And then there were three...
Just last week, Dr Mahathir Mohamad had merajuk-ed and vowed to pull out of the loose Pakatan Harapan Plus coalition when a minister mentor post was suggested by frenemy Anwar Ibrahim. However, on Friday, in an interview published in Hong Kong’s Asia Times, the good doc appeared to have softened his stance and talked instead of how he’d like to “help” Brother Anwar secure the majority needed to assume the post of Malaysia’s 10th Prime Minister.
It now transpires, though, that while the general public was seeing all this, behind the scenes discussions were taking place about the prospect of a horse no one had actually considered before being backed as the Opposition’s alternative PM candidate.
Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal is the new name being touted for the post of PM9, with Anwar Ibrahim and sonny boy Mukhriz flanking him as deputies, should the Opposition manage to retake Putrajaya. And according to Mads, he and everyone else in Pakatan are okay with that.
Thing is despite Mahathir’s insistence that the proposal had received the unanimous backing of everyone at a meeting on June 25, DAP and Amanah maintain that this “new option” must first be discussed by their respective parties, and then brought to the Pakatan presidential council for deliberation because, well, there’s that small matter of PKR’s buy-in being needed.
For the mo, PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution says his party is willing to revisit the PM candidate issue. However, it really does all hinge on Anwar, doesn’t it?
As expected, Brother Anwar was less than pleased following Mads’ announcement on Saturday and clapped back almost immediately in a Facebook vid that it was time to reject “deceitful politics”. The PKR leader didn’t mention Maddey by name, of course, but it’s plain to see it’s the old man Anwar was referring to when he questioned if suggestions were being put forth to protect the people or continue an old and worn out system.
It’s odd though, that Anwar should decry ‘deceitful politics’ on one hand and then try to cobble an agreement with a deceitful politician (is there any other kind, though?) on the other. We’re talking about his recent meeting with Home Minister Hamzah Zainuddin, who was one of the authors of the Sheraton Move. Sadly for Anwar, his Pakatan allies want none of that, with DAP and Amanah both issuing statements today, slapping him down.
But, back to Shafie. The proposal for Shafie to lead could be seen as a compromise between PKR (that insists it will not support Mahathir for PM) and the party’s political allies DAP and Amanah as well as Parti Warisan Sabah and Mahathir’s rebel Bersatu-ians (who’re all for Mads returning to the top job). Nevertheless, it also potentially extinguishes all hope of Anwar ever ascending the throne.
He may still be a deputy prime minister under the new proposal, but Shafie is way younger than Mads and 11 years Anwar’s junior. Which means there’s no way in hell an interim six-month period of seat-warming is gonna be considered with Shafie in the lead. Besides, even if that were an option, there’d still be Mukhriz to contend with! In other words, Anwar would have to be an utter moron to go for this plan.
Also, we’re still wondering why no media outlet has asked Mahathir one simple question: why Mukhriz? It’s clear as daylight that this is nepotism of the worst kind (because anybody – other than Maddey – who suggests Mukhriz is suitable as a DPM candidate has oatmeal for brains), and the least that needs to be done is to put that question to the old man, on the record, and see how he tries to justify it.
Anywayyyy, the implications of all this to Anwar aside, a question to ask is whether Shafie could succeed in securing the numbers required for Pakatan to reclaim Putrajaya.
Anwar and Mads both don’t seem to have the numbers needed to kick out Perikatan. However, an East Malaysian PM candidate might be just what the doctor ordered (pun clearly intended).
At the moment, of course, there’s still a lotta uncertainty and scepticism – Sarawak Deputy CM James Masing, for one, has accused Mads of trying to hoodwink East Malaysians. However, analysts like Prof James Chin, who’s been a keen observer of East Malaysian politics, believe if Mads’ proposal is serious, you can bet on the good people of Sabah and Sarawak backing Shafie.
But as things stand right now, Shafie and Mukhriz/Maddey’s people in parliament number at a paltry 13. That’s less than 10% of the 222 seats in the august house. With them in charge, would it be a case of the tail wagging the Pakatan dog? Which makes one really wonder if Mahathir is being serious, or if this is just another attempt to screw Anwar over.
