March 2022 Vol 2 No 15

Your Editor, Jamari Mohtar, was taken aback when he saw a video clip of some Johor BN/Umno leaders dancing gleefully at the BIG victory in the Johor election, when they should be humble in victory by saying their thanks to Allah, otherwise this is like mimicking the 40 penyamuns (bandits) who would dance gleefully after their successful banditry in the P Ramlee movie Ali Baba Bujang Lapuk.

  • It started on election night when Umno and BN supporters shouted “bubar Parlimen” (dissolve Parliament) at Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob as he walked through the jubilant crowd gathered at the Johor Umno headquarters to await the official results in which BN/Umno secured a two-thirds super majority in the recently concluded Johor state election.
  • All comments on that night were like guns trained on Ismail Sabri. Johor Umno deputy chairman Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said the grassroots voices must be heard.
  • “If we looked through the campaign, both Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Perikatan Nasional (PN) repeated the same old tune of Datuk Seri Najib Razak and 1MDB, which showed that they have no other issues to attack us,” added Nur Jazlan.
  • Pasir Gudang Umno chief Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, a party supreme council member, said the ball was now in Ismail Sabri’s court on whether Parliament should be dissolved.
  • “Ismail Sabri should answer this, but let us see what happens in the coming Umno general assembly,” he added.
  • Umno is now holding its 2021 general assembly over four days from Wednesday (March 16).
  • Battle lines are clearly drawn. The court cluster is no longer limited to just those with court cases but also includes those who are “sick” with Najib being associated with the 1MDB issue and those who want the 15th General Election (GE15) to be held earlier than July.
  • This is against the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the government led by an Umno PM and the Opposition, which stipulates among other things that Parliament would not be dissolved until after July.
  • In what seems to be “birds of the same feather flock together”, special mention was made of the contribution of Datuk Seri Najib Razak in the BIG win, in the victory speech of Umno’s president, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
  • He also said it was Najib who was Umno/BN election director proper of the Johor election instead of its deputy president, Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, affectionately known as Tok Mat.
  • Zahid made no mention of Ismail Sabri in thanking BN leaders for the BIG win in Johor although the PM had rolled his sleeves and went down to the field to help in the campaigning on a number of occasions.
  • This has gotten the ire of some Umno members present. One member from Pasir Gudang, for instance, had written to the media a scathing criticism of the “unpolished” behaviour of Zahid in having no decorum in the way the PM of the country who is a Vice-President of Umno was treated. 
  • To the credit of Ismail Sabri, he took all these “snubs” in his strides and remained quiet throughout and responded only the next day with a firmness that the office of the prime minister demands. 
  • At an event in Bera, Pahang, the next day (March 13), the PM said the decision to call for GE15 would only be made by BN and not a small group of people who are “screaming” for it to be held immediately. 
  • He also said a decision would be made when BN was “fully prepared” and the government would not rush it since it needed to consider various opinions before it could call for the dissolution of Parliament. 
  • “We will make a decision after the matter has been discussed within the party (BN). We can’t decide (to hold it) just because there is a small group of people ‘screaming’ for it. 
  • “The decision has to be discussed seriously since the general election is a huge matter. There are other things that need to be looked into as well, and there are procedures.” 
  • He also said he would consider DAP’s suggestion to extend the MoU between the government and PH which expires on July 31. 
  • “What is important is that the rakyat’s interests need to be taken care of, which is why I said, it is not yet time for the general election. Let us wait,” added Ismail. 
  • Meanwhile Communications and Multimedia Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa, a member of the minister cluster, agreed the time has come to start preparing for GE15.
  • The best thing to do now was to review all relevant matters, including public sentiment, he said. 
  • “If we are really ready, I think it should be expedited. The date (for GE15) is up to the prime minister’s discretion after holding internal talks with the Umno Supreme Council,” Annuar wrote in a post on his Facebook on March 13. 
  • Commenting on the PM’s statement about GE15, Annuar said Ismail Sabri’s reaction reflected the wisdom and political maturity of a prime minister because the GE was not a small matter. What more to dissolve a ruling government with the mandate from almost all Dewan Rakyat members. 
  • He said the prime minister represented a minority party, namely 42 out of 116 coalition seats in Parliament, which has a total of 222 seats, and as such discussions within the government must be considered too. 
  • The PM’s approach is very praiseworthy because it is in line with the concept of musyawarah (consultation) that Islam holds on a high pedestal, unlike the decision of the Johor Umno not to consult its coalition partners in dissolving the state assembly. 
  • According to Annuar, the date for the dissolution of Dewan Rakyat must be a top secret of the ruling party and remain at the discretion of the prime minister, and not decided through organised pressure. 
