain signals. They read between the lines of course. And the impression seemed to point to Musa. So the members chose Musa. And Ku Li lost his ‘inheritance’. He who should be prime minister was not even the deputy prime minister. Tun Razak is dead. So his legacy died with him. Ku Li who is Tun Razak’s choice would not be it. Musa was it.

But Ku Li would not be sidelined. He knew the job was his. The job was his back when Tun Razak took over from the Tunku. But he was busy then. He had a job to do. He needed to chart Malaysia’s economic future. The job of deputy prime minister had to wait. There are more important things on hand. But then who thought that Tun Dr Ismail would die? Who thought that Tun Razak would die? Who thought that two deaths in a row would rob him of the job? And who thought that Dr Mahathir would throw the decision who should be number two to the members to decide? And they read the signals wrong. But was it really wrong? Were the signals right? Did Dr Mahathir really prefer Musa over Ku Li? Whatever it may be, Musa got the job.

Ku Li tried a second time around. But the first time it was two people in a race to fill a vacuum. The second round was a bid to unseat an incumbent. It was no longer just a race to the finishing line like the first time around. This time it was a bid to topple a leader already in office. But Ku Li failed. So Ku Li must be punished. Dr Mahathir must remove him from the post of Finance Minister. Ku Li must be sent into retirement. Dr Mahathir did remove him as Finance Minister of course. But he was not sent into retirement. He was ‘demoted’ to the job of Trade and Industry Minister. And this made Musa mad as hell. He knew that Dr Mahathir was keeping Ku Li around just to even the odds and balance things a bit. With Ku Li gone Musa would become all powerful. With Ku Li still around, Musa would have an adversary staring him in the face. Dr Mahathir, being the skilled Machiavellian politician that is, knows how to play the divide and rule game. And Ku Li as Trade Minister would keep Musa in check.

Musa was extremely upset. In 1986 he left in a huff allowing Ghaffar Baba to take over. No one suspected that Ghaffar would be the next Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, not even Ghaffar himself who one day before that lamented before Datuk Nik Hassan, the one-time Menteri Besar of Terengganu, that he is ‘finished’. In fact, Chartered Bank had published a notice in the newspapers that it is taking bankruptcy action against Ghaffar -- which it withdrew the day after Ghaffar was appointed the deputy prime minister.

Musa coaxed his archenemy Ku Li to join him in a challenge for the prime minister’s post. Musa first announced the challenge in Johor but Ku Li kept silent and did not respond. The second announcement was made in Gua Musang, Kelantan, and still Ku Li kept silent. By the third announcement in Gong Kapas, Terengganu, Ku Li accepted the challenge and announced his bid for the presidency to the thunderous applause of the crowd. In 1987, Ku Li and Musa took on Mahathir and Ghaffar, and lost.

1957, Merdeka, and Malaysia breaks away from Britain.1967, the conspiracy to oust the Tunku is hatched.1977, a new power equation in Malaysian politics is formed and a new political landscape emerges.1987, the Team A versus Team B tussle and a ‘new’ Umno is born. Yes, every ten years Umno goes through a ‘rejuvenating’ exercise, the ten-year itch of Malaysian politics. Four decades, four episodes of political turmoil. But it does not end there. We still have 1997. 1997 was the advent of the Asian Financial Crisis. Malaysia is under attack. Dr Mahathir is also, again, under attack, just like he was ten years before that in 1987.

Dr Mahathir is now under siege. Malaysia is also under siege. Anwar Ibrahim had 80% of the Supreme Council Members, Chief Ministers/Menteris Besar and Cabinet Ministers behind him. Dr Mahathir was caught with his pants down. He now had two battle fronts to fight. He had the economy that was under attack to worry about. He also had Anwar Ibrahim to take care of. One was an external attack. The other was an internal attack. But both the external and internal forces could move in concert to sandwich Dr Mahathir and squeeze him out. And they can do it at the drop of a hat.

Dr Mahathir needed help. Anwar had given him an ultimatum to resign or get kicked out. A White Knight galloped in on his white horse. And this White Knight was called Daim Zainuddin. Dr Mahathir needs help? Fine, Daim will help. But Dr Mahathir must first sit back and leave everything to him and not make even a squeak. Daim would do it his way and only his way. Dr Mahathir is not to lodge a protest, not even a whisper. It must be a total hands-off situation. Dr Mahathir can go to hell, or he can be saved. The option is up to Dr Mahathir. Daim will determine the rules of the game. And Dr Mahathir will dance to Daim’s tune. Take it or leave it. It is up to Dr Mahathir.

