Don't look now, but according to the rumour mill, PM Muhyiddin Yassin is gearing up for a snap general election to cement his government’s authority. Yes, folks, that means GE15!

Elsewhere in today’s newsletter, Anwar Ibrahim talks himself up once again while simultaneously bashing Dr Mahathir Mohamad, ex-AG Apandi Ali sounds like he's talking through his backside, former radio personality Patrick Teoh faces up to a year in jail for allegedly insulting the Johor Crown Prince, and we say goodbye to the Health D-G and Defence Minister’s daily press briefings.

Snap. Crackle. Polls?

Taking it to the polls

Some days after assuming office as Malaysia’s eighth premier, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yasin insisted he had no intention of calling a snap general election. The message was he had the mandate of a majority of Members of Parliament and that was enough for him to lead Perikatan Nasional and the country.

Now though, in the wake of that single-day Parliamentary meeting that revealed the PM’s razor-thin support and continued attacks from former boss Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the rumour is Moo’s looking to head to the polls by end 2020 at the earliest. 

However, regardless of Moo’s party, Bersatu, appearing ready, willing and able to do its president’s bidding and despite what fellas like supreme council member Wan Saiful Wan Jan may think (“I support the idea of having a general election as soon as possible blah blah blah …”), the big question to ask is whether MooMoo and his Bersatu-ians can survive a GE. 

Yeah, Abah Moo is the current glorious leader of the free world Malaysia. And yes, he may command the support of 32 Bersatu MPs. (Including all those fellows who jumped ship from PKR with Azmin Ali.) Nevertheless, would Bersatu’s kissing cousins, PAS and, especially, Umno, be okay with Muhyiddin leading Perikatan Nasional into and outta a GE? Especially, you know, as Moo is still seen as a traitor by certain quarters in Umno for daring to challenge Najib Razak way back in 2015. 

There’s another problem with Muhyiddin’s polls plan – seat distribution. 

In GE14, the Bersatu, as part of Pakatan Harapan, contested 52 Parliamentary seats. And in many of those areas, the party was up against Barisan Nasional (Umno) and/or PAS. But now that Bersatu is in bed with those two, what will the allocations be like, especially considering Bersatu now includes fellas like invisible man current Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin who actually won his Larut parliamentary seat in the last GE as an Umno man?

Wan Saiful says Umno must sacrifice a lot (read: give in to Bersatu) to ensure Perikatan’s continued success. But would that party and its leaders like Jibby Razak and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi really be okay with that?

Ex-PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad says there ain’t no way that’s gonna happen. For Moo to have any hope of staying on as leader, Maddey says, the PM must find a way to get the court cases against Jib and co. dropped. However, that may also signal Muhyiddin’s end as Najib, if absolved, could look to make a return to power.

In short, Muhyiddin may want everyone to believe that he’s not afraid of seeking the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s consent to dissolve Parliament and call for elections. However, reality suggests there’s much that needs ironing out beforehand. Including that small matter of Mahathir and the Opposition’s plan of a counter-coup

The white knight we never had

Speaking of the Opposition’s plan to retake Putrajaya, Anwar Ibrahim, the man who last week claimed to be “cautiously confident” of being backed by his current associates for Malaysia’s top job, is talking himself up again. However, instead of just strutting his stuff, the PKR bossman has seen it fit to take aim not just at PM Muhyiddin and his administration, but frenemy Maddey too.

 

Yup, Anwar’s long-ass post on Facebook on Saturday may superficially have seemed like an academic look-back (part of the contents were from a Harvard lecture) at the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. However, when you get right into it, it’s basically all about how Anwar Ibrahim was the hero Malaysia needed but never got.

 

In case you don’t have the time to check out the PM-forever-in-waiting’s magnum opus though, here’s the TL;DR version:

  1. The Asian Financial Crisis was a bitch and a half and hit Malaysia hard. However, the situation could have been better handled if only the right reforms had been initiated.
  2. Anwar, as the then Finance Minister, had initiated measures like reducing public spending and raising interest rates. However, more – specifically, structural changes to increase transparency as well as the independence of financial institutions – were needed.
  3. The International Monetary Fund had, at the time, proposed many stringent conditions in exchange for a bailout and the story has always been that Anwar was cool with these demands. But in his FB post, he claims this was far from the case.
  4. The government never implemented Anwar’s proposals. And once he was sacked from his job, the government of the day, chose instead to go with currency controls like the pegging of the ringgit.
  5. Whether or not currency and capital controls were good for Malaysia though, isn’t the point, Brother Anwar says, ‘cos all those measures should’ve been coupled with structural reforms. Had that happened, he says, we would have ensured societal progress without the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fiasco.
  6. By the way, structural reforms remain one of Pakatan Harapan’s key focus areas.

