The King's speech
Many doubted that Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s motion of no confidence against PM Muhyiddin Yassin would come up on May 18, during the one-day sitting of the Dewan Rakyat. Yesterday those predictions came true.
Dewan Rakyat Speaker Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof says he received a notice from Moo, in his capacity as Leader of the House, that the sitting would convene only to hear the King’s royal address at 10am and end immediately after that.
This is a huge U-turn from an earlier notice that there would be room for certain bills and other government matters to be discussed, and what it means is that there will be no debate, no discussions, no bills and, of course, no room for the motion of no confidence which was to have been brought by Dr Mahathir.
Pardon our French, but this is a load of crock. With all due respect to our much-beloved Agong, Parliament is not convened merely to listen to his address. It’s an important part of Parliament, a hugely important symbolic gesture and an opportunity for respected monarch to remind Parliamentarians of their responsibilities and of people’s expectations of them.
But, it is NOT what Parliament is convened for. Parliament is to represent the people of Malaysia, enact laws and ensure oversight over the executive and the government.
And here’s the main thing – we don’t even care about that no confidence vote for now. It can wait. There are more important issues to be discussed and debated, such as monies dispersed during the Covid-19 crisis, our pandemic exit strategies, and how to solve the economic shortfalls we face now and in the future. And that’s not even going into non-Covid issues.
The worst part is the original reason for not having Parliament sit was to avoid Covid-19 infections. Which means what they’re saying now is that it’s alright to convene to listen to a speech, but not to get down to the actual work of legislating. Talk about an ass-backwards sense of priorities!
If you think this is a travesty, you wouldn’t be alone. Maddey thinks so too. It’s not a Parliament sitting, he says. And regardless of his political intentions and machinations, he’s right. Former law minister Liew Vui Keong agrees with his ex-boss, saying Muhyiddin’s Perikatan government will pay a heavy price for “stealing” parliamentary democracy.
Probably the only silver lining in all this for Mads is that Ariff had already accepted his notice for the motion to have a vote of no confidence. With Parliament set to fully convene again in July, there is every possibility the vote will come up then.
While Muhyiddin may be safe, at least for now, from a vote of no confidence, he’s still facing a continuing rebellion from within his own party. And it’s not just from Maddey and son Mukhriz Mahathir. Six Bersatu leaders are complaining over an alleged attempt by some to convene a meeting of the party’s supreme council, sans Maddey and Maddey Jr and want action to be taken. It’s all expected to fall on deaf ears though.
Moo is also facing calls from 15 other Bersatu leaders for action to be taken against him for unilaterally deciding the party should quit Pakatan, after an audio recording allegedly revealed he had left the decision with party chairman Mahathir. They say this proves Muhyiddin had announced the exit from Pakatan without the consent of the supreme council.
To make matters worse, one supreme council member, albeit one aligned with Mahathir, has questioned Moo’s current loose pact with Umno and PAS, saying he expected Bersatu to be the most maligned political party come the GE15.
So, it looks like all of Moo’s feints, dodges and evasions may just end up giving him nothing but a stay of execution. But this man has surprised and continued to surprise all of us with his cunning and wiliness. So it’s not unimaginable that he spends the time between now and July consolidating his position and putting paid to all his challengers – Mahathir most of all – once and for all.
I am immortal (or something like that)
Of course, Muhyiddin is not the only one in danger of losing all he has “worked” for. Mukhriz, as we know, has lost the confidence of his people as Kedah MB, with the state “opposition” leader Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor already having declared Perikatan has the numbers to take over the state government from the nominally Pakatan lineup.
But a defiant Mukhriz said yesterday he’s still the Kedah MB, and proposed a confidence vote be initiated at the state legislative assembly to resolve the dispute. That proposal, however, could have been made moot by news that Perikatan had submitted statutory declarations from 23 assemblymen to the Kedah sultan, saying they had lost confidence in Mukhriz. The assemblymen included four Bersatu reps and two from PKR who had quit their own party.
All 23 SDs, apparently, had named Sanusi, who is no stranger to politics, as their choice for the next MB. And while it is still unclear what the sultan will do, it can’t be a good sign for Mukhriz. Nor would it be fantastic for democracy in Kedah, considering with only 36 state seats in the state, Perikatan would control more than two-thirds of the assembly.
