You can’t fix stupid: there’s not a pill you can take, or a class you can go to. – US comedian Ron White
One suspects a great many politicians in Umno thought of Ismail Sabri the way mathematician Von Neuman thought about arcane math, that there’s “no sense in being precise when you don’t even know what you’re talking about.”
But the Malaysian premier may be a great deal craftier than anyone gives him credit for.
It is generally accepted that Brother Ismail likes the job and wants to keep it. But a segment of Umno led by Messrs Najib and Zahid, twin heroes-tuned-zeroes respectively, want an early election. The two HTZs are, apparently, convinced than a snap poll will somehow bring them political survival.
Going by Darwin, the duo’s chances aren’t great: extinction is the rule and survival is the exception.
Even so, they remain undeterred but, to use a chess idiom, Brother Ismail has maintained a Sicilian defence of such complexity, it’s so far repelled all comers.
Much to the chagrin of the duo, the wily premier has ignored, evaded, parried, and procrastinated with the best of them.
And, occasionally, he’s come back swinging.
Consider his position in the ever-spreading Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) scandal.
Last week, Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) revealed that the defence ministry and Boustead Naval Shipyard, the contractor given the job, had ignored the navy’s views on the project.
The PAC disclosed that not a single ship had been completed although RM6 billion had been paid out by the government, adding that the navy should have received five of the ships by August, that is to say, now.
Surprise, surprise, the project had not been publicly tendered out but simply given to BNS through direct negotiations, a much-beloved Umno practice first created during the tenure of one Mahathir Mohamad.
In many ways, the LCS scandal has aroused a great deal of public anger. Unlike 1MDB, it didn’t involve complex money-laundering webs, global banking rules or fugitive crooks who hobnobbed with Hollywood royalty. This was a straight forward “RM6 billion spent and nothing to show for it!”
So, the public wanted to know, where had the money gone, and into whose pocket? It was stuff that the ordinary man understood, grand theft rooted in treason.
At the material time, the premier was Najib and the defence minister, Zahid.
Jibby has been sarcastic about the matter but, in fairness, he’s got far bigger problems now. For his part, Zahid denied any link to the matter. Then he changed tack and brought up “security” as possible cover.
He advised restraint, warning that the release of the project’s details might expose state secrets and jeopardise national security.
According to the Star, Zahid said that the government should handle the matter “wisely” and “not be influenced by public opinion.”
But it appears that Brother Ismail was being influenced by public opinion.
On Wednesday, the government declassified all documents regarding the LCS investigations, effectively making them public.
On Thursday, the NST had this headline. LCS scandal: Report reveals Zahid involved in procurement process.
It might get worse for the guilty parties. Putrajaya is considering a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the matter.
It almost always ferrets out the truth.