Chin Tong on Ku Li’s ambition to become prime minister

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Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah is a recognisable figure throughout the decades of Malaysian politics and had been a heartbeat away from the premiership after coming close to defeating Dr Mahathir Mohamad in the 1986 Umno elections.

Then prime minister Mahathir prevailed over Razaleigh, but the latter’s ambition to become prime minister lived on.

Azman Ghani/The Star

Fast forward to more than three decades later, amidst the latest political wrangling and there is no doubt that Razaleigh has been able to capture attention for the most unexpected moments.

When PKR president Anwar Ibrahim, another prime ministerial aspirant, met with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to convince the ruler of his parliamentary majority last year, Tengku Razaleigh mysteriously turned up at the Istana Negara after him.

And when Mahathir sought to convince MPs to vote against Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s budget last year, Razaleigh was also there.

Tengku Razaleigh, better known as Ku Li, had also floated the idea of ousting Muhyiddin and forming an Umno-Harapan coalition government. The nine-term MP wasn’t shy to make public his ambition to become prime minister.

But this episode isn’t the first as former deputy defence minister Liew Chin Tong would testify in his latest book.

“Each time in the decade since 2008, whenever there seemed to be an opening or vacuum, such as when Anwar was handed a jail term, (DAP national organising secretary) Anthony Loke and I would be called to see him, to explore the possibilities of him coming to the rescue as prime minister,” Liew wrote.

One such incident, Liew said, was on Aug 3, 2015, where they were asked to meet Razaleigh at his palatial residence nicknamed the “White House” on Jalan Langgak Golf in Kuala Lumpur.

This was a month after it was revealed that then prime minister Najib Abdul Razak had received billions of ringgit into his personal bank accounts, believed to be linked to state-owned 1MDB.

“I was asked to bring copies of statutory declarations (SD) for DAP MPs to sign in support of Razaleigh becoming prime minister to replace Najib,” Liew said.

He described Razaleigh as the “permanent prime minister-in-waiting”.

Liew said when he showed DAP’s Lim Kit Siang (whom he refers to as Kit) the documents, he was asked to burn them.

“I showed Kit the papers, and he promptly asked me to burn them and leave no trace of it.

“‘We are not involved at all and we won’t sign any SD for anyone’ he told me,” Liew said.

Liew said he commended Lim for his reading of the scenario as two weeks later, then deputy prime minister and home minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi started to accuse the opposition of conspiring with some in Umno to bring down Najib and warned of criminal charges.

“In March 2016, Razaleigh capitulated and signed a ‘Kelantan Declaration’ in support of Najib and denied attempting to make himself prime minister,” he said.

Liew said few in Umno dared to stand up to Najib despite the 1MDB scandal and with leaders such as Muhyiddin Yassin, Shafie Apdal and Mukhriz Mahathir being forced out of Umno.

Liew, who is also a senator, revealed that then youth and sports minister Khairy Jamaluddin had confided about drafting a resignation letter but never followed through.

“Khairy told me he had his resignation letter ready in August 2015 but continued to keep it in his drawers,” he said.

According to accounts by Umno leaders, Khairy only went against Najib after he led BN to defeat in the 14th general election.

Former Umno supreme council leader Lokman Noor Adam previously claimed that Khairy had gone to Najib’s house after the election to demand the Umno president resign.

Lokman also claimed that Khairy had objected to plans for Najib to retain an unelected government for three months after losing the election.

Liew’s book, titled Lim Kit Siang: Patriot. Leader. Fighter. is a biography but also provides his take on political events. – Malaysiakini

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21 Apr, Liew Chin Tong: Muhyiddin not “accidental PM”, push began in 2016