Barisan Nasional registered a thumping win in Chini over the weekend. But what exactly does the coalition's sixth by-election win since May 2018 mean for Malaysia?

Elsewhere in today’s newsletter, participants of the youth-led Parlimen Digital get questioned by cops, Malaysia’s Covid-19 infection rates keep on improving, and our Environment Minister says it’ll take three decades at least to solve Kelantan’s water problems.

Big win in Chini

From Chini with love

A Barisan Nasional win in the Chini state by-election always looked on the cards with Pakatan Harapan sitting this out. Nevertheless, the emphatic manner in which Mohd Shahrim Md Zain secured the seat has got many people excited, with some proclaiming that BN’s back y’all and at least one commentary calling it an endorsement of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s leadership.

 

Before we get into what the by-election means for the country as a whole, though, here’re some numbers from Saturday’s polls, which were called following the demise of four-term Chini assemblyman Abu Bakar Harun in May:

  • The turnout for the by-election was less than the 79.05% recorded in the 14th General Election in 2018. However, at 73.87%, it was still higher than the Election Commission’s initial projection.
     
  • BN’s Mohd Shahrim secured 13,872 votes and a massive 12,650 margin of victory. That’s close to three times more than what his predecessor managed in GE14.
     
  • Mohd Shahrim’s rivals Tengku Zainul Hisham Tengku Hussin and Mohd Shukri Mohd Ramli, meanwhile, polled just 1,222 and 137 votes respectively resulting in both fellas losing their deposits.
     
  • The Chini win marked BN’s sixth (out of 11) by-election wins since May 2018. The coalition had previously won the Parliamentary seats of Cameron Highlands, Tanjung Piai and Kimanis, and the state seats of Semenyih and Rantau.

So, there you have it. Impressive stats, no doubt. But how important will those figures be on a national level should a snap election be called?

 

Well, first things first, Chini is not Malaysia. It’s a state seat within former PM Najib Razak’s Pekan Parliamentary constituency, and except for a brief period in 1999 (when it was called Cini) no one apart from BN has managed a look in. This means that while the numbers look hella good, they can in no way be used to gauge BN or Perikatan Nasional’s support nationally. 

 

Additionally, there was no real contest in Chini. 

 

Like his predecessor Abu Bakar, Mohd Shahrim too was locked in a three-way fight. However, the new guy’s rivals were lightweights. Furthermore, Pakatan was out of contention. Yep, though the Opposition coalition might have managed diddly squat if it had fielded a candidate, the fact it wasn’t paying this contest any mind is notable. This won’t be the case in a GE, and certainly not in seats where the pact has significant support.

 

Crucially too, despite fellows like Hamzah Zainudin showing up to campaign for Mohd Shahrim, Bersatu was a mere bystander in Chini, making it easy to show a united front. That might not be the case in a general election though, when tensions run high and some fellas feel like they’re being sidelined.

 

Don’t think that’s likely after Perikatan’s photo-op last week and all that talk of being united? Well, Umno supreme council member Mohd Puad Zarkashi issued a warning to his party comrades about falling for Bersatu’s games immediately following Saturday’s win and despite Bersatu only having a walk-on part in Chini. Imagine then, if you will, what the sniping will be like with PM Moo and co. in the driver’s seat in a GE.

 

Kesimpulannya, while the numbers and some of the rhetoric suggest Chini indicates Perikatan/Muafakat/Barisan is on course to general election glory, it’s really hard to predict how everything will play out on a national scale, and whether or not there’re twists to come. And we haven’t even talked about Pakatan’s PM candidate … if it ever agrees on one.

Going digital

With a couple of contentious motions on the table – one from PM Moo and the other from PAS – we’re pretty damned sure that the upcoming Parliament meeting will be packed with fireworks. What we could’ve never guessed though was that the Parlimen Digital two-day sitting over the weekend would cause as much commotion as the actual meeting that begins on July 13.

 

Parlimen Digital, in case you don’t already know, hasn’t got anything to do with that arm of government that proposes and passes laws and met for just one day on May 18. It’s an initiative put together by three independent non-governmental organisations – Challenger Malaysia, Undi18 and Liga Demokratik Malaysia – that seeks to offer youths a platform to debate issues concerning them.

 

Yes, the sessions are designed to mirror actual Dewan Rakyat meets, with participants selected to represent Malaysia’s 222 Parliamentary constituencies. However, the organisers are firm that the platform is not meant to devalue the actual legislature.

 

In a sense then, Parlimen Digital isn’t dissimilar to the Youth Parliament of Malaysia, which comes under the purview of the Youth and Sports Ministry and basically covers the same sorta area, or even RTM’s Mini Parlimen, that, when it was on TV, showcased kids debating policies. In short, it’s pretty harmless stuff, and really shouldn’t draw the attention of the cops. Except that this weekend’s Parlimen Digital meeting did.

 

To be clear, there doesn’t appear to be a police probe on the entire Parlimen Digital initiative. Nevertheless, organisers claim that a number of youth reps who were part of the sittings were called up by the police. Thing is no one knows what for! 

 

Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh has since called for Inspector-General of Police Hamid Bador to explain the action of his men, while the organisers have – quite correctly, we feel – said the cops oughtta go to them, not the participants if they have any questions. However, Ram, the organisers as well as one Anwar Ibrahim have all been met with crickets. 

 

Strange, no?

 

Incidentally, besides motions on the economy, Covid-19 and other matters concerning youths, one of the things that Parlimen Digital had set out to show from the very beginning was how a Parliamentary sitting could be held without MPs needing to be physically present. However, whether or not this was viewed by the authorities as having given the finger to the government for insisting that the pandemic was preventing it from meeting is something we’ve yet to find out.

