History Politics Weirdness

Mat Taib is joining UMNO? Who is he, and why is Umno making it such a big deal?

Last Saturday night, Malaysia’s political scene fell into an uproar as it became known that Datuk Seri Najib, the current Prime Minister as well as the president of Umno had invited all Umno supreme council members to Kuala Lumpur for a major announcement. Back then, it would seem that the announcement would be a pretty serious business, as even Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the deputy Prime Minister cut his trip to Perlis short and returned to Kuala Lumpur immediately.

Original meme from source

Unedited meme from Source

Speculations weren’t in short supply, with some guessing that Najib would announce a sort of formal alliance between Umno and PAS, while others predicting the defection of Shafie Apdal, a top Sabah opposition politician back to Umno. With the scale of the meeting, some even predicted that the 14th General Election will be announced, although that speculation was cut short by Zahid Hamidi denying it on Sunday morning.

Wow. With Umno’s top leaders dropping everything and rushing to the meeting, what did Najib announce? Could the current Selangor MB Azmin Ali be joining Umno? Hah! Nothing of the sort. It was… the return of Selangor’s former MB, Muhammad Muhammad Taib, or more commonly known as Mat Taib, to Umno. And that’s pretty much it. The announcement was met by disappointment from various parties.

“Why such big suspense for this minor piece of news?” – Tian Chua, vice-president of PKR, for FMT.

Sad seal is sad. Source

Sad seal is sad. Source

Najib, after announcing the news at the special press conference at the Umno headquarters, said that he was confident Mat Taib’s return would further strengthen Umno, and that God had opened Mat Taib’s heart to return after quitting the party so many years ago.

“He realised that the Opposition struggle namely PKR is in vain and is against with his soul and because of that God has opened his heart to return to Umno.” – Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, as quoted by the Star.

As for why he would return after all these years in the Opposition, Mat Taib told the public that

“In the (opposition) meetings that I attended, there was no discussion about the Malay agenda. Therefore, I feel there is no other path for me other than Umno.” – Mat Taib, as quoted by Straits Times.

While that statement was later refuted by a member of the Pakatan Harapan, the question still remains: what’s so special about this guy? Well, to answer that question, we did a little digging, and apart from the fact that he looked A LOT like Bill Cosby, as pointed by our readers…

Spot the difference. Source Source

Spot the difference. Source Source

…we came up with some interesting things that you should probably know about Mat Taib. Things like…

 

1. There’s a reason why his other nickname was ‘Mike Tyson’

Sadly, it's got nothing to do with biting ears or mispronouncing 'S's. Source

Sadly, it’s got nothing to do with biting ears or mispronouncing ‘S’s. Source

Yep, the boxing guy. While his first nickname, ‘Mat Taib’, is obviously the contraction of Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib, his second nickname, ‘Mike Tyson’, might leave some peepurs shaking their heads. An article from the Straits Times suggested that he’s called Mike Tyson due to his political boxing skills to get out of trouble, and a quick look back at his history would show that he can indeed float like a butterfly on the political ring.

Mat Taib entered the political game by joining Umno in 1964, and he later became an Ahli Dewan Undangan Negeri (ADUN) for Batang Kali, Selangor, He held that post for four consecutive terms, i.e. 1982, 1986, 1990 and 1995. In 1986, Mat Taib rose to the position of Selangor’s Menteri Besar, and he held that post for 11 years until 1997, when he was forced to resign after getting into an international scandal, but we’ll tell you more on that later.

*hint hint* for the uninternational scandal. Source

*hint hint* for the UNinternational scandal. Source

After a few years, he then became the Rural and Regional Development Minister, but he lost his job to Shafie Apdal in 2009 when Najib rose to power and reshuffled the Cabinet. Four years after that, in 2013, he quit Umno to join PAS, but after two years he quit that too and joined PKR, saying that he wished for a strong alternative government to be formed. Mat Taib stayed in PKR until last Saturday, when the grand announcement of his return to Umno ended that.