  • Elaborating, Annuar said for GE15 to be held, it would require a top leadership that was responsible for the party’s preparedness in terms of resources, logistics, finance, organisation and strategy. 
  • He also said that BN’s victories in the Melaka and Johor polls last November and on March 12 respectively were because the party leadership knew their preparedness apart from the people’s sentiments in supporting the state government’s decisions. 
  • “At the central level, these sentiments need to be scrutinised because if something else is done other than (according to) the people’s sentiments, they will show their reactions through the ballot box,” he added. 
  • Annuar also said that the results of both state elections were also due to the support of the party headquarters, prime minister, ministers and deputy ministers, chief ministers and division heads nationwide which is unmatched by any other parties. 
  • “In the GE, this won’t happen because everyone will be busy taking care of their own areas and if the preparations, especially resources and finance, are insufficient then the whole machinery will be completely paralysed,” said Annuar. 
  • The implication of Annuar’s statement is far reaching. He is in effect saying the BIG win of BN/Umno both in the Melaka and Johor state elections is not just the victory of the court cluster, but all of Umno including the prime minister, minister cluster and the Umno grassroots. 
  • It is thus clear the looming battle within Umno has begun. What triggers this?
  • In the wake of the Sheraton Move in February 2020, which led to the fall of the PH government, Umno decided to participate in the new government of PN led by Bersatu’s Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
  • Back then, there was no question of why Umno being the bigger party should play second fiddle to the smaller Bersatu led by Muhyiddin.
  • There was even no question raised on the status of some Umno MPs who had jumped ship to become members of Bersatu.
  • The whole of Umno, especially its grassroots, was united then in the sense that there were no court and minister clusters, and all accepted the party’s participation in the PN government.
  • This participation was seen as an opportunity for Umno to be back in the government.
  • Umno also realised then public sentiment was against it leading the government because its arrogance when it was in power for 60 years and the 1MDB issue were still fresh in the minds of the people.
  • BN/Umno’s winning streak in five federal by-elections during PH time was seen as a sentiment of the people in favour of Umno to be in the government again but not leading it.
  • Moreover, the call for Malay/Muslim unity via close cooperation among Bersatu, Umno and PAS was gaining traction.
  • But the seeds of disunity among the three parties, along with cracks in Umno, were also there during this early stage of their cooperation.
  • Soon after the PN government was formed, Najib said in an interview with Reuters the fall of the PH government that ousted him meant he now expected an atmosphere more conducive to a fair hearing, and hoped to rebuild his relationship with Muhyiddin, expecting it to be “water under the bridge”.
  • By this statement, Najib has made the focus of Umno’s relationship with Bersatu and PAS to depend very much on his personal issue – the more than a dozen charges in the court cases that he was facing.
  • This has the effect of attracting Umno leaders who were similarly facing charges in their respective court cases to be on his side, paving the way for the emergence of the court cluster in Umno.
  • The battle line began to harden when Muhyiddin refused to entertain the plea of Najib and Umno president, Zahid Hamidi to intervene in their court cases.
  • Muhyiddin too apparently has a different opinion of his relationship with Najib when the latter hopes to rebuild it, expecting it to be “water under the bridge”.
  • That expression means events that were in the past (his sacking of Muhyiddin as the deputy premier for instance), and consequently no longer to be regarded as important.
  • However, to Muhyiddin, it is not a trifle matter that he was sacked for merely voicing out the 1MDB scheming on the part of Najib, as speaking out against a wrongdoing in high office is a noble thing to do.
  • It was also laudable for Muhyiddin in forming his Cabinet to put Umno stalwarts in top portfolios because they have long years of experience in running ministries.
  • This move was also to show his trust towards Umno for supporting him in working together for the unity of the ummah.
  • But unwittingly in doing so, he unintentionally created the minister cluster within Umno.
  • The court cluster then wasted no time in accusing the minister cluster of coveting their ministerial position in siding with Muhyiddin when the fact is as a minister, their first and primary duty is to be accountable to the PM who is not only the Leader of the Cabinet but also the Head of the Government.
  • All hell broke loose when in July 2020, Najib was found guilty by the High Court and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment and a RM120 million fine.
  • From then on voices instigating Umno members not to allow a bigger party to play second fiddle to a smaller party and tolerate the bully of a small party could be heard loud and clear.
  • And it seemed it is the bigger party that is bullying the smaller party in the Sabah election when Umno refused to give ground to Muhyiddin’s plea to compromise in order to avoid clashes among the members of the grand coalition Gabungan Rakyat Sabah.
