Bolehland's best ill-kept secret these days is the still-denied rift between the Prime Minister and his finance minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin. That it exists is certain: the finance minister busily builds bridges with those he would not waste time only six months ago, telling them in private meetings that he stays on to protect the "Old Man from Himself".
Unkind souls suggest that Tun Daim takes advantage of the Prime Minister's more than occasional forgetfulness to make policy, insisting when the Old Man protests that he had approved it. What brought this out into the open is the Prime Minister's horror at the medium-ranking Chinese-owned banks disappearing in the forced mergers Bank Negara Malaysia ordered; more than the political fallout was the disappearance of the most vibrant of the banking system, the medium-ranking Chinese owned banks. Tun Daim had threatened to resign if his six megabanks proposal was rejected. It was. He has not. Nor would he.
The two men, at the centre of Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim's allegations of a political conspiracy to remove him from the political scene, must stick together if only to prove the conspiracy wrong. But the two men annoy each other by making life difficult for the other's minions.
This is complicated by the unpalatable evidence that the former deputy prime minister gives in court.
Dato' Murad Khalid is a pawn in this. He backs Tun Daim, is now seen as his proxy in the Anwar camp, however close Dato' Seri Anwar was to him. His partner, Mr Tong Kooi Ong, was with Dato' Seri Anwar, but switched camps, with the usual backbone Bolehland businessmen with political connexions are noted for, when the Prime Minister's son, Mr. Mirzan Mahathir, took control of Phileo Allied Land. Should any revelations Dato' Murad in his statutory declaration not stick or is otherwise ignored, the flak falls on Tun Daim. The Prime Minister's brave front in demanding an anti-corruption agency investigation would make Tun Daim squirm. It would be a short step then to demand the Anwar allegations in court be investigated too. What gave this game away is the speed with which the ACA is pressed into service, when no action is ordered to investigate the litany of allegations Dato' Seri Anwar spills in court these days. Somehow, the Anwar allegations -- all of which has been floating around for months and years -- has a ring of truth to it to the degree the Murad's does not. It does not mean that Dato' Seri Anwar tells the whole truth; but the government cannot risk having the ACA investigate them.
Nothing would come out of the ACA investigation, unless the Attorney-General, Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah, presses further charges against Dato' Seri Anwar. As he did not when the ACA presented evidence of corrupt practices of at least three cabinet ministers -- Dato' Ling Liong Sik, Dato' S. Samy Vellu, Datin Rafidah Aziz -- and the chief justice, Tun Eusoff Chin. Nor does the ACA investigate the allegation, in a sworn affidavit, of the plaintiff's lawyer, who goes on holidays with the chief justice and the Attorney-General, writing the judgement which the High Court judge read. Whether the Anwar allegations are true is irrelevant now. Those he targets run for cover. They would not want to discuss it. The Prime Minister cannot now act or his case against Dato' Seri Anwar would dissemble.
What keeps the Prime Minister and Tun Daim together in an uneasy partnership is Dato' Seri Anwar's careful revealing of corruption that scrupulously apportions blame on both, while bringing in their supporters. To paint Dato' Seri Anwar as an unprincipled politician, Dato' Murad Khalid is brought out to put the knife in. It is no more facts but perception that matters. The Murad Khalid affair has blown up in the Prime Minister's face, as the Anwar allegations in court inexhorably does.
So, theatrics like the Murad Khalid statutory declaration raises more questions than answers. The Prime Minister is shocked at the RM3,000 million allegedly controlled by Dato' Seri Anwar. How is it possible that he could have such a slush fund (for that is what it is)if this was not part of UMNO culture for leading politicians to have their own slush fund? The former Selangor mentri besar, Dato' Harun Idris, was jailed for money paid into his slush fund by the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. That led, when Tun Hussein Onn became prime minister, to an investigation of slush funds of mentris besars and cabinet ministers. He made them fork them out, the sums so huge that he deposited them in London; it was these funds the then as now UMNO Treasurer, one Daim Zainuddin, with the connivance of one Dr Mahathir bin Mohamed, attempted to corner the tin market with -- the Maminco Affair -- and lost all of it. The Carrian Affair in Hong Kong which caused Bank Bumiputra to lose US$1,000 million (then M$2,500 million) was to recover the funds UMNO lost in the tin fiasco. Since no self-respecting UMNO politician would be without his slush fund, to make the insinuation that only one man was corrupt in an otherwise pristine political party is disingenious indeed. If, as Dato' Murad Khalid insists, Dato' Seri Anwar had a slush fund, it is safe to assume that every leading figure in UMNO also has. Or is the Prime Minister and Tun Daim now saying Dato' Seri Anwar took them for a ride all the years he was in UMNO, and corrupted UMNO to boot?