It was an odd day yesterday - there were a lot of interesting little nuggets of news, but not really one huge main headline or overarching story. The closest we have is probably the Election Commission's announcement that it is hot to trot for early polls.

But the winner of place of pride in our lead story section goes to Najib Razak, Hishammuddin Hussein and Abdul Hamid Bador for their statements which left quite a few people scratching their heads.

Oh, and the Health Ministry is mulling making it mandatory for those returning from high-risk Covid-19 countries to be placed in quarantine centres. All these and more in your Friday edition of BTL. Read on for the deets!

Things they say and games they play

Opinions are like...

Move over Larry, Curly and Moe. There’s a new show in town.

Former PM Najib Razak, Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein and IGP Abdul Hamid Bador got us shaking our heads when they spoke yesterday, for various reasons.
 
The first to get our attention was the Jibster, for his speech in the Dewan Rakyat where he called for two things, the first being for the gomen to raise the statutory debt limit from its current level of 55% of the nation’s GDP.

To be fair, his reasoning and justifications make sense – and raising the debt limit is something that has also been mentioned previously by Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz (who said yesterday that the debt level is currently at 53.2%). 
 
But really, the Jib’s chuckleworthy comment came when he called for banks to “make sacrifices” by extending the loan moratorium period. This is the time, he said, for banks to sacrifice so their customers are not affected and can still return billions and billions in the future. 
 
Don’t get us wrong. We’re not against the idea. What we’re wondering (and you can call us cynical if you like) is why Najib would make such a call. Is it a genuine concern of his or just populism?
 
Let’s not forget the whispers that have been going around that he is seeking a comeback, perhaps even to head Umno and Barisan Nasional again. Quite a number of pieces – such as this commentary and this article – have been written about this supposed comeback, so much so that it’s hard to not think the worst of his loan moratorium extension call. 

Possibly the funniest thing about all of it though, is that Jibby was able to make his homily on sacrifice after being allowed to end his 1MDB trial early. You know, the trial where he’s being accused of scamming the same rakyat he’s now asking the banks to sacrifice for.
 
Meanwhile, Hishammuddin got us all in a bother when he backtracked on a statement he made in a press conference in Parliament earlier in the week.
 
Before we get into that, let’s have a quick recap. On Tuesday, we learned that the Auditor-General’s Report had stated that there were 89 encroachments of our waters by vessels of the Chinese Coast Guard and Navy between 2016 and 2019. The next day, Hisham said that, due to the fantastic relationship we have with Beijing, there are now no more encroachments
 
Yesterday, however, one of H2O’s predecessors, Anifah Aman, called our foreign minister “ignorant or in denial”, as it was only in April that a flotilla of Chinese enforcement vessels had been seen escorting a survey vessel within Malaysia’s maritime borders. 
 
It was then that Hisham backtracked, saying he was actually referring only to one incident in the 100 days or so that he has been foreign minister – the “West Capella incident”. He said this was the only incident in his time as foreign minister and he had managed it through diplomatic efforts, after which the Chinese ships had left and had not been spotted since. 
 
The West Capella is a Malaysian-contracted drill ship which was operating in waters  off Miri when it was involved in a standoff with Chinese coast guard ships in April; this was the incident Anifah referred to.

Which begs the question: why would Hisham say there was no incidents when there was at least one? And it took the Chinese ONE MONTH to leave our waters after the standoff! Does Hisham have a problem with maths? Or was he hoping nobody would call him out? Does it feel to you that the mills in the H20 cranium grind exceedingly slowly, and not particularly small either?
 
Last but definitely not least, we have IGP Hamid, who almost made us fall off our seats with what he said. Our top cop says he wants to sweep away all elements of gangsterism from our hallowed land. 
 
No offence, Tan Sri, but you’re kind of aiming a little high, no? Of course we understand that the job of the police force is to wipe out crime. But let’s face it: this is close to impossible, if not completely so.
 
It’s pretty simple. Gangsterism, basically, is the layman’s term for organised crime. That’s the term used by law enforcement agencies, anyway. And organised crime means any crime done by gangs or syndicates in, well, an organised manner. Just take a look at the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s definition of organised crime

Eradicating gangsterism means taking down the drug trade, prostitution, extortion, protection rackets, bribery and gambling, just to name a few. It’s fine to say you want to combat it, but saying you want to sweep it all away just makes a person sound deluded. 
 
