It was a big day in Parliament, or at least for Parliament related stuff, as a number of important things cropped up, the biggest of which was regarding the 101 direct negotiation contracts awarded by the Pakatan Harapan government during its short tenure. The full list of projects was finally released and folks, they contained some real doozies.

We also saw two significant bills being withdrawn, one of which drew criticism from an NGO and the Malaysian Bar, while there was some tension when a PAS MP made a rather odd claim about non-Muslim religions.

Hikayat 101 Projek

Release of the Kraken list of 101 projects

If the Mid-East has the Tales of 1001 Arabian Nights, Malaysia has the Tales of 101 Projects.
 
For the past few days, we’ve seen back-and-forths between the Perikatan government and its Pakatan predecessors, specifically between current Moneybags Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz and his immediate predecessor, Lim Guan Eng. After Tengku Zafrul revealed that Pakatan had awarded contracts for 101 projects through direct negotiations, he was attacked by Lim and other Pakatan big guns.
 
Lim and former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad had also called on the government to release the full list of projects, and so it is that the Finance Ministry yesterday decided to call Tokong and Maddey’s bluff. You could almost hear Tengku Zaf say: “Well, yeah. Sure. Why not?”
 
So it is that MoF released the list, which you can find here. Of course, it’s a long list, so let’s break down some of the highlights for you: 

  • The bulk of the RM6.61 billion in contracts – two thirds of it, in fact – went to a single company. Yes, folks, it’s for just one project. That project is the Klang Valley Double Tracking project and the company which gained RM4.7 billion is Dhaya Maju LTAT Sdn Bhd. BUT (we like big buts and we cannot lie) this was a renegotiation of a BN era project which was supposedly brought down by RM700 million. Also, cancelling the company’s contract would have put the government on the hook for paying a hefty penalty.
    BTW, the Transport Ministry also paid over RM2 million for the hosting of the 2019 Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace exhibition. That really isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, but we have had more than two decades of experience covering this exhibition – including the 2019 edition – and we can tell you that from what the end result looked like, the organisers were overpaid, especially for this particular year. 
     
  • The second largest single project awarded was to a company implicated in the corruption trial of former DPM and Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi for the supply of data chips for Malaysian passports. The deal was for RM270 million, again a renegotiation of a BN era deal that was initially for RM318 million. But in this case, we wonder why the company was kept on contract, considering the corruption case and also that the company had an unsatisfactory track record. 
     
  • The Defence Ministry awarded the second-most number of direct nego contracts (after the Transport Ministry), amounting to RM900 million altogether. However, the contracts were extensions of existing aircraft maintenance ones. 
     
  • This one is just fantastic. MoF, apparently, approved a contract worth RM21,000 for the purchase of a book which, believe it or not, is available for free online via the UN Human Settlements Program. It’s worth mentioning here that the contract fell under the Economic Affairs Ministry, then helmed by a now senior minister, Azmin Ali. It’s also worth noting that Saudara Lim would have had to approve the allocation, as with all other allocations.  

Of course, our dear Nobita has come out fighting. In a brief tweet, he said it was all a “big lie” and that he would reveal everything in a press conference today. Well, we can’t wait to hear what he says and how he’s gonna explain things away. If there are good explanations, well we’re certainly willing to accept these. But the key word here is “good”. Let’s not forget that Pakatan Harapan made open tenders a key plank of their election manifesto, so they’re gonna have to have the most silver of tongues to talk their way out of this.
 
Now, when Tengku Zafrul first made the claims about the 101 projects, he did say that in some cases, direct negotiations were allowed. And we’ve said before that such deals weren’t necessarily bad, just that they open the way to the possibility of abuse and corruption. So, when MoF released the list yesterday, it also included five reasons when direct negotiations are allowed. 
 
These five reasons, or circumstances, are:
* Emergency services which if delayed could disrupt services or affect national interest.
* Ensuring uniformity to ensure compatibility between existing equipment and newly-acquired equipment.
* Where a service or supply only has one source.
* Matters concerning national security or strategic interest.
* A contract involving a Bumiputera manufacturer which complies with requirements.
 
We have no issues for the first four, but we have to question why that fifth one is there. What are these shadowy requirements? And why only Bumiputera manufacturers? Shouldn’t all companies, no matter the make-up, have to go through an open tender process? If the government wanted, they could have a Bumiputera-only tender process.

Doesn’t this particular item really open up the system to a huge possibility of abuse, cronyism, nepotism and corruption? What’s to stop somebody’s wife, sibling, child or mistress using this loophole to get some cushy government contracts?

