Dr Mahathir Mohamad says he’s heading to Sabah to campaign for his friends, and make sure the frogs who hopped on over to support Musa Aman get punished by the electorate. What’s funny though, is that history contains many examples where the former PM appeared to be in favour of defections.

Also in the news, Tommy Thomas hits back at claims that criminal proceedings against Goldman Sachs wouldn’t have ensured a better compensation package; the government looks to make the MySejahtera app compulsory for contact tracing, and Azmin Ali and Lim Guan Eng square off in Parliament over Malaysia’s stand on a trade partnership.

Katak hypocrisy

Frog leg porridge

Former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad is apparently angry as hell about the spate of defections that led to the fall of the Parti Warisan Sabah-led state government, and has vowed to turun padang to make sure the frogs who chose to switch allegiances are punished by the people of Sabah come Election Day.

To hear Atok tell it, the 13 assemblypersons who quit the government to side with Sabah Umno strongman and former chief minister Musa Aman are despicable, because not only have they set a bad precedent, they’ve also proven they can’t be trusted. Worse, the old man says, these buggers have shown they’re only interested in the money that was thrown at them to get them to jump ship.

Now, yes, there’ve been unconfirmed reports of as much as RM20 million being waved in front of state reps’ faces to get them to switch sides. And yeah, the authorities are investigating those claims. Nevertheless, we can’t help feel Maddey’s seemingly principled stand against defections smacks of hypocrisy, especially when one realises that Mads’ ally and the man he recently said would make a great Malaysian premier, Shafie Apdal, only became Sabah chief minister thanks to a whole lotta frogging.

In case you’ve forgotten how Shafie ascended the throne, the short story is that in 2018, Sabah Barisan Nasional looked to be in a position to retain the state government thanks to a pact with local Sabah party, Star (nama sebenar: Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku). However, just a day after Musa had been sworn in as CM, a bunch (or “army”, if you wanna be technical) of frogs crossed on over to Shafie’s camp, thereby giving the Warisan boss more than enough seats to kick out Musa.

And then there’s this – the 1994 political crisis that saw Parti Bersatu Sabah being thrown out on its behind due to defections was orchestrated by certain figures in Mahathir’s Federal government.

Political analyst James Chin delivers a pretty comprehensive history lesson on the topic (downloadable here). However, assuming you have neither the time nor the bandwidth for that, all you need to know is that when the votes were tallied at the end of the polls in February ’94, the Joseph Pairin Kitingan-led PBS was revealed to have won by a slim margin. Unfortunately, Pairin was out the door pretty quickly, so the story goes, thanks to one Anwar Ibrahim, who apparently coordinated a series of defections from PBS to Sabah BN.

Yes, ladies and gents, political frogs are a scourge to Malaysia’s politics, and the sooner they’re wiped out, the better we’ll all be. However, hearing Mahathir and indeed Anwar (who’s vowed action against amphibians from his party) making stands against defections is annoying as hell when the facts prove they’ve had no trouble with frogging when it suited them.

Here’s a bit of a walk down memory lane for y’all: Remember in 2008, when Anwar had his grand plan to take over the government by Sept 16? Well, that was supposed to have been done via, you guessed it, defections! And fittingly, guess which MPs Anwar had targeted for his long jump routine? Right again – it was the fellers from Sabah. Of course back then Anwar had painted BN as the villains for ‘making it rough’ for those who tried to hop on over to the Pakatan Rakyat coalition. Check out this blast from the past if you really want to get an idea of just how hypocritical all of Anwar and Maddey’s current moaning and whining is.

By the way, one of the jokers who switched sides last week – Inanam rep Kenny Chua – claims that he did it out of loyalty to Anwar! The logic is baffling, to say the least, but according to Chua, one of the factors that convinced him to side with Musa and Sabah BN, was Warisan’s insistence that Maddey should be named the Opposition’s PM candidate in place of Anwar. Yeah, like we said. Baffling!

On and here’s another thing – Shafie now says he wants only loyal candidates for the coming state polls, not hoppers. Funny fella lah, this Shafie. Did he only just appreciate the risk he took in 2018 when he added frogs to his numbers?

Tommy T strikes back

After more than a week of being whacked by all and sundry (read: DAP’s Lim Guan EngPKR’s Wong Chen and a journo who’s written a book on Malaysia’s financial scandal) over that Goldman Sachs deal, the Perikatan Nasional government has finally explained why it agreed to a seemingly lower settlement figure.

