The continuation of the serialised novel by H.N. Roman.
Chapter 1: All Roads Leads To Putrajaya
Fara rubbed her eyes repeatedly, forcing herself to be awake and out of the comfort of her second-hand mattress. She had been up all night, waiting for the election result to be announced. Albeit relieved that the Barisan has won yet again, she was crestfallen that her candidate lost, albeit by a narrow margin. Raja Musa lost to the heavyweight in Pakatan, Izzati Aziz – the Iron Lady of PKR. But Fara was happy enough that their campaign managed to narrow the majority won by Izzati, whose aloofness proved a liability among the urban poor.
She took her phone off the charger and browsed through loads of crappy messages; mostly her friends in WhatsApp groups, commenting on the outcome of the election as if they knew all that happened behind closed doors. Typically Malaysian politics, the comments soon boiled down to the issue of race – and denigrated into typecasting the races.
Fara browsed and closed her WhatsApp group, switched off her phone and headed to the kitchen for an instant midnight waffle. Sophisticated and visionary, she was both modern and conservative in her outlook. Never to succumb to racial chauvinism, she was one of those few who social commentator Zara Kahan branded as the ‘voice of reason’ for the ruling party. Zara knew and understood that factions exist in political parties – and this season, Fara’s faction happened to be the weakest. To Fara’s dismay, the nation does not seem to share her view of her party.
Her petite body hugged by a cotton camisole revealed her tan skin and lithe arms; she earned them after years of training with the Wataniah during her varsity years. Her messy hair tied in a bun, revealing a face that radiated intelligence and an iron will. Fara took the instant waffle out of the fridge and chucked it into the microwave, then took her honey supply from the top cabinet. She grudgingly acknowledged that the apartment was now way cleaner after a spontaneous visit by her mom prior to the election. Fara was a model of an independent, sophisticated lady. That meant she hated to be ‘mothered’ around. And this attitude of being indignantly independent marked her style in her career as a fresh campaign assistant.
A bleeping sound from her laptop meant that her device was still switched on. Then a few more bleeping sounds. Facebook notifications. She was too tired to log off from the Internet the previous night. Quickly she abandoned the microwave and headed for the laptop to shut it down. She took to her screen and realised that there were messages from Derek, her friend from National Service.
Derek Chin wrote: “Fara! News just in – Prima Fellowship has gotten the greenlight! We’re going to start this June!”
Farah Adibah Rahim wrote: “Whoa – really???!!! :) Where are you now btw??”
Derek Chin wrote: “The PMO. Yeappp..it’s 2am and I am still awake in my office. Btw, PM wants to push it through quickly. DPM was insistent too – blabbering about the Gen-Y’s during the election. Pretentious SOB”
Farah Adibah Rahim wrote: “WHAAT?? At this hour? Don’t you guys sleep?! But really! Can’t wait to start!! Do they send you to your preferred ministry?”
Derek Chin wrote: “Haha. They’ll take your preference into consideration. Y? Any target?”
Farah Adibah Rahim wrote: “Nope. Well, maybe PMO :P I guess I could contribute more there. Lol. Heyyy, y r u telling me through FB?? Where’s your phone?”
Derek Chin wrote: “Went out of juice. Currently using my office desktop. Haha. Well, c u later. No rest for the wicked. Ciao”
Farah Adibah Rahim wrote: “Cheers”
Fara smiled to herself. It’s good to have someone from the inside, she thought. A mandarin, nonetheless. Or at least Derek will be one day.
Derek was part of the premium strata of the civil service, otherwise known as the Administrative & Diplomatic Services, or the PTDs. Fara’s father, Dato’ Sri Rahim Zarkawi was also a PTD before turning to business. This stratum made up the mandarins, or top echelons of the civil service. Feared and at times loathed by those from other schemes in the civil service, they prided themselves as the ‘Rolls Royce of the civil service’. Contrary to popular beliefs among many non-Malays, the service recruits people from all races. In the long run, the misconception became almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy, one that certain quarters wished to maintain. And one that Derek ambitiously tried to change.
