The Asian Voice

Sitting on the fence may be best option for Muhyiddin, says Sin Chew Daily

Muhyiddin Yassin arrives to speak to the media after he was sacked during the cabinet reshuffle, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Muhyiddin Yassin arrives to speak to the media after he was sacked during the cabinet reshuffle, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.PHOTO: REUTERS

By Tay Tian Yan

Sin Chew Daily/ANN

Where is Muhyiddin Yassin headed to after he was stripped of his Deputy Prime Minister post?

There are three possibilities based on the very different experiences of three former DPMs who were also removed from office: Musa Hitam, Ghafar Baba and Anwar Ibrahim.

1. Musa Hitam used to be a very powerful man that together with his boss was said to be an integral part of the so-called 2M administration back in those years.

He enjoyed almost an equal status to then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad simply because the latter had yet to take full control of Umno during his early years of premiership. As a result, Mahathir needed the help from Musa's supporters to check the advances of Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Ghazali Shafie.

But such a cordial relationship was torn several years later when Musa quit his job on his own accord.

After a year, Musa teamed up with Ku Li in the party elections in which Ku Li would challenge Mahathir as party president while Musa took on Ghafar Baba as deputy.

This Team B was defeated by a thin majority. Since then, Musa has bowed out of politics completely.

As a strong DPM, Musa was destined to be locked in conflicts with his boss. He later left politics after losing the party election.

2. Ghafar Baba was not a very prominent politician, to be honest, but he was a DPM Mahathir would feel very much at ease with.

Ghafar was well aware of his position, and had never attempted to pose any threat at all to his boss.

That probably explains why he managed to stay on for quite some time.

But the third in line was not that patient. And since the big boss was not ready to act, Anwar decided to go his way, trying to force out Ghafar with his strong grassroots support in the party.

In the face of aggressive onslaught from Anwar, the veteran leader announced he would not seek re-election after failing to secure the minimum number of nominations.

3. Anwar Ibrahim found himself in heads-on clash with his boss Mahathir. Where political nature is concerned, both Anwar and Mahathir belong to the same type of politicians - people who have very high regard for themselves and will in no way concede defeat.

And once the relationship between the duo turned sour, it became predictable that the battle would go on without an end in sight.

Anwar believed he was as competent as his boss, be it in the party or national administration. He even thought he could secure the support of the Supreme Council and Umno Youth to force out Mahathir.

But he never knew the older politician was indeed a seasoned manipulator of power who could easily throw him out of the party and government.

Anwar launched a fierce strike back against Mahathir with a little help from anti-Mahathir, anti-Umno, anti-BN forces as well as NGOs and opposition parties.

Such intense impact subsequently altered the political ecosystem of the country.

4. Muhyiddin Yassin's reputation and competency are well below those of Musa Hitam. Talking about perseverance and personal charisma, he is no match for Anwar Ibrahim, either. Nevertheless, he fares better than Ghafar Baba in terms of environment and opportunities.

In other words, Muhyiddin is not in a position to challenge the party president, and will never be able to ride on social forces to impact the PM like Anwar. But he will not bow out silently, totally defenceless, like Ghafar.

Muhyiddin insists that he is still the Umno deputy president, and will continue to be so over the next two to three years unless his party post is terminated. This provides him a platform to act.

This, coupled with the influences of Mahathir from within and without the party will give him the necessary ammo if he still intends to fight back.

To overthrow Najib is well outside his personal capacity. At a time when Najib is confronted with full-blown challenges, Muhyiddin might as well sit on the fence and watch.

Who knows he might reap the unexpected harvest some day.