Unfortunately, while lotsa people may welcome the clarification provided by Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, one fellow appears to be pretty pissed. And that guy, folks, is former attorney-general Tommy Thomas, the dude who initially led the prosecution against Goldman over its involvement in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.

 

Basically, Tengku Zafrul’s explanation, as appearing in The Edge, went something like this: Yes, the deal agreed to with Goldman (for US$2.5 billion in cash and the guarantee for a return of assets totalling US$1.4 billion) is lower than what many expected and what Pakatan Harapan had sought. However, it’s not like the criminal charges initiated by ex-A-G Tommy T could’ve secured more moolah and prison terms for the bank’s directors.

 

TT, though, maintains that Tengku Zafrul is talking out of his ass because one, the criminal charges against the Wall Street investment bank’s directors could well have resulted in prison terms. And two, a conviction would have seen at least the same amount of cash being repaid.  

 

More importantly, Tommy notes that there was absolutely no reason to have rushed into a settlement at this point. 

 

Yeah, a deal may well have been struck eventually. However, the correct thing to have done would’ve been to initiate the charges, and then nego in the middle or after the trial.

 

Now, our criminal procedure knowledge is a little rusty, and we’re not entirely certain if Tommy, despite his wealth of experience, is correct about proper legal practice, precedents and whatnot. Nevertheless, we’ve gotta agree that regardless of its merit, the deal Malaysia struck does appear to have been hastily agreed to.

 

Why was it so important for us to get the cash now? Is the dough gonna be used to finance the country’s economic recovery? Pay government wages? Finance an impending election?

 

Yep, Tengku Zafrul says he chose to be pragmatic and responsible instead of popular in negotiating the deal. And that’s applaudable, sure. But it still doesn’t explain why the deal needed to be accepted right now.

 

By the way, some other 1MDB-related stuff went down on Monday as well, and among the more interesting news items to make the headlines was former 1MDB chief executive Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi’s denial of being involved in a plot to defraud the sovereign wealth fund (what else was he gonna tell the court?), and an Umno lawyer claiming trial to receiving RM15 million in illicit funds, moments after being discharged for the same offence by another court.

Selamat sejahtera

You may prefer using SELangkah or KLSTEP. Or you may be one of those who favours pen and paper over electronic contact tracing apps. It don’t matter. ’Cos regardless of preferences and/or misgivings, the government’s now decided to mandate the use of its MySejahtera app.

According to Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, the gomen isn’t saying other apps and methods of contact tracing can’t be employed. However, once a law on this is gazetted, businesses (at least those not located in places with poor internet connection) will be required to use MySejahtera to register visitors.

We get it, standardisation (even if it’s something that should have been done months ago, when the RMCO started) is way better than a whole bunch of people using a whole bunch of things that don’t necessarily help in the fight against Covid-19. Question is, though, is the government forgetting one small thing – just how many of Malaysia’s 32.7 million people actually own phones that’re capable of running MySejahtera?

There’s no real need to download the app for individual use, true. However, checking in with the app requires QR codes to be scanned. And that, dear friends, can only be done with a smartphone – something a recent Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission survey confirms, 22% of Malaysians don’t possess.

Now, we dunno what the government has in store to address this problem but we’d think that if Putrajaya is really serious about making MySejahtera compulsory, then it should damn well look at providing incentives via PENJANA or PRIHATIN for folks to get mobile phones.

Incidentally, on the subject of poorly thought out mandatory rules intended to efficiently manage Covid-19, we’ve finally got a little lucidity on when and where masks are required. But while it’s now been clarified that you don’t need to don a mask while exercising, chilling at home and travelling in your car, it’s anyone’s guess whether you’ll be issued a fine for not wearing one while cycling, the way some folks kena for driving without masks.

Sigh. We really dunno why these jokers can’t just define things properly BEFORE introducing laws.

