As predicted, it was an explosive affair in Parliament on Monday. However, through the commotion one thing was clear – for now at least, PM Muhyiddin Yassin has the numbers to stay in power.

In other news, we have a new Speaker of the House, the PM promises that his Finance Minister will table the government’s stimulus packs in the Dewan Rakyat, and the Federal Court reserves judgment in Malaysiakini’s contempt case. Oh, and our active Covid-19 cases have gone up again.

Revising poverty

All about those numbers

There’d been much speculation prior to Monday’s sitting of the Dewan Rakyat that Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin didn’t have enough support in the House and would be forced to seek Parliament’s dissolution. However, all that talk of snap polls and/or a countercoup to replace MooMoo’s Perikatan Nasional will have to wait, because as it turns out, the current PM does have the numbers. For the time being, at least.

Back in May, seating arrangements in the Dewan had hinted at Muhyiddin’s razor-thin support. However, with that sitting limited to just the Yang diPertuan Agong’s speech, there was no way to tell if the PM’s new allies actually had his back. Yesterday though, thanks to Moo’s motion to replace Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof as Dewan Rakyat Speaker – which was passed with the support of a majority of the House – we know his buddies support him. 

Even so, one problem persists – it’s still a damn slim margin of support.

The motion to remove Mohamad Ariff saw just 111 Members of Parliament voting in support of Moo – a figure that isn’t technically enough to command the House of 222 seats. However, two Perikatan MPs didn’t vote ’cos they were either not present (Maximus Ongkili was apparently in hospital) or facilitating the proceedings (Deputy Speaker Mohd Rashid Hasnon, who is also Batu Pahat MP, was then occupying the Speaker’s chair). 

In any case, the Opposition bloc – made up of Pakatan Harapan, Parti Warisan Sabah and former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Bersatu rebels – only showcased 109 seats. 

So, what does this all mean?

Well, first things first, it looks like Moo has enough support to remain PM for the foreseeable future. However, the Bersatu president does have much to think about. Like, for example, can he make sure all his MPs are in attendance every time something needs to be put to a vote?

The problem of MPs playing hooky has been going on for a bloody long time, even back when Barisan Nasional ruled the roost, so it’s unlikely to be solved during Muhyiddin’s tenure at the top. Still, if he wants to make sure government bills and the like get through, he’s gonna have to ensure all his horses and all his men are present when it counts. Why? ’Cos like it or not, every vote in the House from now on – whether it be for new laws or what to have for lunch – is gonna be seen as a test of the PM’s support.

Certain political commentators have noted that defeats to government motions in the House may not necessarily spell doom for MooMoo and company. (Things like that don’t in the British Parliament, for example.) Nevertheless, as we stated in yesterday’s newsletter, given the manner in which Perikatan won Putrajaya, a defeat of any kind will set off alarm bells.

Also, it sure doesn’t help that some of Moo’s so-called allies, like Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, keep stirring the pot.

The Umno Youth Chief, who previously said a dissolution of Parliament would be the only proper course of action should Moo’s proposals fail, was back at it yesterday, questioning in a tweet whether the Perikatan administration could be sustained with such a slender majority in the Dewan.

In short, thus, yes, Moo appears to have the numbers for now. But the PM more than anyone knows that it can all come crashing down around him in a heartbeat.

Welcome to the Big Top!

We always knew Monday’s Dewan sitting was gonna be explosive, but really, the lack of decorum on display was just plain pathetic and made the August House seem like a circus!

The claws were out from the start, of course, with MPs from both the gomen and oppo sides trading barbs. However, things got dialled up several hundred notches when PM Moo’s motions to replace folks from the previous administration with peeps of his own were tabled.

To cut a long story short, a number of motions were on the table on Monday, and the results of all those proposals are that we now have a new Speaker of the House in ex-Election Commission boss Azhar “Art” Harun as well as a new deputy in the form of Pengerang MP Azalina Othman Said. However, the introduction of both of them – especially Art – was met with major dissatisfaction from Opposition lawmakers, and the main reason for that, besides their contention that Mohamad Ariff should not have been booted from his position, was that his replacement was installed without a single vote being taken.

