The stage is set for a new Sabah head honcho. But even as Bersatu’s Hajiji Mohd Noor gets ready to be sworn in as chief minister, there’s a feeling discontent within Umno or elsewhere could soon result in some fellas pushing back. Hard.

In other news, Malaysia’s active Covid-19 cases surge past the 1,000 mark for the first time since mid-June; there’s much ado about a lorong in Kuala Lumpur; and Najib Razak gets a suit against his former bank thrown out.

You can't always get what you want

Meet in the middle

Today we’ll have a new Sabah chief minister, and for the first time ever, it’ll be a guy from Bersatu.

 

Hajiji Mohd Noor was certainly not a shoo-in for the job. In fact, you could be excused for having never heard of the guy before all this drama over Sabah erupted. Still, at about 10am today, the assemblyman who’s represented his constituency since 1990 (that’s three decades!) will be handed the keys to the kingdom to the office previously occupied by Warisan’s Shafie Apdal.

Just who is Hajiji anyway? The CM-in-waiting wasn’t always a Bersatu man – he originally won his Sulaman seat as a United Sabah National Organisation member. When that party dissolved, Hajiji joined Umno, eventually rising to become party treasurer. Days after retaining his seat on a BN ticket in GE14, however, our man frogged it over to Shafie’s side, settling ultimately with Bersatu. 

 

Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS), you’ll remember, was embroiled in a tussle over who should be CM. Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin backed Sabah PN chief Hajiji, but their Umno-BN buddies were none too pleased and threw Sabah BN chief Bung Moktar Radin’s name in the hat.

However, what with the governor asking for time and rumours swirling about of a potential coup by polls losers Warisan, GRS appears to have been left with little choice but to reach a compromise. 

 

There’s another reason too why Umno didn’t want Hajiji as the 16th CM. That’s ’cos conceding to Bersatu and PM Moo’s wishes yet again might be viewed as one concession too many by Umno’s grassroots.

 

Speaking in the midst of the CM impasse, BN and Umno chief Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said his party’d given in to Bersatu’s demands twice before – first when it agreed to let Moo Yassin lead as PM despite Bersatu not having a lotta seats in Parliament and another time over the appointment of Ahmad Faizal Azumu as Perak menteri besar. So it was time for Umno to stand its ground if it didn’t want a political future that was “too much to bear”.

 

In fact, Zahid made a show of noting Umno’s dissatisfaction over the Hajiji deal. He claimed Bung had been “pressured to compromise”  and it was all done “in the spirit of Sabah Umno autonomy” (meaning Zahid wasn’t consulted la!). Just a reminder, several Sabah Umno leaders had been unhappy with Zahid’s choice of Bung to lead the election machinery in the first place without consulting them, calling it an “insult to Sabah” and “suicidal”.

Even so, it’s hard to argue against Zahid earlier assessment of the situation i.e. handing victory to Bersatu in this regard might really be setting Umno up for bigger problems down the line.

 

Take Anwar Ibrahim’s gambit for Putrajaya, for instance. In yesterday’s newsletter, we said that despite the PKR bossman’s claim of having a “formidable, convincing majority” of Parliamentarians in his corner, GRS’ victory in Sabah could effectively have poured cold water on his plans. Thing is, in the fluid, nothing-set-in-stone world of politics, there’s a possibility now that Bung’s concession might result in more discontented Umno MPs rushing to Anwar’s side

 

We should point out that while our dear Hajiji looks set for the CM’s seat, Shafie and Warisan may yet have some plan up their sleeves. It’s quite the mystery but the former CM’s had a load of visitors to his place over the past 48 hours, and there’s a feeling that something could certainly be brewing.

Goes to show innit that in politics, as in that Lenny Kravitz song, it ain’t over ’til it’s over.

On the topic of Anwar, Pakatan Harapan leaders met for the first time last night since his Sept 23 presser. Although no details were given, Anwar’s FB noted that the meeting revolved around “national current affairs” and “restoring the people’s mandate”, which suggests that his numbers, as well as the situation in Sabah, were discussed in detail.

 

It’s still early days on that front though as Anwar hasn’t even secured a date to meet with the Agong, whom Istana Negara confirmed yesterday is still undergoing treatment at Institut Jantung Negara.

 

According to the palace, his Highness was initially admitted to IJN on Sept 21 for food poisoning. Later, an MRI, revealed the King was in need of treatment for several sports injuries. If you’re wondering why the Agong was admitted to IJN for food poisoning, the answer is that no matter what the issue, hospitalisation for a King is always handled by IJN (or so we’re told).

