Muhyiddin is not the face of Malaysian reformation

ILL-TIMED TRIP: Mr Muhyiddin talking to journalists upon returning to Malaysia on Tuesday. The former deputy prime minister, who was sacked last year for his 1MDB criticism,


    Mar 04, 2016

    Muhyiddin is not the face of Malaysian reformation

    WHAT would you do if you knew that you were about to be suspended or sacked from your job, with your career hanging in the balance? If you are Muhyiddin Yassin, then you would be overseas.

    Far away from the action, as your colleagues (some of them less experienced than you) decide to effectively end your career.

    The Umno supreme council's decision to suspend Mr Muhyiddin as deputy president was not surprising, though his absence at that fateful meeting certainly was.

    Basic rules of employment will tell you that the one time you should probably show up for "work" is when you are on the verge of being fired, especially if you think you have done nothing wrong (except maybe annoy your boss).

    For reasons yet unknown, Mr Muhyiddin felt that this rule did not apply to his case.

    Perhaps his absence was intentional and part of an elaborate game plan that is also yet to be known.

    It has been widely speculated that Mr Muhyiddin is conspiring with former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad and his son, ex-Kedah chief minister Mukhriz, to form some sort of resistance movement against the leadership of Prime Minister Najib Razak.

    And while there may be a bigger picture to consider somewhere here, I would imagine that a direct confrontation with the supposed enemy would be inevitable at some point.

    That point came and went last Friday.

    It appears that Mr Muhyiddin missed an opportunity to leverage on his position in the supreme council (none of his other alleged co-conspirators are on the council) to mount an attack on enemy ground.

    How is that good strategy?

    Here is someone who, in July last year, following his sacking as deputy prime minister, had emerged as an unlikely hero in the "Save Malaysia" campaign, if I am to use the term coined by DAP's Lim Kit Siang.

    But, I suppose, we can now forget about him defending all Malaysians, when he was not even present to defend himself.

    Of course, it would be naive to think that Mr Muhyiddin's presence at the meeting could have in any way altered the decision of the supreme council.

    No, this was not about Mr Muhyiddin saving his position in Umno.

    It was about making sure that he went out on his terms, with Mad Max-style guns blazing.

    A senior colleague of mine put it aptly, when she said that the supreme council meeting was Mr Muhyiddin's chance to fire his "last salvo" at the party's leadership, most of them former friends who did not even stand up for him.

    Instead, his absence confirmed what some have suspected all along: Mr Muhyiddin is no fighter.

    Despite some hopeful comparisons to Anwar Ibrahim (who was sacked as Umno deputy president in 1998), we are unlikely to witness anything resembling a Reformasi movement from Mr Muhyiddin.

    The former Johor chief minister does not have the numbers but, more crucially, he lacks the character and determination to amass a solid following in the long run.

    His return home from the ill-timed overseas trip on Tuesday was also not quite the convincing affair some expected it to be.

    Some 50 supporters gathered at the airport with banners showing solidarity with their embattled leader.

    I suppose that is an impressive number if you are gunning for prom king, but not if you are hoping to become a national icon for change.

    Mr Muhyiddin may be able to ride on the storm being created by Dr Mahathir - who has quit Umno - for a while but there is little indication that he can become the country's saviour.

    Apart from his constituents in Pagoh and some random Umno branch leaders, no one else will miss Mr Muhyiddin.

    And that is perhaps the saddest fact about the man who was prime minister-in-waiting not too long ago.