Buoyed by the membership of Azmin Ali and his ex-PKR buddies, Bersatu is considering affording its associate non-Bumiputera members larger slices of the political pie. The big question though is whether the party’s potential metamorphosis from Umno 2.0 to PKR 2.0 will hurt or help it.

Elsewhere in today’s newsletter, Malaysians are up in arms over a Cabinet Covidiot’s paltry fine for breaching quarantine rules, a deputy minister finds himself in hot water for trying to get his son a cushy boardroom job, and the Health Ministry wants the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) extended beyond Aug 31.

United colours of Bersatu

Bersatu teguh

The Bersatu national congress over the weekend saw lotsa bunga raya-related news items make the headlines. Needless to say though, two threads got more attention than the others: Azmin Ali and his PKR rebels finally receiving their Bersatu membership cards, and Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s announcement that his party is deliberating letting associate non-Bumiputera members sit at the main table.

 

Azmin joining Bersatu wasn’t especially surprising, to be honest, considering his fan club president, Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin, had already hinted at the fact about a month ago. However, Team Azmin officially becoming Bersatu members does mean MooMoo now leads a party of 31 Parliamentarians. The number, significantly, is still behind Umno’s 39, true. But it does give the PM more bargaining power than he previously did.

 

Min’s entry is also important ’cos it potentially bloats Bersatu’s grassroots support by over 200,000, thanks to the International Trade and Industry Minister pledging the backing of a bunch of non-governmental organisations previously linked to PKR. True, the number isn’t likely to send shivers down Umno’s spine, owing to its own massive membership base (3.2 million and counting!). But it does significantly boost PM Moo’s street cred. And that’s probably why a party vice-presidency is likely to be sent Azmin’s way.

 

Anyways, bigger than all this was Moo’s own declaration at the congress that his party, which was established to fight for Malay rights, is considering letting its non-Bumi members hold party positions.

 

Bersatu, as it stands, doesn’t restrict non-Bumis from joining the party. Case in point, former PKR lawmaker Edmund Santhara’s membership) However, associate members are basically treated like second class citizens with no right to vote and/or hold posts

 

According to MooMoo though, the party’s looking at the possibility of forming a new party chapter that will alter the status quo.

 

For the moment, there’s no clear indication of what “new chapter” actually means and whether non-Bumis will be allowed to rise to the top or be thrown mere crumbs. But Muhyiddin says a committee led by supreme council member Rais Yatim is looking into the matter. It’s funny that cranky old dinosaur #YoRais is heading any community on racial plurality, considering his racist past (heck, even his name is literally two alphabets away from ‘Racist’!).

 

Analysts appear to be split on Bersatu’s plan to morph from Umno 2.0 to PKR 2.0 though. On the one hand, Universiti Malaya’s Awang Azman Awang Pawi says that the party’s multiracial move could be met by resistance, with dissatisfied fellas hopping on over to ousted founder Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s new Pejuang party. Even so, other political observers, like former Universiti Malaysia Sarawak don Jeniri Amir, believe that the multiracial strategy could allow Bersatu “to create a more positive narrative” and present itself as a party for all Malaysians.

But here’s the other thing also. Just a week ago, the country was considering how Umno, Pas and new boys Bersatu and Pejuang would split the Malay vote. But with Bersatu’s new tactic – if it does come to fruition, that is – would that needle move? Will we now see Bersatu vie with PKR for the multiracial party tag and therefore split the non-Malay vote – split it to the point of making it meaningless? And, possibly as important, what would a multi-racial Bersatu mean for Barisan Nasional parties like MCA and MIC? 

 

It’s anyone’s guess what Moo’s announcement will mean to the party’s potential threesome with PAS and Umno in Muafakat Nasional or how, in fact, its partners are gonna feel about it.

 

P.S. While all this was going on, Bersatu also managed to register Perikatan Nasional with the Registrar of Societies. Bersatu, PAS, King Katak Jeffrey Kitingan’s Parti Solidariti Tanahairku (STAR) and MIC are the coalition’s registered members. There’s a mysterious fifth party also in it, but nobody yet knows which one it is. 

What’s really odd is that MIC, a Barisan Nasional component, is formally in PN, while Umno, MCA and PBRS are not. In fact, Umno prez Ahmad Zahid Hamidi specifically pointed out that his party would continue to contest under BN in the next election. So what does this mean? Is MIC out of BN? Can a party be registered as members of two coalitions? But … it’s MIC, so the other important question is also – does anybody give a flaming shit?

And in yet another example of what a busy and productive weekend everybody had, former minister Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman announced that he will be setting up a new, multiracial youth-based party. Let’s see how this unfolds. 

Antara dua darjat

Since Friday’s edition of BTL, Plantations, Industries and Commodities Minister Khairuddin Aman Razali has found himself slapped with a fine for breaching quarantine rules. Unfortunately, despite that bit of news and the dude’s offer to give up four months of pay as reparation, Malaysians are still mighty pissed!

