In our Selected Exhortations category, we republish interesting stuff such as must-read articles and essays not originally written exclusively for the blawg, and which have come to our attention. Please feel free to email [email protected] if you would like to reproduce your writing, but first follow our Writer’s Guide here. This is the fourth post of a satirical series on how a billionaire secretly funds and forms the next Selangor administration. You can follow the series here.
Walking through familiar corridors felt surreal for Jamilah despite there seeming to be no changes at all within the KM Studios office lot in the past month she’d been absent, after resigning from all her posts in the firm to take on the helm at Amal a mere 24 hours before nomination day.
Even at the late hour of 10pm, there was still lots of activity going on as there were always several movies, promos and TV series being worked on at any point in time – from actors and directors to lighting, sound makeup, costumes, props – plus the various support crew and catering staff. But unlike past sojourns through the constant rush, where greetings were largely passing nods or quick interruptions for project finance updates, Jamilah’s emotions were overwhelmed as people around her just stopped whatever they were doing and began applauding loudly.
Unable to fight back tears, Jamilah could only wave back weakly as she tried to smile. The short walk seemed to stretch overlong as she struggled to acknowledge the outpouring of support for the state election win and she was glad when the crescendo finally got cut off by the central office building sliding doors. Jamilah then simply let her father guide her to his office, located conveniently near the entrance, giving her the chance to regain her composure before they walked together to the boardroom.
Inside, there were another round of hugs – even from Munusamy – before everyone was once more seated at their regular places. Jamilah was the exception, guided to the head chair, as Sook Yuen had been appointed the financial controller as her replacement. Munusamy simply stood as was his wont, dismissing Jamilah’s objections at being guided his chair that was always kept empty otherwise.
There was no real need for Jamilah to repeat any details on the preceding five days as everything publicly known had already been reported widely in the newspapers. Munusamy’s biggest fear had come true and they were to consider together how and if any of the other alternatives could be palatable to the Selangor electorate.
“What did the Sultan say exactly?” Munusamy asked.
Jamilah pursed her lips tightly before responding. “You’ve all read the official statement from the palace, which states the Sultan will announce the decision in exactly a week whether to grant his consent to me becoming the first female Menteri Besar. When he met us all at the palace on the morning after the election results were announced, he uttered only one word – ‘Congratulations’. The officials there handed us individually a copy each of the same public statement and we were then ushered out. It’s probably the shortest audience ever any politician might have had with the Sultan.”
Rizal then asked: “What was his expression and tone? Was he smiling and friendly? Or was he cold and standoffish? Did he acknowledge any one of you when you all entered the audience hall? What about when you were all ushered out? Was there any eye contact whatsoever?”
Jamilah shrugged. “I can’t tell. He kept staring at only me and kept his expression blank throughout. His voice was neutral as well. He definitely wasn’t friendly for sure. And neither were any of the palace officials, who treated us carefully but without any real warmth. But I won’t go so far as to say there was any outright rejection. I have been going over that audience countless times in my mind during the past few days and I still don’t know what to conclude.”
“And yet,” Munusamy said to underline the reason for the late boardroom meeting, “invitations had gone out at 8.30pm to all dignitaries and the media for the swearing in ceremony at the palace from 10am tomorrow. I find it very strange, especially since the Sultan has yet to announce whom he’s consented to as the next Menteri Besar.”
Jamilah handed over her invitation card. “I’m worried too. None of us had been contacted by the palace since that audience with the Sultan, apart from the hand-delivery of the invitations about an hour ago. Do you think the Sultan’s going to appoint the Shah Alam MP instead?”
That possibility had been highlighted as a very real risk in Munusamy’s election script for Amal, which had fielded only females candidates all over Selangor, including their backups. And with no campaigning whatsover, this fact had been made fun of in the various ceramahs conducted by the other parties’ predominantly male candidates in days before the election. But, the quiet feminine touch featured both in person at the fastfood outlets, various other community-focused events scheduled ahead of the vote and also on the Amal website had won the hearts of the electorate nevertheless.
The script had also posed the likelihood that one of the many males who held senior positions in Amal might be picked to be the Menteri Besar in the alternative, despite none of them having stood for the state election. There was no concern about this issue for none of the Amal males would have accepted such an appointment in any case.
In the meanime, Jamilah and her fellow candidates had continued to be visible at the fastfood outlets and at prior-scheduled Amal-organised events – that had attracted even larger crowds than usual. The candidates had also made it a point to visit several other constituencies as well daily. leaving them little time for personal matters. As such, each candidates’ daily schedules had been posted several days in advance at the fastfood outlets and also on the Amal website so that the people within each constituency knew when exactly the candidates were available and to allow for some personal time off.
Whether Jamilah would be selected had become the hottest discussion topic among the public and even beyond Selangor as politicians chosen by the electorate in other states and also at the federal level had voiced countless opinions – which all amounted to her being rejected. The outlook was bleak but Munusamy remained confident his strategy was right. Jamilah could only pray the Sultan would eventually decide so.
“You must admit this distraction has kept the focus away from the most important factors the new state administration will be putting into place,” said Munusamy. “There’s been hardly any mention of the next election date or the contract termination notice you had announced.”
Seeing Jamilah remaining tensely silent, Charlene chipped in. “You’d all be happy to know there’s been lots of online support for Jamilah to be appointed the Menteri Besar. Most of them also feel the Sultan has no choice but to graciously give his consent to Jamilah as any other alternative is bound to provoke lots of public anger. And the Sultan is one who does listen closely to the people in his state.”
Seeing a trace of smile on Jamilah’s face as she nodded in gratitude to Charlene, Rizal said:”Still, it would be a major psychological blow for Amal if the Sultan doesn’t agree with our nomination. As it is, we’re still seen as political lightweights and chances are we won’t be taken seriously enough to be an effective state administration if we start on this wrong footing.”
Sensing no further gains could be made in the discussion, Munusamy brought it to an end. “The other candidates, who are also valued members of our family, have been waiting long enough for us to start on their celebrations together with those who have remained with the studio. Since this will be the last time any of them in the new Selangor administration can come visit us here over the next few years without any accusations of bias, including you Jamilah, let’s give you all a really heartfelt temporary goodbye.”