Is a grand coalition of parties truly the way forward for Malaysia? Or is this latest call for unity (sorta!) just part of a plan to ensure Primeiro Ministro Muhyiddin Yassin stays in power?

Elsewhere in today's newsletter, debate over Budget 2021's rages on; the powers that be are considering tighter movement restrictions for Kuala Lumpur; and the first virtual APEC summit kicks off.

So what's the catch?

A grand coalition speculation

The Beatles sang it

And now, it seems, our grand politicos are calling for parties to come together for the sake of Malaysia. It looks good on paper. Thing is, is this all too good to be true?

First up is Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s unity government proposal. The o̶l̶d̶ ̶c̶o̶o̶t̶ ex-prime minister has said it’s time to forsake party-based politics if the country’s to survive the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic fallout. 

 

If you recall, he’s mooted a “government of no parties” before, back in February when he pulled the mother of all tantrums and resigned as PM following the Sheraton Move. Also if you recall, this led to the collapse of his Pakatan Harapan gomen.

 

Of course, with Mads here, you wonder if this is just another long game of chess he’s playing to take out Muhyiddin and snag that sweet PM role for himself once more? Speculation arose earlier this month he’d been meeting several leaders to plan such a unity government. He denied then any discussion took place. Sure Maddey, we believe you (wink! wink!)

 

Unsurprisingly, we’re not the only ones having trouble trusting Mahathir’s best intentions.

 

Next is Umno’s Annuar Musa. The BN sec-gen’s mooted a kinda similar idea –  A grand coalition comprising government and opposition parties with a mission to rule Malaysia as one. The catch? You must reject Harapan if you want to join the club.

 

According to Annuar, Malaysia has focused for far too long on just two or three personalities. So the time to put aside personality-driven politics, link hands and sing Kumbaya for the greater good of the country.

 

Based on the dude’s Facebook posting, the plan is to open the doors not just to current government allies like PAS, MCA, MIC, Gabungan Parti Sabah and Gabungan Rakyat Sarawak, but also to rivals like Warisan, Maddey’s Pejuang and even Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman’s Muda. 

 

The benevolent Annuar has added that invites could also be extended to the likes of the Anifah Aman-led Parti Cinta Sabah, Berjasa, the Indian Progressive Front and Makkal Sakthi. 

 

Now, Anu did not specifically say the likes of PKR, Amanah and DAP wouldn’t be allowed to join, only that they’d have to turn their backs on their Harapan buddies if they want in.

 

We’re guessing there’s little room in the already-crowded treehouse for Umno’s perennial bogeyman DAP. But then again, politics make strange bedfellows. And what of PKR head honcho Anwar Ibrahim and his lofty PM dreams? We just gotta wait and see if he gets an invite.

 

Still, we may have to wait a while. It’s unclear at this point whether Annuar’s proposal even has the backing of his bosses in Perikatan Nasional and Barisan Nasional.

 

Is this part of a new elaborate strategy by PM Moo to hold onto power? We dunno. But what we can tell you is that at least according to one survey, MooMoo’s still Malaysia’s top choice for PM.

 

It’s unclear just what the exact parameters of this particular poll were, and what kind of questions were asked. According to the folks at Emir Research, 65% of the 2,096 respondents polled supported Moo as PM, with the other contenders for the top job – Mads, Anwar, PAS’ Abdul Hadi Awang and Umno boss Ahmad Zahid Hamidi among others – finishing way down the rankings.

 

Before you swallow that bit about Moo being great for Malaysia hook, line and sinker, though, here’s a point to note: Emir Research is owned by former Bersatu supreme council member Rais Hussin. You know, the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) chairperson? So yeah…

 

Anyhoo, even as Anu Musa tried to court Warisan with his post, the Sabah party’s bossman Shafie Apdal is standing by his team. He has said he doesn’t in the least regret advising governor Juhar Mahiruddin to dissolve the state legislative assembly when he did. 

 

In Shafie’s words, he’d much rather “die on the political battlefield” than “hand over power”. Poor choice of words, indeed.

 

Now, we agree frogging should never be the way to determine who holds power, and in a democracy, the mandate to rule should always come from the people. However, Shafie, it should be pointed out that it was many ordinary Sabahans who have died instead since the decision to have polls during a Covid pandemic was made. 

 

We guess it’s true what they say about smallfolk suffering the most when the high lords play their game of thrones. 

Money matters

With less than 10 days to go until it’s voted on, loads of parties and people are still trying to convince Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz to tweak Budget 2021. 