From bad to worse

Meanwhile, even as politics in the state dominates headlines, the Land Below the Wind’s also found itself in the news yet again thanks to a distressing Covid-19 problem that shows no signs of abating.

 

Monday’s nationwide infection tally of 115 new cases has seen the country’s active cases exceed a thousand (it’s actually at 1,011) for the first time since June 13. While new cases have been popping up everywhere, the situation is especially dire in Sabah, particularly in the districts of Lahad Datu, Tawau, Kunak, and Semporna.

 

According to the Health Ministry, a total of 1,195 cases have been reported in those Sabah districts between Sept 1 and 27. As such the government has moved to place those areas under targeted enhanced movement control order (TEMCO).

 

The restrictions will be in force until Oct 12 with offices and businesses in the areas – except for those providing essential services – shut, and no movement in and out for the districts’ 962,661 residents.

 

Now, we agree, of course, the curbs are necessary. ‘Cos, really, the last thing anyone needs now is Covid-positive individuals galivanting here, there and everywhere. Still, the million-dollar question is why only now? Why weren’t these lockdowns considered in the run-up to the state polls on Saturday as the number of cases in the state continued to rise (with even campaigning politicians among the infected) and cases spilling over to peninsula? 

 

Yes, the numbers in Semporna and Kunak (299 and 58, respectively) are crazy right about now. But they already looked iffy last Tuesday (47 and 32, respectively) and pretty damn worrying (113 and 52) on Thursday, Sept 24, two days before Sabahans went to the polls. So again, why couldn’t the curbs be introduced sooner? We’re sure the EC could figure out ways to let those under lockdown exercise their right to vote.

 

By the way, despite the rising numbers of infections in the state and clusters nationwide being linked to Sabah emerging left, right, centre, the powers that be are saying now that travellers returning from the state to Peninsular Malaysia need not be quarantined for 14 days IF they test negative for Covid-19 during screening at one of the peninsula’s airports.  So, coronavirus incubation periods and that sorta thing be damned, then?

 

Needless to say, a number of health experts, among them Dr Christopher Lee, himself a former deputy health director-general, have questioned the authorities’ decision to dispense with a quarantine period. Unfortunately, while they make solid points, the government has yet to issue a response.

For the record, Nezar Mohamed Sabur Batcha, the dude found to be responsible for the Sivagangga cluster blowing up and even the mighty Zlatan Ibrahimovic tested negative for the disease first before being later confirmed positive. 

 

Incidentally, on the subject of screening, an overwhelming influx of passengers at KLIA 1 and 2 on Sunday night resulted in some folks having to wait as long as six hours to be tested. Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the problem was not due to lack of health staff but there being too many arriving passengers. Uh-huh. In any case, more health personnel have been roped in, and passengers’ wait times have been cut in half. The last thing we need is a KLIA cluster from all this. Touchwood.

 

Here’re a few more Covid-19 highlights from yesterday: 

  • Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussien has been ordered to self-isolate at home for two weeks as he was in close contact with Sufian Abdul Karim, BN’s Pitas candidate who was found to be Covid-positive. The MBs of Perlis and Perak, Azlan Man and Ahmad Faizal Azumu, are, meanwhile, undergoing voluntary home quarantine following their return from Sabah. All three politicians have tested negative for the disease. 
     
  • Sarawak is imposing two weeks of home surveillance on Sarawakians, state permanent residents and visa holders entering the state from Sabah and Labuan. All other Malaysians are required to take a Covid-19 test three days before entering the state and can only stick around for five days max.
     
  • Two secondary school students in Port Klang have tested positive for the disease. It’s understood the students are siblings and had recently visited Tawau to attend a wedding.
     
  • At least six malls – four in KL, one in Selangor, and one in Negeri Sembilan – have been hit with cases over the past two weeks. The affected malls are Linc KL, Suria KLCC, NU Sentral, KL Gateway, Sunway Pyramid and Aeon Mall Nilai. All malls have stated they’ve since taken appropriate action, including sanitation works.

The road goes ever on

This one kinda slipped under the radars on account of all the stories coming out of Sabah over the weekend. However, seeing as how social media’s still all abuzz about it, we feel it’s only right that we highlight the Jalan Palestin muddle today.

 

The story, in a nutshell, is that the Federal Territories Ministry and KL City Hall (DBKL) have renamed Jalan Raja Laut 1, a road in the city centre, to Jalan Palestin. This is to apparently symbolise “Malaysia’s support for the Palestinian people‘s struggle”. Unluckily though, while a number of folks – like KL mayor Nor Hisham Ahmad Dahlan – appear to be delighted with the decision, not everyone’s a fan.