Fara wolfed down on her piping hot waffle. Her mind wandered off to the fellowship that she intended to join. Based on what she read, the programme was basically a glorified form of internship. She definitely had no idea why the government named it a fellowship. Perhaps they just wanted to appear intellectual, she answered herself. Be that as it may, she was all set in making this her major stepping stone into the world of politics and administration.
Her eyes darted back to the fridge to read the headline of a yellowing newspaper cutting, pasted neatly on the fridge door.
Prima Fellowship ‘a great opportunity for Gen-Y,’ says PM
By: Adrian Ho
PUTRAJAYA: The Prima Fellows Programme is set to start after the election. The programme, an internship of sorts with various ministries, where interns will act as aides to the country’s various ministers. The programme, approved by the cabinet earlier this year was only about to materialize as the Parliament was just dissolved.
The Permanent Secretary to the Prima Fellows Secretariat, Prashanth Tagore, said that “since the parliament has just been dissolved, the programme will only begin after the poll”. The programme, proposed late last year by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Datu Fadzlin Nahrawi was meant to be a platform sharing between the ministers and the youths…”
Alas, Fara quipped, a minister with a brain. Wiping a smear of honey off her lips, she wondered to herself how would it be like working for a minister who actually does think with his brain. But for now she needs coffee to stay awake till the sun rises. She had vowed to defend her candidate on the cyberspace, and she needed to do it fast.
After a spectacular victory celebration, Fadzlin was energised to meet the PM and his
senior political advisor to discuss his place in the new cabinet line-up. The pretext was to convey a list of potential candidates for ministerial post from Sarawak’s Alliance, all approved by the Chief Minister. His three-hour sleeping routine made it possible for him to take on the first flight to Kuala Lumpur the next day.
During the campaign, Fadzlin made a remark to one of his cabinet colleagues that he would like to lead the Home Affairs ministry. Naturally, what was whispered in the cabinet became the talk of the day. The septuagenarian incumbent, upon hearing this, was more than happy to pass the baton. At times, Fadzlin couldn’t believe how easy it was to chart his way in the cabinet politics. It was as if his ministerial colleagues lacked the spatial capacity to second-guess his moves.
Fadzlin’s chauffered car reached the entrance porch of the cavernous Sri Perdana. Tengku Ariff, the grand old man of UMNO was there awaiting him. Fadzlin smiled broadly at him, followed by a strong handshake.
“How’s the flight, FN?” greeted Ariff.
“Bumpy, but we survived,” he replied.
“We all did, FN. We all survived,” Ariff wearily retorted, “come, we’ll discuss inside”.
Fadzlin and Ariff shared a long political history. They first got to know one another after being squeezed together in the same room while accompanying Razak’s trip to China; they had a mutual respect for each other’s intellectual capacity. Ariff, who felt that the task of leadership was too great to shoulder alone, decided he would be satisfied with his role as the king-maker in UMNO.
While walking through the belly of the leviathan structure, Fadzlin’s eyes assessed the grand old man walking in front of him. Ariff had an unenviable task to vet, mark and pull the strings in the UMNO machinery to enable the candidates that he felt fit the Alliance’s multiracial ethos to lead the party. The self appointed guardian of moderation, his role was hidden from public’s view – and hated by the rights. But it gave him the immense power to be the main advisor in cabinet appointments.
Ariff led the way through a myriad of staircases, passing by hundreds of souvenirs and portraits given to the Prime Minister. Fadzlin counted at least dozens of souvenirs from the different races in Sarawak to the Prime Minister. Fadzlin smiled to himself; Ariff could have used the other route to the Scarlet Room, which would be less tiresome. Fadzlin could have used a seat. The silent walk to the Scarlet Room was rather disquieting.
