Pak Lah’s Hari Raya Surprise and Reprise?

Pak Lah’s press statements deserve a closer look.  He is a veteran politican.  He is under siege from his opponents both inside and outside Umno.  He has made a transitional arrangement with Najib by 2010.  Then he said it will be earlier.  Now he announces a postponement of the Umno election to March 2009.

Read his statements again.  It may not be quite what everybody thinks it is after all.  There may be a surprise in there for Najib, Muhyiddin and the Umno Supreme Council who have all but forced him into an imminent retirement.

Abdullah said he has not decided whether he will defend his post as president. He will make an announcement before Oct 9.

“I am not under any pressure. It will be my decision,” he said. “The postponement of the AGM is to facilitate the transition plan.”

“It will be my decision alone but you can go on guessing.”

(MalaysianInsider here)

Defend his post as president

Why does he need to decide to defend his post as president if it is so clear that he is stepping down next March?  Most think that there is a stepping down next March but the announcement was merely a postponement of the Umno elections.  Certainly, many read this as implied that Pak Lah will step down but there is nothing explicit in his statement at all.

By saying this, he leaves the option open to continue all the way up till 2010 and possibly all the way to the end of his term.  This postponement agreement may merely be a reprieve for an undisturbed Hari Raya.

By the time the Raya celebrations are over, Pak Lah is expected to make his announcement before October 9.  That announcement can certainly be a surprise for everybody that he will decide against what his opponents in the Supreme Council had thought they had an agreement.

We shall soon see but for sure, this option is very much alive.

It will be my decision

Pak Lah remains the President of Umno.  It will be his decision and nobody else’s.  No one, not Najib, not Muhyiddin, not Mahathir, not the Supreme Council members can force him to decide against his wishes.  The agreement to postpone the Umno elections appears to be a compromise to remove the pressure built up over the previous Supreme Council meeting from his detractors.

Yes, he says he will listen to them however harsh they may be.  One report said that he was utterly disturbed by what he heard since no one minced their words.  Heard them he did and now he knows exactly what they think of him.  Their cards revealed, Pak Lah can plot his next moves.  And this compromise is his first.

He has the Hari Raya holidays to gather his thoughts, regroup with his supporters who have lots riding on him and to plan ahead now that his “enemies” are in the light.  Strangely, nobody thinks Pak Lah is capable of this.  The opponents have let their guard down.  It will be Pak Lah’s decision indeed.  So don’t be surprised by him.  How can Pak Lah just simply walk away just because the opponents said so?  No way!

Facilitate the transition plan

The transition plan is for Pak Lah to handover to Najib in 2010 thus giving him a few more years as PM to do what he aspires to do, even if many thinks he can’t fulfill them.  Then after the previous Supreme Council meeting, he says that it will certainly be earlier than 2010 but he never said when.  The postponement of the AGM to next March had implied that the earlier date could be at that time.  But Pak Lah never said it but left it to everybody to believe what might have been implied.

Then what does facilitate the transition plan mean?  Pak Lah must have agreed with the Supreme Council and Najib that he will do something about making that transition much sooner than 2010 and Pak Lah agreeing to the postponement of the AGM to next March might have misled them to think he will step down by that time.

If Pak Lah had agreed clearly to stepping down by next March in the Supreme Council meeting, he would have come right out to declare that he is stepping down by next March and not make a vague statement like facilitating the transition plan which means practically nothing new.  There will be a transition but nobody knows when but it can be March 2009 or it can be June 2010.  It’s his decision and he wants us not to forget that, especially his opponents.

You can go on guessing

It seems from the videos showing Pak Lah making this statement after the Supreme Council meeting that he was at ease and smiling.  Saying this appears to be a tongue-in-cheek teasing the media to write what they are assuming from what is said.  Well, if he intended to get the media and everyone in the blogs to guess, they are certainly doing just that.

Pak Lah must have been laughing inside that people are assuming his position from the circumstantial statements which are all implied, never explicit.  After all, what is there to hide if he has come to terms with Najib and the Supreme Council members?  But Pak Lah didn’t say anything specific, staying with the vague and wanting everybody to keep guessing what he is actually wanting to do.

One thing for sure that we don’t have to guess.  He is still calling the shots in Umno.  He is saying that he is still the PM.  He is not saying “read my lips“.  He is saying “guess what I’ll do“.

The only possible reason for Pak Lah to remain vague is to buy time and time he actually now have.  He gets to celebrate Hari Raya in peace and to think through exactly what he can and will do thereafter.  If Pak Lah has his way, he doesn’t want this as his last Raya as PM of Malaysia.  Chances are he wants to push through his way and on his terms and not on anybody else’s terms.  He won’t want to go down in history as the PM with the shortest term because he was pushed aside by people inside Umno.  It would be more heroic if he led the war against the opposition and manage to make all the changes he wanted.  Not bow to opposing pressure inside of Umno.

Don’t underestimate Pak Lah.  Read his statements.  Don’t read his lips as there’s nothing to read yet.  His supporters are still aplenty and much is riding on his continuing as PM and thus as President of Umno.  It is not Najib’s turn just yet.

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