2nd May 1999

In any ruling groups, there will always exist insiders vying for plum appointments or lobbying for their proteges.Who is getting this job? Who is getting that job? Who goes where? It is not an unnatural thing to do. It is legitimate.

The ugly side of the campaign and unceasing intrigues is that it creates disunity and frustration and much ill feeling between friends and among members of the ruling party, those around the throne and in corporate politics.

The good side is that it forges new friendship strengthens old connections. Sometimes, comradeships are dissolved and alliances reversed.

We have had eight Deputy Prime Ministers in 42 years of independence. Three of them were lucky they became Prime Minister - Tun Razak, Datuk Hussein Onn and Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Tun Dr Ismail died in office, Datuk Musa Hitam resigned, Tun Ghaffar Baba was eased out and the man who did it - Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim - was sacked and is jailed for corruption.

The United States of America has had 42 presidents in 212 years and in November 2000, the American voters will be voting in their 43rd president and the first in the new century and millennium.

George's magazine last month listed top 10 worst vice-presidents in the history of American presidency starting with Aaron Burr (1801-05) and lastly Dan Quayle (1989-93).

Burr, famous for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel concluded his career by hatching a plan to take over the territory gained through the newly signed Louisiana Purchase and make himself leader of the new land.

But before he could put this plan into motion, he was captured by government forces and tried for treason.

He fled to Europe after he was acquitted (the evidence was inconclusive).

I shall now update you with two more recent worst VIPs" Spiro Agnew, Richard Nixon's first Vice President.

Agnew was a Greek American, the highest ranking post that community has ever held. Agnew was well know for his tart utterances in defence of his embattled boss.

He referred to protesters as an "effete corps of impudent snobs". He resigned his office after federal prosecutors announced that as Governor of Maryland Agnew received favours from special interests, including free supply of groceries.

Then we have the misstepping speller - President George Bush's vice-president Quayle, who is making a bid for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination.

Quayle, desiring to be a good father figure and helpful, once "corrected" fourth grader who was spelling out potato on the blackboard by urging the boy to add an e. The boy told him to his face he was a bad speller.

As I write this Tun Ismail - whose picture I hang behind my desk in my office here - appears to be staring benignly at me. I like this no-nonsense medical doctor from Johor, the first physician to have achieved success in Malaysian politics though he never became Prime Minister.

If he had not died prematurely in 1972, I am sure he would have been a good Prime Minister: a man of principle fair and tough.

Within the week of the May 13 racial riots, Mahathir Musa Hitam, Ghaffar Baba Harun Hashim (now a columnist like me and a former federal judge) and I went to see Ismail, the Minister of Home Affairs at his house in Kenny Hills (now Bukit Tunku).

He had just resumed the post following the race riots. He received and entertained us to tea by the swimming pool.

We unanimously told him what we thought had gone wrong and what needed to be done quickly.

Looking at me straight in the eye he demanded: "Dollah, does Tun Razak know of this meeting?" I told him yes.

He spoke little but asked us to be patient. He gave his analysis of what had happened and what would eventually occur.

Ismail told us "Leave everything to me and Razak. We shall resolve the matter smoothly".

One of us wanted assurance from him in the event Tunku refused. "He will not refuse if Razak and I are firms. He will listen to us."