Welcome back and happy belated Malaysia Day, folks. We sure hope you had as wonderful a holiday as we did.

In today’s newsletter, we take another long look at the circus otherwise known as the Sabah elections with PM Muhyiddin Yassin taking the opportunity to somewhat slyly politicise Malaysia Day.

Meanwhile, Malaysia has sadly breached the 10,000 mark in terms of Covid-19 cases, no thanks to the huge surge of infections in Sabah; and, we're treated to more juicy 1MDB tidbits concerning the offences (allegedly, allegedly) committed by former PM Najib Razak.

Politics and Malaysia Day

Promises, promises

So yesterday was Malaysia Day, that special day to commemorate that time 57 years ago when North Borneo (you now know it as Sabah) and Sarawak joined hands with Malaya and what was then a not-so-independent Singapore to form the Federation of Malaysia.
 
With national-level celebrations held in Sibu, it’s no wonder PM Muhyiddin Yassin chose to focus his speech on Sabah and Sarawak. Our man Moo especially touched on that oh-so-important-and-sensitive topic of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63). 
 
He said the Perikatan Nasional gomen was committed to ensuring the rights of Sabahans and Sarawakians under the Agreement. He also said there’d be no compromise in security and sovereignty, and that Sabah and Sarawak would remain in Malaysia. Our supremo, perhaps, needed to say this as our mischievous neighbour the Philippines has decided to revive its claims to Sabah. You can read more on the North Borneo dispute here.
 
Moo had also pointed to the strong relationship between federal and state governments in ensuring mutual goals are met, waxing lyrical about the Sarawak government led by Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), an ally to PN of course.

In case you’re wondering, the MA63 recognises Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners with Peninsular Malaysia, instead of being just mere states, like, say Johor. That’s why the two have more autonomy in matters such as immigration. The MA63, though, has been a source of contention for years as East Malaysia accuses the federal government of ignoring this fact. 

Taking a pin from his Pakatan Harapan notebook, Moo here had also promised to form a Special Council on MA63. Harapan, during its short stint at the top, had formed a special cabinet committee on the same topic. In fact, it tried last year to amend the Constitution with regards to the rights of Sabah and Sarawak but failed to get the required two-thirds majority of the Dewan Rakyat.

Interestingly, many of the lawmakers who abstained from voting on the Harapan-era bill were from current Perikatan allies in BN, PAS and Sarawak, so it’ll be interesting to see how Perikatan plans to convince our East Malaysian brothers and sisters it has their best interests at heart.
 
Now, with it being Malaysia Day and all, it’s of course right for Sabah and Sarawak to be the among the focal points of the day. But it’s no surprise this is also likely attempts at securing brownie points for the upcoming Sabah elections. Our former glorious leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad, too, took the opportunity to call for the implementation for MA63.

Sarawak is due to hold its own state elections by next year. 
 
Muhyiddin also yesterday launched the Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) manifesto for the coming polls. GRS comprises PN and BN coalitions, as well as Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS).
 
The manifesto itself is aimed at “addressing Sabah’s woes”, so our PM8 was basically dangling that huge proverbial carrot of federal funding in front of Sabahans. The nine thrusts of the manifesto are: infrastructure, Sabah rights employment, youth, health, civil service, prosperity, education, security, as well as human capital and development. 
 
Sabah Umno leader Bung Moktar Radin, who was at the launch, said Umno and BN have changed and are now committed to a fairer, transparent and trustworthy administration. So, the YB is admitting he and his geng were never committed to fairer, transparent and trustworthy administration before this when BN controlled the state? 
 
Sharp as a tack veteran DAP man Lim Kit Siang, in campaigning for Warisan Plus, reminded Sabahans the previous BN administrations failed to keep several promises
 
Warisan Plus leader and caretaker Sabah CM Shafie Apdal also took the mickey out of the GRS manifesto, asking how it was that a fractious entity – PBS had said it would not be attending the launch, BN and Perikatan can’t agree on a chief minister candidate should they win, and there are clashes in various seats between the allies – could even hope to implement its pledges. 
 
We have to agree with Shaf, but we also have to point out that people living in glass houses shouldn’t be throwing stones. And, apparently, former PM Najib Razak, that king of trolls who still has no shame despite being convicted of corruption-related offences, had thought the same thing.
 
Jibby whacked Shafie, his one-time deputy when he was defence minister, saying that Warisan should look at its own manifesto from back in 2018, with its unfulfilled promises. He especially cited two instances, that the CM wouldn’t hold the state’s finance minister portfolio and that the CM’s post be limited to two terms. Meanwhile, Shafie, according to the Jibs, had done just the opposite by appointing himself moneybags minister and then doing away with the two-term limit for the state governor. 
 