The proper procedure for a Speaker to be installed, they claimed, is for the person to be voted in. Thing is, from what we can tell, based on the House standing orders, that’s not really necessary. Art’s was the only name proposed (and seconded), so going by the rule book, it seems things were in order. 

(Side note: the former Speaker Mohamad Ariff notes that conventions of the Westminster system may have been breached. Nevertheless, as we’ve pointed out before, conventions are not enforceable.)

In any event, there was a whole bunch of shouting and heckling, and in the hour or so that followed Art’s appointment, we saw the former EC chairman ejecting Pakatan’s Khalid Samad from the Dewan, doing nothing when Baling MP Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahman appeared to direct a racist and sexist remark at DAP’s Kasthuri Patto and generally, failing to control the unruly House.

(Side note number 2: It’s rich that Abdul Azeez made those racist comments about Kasthuri, considering he himself is an Indian Muslim.)

Anyway, why is all this significant? 

Well, for a start, the guy had said after being appointed that his was an important responsibility and that he’d do his darndest to fulfil his duties. So there’s that. 

But also, there’s this – a YouTube programme published by The Malaysian Insight – from years before Art sat in the Speakers chair when he’d taken former Parliament Yang diPertua’s to task for among others, suspending reps arbitrarily, not warning MPs for “rude, crude language” and “sexist remarks”, and failing to control unruly behaviour!

Yes, it was Art’s first day in office. And yes, it was louder than a fish market in the hall. But still, the fact of that matter is that when push came to shove, the guy, who’d talked a good game before about the duties and failings of Speakers, was left wanting.

He’s vowed to do better, though, so we guess, we’ll just have to wait and see whether that happens, and whether or not Art will actually be a non-partisan speaker in the mould of Ariff. Time will tell, but he can start by censuring Abdul Azeez for going on social media and pretty much showing that he might not be sorry for his racist and sexist remarks after all.

P.S. While no one was paying much attention, Anwar Ibrahim got himself confirmed as the Parliamentary Opposition leader based on the support he apparently has, which is funny when you think about how not too long ago, even his own allies in Pakatan weren’t too sure if they wanted him as their saviour leader.

P.P.S. Minister in the PM’s Department Takiyuddin Hassan posted a pic of PM Muhyiddin and Doc Maddey seemingly listening to some dude talk. It’s not clear though if the two former allies – that’s Moo and Mads – acknowledged and chatted with each other.

Ohana Prihatin means no one gets left behind

The stimulus packs announced by the government involving loads of moolah should have been debated in Parliament, but they weren’t. And that’s because the havoc wreaked by Covid-19 necessitated immediate action. So sayeth PM Muhyiddin Yassin. 

One of the Opposition’s major gripes with the financial band-aids and recovery initiatives sanctioned by Moo’s Perikatan government, from Prihatin to Penjana, has been that despite good intentions and obvious benefits to Makcik Kiah and her posse, there’s been no transparency and very little scrutiny about where the cash is coming from and/or where is heading. That, however, the PM now promises, will be remedied when his Finance Tsar Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz tables the deets of the packages during the current Dewan Rakyat meeting.

It’s not exactly clear if Tengku Zafrul will be tabling every single stimulus – there’ve been four if you count the one Maddey announced when he was interim PM – in Parliament, but if he does, and they get approved (see the lead story above for why this may be trickier than in previous times) then the government’s expenditure with regard the initiatives will finally be considered halal legit.

Incidentally, Moo reiterated that the government would make sure that no one is left out in the implementation of its initiatives. But be that as it may, folks much, much smarter than we have been repeating ad nauseam that it doesn’t look like the whole lot of us are gonna benefit from the RM295 billion-valued rescue packs, and ya know, when you look around and see all those boarded-up businesses, there’s a feeling that the experts might be right. 

In any case, it’ll be interesting to see what Tengku Zafrul has to say when he fields questions from the likes of Mads, Anwar and his predecessor Lim Guan Eng when it’s time to debate.

