2nd May 1999
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We left not entirely happy but quite relieved. Tunku left office fifteen
months afterwards, in late September 1970. The next morning, I briefed Razak, who
told me that Ismail had called him after maghrib prayers to inform him about
"the delegation" who saw him.
Razak also said the Prime Minister also knew of the meeting and cautioned me (and
through me to others) to be discreet in future because things had become super sensitive
and the "other side" of the Umno divide was also organising themselves
to defend the Tunku.
He named them, amongst others Senu Abdul Rahman and Ali Haji Ahmad (former Minister
of Youth and Culture) and their minions. The first three Prime Ministers were all
Musa Hitam, whom I succeeded in this job, is a good friend and who would have thought
he and Mahathir 'another good friend) would 'quarrel" and part company?
His greatest mistake was he believed that ministers are equals and that "the
Prime Minister is only the first amongst equals".
He also, I think, trusted too much in his so-called celebrity cachet with the foreign
media and relied and entertained too many suspect Umno leaders.
Ghaffar was meant to be an interim Deputy Prime Minister. If any one had expected
Ghaffar Baba to have graduated beyond that, he should have hung "L" tag
on his sports car.
Anwar had everything going for him until he became too confident.
Worst of all he was counseled by a train of young, inexperienced (though with plenty
of funds), and unusually overzealous and cocky advisers, cronies and "phantoms".
They were suspicious and divided every UMNO leader has either "us" or "them"
One or two of the apparatchicks and functionaries were humble friendly if endowed
with little "street wisdom". What was needed was a tested experience, a
sound liberal education, an exemplary moral character, gifted with some talent in
Despite that they had a good run for 16 years, and the last five years in particular,
trailing the majesty - in the minds of his cabal of advisers; admirers ad supporters
- the greatest Deputy Prime Minister Malaysia ever had.
Abdullah Badawi would have learned the pitfalls of his predecessors. I know him well
enough that he would just be himself: serve his boss loyally and indulge in no "monkey
He has the virtue of making no presence to be clever-by-half nor has Abdullah specialised
in a policy of bluff and playing one friend against the other. Abdullah is perceived
to be guile less.
(Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad is our envoy to the United Nations )