Yes, we know this is a long entry, so we’ll just include the other Sabah stories in bullet point form: 

  • The fight among GRS leaders as to who’ll be CM should the opposition win the polls is still continuing in public. Bersatu/Perikatan Sabah head honcho Hajiji Noor has said his team had the right to name its own candidate as it’s contesting enough seats.

    BN chairman Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had said the party/coalition with the most number of seats at the end of the election should call the shots, while Umno’s Muafakat Nasional ally PAS seemed to think Zahid is wrong and that Muhyiddin should decide who will be CM should GRS win. 
     
  • Zahid, meanwhile, has promised political appointments for Umno and PAS should BN win the election. Aisehman… belum menang lagi sudah pikir pasal itu semua kah
     
  • Former CM Musa Aman has called on successor Shafie to stop attacking him during the caretaker CM’s campaigns. After all, he isn’t even standing this time around. 
     
  • Musa’s “successor” in the Sungai Sibuga seat, meanwhile, has claimed he has the former CM’s blessings to contest the constituency. 

Into the five-digit realm

Since our last newsletter, Malaysia has sadly breached the 10,000 mark as far as Covid-19 cases are concerned.
 
The count now stands at 10,031 following an increase of 23 cases on Tuesday and another 62 yesterday. The number of active cases has now risen to 668, with the only good news being that the death toll has remained at 128.
 
Of the cases on Tuesday, 10 were imported while the others were all recorded in Sabah, including eight from the Pulau cluster, while all but one of the 62 cases recorded yesterday were local transmissions. These included 48 from the Benteng LD cluster in Lahad Datu and Tawau. Altogether, there 59 cases in Sabah and one each in Penang and Kedah. 
 
There were also two chance discoveries of Covid-19 cases over the past two days.
 
The so-called Pulau cluster was discovered after a 68-year-old was found unconscious at home in Kunak, Sabah, and later tested positive for Covid-19. The Tawau health authorities, meanwhile, are trying to trace all those who had come into close contact with a woman who was killed in a car crash in Tawau after the post mortem examination on her showed she was positive for the coronavirus. 
 
In light of the surge of infections in Sabah, the authorities are expected to begin mass testing soon in Lahad Datu, Tawau and Kunak. However, former Colourful Baju Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Ismail Sabri Yaakob has said they haven’t decided yet whether to place these places – in particular Lahad Datu and Tawau – under enhanced MCO (EMCO). 
 
PM Moo has warned that the gomen will have no option but to reintroduce MCO regulations if the number of cases continues to spike. He’s said this before and, considering the surge in cases of late, we don’t blame him for saying it again.
 
But we’ve to remind him that the vast majority of these cases are linked to the Benteng LD cluster, which happened due to lax handling of Covid-19 SOPs at the Lahad Datu police lock-up, causing the spread of the virus among detainees. This then led to the spread of infections at the Tawau prison, where not just prisoners, but prison warders and their family members were infected. 
 
Meanwhile, in other Covid-related news:

  • Malaysians who want to leave the country to study abroad can now do so. New students will just have to produce offer letters from the institution at which they will be studying, while returning students need only show their student cards. Parents wishing to accompany their kids can also leave, but must undergo the mandatory two-week quarantine upon their return. 
     
  • The Transport Ministry is hoping to announce an air traffic bubble with Singapore and other nations soon.
     
  • Malaysians have been warned to be wary when buying three-ply face masks being offered below the current ceiling price of RM1 per piece as authorities have detected cases of substandard masks being sold at 50 sen per piece. 
     
  • The Thomas and Uber Cup Finals, scheduled to take place in Denmark next month, have been postponed following the withdrawal of several teams over Covid-19 concerns. Too bad, with all the withdrawals, maybe we could have finally brought the cups home again. Just maybe. 

Ex-1MDB CEO reveals more

Former PM Jibby Razak’s 1MDB corruption-related trial continued on Tuesday (there wasn’t any yesterday cos it was a public holiday…duh) with ex-1MDB CEO Mohd Hazem Abd Rahman back on the witness stand.
 
Hazem continued his juicy testimony with a number of new revelations, not least of which was that fugitive financier and perennial-wooer-of-women-far-better-looking-than-him Low Taek Jho engineered a meeting of 1MDB’s board members to strategise about KPMG’s audit of the company. The meeting, he had claimed, was about KPMG’s dissatisfaction over BSI Singapore’s explanation on 1MDB’s US$2.3 billion (RM9.5 billion) “investment” in a company known as Brazen Sky Ltd, incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, an investment the court previously heard was akin to worthless pieces of paper
 
Now, the man we all know and love as Jho Low told the board at that meeting at the Jibster’s residence that Brazen Sky’s assets were worth between RM5 and RM6 billion but the company’s activities couldn’t be revealed because it had other stakeholders.
 
