The Dewan Rakyat reconvenes today. We’re expecting the coming session to be explosive, not least ’cos PM Muhyiddin Yassin'll be looking to get Budget 2021 passed as his PM-ship hangs by the slimmest of threads. Umno, meanwhile, waits, ever-ready to pounce.

Also in the news, a high number of Covid-19 recoveries suggests the tide may be turning for us, Dr Mahathir Mohamad makes an ass of himself again, and Malaysia's cinemas get ready to shut their doors for the foreseeable future.

Man your battle stations!

Back in session

With a Budget to pass and his position getting wobblier by the minute, all eyes will be on Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin as the Dewan Rakyat sitting resumes today.

 

Parliament wouldn’t be convening at all, if you remember, had PM Moo got the Agong to accede to declaring a state of emergency. Despite fellas like Rais Yatim egging him on to try for darurat again – it’s left to be seen what tricks Abah has up his rolled-up sleeves to ensure his government makes it through to Dec 15, when the Dewan closes shop for the year.

 

MooMoo’s already met with Perikatan Nasional leaders to prep for today. While we can tell you most of the coalition’s bigwigs had attended two special meetings yesterday, we can’t say for certain what was discussed and/or agreed to. Still, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to guess that the subject of Budget 2021 likely cropped up.

 

Muhyiddin’s legitimacy as PM hinges on him getting the budget passed. For that to happen, the premier will have to make damned sure he gets the majority support he needs. Which is why, while Moo was having teh tarik with friends and frenemies of his administration, his Money Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz was welcoming a delegation of opposition MPs from PKR, DAP and Amanah. 

 

FYI, Pakatan Harapan had called on the government to reach across the aisle if PN hopes for all elected reps to support the budget as the Agong advised. Thing is, now that that meeting has taken place and Pakatan’s registered its d̶e̶m̶a̶n̶d̶s̶ proposals, what happens next?

 

On paper, the opposition’s six recommendations – which include extending the loan moratorium and wage subsidies to March 31, 2020, as well as increasing welfare aid – seem pretty straightforward. MooMoo, too, had on Saturday said a sorta framework could be drawn up to make sure the budget receives bipartisan support.

Unfortunately, practically speaking, you’ve gotta wonder how Tengku Zafrul and his team will manage to incorporate all requests before Friday, Nov 6, when Rich Uncle Pennybags tables his budget. 

 

Also, what happens if the gomen decides against meeting the demands? Will Pakatan dare withdraw support for the budget? It’s still not clear which way Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Pejuang are leaning, especially as the former premier didn’t attend the meetup with Tengku Zafrul on Sunday (was he even invited?) and has said he isn’t one to “sign blank cheques”.

 

Anyways, Budget 2021 aside, the upcoming Parliament meeting could also be interesting due to the other things on the agenda. 

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rina Mohd Harun had said back in July that the much-anticipated Sexual Harassment Bill is expected to be tabled before year-end. And of course, there’s also the truckload of no-confidence motions against Moo that Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun will have to deal with.

 

Art has recently made it quite clear government matters take precedence over other stuff in the House and that the Speaker doesn’t have authority to push matters like confidence motions ahead of government bills unless it’s backed by a minister. However, should the Budget get defeated, the rules and conventions might well get thrown out the window.

 

Interesting times indeed, eh?

Keep your friends close

We don’t know how Muhyiddin’s gonna pull off getting the budget passed and all. But for his own sake, he’d better find a way and fast, what with hungry sharks waiting to pounce should the Supply Bill fail to pass muster.

With the way things have been going, it sure wouldn’t surprise anyone if Moo’s adversaries turn out to be his frenemies at Umno.

 

If you remember, the Umno supreme council met twice last week and according to one report, at least one of those meetings had focused on a verbal bashing (allegedly! allegedly!) from the PM at the Umno men and women in his Cabinet. 

Before we go on, we should caution you this is one of those “he said, she said” type situations and at least one fella already claiming no such bashing occurred.

Here’s the lowdown: Brother PM was thoroughly pissed (again, allegedly, allegedly) by Umno’s apparent flip-flopping in supporting the emergency bid.

 

The story goes that Umno had unanimously agreed of Moo seeking a nationwide emergency declaration. However, as soon His Majesty rejected the bid, Umno leaders were falling over themselves to support the King and laid into Bersatu and Moo. Hence, a pretty upset PM vented his frustrations during a Cabinet meeting on Oct 28.