Dr Mahathir was dead meat anyway. So what did he have to lose? He is under attack. Malaysia is under attack. He might as well give Daim the freehand that he seeks. On the word go, Daim moved his forces. He brought back RM20 billion stashed overseas. He injected RM52 billion into MTEN that had been earlier created by Anwar. They used this money pumped into Danaharta to buy up all the bank and corporate debts. Daim then implemented currency controls. Malaysia was successfully saved but at great expense to the taxpayers. But Daim would not include Dr Mahathir’s family in the bailout exercise. Everyone else would be saved. Dr Mahathir was on his own, abandoned by Daim.

Dr Mahathir had no choice but to solve his family’s problems himself. Petronas stepped in and took Dr Mahathir’s son’s shipping company off his hands. It was a fire sale. Dr Mahathir’s son would still be lumbered with massive debts even after Petronas takes over his company. And Petronas would make hundreds of millions in profit on the deal. But the profit would not go to Dr Mahathir’s son. Petronas would enjoy it. Dr Mahathir’s family would have to suffer a wipe-out. They would lose their underwear. Dr Mahathir was devastated. He did not realise he had created a monster going by the name of Daim Zainuddin. It was a case of a bigger devil taking care of a smaller devil. Maybe one would have been better off dealing with the smaller devil oneself. Daim bypassed Parliament and the Cabinet with full and legal authority and salvaged Malaysia’s economy. But he left Dr Mahathir and his family to die.

Daim then moved in on Anwar. He had solved the external problem so it was now time to take care of the internal problem. The plot was hatched. Anwar was axed and Dr Mahathir was given the unpleasant task of holding the axe dripping with blood and announce to the world why Anwar had to be axed. But the script was written by Daim and Dr Mahathir had no choice but to follow the script. Daim had Dr Mahathir’s balls in his hands. Either he play ball or the same axe would be used on his neck as well.

Umno turned on Dr Mahathir, as Daim knew it would. The country turned on Dr Mahathir, as Daim had anticipated. Reformasi was born, much to Daim’s delight. Street demonstrations exploded on the streets of Kuala Lumpur. Dr Mahathir was now again under siege. Earlier it was Anwar who demanded his resignation. Now Daim was demanding his resignation. Go and go now, said Daim. Daim wanted Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to take over as Prime Minister with Khalil Yaacob as his deputy. Daim had the succession well-planned. Abdullah and Khalil would serve him well. They will be his stooges and willing servants. Abdullah was spineless and Khalil was dirtier than a pig in a pigsty. What better underlings to have than these two?

Dr Mahathir could not fight Daim who now had both Umno and the government in his pocket. At best he could shuffle his feet and play for time. Dr Mahathir promised to resign but only after the 1999 general elections. But Daim did not want him to go after the 1999 general elections. He wanted Dr Mahathir out before the general elections. But Dr Mahathir would not go. He insisted on waiting until after the general elections. Daim had to do something to persuade Dr Mahathir to leave. Dr Mahathir had promised to go once the problem of the economy and Anwar have been taken care of. Well, the two problems have already been solved. But Dr Mahathir would not go as promised.

Daim engineered Dr Mahathir’s defeat in the 1999 general elections. He sent his people to penetrate Reformasi. They needed Reformasi to bring Dr Mahathir down. They brought down Najib Tun Razak, Mahathir’s ally, in Pekan. Najib lost the Pekan Parliamentary seat in 1999. But then Dr Mahathir sent a couple of bags of postal votes to Pekan and saved Najib’s skin. Najib was returned in Pekan but as Wakil Pos, not Wakil Rakyat. Kelantan stayed opposition and Terengganu fell. Eight of the 15 Parliamentary seats in Kedah, more than half, fell to the opposition. But still Dr Mahathir would not resign. In the Lunas by-election, exactly one year after the 1999 General Election, Daim sent in his people to ‘give’ the seat to Parti Keadilan Nasional. Daim’s people in Reformasi engineered the defeat of Barisan Nasional thereby causing it to also lose its two-thirds majority in the Kedah State Assembly, Dr Mahathir’s home state. But still Dr Mahathir would not resign. Daim was exasperated. How in heaven’s name does he get rid of this most recalcitrant old man?

