As many as 447 candidates will be vying for 73 seats in the Sabah state elections. But guess what? Musa Aman, the dude who was all set to wrest the chief ministership from Warisan’s Shafie Apdal just over a month ago, isn’t featuring.

In other news, Lim Guan Eng is staring at new corruption charges, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman is on a mission to build his youth platform, and the country's active Covid-19 cases have spiked to close to 600!

Ready. Set. Go.

Battle for chief minister

It’s all systems go for Sabah polls as Saturday finally saw a confirmed list of candidates from all sides following a somewhat peaceful nomination process.

While the main focus is on which coalition of parties will govern the Land Below the Wind, nomination day did shine lights on a number of interesting subplots, a major one being that Musa Aman, the dude whose wheeling and dealing behind the scenes led to elections being called in the first place, has been officially left out in the cold. 

 

True, we already knew the state Barisan Nasional had every intention of leaving Musa out. Even so and despite a cryptic rumour of a return to Sungai Manila, there was no bid by Mighty Moses, either independently or via another political party, to contest.

 

It’s anyone’s guess if Musa’s no-show means the 69-year-old ex-chief minister’s political ambitions are over. Even with the elimination of the Musa-factor, Perikatan Nasional, BN and their allies – now collectively known as Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) – are no closer to deciding on who’ll lead the state if they win.

 

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is tapping Sabah Bersatu chief Hajiji Mohd Noor, who’s defending his Sulaman state seat, for the job as long as everyone’s on the same page. Unfortunately for Moo though, everyone (read: BN) is certainly not on the same page. 

 

BN boss Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was especially quick to note that any decision on the next CM will be made by BN and its allies only after they’ve secured enough seats to form the state government, i.e they win at the polls. The logic is, of course, sound, but don’t expect us to believe there isn’t a power play at work here. After all, Moo’s man was an Umno/BN elected rep for yonks before frogging it over to Bersatu after the 14th General Election.

 

The CM candidate issue aside, the other thing muddling stuff up for GRS is the multi-corned contests among allies in a number of constituencies. 

 

Muhyiddin had attempted, mere hours before nomination day, to get his merry men and women to put aside differences and field just one candidate between them in the 73 seats up for grabs. Fat load of good that did. The attempt to show a united front went out the window the minute Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), a key Sabah PN ally, went back on its promise and fielded candidates in 22 seats instead of the agreed 15.

 

Needless to say, PBS’ move didn’t go down well with allies such as Raja Katak Jeffrey Kitingan, who had to make seat concessions for his Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) party. But like a pouty child, PBS had sought to shift the blame, claiming it tried very hard to avoid seat clashes, while allies did not return the courtesy.

 

Regardless of what the real story is, the reality is that by splitting the field in 17 seats, PBS has guaranteed itself and its GRS allies a hard ass time. With this much infighting and backstabbing going on before the polls, what will happen if they actually win?

 

On the Parti Warisan Sabah front, things seem a fair bit easier for caretaker CM Shafie Apdal, what with his allies generally deferring to Warisan’s judgement despite earlier standoff over seats. Yet, political analysts are saying he’ll have to win convincingly on polling day to prove his standing in Sabah and prevent the hopping, skipping and jumping that traditionally follows close victories in the state.

 

Anyways, here’s a whole bunch other interesting/important bits of election-related news which took place over the weekend:

  • While there’re only 73 seats up for grabs, a grand total of 447 candidates will be duking it out for spots in the state legislature. Among the parties contesting the largest number of seats are Musa’s baby brother Anifah Aman’s Parti Cinta Sabah (contesting every single constituency), Warisan (53 seats) and United Sabah National Organisation (47). Meanwhile, BN (comprising Umno, MCA and PBRS) has fielded 41 candidates, while PN (consisting of Bersatu, STAR and SAPP) has 29, PBS, 22, Upko, 12 and PKR, seven. Here’s a good guide to who’s contesting where.
     
  • Despite previously eyeing 10 seats, PAS will not be featuring in the election. The Islamist party has yet to see one of its leaders on a ballot since linking hands with Umno in Muafakat Nasional, and at the rate this is going, observers have warned PAS could well find itself sitting out GE15. For the record, PAS had claimed it was “giving way” to allies in Sabah. Sure, we believe you.
     
  • Frogging doesn’t pay! Or at least that’s what it looks like after only four state reps out of the 14 who defected to back Mighty Moses’ planned coup were picked by major GRS parties to contest the elections. Still, being sidelined hasn’t stopped some of ’em – like PKR’s sacked Inanam rep Kenny Chua – from attempting to go it alone. 
      
  • Armani Mahiruddin, younger sister of Sabah governor Juhar Mahiruddin, will be contesting in Musa Aman’s former seat of Sungai Sibuga. Armani, who is a former Sabah Umno women’s chief and holds the distinction of being the first woman to be elected Dewan Negara deputy speaker, is contesting on a Warisan ticket. Governor Juhar, if you remember, is the dude who dissolved the state assembly following advice from Shafie, thereby thwarting Musa’s bid to regain the CM’s post he lost in 2018.