Here, anyway, are some other important coronavirus highlights:

  • Only two cases of Covid-19 infection were registered yesterday. However, one of the two people who tested positive apparently took part in a bunch of Hari Raya Haji activities before coming clean about having patronised the nasi kandar restaurant in Kubang Pasu that’s at the centre of Malaysia’s fourth-largest active coronavirus cluster. The new cases take us to 9,001 cumulative cases
  • The Health Ministry will conduct targeted screening of Catholic groups in Johor following new cases that’ve been linked to a clergy centre in Bukit Tiram. The Bukit Tiram cluster was first detected on July 25 after a clergyman there tested positive for Covid-19. 
  • Kuching MP Kelvin Yii has advised the Health Ministry to refrain from divulging loads of info about index case patients. The politician, who himself recently recovered from Covid-19, says shining the spotlight on index cases creates the perception that these people are the source of all the trouble, which can then lead to hate and stigmatisation. The guy’s not wrong too, as the many toxic comments online targeting the restaurant owner at the heart of the Sivagangga cluster have shown.

Dangly bits from the Dewan and other places

Considering the name-calling and fireworks we’ve been treated to over the past couple of weeks in Parliament, things were pretty subdued in the Dewan Rakyat on Monday. Even so, DAP’s Lim Guan Eng and International Trade and Industry Minister Azmin Ali did manage to get into a small spat about Pakatan Harapan’s stand on the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

In a nutshell, Azmin said Pakatan had endorsed the trade pact, while Guan Eng claimed Pakatan cabinet discussions in late 2019 prove that certainly wasn’t the case, and a decision on the trade pact was still being deliberated.

In any event, the record shows Pakatan got booted from office and thus, its plan to make a final verdict on joining (or not joining) the trade bloc that includes Japan, Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and Singapore and Vietnam never materialised.

Here’re the rest of the important Parliament- and non-Parliament-related odds and ends from Monday:

  • The 2021 school year will start on Jan 20. Education Minister Radzi Jidin said the date had been decided after taking into account things like the SPM examination, which is set to be held from Jan 6 to Feb 9. If you recall, back when the exam dates were first announced, we, like many others, had wondered how schools would be able to ensure peace and quiet for SPM candidates with all students due back in early January. Unfortunately, at the time, the Education Ministry didn’t seem too bothered about addressing any of that. 
  • The Perikatan government has junked Pakatan’s planned transboundary haze law, claiming such legislation only offered “cosmetic” solutions, and would not help bring guilty Malaysian companies operating overseas to book for their role in the haze. Former minister Yeo Bee Yin, however, pointed out that the current government could have looked at making the law workable, instead of just flat out dumping it. 
  • Deputy Multimedia and Communications Minister Zahidi Zainul Abidin says Malaysia doesn’t currently have the resources and funding to screen for child porn at the country’s airports. DAP’s Kasthuri Patto noted, though, that Zahidi’s answer was almost exactly like the one given by Nur Jazlan Mohamed, back when he was deputy home minister and BN ruled the roost. One question though – why didn’t Pakatan look into the matter when it was in power? Did it also have no money? Also, did Kasthuri bring up the issue with her DAP colleague and former comms minister, Gobind Singh? 
  • Rosmah Mansor’s corruption trial continued Monday with the court hearing how former education minister and current Tenaga Nasional Berhad chairman Mahdzir Khalid had apparently asked for RM60 million in cash for approving a RM1.25 billion solar power project for schools in rural Sarawak. Mahdzir, while acting as a witness for the prosecution, had previously denied receiving any such reward, though. 
  • Former international footballer V. Krishnasamy, who most notably represented Malaysia at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, has died following a long illness. The midfielder, nicknamed “The Machine” during his playing days, was 72.

“A prostitute and a politician pour similar tears."

- Menander -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • The Philippines has reimposed movement curbs following four straight days of record Covid-19 increases. However, while the restrictions have been deemed necessary, critics are accusing President Rodrigo Duterte’s government of using the lockdown as an excuse to stifle dissent.
     
  • Microsoft is working out a deal to purchase TikTok amid concerns that United States President Donald Trump is set to ban the app over security concerns.
     
  • A data leak has revealed that Iran’s Covid-19 fatality rate is actually a whopping three times more than the government’s official figures. The number of positive cases is also way more what Tehran has reported.
     
  • From Aug 10, all travellers to Singapore will be required to wear electronic tags throughout the mandatory home quarantine period. Children below 12 are, however, exempted from the rule.
     
  • King Juan Carlos I, the daddy of Spain’s current monarch King Filipe, is heading into exile amid reports of financial impropriety and large-scale corruption. Juan Carlos is credited with leading Spain to democracy following the death of dictator General Francisco Franco.
     
  • John Hume, the Northern Irish Nobel Peace Prize winner, politician and main man behind the Good Friday Agreement that ended three decades of religious violence, has died aged 83.

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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