In 2001, once the economy had returned to normal, Dr Mahathir turned on Daim. He demanded that Daim hand back Umno’s money. Daim was in possession of tens of billions of Umno’s money scattered all over the world. The RM20 billion that Daim brought back to Malaysia was not his money but Umno’s. And there was still more, much more, in half a dozen banks in several countries in Africa that Daim had bought. Daim disputed the accounts but he would not produce the evidence. He does not owe Umno any money but instead Umno owes him, argued Daim. Where are the accounts, demanded Dr Mahathir. No accounts were forthcoming. Daim could not back what he says with evidence and Dr Mahathir pressed home with the bombshell.

Daim had used RM52 billion of the nation’s money to salvage the banks and corporations aligned to him. Dr Mahathir’s family was not included in the rescue exercise. And it is Daim’s and not Dr Mahathir’s signature on all the documents. Now it was Daim’s balls in Dr Mahathir’s hands instead. Dr Mahathir is not going to resign. Daim instead would have to resign. And Daim had no choice but to resign or else face a downfall of gigantic proportions. And with that Daim left the country and made Africa his new home.

Now that everything had returned to normal and with Umno safely out of Daim’s control, Dr Mahathir could clean up the party once and for all. Umno needed more than just a reformation. It needed more than just an overhaul. It needed a major makeover. There was a need for an even newer ‘new’ Umno. But first he needed to resign and hand the reins over to Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Once Abdullah was in charge, the revamping can take place. He could not do this while still holding the office of Prime Minister. He must do this from the outside with Abdullah running the show. Only then will the whole exercise succeed. And with Abdullah planted in the seat of Prime Minister and Najib in the seat of Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir went to work.

1957, 1967, 1977, 1987, 1997 -- five turning points for Malaysian politics. One more decade, 2007, the last decade, would be the final turning point for Malaysian politics. But what is Dr Mahathir cooking? What does he have up his sleeve? What has 2007 in store for us? What will we see in this final decade?

Dr Mahathir appears to have many lives that even cats do not possess. But how many of these nine lives has he used thus far and how many more remain? Or has he used up his full quota and will he finally bite the dust as many hope he would? Many would like this to be Dr Mahathir’s final curtain call. But the show is not over till the fat lady sings. And the fat lady has been maintaining a deafening silence. How ironical that the only Cabinet member without balls is the one with the balls. What happened to all those others with balls, especially he with the loudest mouth and who hates Mahathir the most? Why are they playing footsy with the Prime Minister’s son-in-law instead of doing the job they are being paid to do; acting as trustees to our tax money?

And where does Ku Li fit in this whole scheme of arrangements? Why did he close down his Semangat 46 and rejoin Umno? Was this move tailored to dovetail into Dr Mahathir’s plan to get rid of Anwar? Why then did Abdullah and not Ku Li replace Anwar as the Deputy Prime Minister? Was this Dr Mahathir’s choice or something that Daim gave him no choice in? And why Najib as the number two? Did someone put a gun to Dr Mahathir’s head in the matter of the removal of Anwar, the appointment of Abdullah, and later the appointment of Najib as well? If so, who then was the one who held the gun at Dr Mahathir’s head and what was it they had on him that tied his hands good and proper? And how did Dr Mahathir eventually manage to untie his hands and turn the tables on his captors?

Hey, this piece is already more than seven pages long. Cukuplah! You don’t expect me to go on and on and answer all these questions do you? Anyway, why spoil everybody’s fun by revealing all now? Oh, I forgot, I opened this piece by saying “A flurry of trials and litigations are going through the Malaysian courts, reminiscent of days gone by when court decisions spelled doom and the end of the political careers of those who walk through the corridors of power.” Well, that is the key to the whole issue.

There are five ongoing court cases -- okay, six if you include mine where I am being sued for RM85 million by a very unhappy Malaysia Today reader -- and these court cases will be the trigger that will bring change to Malaysia’s political landscape. That will be when Dr Mahathir plays his final hand and prove that he had everything under control ever since he first made his move on Tunku Abdul Rahman in 1967. Yes, 40 years, that is how long Dr Mahathir has been playing the political game. And he never lost the plot all along. Ku Li thought he did in 1987. Anwar thought he did in 1997. Daim thought he did in 1999. But Dr Mahathir outlived and outlasted them all. But is this Dr Mahathir’s endgame or the end of Dr Mahathir’s game? Is this Dr Mahathir’s final curtain or has he still a life or two up his sleeve unused? Well, you be the judge come 2008. I will stop here for the meantime and allow some things to remain unsaid. After all, why would I want to reveal what Dr Mahathir is up to and spoil the plot?