Guan Eng in the dock ... again

DAP bossman Lim Guan Eng’s been hit with another brace of corruption charges, and as with the previous times he’s been hauled to court, the dude’s claimed trial to the accusations.

 

If you haven’t been following the case, in a nutshell, the charges facing Nobita this time centre on two plots of state government land totalling RM208 million in value. The prosecution has alleged these were misappropriated for the benefit of two companies linked to the controversial Penang undersea tunnel project during Lim’s tenure as Penang chief minister.

 

The charges – both proffered under Section 403 of the Penal Code – are pretty serious, and could see the DAP leader being fined, whipped, and/or thrown in the slammer for between for six months and five years, if convicted. Like the charges before, Lim has once more claimed the accusations are not only politically motivated but baseless. He also claimed the land was exchanged with the companies in a swap deal approved by the Penang government.

 

No doubt we’ll be treated to more claims and arguments from both the defence and the prosecution when the trial does kick into high gear, but even before all that, it seems that lead prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin is confident of securing a conviction, adding that the Attorney-General’s Chambers and MACC are in the habit of only prosecuting cases where there’s a 99 percent chance of winning. 

 

Now, we seriously dunno where Wan Shaharuddin got his ridiculous stats, and you’ve gotta wonder why the hell he thought such a statement needed to have been made – The deputy public prosecutor (DPP) also referred to the current allegations against Lim as the “mother of all charges”, by the way.

 

Yes, times may have changed and court cases do in fact get played out in the press these days. However, the sub judice rule, which concerns what statements can be made in public about ongoing legal proceedings, is still very much a part of the Malaysian justice process. And we can’t help but agree with Lim’s lead defence lawyer and DAP colleague Gobind Singh Deo that the prosecution’s out of court statements could be viewed as defying the rule. Other lawyers, too, have questioned the DPP’s wisdom (or lack thereof) in making the remark and whether it could prejudice the outcome of the case.

 

Wan Shaharuddin has since attempted to explain his remarks, claiming that his words were twisted, but you know, we really can’t say the guy’s explanation made anything clearer.

Youth not wasted on the young

Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman seems to be getting very serious about his Muda Malaysia initiative. 

 

Less than a fortnight after announcing his multiracial youth-based platform and seeing his effort peed on by former mentor Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the ex-youth and sports minister appears to be actively seeking on-the-ground feedback for his idea.

 

The Boy Wonder is currently in Sabah to speak with community leaders and get a feel of what youths on the ground want and need. A good start, we have to say. And it seems that he’s not alone in his quest, as other Muda operatives are doing the same thing in other parts of the country.

 

Malaysia’s long list of errr not-so-young leaders, like grandpa Maddey, have a long history of ignoring the youth potential. Yet, young voters played a major role in BN being thrown out on its behind in GE14. And with some eight million youths set to bloat the 15 million-strong electoral role in the span of just two years, it’s no surprise that Syed Saddiq would want to focus on this particular demographic. What’s a little strange though is that the former youth leader of a Bumiputera-based party is looking to now champion a multiracial model, and better yet, trying to do it properly, by taking all views on board. 

 

Has SS learnt from his past missteps and realised that dining with Zakir Naik, calling people he doesn’t agree with bodoh sombong and blindly cheering on Maddey aren’t good for unity? One can hope. But what we can tell you is that Malaysia’s one-time youngest minister has drawn up an impressive list of well-regarded young leaders to his cause, among them lawyer Lim Wei Jiet, who moderated the youth-driven Parlimen Digital sessions in early July, and Abdul Jalil Rasheed, the youngest ever CEO of the country’s largest fund manager (before his unceremonious ouster this year).

 

As impressive as SS’s lineup and moves are though, Mads Mahathir is insisting Muda is unlikely to succeed. Firstly, because it concentrates on only one age demographic and secondly, ‘cos it’ll split the Malay vote and end up weakening that race. Yes, folks, the old man got outmanoeuvred and saw his second stint at the top curtailed by (mainly) Malay political leaders, yet he’s still trying to portray non-Malay Malaysians as the bogeymen. Sadly, this is classic Mahathir, unable and unwilling to look beyond the racial and religious politics that’s been the hallmark of his governance for decades.

Anyway, it looks like Syed Saddiq is stepping out from Mads’ shadow. He’s politely and firmly told the old man to can it, saying he (Syed Saddiq that is) is out to unite all Malaysians, not split Malay votes. He has also promised his initiative will not exclude the oldie goldies, saying Muda will be youth-led, “not youth-exclusive”

Speaking of racial rhetoric, by the way, it might be useful to keep tabs on the likes of Umno Youth to see if and how it responds to Muda. At a presser a couple of weeks ago, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin noted it was important to listen to the voices of the young, and that Umno Youth, the wing he previously led, might be spurred by Muda to rejuvenate itself. The question to ask though, given Muda’s multiracial platform, is whether said Umno Youth’s rejuvenation will see better initiatives based on facts, figures and real issues facing Malaysian youth or more racist overtones? ‘Cos ya know, it’s not like that sorta thing hasn’t happened before.