  • This bullying went on when the court cluster of Umno alleged that it is BN which should be given the post of the chief minister of Sabah when it was PN which had won the greatest number of seats.
  • At the peninsula level, big brother Umno went unabated with its bully of a small party when it engineered the fall of PN state government in Perak in December 2020 with the help of PH state legislators.
  • The climax of this bully took place when the biggest bullies in Umno – Najib and Zahid – engineered the fall of the PN government in August 2021 when 15 Umno MPs allied to the court cluster (including Gua Musang’s Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah who is neither of the court nor minister cluster) out of a total 39 Umno MPs pulled out their support for the PN government led by Muhyiddin.
  • Umno then closed ranks when all its MPs (with the exception of Tengku Razaleigh) were united in nominating its vice-president Ismail Sabri as the new prime minister.
  • The government of Ismail Sabri is basically a PN government led by an Umno prime minister as PN and its allies form the bulk of support for the government of Ismail Sabri.
  • This unity in Umno for Ismail Sabri as the PM paved the way for its victory in the sudden Melaka state election in which Najib played a key role in the victory.
  • Buoyed by this victory, the talk then was Najib was tipped to be appointed as an economic advisor to the government, which was no doubt put forward by the court cluster.
  • But when this did not materialise, the court cluster continues to plan its scheming for the rehabilitation of Najib and Zahid from the predicament they are in, which led to the present looming battle taking shape.
  • Among these plans and scheming are to cause a series of state elections to take place if the demand of calling GE15 soon is ignored by Ismail Sabri in the wake of the BIG win in Johor.
  • Also thing got a bit tense which resulted in the snubs that Ismail Sabri received on election night when it was rumoured that the delay in reappointing the Attorney General (AG), Tan Sri Idrus Harun whose term ended on March 6 was due to the intense pressure by the court cluster on Ismail Sabri to appoint a new AG sympathetic to their plight.
  • Even some MPs brought the matter up in Parliament, as the delay in the reappointment is irregular and could raise many questions over the fate of the court cluster.
  • Ipoh Barat MP M Kulasegaran, for instance, after saying it is “highly irregular” and an “embarrassment” for any country to make such decision at the eleventh hour, added: “Some are wondering if the Cabinet and the prime minister are not happy with the AG because he is still prosecuting individuals in the famous court cluster.”
  • Idrus was later reappointed as the AG for a one-year period, which was an indication that Ismail Sabri refused to bow down to the dictate of the court cluster, and hence the snub he received during the election night of March 12.
  • As Johor Umno and the court cluster were jubilant a day after the BIG win of BN/Umno in the Johor election and were prepared to put pressure on PM Ismail Sabri to hold GE15 soon via the Umno General Assembly, which will end tomorrow (March 19), they were in for a rude shock when the Menteri Besar of their choice was upended with the Johor Palace swearing in a different MB on March 15.
  • Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi, the assemblyman from Machap replaces Datuk Seri Hasni Mohammad as the 19th MB of Johor.
  • This has blunted the court cluster’s attempt to go all out clamouring for GE15 to be held soon because they now have a new problem up their sleeve i.e. whether to “challenge” the Palace’s appointment of Onn Hafiz as the new MB.
  • For former Johor Bahru MP, Tan Sri Shahrir Abdul Samad, a member of the court cluster, it must have been like rotten eggs being thrown all over his face after making fun of the Opposition’s inability to name its own candidate for the MB post during campaigning, unlike BN/Umno that’s capable of doing so.
  • In particular he hit out at PN’s chairman, a fellow Johorean who he deemed as having no confidence in his own candidates with Muhyiddin’s failure to name his designated MB.
  • The former PM must have had the last laugh at this development, which saw Shahrir vowing not to attend the Umno General Assembly for the great shame and embarassment he felt that Hasni is not the MB as announced during campaigning.
  • However, this setback has not prevented Umno deputy president Tok Mat in his speech at the opening of the general assembly for Umno’s Women, Youth and Puteri Wing on March 16, to call for GE15 to be held soon this year, saying Umno and BN should “strike at enemies when they are weak”.
  • “I am the GE15 elections director for the party. So what I said is merely the best strategy for the party to move forward,” he told reporters after officiating the event.
  • The part on “strike at enemies when they are weak” sounds like a page taken from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War but I’m sure Tok Mat may have missed the part where Sun Tzu said such strategy should not be said openly lest your weakened enemies know and make some countermoves that will leave you bleeding!
  • However, Tok Mat also said he did not know whether his speech would be taken as a motion by the debaters of the assembly, saying that it was up to the motions committee and the Umno supreme council to decide what should be debated.
