I would like to thanks Sinar Harian for picking up on this humble posting of mine.
However I believe the newspaper had misinterpreted some of what I wrote.
Just to set the record straight, these are the mistakes and the actual sentences that I wrote :
1. What Sinar Harian wrote :
"Bigcat turut melampirkan kenyataan bekas ahli akademik yang bertegas mahu Abdul Ghani membuka jalan kepada pemimpin muda bagi menerajui Johor kerana beliau dilihat sebagai sudah tidak sesuai untuk meneruskan khidmatnya sebagai Menteri Besar."
- What I actually wrote
"The no-nonsense former academician was said to be too old for the job and should make way for younger leaders."
2. What Sinar Harian wrote :
"Menurut blogger tersebut, keadaan yang berlaku itu sekali gus menimbulkan fitnah ke atas Abdul Ghani oleh pesaing-pesaing politiknya dan beliau tampil menafikan tohmahan dilemparkan dengan berterus terang mahu menerajui Johor sebagai Menteri Besar."
- What I actually wrote :
"Ghani had denied that he had wanted to continue as Menteri Besar. He was said to have been frustrated when he was made known of the switch as he felt he could do more for the country at the Federal level."
To Sinar Harian editor Farush Khan - Thanks for highlighting my posting, but please get your reporters to improve their translation. Cheers.
Almost everyone in Johor's political circle have now concluded that Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman is ending his tenure as Johor Menteri Besar after the next general election.
Ghani, 64 has after all held the post since March 1995, making him the longest serving Johor Menteri Besar ever.
The no-nonsense former academician was said to be too old for the job and should make way for younger leaders.
Nonetheless, this speculation on Ghani is not new as the same thing happened in the run-up of the past two general elections.
2004 GENERAL ELECTION
On the day BN announced its candidates which was a day before nomination day, Ghani was listed to contest the Ledang parliamentary seat, effectively paving his way to Federal level.
Ghani's supposed departure from Johor was actually part of a plan by the then Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (Pak Lah), or more accurately that of "The Fourth Floor Boys" to place their own people to run Johor which is one of the richest State in the country.
To replace Ghani was Mohamed Khaled Nordin who was initially listed to contest the State seat of Tiram.
This is the picture of Ghani holding up Khaled's hand as a gesture of his support for the latter at his official residence Saujana on that day -
Later that night, however, it was made known that Ghani was switched back to contest the Serom state seat while Khaled was to contest the Pasir Gudang parliamentary seat.
Ghani then became a target of slander by his political rivals, especially within Johor Umno, who accused him of influencing the Sultan of Johor at that time, Sultan Iskandar, to interfere so that he can stay as Menteri Besar. The accusation was easy to believe as Ghani was indeed very close with the Sultan, which was why he was conferred the prestigious Darjah Kerabat which is rarely given to a commoner. That was also the reason why Ghani is using the title Datuk instead of the "higher" titles such as Datuk Seri or Tan Seri. He had declined many offers of titles which may be deemed to be of higher status than the one given by the Johor Sultan.
Ghani had denied that he had wanted to continue as Menteri Besar. He was said to have been frustrated when he was made known of the switch as he felt he could do more for the country at the Federal level.
2008 GENERAL ELECTION
About two weeks before the general election, Pak Lah had sought an audience with Sultan Iskandar. It was widely believed that the purpose of the audience was to propose a new Johor Menteri Besar. Khaled was again the candidate.
This was said to be another attempt by the Fourth Floor Boys to place "their people" in Johor which at that time appeared to have an even bigger potential as the gold pot of their ambitions following the setting-up of Iskandar Malaysia two years earlier.
Almost everyone who was supposed to be "in the know" were at that time very certain that Ghani's tenure as Menteri Besar was about to end.
The plan however did not work out as when the list of BN candidates was announced, Ghani was still placed in Serom and remain as the menteri besar.
An occasion at the Istana Bukit Serene a few days before the general election was however worthy to be noted.
