A former Aussie PM has dragged up painful memories with an explosive claim about the pilot of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, and at once brought forth a torrent of comments from a variety of personalities. In other news, we hear that Malaysians are an unhappy lot (the unhappiest in Asia) over salary issues, and there's even more speculation about when we will see Anwar Ibrahim take over as PM (if ever).

Was there a cover-up?

Ex-Aussie PM's explosive MH370 pilot claim

Former Aussie PM Tony Abbott stirred up quite a bit of controversy with his remarks yesterday in a TV interview.

Abbott claimed the Malaysian government was certain the case of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was a mass murder-suicide perpetrated by pilot Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah. He said it was made “crystal clear” to him that at the very highest level of the Malaysian government, the murder-suicide plot was thought to be the reason the Boeing 777 went missing, from “very, very early on”.

To refresh your memory, here’s a quick recap of the saga that is MH370. Early on March 8, 2014, flight MH370 took off from KLIA for Beijing with 239 people, including crew, on board a Boeing 777-200ER. After Zaharie signed off with Malaysian air traffic controllers, the aircraft suddenly disappeared from civilian radar. It was later shown that it had made a turn back to Malaysia, flown right across the peninsula, turned north when it reached the Straits of Malacca and ended up, after a flight around Indonesian airspace, in the southern Indian Ocean somewhere east of Perth. 

Several pieces of debris identified as probably coming from MH370 have been found washed up on beaches in the northern Indian Ocean, but despite several searches, the aircraft itself has yet to be located. Flight MH370 is, arguably, the aviation world’s biggest mystery.

With the sixth anniversary of the disappearance fast approaching, Abbott’s interview will likely stir up interest in the case once again. For the record, some reports in 2014 had mentioned the possibility of a murder-suicide. In fact, the final report on the tragedy by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau in 2017 had even mentioned that Malaysian authorities had found that Zaharie had, on his home flight simulator, charted an “initially similar” route. However, the report stated the reasons for the loss could not be established with certainty until the aircraft was found.

As news on the Abbott interview hit Malaysia yesterday, the first to comment was DAP advisor (and overall shot-caller) Lim Kit Siang. He called for leaders of the former BN government to “speak up”, and also for an international commission of inquiry into the incident. We do love our commissions of inquiry, don’t we? Well, as it turns out, both calls were answered.

But before getting to that, we gotta ask Uncle Kit this: why only call for former BN gomen leaders to speak up? The Pakatan government now has access to all information on MH370. Why not ask them, too? Why haven’t they said anything, when the last search for MH370 was under Pakatan? Oh, and remember Muhyiddin Yassin, the Home Minister? He was DPM back then. Surely he was in the know?

Anyway, the Australian state of Queensland is mulling the possibility of starting an inquest. Its premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she would consult with the state attorney-general on the matter.

And, former PM Najib Razak, who of course was Malaysia’s supreme leader back then, came out to say the gomen had suspected a criminal plot by Zaharie and had investigated this possibility as well as his political affiliations. However, this was not made public as it would’ve been “deemed unfair and legally irresponsible” since the black boxes and cockpit voice recorders had not been found. Meaning, there was no concrete proof.

Why investigate Zaharie’s political loyalties? Cos he was a known opposition (well, opposition then, anyway) supporter distantly related to Anwar Ibrahim and the aircraft went missing the day after the Court of Appeal sent Anwar to jail for sodomising an aide.

The Jibster was backed up by former Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who was acting Transport Minister at the time. Hisham said various theories were investigated as new “information” surfaced every now and then, but there had been no conclusive answers as to the exact cause of the disappearance.

Meanwhile, then Department of Civil Aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman has questioned the motive behind Abbott’s statement in the interview, which he said would reopen old wounds. “Why now?,” he asks, adding that the suicide-murder theory was one which was investigated but could never be proven.

