The (former) empire strikes back
It's all BN's fault ... well, mostly
As promised, yesterday, the former Rich Uncle Pennybags Lim Guan Eng fired back at allegations that the Pakatan Harapan gomen had signed away contracts worth RM6.61 billion for 101 projects via direct negotiations.
The man formerly known as Tokong pointed out that the bulk of the contracts were for projects approved prior to Pakatan taking over, with the coalition only responsible for 5.3% of the direct negotiation contracts. The breakdown, according to our former money man, was 67.7% for legacy projects and a further 26.5% for contracts for supplies and services taken on during Barisan Nasional’s time at the top.
As for the 5.3% involving “new” contracts undertaken by the Pakatan government, amounting to RM352 million, half of that was for a new solid waste transfer station in Jinjang Utara under the Housing and Local Government Ministry, which was then, as now, helmed by Zuraida Kamaruddin.
Two other deals, which Lim said could not be avoided, involved RM70 million paid to Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka and RM2.98 million to Global Vetinaries Sdn Bhd (a private company) for a rabies prevention project in Sarawak.
Nobita also fired back at four Bersatu “pengkhianat ministers”, noting that deals struck by their ministries were among the 101 direct nego contracts. These are:
- Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who was then the home minister, with a total value of contracts worth RM517.7 million;
- Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin with a total value of contracts worth RM170.8 million;
- International Trade and Industries Minister Azmin Ali, who was the economic affairs minister at the time, with contracts worth RM1.2 million in total;
- and, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rina Harun, who was then rural development minister, with a total value of contracts worth RM7.36 million.
Meanwhile, Guan Eng, a.k.a. Mr Brylcreem, also pointed out that the RM29.9 million paid for the rights to broadcast the 2018 FIFA World Cup shouldn’t be in the list of direct award contracts as the amount was fully sponsored by AirAsia and Maxis. The man speaks the truth, of course, and besides, a check of the Dewan Rakyat Hansard shows that the government actually made a profit from it.
Here’s the thing, though. While Lim has definitely fired an enfilade that has shot down detractors, there is still that nagging feeling that something isn’t quite right. And the fact that more than RM350 million in “new” direct nego deals were given out has a lot to do with it.
While it has been pointed out that Pakatan never actually promised to do away with direct negotiations in its Buku Harapan as far as contracts are concerned, the coalition did say that it would ensure that the open tender process is used extensively and transparently, especially for large sums. That a RM170 million contract was handed out without an open tender being called, thus, is definite cause for concern.
Tokong’s act of pinning the blame on Zuraida et al, to us, looks like merely a way of pointing fingers elsewhere. After all, it is he who had to greenlight the contracts. Even if the Cabinet had approved them, as Finance Minister, he had overall control. Or is Guan Eng saying that he was powerless in the Cabinet?
Anyway, Pakatan MPs revelled in Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz’s release of the full list of 101 projects, calling it an “own goal”. Still, our current Moneybags Minister took it all in his stride, saying that the release of the list was done in the interests of transparency.
Tengku Zafrul added too that it was not wrong for direct negotiations to take place and to be fair to the country’s Chief Moolah Man, this was the same thing he’d said when he first told the Dewan Rakyat about the 101 projects.
All in all, Guan Eng and Co. seem to have the upper hand right now, but we don’t think that this is the last we’ll hear about the issue. So, keep watching this space.
Here’s some good news. The Electoral Reform Committee has submitted its final report containing 49 recommendations to PM Muhyiddin Yassin. And committee chairman Ab Rashid Ab Rahman says 32 of the reforms, can be implemented within three years.
Rashid says the recommendations are neutral and don’t favour any one political party. Plus, they will ensure that our elections are clean, free and unbiased.
Our man in charge didn’t disclose all the recommended reforms, though. Nevertheless, we’ve trawled the various news reports and managed to collate some info for you. Here’re a few of the key recommendations:
- The Election Commission should be given more power, including power to take disciplinary action.
- The EC should be split into three separate bodies. Of these three, the commission proper is to be in charge of enforcing election laws, while the election secretariat will conduct the election process with a commission for redelineation of electoral boundaries responsible for administering matters related to redelineation.
- Registration of new political parties is to be handled by the EC instead of the Registrar of Societies.
- Campaign finances should be monitored and audited by the EC.
- Six months’ notice should be given before the exact date of dissolution of Parliament for a general election.
- A person should be nominated for only one seat. At present, candidates can be nominated for both parliamentary and state seats.
- At least 30% of candidates should be women.
- There should be a longer nomination period. A system for online nominations should also be introduced.
On our part, we’re hoping the recommendations are accepted by Moo’s administration and we get to see the reforms put into place.
Speaking of reforms, by the way, we dunno if Rashid’s committee had anything to say about it, but the gomen’s made it pretty clear that it will not be following up on Pakatan effort to limit a PM’s tenure to just two terms.
The government withdrew the bill to amend the Constitution in this regard two days ago, and yesterday, when asked about it in Parliament, de facto Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan said there was no clause which mandated a reason for the withdrawal of a bill. He added too that there were no plans to rejig the bill.
As we mentioned in Thursday’s newsletter, there wasn’t any sort of reaction from anybody over the withdrawal of the bill on the day itself. However, yesterday, we finally got one in the form of a statement jointly signed by three Pakatan MPs, basically accusing Perikatan of being gila kuasa.
Pakatan, however, only has itself to blame for this particular thing. If you recall, Maddey had spoken about it as early as October 2018, a mere five months after the coalition swept to power. Yet the record shows that it took Pakatan more than a year from then to get up off its behind and table a bill.