  • Meanwhile, former Umno Secretary General Annuar Musa, after attending the event told reporters that “things as big as this should not be discussed in front of the masses because it will create a difference of opinion and polemics”.
  • “To me, the date of GE15 is the party’s strategy, (so) senior party leaders should not speak openly about it until they sit down to discuss what is the best route for the party,” added Annuar.
  • Earlier PM Ismail Sabri has called on delegates to use the annual assembly to deliver the voice of the grassroots, whom he described as the backbone of the party.
  • This was actually a subtle hint that in the previous Assembly when the issue of cooperating with Bersatu was debated, there was an attempt to not allow delegates in favour of the cooperation to speak.
  • Also, in the previous assembly, there was a coordinated move to boo Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, who is now the Minister for Federal Territories, for his known view on cooperation with Bersatu while he was speaking. The booing incident took place as planned.
  • Such booing incident and preventing delegates from speaking are a reflection of the immature behaviour of the politicians.
  • Ditto when politicians begin to treat the serious business of election that will have an impact on the wellbeing of the state/country as if it is like some kind of judo or karate competition to bring the enemies to its knees.
  • Thus, it is good that the Johor royalty knocks some sense on their heads by appointing an MB who is different from their confident expectation.
  • Meanwhile the attempt by the court cluster to cause a series of state elections if their demand for GE15 to be called soon is not met is bound to fail.
  • As revealed by Negeri Sembilan MB, Datuk Seri Aminuddin Harun, leaders of six states had during the recent Meeting of the Conference of Rulers indicated they would not be dissolving their respective state assemblies in the event snap polls are called at the Federal level.
  • The MB said he was one of the six leaders who had indicated this but refused to name the other five.
  • “I had discussions with these leaders and they said as of now, their respective state assemblies will only be dissolved once our terms are up. However, I am in no position to reveal who the other five are,” he said on March 15.
  • The Conference of Rulers meeting was held over two days at Istana Negara last week.
  • Aminuddin also said the issue of dissolving Parliament now to call for snap polls should not arise as there were some within BN who were also against this.
Read more on appointment of Johor MB, Umno General Assembly and precipitating state elections:
BN’s Hasni says Johor MB appointment decision depends on outcome of meeting between Johor Sultan and Zahid
    The looming battle in Umno that is being talked about for quite some time has already begun.
    It started on election night when Umno and BN supporters shouted “bubar Parlimen” (dissolve Parliament) at Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob as he walked through the jubilant crowd gathered at the Johor Umno headquarters to await the official results in which BN/Umno secured a two-thirds super majority in the recently concluded Johor state election.
    All comments on that night were like guns trained on Ismail Sabri. Johor Umno deputy chairman Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said the grassroots voices must be heard.
    “If we looked through the campaign, both Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Perikatan Nasional (PN) repeated the same old tune of Datuk Seri Najib Razak and 1MDB, which showed that they have no other issues to attack us,” added Nur Jazlan.
    Pasir Gudang Umno chief Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, a party supreme council member, said the ball was now in Ismail Sabri’s court on whether Parliament should be dissolved.
    “Ismail Sabri should answer this, but let us see what happens in the coming Umno general assembly,” he added.
    Battle lines are clearly drawn. The court cluster is no longer limited to just those with court cases but also includes those who are “sick” with Najib being associated with the 1MDB issue and those who want the 15th General Election (GE15) to be held earlier than July.
    Zahid made no mention of Ismail Sabri in thanking BN leaders for the BIG win in Johor in his victory speech although the PM had rolled his sleeves and went down to the field to help in the campaigning on a number of occasions.
    This has gotten the ire of some Umno members present. One member from Pasir Gudang, for instance, had written to the media a scathing criticism of the “unpolished” behaviour of Zahid in having no decorum in the way the PM of the country who is a Vice-President of Umno was treated.
    To the credit of Ismail Sabri, he took all these “snubs” in his strides and remained quiet throughout and responded only the next day with a firmness that the office of the prime minister demands.
    At an event in Bera, Pahang, the next day (March 13), the PM said the decision to call for GE15 would only be made by BN and not a small group of people who are “screaming” for it to be held immediately.
    He also said a decision would be made when BN was “fully prepared” and the government would not rush it since it needed to consider various opinions before it could call for the dissolution of Parliament.
    “We will make a decision after the matter has been discussed within the party (BN). We can’t decide (to hold it) just because there is a small group of people ‘screaming’ for it.
    “The decision has to be discussed seriously since the general election is a huge matter. There are other things that need to be looked into as well, and there are procedures.”
