Most democratic political parties campaign on agendas for the people, but for UMNO it’s a matter of getting their crooks off the hook and their hooks back into the lion’s share of the public loot.
Thus, less than a few months since bulldozing their way back into office, fighting has broken out once more between the supposed champions of Malay unity behind the present regime.
The big bone they are fighting over is the 5G roll-out scam, better known as 5DNB in honour of the earlier 1MDB, given that the RM26 billion project (and doubtless rising) has raised all the same alarm bells and red flags as did the Najib slush fund.
The side-lined Harapan parties who won the election have long been pointing to the vast sums of public money the PN government rushed into project (as if it were a matter of extreme urgency during the pandemic) at a time when the ‘State of Emergency’ had so conveniently suspended Parliament, which ought to have been given oversight and the right to vote on such an enormous public investment.
Observers uneasily pointed out how the secretive model was pointlessly expensive to the taxpayer. The project could have been franchised to the private sector rather than financed through a ‘special purpose vehicle’ owned by the Ministry of Finance and appointed without due process, scrutiny or oversight.
After all, the telecoms industry is already primed with infrastructure, whilst the SPV has had to call in Ericcson to start from scratch. Critics have warned that such a model presents the best possible way to ‘lose money’ much in the way 1MDB lost money.
Yet, whilst none of the UMNO contingent of the previous PN government squawked at the time about the questionable and eye-wateringly expensive plans, now they are in power some have started to raise these very same issues against their continuing ‘federal allies’ from Bersatu, who launched 5DNB but are now the underdogs in the ‘united Malay coalition’ government.
Confirming all the concerns expressed by critics over the past months, Zainul Abidin, the number two minister in the communications ministry, has been the dissenting voice complaining from within the government about all these matters and the secretive nature of the project.
The 5G roll out had been hijacked, he has lamented, from the experts in his ministry by the unelected Finance Minister, Zafrul Aziz, whose continuing presence in that post was one of the conditions laid down when the King appointed the UMNO man Ismail Sabri as the replacement to PN’s Mahiaddin Yassin.
That was some admission. Within a day Zainal’s boss was walking back the allegation, claiming the 5G decisions had been a collaboration between ministries in a perfect example of cabinet government at its very best. “We do together (any decision) and there’s no problem at all and we will continue to work together, we will continue to consult and we will continue to do things the proper way”.
However, Zainul wasn’t going away, so there must be mutiny in the air.
If all these proper inter-ministry discussions had been going on as claimed, he asked, how come he and the civil servants knew nothing of it?
I am quite disappointed because former (communications and multimedia) minister Saifuddin Abdullah said he had discussed with the finance minister. So the ministers spoke among themselves and implemented this DNB project that involved almost RM20 billion without discussion with their subordinates. Even the deputy (minister) did not know.
So, the cat is out of the bag, Zafrul and the cronies around Mahiaddin have their special interests in 5DNB. However, why is at least one contingent of UMNO raising questions about the activities of a government all these ‘Malay Unity’ parties have been part of for the last two years?
The answer seemed to come yesterday in a full frontal assault against the present UMNO Prime Minister’s by the UMNO President himself, Zahid Hamidi. It bears mentioning that Zahidi is in the middle of a slew of court cases over mind-boggling levels of alleged corruption on his part, given the pious nature of his remarks.
Zahid, in pressing for an election as soon as possible, accused the previous PN government in which Ismail Sabri was deputy, led by his former colleague and present political ‘ally’ ex-PM Mahiaddin Yassin, of being nothing less than Godless, immoral and tyrannical during their period of government.
Presumably the benefits of 5G have not been seen to flow to UMNO. Speaking to a party rally Zahid certainly laid it on:
Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi today called the previous Perikatan Nasional (PN) government zalim (tyrannical) and claimed his party was mistreated during the administration’s 18 months in power.
Addressing delegates at the Bagan Datuk Umno division’s annual meeting, he said the PN government had fallen due to divine intervention.
“We wanted a BN and Umno-led government. We wanted the 18-month administration changed because of its tyranny, immorality and weakness.”
“And it happened. Not because it simply happened, but because of God’s will,” he said, citing a portion of the Ali Imran verse from the Quran that speaks about Allah’s power to give power to whoever He wants.
The opposition might agree the PN government was a tyranny, given that it was led by an individual appointed without Parliamentary backing who survived his period in office largely thanks to a state of emergency that included suspending Parliament agreed to (on grounds of Covid) by the monarch. However, UMNO had supported that government.
There is another key issue dividing the thugocrats, who have just pulled off two ‘election successes’ in states they have controlled for decades in the full glare of a watching WhatsApp enabled public. Zahid and his big money boss Najib Razak are hoping to achieve a similar general election victory as soon as possible in the hope of returning an UMNO/PAS government that will drop the charges and convictions against the pair of them.
Their tactic? To call the PH government a failure for not having revolutionised lives in the 18 months before they toppled them, and then storm to victory using the same tactics of buying up votes and intimidation – Covid or no Covid. Throw half the national reserves at the project. It has worked in Sarawak and clearly the money would be worth them escaping jail.
Neither UMNO nor the PAS leadership care about corruption when it’s in a good cause, namely them. (PAS leader Hadi Awang has explained that corruption is not something that comes under Hudud law as far as he is concerned). So, with a mandate at GE15 the so-called Court Cluster of politicians hope to see themselves off the hook.
Ismail Sabri, although also UMNO, sees it differently and has been continuing to attempt to soothe Mahiaddin’s feathers to keep the Bersatu block supporting his position. He would like to see an election later rather than sooner and AFTER he has managed to utilise his new ascendancy to control the internal party elections to cement his personal control
Mahiaddin also sees it differently. He plainly wants the 5DNB deal to be allowed to see its course and for the government to therefore stay. He also has staked his political capital on the jailing of Najib. He to has therefore waded into the spat in recent days to defend his 5DNB project from the attacks of the UMNO outriders. It is hard for Malaysians not to be cynical.
Elderly Sarawakians in minute village communities, gerrymandered and controlled by a government funded hierarchy with their youth excluded, have to no one’s surprise been corralled as commanded in this Covid election. UMNO’s GPS allies have bulldozed their expected ‘victory’.
However, the same hyena’s have started to squabble and spat between themselves over the spoils of yet more corrupted practices – as they themselves are now describing the situation. A general election would seem both an outrageous and dangerous prospect any time soon in this pandemic.