From Malaysia Today's Corridors of Power

Haji Yusof Rawa (1921-2000): A Political Assessment

Artikel di bawah ialah satu eulogi (eulogy) – madah pujian sesudah mati – oleh MGG Pillai akan Haji Yusof Rawa, Presiden PAS. Artikel asal boleh dibaca di sini.

Haji Yusof Rawa, who died two weeks short of his 79 birthday on 29 April 00, is a more important man in Malaysia's political development than his proforma obituaries in mainstream newspapers. Politics in Malaysia these days is a choice between the secular Islam of UMNO and the theocratic Islam of PAS. That was not, until the internal fissure within PAS, which led to the decidedly Islamicized political party, framing its political ideology within the framework of Islam. It was an important divide. Haji Yusof was the president of this revitalised PAS, and his quiet leadership strengthened its religious outlook and reduced, at least for now, the larger political worldview of a Melayu Raya sidestepped, but not forgotten. Malay, and therefore Malaysian, political overview is framed in this larger archipelagaic view of a unified Malay state of the Malay speaking peoples, the dream of the Indonesian nationalists, and articulated by President Sukarno as early as in 1927 when he was on trial in Bandung for his nationalist activities. It is not without reason that Singapore, UMNO and PAS were variations of the "Merah Putih" flag that Indonesia adopted. The white-moon-on-the-green-background is a latter day adaption, in the fratricidal ideological squabble that led to Haji Yusof Rawa as PAS president.

PAS was formed, interestingly enough, at the house of Dato' Ahmad Badawi, the father of the deputy prime minister, in Kepala Batas, when the UMNO Bureau of Religious Affairs walked out of UMNO in sympathy withthe then UMNO president, Dato' Onn bin Jaffar. The then head, Haji Ahmad Fuad, strongly supported Dato' Onn and wanted the Bureau to join him in Dato' Onn's new political party, the Independence of Malaya Party (IMP), but others disagreed. The meeting decided to go it alone, especially after Dr Burhanuddin al-Helmy, the intellectual collosus outside UMNO, and the Hamim political party, which preceded both UMNO and PAS, of Haji Abu Bakar Baqir from the Gunong Semanggul pondok, with their larger worldview of a Melayu Raya, decided to be associated with PAS. Dr Burhanuddin became PAS's third president in 1956, and it was from then on that its supranational policies were firmly put in place. Its orientation at the time was supranational, Malaya at the time remained a British protectorate. The beginnings of the political conflict between the two begam with this different perception of Malaya's future, UMNO, encouraged by the British, decidedly nationalistic, and PAS, or PMIP (Pan Malayan Islamic Party) as it was then known. When PMIP won Kelantan and Trengganu in the 1959 general elections (it lost Trengganu two years later), UMNO, then head of the three-party coalition called the Alliance, became ultranationalistic in its policies, which Indonesia's confrontation of the newly formed Malaysia gave it free rein.

The realities of UMNO, more than Alliance, politics led to the formation of the National Front on January 1973. The 1969 General Election and the racial riot was as much an uncertainty for UMNO, with PMIP gaining ground and the Chinese hold on Penang lost to the Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia, that the National Front coalition could, with hope, repair. But not without PMIP. The UMNO Malay ground would not have allowed a non-Malay strengthening in the governing coalition. But UMNO from the start set about destroying PMIP from within, culminating in the rioting that led to the overthrow of the PMIP administration in Kelantan. Haji Yusof Rawa, who had joined PMIP in 1951, had gained internal fame when he defeated one Dr Mahathir bin Mohamed, was appointed a deputy minister in the National Front government. To call him "Giant Killer", as PMIP did, is disingenious: The Prime Minister was a virtual unknown when Haji Yusof Rawa defeated him; it was his defiance, after the riots, of the then prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, that brought him into the eye and propelled his political future. But Yusof Rawa was high enough in the PMIP councils to be made deputy minister and in 1975 was appointed Malaysian ambassador to Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan. He left when PMIP left the National front in 1978.

