Thursday, 13 April 2017

Najib redraws his inner circle

A promotion of this kind happens once in a blue moon and however hard Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein (pic) tried to hold on to his emotions, everyone could see that he was on cloud nine after being appointed Special Functions Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.

Whichever way one looks at it, the appointment is a step up, an additional portfolio to his Defence Minister post.

The last person to hold a similar post was Tun Daim Zainuddin and the portfolio lent him a prestige that no other minister had.

But times have changed and it is up to Hishammuddin to shape and draw out his portfolio in the months to come.

Political insiders suggest it will probably involve quite a bit of international responsibilities and projects, given what some have described as his “diplomatic flair” on issues of a global nature.

They see Hishammuddin playing a more “heavy duty” role on the international front where doors naturally swing open given his family name, his polished English and good looks and, of course, the fact that he is the cousin of the Prime Minister.

His central role in the counter-terrorism centre initiative by Saudi Arabia and Malaysia has also been cited as part of his new portfolio.

Saudi Arabia is very important to Malaysia, both in terms of investments, trade and the Mecca connection.

Hishammuddin, unknown to many people, has played a vital role in building those ties.

He has cultivated a personal friendship with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Salman Al Saud, who is a sort of Khairy Jamaluddin figure.

The Saudi prince is also Defence Minister and an influential figure in the Saudi government and their personal friendship has opened doors for Malaysia.

The appointment is also a hint that the general election will be this year rather than in 2018.

The focus of Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and his deputy Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi will be on the domestic front in the coming months.

It is understood that Najib only has a couple of foreign trips lined up for the rest of the year. The No. 1 and No. 2 will be starting their nationwide pre-election blitz very soon.

Hishammuddin will be taking over foreign travels that the top two are unable to do so.

The Opposition parties wasted no time in spinning the appointment as a move to checkmate Dr Ahmad Zahid.

But a political insider said this is not about making Hishammuddin the “DPM 2”.

“The power line-up is still Najib as No. 1 and Zahid as No. 2. But I guess the appointment means that Hisham is now No. 3 in the Umno hierarchy,” said the insider.

Both Dr Ahmad Zahid and Hishammuddin are Umno vice-presidents but the former has assumed the duties of the deputy president following the sacking of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

That has left Hishammuddin as the only vice-president. But the appointment puts him in a firm position as the top vice-president.

“It is a clear signal that the PM wants the best senior leadership team to face the challenges ahead, especially with the general election looming.

“Seniority is important in politics and this is a way to establish a clearer hierarchy within the national leadership,” said KRA political risk analyst Amir Fareed Rahim.

Najib is sitting very strong in Umno especially after the Umno general assembly last December. The chain of command is clearly established after more than a year of intense power struggle.

On top of that, he has Dr Ahmad Zahid, his long-time friend and political comrade on his right and cousin Hishammuddin on the left.

Dr Ahmad Zahid is bound to feel a little nervous over Hishammuddin’s upward move but his insurance is that Najib is too astute to put his cousin as the No. 2.

Two cousins at the top would not be well-accepted by Umno or Malaysians. It would be too much to swallow and it would open the party to all sorts of insinuations and gossip.

“There will be all kinds of conclusions drawn about what has happened but it very much means that the PM has redrawn his inner circle,” said Amir.

Related story:

Hishammuddin takes up new post

Tags / Keywords: Politics , hishammuddin , special functions minister

More Articles

Filter by

Party president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail (right), Selangor MB Datuk Seri Azmin Ali lauch book of anwar ibrahim at Dewan Raja Muda Musa here in Shah Alam on Sunday, May 21, 2017.

Debate over the Chosen One

28 May 2017

The PKR shock and awe in proclaiming Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as the prime minister candidate has been the talk of political circles, but how will the husband-and-wife package go down with voters?

Anwar-worshipping at PKR congress

22 May 2017

The PKR congress swept the thorny issue of its broken ties with PAS under the carpet to focus on the general election and lay claim to the prime minister post.

Unprecedented: DAP’s state chief Chong Chieng Jen (far left) fielding questions from the media following the state assembly’s disqualification of Dr Ting (far right) who has been unable to prove that he did not possess dual citizenship.

Undone by an Australian secret

21 May 2017

It has been a sensational fall from grace for the DAP politician from Sarawak who lost his seat after being exposed as having held dual Australian-Malaysian citizenship.

Selangor problem hangs over PKR meet

21 May 2017

Reality sets in for PKR and the next general election will be less about capturing Putrajaya than about doing what it takes to hold on to Selangor, without which the party will lose its political relevance.

At the centre: Azmin being mobbed by the media at the Parliament lobby in this file picture. The PKR deputy president is expected to touch on the matter of PAS during the upcoming PKR national congress.

PKR, riven by divisions, faces fiery congress ahead

17 May 2017

DATUK Seri Azmin Ali must be feeling very confident about the survival of the Selangor government. He is in Brussels on a state investment trip and is scheduled to return on Friday.

Old is not always gold: Dr Mahathir, Anwar and Muhyiddin are possible Prime Ministerial candidates in Pakatan Harapan and they have one awkward commonality – all are products of Umno, the party Pakatan leaders love to hate.

No consensus on PM candidate

14 May 2017

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has brought his star power to Pakatan Harapan but the coalition is not interested in having the 92-year-old leader as their candidate for Prime Minister.

 Sallehen Mukhyi

Sallehen confirms call to resign

14 May 2017

Denials have been flying fast and furious but the new Selangor PAS chief who spoke at a political retreat gave a blow-by-blow account of how the Mentri Besar asked PAS to resign from the state executive council.

Royal support: Rumours of PKR assemblymen in Selangor jumping ship have been unsettling but Azmin continues to enjoy the confidence of the Sultan who is seen here with Tengku Permaisuri Norashikin. Behind the royal couple are Azmin and his wife Datin Seri Shamsidar Taharin.

Pakatan hit by ‘Sept 16’ rumours

7 May 2017

Datuk Seri Azmin Ali seems unruffled by speculation that his state government is in danger but his appearance alongside the Sultan of Selangor at a football tournament should calm the situation.

Divorce plot in the PAS drama

2 May 2017

The split between PAS and PKR has come through but the signs are that this may be in name only, for now.

Stepping it up: Najib was upbeat during a two-day visit to Terengganu which is regarded as a swing state. He is seen here with Cabinet ministers and Terengganu leaders against a backdrop of Sungai Besut. — Bernama

Tide has turned for Najib

30 April 2017

The Opposition claim that Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is stepping down could not be further from the truth. He is on attack mode and has switched up the we-can-win rhetoric.

  • Page 1 of 5

Go to page:


Recent Posts

More Columnists