Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s audience with His Majesty the Agong in the Sultan of Kedah’s palace recently, instead of at Istana Negara, was merely a publicity stunt.
It was just a political ploy to give the impression that he was still in the game and bent on ousting Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Mahathir cannot show he had been defeated or that he had given up.
As it is his troops are already very nervous and are at the point of deserting.
A few wakil rakyat (elected representatives), who was said were going to defect as soon as Pribumi was registered, have changed their minds and are adopting a wait and see attitude for the meantime.
Many may have been gung ho when the announcement was first made about the formation of the new party and they expected an exodus once the party becomes ‘legal’.
However, unlike in the cases of Semangat 46 in 1988 and Parti Keadilan Nasional in 1999, this exodus did not happen.
This is what worries Mahathir.
It is not that Mahathir was serious about this new party in the first place.
Najib knew this.
Mahathir created this new party with no intention of actually taking it into the next general election.
Mahathir knew that it would be futile to even try and if he did try he is going to be embarrassed with not only defeats in all the seats but with many candidates losing their deposits as well.
It will be just like what the opposition faced in 2004.
Mahathir was merely sabre-rattling.
When one sabre-rattles, one does not actually want to fight.
In fact, fighting is the farthest from one’s mind.
What one is doing is threatening to fight.
You threaten to fight in the hope that you can frighten the other side and force your opponent to call for a truce and then offer to come to the conference table to make a deal.
The frightened party makes a deal to prevent a fight.
Since last year, Mahathir has tried one thing after another and every one of those moves has failed.
First was the July 2015 coup that was supposed to have happened on the July 29.
That was supposed to have been the day Najib either resigns or gets arrested and charged.
The choice would have been Najib’s.
Resign without a fight or go to jail.
That was what Mahathir had planned and he had the Quattro ready to move in for the kill.
However, before Mahathir’s Quattro – Muhyiddin Yassin, Abdul Gani Patail, Abu Kassim Mohamed and Zeti Akhtar Aziz, could move in for the kill, Najib moved first and cut off two of the four.
The other two were left hanging like a chicken without a head, to be dealt with later and in due time.
So the July 29, 2015 coup fell flat.
Then came the October session of Parliament and the December Umno general assembly when Najib was, again, supposed to be ousted through a vote of no confidence — and which also did not happen.
Three attempts in 2015 and all three failed.
Najib was proving to be quite a hard nut to crack and Mahathir did not like any nuts harder than him because he was supposed to be the hardest nut of all.
The removal of Muhyiddin as the deputy prime minister and Gani Patail as the attorney-general was a hard blow for Mahathir.
This was a serious setback that Mahathir never really recovered from.
However, on Feb 3, 2016, when his son Mukhriz was removed as the Kedah menteri besar, this was a blow Mahathir never saw coming.
He never thought Najib would be so bold as to remove his son as the menteri besar and risk the danger of Kedah falling to the opposition.
Kedah has 36 state assembly seats with 21 under Barisan Nasional – Umno 19 and MCA two, and 15 under the opposition – PAS eight, PKR four, DAP two and Independent one.
If just four Umno assemblymen cross over out of protest, Barisan Nasional would be reduced to 17 seats with the opposition having 19.
So all Mukhriz needs to do is bring another three Umno assemblymen with him and Kedah 2016 would be just like Perak 2009.
Mahathir thought that this possibility would keep Mukhriz safe.
Najib, however, knew it would not happen.
So now Barisan Nasional has 20 state seats with just one seat for Amanah.
With PKR’s four and DAP’s two, the opposition has been reduced to just seven seats from 15 because the eight PAS assemblymen and the one Independent will not work with a Pribumi-led Pakatan Harapan or even a DAP-led Pakatan Harapan.
So Pakatan Harapan in Kedah is actually worse off now than it was in 2013.
It was a calculation that Najib made and which proved correct in the end.
So that was another miscalculation by Mahathir.
He overrated Mukhriz’s influence in Kedah and thought that Mukhriz’s removal would trigger an exodus and that PAS would be sympathetic to his son and ally with them.
Mahathir’s miscalculation was apparent when 26 days later on Feb 29, 2016 he resigned from Umno.
That resignation was supposed to have triggered an exodus but, again, just like on May 19, 2008, the first time Mahathir resigned from Umno, it did not.
In 2008, when Mahathir resigned from Umno, Reuters reported ‘Malaysia’s PM in danger as Mahathir quits party’.
This time around no one reported that the Prime Minister is in danger due to Mahathir’s resignation from Umno.
Maybe you remember the story (from Aesop’s Fables) of ‘The boy who cried wolf’.