 

Just in case you’ve not been keeping up with all that’s been going on, what you need to know is that Khairuddin had been on a trip to Turkey from July 3 to 7 and upon returning to Malaysia, promptly broke the government’s 14-day mandatory quarantine rule by gallivanting here, there and everywhere. Worse, he never came clean about the breach and was hella shifty about it when queried.

 

On Saturday, though, after a number of investigations were announced and initiated, the Health Ministry confirmed that Khairuddin had been issued a RM1,000 compound on Aug 7. Regrettably, while the punishment was welcome, the ministry’s announcement threw up a whole bunch of questions, such as:

  1. Why was Khairuddin’s fine backdated to Aug 7?
    On Aug 19, a day after DAP’s Seputeh MP first made the claim about the minister skipping quarantine, Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah assured the matter would be investigated. This statement, naturally, led many to believe the Health Ministry was not aware of the minister’s transgression. Yet, a compound dated Aug 7 suggests it was perfectly in the know.
     
  2. Why wasn’t Khairuddin dragged to court?
    Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob had, on Aug 13, warned that anyone caught defying quarantine rules would be taken straight to court instead of being issued a compound. The question, thus, arises as to whether the compound was purposely backdated to Aug 7 to prevent Khairuddin from falling foul of the law.
     
  3. What the hell was Khairuddin doing in Turkey?
    Despite a lockdown on overseas travel, Putrajaya appears to have sanctioned the minister’s trip to Turkey, but seriously, who the hell decided that Turkey, which was recording about 1,000 Covid-19 cases daily when Khai visited, was worthy of being declared a “green zone country”? Also, what bloody business was so important in Turkey that we needed to dispatch this donkey?

If it appears that we’re seething, we damn well are because not only does it seem like a blatant case of unequal justice – remember that poor student who was handed a RM1,000 fine for simply pulling down his mask on a train platform? – the health protocols appear to have been wilfully chucked out the window just so Khairuddin could attend Parliament on July 13 for the crucial vote that saw Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof replaced as Dewan Rakyat Speaker. Basically, we risked our entire legislature being, at best, quarantined and at worst, infected, over this one dumbass.

 

Yep, the PM’s public health advisor Dr Jemilah Mahmood explains that police are tasked with enforcement, not the Health Ministry, and Inspector General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador does, in fact, confirm that Khairuddin is still being investigated. Still, you’ve gotta wonder if the dude’s gonna actually receive more than a slap on the wrist, especially when a fine exceeding RM2,000 could see him losing his Parliamentary seat, which is something PM Moo may not want as it could piss off his good buddies in PAS, the party Khai belongs to.

 

By the way, PAS deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, has, as expected, defended his man and claimed that the absence of a “Khairuddin cluster” suggests everyone’s getting their undies in a bunch for nothing. But that’s not the point, is it, YB? Fact is your man broke the rules and he deserves to be punished. End of story. Plus, most regular folk – heck, even the Yang di Pertuan Agong! – have staunchly adhered to the protocols in place. So it’s really a slap in all our faces when you defend your guy.

 

Oh by the way, before we forget, YB, that Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman fellow wants to know if hudud is implemented here one fine day, whether there’ll be one set of rules for the rakyat, and another for politicians. Bazinga!

Extension on the cards

With just about a week to go to the end of the Recovery Movement Control Order’s (RMCO) term, recommendations are being made for the curbs to be further extended.

 

PM Moo and the National Security Council have yet to make an official decision on the issue, says Air Suam Minister Dr Adham Baba. Nevertheless, given the resurgence of Covid-19 cases in countries around the world, the Health Ministry believes restrictions should be maintained until the situation can be brought under control.

 

Incidentally, though the country’s daily infection rate’s been rather low – nine on Fridayeight on Saturday and 10 on Sunday – and active cases are at a manageable 183, the number of patients in intensive care has spiked to nine, the first time since May 31 that we’ve recorded that high a number. Additionally, a new cluster’s been detected at a restaurant right in the heart of the capital, in Titiwangsa. 

 

So far, only three people have tested positive from the cluster, with 669 individuals getting clean bills of health. Nevertheless, the Health Ministry isn’t taking chances and has assured the public that contact tracing is ongoing.

 

By the way, on the subject of contact-tracing, there appears to have been a bit of a cock-up on MySejahtera over reports of an active case in Subang Jaya. According to D-G Noor Hisham, it’s true that a case had been recorded as having taken place in Subang Jaya. However, that’s only ’cos the patient’s company had placed them in quarantine at a hotel there. The case’s registered location was later amended and updated when the patient was admitted to the hospital, but not before the app alerted Subang Jaya residents and triggered a whole bunch of rumours.