IGP Abdul Hamid Bador, who was involved in the investigation as then deputy director of the Special Branch, said police had investigated all angles, including terrorism, hijacking and even hijacking using hi-tech means, but couldn’t come to any conclusion due to lack of evidence as the plane was never found. However, when pressed about the pilot theory, Hamid said he couldn’t comment until the aircraft is found.

But the allegations don’t seem to be high on the list of priorities for Uncle Kit’s beloved government, it would seem. Despite the “explosive” interview with Abbott, DPM Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail says the Cabinet didn’t discuss MH370 at all at its weekly meeting yesterday. Maybe that’s why the old political hand never asked the present gomen to “speak up”.

What an unhappy bunch we are

Malaysians are an unhappy lot, we know, when it comes to, well, almost everything. 

But we’re especially unhappy when it comes to salaries. The unhappiest in all of Asia, which, when we last checked, was still a big ass continent with a whole buncha countries in it. 

A survey conducted by recruitment firm Hays Asia concluded that Malaysian respondents were the unhappiest lot when it came to salaries. Some 6,000 people were surveyed across Asia and among them were 900 Malaysians, 46% of whom said they were unhappy with their monthly remunerations.

Hays attributed this unhappiness to the likelihood of “high salary expectations from employees that differ from that of employers”. That’s probably a kind of “PC” way of saying employees had too high expectations of what their salaries should be. Or is it that employers have too low regard for employees? You be the judge.

Anyhoo, there’s more. Malaysia also reported the highest number of employees who asked for a pay raise but didn’t receive any (24%). And that 52% of the respondents, the highest in the region, were looking for new jobs, citing pay as the top reason they were doing so.

Hays Malaysia MD Tom Osborne said, with the brain drain continuing in Malaysia, it was vital that employers offer more incentives to both attract and retain the best talent. And these incentives need not necessarily be monetary in nature.

This is in stark contrast to a statement last year from Hays. That statement said Malaysians could expect an above average wage increase of between 3% and 6%, but more importantly, that a survey had said 55% of Malaysian employees were satisfied with what they were paid and 4% “very satisfied”.

Still, we’re always complaining we aren’t paid enough. And with prices of things seemingly going up constantly, who can blame us? 

Towards the end of last year, the Department of Statistics released Salaries & Wages Survey Report Malaysia 2018 which found the median, or midpoint salary for employees to be RM2,308 with the mean or average salary at RM3,087. This, surely, is not enough.

But should we really be the most dissatisfied in all of Asia?

According to numbeo.com, which claims to be “the world’s largest database of user contributed data about cities and countries worldwide”, Malaysia ranks No. 42 out of 103 countries in the world when it comes to average monthly net salaries, at RM3,529. Singapore is the highest-ranked Asian country, coming in second (after Switzerland) at RM13,471.

Other Asian countries above us include (unsurprisingly) Qatar, Hong Kong, Japan, UAE, South Korea and Kuwait. Malaysia, in fact, is the second-highest ASEAN country in the ranking, with the Philippines the lowest at a measly RM1,205 average a month.

Of course, salaries mean jack without comparisons with cost of living. So let’s take a gander at these statistics, then.

According to  human resources consulting firm Mercer, Kuala Lumpur was the 141st most expensive city in the world to live in for 2019, up (or down, depending on how you see it) from 145th the previous year. Hong Kong was the most expensive, followed by Tokyo and, unsurprisingly again, Singapore.

Next come Seoul, Zurich, Shanghai, Ashgabat (Turkmenistan), Beijing, New York City and Shenzhen. So, of the top 10 spots, eight are in Asia. But here’s the kicker, even though we Malaysians earn the second highest salaries in ASEAN, our friends in Bangkok and Bandar Seri Begawan actually have to spend more as they face higher costs of living.

So yeah, what we conclude is that, while we all need and want to earn more, we could be in a worse position. In the meantime, we’ll likely want to move to Switzerland, though perhaps not to Zurich.