Look, we agree. Anwar was hard done by back in the day, and given all those years spent locked up, we really can’t begrudge him the right to present his side of history. Having said that, we do have issues with a few points:

  • Anwar the anti-IMF hero and champion of the little people
    Yeah, okay, the man does do an ace job of showing in his essay that he was never 100% pro-IMF. However, the presenting of himself as a fellow who was always cared for the welfare of all Malaysians is a bit much when you realise that at different times in his career – actually, just last week – he was trying to sell himself as the quintessential Wira Melayu.
  • All roads from 1MDB lead to 1997
    True. 1MDB was the result of poor checks and balances and some serious dishonesty. However, is it possible to say with certainty that it all leads back to 1997 and the then government’s failure to implement Anwar’s proposed reforms? Anwar thinks so, of course. But that’s like saying that nothing changed in the 15-16 years leading to 1MDB, even during Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s time as PM.
  • Pakatan Reformasi
    Anwar’s exact quote with regard to Pakatan’s quest for reforming the old structures is, “Ultimately the reforms which I proposed at the time were never adopted, and to this day, remain one of the key policies which Pakatan Harapan seeks to implement.” R-r-r-right. But wait, was’t Pakatan Harapan in power for 22 months? Why weren’t the reforms implemented then?

The points above aside, there was all that thinly-veiled Mahathir bashing.

 

Everyone and their dog knows that Pakatan and its allies want to get back to Putrajaya pronto. And even Fido could tell you any takeover plan depends on one key factor: Mads. 

 

That being the case then, you’ve gotta wonder what Anwar’s game is. Is he done playing nice? Does he no longer care about ruffling feathers? Or that counter-coup?

 

It’s hard to say, really. However you can bet one thing, Mahathir is certainly not gonna take Anwar’s wordy essay (complete with graphs and references) lying down.

Let’s face it – both these men are obsessed with being PM and it seems that they don’t really care anymore what is sacrificed at the altar of their ambition and ego. The end result is that Harapan is gridlocked right now because neither party seems to want to give in. 

The thing is, internecine warfare does nobody any good and the longer it goes on – as Bridget Welsh explains in this excellent analysis – the worse Harapan’s fate will be.

Ever-improving numbers

The last three days have seen Malaysia’s Covid-19 numbers seesaw a bit with two days of double-digit infection figures (33 on Friday and 43 on Saturday) and as many as 3 new deaths. But despite the number fatalities now standing at 121, our recovery rate has continued to improve (7,346 people have been discharged so far) and on Sunday, the total number of active cases dipped below 1,000 for the first time since March 20!

 

What the encouraging figures mean is Malaysia looks to be on course to beating this damned disease. It also means that from this week, we’ll be seeing less of Health Director-General Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah whose press conferences over the past few months have become a fixture of Malaysian life. Yes, the Health Ministry says we’ll still be getting daily updates. However, live PCs featuring Malaysia’s favourite doc will be spaced out.

 

Another person who won’t be gracing your TV/computer/phone screens as regularly is Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, whose security briefings will be confined to just three times a week – Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays – from now. Then again, considering how we invariably have to adjust screen brightness every time the minister and his garish shirts appear, seeing only glimpses of Ismail may not be such a bad thing.

 

Anyhow, Sunday’s press briefing saw ISY remind Malaysians that rules on social distancing remain in place during the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) phase, adding that folks risk getting their freedoms curtailed if they fail to adhere to standard operating procedures at zoos and other public places. Errr okay, sir, but what about the trip to those public places on public transport? Or does it only matter where one stands when checking out Xing Xing and Liang Liang?

 

Anyways, here’re the rest of the important Covid-19 related news bits and bobs from the weekend starting with some clarification on the nixing of social distancing curbs on planes, trains and automobiles buses:

  • Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong maintains that stakeholders – airport operators, airlines and the Immigration and Customs departments – were consulted before the government decided to scrap social distancing on flights. Wee’s statement was issued after the National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia claimed authorities hadn’t “discussed anything” with the anyone.
     
  • A lot of crap gets circulated on social media. However, that viral story of a barber testing positive for Covid-19 is true. According to the authorities, the man, a Pakistani national, had been making house calls during the Movement Control Order (MCO) when haircutting services were banned.
     