Cry wolf too many times and no one cares in the end even if a real wolf does come to sailang your sheep.
Meanwhile, Mahathir had two of his Ghurkhas, Matthias Chang and Khairuddin Abu Hassan, plus Abu Kassim, Gani and Zeti, running to the United States to feed them information.
The plan was for the United States Justice Department (DOJ) and the US attorney-general to make a ‘shock announcement’ regarding 1MDB that would create shock waves back in Malaysia and which would result in Najib having to resign from office.
If Najib refuses to resign then he was going to be pushed out by force.
The problem with this plan was that if they do successfully force Najib out of office, who is going to replace him as the new premier?
Would it be Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi?
“No!” said Mahathir.
“Zahid is too close to Anwar and if he takes over as prime minister, there is a danger he might release Anwar from jail.”
So, two things have been established here.
One is that the deputy prime minister was not going to replace the prime minister — which means the new prime minister and deputy prime minister are going to be other people and we are not going to be told who these people are until Najib and Zahid are both ousted.
Second, Mahathir does not want anyone who poses the danger of releasing Anwar Ibrahim from jail to take over as Prime Minister — which means Anwar’s release from jail is not part of the plan.
In fact, until today, Mahathir has never said that Anwar’s release from jail is part of the plan.
Even when the press poses this question to him, Mahathir is evasive and will not reply to the question.
More importantly, Mahathir refuses to say who will take over once Najib and Zahid are both ousted because if he does then many will refuse to support him to oust Najib and Zahid — mainly because that new prime minister is going to be his son Mukhriz.
Anyway, while all this was going on, Mahathir invested a lot of time and money in the shock announcement that the DOJ and US AG were going to make on July 20, 2016.
This shock announcement was going to create an Asian Tsunami even bigger than the one on Boxing Day of 2004 that killed a quarter million people.
Following that July 20, Abu Kassim, Gani and Zeti were going to hold a press conference during Abu Kassim’s farewell dinner, calling on for Najib’s resignation followed by another press conference that Mahathir would hold in Jakarta for the international media an hour later.
Unfortunately, this plan was leaked and that same afternoon the Umno Youth deputy chief Khairul Azwan Harun lodged a police report and the whole plan had to be aborted.
Gani did not turn up for the dinner and at 3pm Abu Kassim went running to the Prime Minister’s Ofice (PMO) but Najib refused to see him.
A year’s work and millions of Ringgit got thrown out the window that day on July 26, 2016, just like what happened a year earlier on July 29, 2015.
Najib is not just proving difficult to kill.
He was impossible to kill.
How the hell do you kill someone who refuses to die?
Mahathir has thrown everything including the kitchen sink at Najib and he is still standing.
Mahathir resigned from Umno on Feb 29, 2016 merely to frighten Umno.
That was the same thing he did on May 19, 2008.
But in May 2008, it did frighten Umno and a year later Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was forced to resign and hand power to Najib.
Then, as soon as Abdullah resigned, Mahathir rejoined Umno.
That is what Mahathir is trying again.
He resigned from Umno on Feb 29, 2016.
This was supposed to (yet again) frighten Umno.
So the party will force Najib to resign yet again, just like Umno forced Abdullah to resign eight years ago.
Then, after Najib resigns, Mahathir will rejoin Umno, yet again.
A simple plan that proved effective in 2008 and no reason to not prove effective, yet again, in 2016.
But Umno did not force Najib to resign.
Instead, Umno wants to close the door totally to Mahathir, Muhyiddin, and Mukhriz.
Instead of ‘kowtowing’ to Mahathir by asking Najib to resign so that Mahathir will rejoin the party, Umno sacked Muhyiddin and Mukhriz.
So Umno not only did not ask Najib to go and invite Mahathir back into the party, Umno sacked Muhyiddin and Mukhriz to demonstrate that the party has had enough of Mahathir and wants nothing to do with the old man anymore.
That was another move that shocked Mahathir after the removal of Muhyiddin as deputy prime minister in July 2015 and the removal of Mukhriz as the Kedah menteri besar in February 2016.
Mahathir’s moves thus far have been for only one reason.
He wants Najib to reinstate Muhyiddin as the deputy prime minister and Mukhriz as the Kedah menteri besar — which also means they must be allowed back into Umno.
If Mukhriz was to become the prime minister then it has to be through Umno.
As an opposition leader Mukhriz is never going to become prime minister.
Not even Anwar could do that and that was why Anwar tried for ten years to get back into Umno and only gave up after ten years of trying without success.
