pic by RAZAK GHAZALI
IF NEWS reports are to be believed, as many have read them with disbelief, a high-profile case like the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) trial would be postponed to give leave to defendant Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak to campaign in an insignificant state-level Chini by-election.
After all, the contest for his Barisan Nasional candidate has already been widely predicted to be a walk in the park, a sure win with only the majority being the subject of interest.
Regardless of how such leave was granted, scorn has been poured on it, with perceptions that Najib is yet again getting preferential treatment. Najib, however, has defended the perceived privilege, arguing that DAP secretary general Lim Guan Eng was also given leave with his case postponed for a month in the run-up to the 14th General Election (GE14), and a further month post-GE and so, his one-day leave to campaign in Chini shouldn’t be an issue.
Public opinion becomes divided — those sympathetic to Najib rallied around him, while his detractors pointed out that Chini was in no way comparable to a GE.
Such debate will go round and round and the best hope is for an authoritative legal opinion to hold sway and put an end to it.
But more of interest that should be a subject of debate for Malaysians would be what Najib had said two weeks ago over the decision not to nominate his son Mohd Nizar as the candidate for Chini, despite claiming that his son was strongly supported by the Pekan Umno division that Najib heads, while his son is the division’s Youth chief.
Claiming that he had made the call as a matter of principle and to avoid dynastic rule, Najib took a swipe at his political opponents and said: “My name is not Anwar, Mahathir nor Kit Siang, and Umno is not a party that belongs to any particular family.”
When Najib spoke of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, he was obviously referring to Anwar’s wife Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and daughter Nurul Izzah, Lim Kit Siang to his son Guan Eng and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (picture) with regards to Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir.
Interestingly, more recently, parties from Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Parti Warisan Sabah had nominated Mukhriz as a deputy prime minister (DPM) candidate for the coalition if they manage to regain the government, leading to a barrage of attacks on Dr Mahathir that he was perpetuating his legacy via his son.
Dr Mahathir had pointed out that he did not nominate his son for the candidacy and that it was proposed by leaders from the partnering parties.
He went one step further and argued that he did not allow any of his sons to take up political positions when he was the PM the first time, and that Mukhriz only started positioning himself after Dr Mahathir had retired.
A supporter from his faction in Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia vouched for this and related that such was Dr Mahathir’s opposition to any of his children holding political positions when he was in power that Mokhzani’s, Mukhriz’s elder brother, political foray was cut short because of that.
(Datuk Seri Ahmad) Zahid Hamidi, who was the Umno Youth chief in the mid-90s, appointed Mokhzani as the movement’s treasurer and when asked why, he said he wanted to build a bridge between Umno Youth and the party president (who was then Dr Mahathir).
When Dr Mahathir was informed of it, he rebuked it and said, “Since when does the movement need a bridge to reach out to the president?”
“And that was it,” the supporter said.
Mokhzani’s political career ended before it could even start. In the case of Mukhriz being nominated as DPM for Pakatan-plus, this came about after Dr Mahathir had supported the idea of Warisan chief Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Afdal being made the PM’s candidate.
Since Dr Mahathir, the most senior leader of the Bersatu faction, had withdrawn as the coalition’s PM candidate, naturally, the next most senior leader from the party will be offered. And Mukhriz is the most senior being the deputy president because the president, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, is in the other faction.
It is similar to the case when Wan Azizah was nominated as the DPM for PH for GE14 in the absence of Anwar who was in jail. If Wan Azizah had declined, it would have gone to (Datuk Seri) Mohamed Azmin (Ali) who was then the next senior leader.
Malaysia is not going to be deprived of political legacies any time soon. Najib may want to take the moral high ground, but he himself is a result of a political legacy.
Najib’s excursion into politics came about after his father Tun Abdul Razak died and Umno stalwarts who revered his father opened the door wide for him, and his career had been meteoric.
Najib’s uncle, Tun Hussein Onn, succeeded his father as PM. Hussein’s son, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin, who is Najib’s cousin, also entered the political fray after his father died.
Both of them rose in the ranks during Dr Mahathir’s rule and Dr Mahathir had publicly said on numerous occasions that he had supported Najib because he had owed his own political career to Tun (Abdul) Razak. Najib reached the pinnacle of local politics only to be ungraciously brought down due to the 1MDB infamy.
Obviously, political legacies have already been woven into the Malaysian political fabric and it is not peculiar to this nation alone, no matter what Najib chooses to say.
What matters is where, or how far, did the acorn fall from the oak.
Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.