Whatever it is, the ball is now firmly in Guan Eng’s court. Today will be an interesting day indeed and we can’t wait for Tokong’s press conference. Will he be able to hit that proverbial ball back, or will he bottle it?

IPCMC morphs into lame IPCC

Two significant bills were withdrawn by the Perikatan gomen in Parliament yesterday, and the first of these to go was the one for the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission.
 
Instead, the bill has now been replaced by the Independent Police Conduct Commission, which was tabled for first reading yesterday by Deputy Home Minister Ismail Mohamed Said. Also withdrawn was the Constitution (Amendment)(No 2) Bill, which was for amendments to be made to the Federal Constitution, limiting the position of PM to just two terms. 
 
Both bills had been tabled by the Pakatan administration previously, so this is a significant turn of events. But while the withdrawal of the bill to amend the constitution has so far flown under the radar by and large, the decision to replace the IPCMC with the Independent Police Conduct Commission – the IPCC – has been introduced to a chorus of boos.
 
This comparison of the IPCMC and IPCC bills shows just why this is so. You see, the IPCC itself will be a watered-down version of the IPCMC. 
 
One key factor is that the IPCC, unlike the IPCMC, will not have any power to take action against errant policemen. Instead, action has to be referred to the Police Force Commission or other relevant authorities. The IPCMC, if it had been approved, would have had the power to take disciplinary action. 
 
The IPCC also doesn’t have the power to review complaints of police officers who do not comply with rules or SOPs, do not justify their actions when justification should be provided, and who commit criminal offences. However, the IPCC does expand on the IPCMC by requiring police to report to the commission any cases of sexual offences under police custody, on top of cases of injuries or death in detention.
 
NGO Suaram, in an immediate response, says it was appalled by the new bill, saying the IPCC would have even less power than the current Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission, which itself had been formed by a bill which had replaced the original IPCMC Bill in 2005. It also said an accountable and responsible police force would not fear an independent commission. Suaram is absolutely correct!
 
The Malaysian Bar, too, hit out at the new bill. Bar president Salim Bashir’s concerns also include the lack of bite the IPCC will have, in particular the fact that the commission wouldn’t have disciplinary power. 
 
It is of real concern to all, in fact, that the IPCC doesn’t have disciplinary power. The is, quite simply, the government bowing to the police force. Plain and simple.
 
IGP Hamid Bador, in the early months of his tenure, had initially agreed to the IPCMC, after a discussion between the EAIC and the top echelon of the force. Just a few months down the road, however, he apparently changed his mind
 
Why would the force fear review by an independent commission, if our coppers are such angels and the PDRM is a clean and responsible entity? The force has been resisting the setting up of the IPCMC since it was first mooted, apart from that short period at the start of Hamid’s IGP-ship.
 
But oddly enough, as far as the withdrawal of the amendment to the Constitution is concerned, there’s been no reaction so far. Perhaps everyone has been more focused on the IPCMC bill, or the spat about the Hikayat 101 Projek.
 
The intention to limit the PM’s position to two terms was first mooted in October 2018, with then PM Maddey Mohamad saying this was part of Pakatan’s promise to reform the country’s political system – kinda ironic considering the old macha’s first tenure as PM lasted several terms (almost 23 years!). The bill to amend the constitution to that effect was tabled for first reading in December last year. 
 
While we don’t have any reactions to that (though we expect there to be some soon), what we do have is Communications and Multimedia Minister Saifuddin Abdullah saying the move to withdraw the bill was a unanimous Cabinet decision. Yes peeps, this is the same Saifuddin who, as part of the Pakatan administration previously, must surely have supported the bill.
 
Asked why he, as a member of the current Cabinet, supported the withdrawal of the bill when he had supported its tabling in the first place, Saifuddin says there’s a different philosophy now. Geez Louise, you damn lalang! 
 
It remains to be seen whether there will be a new bill to replace this one, but we highly doubt this will happen considering the supposed change in “philosophy”. Even if Pakatan were to regain control of the nation, there would be doubts as to whether, if reintroduced, the bill would pass muster considering that any amendment to the Constitution would required a two-thirds majority of the Dewan Rakyat.
 

What a crying shame.

You booze, you lose?

A PAS MP created a spot of bother yesterday when debating the Road Transport (Amendment) Bill 2020, which features stiffer penalties for reckless and drink driving and was later passed by the Dewan Rakyat
 
Nik Muhammad Zawawi Salleh had said all religions forbade the drinking of alcohol, prompting DAP’s Ngeh Koo Ham, the Beruas MP, to object. He said Zawawi should correct his facts, as other religions, such as Christianity, allowed people to drink alcohol but not to get drunk. 