The Scarlet Room, the holding room for local dignitaries, was now in full view. The Prime Minister was listening to what seem to be a briefing from two advisors, but his eyes were empty and fatigued. Upon seeing Fadzlin, he stood up and brushed his advisors who promptly left and welcomed Fadzlin.
“Glad to see you arrive so soon, Fadzlin. We need your advice,” smiled the Prime Minister.
“One can only do so much, sir, but the victory is yours,” quipped Fadzlin, taking a seat on a plush divan next to the Prime Minister.
“Nonsense, you made quite a contribution. I’ll never forget that,” replied the PM. Ariff barely squinted at the PM’s profusion.
“Thus, I believe that you have no problem in implementing what we have planned prior to the election — the Three Tiered Advocacy, which is merely the extension of our–” Fadzlin stopped his words. The PM raised his hand, looking intently at Fadzlin.
“Circumstances have changed, Fadz. I hope you can see that now,” said the PM.
“Yes, which is why–”
“Which is why I can’t give you a full ministerial position this time round,” the PM exhaled, turning to Ariff for back-up.
“We highly appreciate you and your party’s contribution to this election’s outcome. But there are times a tough decision has to be made,” sighed Ariff. It felt like a splash of cold water now stinging Fadzlin’s face.
“What is that supposed to mean?” His grip tightened on the briefcase. “You’re fooling me around, aren’t you?”. The PM looked like he was whimpering, and again he turned to Ariff.
“FN, the main bastion in UMNO is crumbling. We cannot afford to have non-loyalists having their influence in the cabinet,” said the old man.
“So what the bloody hell does that have to do with me?! Is that an accusation?” he ranted. All the sacrifices and lip service he paid during the election felt like a humongous humiliation now.
“We have to respond to changes now; the voters want new faces. Seniority just won’t do,” Ariff spoke, “and also, we need you somewhere your influence could best be made use of”.
Fadzlin didn’t say a word, to which Ariff continued, “We need you to exert your influence in the Home Affairs and do the groundwork for the new policy to take shape.”
Fadzlin could almost laughed bitterly then. He was to be made the deputy for a plan that he crafted, and now he will also help in implementing it while somebody else takes the credit. Before he could even answer, Ariff pressed on.
“No one else, but you alone can prepare the groundwork for our new policy to be implemented, FN. We are counting on you,” he said. Fadzlin was almost numb; with his pride shattered and ambition set to be forgotten, he cleared his mind almost too easily.
“Yes, I see that now. I’m really sorry for that terrible outburst,” he smiled apologetically, “must’ve been the stress.” The PM smiled. “And I’m sorry to tell you the news in such manner, but I’m afraid I didn’t have much opportunity to tell you before,” replied the PM.
“No worries, sir. Now, who, if I may know, is the person to be in charge of Home Affairs?”, queried Fadzlin, his grip ever tightening in his briefcase.
“Syafiq Farhan. UMNO’s Youth Chief. We need to elevate him to secure his position. He’s young, on our side within the party and very bright. The last thing we want is to have him undermined by the Muzafar’s camp within UMNO. You, on the other hand, have the respect of many within the Alliance, thus with you playing mentor, Muzafar won’t dare to touch Syafiq,” Ariff deliberated on his plan.
“So for the sake your party, my party’s significance is diminished?” asked Fadzlin, this time with a smile.
“On the contrary, the allocation for full ministers from the PBB will be increased; we have discussed about it prior to your arrival.” Again, it was Ariff who responded.
“So, what say you, old chap?” asked the PM. “Are you in?”
“It is, as we say, an honour to serve,” smiled Fadzlin.
“Wonderful!” exclaimed the PM, who now seemed to rediscover his ability to speak.
Ariff seem pleased with himself while the PM was cajoling everyone for an early lunch.
But beneath the charade, Fadzlin felt dirty and prostituted. It took all of his strength to gather his composure.
Disclaimer: All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.