By the way, it’s not just Maddey’s endorsement of Shafie Apdal that’s raised a stink, PAS’ motion (geddit, geddit?) of support for PM Muhyiddin also smells funny.
Ya see, on Saturday, PAS sec-gen Takiyuddin Hassan announced that his party had submitted a Parliamentary motion backing Moo to continue in his role as PM. The proposal, called a confidence motion, will first need to make it to the Dewan Rakyat’s Order Paper when Parliament reconvenes in July and given priority on the agenda. However, if it does, and if it does end up being tabled, what we could see is all 222 members of the August House casting their votes for (or against) the PM.
If you’re wondering how this motion is different from Mads’ previously-submitted no-confidence vote, the answer is – it isn’t. The only manner by which a confidence and no-confidence motion differs is in what they’re called. The outcomes of the two i.e. determining the fate of the PM, are the same.
PAS leaders insist there’s nothing sinister about the submission of their party’s motion, and it’s the same kinda support they wished to express back for Maddey back in February. Nevertheless, you’ve gotta wonder if a dodgy plan’s afoot, especially when the last Parliament meeting revealed just how skinny MooMoo’s majority is.
PAS and Umno have both continued to publicly back Muhyiddin as PM, true. However, if only a fraction of government MPs refrain from voting and if Moo fails to get a simple majority, we could be staring at the prospect of a snap general election, with Muhyiddin and Bersatu ending up the biggest losers.
Meanwhile, PM Moo is making moves of his own, and one of the first things he’ll be looking to do when Parliament resumes is to kick out the current Dewan Rakyat Speaker and at least one of his deputies.
Speaker Mohamad Ariff Mohd Yusof was appointed to his post when Pakatan Harapan came to power following the 14th general election. However, he was an Amanah man (he resigned from the party and became an independent following his appointment) and as such, everyone kinda expected that he’d be given the boot before too long.
One of Ariff’s deputies in the House, DAP’s Nga Kor Ming, whose position is also in jeopardy, says the move to replace a Speaker midway is unprecedented and defies convention. And truth be told, he does have a point. Be that as it may, wasn’t a government being changed without an election also unprecedented? Furthermore, it’s not like Speakers being changed hasn’t happened before. Yeah, it may not have occurred in the Dewan Rakyat, however, a whole bunch of state legislative assembly Speakers have been changed following Perikatan Nasional’s takeover of Putrajaya. (It also happened in Perak in 2009 in case anyone’s keeping score.)
Incidentally, the Dewan’s other Deputy Speaker, Rashid Hasnon, looks likely to keep his job. But he is one of the PKR MPs who frogged on over to Perikatan with Azmin Ali, after all.
Parents and teachers had been calling on the Education Ministry to determine a new schedule for the postponed SPM and STPM exams for a while now. And on Sunday, mere days after Form 5 and 6 kids returned to school following the Movement Control Order (MCO), we got some clarity.
Jan 6-Feb 9 has now been set as the new time frame for the SPM exams, with the STPM scheduled to be held from Aug 12-18 this year (Semester 2) and March 1-9 next year (Semester 3).
According to the Ministry, the new dates were fixed to not only allow students to better prepare following their three-month extended break but also to ensure minimal disruption. Unfortunately, we’re not certain that’s been achieved.
You see, in order to ensure some peace and quiet, schools typically require students who aren’t involved in SPM, STPM and the like to stay away when exams are held. Thing is, with the (shortened) year-end school holidays coming to an end on Dec 31 and kids due back in school early in January, this doesn’t look possible.
The Ministry says it’ll issue its 2021 academic calendar in due time, and sort out detailed dates for the new school term. However, unless allocations are made for more hols in the early part of next year, we could be staring at one big, fat mess.
In other school-related news, meanwhile, tuition centres and tahfiz schools will be allowed to resume operations when government and private schools open fully. Of course, when that will be is anyone’s guess. Still, what we can tell you is that it’ll likely be weeks away from July 1’s grand reopening of cinemas, entertainment centres, swimming pools and spas and massage centres.