He even went to court to try to get the court to force Umno to reinstate him as an Umno member.
Anwar, and Mahathir, knows that to become prime minister, you must first become the Umno president and not as the de facto opposition leader.
So Pribumi was not something that Mahathir wanted to bank on.
That was just to send shock waves through Umno to give the impression that his new party, just like Semangat 46 in 1988 and Parti Keadilan Nasional in 1999, was going to take away a lot of seats from Umno and maybe even send Umno into the opposition with Pakatan Harapan the new federal government.
Of course, Mahathir and Najib both knew this is not going to happen.
But the Umno leaders and grassroots must be made to believe this can happen so that they will pressure Najib into resigning, like what happened in 2008 with Abdullah, so that Umno and Barisan Nasional can be ‘saved’.
So Mahathir is actually playing to the grassroots rather than to Najib.
Najib is unshakeable but the grassroots can be shaken.
That is Mahathir’s real audience.
It was a proven strategy that worked in 2008 so there is no reason it cannot work again in 2016.
Shake the roots and the tree will collapse – cut down the tree from the bottom then Najib will be brought down.
Sometimes you need to cut the roots one at a time and not all at the same time.
Then, after one root has been cut, you cut the others and eventually all will be cut and the tree keels over.
So this is Mahathir’s latest strategy.
He realises he has failed to sway the whole country, meaning Umno members, and the exodus has not happened as he had hoped.
So now Mahathir is working on one state at a time and he has chosen one of the biggest states to start his root cutting.
To get this state to swing, he has chosen to focus on the head of that state, meaning the menteri besar.
If the head turns then the rest will follow suit.
This particular state is not only one of the bigger states but has a menteri besar who can be blackmailed.
This menteri besar happens to have an ‘unusual’ sexual orientation, if you know what I mean, which can be used to bring him down if it becomes public knowledge.
Just like in Anwar’s case, Mahathir knows about this menteri besar’s ‘weakness’ for some time but, just in Anwar’s case, Mahathir kept this a secret until such a time he can use it.
Mahathir has made it known to this menteri besar that his secret will no longer remain a secret if he does not play ball.
What Mahathir wants him to do is to trigger fear and panic amongst the Umno leaders and wakil rakyat in his state by saying that Pribumi must not be taken lightly and that all they need is just a swing of 10% and that state will fall to the opposition.
If it can happen in Selangor, then it can also happen in their state, the menteri besar is telling his boys and girls.
Whether the swing is large enough to allow Pakatan Harapan to take over Putrajaya is not important.
They should not be concerned with federal power.
They must just focus on their own state and safeguard their own state.
Maybe the state should even consider ‘breaking away’ from federal and calling their own and early state election like in Sarawak to make sure that Umno and Barisan Nasional can hold the state.
This is alarming the boys and girls at the bottom.
If their menteri besar is showing lack of confidence and appears worried about their state falling to the opposition then what hope do they have?
Surely if their state, which is a significant state, panics and ‘breaks away’, this will certainly trigger similar panics all over Malaysia and other states may follow suit.
It will be every man for himself and the survival of the fittest.
It would be like December 1941 all over again when the Japanese landed in Tumpat — utter chaos.
So now the talk amongst some of the Umno leaders in that state is do they close ranks or do they break away and save themselves and leave Najib to hang?
The menteri besar is encouraging this discussion and is fuelling it with talk of doomsday and Armageddon and so on.
Basically, the end is near and we need to save ourselves.
If not we will all die with Najib — and Najib is going to die for sure.
So this is the new card that Mahathir is playing.
Mahathir lost the game in July 2015.
He lost again in October and December 2015.
He lost the game in February 2016 and July 2016 as well.
Now, Mahathir’s new game in September 2016 is to blackmail a menteri besar of a certain state and get him to trigger panic in his state so that they break ranks with Najib — which will in turn create panic in the other states as well.
Then the whole Umno will rise up and demand Najib’s resignation.
At least that is the plan.
The menteri besar is telling his Umno boys and girls that 1MDB is a serious problem and that Najib cannot be saved.
So Najib needs to be thrown under the bus to save Umno.
Sacrifice Najib to save the party.
The people in the state or the voters are not angry with Umno or Barisan Nasional.
They are just angry with Najib.
Once Najib is killed then the people will stay with Umno and Barisan Nasional.
Some of the Umno boys and girls in that state agree with this, especially since it comes from their number one, the menteri besar.
They do not know that their menteri besar is being blackmailed by Mahathir to say all this.