PMIP was forced out of the National Front after UMNO openly moved to destroy its political base in Kelantan. The religious group in the party mounted a challenged that led in 1982 to the departure or isolation of the leaders, like Dato' Asri Muda, who believed in a supranational role for the Malays of Malaya. Haji Rawa was brought in as president in 1983 and for five years, during the cataclysmal breach in UMNO that continues to unsettle it to this day, and laid the foundations for a theocratical political base, with the Islamic wing firmly in control. The PMIP, now known by its Arabic initials, PAS, took on a decidedly religious tone, one which UMNO and the National Front used with good effect as a bogey that drove the non-Malays into the National Front ranks. But over the years, the PAS outlook, still defined by Islam, has undergone a massive shift, barely perceptible in the public eye. UMNO's frailities, especially since the presidency of the Prime Minister, and its dominant overview that only the leaders already elected have the right to rule, coupled with the impact of higher education within the Malays, and PAS's persistent spread of the world, attracted a large number of professional Malays into its ranks.

Haji Yusof Rawa's role in all this, although he had left the PAS presidency 12 years ago, is crucial. He was the father figure the PAS Islamicists had, but his role went beyond that of a figurehead. PAS leaders told me, when I asked them about his leadership years ago for an article I was writing then, that he provided the solidity that enabled the party to develop into what it is today. His background would have prepared him for that -- after his Junior Cambridge Examination at the Penang Free School, he underwent Islamic studies for a decade in the Middle East -- but he returned a business man, stayed out of politics until he joined PMIP formed out the UMNO Bureau of Religious Affairs.

PAS's strength these days is not in its promise of a theocratic state in which Islam rules. But, as UMNO finds out, a political party cannot run too far away from its constituency. The secular Islam of UMNO is now fine-tuned by a decidedly practical theocratic decisions, as if to suggest to the Malays that secular or not, Islam would be applied in its theocratic frame. PAS, on the other hand, finds that to attract non-Malays and non-Moslems frightened of its theocratic agenda, becomes openly considerate of non-Muslims and non-Malays in its political agenda. So, the secular Islamic UMNO forbids the building of a Catholic church in Shah Alam, while the PAS administration in Kelantan is upset that a Catholic church is run down, and exhorts the Catholic Church to repair, promising aid if needed.

In this respect, Haji Yusof Rawa is a protagonist in that struggle between its theocractic impulses and its supranational worldview. Not an intellectual, his views, though not pronounced in the 1970s, when I would talk to him about it, was clearly with the theocratic model that PAS adopted in 1983. In this, he had a more important role than he is credited with. His stewardship at the time ensured also that PAS as a political party would exist; the fratricidal quarrels within PMIP after its expulsion from the National Front would have destroyed its raison d'etre had it not been for saner figures, on both sides of the political divide, to keep it together. But the split could not have happened at a better time for PAS. The education system was by the early 1980s wholly Malay, a post-May 13 act by the then federal education minister and later chief minister and Yang Dipertua Negeri of Sarawak, Tun Abdul Rahman Yaakob. It was he, without cabinet approval, announced the change over of the language of instruction in schools to Malay. That ensured the Malay looking beyond UMNO for their political future. PAS built on that. And came into the Malaysian worldview as the party that challenges the UMNO worldview. Without a man like Haji Yusof Rawa at the helm at a critical epoch in its history, that would have been doubly difficult.

M.G.G. Pillai

Sunday, 26 November 2006

Dadah dan Otak

Video ini adalah iklan anti-dadah paling popular digunakan dalam dekad 90han. Ia ditaja oleh sebuah badan bukan kerajaan Partnership for Drug-Free America. Dialog ringkas iklan ini bermaksud.

In dadah.

Ini otak kamu bila kena dadah.

Ada apa-apa soalan?

Amati bahawa ketepatan mesej iklan ini adalah sejagat.

Saturday, 25 November 2006

Percaturan Ekonomi Di Zaman Tun Dr Mahathir: Bahagian 4 (Akhir)

Daim steps in for the clean-up ...
Years later, Daim Zainuddin, Dr. M's longtime friend and confidante, was surprisingly frank in discussing and criticizing the Maminco affair. First as an adviser and later as Finance Minister, Daim had been given the onerous task by Mahathir of trying to sort out the financial mess left in the failed scheme's wake.

Quoted by Malaysian authors Cheong Mei Sui and Adibah Amin in "Daim: The Man Behind the Enigma," Daim said:

"Little did I realize that it was not the end of our tin problem. When I became Finance Minister, I had to handle the loss of millions of ringgit in the Maminco tin fiasco. The lesson to be learnt is that a producer must never also be a purchaser. It would not work. Never try to corner the market. The role of the producer is to produce. Let others market."

