Ahmad Zahid Hamidi appeared to have consolidated his power after UMNO’s internal elections in March that saw the majority of his loyalists won top posts in the party. The results breathed a sight of relief to Anwar-led Unity Government, strengthening the newly glued government made of arch-rivals – Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional – before the Nov 2022 General Election.
Had Zahid’s boys lost, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) would be plunged into yet another crisis that could see the top leadership forced to leave Anwar-led Pakatan Harapan. In the worst case scenario, both party president Zahid and his deputy “Tok Mat” Mohamad Hasan could be sacked by rebels and traitors planted by opposition Perikatan Nasional.
The failure of the Opposition, Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin and PAS president Hadi Awang, to seize power through the backdoor in the UMNO elections means more skeleton in the closet will be exposed. Muhyiddin’s corruptions linked to dubious spending involving RM600 billion during his regime are just the tip of the iceberg. Hadi and his PAS Islamist party could be next on the chopping board.
Already, Muhammad Faisal Hamzah, who is the son of opposition leader Hamzah Zainudin, has been charged for cheating by producing fake invoices on the sale of subsidised cooking oil. This came after Hamzah, formerly Home Minister, threatened to expose dirty secrets of government leaders based on files in his possession, which itself is a breach of the OSA (Official Secrets Act).
Despite panics and tatters in the opposition camp, there’s still one problem with UMNO. The Malay nationalist party does not have respected leaders, let alone a charismatic president. Make no mistake – the thuggish and corrupt Zahid was the primary reason UMNO suffered its worst results in the history. The idea of him becoming the next prime minister saw millions of Malays fled to Perikatan Nasional.
Worse, Najib’s influence in the party is very much alive. The appointment of the ex-PM’s loyalists – Azalina Othman, Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki and Shahrizat Jalil – to UMNO Supreme Council, even though they had lost in the party’s election, clearly shows Zahid desperately needed all the support he can get to secure his position. Only two out of three vice presidents aligned to him had won.
It didn’t help that Zahid’s daughter Nurul Hidayah and Nooryana Najwa, daughter of Najib, were elected to the executive councils of the women’s and puteri (young women’s) wings respectively. Najib’s son, Mohd Nazifuddin Najib, was voted in as chief of the Langkawi UMNO division while another son, Mohd Nizar Najib, was elected as division vice-chief in Najib’s stronghold of Pekan, Pahang.
At the same time, Zahid has bulldozed the appointment of UMNO politicians as chairman of several government agencies. For example, Asyraf was appointed as Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA) chairman, Noraini Ahmad as Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Authority (RISDA) chairman, Jazlan Yaakub as FELCRA chairman and Shaik Hussein Mydin as PERDA chairman.
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim could only close one eye as UMNO, despite having won only 26 seats in Parliament, is the kingmaker in the new political landscape. The UMNO-led Barisan Nasional has 30 MPs, without which neither Pakatan Harapan nor Perikatan Nasional can form a government. However, UMNO has taken advantage of the situation to push for a royal pardon for incarcerated Najib.
UMNO, currently at its weakest point in history, desperately needs ex-premier Najib Razak to rejuvenate the party, at least that’s what some delusional warlords think. Zahid knew he cannot become the prime minister, not after the 15th General Election results. He does not care whether the prime minister is Najib or Anwar. He is more than happy as deputy prime minister.
While Zahid is under pressure by Najib’s loyalists in the party to push for a royal pardon, which could see the return of the crook to lead UMNO – even the country – once again, Anwar is being dragged to ensure the stability of the unity government. Najib’s selfish priority is to get out of jail. He is willing to work with anyone who can promise his freedom, including Muhyiddin.
However, the rush to grant a royal pardon could backfire spectacularly on not only Zahid and Najib, but also PM Anwar. They appear to have forgotten why even hardcore UMNO-Malay supporters had lost confidence and voted for Perikatan Nasional last November. The Malays were so disgusted with the corrupt UMNO that it was punished and lost more than half of the 54 seats it won in 2018.
To be fair, Zahid was not the only factor that saw UMNO reduced to just 26 parliamentary seats. The Malays despised Najib as much as they rejected Zahid. Otherwise, they would have voted Barisan Nasional back into power with a huge majority as that’s the only way to guarantee Najib is granted a royal pardon, and returns to power. But they did not vote for UMNO, did they?
Instead, more than 50% of Malays fled to Bersatu and PAS in droves, never mind the fake propaganda trumpeted by Perikatan Nasional as “clean and stable”. Vote buying was just part of the reason the opposition won 74 MPs. The compelling reason UMNO lost their shirt was because leaders like Najib and Zahid were extremely toxic and incredibly corrupt.
