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 London-trained lawyers.

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 "palace infighting".

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 politics".

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 )

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