According to what was spoken along the corridors of power in Johor, Sultan Iskandar had called Ghani to the palace and presented the Menteri Besar with one of his own rings and told him that he must take care of Johor for as long as it takes for him to do it.
Ghani is at the moment fine tuning the Johor BN election machinery by personally going to voting areas, particularly those classified as high risk. Today he is in the Gelang Patah parliamentary area.
He had made it known to his close aides that his only wish now is to lead Johor BN to possibly a clean sweep victory in the coming general election. He said such a win will not be easy but not impossible to achive.
As for the speculation that this is his last term as Menteri Besar, Ghani had openly told several Johor-based journalists that he is indeed preparing for his retirement.
After the recent birth of his first grandchild, Ghani, who is a devoted family man seems to be very contented with his life.
Never known as a glamour seeker, he quietly goes about his work as Menteri Besar and Johor BN chairman and this could be observed in his handling of the Tenang by-elections earlier this year.
He did very well as the BN campaign director and secure the relatively huge 3,700 majority victory without having to resort to flashy and costly campaigning tactics.
The Tenang by-election was recognised by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak as the most successful among the latest string of BN by-election victories because of the manner Ghani handled the election machinery and the fact that more than 40 per cent of Tenang voters are Chinese, who are supposedly to be mostly hostile to BN.
As for his relationship with Sultan Ibrahim, it is noted that Ghani meet the Sultan every week after the exco meeting to brief the Ruler on the latest development of the State. The Sultan and Menteri Besar appear to enjoy a cordial relationship.
These are the leading candidates to replace Ghani as Johor Menteri Besar :
1. Mohamed Khaled Nordin
Main strength - Well educated and politically polished as well as perceived by many quarters as having the blessing of Sultan Ibrahim, when the Sultan graced his recent Hari Raya open house in Pasir Gudang.
Main weakness - Had twice failed to take over the Menteri Besar post from Ghani and being surrounded by ambitious young aides ala the Fourth Floor Boys.
2. Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad
Main strength - Currently is Ghani's deputy as Johor Umno chief.
Main weakness - Was said to lack the stature to command respect of the fearsome Johor Umno warlords.
3. Nur Jazlan Mohamed
Main strength - Considered to be capable of injecting some youthful ideas into the State administration.
Main weakness - Considered by many to be too pro-Singapore and can't even seems able to have full control of his Pulai Umno division which he "inherited" from his late father Tan Sri Mohamed Rahmat.
4. Abdul Aziz Kaprawi
Main strength - Considered to be the Najib's man in the Johor executive council.
Main weakness - Lack the stature, just like Latiff and not so fluent in English.
Talks of his retirement would not deter Ghani from leading Johor BN to another major victory in the coming general election. This was proven in the Tenang by-election.
After being the Menteri Besar of Johor for the past 16 years, Ghani does not seems burdened by the needs to preserve his position. This was proven by his way of handling the Johor Umno warlords.
His most important approach as a State Umno liasion chief is his policy of not trying to interfere with the squabbling for positions at the divisional and branches level by placing his own men there as what was practiced by other State leaders to preserve their position. This prevents Johor Umno from being too fractious when facing the opposition.
Ghani does not also seems interested to garner supports from outside Johor to strengthen his personal position in Umno at the Federal level. This was evident in his handling of the Tenang by-election where he refused to let Umno machinery from outside the State from interfering with the works already in place to ensure a comfortable BN's victory.
Nonetheless, my personal opinion on this is that Ghani is indeed going to retire from politics after the coming general election. He will do his best to secure a big BN win in Johor in the election and then gracefully make his exit. My bet is that he will go back to being an educationist as that was his passion before entering politics.
Unfortunately, his retirement in my opinion will most severely weaken Johor BN as it would not be easy to find someone else who are up to these main tasks of a Johor Menteri Besar:
1. To administer the State Government
2. To command the Johor Umno warlords
3. To earn the respect of the BN component parties
4. To maintain BN dominance over the opposition in Johor.
5. To have a good working relationship with the Johor palace
6. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY - To resist the temptation of enriching oneself and cronies by plundering Johor's riches.