Following news of the SDs being submitted to the Sultan, Mukhriz hit out at the four Bersatu reps who were among the 23, calling them traitors and saying this is a season for betrayal. We (kinda) feel sorry for Maddey Jr, but to be fair, the four Bersatu assemblymen had to choose between supporting their president or their chairman (and by extension, his son), as clearly the battle lines had been drawn much earlier.
Meanwhile, Umno VP Mahdzir Khalid has called on Mukhriz to step down and “not make things difficult for various quarters”. He says doing so would also ensure continuity in the administration of the state. OK Mahdzir. We’re sure Mukhriz is gonna listen to you.
In neighbouring Perak, despite continuing on as MB, Bersatu’s Ahmad Faizal Azumu may face some problems down the line as the 10-person exco lineup is now dominated by Umno assemblymen. There are six Umno reps, with the other four seats shared equally between Bersatu and PAS. So, Umno will be the dominant power even if Bersatu holds the state government. Or so says state opposition leader Abdul Aziz Bari. But it’s worth noting that when Bersatu was still with Pakatan, Faizal’s party was also the minority in the state administration. So, this just looks like a case of somebody trying to stir the pot.
Faizal also came under criticism from former State Speaker Ngeh Koo Ham, who is claiming to be the victim of sabotage. He said, prior to stepping down as speaker at the assembly sitting on Tuesday, he had found that his microphone was not working, and thus preventing him from saying anything. Ngeh said he’d tested the mic beforehand and it had been working, and accused the Perikatan government of assaulting democracy. All very dramatic.
There was no shortage of politically-tinged stories yesterday, and we’re gonna try to keep it as brief as possible:
- Maszlee Malik has questioned whether it was right for Umno’s Mahdzir Khalid to be appointed Tenaga Nasional Bhd chairman, saying he had joined Bersatu because the party promised to fight graft.
- Here’s the kicker though. Maszlee himself has come under fire after leaked messages on a WhatsApp group chat showed he’d accepted a position as chairman of an advisory panel for MARA Corp. It was only later that it was officially announced that Maszlee had turned down the post, ostensibly because this was in line with the mandate given to him by his constituents.
- A PKR Youth leader has lodged a police report against party president Anwar Ibrahim claiming that the latter had shared fake news regarding the number of undocumented foreign workers and the operations of betting shops during the movement control order. Considering the rash of disciplinary action PKR has taken against members lately, Teluk Kemang PKR Youth secretary Farid Hashim may just find himself being given the boot soon.
- We really didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at this one, so we saved it for last. Former PM and BN chairman Najib “Jibby” Razak claims that the Pakatan government fell because of his sumpah laknat against those who had slandered him over the murder of Mongolian beauty Altantuya Shaariibuu. He also claimed Pakatan would still be in power if they had continued programmes BN had initiated when it was in government and is calling on Perikatan to revive BN-era megaprojects.
Another minister caught violating MCO?
Do we have another government leader who has broken regulations under the MCO?
At least five police reports have been lodged against de facto Religious Affairs Minister Zulkifli Mohamad for allegedly violating the MCO. The reports, filed earlier this month, alleged he’d invited several individuals to his office to discuss the planned translation of a holy book. If true, then Zulkifli would be the second federal government leader to have violated the MCO, after Deputy Health Minister Noor Azmi Ghazali, who together with a Perak exco member, had pleaded guilty to doing so.
Government leaders, especially, should know better than to go against what their own government had ordered. After all, if we plebs can stick to the regulations of the MCO (well, most of us anyway), why can’t they? They are, after all, not above the law.
Thankfully, most Malaysians don’t follow the bad examples being set by these VIPs. In fact, according to senior minister (security cluster) Ismail Sabri Yaakob, compliance rates are pretty high, at a national average of 95%, with Penang, Pahang and Melaka recording the highest rates at 98%. We still don’t know just how these rates are calculated, but bravo Malaysians anyway.
Meanwhile, the government will launch a short- and medium-term recovery plan soon to revive the economy. This is something really needed, we all know, what with the economy suffering considerably from the shutting down of various sectors during the MCO. Malaysia’s GDP, in fact, slowed to a growth of just 0.7% in the first quarter of the year, though it’s amazing that there was any growth at all. The good news is that, with the reopening of many economic sectors, the governor of Bank Negara Malaysia believes economic activities will improve much in the second half of the year.
Anyhoo, to cut things short, here are some of the other, more relevant Covid-19 stories in brief:
- Health authorities are urging all passengers aboard AirAsia flights AK5742 and AK5740 to Tawau on May 1 and May 4, respectively, to get themselves tested after some individuals on both flights were found to be positive for Covid-19.
