1st Nov 1998
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Ambition, motivation and raw power without skill and worldliness do create flaws
which can be fatal. A coup always looks easy; just a matter of removing so and so
but it is usually more than that. It is now clear that there existed an "Umno
within Umno". The outcome of the last Umno general assembly was a triumph for
team players over mavericks; loyalists over mugwumps and experience over immaturity
So far the incident has risked and continues to endanger whatever political progress
has been made though there are anxious months ahead between now and spring or autumn
next year when Umno holds its once-every-three years presidential election.
In Britain, at least it appears to me, a person who controls spending controls the
In the New Labour government, he is Gordon Brown Chancellor of the Exchequer, and
in Malaysia, Anwar until he was sacked.
But in the case of Anwar was he?
Of course not, according to Lyn Chai, a spoke sperson for the National Economic Action
Council (NEAC). Lyn Chai says: "Mahathir determines the economic direction of
this country. There has been no change of leadership, no transfer of control and
there is no ambiguity about who's in charge." (July 30, International Herald
Sir William Rees-Mogg, a columnist (and a former editor of The Times) likened
Brown to Robert Walpole. He says: "When Queen Anne quarreled with her friend
the Duchess of Marlborough she threw out the Whigs and brought in the Tories. She
was the sovereign. When George I died, and George II succeeded him, the new king
tried to get on without Robert Walpole and found he could not.
"Walpole became the first true prime minister because he controlled spending
and the king did not. Gordon Brown is beginning to look more and more like Robert
Walpole; Tony Blair could find himself playing George II's role of the titular leader
when power is exercised in the Treasury
"That is what Gordon Brown's friends already think. The Treasury itself is claiming
an unheard of general oversight of the departments."
In our country, as I have said in a previous column sometime back, the prime minister
is more equal than his ministers, unlike in Britain where he is only first among
Gordon and Blair were rivals for the leadership whilst Anwar was Mahathir's protege.
Brown has regretted for giving way to Blair's leadership. Anwar realized with hindsight,
and following his sacking, that he should have fought Mahathir earlier.
The first Blair's cabinet reshuffle this summer (July 27-28) was a tug-of-war between
the prime minister and his Chancellor of the Exchequer (note that the deputy prime
minister and deputy leader of the party, John Prescott, is of no consequence at all).
It does seem because of it, the reshuffle is more of a continuity than of a change.
No major offices changed hands, yet most British media and experts end endlessly
analysed it. The reshuffle shows Brown did not get everything what he wanted nor
did Blair. Both men got the minimum each desired. But, at the same time, it is viewed
that Blair now has a stronger prime ministerial control over key spending policy
and taxation. It remains to be seen.
Mahathir is not Clinton nor Blair nor Suharto. Malaysia is not Indonesia the Philippines
or Myanmar. Those who equate Malaysia with Indonesia or the Philippines only delude
I expect Mahathir to be able to see off the opposition both from within and without
the party in cricketing terms, Mahathir may be slow but he is a steady bowler and,
as in the past, I believe he will be able to dismiss his opponents in good time to
bat. All being well, of course, that includes the health of the economy.
In any case, he has not known his hand and what it holds.
Dato' Abdullah Ahmad is Malaysia's Special Envoy to the United Nations
(This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Sun )