So, is this a brag or a real target for Hamid? OK, you may call us cynics again, but our IGP turns 62 early next month, so is this his way of justifying an extension to his service, perhaps?

Perhaps the biggest thing the higher echelons of the force need to do is, besides solving and preventing crimes, focus more on kicking out corruption within the force. And if that can be done, perhaps talk of wiping out gangsterism may hold more credence.

Ready, set, go?

The main focus in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday was whether the Election Commission is ready to conduct the 15th General Election, or rather, an early general election.
 
This comes at a time when many rumours are flying that PM Muhyiddin Yassin’s loose pact of parties called Perikatan Nasional may seek snap polls, considering he only has a super slim majority of two in the Dewan Rakyat. Parties like Umno and PAS and even MCA are confident they are ready to face GE15, and widen the majority that Perikatan have (or go it alone, perhaps). It would be a better alternative, perhaps, than risk a few MPs on their side frogging it over to Pakatan and giving the opposition the majority. 
 
Well, according to Minister in the PM’s Department Takiyuddin Hassan, the EC is definitely prepared for any early election being called, with things like budgeting, equipment, logistics, system development, human resource management and training for staff already having been taken care of. 
 
There is, however, one thing the EC is not prepared for, it seems. Those who were hoping GE15 would see the introduction of e-voting will be disappointed as Takiyuddin says the commission had looked into various systems being used in countries like Estonia (yup… you read that right), Brazil, India, Switzerland and the US and found that there needed to be improvements, with some countries abandoning e-voting altogether. The issue, apparently, is with confidentiality and security
 
It’s a real pity, actually, as e-voting would be a fantastic system to have especially in times when pandemics are raging. But this was likely not gonna happen anytime soon anyway, so no big loss at this time. 
 
Anyway, here are a few other Parliament and political stories which appeared yesterday:

  • Admitting there’s a need for a political funding law to oversee any contributions to political organisations, PM Moo says however that the Parliamentary Select Committee has yet to submit the policy report for political funding for the government’s consideration. The Political Funding Bill was supposed to be tabled this year but it sure looks like that won’t happen. 
     
  • Five Cabinet ministers have been told to declare their assets as soon as possible. The quintent of recalcitrants have not made the declarations despite being told to do so in March.
     
  • The Malaysian Investment Development Authority has identified 433 new projects with the potential of bringing in nearly RM100 billion in new investments for Malaysia. 
  •  
  • The House was told that the London School of Economics and Political Science had confirmed that former Permodalan Nasional Bhd president and group CEO Jalil Rasheed, who resigned recently citing “personal reasons”, was not one of its graduates. Naughty, naughty, Jalil! 
     
  • The Selangor legislative assembly has approved a motion to create an anti-party hopping law. You can bet some people will challenge that as being unconstitutional. 
     
  • Sarawak CM Abang Johari Openg has renewed his call for Sabah and Sarawak to be given a third of the number of seats in the Dewan Rakyat to uplift the status of the two states. That would mean creating more parliamentary seats in the two states (or perhaps cutting down the number of seats in the peninsula). 
     
  • Sarawak DAP says Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is the first choice as Pakatan’s PM candidate, but should be given a deadline to gather additional support to form a new government, after which Warisan president Shafie Apdal should be given a chance
     
  • Here’s something from the files of Captain Obvious. PM Moo is the only candidate for the Bersatu president’s post. Well, duhhhhhh! Muhyiddin The party kicked out the only other person who had been looking at contesting the post, Mukhriz Mahathir. 

Back to the quarantine centres

With our Covid-19 infection numbers low and many of the new cases being imported ones, the Health Ministry is mulling placing Malaysians returning from high-risk countries in quarantine centres instead of being allowed to stay at home. 
 
Returnees were initially placed in quarantine centres upon arriving back in the country, but beginning June 10, the government decided it unnecessary and instead allowed people to self-quarantine at home. 
 