    He also said he would consider DAP’s suggestion to extend the Memorandum of Understanding between the government and PH which expires on July 31.
    “What is important is that the rakyat’s interests need to be taken care of, which is why I said, it is not yet time for the general election. Let us wait,” added Ismail.
    Meanwhile Communications and Multimedia Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa, a member of the minister cluster, writing on his Facebook on March 13 said the best thing to do now with regard to GE15 was to review all relevant matters, including public sentiment, he said.
    Commenting on the PM’s statement about GE15, Annuar said Ismail Sabri’s reaction reflected the wisdom and political maturity of a prime minister because the GE was not a small matter. What more to dissolve a ruling government with the mandate from almost all Dewan Rakyat members.
    He said the prime minister represented a minority party, namely 42 out of 116 coalition seats in Parliament, which has a total of 222 seats, and as such discussions within the government must be considered too.
    The PM’s approach is very praiseworthy because it is in line with the concept of musyawarah (consultation) that Islam holds on a high pedestal, unlike the decision of the Johor Umno not to consult its coalition partners in dissolving the state assembly.
    According to Annuar, the date for the dissolution of Dewan Rakyat must be a top secret of the ruling party and remain at the discretion of the prime minister, and not decided through organised pressure.
    Annuar also said that the results of both state elections were also due to the support of the party headquarters, prime minister, ministers and deputy ministers, chief ministers and division heads nationwide which is unmatched by any other parties.
    “In the GE, this won’t happen because everyone will be busy taking care of their own areas and if the preparations, especially resources and finance, are insufficient then the whole machinery will be completely paralysed,” said Annuar.
    The implication of Annuar’s statement is far reaching. He is in effect saying the BIG win of BN/Umno both in the Melaka and Johor state elections is not just the victory of the court cluster, but all of Umno including the prime minister, minister cluster and the Umno grassroots.
    There was a moment of unity between the court and minister clusters when they closed ranks and were united in nominating its vice-president Ismail Sabri as the new PM.
    This paved the way for Umo/BN victory in the sudden Melaka state election in which the leader of the court cluster Datuk Seri Najib Razak played a key role in the victory.
    Buoyed by this victory, the talk then was Najib was tipped to be appointed as an economic advisor to the government. But when this did not materialise, the court cluster continues to plan its scheming, which led to the present looming battle taking shape.
    Also thing got a bit tense which resulted in the snubs that Ismail Sabri received on election night when it was rumoured that the delay in reappointing the Attorney General (AG), Tan Sri Idrus Harun whose term ended on March 6 was due to the intense pressure by the court cluster on Ismail Sabri to appoint a new AG sympathetic to their plight.
    Even some MPs brought the matter up in Parliament, as the delay in the reappointment is irregular and could raise many questions over the fate of the court cluster.
    As Johor Umno and the court cluster were jubilant a day after the BIG win and were prepared to put pressure on PM Ismail Sabri to hold GE15 soon, they were in for a rude shock when the Menteri Besar of their choice was upended with the Johor Palace swearing in a different MB on March 15.
    Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi, the assemblyman from Machap replaces Datuk Seri Hasni Mohammad as the 19th MB of Johor.
    This has blunted the court cluster’s attempt to go all out clamouring for GE15 to be held soon because they now have a new problem up their sleeve i.e. whether to “challenge” the Palace’s appointment of Onn Hafiz as the new MB.
    However, this setback has not prevented Umno deputy president Tok Mat in his speech at the opening of the general assembly for Umno’s Women, Youth and Puteri Wing on March 16, to call for GE15 to be held soon this year, saying Umno and BN should “strike at enemies when they are weak”.
    The part on “strike at enemies when they are weak” sounds like a page taken from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War but I’m sure Tok Mat may have missed the part where Sun Tzu said such strategy should not be said openly lest your weakened enemies know and make some countermoves that will leave you bleeding!
    However, Tok Mat also said he did not know whether his speech would be taken as a motion by the debaters of the assembly, saying that it was up to the motions committee and the Umno supreme council to decide what should be debated.
    Thus, it is good that the Johor royalty knocks some sense on their heads by appointing an MB who is different from their confident expectation.
    Meanwhile the attempt by the court cluster to cause a series of state elections if their demand for GE15 to be called soon is not met is bound to fail.
    As revealed by Negeri Sembilan MB, Datuk Seri Aminuddin Harun, leaders of six states had during the recent Meeting of the Conference of Rulers indicated they would not be dissolving their respective state assemblies in the event snap polls are called at the Federal level.
    Regards,
    Jamari Mohtar
    Editor, Let’s Talk!
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