The remark, though certainly true, is typical of Daim. He often cynically casts aspersions on others' foolish investment misadventures, while glossing over his own colossal flops. For while Dr. M and Daim were mopping up after the Carrian and tin fiascoes, Daim was barreling into yet another market mishap, which came to be known as the Makuwasa affair and was directly linked to the Maminco failure.

Mounting economic and political uncertainty had been taking its toll on Dr. M's administration in 1985-86. UMNO opponents were plotting to oust him and his cronies. And the lengthening array of scandals was fueling the opposition's efforts to drum up public outrage against Mahathir and Daim.

Daim's patented answer whenever such troubles are afoot is to artificially boost the market, hoping that a rally on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange will lull the public back into complacency and forgiveness. Sound familiar? That's precisely why Dr. M brought Daim back from retirement to replace his sacked deputy and political rival, Anwar Ibrahim, as Finance Minister.

... which only makes more of a mess
Malaysian fund managers and executives from a number of government-owned institutions, including the Employee Provident Fund (EPF), were summoned by Daim in mid-1985 and told that Dr. M had decided to pump prime the market through a secret RM150 million "common fund." Appointed to administer the fund were three Mahathir-Daim cronies, Thong Yaw Hong, former secretary-general of the Treasury; Basir Ismail, the newly appointed chairman of the just-rescued Bank Bumiputra; and Chan Chin Cheung, acting general manger of Bank Simpanan.

The market-manipulating strategy proved an utter failure. Any hope of success was fatally bludgeoned after the November 1985 collapse of Singapore-based Pan-Electric Industries, which sent the Singapore and Kuala Lumpur exchanges into a tailspin and the economies of both countries into a recession.

The market crash also proved fatal to another Daim operation running in parallel to the common-fund scheme. That was Makuwasa Securities Sdn. Bhd., a two-ringgit company set up in mid-1984 to acquire 70 percent of the EPF's allotment of newly issued public shares. Effectively, Makuwasa was dipping into the retirement savings of all Malaysians to make quick profits. Makuwasa acquired those shares from the EPF at par value, which was considerably lower than the prevailing market price and normally would have guaranteed instant profits from the sale of these shares into a buoyant market environment. But these were not normal times.

Makuwasa, too, was financially trounced by the plummeting market. In September of 1986, Dr. M publicly admitted that Makuwasa was created to recoup the government's losses from the Maminco debacle and to repay its loans to Bank Bumiputra.

Past becomes prologue
As noted in the prologue to this new freeMalaysia series on Mahathir's impetuous schemes and their aftermath, this account of the Maminco and Makuwasa scandals is only the first of many during Dr. M's reign. The only thing that has spared Malaysia recently from similar recklessness and flights of fancy has been the Asian financial crisis.

These days, we hard-pressed Malaysians might not perceive the crisis as a blessing. Someday, however, we might – especially if Mahathir is forced to delay his megalomaniacal agenda long enough so that it disappears with the fading away of his regime. For if he recovers from this crisis, so will his scheming be revived. If that's the case, freeMalaysia shudders to think of what he then will concoct for the country in the remaining years of his administration.

Source: FreeMalaysia

Saturday, April 23, 2005 3:13:55 PM

Siri akhir Percaturan Ekonomi Di Zaman Tun Dr Mahathir.

Percaturan Ekonomi Di Zaman Tun Dr Mahathir: Bahagian 3

Maminco is born
There also was an ideological twist to Dr. M's cornering gambit, one that had long shaped his vision of the world and would reappear in other manifestations throughout his reign. In the case of tin, Mahathir maintained that the industrialized nations of the world have persistently victimized the commodity-producing Third World by under-pricing raw and semi-finished goods, while maintaining a hefty profit margin for their finished products. It was after the ITC rejected the tin-producing nations latest demand in July 1981 for higher prices that Dr. M launched his secret effort to corner the market.

Anticipating the rejection, Dr. M instructed MMC to incorporate a Malaysian subsidiary, Maminco Sdn. Bhd., to conduct trading operations. Corporate records indicated at the time that the company's total paid-up capital amounted to the equivalent of 76 US cents, while its authorized capital initially was set at US$76 million. The paucity of cash, however, presented no problem. Bank Bumiputra was ordered to provide all the necessary financing.