  • New standard operating procedures for non-Muslim houses of worship are set to be released today. Mosques and suraus recently had restrictions on the number of worshipers allowed loosened from a mere 30 people to one-third of the congregational space.
     
  • Stay in your room! That’s the message for Malaysians returning home from overseas who’ve been allowed to self-isolate at home.
     
  • How did Malaysia manage to keep Covid-19 largely at bay? Well, according to international experts, it’s ’cos we were meeting to prepare responses way back in December 2019. Also, we hospitalised everyone who tested positive for the disease, even if they were asymptomatic.

This and that

The last couple of days were relatively quiet. However, a few other things did still manage to make the news. Here’re the important items in brief, including a first story that’s slightly less brief:

  • Ex-AG Apandi Ali has filed an affidavit accusing special prosecutor and former judge Gopal Sri Ram of trying to convince him to arrest Najib Razak. Apandi is also claiming Sri Ram has a clear bias against the Jibster. That said, the ex-AG seems to be talking out of his hat (or his ass).

    He claims Sri Ram said the mere fact monies were in Najib’s account was enough to charge him and takes exception to Sri Ram’s alleged statement. But isn’t Sri Ram right? Even at this point, none of Najib’s excuses make sense or add up, especially when you consider the astronomical sums of money involved.

    Apandi also accused Sri Ram of saying a prosecutor needn’t bother with the accused’s story and only needs prima facie evidence of a crime to take somebody to court. Again, isn’t this procedurally correct? Shouldn’t innocence or guilt be determined by the judge and not left to a prosecutor’s discretion, especially in a case of public interest like this one?

    Lest you may have forgotten, Apandi is the same man who replaced Abdul Gani Patail at the height of the 1MDB scandal under very dodgy circumstances and promptly cleared Jibby of all wrongdoing. So, maybe Apandi needs to look in a mirror before accusing anybody of bias.
     
  • Budget 2021 will be tabled on Nov 6 in Parliament, and not Oct 2, as originally scheduled. According to Dewan Rakyat Speaker Mohamad Ariff Mohd Yusof, this is ‘cos the third meeting of Parliament has been postponed and will now last for 27 days, from Nov 2 to Dec 15, 2020.
     
  • Former radio announcer Patrick Teoh has been charged under the Communications and Multimedia Act with allegedly insulting Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim in a Facebook post. Teoh faces a fine of up to RM50,000 and/or imprisonment of up to a year if found guilty.
     
  • Apparently Petronas CEO Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin’s exit could be due to plans to amend the Petroleum Development Act to give Sabah and Sarawak a larger slice of oil revenues and woo them to the side of Perikatan Nasional. We’re all for those states getting their fair share, to be honest. The only question is: will that dough go to the rakyat or just line politicians’ pockets?
     
  • The ban on smoking in eateries, implemented during Pakatan Harapan’s time in government, is still very much in force. Unfortunately, it seems the authorities have been too focused on Covid-19 to care about whether or not folks have been breaking the law and puffing away.
     
  • According to the Election Commission, 18-year-olds are not eligible to vote in the upcoming Chini state by-election because the provision has yet to be approved by the Pahang state legislative assembly.
     
  • Speedy Video is set to shut all its stores here. Though the company hasn’t specified the reasons for the closure, it’s presumed that the MCO severely affected business. At its height, Speedy operated 92 stores nationwide and had the home release rights for movies by the likes of Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox.
     
  • In more bad news, video streaming platform iflix is reported to be negotiating a sale to avoid looming debts. A number of companies based in China are believed to be among the potential acquirers. 

“If pigs could vote, the man with the slop bucket would be elected swineherd every time, no matter how much slaughtering he did on the side.”

- Orson Scott Card -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • The emergence of new Covid-19 cases in China has resulted in parts of Beijing being locked down. Could this be the second wave we were warned about? BTW the worldwide tally of infections is closing in on eight million, with deaths in excess of 430,000.
     
  • The killing of another African American man by police in the United States has sparked more protests. Rayshard Brooks, the 27-year-old victim, was shot following an altercation with cops at a Wendy’s drive-thru in Atlanta.
     
  • Bollywood star Sushant Singh Rajput, whose starring roles included a silver screen portrayal of Indian cricketer M.S. Dhoni, was found dead in his Mumbai apartment on Sunday. The 34-year-old actor is believed to have committed suicide.
     
  • The Singapore Formula 1 GP, originally set for Sept 20, has been called off due to Covid-19 restrictions. The Azerbaijan and Japanese races have also been removed from the calendar

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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