The rethink is understandable considering that at one point, more than 1,000 returnees had skipped taking their second Covid-19 test at the end of their quarantine period. At last count, there were still 255 who had yet to do so. A centralised quarantine system would mitigate this risk, even if it’s just for those coming back from high-risk countries. 
 
Of the three new infections yesterday, one was an imported – a Malaysian who had returned from Nigeria. There were 12 recoveries yesterday, meaning the number of active cases now stands at 77

new cluster has been discovered in Mambong, Sarawak, but anxiety over the possibility of a number of people in Miri having been infected by Covid-19 proved unnecessary as the 16 people in hospital there were confirmed as suffering “only” from Severe Acute Respiratory Infection or Influenza-Like Illness instead. 

Oh, by the way, senior minister and former colourful shirt champion Ismail Sabri Yaakob says the government is disappointed in the lack of cooperation shown by eateries which serve buffet meals. They aren’t following the SOPs which say they must have servers dishing out the food as customers aren’t allowed to do this themselves. Don’t be disappointed, Izzy. Be pissed! Throw the book at ’em!

Bits and bobs

There was a lot of small but interesting bits of news yesterday. Here’s the best of ’em, in bite-sized chunks for you:

  • In former PM Jibby’s 1MDB trial, former 1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi was (still) testifying, saying that portly pirate Jho Low had told the board of directors that Najib had (allegedly, allegedly) wanted the RM2.75 billion purchase of a power plant in 2012 to be rushed through before the next general election. Shahrol also denied he had accompanied Low to meetings in order to embezzle money from the wealth fund. 
     
  • Meanwhile, Jibby’s wife Rosmah Mansor had her own corruption case vacated for the day as her defence counsel was unwell and unable to attend court. How convenient.
     
  • The High Court has granted a temporary order preventing PetroSaudi International and its director Tarek Obaid from using US$340 million in alleged 1MDB funds in an account kept at a UK law firm. 
     
  • The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission will continue questioning former Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman today. It’s believed to be over a large amount of cash which went missing from his home. Or, rather, how that amount came to be there in the first place.
     
  • Two senior Immigration officers, including the assistant director of the Johor Immigration Department, were among five people charged over the smuggling of migrants into the country. 
     
  • Eight people, including five Finance Ministry staff, have been arrested in connection with the activities of a syndicate involved in approving applications to register new accounts with the ministry and applications for Bumiputera status companies in the Klang Valley. 
     
  • Two ex-soldiers have had their prison terms extended from eight years to 12 for attempting to kidnap Jibby Razak when he was PM. 
     
  • The family of deceased fireman Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim are planning to sue the police force. This follows IGP Hamid’s statement recently that no reliable witness could be found to say that Adib had been assaulted in the incident outside the temple in Subang Jaya which eventually led to his death. 
     
  • Action has finally been taken against Limkokwing University, which has been slapped with a show-cause letter for a controversial billboard ad declaring founder Lim Kok Wing the “King of Africa”. The university had come under fire in June for what was perceived as a racist ad. 

“Common sense is like deodorant. The people who need it most never use it."

- Anonymous -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • The FBI is leading an investigation into the hacking of Twitter. Hackers seized control of accounts belonging to high-profile people like Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden (was that you POTUS?), Barack Obama, Elon Musk and Kim Kardashian. 
     
  • China has accused the US of using “gangster logic” after President Donald Trump ordered an end to a special status for Hong Kong following the introduction of a controversial new security law in the Chinese special administrative region. 
     
  • A tell-all book on Trump, written by his niece Mary, has broken a record for its publisher, selling nearly a million copies on its first day. 
     
  • Recent research suggests people with certain blood types are more susceptible to infection by Covid-19 than others. 
     
  • Security services warn that Russian spies are targeting organisations in the UK, US and Canada that are trying to develop Covid-19 vaccines, hindering such efforts. 
     
  • Real Madrid have won the Spanish La Liga after their latest victory took them seven points clear of eternal rivals Barcelona, with one game left to play. Coach Zinedine says winning the league is even sweeter than his Champions League triumphs.

ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER

This weekday newsletter is brought to you by Trident Media, a group of Malaysian journalists with 60 years of combined media experience in four countries across TV, print and digital media.

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Trident Media · Seksyen 35 · Shah Alam, Selangor 40470 · Malaysia

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