 

Umno, for one, is still insisting on a blanket loan moratorium extension as many regular folks are struggling financially due to the health crisis. One of its MP has said the government can’t keep saying it has no power over banks and financial institutions.

 

Now, Bank Negara Malaysia has repeatedly warned that blanket freezes on loans is not in the country’s best interest. Instead, a targeted approach to aid those in need would be better. However, the Umno man has claimed that without a blanket freeze, many people who’re unable to carry on work in these times – such as school and express bus operators – are likely to go bankrupt.

 

To be fair to him and Umno, Pakatan Harapan, too, wants the same thing. Jinx! Nevertheless, as we’ve pointed out in a special report before, a loan holiday may not be in everyone’s best interest.

 

Deferments aside, Dr M’s Pejuang is also urging the government to open its cheque book and dole out interest-free loans to small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The party’s rationale is 100,000-odd SMEs have closed shop since the imposition of the movement control order (MCO) in March. Plus, Japan recently allocated about RM1.03 trillion for such loans, so we should too.

 

We agree a tonne of businesses need help now, and more must be done to assist the folks who’ve been struggling. However, how the hell does everyone think the gomen’s gonna get cash right now to hand out interest-free loans?!

 

The country’s already RM1.2 trillion in debt. PN’s mammoth budget (valued at RM322.54 billion) is gonna significantly add to that as Putrajaya looks to borrow moolah to stimulate the economy and fight the coronavirus.

 

Ex-moneybags minister Lim Guan Eng is also on the pump-more-money-into-the-budget train. He has said this would create jobs and save businesses. It may put the country in a precarious financial position, but with targeted expenditure, we’ll be all right.

 

Honestly, we don’t know enough to tell if Nobita is right. But what we can agree with is his point about spending needing to be targeted towards Covid-19 recovery measures. Meaning, no spending on the Special Affairs Department a.k.a Jasa lah, thank you very much.

 

By the way, while everyone was trying to get heard about the gomen’s money policy, the Employees Provident Fund has announced a revision to its i-Sinar plan that will allow contributors access to funds of between RM9,000 and RM60,000 from their Account 1s. The plan was originally supposed to benefit just 600,000 folks. EPF has now said up to two million contributors will be eligible. 

 

If you recall, in our analysis of the budget last week, we pointed out MooMoo’s gomen seemed to have expertly tread that fine line between meeting the rakyat’s needs and being prudent. This current announcement, though, which is gonna make about RM14 billion available, has left us a bit baffled.

 

Rest assured, we’ll clue you in when some way smarter people have weighed in.

Capital controls

There’s a chance parts of KL could be placed under enhanced MCO (EMCO) if cases in the federal territory keep spiking. As it stands, however, the Health Ministry has yet to deem it necessary. Phew!

 

Still, KL is again leading the scoring charts in terms of daily infections (392 yesterday alone, and 1,262 active cases in total). It is now the state or territory with the fourth-highest number of overall cases in the country after Sabah, Selangor and Negeri Sembilan.

 

Nevertheless, the disease looks like it’s contained to specific clusters and has not yet entered the community. Double phew! Also, save for 13 infections linked to the Damalela construction site – KL’s largest cluster – the cases were all registered among migrant workers.

 

The considerable number of foreign workers testing positive has resulted in the authorities mulling compulsory screenings for all migrant workers, not just those working as security guards or in the construction sector as previously required. One problem with such a move though is determining who’ll pay for the tests.

 

At the mo, Malaysia has something like 1.7 million documented migrant workers. Yet only about a million of them are covered by the Social Security Organisation (Socso). Socso has said its only prepared to fork out up to RM150 per person for screenings, meaning while mass screening may be a good idea, practically, it’s probably not gonna happen.

 

Some good news, though. While the picture may not be rosy elsewhere in Malaysia – there were 1,103 cases yesterday and 4 new deaths – Johor, Kedah and Terengganu could see controlled movement restrictions lifted there if the situation improves over the next two weeks. Fingers, toes and eyes crossed!

 

Here’re the other Covid-19 dangling bits from yesterday:

  • Putrajaya’s in the final stages of discussion with 10 vaccine makers. Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has said we could be looking at getting a shipment of Covid drugs in by the first or second quarter of next year. KJ never revealed though if United States biotech firm Moderna (see ‘International’ below) is one of the companies we’ve been chatting with.
     
  • The Health Ministry has refuted an Imperial College London study that projected a huge spike in cases and fatalities here, adding that its own epidemiological model is more accurate. 

    Proof of this is that Malaysia only reported 869 Covid-19 cases on Nov 10, whereas the United Kingdom study had predicted 4,413 infections on that day. Fair point, we guess. However, it might be important to note the ICL projections take into account asymptomatic and mild cases too.
     
