It was certainly a lie for Ismail Sabri to say that debates are not our culture.
Clueless Ismail Sabri appears to believe that he will become prime minister again if UMNO-led Barisan Nasional coalition wins the next general election. He’s so dumb that party president Zahid Hamidi would eat him for lunch without him realizing it. The turtle-egg man is no match to the cunning and corrupt UMNO president, who is playing Sabri like a yo-yo.
The clearest proof that Java-immigrant Zahid will definitely become the 10th Prime Minister, despite his denial, was when he personally pledged to appoint three deputy prime ministers – one each from Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsula – should Barisan Nasional win the 15th General Election. It was not only a political gimmick, but also a sign of desperation to win by hook or by crook.
Yes, it’s Ahmad Zahid Hamidi – not Ismail Sabri – who will become the next prime minister. Otherwise, how do you explain Zahid’s authority to create a record three deputy prime ministers in an effort to buy support from the Borneo states? Should it not be Sabri, as both caretaker prime minister and prime ministerial candidate, to announce the proposal instead?
Even though majority of 191 divisions of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) have accepted Sabri as the poster boy, they did so only “after” Zahid had opened his mouth to endorse Sabri. All the 191 division chiefs kept quiet before the party president says Sabri remains the Barisan Nasional candidate for the post of prime minister in the 15th General Election.
The UMNO division chiefs had to obey their “Emperor” because as the party president, only Zahid possessed the ultimate power to sign the letter of candidacy (“surat watikah”) for candidates to contest in the national election. With a stroke of the pen, Zahid can send caretaker PM Sabri to an early retirement, and there’s absolutely nothing the turtle-egg man can do about it.
And the only reason Zahid agrees to appoint Sabri, who ranked only third in the party hierarchy as one of three vice-presidents, as the poster boy is because Zahid’s popularity is worse than Sabri. In fact, not only Zahid is extremely unpopular within the Malay community, he is looked down by UMNO-Malays themselves. Sabri is merely used to win the election, after which will be dumped like a soiled diaper.
Even then, Sabri had to send his minions, Tajuddin Abdul Rahman and Mahdzir Khalid, to force Zahid’s hand by playing a psychology game. Tajuddin poured cold water over Sabri’s chances to continue as premier if Barisan Nasional wins the general election, saying there’s “no guarantee”. Mahdzir, on the other hand, pre-emptively said Sabri is UMNO’s only choice as prime minister.
Visibly shocked and upset with Zahid’s proposition, Sabri scrambled to steal the thunder back. He played down his boss’ idea, arguing that Barisan Nasional should win the election first. Of course, he had to disagree with Zahid because his own reputation has taken a hit after he obediently agreed to dissolve the Parliament for a snap election in the middle of the monsoon season.
Hilariously, when opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim proposed on Oct 20 that the prime ministerial candidates from the three main coalitions contesting in the 15th General Election should engage in a debate session ahead of the polling day, Sabri jumped onto the bandwagon and rejected the challenge. The UMNO vice-president was determined not to let Zahid steals his thunder again.
But Zahid has no plan whatsoever to respond to Anwar’s challenge. It would be a suicide mission for the corrupt UMNO chief to debate with the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president because Zahid’s forte is bullying and stealing people’s money – not debate. He still has 47 charges of criminal breach of trust, graft and money laundering linked to funds belonging to the charity organisation Yayasan Akalbudi.
Instead of keeping his mouth shut, Ismail Sabri responded because he was desperate to show that he is UMNO’s prime ministerial candidate. In doing so, he made a fool of himself when he claimed that an open debate is not part of Malaysia culture. The clueless and incompetent caretaker prime minister said – “It is not our culture to have debates. We have never done this, and it doesn’t do any good.”
Did he realize that (former) British Prime Minister Liz Truss got her job after a leadership debate with Rishi Sunak, never mind she eventually resigned after just 44 days? And it was through the debate that Sunak, after demonstrating his skills, is now the new British PM after winning more than 140 public declarations of support while Penny Mordaunt has fewer than 30, while Boris Johnson withdrew from the race?
It was certainly a lie for Sabri to say that debates are not our culture. As early as 2008, Anwar and former information minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek clashed in a first-ever live debate between an opposition leader and government ministers on the sharp hike in fuel prices. There was also a live debate during UMNO presidential election in 2018 involving Zahid, Khairy and Razaleigh.
The most recent live debate was between Anwar and former PM Najib Razak in May this year, just four months before Najib lost his final appeal and sent to 12 years in jail for corruption. Strangely, it was only after Najib had lost power and convicted that he suddenly wanted to debate with everyone. When he was the prime minister (2009-2018), Najib had never dared to debate.
When challenged to debate on 1MDB scandal, Najib said as Prime Minister it was not proper for him to publicly debate with former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad. In June 2015, Najib appeared to agree to a debate with 90-year-old Mahathir, only for the session to be suddenly cancelled because disgraced Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar conveniently claimed public safety was threatened.
Sabri might have taken a page out of Najib’s playbook because in 2012, Najib too said that debates were not part of our political culture. That’s the easiest way to chicken out without looking like a coward. They always forget, or pretend to forget, that Members of Parliament engage in debates in the Parliament all the time. Debates are not only part of our culture; they are the main ingredients of democracy.
In truth, Sabri does not have half the intelligence to debate with Perikatan Nasional prime ministerial candidate Muhyiddin Yassin, let alone Pakatan Harapan leader Anwar. The UMNO vice-president knew he would be grilled like roast chicken in a live debate. A simple question about his failed MARA Digital Mall project is enough to make him burst into tears.
If debates are not our culture, so is eating turtle eggs, which Ismail Sabri vigorously consumed back in 2015. Wearing and showing off his RM5,500 Burberry designer shirt during a meeting with his Singapore counterpart is also not our culture, but he did it anyway. It is also not our culture to have a backdoor government or prime minister, but Sabri not only was part of the backdoor regime, but became a backdoor PM himself.
Corruption, abuse of power, racism, discrimination, plundering and whatnot are not part of Islamic teachings or Malay culture, but UMNO have gladly practised them for over 60 years since independence in 1957. It is not our culture to abuse a government helicopter to save his son-in-law first during flash floods, but Sabri did it anyway, leaving hundreds of victims stuck on the rooftops of their homes.
Pretending to be busy is insufficient to mask his cowardice. Poster boy Sabri should happily use the national debate to send the message to both voters and UMNO president Zahid that he is a leader worth his salt. The debate is not all about who argues better, but to prove that one can articulate thoughts, opinions, ideas or policies to the audience – especially the 18-year-old young voters who will vote for the first time.
It’s indeed pathetic that Sabri, who studied law at the University of Malaya in 1980, has no balls to debate with his political challengers. Exactly what type of lawyer cannot argue his case in a court, or in the case of Sabri, cannot debate his policies in a debate? Did he realize he can use the debate to hammer opposition Pakatan Harapan on Tommy Thomas’s so-called four offences?
Understandably, he can only communicate in the Malay language due to his poor grasp of English. Surely Anwar can debate in Malay with Muhyiddin and Sabri. Therefore, he has no reason to be terrified. If the RM5,500 Burberry designer shirt (or designer watch – Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph 44MM Blue Cameo – worth a whopping RM292,553) could help instil his confidence, he is allowed to wear them.
Based on his mind-boggling skills in making even US President Joe Biden appreciate and understand his speech in the Malay language at the White House, it’s both puzzling and comical that PM Sabri chooses to run away from a debate in his own country. After all, haven’t UMNO mocked and laughed at the 22-month rule under Pakatan Harapan as nothing but a huge failure? – Finance Twitter