If that sounds like a whole lot of BS to you, well we can’t blame you for it. Hazem himself has said he wasn’t convinced, but Najib instructed the board to redeem the money and have it repatriated anyway. Low, the witness said, was indirectly telling the board to lie to KPMG.
 
Hazem also testified part of the US$3 billion bond raised by 1MDB had been used to purchase land in Penang which later became part of Umno’s campaign material during the run-up to the 2013 general election. Najib, it seems, had said the land would be used by 1MDB to build affordable housing for the people. 
 
This statement is a variation of the theme Hazem first flouted on Monday, when he said Jho Low had told him 1MDB was set up to help Umno obtain funds
 
Over in another court, where the love of Jibby’s life, Rosmah Mansor, is facing her own corruption-related trial, her defence counsel had continued to tear into former aide Rizal Mansor over his lavish lifestyle. Jagjit Singh questioned how it is that with a salary of RM7,000, he could afford a RM3.5 million house and luxury vehicles like a Mercedes Benz, BMW, Audi, Toyota Vellfire and Honda Odyssey if not for income derived from corruption. 
 
Taken together with the previous day’s session, where Jagjit called Rizal the biggest scumbag in the country, this was obviously an attempt to undermine Rizal’s credibility as a witness. 
 
Now, we kinda agree that Rizal seems to be living beyond his means and we would have loved to find out just how he could afford all that, but just as he was about to explain things, Jagjit cut him off. Sad.
 
The trial was then adjourned for the day as poor ol’ Kak Mah had a bad ol’ toothache and needed to see a dentist. The trial will continue today. 
 
Also today, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission will be charging the aide of a former minister. The brief statement released by the commission didn’t name the aide or the former minister, nor did it say what charges the aide would be facing. Guess we gotta wait patiently to know the who, what, when, why and how.
 

However, it could be a former senior aide to former Tourism Minister Mohamaddin Ketapi. The aide was arrested last month in connection with an RM3.7 million bribe he allegedly received from a company to secure a project under the ministry. 

Bits and bobs

A number of things came out on Tuesday and yesterday that we thought we needed to include here for you, though they didn’t warrant whole segments of their own. So, here they are:

  • Four company directors – all of whom are brothers – and a workshop manager were charged in the Selayang Sessions Court in connection with pollution in Sungai Gong which resulted in a week-long water cut to more than 1.2 million people recently. 
     
  • Speaking of water woes, residents in nine areas of Kuala Langat and Sepang had water supply disrupted yesterday due to a burst pipe near the KLIA mosque. Air Selangor said supply would be restored gradually beginning 8pm yesterday. Yeah. We’ll see. 
     
  • Former de facto law minister Nazri Aziz has hit out at the authorities over their inability to locate and arrest M. Indira Gandhi’s ex-hubby Muhammad Riduan Abdullah, saying that they had previously managed to bring in more dangerous criminals. So true. 
     
  • PM Muhyiddin has unveiled the Northern Corridor Economic Region’s (NCER) Strategic Development Plan 2021-2025 with a forecasted cumulative investment of up to RM146.5 billion. Pretty good, if they can achieve that considering the slump we and the rest of the world are facing. 
     
  • The Women’s Centre for Change has slammed the Penang government for dropping the women and gender portfolios. Though Padang Lalang assemblywoman Wong Chen is still an exco member, her portfolio was changed from women, family development, gender inclusiveness and non-Muslim affairs to social development and non-Islamic religious affairs. WCC believes the women and gender portfolios deserve to remain separate and we have to say we agree. 

“Losers make promises they often break. Winners make commitments they always keep."

- Denis Waitley -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • The world has now recorded some 29.7 million cases of Covid-19 with more than 930,000 deaths. India, meanwhile, has shown the highest daily increase of cases, with yesterday’s total of just over 90,000 having pushed the country’s accumulative amount of cases past the 5 million mark
     
  • US President Donald Trump has claimed a Covid-19 vaccine could be ready in a month’s time. However, he seems to be at odds with his own director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who says a vaccine would only be generally available to the public next year
     
  • On the topic of Covid-19 vaccines, China has said a vaccine could ready there by as early as November or December, while the United Arab Emirates has approved use of a vaccine developed by China-owned Sinopham for use by frontliners.
     
  • The Asian Development Bank has forecast further deteriorating economy in the region, predicting a contraction of 0.7 percent – the worst such downturn in nearly six decades. Meanwhile, Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia could see growth shrink by over five percent this year, due to the pandemic.
     
  • Yoshihide Suga has been inaugurated Japan’s new PM. He has named a
    continuity cabinet which retains eight ministers from predecessor Shinzo Abe’s lineup. 
     
  • French football supremo Noel Le Great has claimed racism doesn’t exist in football. This, despite numerous incidents of racist abuse of players, with the latest occurring just last weekend in a bad-tempered game in which five players, including Brazilian forward Neymar, were sent off following a fight said to have been sparked by racist abuse.

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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