DATUK Seri Azmin Ali must have lived through some of the worst two days of his life after being accused of being one of two men engaged in a sex act in a dimly lit hotel room in Sandakan.
But the Economic Affairs Minister could no longer stay silent, especially after Muhammad Haziq Abdul Aziz openly confessed to being one of the men in the video of the sex rendezvous and also named him as the other man.
Azmin has denied everything and intends to take legal action against his accuser.
Haziq’s “confession”, made in a video clip that lasted only 34 seconds, was jaw-dropping, to say the least.
It was even more sensational than his allegations of sexual intimacy with Azmin.
He is very daring and also quite shameless to make an admission like this in a country where homosexual acts are punishable by law.
“The infrastructure that is supporting Haziq suggests a guerilla-style operation,” said a political insider.
Gutter politics, honey trap, a sting – call it whatever you like, it came across as a slick and systematic operation.
Haziq, a tall and well-groomed lawyer, is also the Santubong PKR Youth chief and principal private secretary to Deputy Primary Industries Minister Datuk Seri Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin.
This could be one of the most intriguing cases ever in the sense that Haziq did not have to be flushed out or pressured to reveal himself.
He seemed more than eager to come out of the closet and tell his side of the story.
Apart from confessing and naming the minister, Haziq issued a strange demand – he urged the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to investigate Azmin, who is also PKR deputy president, for corruption.
Some thought it was a veiled threat, that he may be holding evidence of corruption.
Others saw it as a direct challenge to new MACC chief Latheefa Koya to go after Azmin, knowing full well that Latheefa and the minister are political allies.
Latheefa’s appointment was seen as a strike against the group associated with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
On the other hand, the video is bound to be read as a strike at the anti-Anwar group.
“It’s a tit-for-tat move. It looks like war to me,” said photojournalist Jinggo Minaq.
Haziq came across as composed, confident and purposeful.
He certainly put another famous accuser, Saiful Bukhari Azlan, in the shade.
“The gravity would be less if this concerned the opposition but these people are now in power and PKR is the biggest party in the ruling coalition,” said a corporate lawyer from Penang.
There is little doubt that there are people, perhaps very influential ones, behind Haziq, going by the way that events have unfolded.
“There is something bigger going on behind the scenes to destroy a career. On the other hand, there must be hidden hands, very powerful ones, protecting the chap,” the corporate lawyer added.
It does not take much to see that this may also have to do with the prickly transition plan.
The buzz among the inner circle of Pakatan Harapan is that the transition plan was supposed to be put in motion after the end of the Syawal month.
Dribs and drabs have been trickling out from various Pakatan leaders about the need to confirm exactly when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad will pass the baton to Anwar.
Pakatan leaders wanted something more concrete because the vague handover date was not good for investor confidence and some leaders were not confident if it would really take place.
The plan, according to sources, was to press the Prime Minister to commit to a transition date after the Hari Raya celebrations.
Sources said that the coalition leaders wanted the Prime Minister to announce by August that Anwar would be joining the Cabinet.
If all went well, Anwar’s Cabinet position, presumably to replace Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as Deputy Prime Minister, would be executed by the end of the year.
With Anwar as the No.2, Dr Mahathir would then continue till the middle or end of 2020.
The Pakatan leaders are not out to push him away but they want a clear-cut handover plan.
But conspiracy theories are now bubbling to the surface given the uncanny timing of the bombshell video implicating Azmin.
Was the sex allegation aimed at getting rid of a potential rival for the prime minister job?
Anwar was in pole position for the top job, but Azmin, a blue-eyed boy of Dr Mahathir, was also seen as a potential prime minister candidate.
The speculation is that unless Azmin is out of the way, Dr Mahathir may be tempted to elevate him in the Cabinet, especially if he decides to retaliate against the pressure to pin him down to a transition date.
But the video and subsequent Haziq confession have done grievous damage to Azmin.
His chances at the top job may have been shattered despite his denials.
In fact, an oft-heard comment from a number of political players in the last couple of days was that “the path is clear for Anwar”.
Azmin was widely regarded as one of the most powerful ministers in the Cabinet, but can he survive these allegations of homosexual sex?“Some are writing off (the minister) as finished but I would not be so hasty. My gut feeling is that it’s not over.
“There’s going to be more and you need to watch out for what Dr Mahathir may do next,” said the above political insider.
Dr Mahathir is not going to take it lying down if he sees this as a move to tie his hands and restrict his options.
An angry Chedet will be a dangerous thing.
In the meantime, silence was no longer an option for Azmin and it is timely that he has come out to clear the air.
But will he be able to clear his name, especially in the court of public opinion?
The allegations are not coming from the outside or another party as in the case of Anwar.
The enemy is from within and that is a clear and present danger.
Meanwhile, Haziq is also starting to feel the heat and is being bashed on social media.
His life is about to change forever, although he seems to have gone into this high-stakes game with his eyes wide open.
“Whichever way one looks at it, PKR is very damaged in the eyes of the Malays.
“Two top leaders of PKR accused in similar ways is simply not good for the image of the party,” said the corporate lawyer.
Nothing this major or treacherous has hit PKR since the sodomy accusations against Anwar.
It is going to be a terrible year for Azmin as he fights to clear his name and save his political career against a very well-organised enemy.