Damansara Heights, 12 April: Daim Zainuddin was the last person to occupy the Minister with Special Functions so you can understand if Hishammuddin Hussein's appointment to that portfolio is causing great excitement and equally great distress. Daim was a very influential individual and very, very close to then Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, and he was appointed to that position as a matter of survival. I was not surprised when a seasoned political journalist whispered to me this morning that Hisham's appointment had taken Zahid Hamidi's "people" by surprise. In other words, they were feeling confused, even threatened. But the Deputy Prime Minister himself was cool as cucumber and savvy as Ali to help douse any attempt to use the appointment as an excuse to create a rift between himself and the Prime Minister.
|Spot on, Zahid says|
Some quarters say the appointment has made Hisham the de facto No 3 in government and party, in view that the general election can happen anytime now. In reality, however, Hisham has just been given a lot more responsibilities to shoulder. And by virtue that he is Umno VP, a lot of people see him as the most senior person in Najib's Cabinet after Zahid.
In the history of Ministers with Special Functions, none (except Tun Razak, who was SFM when he was already DPM) had gone on to become DPM or PM. Between Razak and Daim, King Ghaz, Ku Din, Asri Muda and Michael Chen were made SFMs. They were appointed to that special portfolio to carry out special assignments, which differ from time to time depending on the political, economic and social climates. Go and ask Daim, he'd tell you there was no extra political mileage to be gained from this portfolio. If Najib had wanted to strengthen Hisham's position in the run-up to the GE and Umno elections, he would not have made his cousin Minister with Special Functions. DPM2 would have done the trick neatly.
Najib redraws his inner circle by Joceline Tan