Here, anyhow, are a few other Covid-19 related highlights from the weekend:
- Despite a two-digit rise in cases yesterday (that’s 18 cases), our numbers keep getting better and better, with the recovery rate now standing at 96.3% or 8,318 cases. Meanwhile, a mere 195 people are still being treated. Also, it’s been two weeks since we’ve had any fatalities!
- Though there’ve been calls for banks to extend the six-month moratorium for loan repayments to the end of the year, Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz says any decisions on postponements would be entirely up to the respective banks.
- The government has called on our neighbours down south to allow Malaysians working in Singapore to commute between the two countries daily. However, while the two countries are committed to finding workable solutions, comments by Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan about the need for strict health protocols to be put in place, suggest the island republic is likely to take things slow and easy. With elections mere days away, the last thing they need is another Covid-19 flareup.
Flotsam and jetsam
As usual, a few other things made the news over the weekend, and here’re some of the more important odds and ends:
- Seven people, including an individual who contested in GE13 for a state assembly seat, have been arrested over the kidnapping and murder of a “Datuk Seri” businessman. The victim, who was abducted while jogging alone in Bandar Sri Damansara on June 10, was discovered killed on Saturday.
- Boo Su-Lyn, the editor of health news portal CodeBlue, is being investigated for the criminal disclosure of information in relation to a 2016 fire at Johor Bahru’s Hospital Sultanah Aminah that killed six people. Boo maintains, however, that the portal’s reports were based on declassified info. Another fire, meanwhile, broke out at the same hospital on Sunday morning. Thankfully, no lives were lost.
- Umno Youth wants a book banned and its author, editor and publisher charged over the book’s cover that allegedly insults the Malaysian coat of arms. The book, entitled Rebirth: Reformasi, Resistance, And Hope in New Malaysia, contains articles by analysts and journalists and includes reports on the 14th general election. Whether it’s insulting or not, we leave to you to decide. But that cover is certainly trippy! Check it out here.
- PKR has sacked four allies of former deputy president Azmin Ali. Among the booted-out group are Wanita chief Haniza Talha and Seberang Jaya assemblyman Dr Afif Bahardin. Elsewhere, Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has denied being involved in Parti Reformasi Bersatu Negara, that’s rumoured to be PM Moo’s new party.
- M. Indira Gandhi has once more called on Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador to fulfill his promise to reunite her with her daughter. Indira’s daughter, Prasana, is believed to be with her ex-husband Muhammad Riduan Abdulla, who’s in hiding. IGP Hamid had said in January that he knows where Riduan is and urged him to come forward. However, there’ve been no updates since then.
“Be certain that he who has betrayed thee once will betray thee again.”
- Johann Caspar Lavater -
IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS
- The global Covid-19 infection rate has jumped by a million in a week to go past 10 million cases. More than half a million people, meanwhile, have died from the disease.
- While the world’s been focussed on Covid-19, China, it appears, has been busy re-drawing its maps in the South China Sea. According to Vietnam and the Philippines, Beijing has unilaterally declared the creation of new administrative districts on islands in the Sea.
- A study by the University of Barcelona has discovered traces of Covid-19 in wastewater samples from March 2019. The findings suggest the virus was present in Spain nine months before it was detected in China.
- A recently discovered memoir hints that a plot to assassinate King Edward VIII in 1936 was covered up by the British government. The story, until now, has been that would-be killer George McMahon was a confused attention-seeker. However, new evidence suggests that the MI5 had known about his plot all along. This needs to be made into a movie!
- The Simpsons will no longer use white actors to voice characters of colour. The show’s producers didn’t elaborate on which actors would be cut, however, the announcement follows actor Hank Azaria’s statement earlier this year that he’d be quitting the role of Indian convenience store owner Apu. In other news, Mike Henry who’s voiced the African American character Cleveland in Family Guy and the now-canned The Cleveland Show says he’s stepping away from the role.