Najib is plainly becoming desperate. The problem is money: his cash reserves are frozen abroad; the coffers of the GLCs have been denuded by earlier squandering; the ringgit is over 4 to the dollar compared to 3 to the dollar before 1MDB and Petronas is simply not delivering the previous levels of profits.
Najib needs money now for the upcoming election, which he plans to fight in the same way he always has. He wants first to throw a ‘feel-good’ wad of money at the nation in the form of some sort of ‘bonus payment’ (as if it was a personal gift from him) then to announce the election in the after-glow.
During that election he wants to be able to hand out more notes for votes on the understanding that if those bribed electors ‘cheat’ and vote for the opposition instead, the government will have ways of knowing and punishing them.
The nation may have rumbled him and everyone knows and despises the way he bribes folk with a portion of their own stolen money, but Najib plainy reckons that cash is cash and he can continue to get away with it. His problem is he just doesn’t have any more stolen cash to spend.
Which is why UMNO’s eyes appear to have greedily now focused on Selangor. This wealthy and well-managed opposition state has rejected the Najib approach to financial management (i.e. steal whatever public funds you can) and it continues to have large sums in its bank accounts.
This is public money, of course, which ought only ever be spent on things that have been agreed are for the public good – amenities, investments and also savings for the unpredictable future. PKR’s Azmin Ali has presided over these coffers in the interests of the people of Selangor, who know they have benefitted from this stewardship and are more than likely to vote back an opposition state government at the coming election.
However, it has emerged this weekend that Najib had bought into a plan that amounted to a flagrant political heist that would have allowed him to lay his hands on all that cash – he was planning to snatch Selangor from under the noses of the chosen government in advance of that election, so that he could secure the keys to the coffers!
So much for his constant complaining about ‘conspiracies to unseat democratically elected governments’.
There in his mind’s eye must have glittered more diamonds for Rosie, with the election bought and paid for. He could even have started putting in those orders for Trump’s promised Boeing jets!
The people of Selangor might have indeed voted back new opposition leaders at the next election, but those leaders would have found the bank accounts wiped clean.
That there was such a plan is compelling. On Sunday, Malaysia was placed on tenter-hooks by Najib’s sudden promise of a major public announcement to be held within hours at his party head-quarters, with all senior bigwigs summoned back to attend from across the country.
There was no doubt but this was planned as something big, the game-changer that Najib plainly yearns to sweep away his troubles. But, when the curtain was lifted on the event, out shuffled just one wizened has-been from the Selangor scene, discredited long ago after being caught with bags of cash entering Australia.
By coming back to UMNO the cash carrying and deceitful Mat Taib (he is said to have lied that he didn’t speak English to the Aussie police) was certainly returning to his true spiritual home after a long journey around various other parties. However, his crestfallen comrades could barely conceal their disappointment that he had failed in the end to bring the keys to Selangor with him, in the form of a mass defection which had apparently been promised.
The planned coup represents a classic Malaysian manoeuvre, although it would cause gasps and probably lynchings in any other genuine democratic country. Eight PKR ‘frogs’ were believed by UMNO bosses to have agreed to be presumably rewarded to cross sides with Matt Taib and join the 12 UMNO state representatives.
These in the end never leapt. However, together with the 13 PAS members, presumed also to be under instructions to switch by Najib’s new best friends in that party’s leadership, this would have given UMNO the majority it needs to get its hands back on the state and crucially the keys to the safes holding all the money.
With one daring move the Prime Minister, who seems to live from one throw of the dice to the next, had hoped to reverse his fortunes and grab control of this last well of money left after his years of disastrous mismanagement of Malaysia’s finances.
Whether any of the expectations of these plotters were genuinely realistic will eventually emerge. If any of the planned frogs had really seriously toyed with the idea of leaping right before the election, they must have been only too painfully aware of the anger they would have faced from the voters who put them in power in the first place.
Would the likely consequences of such perfidy have been worth any rewards on offer? A sensible person would think not, which was doubtless why only one figure, who had nothing to lose, in the end came shuffling out to face the flash bulbs yesterday afternoon, in one of the biggest anti-climaxes in Malaysian political history.
It leaves Najib, once again mortified and without the cash he had greedily being eyeing. It also leaves PAS awkwardly exposed as a factor that UMNO clearly considers not as an opposition party (which PAS still claims to be) but as a fully fledged ally ready to join with them in BN coalitions as and when the need arises.
Doubtless the fishing will continue as Najib’s lawless henchmen work to secure the next election. However, his targets are being wisely advised to continue to steer clear of a man who has plainly lost his touch!