 

P.S. Maddey’s views on SS and Muda are from an exclusive interview with Malaysiakini which also saw him mocking former ally DAP for apparently never ever having any influence over him. Mads even goes to great lengths to paint a picture of his former finance minister’s impotence in the role. The interview is certainly worth a read, if not for the facts, then at least for the entertainment value provided by Mads bleating about how powerful he was. Keyword, was. Still, don’t discount the old fox yet.

Spiking upwards

The death toll is, thankfully, still at 128, but the number of Covid-19 infections has gone way up over the last three days, with active cases now closing in on 600! Most of the new cases registered, as expected, have been linked to the Benteng Lahad Datu cluster (403 and counting) but a bunch of new infections have also been recorded in Kedah, resulting in bloated figures to two clusters there especially – Tawar and Sungai.

 

Adding to the shitty news, it seems that yet more healthcare workers have tested positive for the disease. 

 

If you recall, the Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah and Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) have recently been reminding healthcare workers to be super vigilant given the rise in infections among the group. We certainly hope they’ll take the warning to heart, ’cos really, the last thing we need right now is our first line of defence against Covid-19 getting hit.

 

Meanwhile, as cases in Sabah go up, Air Suam Health Minister Dr Adham Baba suggests that Peninsular Malaysia-based Sabahans heading home to vote in the upcoming state election may be required to undergo a two-week quarantine upon returning to the peninsula. His suggestion was later dismissed by Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, true, but you’ve gotta wonder if protective measures of the sort may not be necessary if the infection numbers in the state keep spiking. Still, at least opposition politician is asking if Adham’s suggestion is meant to discourage Sabah voters from returning to cast their ballots.

 

Anyhoo, in the interest of brevity, here’re some other highlights – both Covid and non-Covid-related – from the weekend:

  • The administrative enhanced movement control orders for two zones in Amanjaya, Kedah – Kenanga and Mawar – have been lifted. Movement curbs will, however, continue to be implemented in the Melor zone until Sept 27.
     
  • Major confusion reigned at the KL International Airport on Saturday after Immigration officers barred a group of Malaysians from leaving the country. Under new travel rules published on Sept 11, certain groups of travellers, among them diplomats, their families and students leaving to continue their studies abroad, need not apply to the Immigration Department to leave the country. Unfortunately, it seems that ground staff at KLIA have not been clued in on the new regulations.
     
  • While all eyes were focused on Sabah, Covid-19 and whatnot, PAS members of the Islamist party met, debated and made resolutions in Pengkalan Chepa, Kelantan during the party’s 66th national delegates assembly about a number of things, notably that gambling should be banned.
     
  • Gerakan, which lost in all the 11 Parliamentary and 31 state seats it contested in GE14 as a BN component party, is ready to formalise ties with Perikatan Nasional. It’s left to be seen, of course, if the party has better luck with PN when the next elections roll around.
     
  • Malaysia looks set to top its Thomas Cup group following the withdrawal of Indonesia from this year’s tournament due to Covid-19 concerns. Five nations – the other four being Australia, Thailand, Taiwan and South Korea – have so far pulled out of the Thomas and Uber Cup competitions adding fuel to speculation that the Badminton World Federation (BWF) could well call the whole thing off.

“People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election.."

- Otto von Bismarck -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • At least 33 people have died and dozens are missing following wildfires on the west coast of the United States. Firefighters are battling approximately 100 separate blazes that are worsening air quality and resulting in thousands of evacuations. 
     
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has registered the highest daily increase of cases, up to 307,930 cases worldwide, yesterday. The global death toll has moved past 917,000, with the cumulative number of infections in excess of 28.5 million. Meanwhile, Israel will be imposing a three-week lockdown due to rising cases there.
     
  • Austria’s Dominic Thiem had claimed his first Grand Slam title, beating Germany’s Alexander Zverev in the just-concluded US Open final.
     
  • According to a new poll, the upcoming US presidential elections is Democrat Joe Biden’s to lose. Hmmm … we dunno, after all, didn’t a whole bunch of polls predicted a Hilary Clinton win in 2016?
     
  • The Afghan government has called for a ceasefire with the Taliban, saying there’s “no winner through war”. Historic peace talks between the two sides had begun on Saturday.
     
  • Reggae pioneer Toots Hibbert has passed away Saturday. While no cause was given, the leader of Toots and the Maytals, 77, was earlier reported to have undergone tests for Covid-19. Toots is widely regarded as having given reggae its name via his band’s 1968 hit, Do the Reggay. Here’s a playlist of tunes from the Maytals best-known record, Funky Kingston, to brighten up your Monday.

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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