 

In fact, one person who is decidedly miffed about the whole thing is FT minister Annuar Musa himself, the guy whose own ministry had a hand in the name change.

 

By and large, the minister says he’s cool with the renaming ‘cos it shows Malaysia’s support for the Palestinian cause. Nevertheless, he’s called on his peeps and DBKL to explain why they had to go mess with Jalan Raja Laut, a major thoroughfare in Malay and KL history (if you want to know who’s the Raja Laut the road’s named after, you can read it here). Le’ minister also asked why his folks hadn’t considered some other roads instead, specifically those with English names like Jalans Stonor, Conlay and Cochrane?

 

Here’s the problem with Annuar’s remarks though:

 

  1. Jalan Raja Laut 1 isn’t Jalan Raja Laut, that iconic KL thoroughfare that stretches from Jalan Tun Perak to the intersection of Jalan Ipoh-Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, but a small lorong that sits close to Sogo. According to DBKL, the road used to be called Lorong Gombak. But you can bet most people neither know it by that name nor as JRL1.
     
  2. Those English road names are iconic too. Yes, they may be linked to the penjajah, but that doesn’t make those roads any less iconic than the ori Jalan Raja Laut.
     
  3. We dunno, but how does renaming a road – any road, be it of an English colonist or an iconic Malay figure – symbolise our country’s support for the Palestinian cause? But Jalan Palestin is about as symbolic as Bulatan Edinburgh, no? When will our politicians learn? Remember the ruckus when some Pakatan Harapan genius wanted to rename a stretch of road in Brickfields to Jalan Harmoni last year?

Anyhoo, that bit of ridiculousness aside, here’s some other stuff that made the news yesterday:

  • Ex-PM Najib Razak has had a claim against Ambank and one its former officers thrown out for being “frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of the court process”. Jibby had claimed in his suit that the bank and its former relationship manager Joanna Yu breached their duties under banking laws when they communicated his financial deets to fugitive financier Jho Low.

    However, the court took the view the suit had only been filed to cover line after the prosecution in the recently-concluded SRC International case said that Jib had never questioned or sued the banks at the time the info was disclosed.
     
  • The High Court has set Oct 8 to hear the second application by a woman who claims to be the wife of former minister and MIC big boss S. Samy Vellu. She is seeking to intervene in a bid by Samy’ son Vell Paari to declare daddy-o mentally unfit.
     
  • A man on trial for the downing of Flight MH17 has claimed he was not involved in firing the rocket that allegedly brought down the Malaysia Airlines jet. Oleg Pulatov, who is on the international wanted list, also told Hague District Court through his lawyer that he doubts the story of the plane being hit by a Russian-made missile. 
     
  • The Registrar of Societies has called on Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Pejuang party to make minor amendments to its registration application. Kubang Pasu MP Amiruddin Hazah, who serves as the Pejuang’s interim sec-gen, says the requested tweaks are related to small technical issues.
     
  • Anthony Soter Fernandez, Malaysia’s first Roman Catholic cardinal, is reportedly weak and struggling in his battle with cancer. Fernandez, 88, was made a cardinal by Pope Francis in 2016. He was diagnosed with tongue cancer late last year.
     
  • AirAsia looks set to carry out another round of retrenchments. The low-cost carrier, which cut over 250 jobs in back June due to Covid-19, could let hundreds more employees go before the end of October.

“A good compromise is when both parties are dissatisfied."

- Larry David -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • A judge in Washington has granted a temporary injunction against a Federal government order banning TikTok from being offered in United States app stores. TikTok’s Chinese owner ByteDance has challenged the ban as being unconstitutional.
     
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping has defended his country’s policies in Xinjiang, adding that they are “completely correct” and “must be adhered to in the long term”. Xi’s remarks come amid allegations of mass sterilisation in the region that’s home to millions of ethnic Muslim Uighurs.
     
  • Rapid Covid-19 test kits that display results in under 30 minutes are set to be rolled out to countries across the world. As many as 120 million kits will be supplied to low- and middle-income countries for as low RM20 (US$5) each.
     
  • Malta is demanding that a prehistoric shark tooth, given as a present to Britain’s Prince George by environmentalist Sir David Attenborough, be returned and displayed in a museum there. Sir David is said to have found the tooth on a family holiday in the former British colony more than 50 years ago. 
     
  • Fashion brand Fred Perry has pulled one of its iconic black and yellow polo shirts from sale in the US and Canada due to the tee’s association with neo-fascist organisation the Proud Boys. The latter, known for its anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric, is classified as an “extremist group” by the FBI.

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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