Here’re the other Covid-19 bits and bobs from yesterday:

  • Only seven new cases were recorded on Monday. However, the slight increase in infections over the last couple of days due to Malaysians returning from overseas has resulted in the number of active cases rising to 83 for the first time in 10 days. The total number of infections, meanwhile, stands at 8,725, with recoveries recorded for 8,520 of those. 
     
  • new infection cluster has emerged in Melaka, courtesy of a Malaysian who’d returned from Novgorod in Russia. Three positive cases have so far been detected from the cluster.
     
  • The Johor government says that it’s been assured that at least three-quarters of Malaysians who were “temporarily suspended” from their jobs in Singapore when the borders between the countries closed will be able to return to work.
     
  • One person who won’t get his job back, though, is a 23-year-old Malaysian man who’s been fined, deported and barred from re-entering Singapore for having breached the island republic’s circuit breaker measures. We really want to say that the “punishment” is way too harsh. But it seems that the dude, who was stopped at a roadblock when he should have been staying at home, was also fined for drink driving. 

Kini in court ... and other odds and ends

The Federal Court reserved judgement in the contempt of court proceedings against news portal Malaysiakini on Monday, but not before it heard submissions from both sides over reader comments to a published news report, and coupla judges weighed in on the requirement for intent be proved in contempt cases.

The prosecution’s contention was that Kini and its editor-in-chief Steven Gan had “facilitated” commenters and so, are presumed to have published the offending comments, intentions notwithstanding. However, this was disputed by the defence’s lawyer, who argued that his clients had no intention to commit contempt of court.

Significantly, the latter argument was agreed to by two members of the seven-person bench, who noted that the rule requiring intention to be proven in contempt proceedings is clear, and that it was upheld most recently in the case involving lawyer Arun Kasi. Even so, the panel of judges decided that it needed more time to deliberate all the issues at hand, noting that a date for a decision would be announced later.

Kini could be slapped with a fine or see its editor-in-chief handed a jail term if the panel rules in favour of the prosecution. Conversely, it could be found not guilty if, that is, the court feels that the portal is not to be blamed for the comments of its readers.

Anyways, here’re some other dangling bits and bobs from the news yesterday:

  • While the names of prospective candidates to fill two vacant Selangor state executive council positions have been submitted to ruler Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari says he’s still undecided on whether to re-jig the entire exco line-up. “I haven’t received any inspiration yet, I will announce after I dream tonight,” was what he actually said. Joker lah that Amirudin.
     
  • Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador says police have no intention of disrespecting the findings of an inquest into firefighter Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim’s death and were only re-looking at the case to uncover more evidence
     
  • Domestic violence and phone calls to special assistance lines went up by a tonne in Selangor during the MCO. In total, 90 cases were registered over the two months, while more than 1,200 hotline calls were received.
     
  • It seems that the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit, which Dr Maddey Mohamad had wanted so dearly to attend, will be going on as scheduled. However, the government is still looking at how best to host it (one of the options is a virtual meet) given the problems Covid-19 has caused.

“Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage."

- H.L. Mencken -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • As Covid-19 cases surge again and move past the 13 million mark, the World Health Organization warns that there might be no going back to the way things used to be.
     
  • Hong Kong Disneyland is set to close again, a month after it reopened, following a spike in cases in cases in the city state. The increase in infections has also resulted in strict social distancing rules being reimposed.
     
  • A rape scandal is brewing at one of the oldest universities in the world. The University of St Andrews, in Scotland, which counts Prince William and Duchess Catherine among its alumni, is facing claims of numerous rapes and sexual assaults by members of a US-style fraternity.
     
  • Manchester City’s two-year European football ban has been overturned. The club, which is on course to qualify for next season’s Champion’s League, has, however, been slapped with a €10 million fine for breaching fair play rules. 
     
  • Yesterday was a busy one for the Grim Reaper with a number of high-profile deaths making the news. Among those who died were Zindzi Mandela, the youngest daughter of the late Nelson Mandela; Elvis Presley’s only grandson Benjamin Keough; and star of the movies Mischief and TwinsKelly Preston. Meanwhile, the remains of Glee star, Naya Rivera, who was reported missing last Wednesday, has been discovered.

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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