For the next five months, Maminco gobbled up tin futures contracts on the London Metal Exchange, sharply driving up their prices. The company also bought physical tin in its home spot market. Dr. M was ecstatic; his risky maneuver was playing out as planned. Despite continued weak demand for tin, the producing nations were getting nearly 7 per cent more for their tin than they were before the Malaysian cornering exercise had begun, and the price of tin on the London exchange shot up to nearly US$7.50 a pound from $4.33. But the good times couldn't last long, as Dr. M should have known from the dismal history of past cornering conspiracies.

Rising tin prices naturally encouraged other producing nations to step up the pace of their own mining. Moreover, U.S. President Ronald Reagan's administration – in an effort to take advantage of the rising price and to help finance its own proposed steep tax cuts – announced that it would begin to sell portions of its own 200,000-ton strategic stockpile. These two factors eventually prompted London metal traders to undermine Malaysia's market-manipulating efforts by betting that tin prices would fall and not rise, as Dr. M had planned.

The plan gets out of hand

Up to this point, Dr. M's cornering scheme was only in mid-phase. It was intended to be, at least at this early stage, more of a price-support skirmish with consumers, rather than an out-and-out war against global metal traders and industrial buyers. But in a characteristically rash and bull-headed decision – one that should have tipped off the world's currency traders in 1997-98 about what to expect from Mahathir – the prime minister issued the battle cry by buying existing tin stocks ... FOR CASH. His earlier price-support tactic was based primarily on buying futures contracts, which cost a fraction of the actual price of physical tin and don't require the contract holder to actually buy the tin when the contract expires.

The only way that Dr. M's countermove could have worked in his favor was if he managed to financially shoulder his price support scheme long enough to either force traders to accept physical delivery of the tin at the higher price at the end of the contract or to push them into costly and embarrassing contract defaults. Mahathir's strategy placed Bank Bumiputra under sharply increased risk and financial strain. The institution was ordered to fully finance Maminco's tin buying, to bear the company's interest and carrying costs, and to cover its insurance expenses. The AWSJ reported that at the peak of Malaysia's cornering attempt, Bank Bumiputra and others had shoveled out US$570 million in various forms of credit.

Having amassed as much as 50,000 tons of tin, Dr. M planned to hold much of it in reserve. Though that in itself can be quite expensive, Mahathir had hoped to sell off batches of the mineral to cover the carrying costs – purchase price plus interest on loans plus storage plus insurance – of his operation. Here's when his understanding of economic fundamentals proved to be hopelessly unrealistic.

Economically pressed producers in other parts of the world, none of whom were clued in on the cornering effort or cajoled into joining, continued to churn our more tin to take advantage of the considerably more lucrative market. Thus, Malaysia would have had to acquire increasing amounts of tin on the spot market to support the world price of the mineral as supply mounted against still low demand.

More of those interfering foreigners
The London exchange made a hasty and controversial decision, which in hindsight probably saved Dr. M from committing Malaysia to the basket-case status of many Latin American countries of that decade. The exchange's officials, alarmed by the potential financial collapse of some of its biggest members who couldn't possibly cover the costs of their maturing tin contracts without wiping out their capital, gave those members an escape route. The exchange ruled that those who couldn't comply with the terms of their expired contracts could instead pay a per-ton modest fine for every day that a contract remained unfulfilled. This meant that those traders who sold tin contracts in the anticipation of falling prices, or shorted tin, were no longer obliged to buy physical tin on the Malaysian-controlled market at a hefty premium to cover their contracts.

Dr. M was obviously outraged, though at the time he couldn't vent his anger publicly. Malaysia had never admitted that it was the mystery buyer of the world's tin stockpiles. But the market knew better. Four years later, Dr. M finally fessed up, just before Malaysia's political opposition leader intended to air his findings in Parliament. And characteristically, he blamed "massive cheating in the London Metal Exchange" for killing the cornering scheme, which he said was intended to save the beleaguered tin industry.

Perhaps, but not likely. Sooner or later, Malaysia's financial resources would have been stretched to a breaking point, as the country shelled out more and more funds to acquire the rising tin production that was coming onto the market. This bind, ultimately, is what undermines most cornering operations. And even in the unlikely prospect that Dr. M's gamble succeeded, it easily could have crushed the London exchange, thus killing off the world's existing, relatively efficient and workable metal trading mechanism.

If you can't trust your co-conspirators ...
There also was another factor Dr. M hadn't taken into his calculations: the disreputable tin trader, David Zaidner. He was piggybacking onto Maminco's buys. The more tin Malaysia bought, the more he bought, taking advantage of the sharp price increases for his personal trading account.