  • Former education minister Maszlee Malik has said the closure of schools could have been better targeted. Authorities at district level should’ve had a greater say in the matter as they’d be more aware of the situation on the ground.
     
  • The timetables for next year’s SPM exam has been released. Timetables for the Sijil Vokasional Malaysia (SVM), Sijil Tinggi Agama Malaysia (STAM) and the International Language Achievement Test (UPBA) have also been announced.
     
  • The dude who fled from the Penang Hospital after being admitted there for Covid-19 was found 25km away in Bayan Lepas

This, that and APEC

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit kicked off virtually yesterday, and our International Trade and Industry Minister Azmin Ali’s been hard at work, not so much with engaging fellow trade ministers, but talking up the event.

 

In a series of tweets, AA boasted about KL’s role in the summit, calling it a historic day for Malaysia. Now, Malaysia’s hosted the meet before – back in 1998 when face-to-face meetings were kosher – so we’re not sure what’s so historic about playing host a second time. 

 

More importantly, what’s great about hosting a summit anyway when our economy hasn’t exactly improved much since we joined the bloc? Also, this edition of the summit is basically a series of damned Zoom meetings lah!

 

In any case, yesterday’s APEC ministerial meeting saw members reiterate their commitment to pursuing free and open trade, investment, and economic recovery. This came ahead of Friday’s more important economic leaders’ meeting.

 

The APEC meet aside, here’re a few other odds and ends that made the news: 

  • Two-term Gerik MP Hasbullah Osman, 63, passed away from a heart attack Monday evening. Hasbullah, also the head of Syarikat Perumahan Negara Berhad, had defeated PAS and PKR candidates to retain the constituency in the last GE. Could this mean another by-election? Gotta wait for the Election Commission (EC).
     
  • In other kinda related election news, the EC has said it ain’t ready for large-scale postal voting. For one, the Commission notes that extending postal voting for all voters would require a tweak to the Federal Constitution. And for another, there’s still too much distrust here in the postal voting system.
     
  • Former Barisan Nasional minister Salleh Said Keruak has called on the Sabah gomen to address the state’s “digital poverty”. Good call this, SSK. One question though: why the heck wasn’t this looked into when you were comms minister?!
     
  • A Selangor Amanah lawmaker has joined Pakatan Harapan partner PKR and a prominent leader of his former party has wasted no time in calling it for what it is –  a case of party hopping
     
  • Two other Selangor Amanah assemblypersons – Morib rep Hasnul Baharuddin and Hulu Kelang’s Saari Sungib – have denied they’ll be joining Mohd Fakhrulrazi in PKR, though another state rep – Ahmad Mustain Othman, who was sacked by Amanah in July – has confirmed his Anwar Club membership.
     
  • Folks in Selangor are due to be hit by another round of water cuts from 9pm on Nov 24 to 5.30pm on Nov 25. At least this time, the disruption –  set to affect 27 areas in Kuala Langat and Sepang – is a scheduled one. 
     
  • A man was hit with an RM1,000 fine for slapping a worker at a Starbucks outlet when the arsehole accused was confronted about smoking in a non-smoking area. Honestly, the way some folks treat wait staff is downright despicable. Is it really too much to ask for people to be civil and yes, obey the law? The RM1K fine is not enough in our books.

“Ah-Ah-Ah. First rule of leadership: everything is your fault.”

- Hopper, A Bug's Life -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Pharma company Moderna has said early data indicates its Covid-19 vaccine is 94.5% effective. The company plans to apply to the US Food and Drug Administration in the coming weeks for emergency-use authorisation.

    Moderna’s announcement comes a week from similarly positive announcements about the Pfizer-BioNTech and Sputnik V vaccines. India’s Biological E. Ltd, meanwhile, has begun human trials.
     
  • SpaceX has successfully launched a crew of four astronauts into orbit on a mission to the International Space Station. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is the first spacecraft that NASA has certified to carry humans since the Space Shuttle programme was shuttered in 2011. It is also the first private craft to be endorsed by the agency.
     
  • International Olympic Committee bossman Thomas Bach has said he’s very confident people will get to attend next year’s Tokyo Games. The Olympics, originally set for Summer 2020, was postponed due to Covid and is now set to begin on July 23, 2021.
     
  • A French public radio station has apologised for “killing off” a number of still-alive personalities such as Sir Alex Ferguson, Clint Eastwood, Pelé and Queen Elizabeth II. Radio France Internationale has blamed the booboo on “a technical problem” which saw about a hundred death notices appear on its website.

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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