 

As expected, the outburst didn’t sit well with Umno bigwigs. This supposedly had prompted Umno’s recent statement which included a cryptic para “warning” against anyone questioning the party’s support towards the Rulers.

 

Umno’s relationship with Bersatu has already been on shaky ground, especially following the Sabah polls. This is largely due to grumblings Umno isn’t getting a fair slice of the gomen pie. And now, the relationship’s more unstable than a circus elephant on a ladder. Still, the question remains – what’s Umno prepared to do? 

 

Officially, Umno has reiterated its support for the PN government, at least until the country’s Covid-19 sitch is seen too. But it’s demanding greater respect and political consensus. This includes whispers (in not so hushed tones) that le party is seeking, among others, the deputy PM post.

However, Moo’s yet to budge. And while Umno may be frustrated, its leaders don’t have a lotta choice but to wait it out. Unless, they decide to go against His Majesty’s advice and make a move against Muhyiddin during the Budget vote, no less.

 

While you ponder on that, here are some related political bits and bobs from the past three days:

  • Umno #2 Mohamad Hasan’s rejected Moo’s justification an emergency is the best way to deal with impending elections, noting that the easiest thing to do in Sabah’s Batu Sapi, for example, would be to grant Warisan a walkover. As for the Sarawak, meanwhile, polls aren’t due for about 10 months, so wait lah. Hey, haven’t we been saying pretty much the same thing? 
     
  • Mads Mohamad has refuted claims he’s in talks with friends and certain former foes to form a unity government. Pics had circulated last week of Maddey having met the likes of PN Religious Affairs Minister Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri, Umno’s Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Amanah president Mohamad Sabu at his home.
     
  • According to Umno’s Annuar Musa, he ain’t in the running for the post of DPM. And he sure as hell doesn’t endorse WhatsApp groups calling for him to be given the job.
     
  • There’s a rumour Najib Razak, the man who relinquished his position as the head of BN and Umno not too long ago, has been appointed BN backbenchers club chairperson. Malu apa, Bossku!
     
  • A lawyer has filed a suit to determine if the Agong adhered to the Federal Constitution when rejecting Moo’s emergency request. The suit aside, here’s an interesting look at the King’s powers under the FC. Spoiler alert – it’s complicated.

Silver linings

On the Covid-19 front, though our daily infection numbers remain high, the past three days have offered a small modicum of hope.

For one, despite the initial 3 deaths recorded on Friday, the weekend saw absolutely zero fatalities being registered. And then of, course, there were the large number of recoveries notched.

 

Friday to Sunday saw a total of 2,463 full recoveries, with Saturday and Sunday seeing 1,000 (a new record!) and 972 patients being discharged respectively.

Better still, these figures largely outstripped the number of new cases logged over the weekend – 799 on Friday, 659 (Saturday) and 957 (Sunday). The number of active cases has also been brought down from 10,087 on Thursday to 10,036.

Another reason to be optimistic is that the R0 (pronounced R naught) rate is reduced to about 1.0 from 1.5 previously, and from a high of 2.2 at the start of the third wave.

 

It’s uncertain, of course, if things will stay on course. However, Health authorities have said the recent conditional movement control orders (CMCOs) in KL, Putrajaya, Selangor and Sabah have helped a great deal. Also, if standard operating procedures can be complied with, there’s no reason why the infection rate can’t be brought down further to 0.5 in two to three weeks.

 

The R0 rate, just to jog your memory, reflects the contagiousness of the disease. Meaning, how many people will be infected by a person with the disease. 

 

Regardless of the positives though, as things stand right now, coronavirus clusters are still popping up here, there and everywhere.

 

In any case, here’re are some other important Covid-19 highlights from the past three days:

  • The Kota Kinabalu temporary detention centre will be placed under an enhanced MCO (EMCO) for two weeks from Nov 3 to 16. Meanwhile, the EMCO for the Alor Setar prison will end today.
     
  • A limited study conducted by the Health Ministry reveals that patients who recover from Covid-19 have significantly reduced antibodies a mere three months after being certified healthy. The low antibody rate suggests that recovered patients can be hit by the disease again.
     
  • The team that’s been battling Covid-19 at the Sungai Buloh Hospital has received international recognition for its efforts.
     