Echoing Zaidner's earlier misadventure at Amalgamated Metals, Marc Rich executives became suspicious of his activity and decided to have a look at their trader's books. Alarmed by the magnitude of the company's exposure, the executives shut down Zainder's operations and immediately began dumping its tin holdings. By early March 1982, world tin prices had collapsed by more than 22 per cent. The trader was sacked. Dr. M's attempt to corner the market had crumbled. And by 1985, tin prices slumped to records lows.

Estimates of Malaysia's trading losses over this period range from US$80 million to as high as US$190 million. Dr. M's government has never cited an exact figure. To disguise the losses and to repay Bank Bumiputra, the government transferred corresponding sums to the country's then-ballooning budget deficit at the end of 1984.

… bersambung di Bahagian 4

Percaturan Ekonomi Di Zaman Tun Dr Mahathir: Bahagian 2

BMF - the first big scandal
Dr. M called the episode a "heinous crime." But still he feverishly worked the formidable levers of power to prevent the full disclosure of the bank's dealings with George Tan's Carrian Group and other Hong Kong borrowers, who had promised rich financial returns for Dr. M's political machine and for his United Malays National Organization in return for the property-development loans. Dozens of Bank Bumiputra executives and UMNO officials were instrumental in illegally and imprudently channeling the funds to Hong Kong, and yet not a single one of them was ever charged in Malaysia for the various misdeeds.

If they had been charged and tried, Dr. M's ambitious industrialization and development plans probably never would have gotten off the ground. Indeed, his young administration might not have survived the next mid-1980s general election. But he seized upon a plan to make the sordid Carrian saga go away and to recoup all the lost funds. And with a little luck, it would come together before the Malaysian public even got wind of the bank's loan losses. But it was not to be. The losses eventually caught up with the bank, wiping out its capital and reserves and ushering in a rescue takeover by Petronas, the national oil company, in the institution's first of four government bailouts over the last two decades.

Actually, the plan wasn't Dr. M's. But the moment he heard of the scheme, he embraced it as if it were his own. In his desperate straits, it must have seemed the providential answer to resolving the first serious scandal of his young administration.

The plan, devised by Egyptian tin trader David Zaidner, was a blueprint to corner the world's tin market. No small feat, but then Mahathir was never one to concentrate on the attainable when the grandiose was available.

Zaidner, then working for Swiss-based Marc Rich & Co., first presented the scheme in 1980 to a few well-connected Indonesian officials, according to a story six years later by Raphael Pura in The Asian Wall Street Journal and to a 1985 book by A. Craig Copetas, "Metal Man: Marc Rich and the 10 Billion-Dollar Scam."

Not all were so gullible
The Indonesians, however, told him to take a hike. They had been tipped off by tin industry officials that Zaidner had been implicated in a 1975 scandal. Suspicious executives at Amalgamated Metals Corp., Zaidner's then employer, raided the trader's office and found a number of irregularities, including evidence that Zaidner may have bribed an Indonesian working as the buffer-stock manager at the International Tin Council (ITC). He was fired. But three years later, he was hired by Marc Rich. Both companies were based in Switzerland.

From Jakarta, Zaidner headed for Kuala Lumpur, where he got a considerably warmer reception from executives at government-owned Malaysian Mining Corp. By the end of 1980, MMC appointed Marc Rich its tin-trading agent. And before long, Malaysia's secret market-cornering operations were in full swing.

The plan consisted largely of clandestinely buying huge amounts of tin futures and tin on the world market through Zaidner and Marc Rich. Those purchases, coupled with Malaysia's own tin reserves and its position as the then world's leading producer and exporter, gave the cornering scheme a reasonable prospect of success in boosting prices by shrinking supply. Or so it seemed to Dr. M and his appointees at MMC.

At the time the operation was launched in July of 1981, the accepted rationale among Malaysians in the know was to boost global tin prices. Between March of 1980 and mid-1981, the tin price had slumped to US$4.33 a pound from US$8.65 and had been widely expected to fall further because of weak demand. For Malaysia's budget planners, already grappling with how to fund Dr. M's unrealistically expansive industrialization agenda, sagging tin prices meant years of yawning deficits and tight financial times.

Months after the cornering scheme was launched, its success took on even greater urgency, with signs that massive loan troubles were afoot at Bank Bumiputra's Hong Kong subsidiary. For Bank Bumiputra was secretly financing the huge tin-stockpiling scheme on behalf of the government.

... bersambung di Bahagian 3