Dr Mahathir's resigning from Malaysia's United Malays National Organisation on May 19 is another attempt to force Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi's hand. As political commentator Raja Petra Kamarudin, editor of Malaysia-Today, says: "A political realignment is necessary for Umno's and Barisan Nasional's survival. Whatever configuration they are going to decide on will have to be decided fast. If they dilly-dally it may no longer matter what they do."


In 1988, Umno was split into two. From the ashes of the old Umno, a party created on 11 May 1946, emerged two new parties, Umno (Baru) and Semangat 46. A few days ago, on 11 May 2008, Umno celebrated its 20th Anniversary. The backdrop in the main hall of the PWTC, however, said that Umno was celebrating its 62nd Anniversary. That is the trouble when you switch to teaching Maths in Bahasa Malaysia. The Umno people no longer know how to count properly.

We can forgive them if they missed the date by one or two years. But 20 and 62 is a very wide miss indeed. Let me repeat that. On 11 May 2008, Umno celebrated its 20th Anniversary, not its 62nd Anniversary, never mind what the backdrop said. Let us not get confused between the figure 20 and the figure 62. Rahim Tambi Chik can be forgiven for thinking that an underage girl is actually 18 judging by the size of her boobs, as what he claimed. After all, 18 and 15 is not much difference when using boob sizes as the yardstick. But to mistake an underage girl for a woman of 62 would not be accepted as a valid excuse, whatever the size of her boobs may be. 62 would certainly be too far off the mark and Umno too can't be forgiven for celebrating its 62nd Anniversary when the party is only 20 years old.

The Umno Secretary-General is the main man behind Umno's '62nd' Anniversary celebration. And the whole thing was staged to take everyone's mind off the third Umno split looming over the horizon. 1988 was the first major catastrophe when the old Umno closed down and in its place emerged two new parties. 1998 saw yet another spilt when Anwar Ibrahim was kicked out and sent to jail and the birth of Parti Keadilan Nasional managed to finally unite the opposition into a coalition called Barisan Alternatif. Is it any coincidence that after the 1988 and 1998 splits we are going to see the third split in 2008?

Yes, Umno seems to suffer splits every ten years. And there is no reason to believe that after the 1988 and 1998 splits we shall not see another one this year, 2008. And the Umno Secretary-General's wayang of organising a 20th Anniversary celebration disguised as a 62nd Anniversary celebration is not going to prevent the coming split that will happen any time now.

They say a drowning man goes down three times before he goes down for good. If you want to save a drowning man you have to save him when he surfaces the first or second time. If you allow him to go down the third he will never surface for the fourth time. The Chinese say that four means die and after the third time consider him dead. And will the same apply to Umno? Umno is going to go down for the third time this year. Will it be able to resurface and re-emerge for the fourth time? I doubt it. I think when Umno goes down the third time it will be for the final time.

"If Najib wants to take over he must do it before the end of May," said one Umno veteran who would rather remain anonymous. "Najib must make his move on Pak Lah by next week. If Najib waits and does not do it next week he might as well just forget it because most likely by June Umno will be out of power anyway."

This Umno veteran appears quite confident in what he is saying. He drops a few names of well-known and powerful Umno warlords to demonstrate that he procures his information from those who walk in the corridors of power. "Incidentally," he told me, "Rosmah has asked me to speak to you to see whether I can persuade you to remove your latest article from your website."

"What did you tell her?" I asked him.

"I told Rosmah that I don't know you that well," he replied, laughing.

"What if I don't remove it?" I asked.

"Then be prepared for another police report against you. You prepared for that?"

I began to suspect that my lunch meeting with this Umno warlord was more than just to exchange notes on the ongoing power struggle in Umno. He also wanted to see whether he can kowtim me [Ed: Cantonese slang meaning 'to take care of business'], and the issue is my latest article concerning Rosmah phoning the Sultan and scolding him about my article linking her and Najib to the Altantuya murder.

"Even Tengku Adnan is in trouble," the Umno warlord added. "They want to get Mahathir so they are gunning for Tengku Adnan. Imagine Umno's Secretary-General is also not safe. They don't mind sacrificing Tengku Adnan just to get the old man. You think they won't go all out to get you also?"

I was not sure whether this was friendly advice from a good friend who is concerned about my safety or whether this was a veiled threat delivered on behalf of the Deputy Prime Minister and his wife who would like to become 'First Lady' the soonest possible.

If Najib wants to take over he must do it before the end of May," said one Umno veteran who would rather remain anonymous. "Najib must make his move on Pak Lah by next week. If Najib waits and does not do it next week he might as well just forget it because most likely by June Umno will be out of power anyway.

I could see that the front-page news today was a bit odd. The Conference of Rulers had yet to make a decision on the Royal Commission of Enquiry report on the Lingam Tapes while the Cabinet had not even seen the report yet. How can the mainstream newspapers pre-empt what the Conference of Rulers or Cabinet is going to propose? This is definitely a breach of the Official Secrets Act if ever I did see one. In their zeal to bring down Mahathir, plus Tengku Adnan in the same process, they are breaking every rule in the book.

