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Will the real prime minister please stand up?

Questions are raised about the developments surrounding Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Abdul Rahim Md Noor
3 minute read

The stars are now aligned for Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. Earlier this week, his lawyers requested the court to delay his 47 corruption charges, with a view of having them dropped owing to "new facts and evidence".

What's more shocking was that the deputy public prosecutor told the court that there were instructions not to object to the request made by Zahid's legal team.

This is not the first time that the prosecutors, who are supposed to be legally adversarial to Zahid, have made decisions that favoured the Umno president. Late last month, the deputy public prosecutor also did not object to Zahid's application to the court to get his passport back permanently as there were also "instructions" to that effect.

Here we have a serving deputy prime minister facing a litany of corruption charges amounting to millions of ringgit, gleefully walking away with his passport while study loan defaulters or those declared bankrupt for a far smaller quantum are barred from travelling abroad.

Are there two sets of laws in Malaysia – one for the political elite and another for lesser mortals? 

What's more troubling is that Zahid has been riding roughshod over the government with such impunity that the very foundations of good governance and transparency which Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has espoused are at risk of crumbling.

Remember when Zahid, who is also the rural and regional development minister, appointed his loyalist Ahmad Jazlan Yaakob as Felcra Bhd chairman in December? The announcement created a massive public fallout because it went against Pakatan Harapan's pledge of not appointing politicians to GLCs, so much so that Anwar had to announce that the appointment was put on hold.

But lo and behold, last month, Jazlan's appointment to Felcra was confirmed. That's it: Zahid 1 - Anwar 0 as far as political appointments in GLCs are concerned. It did not stop there. Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, another Zahid loyalist, was made Mara boss while Parit Sulong MP and Umno Wanita chief Noraini Ahmad was appointed to chair Risda. 

The latest appointment was ex-Baling MP Abdul Azeez Rahim to the Kedah Development Authority (Keda). But given Azeez's tainted reputation, especially when he chaired Tabung Haji, Anwar recently announced that the appointment had been put on hold. 

But will Anwar buckle under political pressure from his own deputy? One cannot rule out another "Ahmad Jazlan episode" with regards to Azeez's appointment to Keda.

These incidents make one wonder who is really pulling the levers of power in Putrajaya. Is Zahid the puppeteer prime minister? Does he have Anwar under his thumb?

It is not difficult to see why Anwar is willing to make major concessions when it comes to Zahid. Barisan Nasional (BN) has 30 MPs, the bulk of whom are from Umno and subservient to Zahid.

They are the ones propping up Anwar's government, which is nothing more than a marriage of convenience between a kleptocracy-tainted BN and Pakatan Harapan (PH), a front that was, prior to this, built on reforms and good governance.

Alas, just like the Malay proverb "Kerana nila setitik, rosak susu sebelanga", or its English equivalent, "A rotten apple spoils the whole barrel", PH's image is being speedily chipped away by the shenanigans from the likes of Zahid. 

PH needs to do some soul-searching ahead of the elections in six states before Anwar, the longest PM-in-waiting, becomes the prime minister with the shortest tenure. For starters, he should stand up to his own deputy and show who's the boss before the people stand up to him and tell him that they are the boss, not Zahid.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.