It’s official. Another by-election is coming our way. And the big question is whether Kimanis 2019 will see Barisan Nasional (or is that Muakafat Nasional?) continue its winning streak.

Elsewhere in the news, the Anti-Fake News Act threatens to make a comeback, and the Auditor-General’s latest report shines a light on just how deep in doodoo KTMB and a bunch of other Finance Ministry-owned companies are.

One more time ... with feeling

Another bloody election

In the 18-odd months since May 9, 2018, we’ve had nine by-elections. NINE! And thanks to the Federal Court upholding an earlier Election Court ruling that declared Anifah Aman’s win in GE14 null and void, we’re now starring at by-election No. 10!

(Basically, what the the apex court did was confirm that yes, over 300 votes in the 2018 election had been improperly cast and thus, affected the overall result.)

Anifah’s parliamentary seat of Kimanis is a traditional Barisan Nasional stronghold. And as you’d probably have guessed, the Opposition is already talking about pulling off another Tanjung Piai (read: assault and battery of Pakatan Harapan). However, there’re SO MANY things to consider about this particular election it’s hard to tell which way people (especially Kimanis’ Bruneian Malay majority) will vote.

For a start, the constituency’s incumbent isn’t just any old MP. The guy’s a former foreign minister, has been a parliamentarian for two decades, and held the Kimanis seat since 2004. In short, Anifah has clout. But here’s the most important thing: he ain’t a BN/Umno man no more.

Since September 2018, Anifah’s been an independent. And according to him, that’s ’cos he wants to focus on restoring Sabah and Sarawak rights and will readily (and willingly) vote against his former party if that can be achieved. The early indication (based on some rather cryptic comments) is he won’t defend the seat. But if he does, it’ll be mighty interesting.

Bung Moktar Radin and co. may feel a massive Sabah Umno win is a foregone conclusion but fact is, Sabah isn’t Peninsular Malaysia (duh!). Politics in the state has always been notoriously difficult to predict. And since 2018, the climate’s changed even more. Plus, Pakatan isn’t technically even present in Kimanis.

 

In GE14, Anifah’s main opponent was Karim Bujang of Parti Warisan Sabah, a party aligned to Pakatan but not really a full member of the coalition. So Sabah Umno predicting a hammering may be a tad premature. Also, let’s not forget Warisan has massive support in Sabah.

 

Even so, that support may mean very little if we’re faced with a Warisan vs. BN vs. Anifah contest. It’s early days yet, so a lot more can and will factor in before folks go to the polls. In short, this promises to be very, very interesting.

A law by any other name

Pakatan’s pre-GE14 pledge was to abolish the Anti-Fake News Act and, to be fair to the government, it did exactly as promised. Unfortunately, it now seems the law, like Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars, could be returning!

According to Comms and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo, the fake news problem is so big his government is planning to insert provisions into the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 to deal with it.

There’s no denying Gobind’s point, of course. Misinformation and disinformation is such a massive threat to truth and journalism that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) even has a handbook/policy document on it. Still, is legislation really the best method of battling fake news? Especially when all these laws might succeed in doing is stifle legitimate news media organisations from going about their work.

Gobind has pointed to Australia and Singapore as countries that recently introduced anti-fake news legislation as, we suppose, justification for Malaysia to do the same. However, wasn’t it just in April that PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad snarkily whacked Lee Hsien Loong at a joint press conference about Singapore’s fake news law?

At the time, Maddey had said such laws could be abused by his and future governments. Thus, the need to repeal the then still-in-effect AFNA 2018. So what’s changed?

Another problem with the government’s new plan lies in its decision to tighten the CMA 1998.

In the 150-page Buku Harapan, Pakatan had vowed to abolish the “draconian provisions” in Acts like the CMA. Now, however, the story seems to have changed. And instead of getting rid of harsh provisions like Section 223 of the CMA (which criminalises the use of network facilities to transmit communication deemed  offensive and has been used against both journalists and activists), Pakatan seems set on making the Act even more oppressive.

A couple of months ago, Gobind had proposed the establishment of a parliamentary select committee to look into the issue of misinformation and disinformation and propose solutions based on best practices from around the world. Was this done? And if it was, what were the committee’s findings that led to this genius decision of wanting to tighten the CMA?