  • It seems there’re still too many Covidiots around. Take the case of a woman in Sarawak, for example, who developed symptoms nearing the end of a two-week quarantine period only to keep those deets from Health officials. She was then released from quarantine and travelled to Labuan, only to test positive days later, after returning to Sarawak.
     
  • Speaking of Covidiots, it appears that everyone’s favourite quarantine breaker Khairuddin Aman Razali may be in hot water again for failing to don a mask while out and about conversing with the elderly. Once more, however, the plantation industries and commodities minister doesn’t appear to have been sanctioned by the powers that be for his transgressions. 

This and that and Mads

There’s no age limit to ridiculousness. And that was quite obvious to see from Dr Mahathir’s retort on Friday that his comment about Muslims having “the right to kill French people” was intentionally misrepresented.

 

The o̶l̶d̶ ̶f̶a̶r̶t̶ former PM, you’ll recall, had rightfully sparked much anger with his posting on France last week and even got his posts removed by Twitter and Facebook. However, in true Maddey fashion, the old man flipped the focus by first, claiming he was taken out of context.

Next, he ranted about how the social media platforms and the West tramples on freedom of speech when it doesn’t suit them, ironically proving why not everyone can be trusted with free speech. Also, hypocritical much, considering the Mads was never a big supporter of free speech.

 

On the issue of misrepresentation, Mads said if people had read further, they’d have seen that what he was really advocating in his idiotic blog post was not that Muslims should kill French people, but that no one should apply “eye for an eye” laws. 

 

Maybe Atuk should give this piece a try? 

 

Recalcitrant former PMs aside, here’re a few more things that made the news since our last edition of BTL:

  • A 24-year-old Malaysian student was found dead in Kaohsiung, Taiwan following the arrest of a man who’s confessed to having strangled the victim and dumping her body in the mountains. Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen has since apologised to the victim’s family over the incident, adding the tragedy has tarnished Taiwan’s image as a safe nation.
     
  • The police and the gomen have responded to a suit by the family of Pastor Raymond Koh, claiming that a public inquiry’s findings with regards to the pastor’s purported abduction were mere suggestions and not binding.

    The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) inquiry had concluded last year that Koh and activist Amri Che Mat were “abducted by state agents”. The suit is scheduled for mention on Nov 5.
     
  • All Malaysian cinemas are set to close beginning this month until further notice. The cinema industry is reportedly incurring daily losses of RM1.3mil due to the current pandemic and CMCO and could lose up to RM475mil by the time the year is out. In comparison, a profit of RM102mil was made in 2019.
     
  • FT Minister Annuar Musa came in for a lotta flak thanks to a tweet that promoted a mega Quran Village project that’ll cost Malaysia about RM150 million. However, instead of backing down when he got whacked by netizens for such extravagance in the time of Covid and explaining that funding for the project would come from wakaf (charitable endowments) and private funds, the minister retorted that he couldn’t understand why skyscrapers and airports were okay, but not Quran Villages.
     
  • Even though the Employees Provident Fund has advised members against withdrawing savings from Account 1, Umno is proposing that people be allowed to draw between RM5,000 and RM10,000 to help them deal with the current pandemic.

    Jibby Razak’s even gone as far as outlining ways the government can greenlight such a move without the stock market being adversely affected. Champion lah, Jibby.

“A Parliament is nothing less than a big meeting of more or less idle people."

- Walter Bagehot -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • second national lockdown will be imposed in England following a rise in Covid-19 cases. Movement curbs will be in place from Thursday till Dec 2. 
     
  • In a massive data breach, info from 2.8 million Eatigo users in Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand had been stolen and put up for sale online. News of the breach surfaced just a day after Lazada confirmed a similar breach involving 1.1 million accounts in Singapore. It’s unclear, however, if the two cases are connected.
     
  • Rescue teams continue to search for survivors following a massive earthquake which hit Turkey’s Aegean coast and Greek islands on Friday. Some 62 people are confirmed to have died in Turkey, while two deaths have been recorded on the Greek island of Samos.
     
  • At least 10 people had been killed when Typhoon Goni smashed into the Philippine island of Luzon on Sunday. Nearly a million people were earlier evacuated from their homes in anticipation of the typhoon.
     
  • Two icons of yesteryear, England FIFA World Cup hero Nobby Stiles and Sir Sean Connery, the actor who made James Bond a household name, had died over the weekend following long illnesses.  

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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