In fact, Ngeh said during “Jesus’s last supper, they had wine” pointing to the last meal Jesus Christ had with his followers before his crucifixion. Zawawi, though, said Christianity, “before the Bible was amended”, did not allow even a bit of liquor, adding that he had read this in a book written by Christians, and not Muslims.
 
We’re not sure what book Zawawi had been reading, but we sure would like to know. We hate to say it, but maybe he’s been imbibing a little of that “miracle water” himself.
 
Various religions actually use alcohol – most usually wine – in sacred rituals. That being said, religions generally agree that while alcohol is OK for consumption, alcoholism and drunkenness are not good. 
 
There are, in fact, there are a number of verses in the Bible which speak of this. Generally, the Good Book says that drunkenness is evil, but at other times, it praises wine as a gift from God. And in case Zawawi isn’t aware, literally the very first miracle attributed to Christ is turning water into wine at a wedding (imagine how much they’d have saved on corkage!). Wine, not Ribena. So Zawawi might want to check his facts. Also, if they gave an award for most baller wedding guest of all time, Jesus would win hands down.
 
Now, to be fair to Zawawi, every religion has debates about various topics. So perhaps our good man from Pasir Puteh just read one side of one debate about Christianity and alcohol, or maybe he mistook alcoholism for alcohol.

Whatever it is, considering how he’s so clearly not an expert, Zawawi might want to stick to issues related to Islam from here on. But amidst Zawawi’s nonsense, the quote of the day – from Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong – almost got lost. And so, we’ve decided to give wee Wee place of pride in our quote section below. 

Odds and ends

And as always, here are the things that didn’t quite get big enough to deserve an entire section of their own:

  • The number of new Covid-19 cases dropped to just six yesterday, including three from the now notorious Tawar Cluster. With seven recoveries, the number of active cases has reduced just a little to 188
     
  • The SOPs for the proposed travel bubble between Malaysia and selected “green zone” areas are expected to be completed by next week
     
  • Police yesterday recorded a statement in Parliament yesterday from Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Khairuddin Aman Razali over his violation of home quarantine regulations upon his return from a trip to Turkey. 
     
  • Speaking of violations of Covid-19 rules, police in KL have denied any double standards in the treatment of the child of a VIP arrested with 28 other patrons at a pub in Taman Tun Dr Ismail in a 1.20am raid. Though KL police chief Mazlan Lazim doesn’t name the VIP nor his child, we’re betting that you’re gonna be hearing all about it very, very soon. Anyway, Mazlan said there will never be any compromise towards any individual – so let’s hope the cops remember this in their investigation into Khairuddin.
     
  • The Customs Department has recorded RM812 million in leakages from the first half of the year from under valuation, tax evasion, commercial fraud and excessive tax claims. 
     
  • Bersatu Youth chief Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad Kamal has reiterated his wing’s stand that vernacular schools need to be phased out as there is a negative perception that these schools have purportedly failed to produce students who are nationalistic. This prompted DAP’s Kulai MP Teo Nie Ching to ask if parents who send their kids to international schools were also not nationalistic and whether these schools should be “phased out” as well. We couldn’t agree more with Teo. And while we’re at it, we’d like to add religious schools to that list as well. Let’s have just one national school system!

“It doesn't matter to me if you want to drink all you want and even swim in a pool of alcohol. But it becomes my concern when you drive after doing so.”

- Wee Ka Siong -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Tensions between the US and China continued, with the People’s Liberation Army firing two “aircraft carrier killer” missiles into the South China Sea in a clear warning to Washington. The US, meanwhile, has ordered fresh sanctions against Chinese firms in retaliation for the “militarization” of the South China Sea. 
     
  • Iran has agreed to allow International Atomic Energy Agency investigators access to two sites once suspected of hosting secret nuclear activities, ending a diplomatic standoff that has lasted several months. 
     
  • With the number of Covid-19 infections breaching 24 million and more than 820,000 deaths, there is some good news as pharmaceutical company Moderna Inc announced that its experimental vaccine induced immune responses in older adults similar to those in younger participants, offering hope that it will be effective in people considered to be at high risk for severe complications from the coronavirus. 
     
  • US intelligence and law enforcement agencies say they have not found evidence indicating that foreign governments are trying to interfere with mail-in balloting ahead of the Nov 3 presidential election, destroying a major claim by current President Donald Trump. 

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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