Howdy folks! Did you miss us? We've had a wonderful break over the past few weeks, but we're back, recharged and chompin' at the bit to start writing for you again. Thank you so much for your response to our survey (we'll share the results soon) and for contributing to our tip jar (we'll use that to go for a nice meal).

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Anyway, on to the first newsletter of 2020! News over the past few days, really, has been dominated by the resignation of a minister. But while we’re not really that sorry to see him go, the fallout is still happening and the speculation, of course, is still going strong. And people are going to speculate for as long as the PM doesn’t name a replacement.

Elsewhere, we’re looking at the first by-election of 2020 (and the gazillionth overall after GE14) in Kimanis and everything just looks the same, with Umno playing the race-religion card and Pakatan playing the money card; and, Zakir Naik continues to cause problems even when he doesn’t open his mouth.

We're baaaack!!!

Maszlee drops out of school

Two days into the new year, on the very day kids started the new school year no less, Education Minister Maszlee Malik dropped a (welcomed?) bombshell by resigning, after meeting with his “father-figure”, PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

While the news was greeted with happiness by many, apparently, there were many other aggrieved by the decision. In less than 24 hours, some 300,000 people had signed a petition for Maszlee to return as Education Minister.

Of course, these people have about as much as a snowball’s chance in hell to see Maszlee return, considering he had been “advised” to step down by Maddey himself. And the man himself came out a day after announcing his resignation to say it was a “blessing in disguise” as this would now free his time up so he could better serve his constituents in Simpang Renggam.

The latest news is a report that claims that Mads had (allegedly, allegedly!) sent a letter to Maszlee on Dec 27 urging him to step down from his post for going against Cabinet decisions on several issues. However, Maszlee had been away in the US for a holiday with his family at the time.

Meanwhile, there has been quite the speculating going on over who will be appointed the new Education Minister. Of course, everyone’s favourite target for goss is included, but PM-forever-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim is merely tickled by suggestions he could be it.

Asked about this during a press conference, Anwar said he was “not on the list” and then burst out laughing. The PKR prez said ministerial appointments were the prerogative of the PM and would only be discussed by the Pakatan Presidential Council if necessary. Something tells us Maddey isn’t in a huge hurry to hand over the education portfolio since he wanted the job right from day one.

One of the most interesting things to come out of this whole saga was Maszlee’s defence of his performance and track record – and when told in his own words, it doesn’t look too shabby. And there were others that defended him too. So what’s the truth? Was he a shit politician who did shit work, or was he the victim of poor optics? And more importantly, will whoever takes over from him continue the good things he did, whatever they were?

What would be great is if the media could speak to teachers and get us some perspective on how Maszlee’s work and policies actually went down in schools. That would certainly be more useful than endless coverage speculating who’ll take over.

But speaking of speculation, people have been asking if Maddey’s advice for Maszlee to resign was an indication a wider Cabinet reshuffle to come. Whatever it is, if you’ve seen a picture go round, apparently of an Astro Awani story, claiming Mukhriz Mahathir is the new education minister – it’s fake. For now at least.

New year, same old politics

The Kimanis by-election on Jan 18 will be the first of 2020, but while we have entered a new year, it is still a case of “same old, same old” when it comes to politics in Malaysia.

Nomination day was just over the weekend, but the very next day the straight fight between Warisan’s Karim Bujang and BN’s Mohamad Alamin showed just how dirty politics can get here, regardless of whether you’re from East or Peninsular Malaysia.

It all started with BN, or rather Umno, playing the race (or was it religion?) card again. Umno information chief Shamsul Anuar Nasarah urged the Election Commission to probe Warisan, a Pakatan-friendly party, for alleged election offences by giving out lucky draw prizes, including cars and motorcycles, at a Christmas/New Year gathering in Membakut, near Kimanis.

What the hell does such a gathering have to do with the election, you might ask. Well, you see BN is claiming while the gathering doesn’t have anything to do with the election, the fact Warisan gave out prizes was an election sweetener to buy votes.

Sabah CM and Warisan president Shafie Apdal, however, lashed out at BN, saying the party should not use race and religion to try to split Sabah during the by-election. 

But the question of whether this is really a simple Christmas party being politicised or not can be answered quite simply. The first question that should be asked is if it was done in Kimanis in 2018, and if so, to what extent. Secondly, were Christmas parties held in other Sabah constituencies, and if so, were there similar prizes. The answers to these questions would be more than enough for us to infer whether or not this is a by-election inducement. It’s not rocket science. 