Getting better all the time

Five new Covid-19 infections – three of them imported – were recorded on Sunday. However, the biggest story from yesterday was that it’s now been 21 days with zero deaths! Also, more folks being discharged has seen our recovery rate go up some more to 97.7% or 8,465 people.

 

And in even better news, we heard from Health Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah that the infection clusters at a residential area in Gombak and an apartment in Cheras are no longer active. This followed info on Saturday that the Pudu cluster, which had seen 3,387 people being screened and 80 testing positive, had also been contained.

 

Even so, while the stats keep on improving and active cases keep dropping – a mere 77 people are currently being treated in hospital – what doesn’t seem to be going down is the number of irresponsible idiots who continue to breach health protocols. On Saturday, that figure was 165, including 96 individuals who were caught for partying at pubs and nightclubs. We wonder if they were drinking Corona. (Yes, yes. We know it’s an uncle joke. Give chance la – it’s Monday morning!).

 

Anyhoo, here are the other important coronavirus-related news items from the weekend:

  • Now that they’ve been allowed to operate at full capacity, airlines must make sure that ticket prices return to pre-Movement Control Order prices. So sayeth Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
     
  • In related news, the Mr Batik 2020 says discussions on the reopening of Malaysia’s borders to green zone countries are still ongoing. The six green zone nations are Singapore, Brunei, New Zealand, Japan, Australia and South Korea.
     
  • Former finance minister Lim Guan Eng has called on Putrajaya to compel banks to extend the moratorium on loans to March 2021. The original moratorium is due to end in September.
     
  • Unemployment hasn’t just hurt workers but also students seeking industrial training placement. Many students, it seems, have either been totally ignored by prospective employers or seen their previously internship offers cancelled at the last minute.

Odds and ends

It was, by all accounts, a relatively quiet weekend. Nevertheless, a number of important things still did make the news. Here’re a few highlights:

  • We’re almost never on the same page with Ibrahim Ali. However, we’re totally on board with the guy slamming Environment and Water Minister Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man for saying it’ll take 30-40 years to solve Kelantan’s water woes. Kelantan is a massive state, true. But 30 or 40 years to lay new pipes is plain ridiculous!
     
  • Seven Opposition MPs have signed a joint statement objecting to the impending removal of Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof and Nga Kor Ming from their posts of Dewan Rakyat Speaker and Deputy Speaker. The group comprises PKR’s Fahmi Fadzil, Amanah’s Hasanuddin Mohd Yunus, Alice Lau Kiong Yieng of DAP, rebel Bersatu-ian Maszlee Malik, Warisan’s Liew Vui Keong, Wilfred Madius Tangau of Upko, and interestingly, Baru Bian, who originally exited PKR with Azmin Ali only to later join Parti Sarawak Bersatu. 
     
  • Meanwhile, Anwar Ibrahim has called on his Pakatan Harapan allies to remain steadfast and not be swayed by other parties that’d eventually betray them. No points for guess who the PKR leader is referring to.
     
  • At least a dozen refugees have dropped out of this year’s Refugee Fest following heightened racism and xenophobia since the start of the Movement Control Order. Festival co-director Mahi Ramakrishnan, however, says the event will go on as planned. Mahi spoke to us, by the way, for our special report on xenophobia and Covid-19. Check it out here.
     
  • The government is considering realigning a portion of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) to its original route. Pakatan Harapan had previously adjusted the route to avoid shelling out for a 17.8km tunnel through the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge. Umno’s Jelebu MP, whose constituency would’ve benefitted from the Pakatan adjustment, is obviously not amused. What we’re wondering, though, is where we’re gonna get the money to pay for this.
     
  • The Prisons Department claims that the 35-year-old man who died in custody suffered a fatal heart attack. However, V Mugilarasu’s family lawyer had previously said his body had shown signs of injuries. Indians make up only 7% of Malaysia’s population, but account for 23% of the country’s official deaths in custody. Some estimations are that the actual number could be as high as 55%. Something needs to be done about this shit.

“We are all great people. We are all equal. But sometimes we be playing the politics too much and forget who we are just to win."

- Kanye West -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • As the global Covid-19 infection rate moves past 11 million (it was 10-odd million this time last week), a group of scientists have slammed the World Health Organization (WHO) for ignoring the risk of airborne transmissions. The WHO claims infection by droplets in the air tends to occur only during medical procedures. However, these health experts say people can get infected in this way in poorly ventilated rooms and buses too.
     
  • Speaking of problematic claims, President Donald Trump says 99% of the United States’ Covid-19 cases are totally harmless. It’s anyone’s guess how Trump arrived at his figure though, since the latest numbers show that more than 133,000 out of 2.9 million infected Americans have died from the disease. Trump said this at an Independence Day address (no aliens invaded, btw), and this was not the only troubling thing he said over the weekend. The American Orange also took potshots at racial justice protestors, calling them Marxists, agitators and whatnot. Horrible man. 
     
  • In other crazy president news, Kanye West says he’s making a bid for the White House. And he’s got the support of Elon Musk, and it seems, wife Kim K too. Yeezus! Well, he can’t be worse than Trump. Or can he? 
     
  • Chinese badminton ace Lin Dan has called time on his playing career. The 36-year-old who’s won everything there was to win in the game will be remembered for his fierce on-court rivalry with Malaysian shuttler Lee Chong Wei and the countless times that resulted in tears for Malaysian badminton fans.

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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