By Mohsin Abdullah
Political book author Mohd Sayuti Omar texted me via WhatsApp the other day to say this: “Might as well appoint Mahiaddin special envoy to the US because he is party head.”
Mahiaddin, as we know, is Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Bersatu president and former prime minister.
Sayuti was being sarcastic in reacting to news reports which said the cabinet had agreed to continue with the appointment of Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing and Datuk Seri Richard Riot as special envoys.
Except for Riot (who is deputy president of Sarawak United People’s Party), Hadi and Tiong are presidents of PAS and Progressive Democratic Party respectively. The trio were first appointed envoys during Muhyiddin’s administration.
“Ismail got no political will. He is copying Mahiaddin’s cabinet. Looks like he is tied to what Mahiaddin wants,” said the political author.
Of course, “the” Ismail he is talking about is Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
Regardless if one is to agree with that comment or not, the reality is that a few days later, i.e. Saturday 4 Sept, the Chief Secretary to the government announced the cabinet had decided to appoint Muhyiddin as National Recovery Council (NRC) chairman with the status of minister.
With that, Ismail’s “jigsaw” is complete. Well, as I see it anyway.
When the prime minister announced his cabinet last month, many had viewed it as him merely “recycling” Muhyiddin’s cabinet and thus, things would remain unchanged.
Same old, same old, many have said. Now that is confirmed, I would say, with the appointment of Muhyiddin.
To Umno supreme council member Datuk Puad Zarkashi, the former prime minister’s appointment “appears to reinforce claims that Ismail Sabri’s government will be PN 2.0.”
In fact, even before Muhyiddin’s appointment — at a time when people were asking whether the Ismail Sabri administration should be branded a Perikatan Nasional or Barisan Nasional government (because Ismail is from Umno, the party leading BN), Perlis Umno strongman Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, in wanting the polemic stopped, confirmed the current administration is indeed a PN government.
Shahidan, who was recently appointed minister in the Ismail Sabri cabinet, reportedly said the current government is still a Perikatan Nasional administration, the only difference being it is now led by BN instead of Bersatu as previously.
“Why is this not a PN government? This is a BN-led government that is currently in PN,” Shahidan was quoted saying by MalaysiaNow.
He is stating the obvious, obviously.
But according to Puad, “the Umno supreme council has been reminded not to revive the image of a PN 2.0.” And the Umno supreme council member reminded Ismail Sabri the party had already cautioned him against a repeat of Muhyiddin’s PN government.
However, so far Ismail Sabri seems to be taking the same steps taken by Muhyiddin when he was prime minister — chiefly implementing “measures” to accommodate the various parties in the coalition to remain in power.
Scheme of things more or less.
As veteran journalist Datuk A Kadir Jasin sees it, the appointment of Muhyiddin is obviously a move to secure Ismail’s position because the former prime minister heads Bersatu which has 31 MPs needed to keep Ismail in power.
Last month, when Muhyiddin resigned, Ismail was backed by the 31 Bersatu MPs to form the new government. The prime minister is no doubt indebted. So, is he repaying the debt? Or deploying a “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” strategy?
However, Puad is “predicting” that Ismail will be “controlled” by his predecessor now that Muhyiddin has been appointed NRC chairman.
“How was Muhyiddin appointed? Did he pressure Ismail? Or did Ismail appoint him on his own because he does not believe Muhyiddin is a failed prime minister?” Puad asked in a Facebook post.
I have to end with another Facebook post. This one is by Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, former Umno man and law minister when Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was prime minister.
Zaid was commenting on the country’s Five-Year Plan, the 12th edition about to be drawn up.
Check out his Facebook to read his post in full. I must say he makes a lot of sense.
There is one part of Zaid’s comments which I feel relate to this article. It goes like this: “In 2021 we don’t know if we are a parliamentary democracy; we now have a a former PM who runs the country using a different title.”
(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist and now a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)