Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng says the Cabinet has reached a decision regarding PLUS Bhd but will only announce this at a later date. However, the word is apparently out ... PLUS will not be sold, but motorists will likely have to pay less. We hope so, anyway. Meanwhile, the Pakatan Harapan government has been given a less-than-stellar rating in terms of human rights; the Ponggal issue is still being debated; and, now even DAP members are calling for PM Mahathir Mohamad to relinquish power.

PLUS side to no sale

No stairway to heaven, but a highway to hell

So yesterday was supposed to be the day the Cabinet decided on whether or not PLUS Bhd and four other highway concessionaires would be taken over. And, apparently, the Cabinet did indeed decide on the matter. Unfortunately, us poor plebs will have to wait some time for the full story.

Moneybags Minister Lim Guan Eng says the matter will be announced in a written statement soon as it is a major issue. But what Saudara Lim didn’t say was how soon is soon.

Just wait lah … you fellows must be patient, was the gist of it.

Thing is, journalists aren’t known to be patient. And the good people at theedgemarkets.com seem like good journos.

According to their sources, the Cabinet has decided that PLUS will remain with current shareholders Khazanah Nasional Bhd and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF). However, the government’s highway concession with PLUS will be restructured with the aim of reducing toll rates.

As for the takeover of the four other highway concessionaires related to Gamuda Bhd, well the sources say the Cabinet has yet to come to a decision on that.

So there. No need to delay the written statement now, Guan Eng.

Actually, Khazanah had already hinted at the outcome of the Cabinet meeting earlier in the day, when it released a statement saying that the government had been engaging PLUS shareholders with the aim of reducing toll rates. The sovereign wealth fund, which owns a 51% stake in PLUS, had also been providing advice to the government to this end, the statement said.

But wait just a darn minute. What’s all this talk about reducing toll rates, you ask? Didn’t Pakatan pledge to abolish tolls completely in their election manifesto?

Well, you may have missed this story when it came out in October last year. But apparently, we all need to read the fine print a little more. You see, according to the manifesto, Pledge No. 6 has the title “Abolish Tolls”, but actually talks about reducing toll rates until such time as they can be abolished.

So Pakatan didn’t actually say it would abolish tolls.

PM Maddey, back when the story came out, had vilified people for not reading the manifesto carefully. But mind you, Mads himself must not have looked at it properly, ‘cos just a year prior to that, the PM said he had been against the pledge to abolish tolls. Sheesh!

Anyhoo, how’s this for irony? Putrajaya announced yesterday the beginning of the concession for the West Coast Expressway (WCE), specifically for the Taiping-Banting stretch. Which means folks, you’re gonna have to pay a toll for using that stretch of road.

Pakatan on human rights naughty list

The Pakatan Harapan administration’s decision to institute a report card system for its ministers was well received. However, the government’s own report card isn’t showing very good results.

In fact, a human rights organisation has criticised Mahathir Mohamad’s government for failing to keep its election pledges.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), in its World Report 2020, says the government’s human rights reforms have stalled because it has either backed off or delayed actions. And this is all, it claims, ‘cos the coalition’s leaders “lacked the political will to stand up for principles” in the face of opposition.

Wow! Fighting words indeed.

HRW deputy director for Asia Phil Robertson says the government will ultimately be judged for what it achieves and not what it had pledged to do, adding that Pakatan could still turn things around. But do we really expect them to, considering they have already had 20 months to do so?

Among the things mentioned by the report are:

  • Malaysia’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court barely a month after becoming a member of the treaty;
  • The backing off from a pledge to abolish the death penalty and instead the proposed introduction of laws to take away mandatory application of the death penalty;
  • The failure to repeal repressive laws such as the Sedition Act and the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, the latter of which was used against 12 people with alleged links to the defunct Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam; and,
  • The continued discrimination of the LGBT community, such as the sentencing of five men to jail and caning for gay sex.

The full report, on some 100 countries, can be viewed here.

Finger-pointing begins over Ponggal directive

So it appears that the fallout from the Education Ministry’s directive for Muslim students not to take part in Ponggal celebrations as it had been deemed religious by the Islamic Development Department (Jakim) is still, well, falling.

After the Ministry said it was only following Jakim’s lead, the religious department moved to wash its hands off the whole thing. ‘Cos apparently, Jakim was only responding to the Education Ministry’s request for guidance.

Ah, so it was the ministry which started it all, then? But that doesn’t excuse the fact that Jakim had mistakenly called a cultural celebration a religious one. So how now brown cow?

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mujahid Yusof Rawa flew to the defence of Jakim, saying the department had never banned any religious celebrations in Malaysia. The de facto Islamic Affairs Minister, also confirmed that it’d been the Education Ministry which had sought the department’s guidance.

All we can say to the first part of that is: “Well, duhhh”.

Mr Minister, sir, Jakim has no power to ban any celebration of any other religion. Freedom to celebrate one’s religion is a right enshrined in the Federal Constitution. And Jakim, as its name suggests, can only concern itself with Islamic affairs.

Seriously, we wish that all our politicians, especially our government leaders, think before opening their mouths. The issue, as we have pointed out, is that Ponggal is a cultural celebration for Tamils. It is not a religious affair.

Meanwhile, another de facto minister, National Unity boss P. Waytha Moorthy, has finally weighed in on the matter. And he said … not much at all, really, except that the Cabinet has decided that all cultural celebrations should be enjoyed by all Malaysians.

Again, we find ourselves saying, “Well, duhhh”.

Oh well, we suppose we should at least be glad that the Cabinet acknowledges that Ponggal is a cultural celebration.

Knives out for Maddey

Okay, so we understand PKR members (well, maybe not Azmin Ali) calling for Maddey to stand down as PM. After all, it’s their president, Anwar Ibrahim, who is reportedly next in line to be PM.

Now, however, it seems that DAP leaders are also climbing on board the bandwagon. And though they acknowledge that this can’t be an immediate thing, the DAP fellas say the Pakatan presidential council must make a decision soon, and set a date for the handover.

Nevertheless, one-time mortal Maddey enemy Saudara Lim Guan Eng, a member of the presidential council, sees no need for such a thing. After all, he says, The Doctor has already said he’ll step down after the November APEC meeting.

It’s true, Maddey did say he will go after APEC. Still, how many times have the goalposts been moved since that fateful day in May 2018 when Pakatan swept the elections and ended BN’s monopoly of government?

Bersatu members, of course, are having none of that. Jeram (Selangor) assemblyman Mohd Shaid Rosli says it is “unhealthy” and even “insolent” for Pakatan members to repeatedly call for the PM to stand down.

Considering PKR has a larger number of seats in Parliament, it’s understandable that Bersatu members may be a little worried at the prospect of losing all influence in the administration.

“The middle class has disappeared. We have a highway to poverty and no roads coming out.”

- Suze Orman -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed constitutional changes which will see him holding on to power past 2024, after he quits the presidency. He also picked a new prime minister after the entire Cabinet resigned.

  • The United States and China have signed an agreement to ease a trade war that has troubled international markets and affected the global economy.

  • The US House of Representatives has voted to send articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate.

  • Two small islands off Sumatra have disappeared and four more are in danger of sinking, thanks to rising ocean levels. Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that the last decade was the warmest on record.

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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