IT was meant to be more than just Muhammad Muhammad Taib re-joining Umno yesterday. He was supposed to bring along eight state government lawmakers and cause the collapse of the Azmin Ali administration.
But for the intervention of powerful stakeholders in Selangor, the end result: Umno president Najib Razak only had Muhammad to show at 5pm in a much-hyped press conference in Kuala Lumpur.
Sources told The Malaysian Insight negotiations for Muhammad’s defection back to Umno and that of eight others were handled by intermediaries and not the prime minister himself.
“Najib was informed that it was a go, but when he turned up, only Mat Tyson was there,” a party source told The Malaysian Insight, calling the 72-year-old former Selangor menteri besar by his popular moniker.
“The deal fizzled out because it was blocked at the highest levels when it was found out that Mat Tyson was part of the deal,” another source told The Malaysian Insight.
That led to the rather short and flat announcement yesterday that Muhammad was re-joining Umno, despite the presence of almost the entire party Supreme Council that sparked rumours and speculation of a state government change or a party reshuffle ahead of the general election which must be held by August 2018.
It is learnt that the political equation that involved Muhammad’s defection would be eight PKR assemblymen joining the 12 Umno lawmakers and another 13 from PAS together with former menteri besar Khalid Ibrahim to form a bloc of 34 lawmakers that would be enough to form a state government in the 56-seat legislature.
The reasons for the eight PKR assemblymen willing to quit their party have not been revealed, said Umno sources familiar with the plan.
Political observers said the move to bring in Muhammad and eight others state assemblyman was reminiscent of the Perak move in 2009 when three Pakatan Rakyat (PR) lawmakers quit the ruling state government and backed Barisan Nasional (BN) in the 59-seat Perak state assembly.
That caused the PR government with 28 lawmakers to collapse and the state ruler then invited BN, also with 28 lawmakers, to form the state government as it had a thin majority of three due to the defections.
The observers said Muhammad’s move yesterday reflected Najib and Umno’s desire to revisit the Perak route to defeat their political foes in Selangor.
Muhammad was a four-term Batang Kali assemblyman (1982-1999) and Selangor MB from 1986 to 1997 when he quit over a currency offence in Australia.
He quit Umno to join PAS in 2013, four years after losing his job in Najib’s cabinet reshuffle in 2009. He quit PAS after two years and joined PKR in 2015.
He has had a major run-in with the Selangor palace when he eloped with a sister of the current sultan in 1987 to marry her in Thailand. But he and the Selangor princess, Tengku Puteri Zaharia Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah, have since divorced.
In an interview to Utusan Malaysia two years ago, Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah discussed the string of state menteris besar but reserved the most scathing comments for Muhammad.
“Muhammad changed many customs, such as the granting of royal honours, so the process bypassed the Royal Council and went straight through the state exco.
“He amassed wealth when he was in Umno and then he joined PAS. Then just as things were turning south for PAS, he left it to join PKR. Whichever party he joins, it is hard to have respect for him for his tendency to jump ship.
“If someone with no principles assumes the helm, everything is bound to fall apart. We must hold on to our principles. If our faith is in the right place, we can weather every test, analyse each problem that arises properly and do not falter after we have made a decision,” the ruler said.