MP SPEAKS | A sort of ‘coup d'etat’ has taken place in the Umno/BN government - not to topple but to protect the prime minister.
There can be no administrative or ministerial justification for the additional appointment of Umno vice president Hishammuddin Hussein as minister with special functions in the Prime Minister's Department while retaining his portfolio as defence minister, except for the political and "strategic" one of protecting Najib Razak from being ousted as the sixth prime minister of Malaysia - whether externally as a result of defeat in the forthcoming 14th general election, or from being removed internally as prime minister before the polls.
Najib has already set a record as the prime minister with the most number of ministers in the Prime Minister's Department, and Hishammuddin will be the tenth minister in the Prime Minister's Department.
But Hishammuddin will be completely different from the other nine ministers, as he will be the most powerful one.
Hishammuddin will not be like MCA deputy president Wee Ka Siong - a minister without responsibilities or power - and reduced to [doing things] like accusing me of being absent from Parliament in the afternoon on the last sitting of Dewan Rakyat, when I did not see Ka Siong in the Dewan Rakyat when I entered the chamber after lunch - but will in fact be the most powerful minister in the cabinet, the ‘de facto deputy prime minister’.
I expect Hishammuddin to take charge of the Umno/BN campaign in the run-up to the 14th general election to ensure that Umno/BN is returned to Putrajaya and Najib remains as prime minister of Malaysia.
It is a vote of no confidence on the propaganda offensive which had been launched by the Umno/BN "strategic communications" director Abdul Rahman Dahlan, marshalling Umno/BN owned and controlled mainstream media and the social media but using low-class and counter-productive demonisation campaigns against Pakatan Harapan leaders, for instance to demonise me as a devil, monster, anti-Malay, anti-Islam, a communist, a PAP stooge, what-have-you, which has seen Umno/BN losing even more credibility - to the extent that Najib has continued to sink in popularity, not just among Malaysians, but also among Malays.
This is no way for Najib to retain his PM's ship or for Umno/BN to win the 14GE, despite all the electoral gerrymandering and 1MDB skullduggery.
Losing Malay ground
But this is not Najib's sole worry.
Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad's comment in his interview with Bloomberg that the six-decade Umno rule may be finally nearing its end, that the sentiment on the ground is so strong that Najib will fall in the next general election as "everybody you talk to today, anybody at all, none have good words for the government, especially Najib", has struck a special resonance with Najib, and must have forced his hand to make the Hishammuddin appointment.
As Najib's unpopularity among the Malay voters becomes more and more evident, there will be a strengthening school of thought inside Umno that one ideal solution to ensure that Umno can be returned to power in the next general election is to change the Umno leader leading the charge in the 14th general election.
This would be more palatable for Umno diehards than teaming up with PAS, which is even thinking of a PAS-Umno federal government, with PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang as prime minister based on a PAS-Umno government with 80 PAS MPs, 40 Umno MPs and 45 MPs from Sabah and Sarawak.
Who would lead the Umno/BN charge in the 14GE if Najib withdraws or is forced to withdraw from the political scene?
The answer is quite obvious, hence the move yesterday.
LIM KIT SIANG is DAP parliamentary leader and MP for Gelang Patah.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.