Sure, UMNO has the right to appeal to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King) to consider granting royal pardon to Najib Razak. But it creates a perception that the existence of UMNO is to save the crook right after the party’s internal election, even after grassroots had sent the message in the national polls that the party should reform or risk annihilation in the next election.
Perikatan Nasional will certainly weaponise the royal pardon to attack the unity government in the upcoming six state elections. Even if Najib Razak deserves a pardon, which he does not, he should stay in the prison for a few more years. It’s a mockery of the judicial system after the crook, who has shown no remorse after stealing billions of dollars, is pardoned after just a few months in jail.
There was confusion over the involvement of PM Anwar in the pardon process. At first, clueless PKR lawmaker Hassan Karim said UMNO’s crusade to seek a pardon for Najib will not involve the prime minister as it’s up to the King whether to grant it or not. Now, Anwar Ibrahim said he will be part of the Pardons Board panel to decide on former premier Najib’s request for a royal pardon.
Even though the King has the power to pardon, the monarch can only act after having consulted or been recommended by the Pardons Board. However, it’s the Prime Minister’s Department that prepares a report for the Pardons Board, which consists of the King, the Attorney General, Minister of Federal Territories and three other members appointed by the Malay Ruler.
And the board shall consider any written opinion from the Attorney General. Yes, effective 1994, after the Constitution was amended during Mahathir administration to clip the power of the royal house, it was no longer the King’s personal discretion to decide on the granting or refusal of a pardon. Lawmaker and lawyer Hassan Karim had no idea what he was talking about.
In essence, the King cannot pardon any subject without the “consent” of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, who has promised to crack down on corruption and reform the corrupt systems. The best part is Najib has “four more” criminal court cases, all related to 1MDB scandal. To add salt to Najib’s wound, royal pardons are only granted for criminal cases, but not bankruptcy, which he also faces.
It is also equally confusing when the prime minister claims there is no issue of conflict of interest with him being part of the Pardon’s Board. Exactly how could he say so when he could be blackmailed to prepare a report that favours Najib or risk UMNO withdrawing support for the government. It will certainly hurt the alliance between Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan.
The 10th Prime Minister, as well as UMNO, should stop insulting people’s intelligence. Anwar should also stop misleading the public with the argument that the royal pardon depends on the King as if it’s the monarch’s personal discretion to decide on the granting or refusal of a pardon for Najib. The King acts based on the advice of the Pardons Board, which includes the Prime Minister.
Anwar is trapped. If Najib receives his pardon, the Pakatan Harapan coalition which he leads will be punished by angry voters. If the crook fails to get his pardon, his angry loyalists will pressure Zahid to withdraw support for Anwar. Either way, both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan will be punished in the upcoming six state elections based on the perception that Najib is getting a royal pardon.
Even if the pardon is just a political drama, and Anwar has no plan to help Najib walks away a free man, the public perception is that the prime minister is too weak to resist UMNO’s demand. There will be a perception that for the sake of power, Anwar has a deal with UMNO to free Najib in exchange for support to lead the government. It’s hard to believe the PM will reject Najib’s request for pardon.
As much as the prime minister tries to pass the ball to the King with a narrative that the decision is solely the discretion of the monarch, his actions and statements have failed to convince the public that he will not let Najib out of jail by hook or by crook. Anwar should realize that the King, who has a great relationship with Najib, might be waiting for the right opportunity to pardon him.
Therefore, the PKR president might foolishly swallow the hook, line and sinker if he thinks he could remain neutral in the Pardon Board. King Sultan Abdullah might grant Najib his wish, arguing that he merely acts based on his interpretation of the Pardon Board’s advice. Anwar should realize that UMNO is just using Pakatan Harapan to not only stay in power, but also to prepare to dominate again.
Of course, if the premier is smart enough, he could use “proper process” as an excuse to delay the pardon for Najib. To pacify UMNO, he can always say that he isn’t rejecting any royal pardon, but based on the process, Najib has to serve his prison sentence first for a certain period of time (Anwar was rotting for 3 years after Najib sent him to jail under dubious charges of sodomy).
Then only the Pardons Board can begin its meetings because it still have to wait for reports from the prison to be prepared before it can advise the King. Without those reports, the A.G. will not be able to give his opinion. Here’s the best part – a second such petition is only allowed when a prisoner has completed 3 years from the date of conviction, and thereafter at two-year intervals.
It was already bad that Anwar had to appoint Zahid, who is facing corruption charges, as the Deputy Prime Minister. It will be disastrous if Anwar agrees to recommend a pardon for Najib, who had gone to the extent of instigating his loyalists to threaten to kill Chief Justice Tengku Maimun if she sentenced the former premier to prison. Najib is a threat to national security.
Source : Finance Twitter