While his history is quite colorful, it’s still quite a mystery why announcing his return had to be a grandiose affair. Pakatan politicians proceeded to criticize and ridicule the announcement, with Rais Hussin, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s (PPBM) chief strategist calling it a ‘public relations disaster‘, and saying that Umno’s president shouldn’t have made a big deal out of ‘a nomad politician rejoining Umno‘. But it would seem that there was supposed to be more than meets the eye back then, as…

 

2. Mat Taib’s return could have been a part of a bigger plan.

Original image from Source

Original image from Source

According to a report by the Malaysian Insight, Mat Taib was just one of nine state government lawmakers supposed to defect in the event, and the goal was to cause the collapse of the current Menteri Besar, Azmin Ali’s administration. This was to be accompanied by another 13 from PAS, plus another former Menteri Besar, Khalid Ibrahim to form a bloc of 34 lawmakers, which would make Umno the majority in Selangor’s 56-seat legislature.

Political observers saw this supposed move as reminiscent of the Perak’s constitutional crisis of 2009 (aka the Perak Move), where the defection of three PKR assemblymen caused a shift of power in the state government, changing the ruling party and, consequently, the Menteri Besar. However, according to sources interviewed by the Malaysian Insight, the plan failed due to the intervention of powerful stakeholders in Selangor.

“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,” – a source, interviewed by The Malaysian Insight.

Sources from within Umno also divulged that the reason for such a big announcement was that Najib was informed that everything is going smoothly, but when he turned up to the gathering, only Mat Tyson was there. The theory, however, was met with skepticism by some politicians. One of them is Sim Tze Sin, the strategy director for PKR.

“Why would eight ADUN join a sinking Umno ship? Cerita dongeng (fairy tale) just to cover Najib’s humiliating PC (press conference) last night,” – Sim on Facebook, as reported by MalaysiaKini.

Other PKR representatives contacted by the Malaysian Insight also felt the theory was just something cooked up to cover Umno’s embarrassment at getting only Mat Taib, and that none of them had heard of such a scheme.

“Whatever it is, Umno can stop dreaming. Don’t think they can buy PKR reps. Our fight is still based on Anwar Ibrahim’s struggle ,” – Dr Daroyah Alwi, Sementa PKR ADUN, for the Malaysian Insight.

However, Shazni Munir, the vice-chief of the Amanah Youth had entertained the possibility of such a scheme, and that Sunday’s events was just the postponement of a coup.

“To believe that the Umno president (Najib) held a press conference just to celebrate the return of Muhammad is naive. The more important question is what was the reason for the postponement and who are the characters working towards bringing a group of elected representatives to be with Najib.” – Shazni Munir, for MalaysiaKini.

When asked about whether other opposition leaders will be joining Umno later on, Najib had said that “we will have to wait first“, as several PPBM key leaders had recently announced their withdrawals from their party. Regardless of whether it’s really a coup attempt or a cover malu attempt, Mat Taib’s return is pretty interesting on its own, because…

 

3. He once eloped… with the Princess of Selangor.

Muhammad_Taib_dan_ku_yah

Photo of Mat Taib with the Selangor princess. Image from malaysiansmustknowthetruth.blogspot.my

This guy puts the drama in politics, especially when he eloped with the Selangor princess! Yeah, you read right… ELOPED. On 17 July 1987, Mat Taib and Tengku Puteri Zaharia Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah (aka Ku Yah), the sister of the current Sultan of Selangor, ran off to Thailand where they got married. He was the Mentri Besar of Selangor at the time.

There’s not a lot of information about the marriage and what they were like as a couple, except they had a son in July 1989, Muhammad Faez. But Mat Taib and Ku Yah have since divorced. In any case, when the Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah gave an interview on his opinion of state MBs, he reserved the most burns for Mat Taib.

“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.” – Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah in interview with Utusan, quoted by The Malaysian Insight

Oh and btw, until today, Mat Taib is still not welcome at the Selangor palace.

 

4. He was a pretty decent MB for Selangor (WAY) back in the day

Screengrab from Source

Screengrab from Source

Mat Taib was Selangor MB for 11 years – from 14 Aug 1986-14 Apr 1997. In some people’s opinion, he was Selangor’s most successful MB because of the way he changed the face of the state. He is credited with driving the state’s industrialisation forward, enabling it to achieve developed status in 2005, way ahead of Vision 2020. He also claimed credit for turning Shah Alam into a ‘modern, model city’:

“I had proposed that Shah Alam and Bangi become model cities where Malays could live and be involved in all kinds of lifestyle activities in a modern world. I’m pleased with what we have achieved so far. A part of this was achieved then I hope the current and future leaders will continue this.” – Mat Taib said in 2015, in The Malay Mail Online

One of the companies that ‘made it big’ during his tenure was Glomac Berhad, which was the beneficiary of large tracts of state land. Mat Taib was also the Rural and Regional Development Minister from 2008-2009.