Meanwhile, in regard another reform, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has hit out at the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission Bill being withdrawn and replaced by the Independent Police Conduct Commission Bill. It said it was especially concerned with the lack of independence and weakened functions of the IPCC as it is not accorded disciplinary powers to deal with police misconduct.
A comparison of the IPCMC and IPCC bills prove the point Suhakam makes. And that same point was also stressed by the Malaysian Bar and NGO, Suaram.
We will, however, have to wait till the next meeting of Parliament before we can hear our MPs debate the IPCC Bill as yesterday marked the last day of the second meeting of Parliament for this year.
In another Parliament related piece of news, though, the Perikatan gomen has appointed DAP’s Ipoh Timur MP Wong Kah Woh as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. Wong was previously deputy chair. The new deputy will be the Bersatu MP for Beaufort, Azizah Mohd Dun.
Wong’s appointment continues a practice started by Pakatan to appoint a member of the opposition as chair of the PAC, which has oversight in terms of public spending. This was one of the efforts by Pakatan which received widespread support as it added to the checks and balances needed for a clean government. Previously, the PAC was chaired by Umno’s Noraini Ahmad. However, she stepped down after Perikatan took over the reins of the nation and she was appointed Higher Education Minister.
Trouble in paradise
So, efforts have finally been made to register Perikatan Nasional as a formal coalition.
We’re being told that PM MooMoo will officially launch Perikatan on National Day. And it seems PKR pengkhianat (ain’t that the word of the day?) Azmin Ali is being rewarded for causing the downfall of Pakatan with the post of Perikatan information chief.
Perikatan, apparently, will comprise at least five parties – Bersatu (of course), PAS, MIC and Sabah parties Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) and Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP). It’s first foray as a registered coalition will be the Sabah state elections and the second, the still-to-come Sarawak elections. (It’s already secured the backing of Gabungan Parti Sarawak.)
Unfortunately, it seems that there’s already trouble in paradise, as one of the five parties mentioned above, MIC, has now decided to pull out of the Perikatan pro-tem committee!
MIC, you see, claims that it had agreed to join Perikatan on the mistaken belief that Umno and the rest of BN would do so as well. But BN will not be joining, and as a BN component party, MIC, it seems, can’t be part of another coalition.
BN, by the way, once again reiterated that it will not submitting its Perikatan membership form, with chairman Ahmad Zahid Hamidi noting that his coalition’s support only involved BN MPs and assemblymen, and not component parties.
Incidentally, things are also not going well for Perikatan in terms of seat negotiations for the next general election. Following the 2018 GE, several candidates who’d won seats on Umno tickets had decided to katak it over to Bersatu. And Umno now says that it will not give in to any Bersatu desire to contest in constituencies the latter holds through defections, adding that that the former will also be fielding candidates in areas where it lost but came in second. What this means is that Bersatu is likely to be left with few viable seats.
As expected, these troubles were seized upon by Raja Batu Api Dr Maddey Mohamad. Saying “goodbye” to Bersatu, Mads wrote in his blog that the party would be left with no seats to contest as Umno would lord in over its new ally.
The former PM’s got a point. Umno/BN is supportive of the Perikatan gomen at the moment, but who is to say what the situation will be when GE15 rolls around? BN could well go it on its own, with or without the support of Bersatu, if it thinks it can sweep to power again.
Umno, though, claims it and Bersatu are “siblings”, and as such, negotiations will continue. Yeah, siblings.
Bits and bobs
As usual, there were a number of things that came out yesterday that we thought we’d include here in brief:
- Recoveries outnumbered new Covid-19 cases three to one on Thursday as the country recorded only five new infections while 16 people were discharged. This brings the number of active cases down to 177.
- Amanjaya in Kedah will be placed under targeted enhanced movement control order beginning today. The move will involve 23,360 residents, all of whom will be screened for Covid-19.
- Genomic sequencing has revealed that the notorious Sivagangga and Tawar clusters in Kedah may have a common origin.
- We said yesterday that the identity of the “child” of a VIP who’d been arrested for breaching recovery movement control order (RMCO) regulations at an entertainment outlet in Kuala Lumpur would eventually come out, and so it has. Former Kedah menteri besar Mukhriz Mahathir has now confirmed that it was his daughter, adding that that he was disappointed that both she and her husband had breached health protocols by being at the venue past the midnight “curfew” imposed on all establishments.
- Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Khairuddin Aman Razali was called to Bukit Aman yesterday to have his statement recorded a second time for violating home quarantine SOPs.
- Two Sabah parties have joined the growing chorus of voices bitch-slapping Bersatu youth chief Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad Kamal for pushing for vernacular schools to be phased out for failing to be nationalistic. Wan Ahmad Fayhsal’s counterpart in MCA and several Pakatan youth leaders have also criticised him.
“It’s impossible to unsign a contract, so do all your thinking before you sign.”
- Warren Buffett -
IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS
- Brenton Tarrant, the white supremacist who shot dead 51 Muslims at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, has been sentenced to life in prison without parole. Kiwi PM Jacinda Ardern welcomed the sentence, saying that Tarrant deserved a lifetime of “complete and utter silence”.
- After three days of silence, nightly protests and a strike across the United States sporting world, Wisconsin authorities have finally offered their first version of the shooting of another African American man by police. The statement, however, leaves gaping holes in the timeline and doesn’t really offer much of an explanation on a number of things.
- Several US midwest states reported record one-day increases in Covid-19 infections as the death toll in the country topped 180,000. Globally, there are now 24.33 million cases and some 827,000 deaths.
- Mark David Chapman, the man who shot and killed John Lennon in 1980, has been denied parole for the 11th time. Chapman, 65, is serving a sentence of 20 years-to-life.