Gobind and Pakatan need to be very clear on this. Otherwise, aren’t these guys no better than the previous regime they claimed was doing everything in its power to curtail free speech?

Rail problems

We sure didn’t need the Auditor-General to tell us Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) has been crap for years now. However, even though we’ve been personally frustrated by stuff like unannounced delays and horrible ticketing issues, we didn’t really know just how deep in shit the company actually is.

According to the National Audit Department’s latest report, since 1992, KTMB has received millions upon millions upon millions in aid from the government. Despite that, it’s still managed to record losses of close to RM3 billion!

A 2018 survey by think tank Penang Institute had already highlighted how KTMB struggled for a long time to keep costs down. However, the latest audit report suggests KTMB’s sorry state isn’t entirely its fault.

KTMB is wholly owned by the Finance Ministry (or more accurately, Minister of Finance Incorporated). What’s happened over the years, it seems, is the ministry’s called the shots on stuff like operations and use of assets, even in situations where the peeps at KTMB would probably have known better. 

It’s hard to say whether the company would be better off making its own decisions. KTMB is, after all, light years behind the best rail operators in the world. But, perhaps it couldn’t hurt to see what it could do with authority to make its own decisions. After all, there’s no way it could lose more cash than it already has, right? Right?!?!

And speaking of MoF Inc., it seems only four companies under the Finance Ministry are financially sound: Petronas, Prokhas, MyCreative Ventures and Syarikat Jaminan Kredit Perumahan. The rest – including SIRIM, Felcra, Khazanah and MIMOS – are constantly in need of government funding. 

Requiring government support and aid isn’t necessarily bad though. One of the reasons MoF Inc. was set up was so the government could invest in companies which provide services to the public but don’t really get much private investments/funding. However, the need for constant financial support becomes a huge problem when it concerns companies established to generate money for the country from strategic investments. You know, companies like your Khazanahs and yes, your 1MDBs.

Lim Guan Eng and co. need to look at a major overhaul of strategies if we don’t want to keep bleeding money. Especially since Malaysia has a trillion ringgit debt!

BTW, this piece highlights some other notable cases of mismanagement from the latest audit report. Warning: Do not operate heavy machinery or drive after reading.

Odds and ends

Quite a bit more happened yesterday. However, as this newsletter was threatening to become a dissertation, we decided to condense the important stuff and list ’em here for you. You’re welcome!

  • Get your popcorn (or kuaci) ready, folks! Troll Master General and former PM Najib Razak is set to take the stand in the SRC International money-laundering case today.
  • The first-ever parliamentary white paper on defence was tabled yesterday. However, like former defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein, we too feel it should’ve contained a more comprehensive outline of the country’s defence plans and strategies for the 10 next years.
  • Rihana Oksana Voevodina, the ex-wife of Kelantan’s Sultan Muhammad V, claims her six-month-old son is in danger following her filing of a paternity suit. This bit of news was first published in Britain’s Daily Mail though. So read into that what you will.
  • Organisers of the Tattoo Malaysia Expo 2019 were hauled up by authorities after photos of heavily-inked participants in various states of (semi) undress went viral. The Tourism Ministry, which originally supported the event, says approval was given for the exhibition but it’d never okayed nudity. Needless to say, the incident’s sparked an Us vs. Them debate and outrage on social media with certain parties blaming, you guessed it, DAP!
  • The amended Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission 2019 (IPCMC) Bill will be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat today. The Bill, which was first brought to Parliament in July, was referred to a special select committee in October to be discussed more thoroughly.

“If voting made any difference they wouldn't let us do it.”

- Mark Twain -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Typhoon Kammuri has made landfall in central Philippines, causing close to 200,000 people to be evacuated from their homes. Operations at Manila international airport have been suspended with a number of SEA games events re-scheduled. 
  • According to a 60 Minutes report, Google and YouTube have pulled over 300 Donald Trump campaign ads for apparently violating ad policies. The company didn’t specify though what exactly the ads did wrong.
  • Thousands gathered Monday in Hong Kong’s central business district for the first in a series of planned lunchtime protests. No violent clashes occurred during the two-hour demonstration, but that really offers no clue as to how things will play out over the rest of the week.
  • Lionel Messi has beaten arch-rival Cristiano Ronaldo and last year’s standout performer, Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk, to bag a record sixth Ballon d’Or. Megan Rapinoe meanwhile claimed the women’s award.

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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