Rumours that Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was planning to resign acquired a life of its own until the Prime Minister himself stepped in to put an end to it.
THE Prime Minister has called the rumour “political fabrication” and his deputy has declared himself as “still here, alive and kicking”.
Both Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin took the unusual step of concurrently dismissing gossip that the latter is resigning from his Deputy Prime Minister post.
It was almost as though there had been some pre-arrangement between the top two to clear the air.
But Putrajaya sources suggested that Najib was actually quite startled to learn of Muhyiddin touching on the resignation rumour and it is understood that calls were made as Najib moved quickly to reaffirm that their partnership and teamwork are as solid as ever.
Najib’s use of the word “political fabrication” pretty much summed up his feelings about the rumour – it was a piece of fiction. Yet, this concocted story had been making the rounds for several weeks, floating around in social media and discussed in Umno circles.
The rumour had become so irritating that Muhyiddin finally decided to put a stop to it a day before his rumoured date of resignation.
The story was that Muhyiddin would be resigning on Friday, June 20, the day when Najib was supposed to announce the Cabinet reshuffle. The date has, of course, come and gone with no resignation or reshuffle.
To complicate matters, Najib was having one of his “Kelab Setia Kawan” gatherings at his official residence, also on Thursday. The “Kelab Setia Kawan” are his friends in politics, some of whom go back with him to his Umno Youth days.
At the gathering of about 200 divisional level leaders, Najib had spoken about loyalty and urged them to stand by him through thick and thin. The timing could not have been more awkward and it probably fanned the rumours to a frenzy.
Muhyiddin’s aides were probably more worried than him because they had been bombarded by inquiries the last few weeks.
Those familiar with Muhyiddin have asked him in the face.
In fact, an Umno division chief had asked him just minutes before Muhyiddin told the media that it was untrue that he is resigning. None of his aides knew what to make of it and some of them were unsure whether it was coming from outside or inside Umno. But they were very sure their boss was staying put although the rumour refused to go away.
When Muhyiddin took a week’s leave last month, the rumour was that he was on leave prior to resigning – it was that bad.
Umno politics is such that not all rumours are mere rumours. As one press aide to a Mentri Besar pointed out, the exit of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Tun Musa Hitam from Umno had been preceded by rumours that blew like the monsoons.
The Umno administration had apparently conducted its own investigation and they think they have traced the source of the rumour. It had allegedly started as Facebook postings by a rather notorious Umno blogger who used to be close to but had fallen out with Muhyiddin.
The postings were picked up by a pro-Pakatan Rakyat news portal before it was jazzed up in a PKR website.
By then, the rumour had acquired a life of its own.
The denials by the top two is not going to stop people from talking.
The most effective way to put it to rest is for Najib to settle the Cabinet reshuffle because that was where it all started. The reshuffle story has dragged on for so long that people have become bored with guessing about the underlings and moved on to speculating about the big fish.
There is no real reason for Najib to want to replace Muhyiddin. On the contrary, there are several reasons why Najib needs Muhyiddin at his side.
“History has shown that a Prime Minister’s worst distraction is to have an ambitious deputy,” said a leading Umno insider.
Muhyiddin has been very loyal to him. It is known in Umno that he is not out to undermine Najib’s position as Prime Minister.
Besides Muhyiddin is already 67 while Najib turns 61 in July. Muhyiddin’s maturity and experience mean that he is not about to launch a palace coup, so to speak. It has given Najib the peace of mind to do his work without having to constantly peer over his shoulder.
“It is also good to have someone like Muhyiddin as the No. 2, especially when the stars of the Umno VPs (vice-presidents) are shining so brightly. Muhyiddin is a good buffer, Najib is quite comfortable with that. They are good for each other,” said the insider.
Going by Najib’s statement on the issue, it is evident that he wants Muhyiddin by his side at least until the end of this term. Their social backgrounds are very different but they are contemporaries, they came up together and the comfort level is there.
Some say the two men should make a greater effort to be seen together in social settings. Muhyiddin had once told his staff that the Prime Minister had told his Cabinet members that politics is about communication.
He said he wanted to put it into practice and had asked his staff: “Are we communicating enough?”
Perhaps the Prime Minister and his deputy should also put that into practice.