From King to Prime Minister, Perkasa president Ibrahim Ali is afraid of neither. But both appear to be frightened of him, a rotund 60-year old rabble rouser from east coast Kelantan state.
A day ago, Ibrahim minced no words, questioning the King for agreeing to meet Bersih chairman Ambiga Sreenevasan over the planned July 9 Bersih rally for free and fair elections.
Today, Ibrahim Ali ticked off Prime Minister Najib Razak in public. He issued a clear warning to the hapless Najib not to order the police to issue a permit to Bersih, even though Bersih had accepted the King's advice and Najib's offer to hold the rally in a stadium rather than on the streets.
“Police know the best about security, not the prime minister. The prime minister has to listen to advice from the police, not the other way around. No political decision in security matters," Ibrahim Ali told the press on Wednesday.
"There should be no compromise for the political interests of any political party, including the ruling party.”
Ibrahim did not explain why he was butting in then, because he is also a career politician and the MP for Pasir Mas. Throughout a chequered career, Ibrahim has aligned himself to many political bosses and the latest is believed to be Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and former premier Mahathir Mohamad.
Within their UMNO party, there is red-hot talk that the DPM and Mahathir want to embarrass Najib and use his poor handling of the Bersih affair to oust him.
Meanwhile, Ibrahim exhorted the police not to give "illegal organisation" Bersih 2.0 a permit to hold its rally even if it is to be held in a stadium. According to him, Bersih did not qualify for a permit because Section 27 of the Police Act does not allow an illegal organisation or entity to qualify for one.
The discovery of weapon caches in certain parts of the city also 'proved' there was a threat to public order by the Bersih supporters, Ibrahim added.
“A stadium may be closed but all sorts of things can happen going in or going out. Can they guarantee there won’t be a procession? Can they guarantee that there will be no disturbances?” said Ibrahim, stabbing his finger in the air for emphasis.
The situation worsens for Najib
Ibrahim Ali and his ultra Malay-rights group have been the most vocal opponents to the Bersih rally for free and fair elections.
Initially the Bersih organisers had planned to gather Malaysians and march to the Palace to deliver a memorandum of 8 electoral reforms they want Najib to implement before the next general election.
So far, Najib has opposed this march with all his might, even threatening Emergency rule if it took place.
Among reasons cited by pundits for his bizarre reaction include fear the reformist undertone of the march may trigger people's uprisings in the future; a reluctance to change the notoriously corrupted election system that currently favours his party; and fear that the turnout, expected to be massive, might expose his unpopularity and prompt his ouster from his own UMNO party.
Speculation is intensifying that he is facing a leadership challenge from his deputy and has little option but to "go with the flow" as his power base cannot match the Muhyiddin-Mahathir combination.
Treasonous or treacherous
Najib's latest U-turn, insisting that he had not promised to allow Bersih to conduct its rally in a stadium, lent credence to this talk.
On Monday, Najib offered the use of a stadium in response to a call from the King to cease hardline tactics and return to the negotiating table with Bersih. Yesterday, the PM agreed to allow Bersih to choose the stadium it wanted.
This evening, he said Bersih still needed a police permit and it was up to the police if it wanted to grant one.
“We will leave it to the authorities. The police will decide in the interest of safety. An official application must be submitted. I never said I would personally meet them. Anyone in the government can negotiate,” Najib told reporters.
All eyes are now on the King. Will issue he a new statement? Will he rebuke and put Ibrahim Ali in his place? Or will he just keep quiet?
There are bound to be an avalance of calls for the King, and even Najib, to have Ibrahim arrested for overstepping his authority - inciting fear and racial hatred amongst the people. Many believe Ibrahim should even be grilled for treasonous behaviour.
“Why must the Agong meet such a group? The group is an illegal body and seeking an audience with the King should not be welcomed. It will also set a bad precedent and make a mockery of the royal institution,” Bernama reported Ibrahim as saying.