Firstly, Happy Deepavali to all our friends who celebrate the festival of lights! We hope you had a lovely time over the long weekend.

And now, on to the news. Saturday, Nov 2 is nomination day in Tanjung Piai, but Pakatan Harapan has already named its candidate for the impending by-election there – local boy Karmaine Sardini. The man’s opponent(s) though remains a mystery.

Also in the news, 12 people linked to the LTTE are set to be brought before the court today, the woman in the Johor mat lajak case is freed, and Khazanah warns about populist government policies hurting businesses.

Malaysia Lama 2.0?

BN, Pakatan: Same difference?

Oh, the irony of it all.

On a day when PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad and former Bank Negara governor Zeti Aziz, no less, talked about the performance of government-linked companies (GLCs) and government-linked investment companies (GLICs), and their performances at a summit, a think tank hit out at the handling of said companies by the gomen.

In particular, the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) mentions the fact that Maddey’s move to fulfill Pakatan’s to reform GLCs appears mostly to have benefitted his own party and its members.

This is how it worked, according to Ideas’ study. First of all, Mahathir fulfills Pakatan’s promise that the prime minister should not hold any other Cabinet position. Now, under the previous BN administration, the PM usually held the all-powerful Finance Minister’s post. So, no more all-powerful PM, right? Wrong.

See, what Maddey did was transfer many of the major GLCs and GLICs from under the Finance Ministry to the PM’s Department, the Entrepreneur Development Ministry and the Economic Affairs Ministry. So, Bersatu runs the show, with the exception of Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali. The same Azmin, who despite being PKR deputy president, is more aligned to Maddey than his own president, Anwar Ibrahim. Also the same Azmin who pooh-poohed the study’s findings

And despite the government promising otherwise, many Bersatu members — losing candidates in last year’s general election, no less — were appointed to the boards of these companies.

The promise we’re talking about here is Promise 22, which can be found on the Page 57 of the Pakatan election manifesto. It’s an entire page, but here’s the most relevant bit: The Pakatan Harapan Government will ensure the appointment of state and national GLC Board members will be made based on merit and professionalism, not based on politics.

So, yeah. That particular promise wasn’t worth the paper and ink it used up. 

Anyway, what exactly did Mahathir say at the summit? Well, the former and current PM said GLCs and GLICs must become catalysts that spur the private sector and encourage socio-economic growth by focusing on “creating strong institutions”.

He speaketh the truth. But faced with the Ideas revelation, how are we to take him seriously?

BN to hi-Jeck Tg Piai?

It’s confirmed. Wee Jeck Seng is the BN candidate for the Tanjung Piai by-election.

In choosing Wee, BN has honoured its previous agreement with MCA as the seat has traditionally been given to the component party to contest. And in so doing, it has also given Wee the opportunity to wrest back the seat which he held following the 2008 and 2014 general elections.

In last year’s election, Wee lost to Bersatu’s Md Farid Md Rafik by whisker-thin 524 votes. The by-election – nomination day is this Saturday – was called after Farid died in September due to heart problems.

Though the decision was only announced yesterday, it was known to BN component parties in Johor the previous day, and it didn’t go down well with some Umno people, according to sources quoted by the Malay Mail. Umno members in Tanjung Piai especially had wanted one of their own to contest the seat, particularly because of their newfound strength thanks to their latest bedfellow, PAS.

But it’s a smart move by BN to stick with Wee and MCA. Firstly, it helps Umno retain goodwill among its fellow BN parties. Secondly, and MCA candidate for a Chinese-majority seat makes the most sense. And lastly, Wee has a track record with the constituents, having been a two-term MP in Tg Piai. In short, Wee is the candidate that makes the most sense and possibly this race’s front runner. 

It remains to be seen, however, whether Umno members will sabotage the BN bid to regain the seat, or whether PAS will honour its agreement with Umno by helping its sister party.

Meanwhile, 27 nomination forms have reportedly been sold for the by-election. Former BN component party Gerakan will be fielding its deputy secretary-general Wendy Subramaniam and Pakatan will be represented by the man who sounds like a cross between a Mafia don and a can of fish, Karmaine Sardini.

Even if each party took two forms (you know, just in case they screw up one), that still leaves 21 unaccounted for. Does this mean we’re gonna have a record number of independents contesting the seat?

Whatever it is, this by-election will be one to watch. If there are many independent candidates, how will this affect the outcome? Will Umno members sabotage BN’s efforts? Will PAS support their fellow opposition party? Will the new Umno-PAS cooperation help MCA double the number of seats it has in Parliament (cos they only have one right now)?

Polling day is on Nov 16. Mark it your calendar.