They do not know that the reason Mahathir wants Najib out is so that he, Muhyiddin and Mukhriz can return to Umno and take over and that this is not about Pribumi helping Pakatan Harapan take over Putrajaya.
What they failed to realise is that the opposition did reasonable well in their state in 2013 because PAS was part of Pakatan Rakyat.
Today it is not Pakatan Rakyat but Pakatan Harapan and PAS is not part of that coalition.
So even with Pribumi and PAN being part of Pakatan Harapan, the results in the next general election is not going to be as impressive as in the 2013 general election.
It is amazing that Umno has leaders with such lame brains who cannot even figure this one out.
Anyway, an even more important point would be, can Umno risk retaining this menteri besar to lead Barisan Nasional in the next general election?
Since his “unusual” sexual orientation is now known to the opposition, what is to stop them from leaking this secret during the next general election campaign?
This will really hurt Umno and Barisan Nasional.
So the safest thing would be to replace him before the next general election.
When Mahathir asked Muhyiddin to register their new party, he thought that Najib would block its registration and try to make a deal with him.
Mahathir did not want to go crawling to Najib.
He wanted Najib to come crawling to him.
Instead, Najib made sure that the registration of Pribumi is expedited with no delays whatsoever.
This took Mahathir by surprise.
He had just lost his bargaining chip and now that his new party is registered he has to proceed with it till the end, which was not what the plan was.
To make sure he can show he has succeeded, his new party must not only be allowed to join Pakatan Harapan but it must be seen as the new leader of Pakatan Harapan.
This, however, does not sit well with Lim Kit Siang.
Why should he allow Pakatan Harapan to become a Pribumi-led Pakatan Harapan?
As a DAP-led Pakatan Harapan they can be ensured of Chinese votes.
If DAP loses its leadership in Pakatan Harapan, the Chinese will no longer give it support in large numbers like in 2013.
They will be back to 1999 and 2004 when Barisan Alternatif was led by PAS.
The opposition did not do that well in 1999 and did even worse in 2004.
Only when DAP is in charge do they get Chinese support.
Mahathir sees that DAP is not going to give up the leadership of Pakatan Harapan.
In fact, DAP did not even go to court on Sep 5, 2016 when Mahathir paid homage to Anwar.
As far as DAP and PKR and concerned, Anwar and not Mukhriz is their candidate for prime minister if Pakatan Harapan somehow manages to take over Putrajaya.
If Mahathir still wants Mukhriz to become prime minister then it has to be through Umno.
To make it worse, DAP’s ‘Superman’ has just openly admitted that they are just using Mahathir as a ‘kuda’ to oust Najib and nothing more than that.
So Najib knew that Mahathir’s court appearance on Sep 5, 2016 was not the real game plan.
For Anwar to agree to work with Mahathir, his freedom must be part of the deal.
But Anwar’s freedom is not part of Mahathir’s game plan.
Furthermore, Pribumi must lead Pakatan Harapan and Lim Kit Siang will not agree to that as it would cost DAP Chinese votes.
So what then is the real game plan?
Najib knows that Mahathir is playing silap mata and in silap mata you do not look at the raised right hand but the hidden left hand.
Mahathir’s hidden left hand was the blackmail of this menteri besar to create doubt and panic in his state.
Is he does not play ball his ‘unusual’ sexual orientation would become public knowledge?
This man has nothing to gain and everything to lose by serving Mahathir’s interest.
But then is this not what blackmail is all about?
The talk that Pribumi is a threat to Umno and Barisan Nasional in their state and that a mere 10% swing in votes can bring them down is utter nonsense.
For that to happen they need PAS and PAS is not with them.
With just 20,000 PAN members and less than 10,000 Pribumi members scattered all over Malaysia those two parties are no threat.
DAP plus PKR have maximised in that state and cannot go higher than they did in 2013.
That alone can tell you what the menteri besar is saying is nonsense.
So Najib knows what game Mahathir is playing.
Each and every time Najib checks Mahathir and beats him at his own game.
Lim Kit Siang and Anwar Ibrahim also know that Mahathir’s ultimate aim is to get back into Umno like in 2009.
So they pretend to play ball to see how far Mahathir will go.
If this blackmail fails and that state does not break ranks with Najib, Mahathir will have to go back to the drawing board to rethink his strategy.
But then there is not much left he can do plus time is not on his side.
In the end, Mahathir may have to work with the only thing he has, which is Pribumi.
But if Pakatan Harapan closes the door on Pribumi while Umno closes the door on Mahathir as well, then he and his Pribumi will be adrift like a rowboat without oars.
Come a strong wave and they will be smashed on the rocks.
What a sorry fate to face!