However, the Sultan had some criticism, stating that this guy amassed a lot of wealth while in power in Umno before hopping to PAS (in 2013), then to PKR, and now back to Umno. Ironically, he told Umno members to stay put when many of them considered leaving after Mahathir resigned. The Sultan also criticised his creation of a Deputy MB post, calling it the “biggest mistake in Selangor’s history” which served no purpose other than to topple the existing MB.

Mat Taib’s tenure as Selangor MB ended in 1997 when he was once more embroiled in controversy, this time eloping with something else…

michael jackson popcorn

Image from popkey.co

 

5. He was once caught smuggling money into Brisbane

Mat Taib’s career went down the toilet after he was charged in Brisbane, Australia for trying to bring in undeclared currency amounting to RM3.8 mil. He claimed at the time that he “tidak faham bahasa Inggeris” and therefore didn’t know it was against the law. But of course it was untrue, as Mahathir quipped that he knows that Mat Taib knows English.

So he can speak English onot one??? WELLL, we’re going to have to say that he knows just enough to give ceramah la (this was when he was with PKR):

Or maybe he took lessons after the Australian incident? 😆

The Australian court charged him, then acquitted him, but later acknowledged that they made a mistake. See, they at first didn’t know he was a Malaysian MB. And in Australia, they’re better at applying the law to everyone irrespective of their station in life (compared to Malaysia la, but ofcoz cannot vouch that they are perfect. But here’s a long list of Aussie politicians from various parties who did not get away with crime). When they discovered who he was, uh-oh, how? They faced a diplomatic dilemma.

Unfortunately, to simply release him would not have gone down well with the Australian public. So, was this how the no-spik-Engrish defence was born? You be the judge. But anyhoo, the prosecuting officer did not even bring up in court the fact that this MB was a Universiti Malaya (UM) graduate, where English was at that time the medium of instruction.

mouth-open-gif

Image from hidewaygirl.wordpress.com

As a result of the scandal, Mat Taib had no choice but to resign. With a few big scandals under his belt, it might not be much of a surprise that…

 

PKR seem quite okay with him going lo.

Thavage. Source

Azmin Ali’s tweets after the announcement. Source

Based on news reports, it would seem that no one was sorry to see him go, or even feel threatened with his return to Umno. One reason for this is that Mat Taib does not hold any parliamentary or state assembly seat, and it’s not clear what he brings to the table for Umno. Pakatan Harapan leaders as well as political analysts were not impressed with his return, describing the announcement as a non-event.

Straits Times even went as far as describing the opposition to have ‘sighed in relief‘, as Mat Taib was not an influential figure. Nazri Abdul Aziz, an Umno supreme council member had even admitted that he’s not sure what Mat Taib would bring to the table, and that BN was already prepared enough for the next GE, even without former leaders returning.

“We don’t need (them to come back). We are ready for election with or without them, we do not want to be distracted by this. We are already prepared, (in terms of) our mindset and our psyche, everything is being tuned towards the coming general election. I don’t think there is any importance in bringing big names to our party. What is most important is to win the hearts of the people. That is more important,” – Nazri Aziz, as quoted by MalaysiaKini.

Tian Chua, the vice-president of PKR had testified that Mat Taib was not active in PKR, and despite having invited him to numerous PKR meetings, Mat Taib still stated that there was no ‘agenda Melayu’ in the party.

“We are a multiracial party, of course, and we fight for all races. He knew it was what we stood for, so I think that excuse is very lame,” – Tian Chua, as reported by FMT.

Even Tun Dr Mahathir chipped in with

“Congratulations to Umno. The more Mat Taibs it has, the more it is guaranteed to lose in the coming general election,” – Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, as reported by FMT.

However, some felt that the return of Mat Taib could be useful for Umno as he had sat in many leadership meetings of PAS and PKR. Regardless of his history and people’s perception towards him, whether Mat Taib’s return to Umno would make a difference would remain to be seen.

[This article was co-written by Badd and Jo-Lyn]

NAH, BACA:
How was GE14 (9 MAY 2018) for reporters, MPs and political analysts? We asked them.

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