Heads are going to roll on this one, as they should, but what is more of interest would be the backlash to Umno. Mahathir is still the Grand Old Man of Umno politics and there is no way you can make a move on Mahathir without something backfiring. This just makes it even more important that Mahathir pushes for Pak Lah's downfall the soonest possible. The fact that the mainstream newspapers come under the control of Pak Lah's Tingkat Empat makes it very difficult for the Prime Minister to deny that he or his boys are behind this.

It is clear that there is a move to undermine Pak Lah. The events over the last two weeks are a clear indication. The goings-on in Parliament are proof that the Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament are in revolt. But the revolt reveals, thus far, that only the East Malaysian and non-Umno Members or Parliament, the Speaker included, are throwing a spanner in the works. The Umno boys have not made their move yet.

And this is where it begins to get even more interesting. The warlords who will decide the outcome of the impending vote of no confidence against Pak Lah are Mahathir, Najib, Muhyiddin and Tengku Razaleigh. Individually they can't dent Pak Lah too much. But if they all unite against Pak Lah then that will be another matter altogether. Can they, however, unite? And, if they can, what role will Anwar or Pakatan Rakyat play in this whole thing?

This is just like Afghanistan in the early days of the Russian invasion. No one really gained much ground until the many Taliban units united into a credible and formidable fighting force. Then, in no time at all, the Russians were sent back to Moscow and this triggered the beginning of the end for the USSR, which no longer exists today.

Pak Lah, Mahathir, Najib, Muhyiddin and Tengku Razaleigh, as separate fighting units, can't do much harm. At best it will create a stalemate. And if they all fight against one other, then Pakatan Rakyat will become the beneficiary. Only when the many camps become two will we see the real action start. And Pakatan Rakyat will eventually have to throw its support behind one or the other to help influence the outcome of the new Team A versus Team B tussle.

Anwar has very cleverly placed 43 Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament in his pocket. In fact, many wanted to contest the 8 March 2008 general election on an opposition ticket but Anwar told them to contest under Barisan Nasional where they will be assured of winning. Some were secret supporters of Parti Keadilan Rakyat who helped finance the party in its early days when it was struggling for acceptance. Anwar knew that they were more useful as Trojan Horses who can remain sleepers until they are required to wake up. And over the last week a number have 'woken up' to reveal their true 'colours' - and the colours is that of Pakatan Rakyat.

Najib has a week or so to oust Pak Lah and take over as Prime Minister. Is it a coincidence that three weeks ago Malaysia Today resurrected the Altantuya murder trial, which had already disappeared from the radar screen? If the choice is between Pak Lah and Najib, then most Malaysians will settle for Pak Lah in spite of all his shortcomings. Najib is just too much bad news to take in one lifetime.

A political realignment is in the cards. A political realignment is necessary for Umno's and Barisan Nasional's survival. But the wrong political realignment will mean that the country is headed for doom. Pakatan Rakyat has 82 Parliament seats. Barisan Nasional, in reality, has only 97. 43 are sleepers waiting for the order to wake up. These 43 will determine whether Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat leads the country.

That is only one problem though - the external factor. The second problem is of course the internal factor - the Umno split. If Tengku Razaleigh and Muhyiddin team up against Pah Lah and Najib, then it will be another checkmate. Tengku Razaleigh and Muhyiddin will be holding one gun while Pak Lah and Najib will hold the other. But it will be Tengku Adnan as the Umno Secretary-General who holds the bullets. And which side he gives the bullets to will be determined by Mahathir. And what bullets is it that Tengku Adnan has in his hands? Hey, we can't reveal everything today. Let Najib and Rosmah sweat it out awhile longer. Rosmah may want to make a police report against me for the story I just wrote about her, so let's not play all our cards just yet.

Nevertheless, whatever configuration they are going to decide on will have to be decided fast. If they dilly-dally it may no longer matter what they do. By then they may be fighting not for the post of Prime Minister of Malaysia but for the post of Opposition Leader in Parliament. Hmm... I wonder whether I will be able to see my sedition case go to trial in October? Well, we can never tell can we?

Note: The above article was posted on www.malaysia-today.net (Your source of independent news). Raja Petra Kamarudin started the Malaysia Today website and his blog to facilitate open discussion on Malaysia's political and social scenes. A relative of a former Malaysian King from Selangor and known for his hard-hitting commentaries, which are often infused with humour, Raja Petra is also the author of When Time Stood Still and From Prince To Prisoner.

Other articles by Raja Petra:

The 'Hush' On Peace Hill
Umno's Really Losing The Plot
Running Dog Running Scared
Magic, Sheer Magic
Ku Li or Anwar? The Race Is On
The Countdown Begins
Between Reality And Perception
The Aftermath Of The 'Bloodbath'
Why We Are Voting Tomorrow
Guarding An Empty Field

For more... email mybigo@bigozine.com with the message, "Put me on your mailing list."

May 21, 2008