MP SPEAKS | I could see it in his eyes. He was hurt by the betrayal. At 95, I thought he would have seen his fair share of betrayals and would not have been as affected. Yet, although he tried his best to hide it, I could see he was in pain. He sat upright, as usual, no slumping or fidgeting and although I sensed his heart was aching, his face, no, his very demeanour was of a man on a mission.
Sensing perhaps my thoughts on how he was hurting, he quickly asked, "Why did you not come the other day, with the other Amanah leaders?" Yes, there was a visit by the Amanah top five two days before and I was not with them. He must have missed me.
I smiled, slowly turned to look away and quickly replied, "They did not invite me along!" He smirked a bit and expressed surprise. While putting down the folder he held in his hand he asked, "And why not? Are you not one of their top leaders?"
Yet again, I smiled, sensing the opportunity to crack a joke and make this old man laugh. And so this time, while looking straight at his face, I said, "Well, I suspect they thought you might not want to see me" and I laughed while managing to get only a snigger from him. "And why would that be?" he asked, knowing full well, I suspect, that I was reported to have made some remarks which he might not have been too happy with a few days before that.
"Oh, as you know Tun, I speak too often and say too much. And not being reported correctly at that! I was reported to have asked for you to step down, two days after you stepped down!"
And we laughed at the ludicrousness of such a report.
It was Thursday, March 12, 11.05am at Tun's office in Yayasan Kepimpinan Perdana, Putrajaya. I had made an appointment to see him as I was scheduled to give a talk on FB Live at the invitation of Kelab Inspirasiku Mahathir at 9pm that night. I wanted to be clear about some of his views, just in case the moderator asked me about what I thought of him as a person and as a leader. I wanted to try to understand the man.
I went with Azli, my ex-political secretary and the current Shah Alam Amanah branch head. Azli has been the head since 2015 and the head of Shah Alam PAS before that in 2013. All in all, we spent more than 30 minutes with Tun. Just the three of us with Azli keeping quiet most of the time. It was more a one-on-one session, a no-holds barred questioning time with me asking the kind of questions I believed many would have avoided. It was frank, but not brutal.
When we first went into his room, hands outstretched giving our salaams, he replied the salaams but quickly made the namaste gesture with his hands. We quickly did the same, acknowledging the truth in his words, "This coronavirus issue is a serious matter". And so we sat across the table from him, his table as always being full of letters and folders.
After the short exchange as reported above, I started with my questions. Many were asked but I will not reveal them all now. What I will relay is my last question which I put to him, which was "And what do you wish to do now, Tun?" Tun replied that he wants to get back his party, Bersatu which he felt was taken away from him through deceit and treachery.
"And what do you want to do after winning it back, Tun?" I asked, sensing his single-mindedness and seriousness in undertaking this effort. "Do you wish then for Bersatu to remain in PN (Perikatan Nasional) or for it to rejoin Pakatan Harapan?"
He paused for a minute, perhaps thinking that the answer should have been obvious to me and after taking a deep breath, Tun replied, "Back to Harapan".
Yes, I thought to myself, obviously. For his fight, although at such an advanced stage in his life, is to form a new and clean corruption-free Malay political party to replace Umno. To Tun, Umno is a gone case, having been corrupted beyond repair by Najib Razak and his “Cash is King” philosophy. Bersatu was to be a new platform which would accept only the clean leaders from Umno, leaving the corrupt ones to rot with Umno. But to do that, Bersatu must be with the ruling coalition while Umno was left with the opposition. And everything was going as planned, until Muhyiddin, at the beckoning of Azmin, left Harapan and together with Umno and PAS formed PN!
That was why Tun had said, when asked earlier, that Muhyiddin had betrayed not him, but the struggle of the party. For the party was formed with this precise objective and by taking it out of Harapan and forming a PN government with Umno, the struggle was lost. With Umno in the ruling coalition, with more seats than Bersatu, what reason would the Umno leaders have to leave Umno and join Bersatu? It would only be logical that after a short period of time the reverse would occur. After all, they were in the same coalition, what reason would they have to leave Umno?
Tun had already warned Muhyiddin that the Umno leaders will initially agree to all his conditions for the formation of the PN government but once Muhyiddin brings Bersatu out of Harapan, he would be at their mercy! Clearly Tun's prediction has been proven right. Even now, the PN government has been reduced to a coalition, not of political parties but of individual MPs! This means the political parties hold no allegiance to Muhyiddin and as easily and quickly as they came to him, as easily and as quickly, too, the MPs can leave him. No ties, no bonds, but an extra loose coalition of individuals.
Muhyiddin is being made use of. Not only by Najib and his gang of bandits but more so by Azmin. The man who I believe, will do anything to move out of Anwar's shadow and be Prime Minister. Tun realised this and refused to be anyone's stepping stone. Muhyiddin, unfortunately, is not as intelligent or perhaps thought his last hurrah would be as the prime minister of Malaysia and that was more important than the struggle of the party. Yes, perhaps Muhyiddin is not naive or silly, as many think, but simply ambitious instead.
However, be it as it may, his ambition has clouded his thinking. It is obvious he doesn't understand Tun and Tun's seriousness in leaving a political legacy the rakyat can be proud of. Which is a clean and corruption-free Malay political party to replace Umno. That is why Muhyiddin's apology will fall on deaf ears. It is not Tun that you have wronged, Muhyiddin, it is his struggle and sense of purpose. It is what drives him this past few years. You are turning it to dust!
The upcoming 15th general elections will also further put Bersatu in a very disadvantageous position. It will have to negotiate for seats with both Umno and PAS. While both parties have a long history and are well established in all the Malay-majority seats, Bersatu is new. And with no special appeal, the Malay electorate will begin to see its glaring lack of depth in leadership and its ideological similarities with Umno. Its very justification for existence would be questioned.
At the end of the session, I believe I understood Tun's way of thinking. The need for him to regain his party for his objective to be achieved became increasingly clear. However, I could not help but wonder, how many in Bersatu share his vision of a new and clean, corruption-free Malay political party. And how many would be willing to go all the way, like him.
I looked at my watch and it said 11.45am. I remembered the person waiting outside to see Tun, scheduled for an 11.30am meeting. I decided it was time to go. We stood up to say our goodbyes and took a photo as a memento of the meeting and the frank exchanges which occurred. Turning to move away, I then took the opportunity to say to Tun, "Thank you Tun for having appointed me as a minister in your cabinet. Although it was for a short period, I had the opportunity to interact with you and get to know you from a completely different perspective".
He then looked at me, thinking my statement as words of a final parting, and said, "It is not over yet" and smiled. I suppose we will be meeting again and if this 95-year-old is game for taking on PN, then how can I not?
KHALID SAMAD is MP for Shah Alam and Amanah communications director.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.