Pre-meeting meeting

All eyes will be on the Pakatan Presidential Council tomorrow when it meets, but will we have the answers we are waiting for?

The council is said to have a discussion on the transition of power between PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad and PKR president Anwar Ibrahim on its agenda. But will they? And more importantly, will the highlights of the discussion be made public?

To recap, Anwar said it would be discussed, but Maddey was elusive when asked to comment, saying he didn’t know whether it would be.

The council’s top leaders — Mads, Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin, Anwar, coalition president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Amanah president Mohamad Sabu and DAP sec-gen Saudara Lim Guan Eng — are said to be meeting just before the council meeting, to iron out the transition issue, among others. Wan Azizah, apparently, doesn’t normally attend pre-council meetings, but Mahathir is said to want her there this time as he considers her presence crucial.

It’s anyone’s guess as to the outcome of the meetings, both pre-council and council. God knows this issue has been dragging on for so long that no one can even remember all the stories that have come out on it.

Will Maddey and Anwar resolve just when the reins of the country will be handed over? Will Anwar even be the one who takes over?

Well, Pahang PKR seems to think so. They have called for Anwar to be the one to lead the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in KL in November (Mahathir has promised to step down after that, but we still don’t know how long after). This is predicated on Maddey handing over power to Anwar in May as originally promised.

Of course, if the presidential council decides to follow Mahathir’s timeline, then Anwar will have no locus standi to lead the summit, as he would only be a party president (and PM-forever-in-waiting) and not the country’s head of state.

This and that

There were some other interesting or important bits of news yesterday which we thought we would include, at least in brief, in our humble offerings today:

    • Two more Covid-19 patients in Malaysia have been given a clean bill of health and discharged, meaning that 15 of the 22 cases have recovered so far. Way to go Malaysian health workers.

    • Everybody’s favourite Malaysian fugitive, businessman and alleged king conman Jho Low, was in Wuhan (at least at one point in time) and IGP Hamid Bador has cheekily suggested that Low come back to Malaysia if he is down with Covid-19 and “we’ll take good care of you”. Quite the stand-up comedian, this IGP.

    • Meanwhile, Hamid confirmed that four Selangor cops have been arrested for extorting RM3 million to cover up the existence of a drug lab in Cheras. Tsk Tsk.

    • Day 9 of former “FLOM” Rosie Mansor’s graft trial saw the judge “advising” both the prosecution and defence teams to be civil as tempers frayed and shouting matches seemed to be the order of the day.
    • More on courtroom drama as the Malaysian judiciary made history by employing AI in sentencing in two drug cases, but not without objection from the defence. The AI was used to analyse sentences meted out in similar cases between 2014 and 2019 to make recommendations to the court. Welcome to the modern age, Malaysia.

    • It was the second day in a row yesterday when Malaysians were greeted with sad news. This time we were saddened by the passing of Malaysian literary icon and academic KS Maniam. Read one of his last known interviews, reproduced to commemorate his life upon news of his death, here.

“Goodnight Malaysian three seven zero.”

- Last transmission from MH370, before it went off radar -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Two Iranians are reported to be the latest Covid-19 deaths outside mainland China after testing positive for the virus in the Shi’ite holy city of Qom.
     
  • POTUS Donald Trump is alleged to have offered a pardon to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange if he denied Russia was involved in leaking Democrats’ emails during the 2016 Presidential election. The emails published by Wikileaks ahead of voting were said to have damaged Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning.
     
  • A day after Ashraf Ghani was declared the winner in a disputed presidential poll in Afghanistan, US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad met with him to discuss a deal for a weeklong reduction in violence that America had brokered with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar.
     
  • The UN has reported that hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing a Russia-back Syrian offensive, with children dying in freezing conditions near the country’s border with Turkey.
     
  • An investigation has turned up evidence that Venezuela’s Special Action Force, an elite police unit, created by the country’s president, that has earned a fierce reputation in poor neighbourhoods, counts convicted criminals among its members.

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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