The Sabah chapter of election watchdog Bersih has warned that any announcements of projects ahead of the Kimanis by-election would be an election offence. Yet, still, we see such things happening.

It’s OK for Karim to say he wants to see a small gas refinery set up in Kimanis to provide for more jobs. He is merely saying what his aspirations are, and not announcing anything concrete.

What’s not OK is for Agriculture and Agro-based Minister Salahuddin Ayub to announce a RM500,000 allocation to upgrade a jetty for fishermen. Pretty convenient that it’s being announced now, isn’t it? Now, how is this not vote-buying? Also, what is it about jetties? Didn’t they pull a similar stunt in Tg Piai? Is there a playbook that states jetties must be promised for by-elections in coastal seats?

Zakir, the all-powerful

Try as we might, we just can’t get away from Zakir Naik.

He hasn’t even opened his mouth (publicly) in a long time, much less put his foot in it. And yet, his very name still divides us Malaysians.

So what’s gotten some Malaysians up in arms over Zakir this time? Well, it ain’t anything he did or said. It’s a question in a Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP) exam paper which called the fugitive preacher from India an Islamic icon.

OK, it wasn’t so much that he was called an icon, but that the question alluded to those who opposed him as being ignorant and as submissive as sheep. And in an Ethnic Relations paper, no less. Such irony.

Anyway, the hoo-ha that was kicked up prompted UniMAP VC R. Badlishah Ahmad to launch an investigation. After a quickie probe of the issue, Badlishah says the questions contained in the paper were vetted and approved by a panel and that the controversy arising from the question had been because it had been taken out of context.

OK dude. It was a multiple choice question where every single choice insulted Malaysians who didn’t agree that Zakir is an Islamic icon. What this means is that it is a “fact” that Zakir is an Islamic icon, and it is a “fact” that anyone opposing this is stupid, ignorant and destined for hell.

Now how did we take it out of context again? And did we mention it’s an Ethnic Relations paper?

Anyhoo, we still have some smart, intelligent and non-ignorant people left in Malaysia, it would seem. The Malaysian Academic Movement (Gerak) issued a statement hitting out at VC Badlishah, saying the question and the answers were “badly and narrowly constructed” and that they were, in fact, inappropriate. They didn’t hold back on Badlishah’s justifications either, saying his rambling statement was nothing more than a “complete and clumsy whitewash of the whole sordid affair”. Brilliant. Yay Gerak.

Charles Santiago, meanwhile, went one further. The Klang MP called for Badlishah and the examination panel which approved the questions to be sacked.

But what do Gerak and Santiago know? Like many of us, they are just ignorant sheep. Now excuse us while we go bleat and chew on some grass.

Odds and ends

A few other things happened which we wanted to include in brief:

  • Moneybags Minister Lim Guan Eng says the gomen is confident this year will see better economic growth than 2019. Yeah. OK. Let’s hope you’re right, tokong, despite everyone else saying otherwise.
  • On the flip side, a Merdeka Center survey says economic and political uncertainties have caused Malaysians to lose faith in the country’s direction. See, Guan Eng?
  • Anwar Ibrahim says the PH Presidential Council will discuss a transition date for handing over of premiership. But will you be the one being handed the reins, Anwar?
  • The mufti of Perak says those who oppose Jawi are in violation of the Sedition Act. Meanwhile, Anwar Ibrahim describes Jawi as a national treasure and says its opponents have gone overboard.

“Please accept my resignation. I don't care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.”

- Groucho Marx -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • The fallout from the US military killing of Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani continues as Tehran says it will no longer abide by restrictions placed on its nuclear programme by a 2015 agreement, including limitations to uranium enrichment. Meanwhile, an adviser to the country’s supreme leader says it would hit US military targets only in response to the attack on Soleimani, while Baghdad has decided to end US military involvement in Iraq.
     
  • Cooler temperatures have provided a temporary respite from bushfires in Australia as officials begin damage assessments. Meanwhile, the bushfires have led to “apocalyptic skies” over neighbouring New Zealand. Malaysia has offered to help Australia.
     
  • Boeing and the US Federal Aviation Authority are reviewing wiring on the grounded 737 MAX. The wiring is said to causing short circuits on board the aircraft.
     
  • Seven more people who visited Wuhan have been hospitalised in Hong Kong for a mystery lung infection. Sheesh, the city just can’t seem to catch a break right now. 
     
  • Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen is poised to complete an epic comeback in the country’s (yeah, we called Taiwan a country) elections. Here’s why.

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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