Toothless tiger calls for Sosma repeal

Lim Kit Siang’s political secretary has called for the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, or Sosma, to be repealed.

Wait a minute … why does that sound familiar? Oh yeah, Uncle Kit and many others have been calling for that for years now.

But wait another minute … isn’t DAP in power now? So, shouldn’t they be able to do something about it? And, wasn’t the repeal of repressive laws, including Sosma, one of the election pledges for Pakatan?

Kit Siang’s political secretary, lawyer Syahredzan Johan, says Sosma denies basic legal rights to those arrested under the law. No shit.

You see, no one is ever charged under the act. It’s used in conjunction with other laws, such as the Penal Code, and basically allows for detention for 28 days without the need to apply for remand orders, which only last for at most 14 days and depends on getting a magistrate’s signoff.

Sosma and other repressive laws should have been repealed ages ago, but Syahredzan waits till DAP members are arrested under Sosma and then charged with supporting a (long defunct) militant organisation before saying anything. So, it looks like this has become a priority for the DAP simply because it’s bitten them in the ass.

Anyway, the three DAP members arrested for allegedly supporting the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) will file applications to challenge denial of bail under Sosma. The applications are expected to be filed in the Sessions Court today, but lawyer Ramkarpal Singh says they hope the case would be heard before the Federal Court as it involved constitutional issues.

Meanwhile, the Kepong PKR division says it will leave it to the authorities to complete investigations into its former head, A. Kalaimughilan, who was also charged with supporting LTTE.

Like they could do anything else.

Who wants to be popular?

Populist moves may seem like manna from heaven, but often do nothing for the country and can in fact have adverse effects on business.

Need proof? Take a look at the government’s affordable internet move which resulted in a 60% drop in Telekom Malaysia’s shareholder returns and Khazanah Malaysia losing as much as RM3.5 billion.

Yes, Malaysian broadband prices were ridiculously high and needed to be brought down. However, Khazanah isn’t wrong in saying the government must be more mindful that certain policy decisions — despite how good they may seem — have drastic consequences, not just on profits but staff, who may find themselves laid off. (An op-ed in The Star way back in March had actually said the same thing.)

One wonders whether the Pakatan Harapan folk – and Communications Minister Gobind Singh Deo in particular – did any kind of feasibility study at all before issuing the diktat to telcos in the country. And by that same logic, despite silly Tony Pua videos, how much actual study was put into the cost of fulfilling the promises they made pre-GE14?

So what’s the solution then? Well, it’s pretty simple: the government needs to look at the bigger picture and stop doing things just to be popular. In other words, yes, Pakatan may have promised the sky, the moon and the abolition of tolls. However, ensuring a stable economy might mean some promises are just not fulfil-able. 

Odds and ends

Here are some bits of the other important news that bubbled up yesterday:

  • This is probably the biggest story of the day, but it’s just come out and is still developing. Jho Low has reached a settlement with the US Department of Justice to forfeit nearly RM4.2 billion in assets allegedly bought with money plundered from 1MDB. Low insists the settlement isn’t an admission of guilt, though.
  • Sppeaking of 1MDB, ex-1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi testified at Najib Razak’s trial that PetroSaudi International Ltd directors Tarek Obaid and Patrick Mahoney were paid RM355.32 million as “commission” by a Jho Low-controlled company. 
  • Malaysian banks have shut accounts belonging to residents whose countries are under sanction by the US, including Iran. Mahathir says Malaysia was bullied into it.
  • All foreign missionaries coming into Malaysia will go through background checks prior to their speaking engagements. Wonder what this means for those already in Malaysia … like a certain Zakir Naik.
  • Police say they will “check the facts” first before questioning Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng over the controversial “Superman” Hew comic book. We’re really glad the police check facts first before questioning anyone.
  • The IGP says cops can shoot to kill if they are threatened by poachers, echoing the hardline stance taken by the Sultan of Johor recently.
  • The Tourism Minister and his deputy seem to be at odds over a supposed exhibition to be held next year featuring artifacts from the eras of the pharaohs Ramses the Great and Tutankhamun.

“Status quo, you know, is Latin for 'the mess we're in'.”

- Ronald Reagan -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Chile has canceled climate and APEC summits following unrest during protests in the country.
  • A high-powered former Congressman-turned-lobbyist had lobbied for the US ambassador to the Ukraine to be sacked, a State Department official testified at an inquiry seeking to impeach Donald Trump.
  • The Pentagon has released footage of the raid which eventually saw the suicide of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
  • Twitter will ban all political advertising worldwide, saying such reach should be earned, not bought.
  • Rising seas will “erase” many cities by 2050, including Mumbai, Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City, new research shows.

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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