– Koon Yew Yin
The Malaysian Insider
3 November 2015
Lately the Internet has been filled with stories of how Prime Minister Najib Razak is losing ground in Umno and likely to resign soon.
Much speculation is going on about what is happening behind the scenes in the Umno Supreme Council and the party’s divisional leaders.
There is also a lot of chatter about the infighting and horse trading that is taking place among the supporters of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah – all seen as contenders to succeed Najib should he be toppled.
In my view this is all sound and fury which signify nothing. Also that it will not amount to much.
It is clear that the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal, although it has severely dented Najib’s image and produced numerous smoking guns to kill off any other national leader, has not brought about any change in the Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) support for the prime minister.
Why there has been no change despite the prime minister being caught with his hands in the till to the tune of RM2.6 billion has mystified many of my foreign friends and analysts.
Even more surprising to them is the fact that the prime minister, as finance minister, is getting away with being responsible for one of the biggest monetary losses suffered by a company,
1MDB, which, under his ministry, was entrusted to secure the country’s financial well being.
As one of my good friends pointed out, “Come on – in any other country in the world, the leader responsible for such a massive loss would have committed harakiri. Or at the very least, he will be hounded out of office!”
However, this has yet to happen. It will not happen for one simple reason: “Cash is king!” Cash is king in Umno and for BN parliamentarians
Actually the “cash is king” line was given as explanation by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in explaining Najib’s response to his complaints and concerns over the controversial 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M) cash policy.
The former prime minister has been critical of the direct cash handouts to lower income groups.
According to Dr Mahathir, he told Najib, “You can’t give money to the population, but Najib replied ‘Cash is king’.”
The same explanation applies to why the 1MDB scandal will not see Najib losing his position.
Basically, as I see it, the Umno Supreme Council members, divisional leaders and even the BN parliamentarians see and know that Najib is their cash register or money printing machine.
Some of this reward for their loyalty to the head of Umno and BN is of course transparent and accountable such as the salaries and allowance paid to parliamentarians.
Incidentally, last year the monthly salary of an MP was raised to RM16,000 from RM11,500, members of the Dewan Negara from RM7,000 to RM11,000, Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speaker and Dewan Negara Deputy president from RM16,000 to RM22,000 and Dewan Rakyat Speaker and Dewan Negara president from RM20,000 to RM31,000.
In addition to these salaries, MPs are paid a monthly allowance of RM5,000 for entertainment, driver’s pay, travel and handphone bill.
They are also paid a meeting allowance of RM200 a day when attending parliamentary sittings and a daily allowance of RM150 to attend meetings with government agencies.
However the definition of cash must not be taken too literally. Besides salaries, allowances, per diem and position there are other perks in the way of permits, licences, contracts, concessions, shares and the many other forms of material and non-material rewards that go with being part of the ruling BN elite.
What is visible, transparent and accountable really is the tip of the remuneration or rewards iceberg controlled by the prime minister.
When you put the carrots (visible and less visible) together with the Prime Ministers’ immense power to whack anyone out of line (such as Muhyiddin) then you get a virtually unbeatable combination.
In fact, Dr Mahathir knew that the odds were against him probably right from the start.
In April this year, he claimed that Umno leaders had pledged their loyalty to Najib to gain contracts.
“The Umno today is only about money. Umno leaders are loyal because they will gain something, contracts. Those who get positions are those who will get money,” he said in a video uploaded on a blog – dinturtle.blogspot.com.
How to fight this “cash is king” culture that dominates our country’s political system is the RM64,000 question.
In my opinion, the way to deal with it is to recognise that Najib cannot be toppled from within the Umno Supreme Council or in Parliament but only through the next general election.
This is where the battle for the country’s next government will be lost or won.
Fire sometimes must be fought with fire. While rejecting the cash is king culture, we must also realise that there will never be any change in government if the opposition parties are impoverished and lack the financial and human resources to fight against the BN money printing machine.
The formation of the new party Parti Amanah Negara and its inclusion in the new Pakatan Harapan provides an opportunity for all Malaysians who want to see a better government put their money where their mouth is.
Do it openly, transparently, without any agenda and into a publicly visible account – I urge everyone, especially the rich and well to do.
On October 20, I donated RM50,000 to the Perak Amanah branch at their fundraising dinner in Ipoh.
I hope others in Perak and all over the country can also do their bit in seeing that the opposition parties do not go into the next election so badly handicapped that they will not have a fighting chance at winning. – November 3, 2015.