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MGG: The Daim Mystery Becomes Curiouser And Curiouser
By M.G.G. Pillai

21/6/2001 3:30 am Thu

[Cara Daim dipinggirkan lebih kurang sama dengan cara Anwar disisihkan. Mengapa semua surat layang tertuju kepada Daim seorang? Ini menunjukkan segala-galanya sudah dirancang. Ini termasuklah menukar orang kanan di media tempatan serta menghalang wartawan tempatan dari membuat liputan walaupun mereka mempunyai permit yang disahkan. Inilah acuan demokrasi Mahathir - dia amat takut kepada pendedahan dan keaiban.

Sudah tentu Daim mempunyai beberapa rahsia yang boleh mencekik Mahathir. Dengan mengirim helikopter di waktu malam dan beberapa lagi surat yang melayang di hari perhimpunan, Daim tentunya tidak akan terlawan walaupun mempunyai banyak bom rahsia di tangan. Mahathir seperti sudah menang dengan media dan helikopter yang melayang. Sekarang cengkaman agar kroni Daim membayar hutang turut membuat Daim tertekan. Mengapa semua nasib buruk menimpa Daim sekarang jika tidak ia sudah lama dirancang? Ini semua bertujuan agar Mahathir dianggap pembersih Umno yang terbilang sedangkan dia sendiri sebenarnya telah bersekongkol kerana membiarkan Daim meletak jawatan tanpa pembentangan lapuran. Kalau ya pun dia sepatutnya menangguhkan dulu sehingga perhimpunan agung selesai barulah menerima peletakkan jawatan Daim. - Editor]

20 June 01

The Daim Mystery Becomes Curiouser And Curiouser


MGG Pillai

If one man feels besieged today in Kuala Lumpur, he is who was the second most powerful man in the country until he resigned this month. Daim Zainuddin resigned from his ministerial and government positions and as treasurer of UMNO after an unusual two-months leave during which he went to office as usual. That he was pushed becomes certain by the day.

He disappeared from sight as rumours swirled around him. He would be detained under the Internal Security Act. He is prevented from travelling overseas. He has handlers following him. And other fanciful rumours chased his shadow. The deputy prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, was sure he was arrested on the day he was asked about it, but could not predict if he would on the morrow.

Reporters chase every rumour to file reports that fill newspaper pages but not to make sense of this faked crisis. This is what we are reduced to when major political confrontations loom. We saw it when the prime minister differed with his then deputy over when he should retire. We have it now, when UMNO wants details of party investments which Daim Zainuddin, rather than provide it, goest first on leave and then resigns all his positions.

Shifting the blame

What caused the breach? We do not know. Not in 1987, when Tengku Razaleigh challenged Dr Mahathir and lost. Not in 1998 when Anwar Ibrahim was sacked, jailed and battered. Not in 2001 when Daim Zainuddin resigns, or is forced to, his positions. The UMNO General Assembly tomorrow would have had some intriguing questions of its president without it. He shifts the blame to the party treasurer's handling of its finances. But the one thread running it all is he wants to stay on come hell or high water.

The old fox has done it again. He diverts attention to one, even a comrade-in-arms, he throws to the UMNO wolves. With his control of the media and those ranged against him disorganised, he has had a remarkable run of power. In the 21 years, he fashioned Malaysia and UMNO into his own liking. His word was law, his orders the force of law. He was an autocrat in the best traditions of Malay feudalism.

But for this to endure, he must retain the support of the Malay community. The right to rule in Malaysia, as elsewhere, is governed by an oral tradition stepped in the people's unconscious psyche. So long as he follows it, he could rule as long as he liked. Breach it, and the people look for a new leader. When he defined, in 1998, an old Malay feudal belief that a leader may destroy a defiant deputy but must never ever humiliate him, his decline began. The Malay cultural ground is not with him since.

In November last year, an UMNO extraordinary general meeting would not amend the constition to remove changes he had had inserted to ensure he would not be challenged in office. UMNO is less enamoured of him now than ever. He fights to retain the public adulation he once had. He cannot address UMNO or Malay gatherings with confidence. He stays in power with legal armoury not public support.

Honest accounting and corporate profligacy

Into this steps Daim Zainuddin. One the face of it, he is godsent for Dr Mahathir. But is he? How could he allow the party treasurer to resign a month before the UMNO General Assembly? Is it to prevent an honest accounting of the party finance? Is Daim paying for the sins of his corporate profligacy?

UMNO Baru convinced the courts it succeeded the court-banned UMNO when Semangat '46 also bid for its assets. UMNO corporate assets were in a company called Hatibudi. This was divested, under Daim Zainuddin as treasurer, to various companies which we now know are linked to him. The understanding then was that these companies would be run for UMNO's benefit.

That it now appears was a pipe dream. On paper, the investments are still there, run for its benefit. But when the underlying corporate empire collapses under the weight of its debt, how could UMNO's share escape unscathed? Under an autocratic leader, supreme council members would not challenge the treasurer's statement that all was well. They are not so trusting. They demanded an account of its shares, warts and all.

Rumours and grounded planes

Daim took two months leave, and eventually resigned three weeks ahead of the UMNO General Assembly. But he could not leave quietly. Dr Mahathir says they did not meet, when rumours were they did, but spoke on the telephone. The Department of Civil Aviation has ordered that the airplanes and helicopters of his cronies are grounded.

The passports of some of them are seized. Anticorruption and commercial crime officials have called on those closest to him, including his wives. The Securities Commission is rumoured to have a list of corporate tycoons, as they once were, for acts of ommission and commission. Most, it need not be said, are aligned to him.

There is nothing unusual in this. When Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah challenged Dr Mahathir for the UMNO presidency, and left UMNO to form Semangat '46, his corporate supporters were ordered to repay the bank loans they took, and reduced to the twilight of the corporate world. As Anwar Ibrahim's supporters were when he was sidelined. And Daim Zainuddin's would be and are.

We are told Daim knows where the skeletons are hidden, and would reveal them if he is damned. So, it was said of Tengku Razaleigh and Anwar Ibrahim. Anwar did file police reports about corruption and profligacy in high places. Nothing happened. The reports gather dust in forgotten police and anti-corruption agency files. Besides, in Malay culture, a deputy who squeals is as reprehensible a leader as one who humiliates him.

Too high a cost

Dr Mahathir would deflect this challenge to his authority this week but at too high a cost. When the UMNO elections is moved from 2003 to 2004, because national elections intrude, it is also to prevent a new UMNO divisional heads who would not be as friendly to him as the present lot. Having to throw Daim to the UMNO wolves is a sign of nervousness. He cannot afford to alienate Daim but he had to.

He wants UMNO to return to its past glories. He does not want to be known as one who destroyed UMNO twice. He takes steps to come to terms with Anwar, however much this is denied. Anwar insists he is downed by a conspiracy whose members are now in deep straits, his position in the Malay, if not UMNO, mind is higher than any one else's.

His predicament and Dr Mahathir as president threatens to consign UMNO to history. Daim is in difficulty now because he is the most important, in Anwar's view, of the conspirators. The others have all fallen by the wayside. So, this UMNO gathering is not to reaffirm the leadership so much as to show that the leader can be wrong. The body language would show how seriously. Daim, unlike Tengku Razaleigh and Anwar, would, when all is said and done, a footnote.

M.G.G. Pillai