A quick recap. It's about Umno leader Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein being hauled up by the party disciplinary board chaired by former attorney-general Tan Sri Mohamad Apandi Ali.
Hishammuddin was served with a summons or rather show cause letter asking him to present himself before the board on 26 December at 2 pm.
This is the result of reports apparently made by some Umno members against Hishammuddin for his alleged role in setting up a meeting between 22 Umno MPs and Datuk Seri Azmin Ali in November at the PKR deputy president’s residence.
It is alleged that Hishammuddin had tried to sway Umno MPs to support prime minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad and Azmin who is economic affairs minister in the Mahathir-led Pakatan Harapan government.
Hishammuddin responded by asking the board to “go ahead and investigate as I have nothing to hide”.
But Umno secretary-general Tan Sri Annuar Musa then said although a show cause letter had been issued, the party leadership opined that Hishammuddin’s case had been settled because “Hishammuddin has explained to party president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi”.
And the show cause letter said Annuar did not go through him. Having said that, Annuar also said the Umno leadership had never intervened into any investigation conducted by the party’s disciplinary board.
That to me is baffling, hence the title of my 17 December piece. Anyway, that’s not the end of the baffling story.
Now we are hearing apparently the Umno disciplinary board had never viewed the Hishammuddin case as settled. It seemed that it wanted to go ahead with the 26 December proceedings.
But the hearing did not materialise. Hishammuddin did not turn up, but one person who did was Datuk Lokman Adam, Umno supreme council member, possibly as a “witness” as he had lodged a complaint and made official report to the party against the former vice president.
Lokman, a known loyalist of former president Datuk Seri Najib Razak, is a staunch critic of Hishammuddin who incidentally is Najib’s cousin. Baffling? But that’s politics, I suppose.
Moving on, Apandi was quoted as saying he did not cancel the 26 December hearing. He went on to resign as board chairman, alleging interference in the Hishammuddin disciplinary hearing.
And to Lokman, the interference or intervention was by Zahid himself. In praising Apandi as a “principled man”, Lokman said in a statement that “the Umno disciplinary board is supposed to be independent and its investigations cannot be blocked even by the party president.
“The party president’s action contravenes party constitution and insults the position of the disciplinary board and its chair.”
According to Lokman, this was the third time disciplinary proceedings against Hishammuddin had been scuttled.
So, as far as this latest “scuttling“ is concerned, was Zahid the one who stopped the 26 December hearing as alleged by Lokman?
Several political analysts I spoke to are (sorry I have to use this word again) baffled, with one observer telling me if what Lokman said is true, why would Zahid want to stop the hearing when “Zahid and Hishammuddin have not been communicating since the Umno party election last year“?
It's no secret Zahid and Hishammuddin are not in the best of terms even during the days when both were Umno vice presidents despite the smiles and hugs in public. Their “inner circles“ do not have good things to say about each other’s bosses.
Based on that, wouldn’t having Hishammuddin “facing charges” be in the best interest of Zahid?
I asked one of Zahid’s close aides about Lokman’s allegations but he did not want to comment, claiming to be “not in the know”.
But Ilham Centre head of research Dr Yusri Ibrahim’s take on the issue is interesting, to say the least.
According to Yusri, in Umno there are three warlords and Hishammuddin is one of them. The other two being Zahid and Najib. This is “common knowledge”.
Despite many (including yours truly) who see Hishammuddin as not having mass appeal to muster support from the ground, so to speak, Yusri sees him as “influential with strong grassroots support, including among current Umno MPs”.
Therefore, as Yusri sees it, putting Hishammuddin to face the disciplinary board can spur reaction from within, which can be harmful to Umno.
“What more if the disciplinary board find Hishammuddin guilty? That would speed up the process of Hishammuddin and his supporters, including the Umno MPs on his side. to leave Umno and join Pakatan Harapan components, in particular Bersatu,” says Yusri.
That as Yusri puts it, would weaken Umno just when the party is seen to be gaining strength, “hence Zahid, the ever opportunistic politician, will not allow that to happen.
“I am not surprised that Lokman is accusing Zahid of intervening to stop proceedings against Hishammuddin.”
If I read Yusri’s words correctly, that would mean Zahid is saving the enemy for a bigger cause. For now.
Anyway, Lokman, who Yusri says is the ayam sabung or fighting cock in Umno, now “could have that received information on the so-called Zahid intervention from people within Umno who are not happy with the party president“.
Now Lokman finds himself facing the wrath of pro-Zahid people in Umno. There are now calls for Lokman to be sacked from the party. The calls are getting louder, not to mention vicious.
Annuar claims he has not received Apandi’s resignation letter and insists the party leadership did not intervene into the affairs of the disciplinary board, including the Hishammuddin case.
At the time of writing, Apandi is said to be overseas.
One thing’s for sure. This story, or should I say issue, is set to continue. We just have to wait and see.
(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist and now a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)