- Petaling is now the only district in Selangor to be still a red zone with 61 active cases. This follows a drop into yellow for Gombak, which now has 35 active cases. Nationwide, there are a total of eight districts still classified as red zones.
- The government has decided that all government departments, especially service counters, will now go fully operational.
- Yesterday saw courts going operating again, but the Court of Appeals, which normally has a five-person bench, saw its panel reduced to the minimum requirement of three judges sitting.
- Despite restaurants now allowed to take in some diners thanks to the relaxed regulations of the CMCO, many are wary of doing so, opting for the safer option of takeaways.
- Putrajaya and Tehran have agreed to cooperate in the fight against Covid-19 following a phone conversation between PM Muhyiddin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Special offer; one day only
Can we say flip-flop? It appears things have changed yet again when it comes to how we tackle this little thing called Covid-19 during the upcoming Hari Raya festivities.
After saying that Hari Raya visiting would be allowed for no more than 20 people at a time within state boundaries, the government has now “clarified” that it will be allowed only on the first day of Aidilfitri and that instead of being 20 people AT A TIME, it will be for 20 people IN TOTAL. The same goes for Kaamatan and Gawai.
We’re glad the government is seeing sense over maintaining some sort of control over people’s movements during the festive period, but it’s starting to look more and more like these guys are just making it up as they go along.
They start with some half-arsed plan, wait for the public outcry, rush to fix the problems, and then insist the final result is what they planned all along and that people just didn’t understand them. Check out your newsletters on May 11 and May 12 to see how the government’s narrative has constantly been shifting over this issue.
Any gatherings for the three festivals, though permitted now, may possibly change, too, if Health DG Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah deems it necessary. This is according to the latest Federal Government Gazette on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Measures Within Local Infected Areas), which also allows for full-capacity flights to and from Sabah and Sarawak, though nightclubs, pubs, gambling and lottery activities are still prohibited.
In fact, Noor Hisham has warned Malaysians to adhere to Covid-19 SOPs, whether in Parliament or at Raya gatherings, saying that a meeting of two people could be just as dangerous as a gathering of 20 if SOPs are not followed.
Noor Hisham said Malaysia’s success in keeping Covid-19 numbers here low was because people adhered to Covid-19 SOPs and the MCO. That has brought Malaysia’s R-naught rate down from 3.5 earlier to 0.3 right now.
(NOTE: The R-naught rate is an indication of the level of contagiousness of a disease. An R-naught rate of 4, for instance, means that one person could possibly infect four others. The goal is to keep the R-naught rate of less than 1 for a sustained period of time to end a pandemic.)
But Noor Hisham also warns that there needed to be vigilance on everyone’s part, or the R-naught rate would increase again. This was also the same tack taken by a senior doctor, who warned that another wave of infections could hit Malaysia should complacency set in.
As it stands now, Malaysia has consistently managed to keep new daily Covid-19 cases in the double-digit range, unlike many other countries which are hit by triple- or quadruple-digit new cases daily. Yesterday saw 37 new cases, bringing the total number of infections to 6,779. Meanwhile, there were 58 recoveries (5,281 in total for a 77.9% recovery rate). However, there were two deaths, making the death toll 111.
As for whether the government’s decision to ease restrictions by instating the CMCO is working, Noor Hisham says this could only be determined after May 18 (there’s that date again). This is because the 14-day incubation period for Covid-19 would end on that date and it would be only after this that statistics could prove whether or not easing the restrictions was a good idea.
“We all know what Parliament is, and we are all ashamed of it.”
- Robert Louis Stevenson -
IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS
- Africa, which has so far been largely spared as far as the Covid-19 pandemic is concerned, is now facing outbreaks all over the continent. Globally, there are nearly 4.3 million infections, with almost 295,000 deaths.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) is stressing that the cause of Covid-19 still needs to be identified, but a study in Hong Kong believes the Chinese horseshoe bat was the original carrier of the virus.
- Meanwhile, WHO has warned that Covid-19 “may never go away” and warned off any attempt to predict its end.
- Aircraft production giant Airbus is looking at restructuring and possible “deep cuts” in jobs as it prepares for a prolonged coronavirus crisis.
- US President Donald Trump has extended by another year an executive order preventing American companies from using telecommunications equipment made by foreign companies deemed national security threats. The order is aimed mainly at Chinese company Huawei which the government has claimed posea a security risk as it could potentially be obliged to pass on information to Beijing.