 

Here are a few more important Covid-related highlights from the weekend:

  • Three new cases aboard a ship berthed in Bintulu, Sarawak have brought the state’s cumulative cases to 691. There’re currently six active clusters in the state, with the Sentosa cluster’s 31 cases leading the pack. 
     
  • Meanwhile, Bintulu lawmaker Tiong King Sing has sought an explanation as to why a vessel from a high-risk country was allowed to enter Sarawak. The ship, that’s currently dicked in Bintulu Port, reportedly came from Japan.
     
  • A lock-up detainee in Semporna, Sabah has tested positive for Covid-19, sparking concerns that more than a hundred people could have contracted the disease. The 29-year-old detainee was arrested for a human trafficking offence in the waters off Semporna.
     
  • In Kedah, infections linked to the Tawar cluster have grown to 65. Cases from the cluster have been detected all the way in Penang.
     
  • Singapore has cut its mandatory home quarantine to just seven days for Malaysian travellers. The new rule, which also affects citizens of Australia (excluding Victoria state), Macao, China, Taiwan and Vietnam, is set to take effect on Sept 1.

Supporting nepotism ... and other stuff

Remember how Bersatu’s new youth chief Wan Ahmad Fayshal Wan Ahmad Kamal got slammed for offering letters of support to secure votes? Well, another Bersatu dude’s now been thrust into the spotlight for a kinda similar issue.

 

The story, in a nutshell, goes that Deputy Defence Minister Ikmal Hisham Abdul Aziz had first written a support letter for his son to be appointed to the board of Pharmaniaga Bhd and then asked his boss, Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, for a stamp of approval. ISY, it seems, initially scribbled a note to the company concerned expressing his support for Ikmal’s boyo, but later, is said to have not proceeded with the appointment due to nepotism concerns.

 

Both Ikmal and sonny boy have since expressed regret over the incident. Unfortunately, the issue coming to light has resulted in all concerned parties, including Minister Funny Shirts, being whacked by both friends and foes over the obvious bias and favouritism. But here’s the best part – Umno Youth’s been particularly scathing of the episode, claiming while issuing support letters may have previously been part of Umno’s DNA, it’s no longer practised by the party.

 

Now, taking a stand against nepotism is great and all, and should certainly be commended. Nevertheless, we’ve gotta ask the Pemuda: what about all those promises and rewards of cushy positions to friends and family? Are those okay so long as no support letters are involved? And if they think it’s not cool for politicians kids to get an unfair advantage and leap into company boards, what are their thoughts on politicians themselves getting such roles …  you know, like GLC chairperson appointments?

 

Anyhoo, here’re some other things that made the news over the past few days:

  • The Kota Kinabalu High Court has dismissed a suit by former Sabah chief minister Musa Aman and 32 assemblymen over the governor’s dissolution of the state assembly. Mighty Moses and friends have since filed an appeal against the decision. However, as things stand, the court’s decision means the Sabah state elections will proceed as scheduled. 
     
  • Sarawak DAP Socialist Youth (Dapsy) has promised to remove stickers in Chinese characters which were attached by the group to three road signs in Kuching. Dapsy has come under heavy fire for the sticker move. Nevertheless, its reps insist that they were merely trying to “restore” the Chinese characters that had been previously used on road signs in the state. Funny lah these DAP fellas. Chinese characters on signs can, but Jawi cannot? Check out this post from Teresa Kok’s blog from 2008 for more insight.
     
  • Gomen officials are reportedly set to reopen talks with Abu Dhabi with an eye on a settlement over disputes relating to 1Malaysia Development Berhad. Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein is apparently scheduled to go to Dubai next week to work out a deal. 1MDB and Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Company were involved in a transaction that eventually led to IPIC providing a guarantee of US$3.5 billion for 1MDB bonds.

“Some men change their party for the sake of their principles; others their principles for the sake of their party.”

- Winston Churchill -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Even though Covid-19 has already killed over 800,000 people and infected at least 50 million worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) believes all our troubles could be over in less than two years.
     
  • Actress Lori Loughlin a.k.a. Full House’s Aunty Becky has been sentenced to two months in jail over her role in a United States college admissions scandal. Lori’s hubby, Mossimo Giannulli, was also found guilty and jailed five months.
     
  • Educationist and author Sir Ken Robinson, 70, passed away Saturday after a short battle with cancer. Sir Ken’s 2006 TED talk, Do schools kill creativity?, broke viewing records when it was first published on YouTube and remains the most-viewed talk of all time.
     
  • Researchers in Britain have achieved an internet connection speed of 178 terabits per second, effectively double the capacity of any currently in-use system and so damn fast that you could download the entire Netflix library (all 32,600 hours of it!) in one second flat!
     
  • A 59th minute header from Kingsley Coman was all it took for Bayern Munich to edge past Paris Saint-Germain and clinch the UEFA Champions League for a sixth time. The win puts Bayern level with Liverpool in the competition’s all-time standings, behind AC Milan (seven victories) and Real Madrid (13).

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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