We're back! Well, kinda. Two of us are still down and out, so it's a one-man show for now. But what's made us feel so much better are the emails and messages we got from so many of you. Really, a Sally Field moment for us.

And now, for the news. There's really only one talking point from the weekend, isn't there? Tg Piai came and went, and by the time the weekend was over, Pakatan Harapan had been given the rudest of wake up calls. We break it down for you today.

Pakatan is officially in the doghouse

That familiar sinking feeling ...

We’re tempted to say Pakatan Harapan must be used to this feeling by now. After all, the government’s loss in Tg Piai on Saturday is its fourth by-election defeat on the trot; there’ve been nine by-elections since the last GE.

But this one, you see, is not just a loss. It’s an absolute pasting, one of the worst by-election defeats suffered by a sitting Malaysian government. But first, the numbers. The turnout was quite healthy for a by-election, with 74.5% of voters showing up at the polls. The Barisan candidate, MCA’s Wee Jeck Seng, romped to victory over Pakatan’s Karmaine Sardini, winning 25,466 votes to Karmaine’s 10,380. 

Wee, a two-time fomer MP for Tg Piai, was the candidate in the last GE, when he lost to Bersatu’s Dr Md Farid Md Rafik (whose death triggered this by-election) by a razor-thing 524-vote margin. But here’s what’s amazing – so dramatic has been Wee’s turnaround, that his 15,086-vote majority this time was even greater than his majority in his victorious 2008 and 2013 general election campaigns. In addition to that, Pakatan lost in EVERY SINGLE ONE of the 27 polling districts in Tg Piai; they’d won 11 in the last GE.

Barisan has been quick to announce that their victory is a sign they’ve won back the Chinese community, while some Pakatan politicians have been as quick to play down the results and to blame it on fake news. The truth, as always, is somewhere in the middle. Yes, politics and political rhetoric – fake or true – always plays a part.

But it’s undeniable that Chinese voters in Tg Piai spurned the government at the ballot booth. This great piece by Malaysiakini shows just how dramatic the Chinese turnaround has been – in areas with more than 80% Chinese voters, the reduction in support for Pakatan was between 27% and 38%.

Let’s not forget that all this happened despite Pakatan throwing money at voters left, right and centre in the run-up to the by-elections and bringing out the big guns on the campaign trail. Even a personal letter from Dr Mahathir Mohamad didn’t help stave off what has become his worst-ever by-election showing as PM. 

Why did this all happen? Well, it’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? Bersatu’s gradual swing to the right, never-ending issues around race and religion, problems with the Unified Examination Certificate and the introduction of Jawi/khat, and broken election promises, just to name a few, have not been received kindly by the electorate. Top that off with Bersatu’s constant attacks on DAP, as well as the perception that DAP is not fighting hard enough for the Chinese, and this perfect storm is what you get.

PM wannabe Anwar Ibrahim says the whole debacle comes as a shock to the government. But they need to get over their shock and course correct before the protest vote in Tg Piai becomes something larger in the next elections. Pakatan needs to soul search and fix the issues – most of them self-inflicted – that have led to this. And perhaps the most important question it needs to ask itself is this: Is Dr Mahathir still the right man to helm the government, or has he lost the public?

The saddest thing is that nobody – aside from Barisan and its supporters – wanted this. GE14 was supposed to have been a new dawn for Malaysia. It wasn’t and Pakatan is paying the price now.

Me, me, me, me, me

It wasn’t long after the announcement of Pakatan’s loss in Tg Piai that Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman tweeted about the defeat.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow, he said. The people have spoken, he said. My apologies to Malaysian youth for my shortcomings, he said. 

It was an ill-considered tweet and one which was really quite self-absorbed, in all honesty. While YB Bro certainly has issues – being a Maddey ‘yes man’, dining with Zakir Naik, being generally useless – they weren’t certainly central themes in this by-election. But the way he went on in his tweet, one would think HE was the candidate in Tg Piai.

This wasn’t taking responsibility – it was a young man not being able to look beyond himself even when the situation wasn’t about him. His friends(?) seemed to have been watching –  less than a day after that tweet, Saddiq got smacked by his own cadre. Bersatu Terengganu’s youth wing came out with a public statement saying that the Tg Piai loss was Saddiq’s fault because he didn’t mobilise youth properly and that he’d essentially alienated people by fighting with the Johor palace. 

Anyway, whatevs. Maybe the big takeaway from this, for Saddiq, is to open his mouth – and his Twitter app – less, and focus on his ministerial and MP responsibilities more.

All sorts of nonsense in Batu

The courts recently declared that Tian Chua’s disqualification from GE14 was invalid. Great news for Tian Chua, who by all accounts had been hard done by. 

But the only problem for the former Batu MP is that his seat is currently occupied. The current MP is P. Prabakaran, the country’s youngest lawmaker. Almost as soon as Tian Chua’s court verdict was out, a coalition of NGOs began demanding Prabakaran vacate his seat to trigger a by-election for Tian Chua to contest.

And then, on Friday, Prabakaran’s Toyota Vellfire was pelted with eggs. While police have said there’s no danger to the MP, they haven’t ruled out that the egging was triggered by the resignation demands. Side note, in case you’re wondering how a 23-year-old can afford a Vellfire, it’s because he earns, according to the MACC, RM25,700 a month. Lucky git. 

Anyway, Prabakaran is refusing to step down – and he’s absolutely right. What these NGOs are suggesting is outright abuse of the democratic process, and is extra irresponsible in these tough economic times considering by-elections cost tens of millions of ringgit. By the way, Tian Chua himself has denied being connected to calls for Prabakaran to belah.

By-elections are not a chance for a do-over just because you do not like your lawmaker. And political seats aren’t toys, and nor are they the ‘right’ of any party or individual. They belong to the rakyat, have to be earned and have to be respected.

Flotsam and jetsam

Here’s the rest of the stuff over the weekend that you should know about going into your Monday:

  • It’s been more than 1,000 days since Pastor Raymond Koh disappeared, allegedly abducted by Special Branch officers. And though a task-force has been appointed to investigate the initial findings of the Human Rights Commission, Koh’s family says it’s done pretty much eff all so far. Officially, the task-force has a month – till Dec 26 – to go. Let’s hope they make it count.
  • Ex-PM Najib Razak’s third trial is expected to begin today. Jibby is facing a charge of tampering with the 1MDB audit report together with ex-CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy. Whether the case proceeds today or not depends on High Court Judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan, who will decide on Jibby’s application for the trial date to be moved to Jan 13, 2020.
  • The Jibster may see a familiar face in court. His former deputy and current Umno supremo Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is also going to be in court facing a 47-charge trial of his own involving millions of ringgit in (allegedly, allegedly!) ill-gotten gains from Yayasan Akalbudi. Maybe Zahid and Jibby can share some quinoa and celebrate Tg Piai. 
  • Finas CEO Ahmad Idham Ahmad Nadzri insists he did not suggest Netflix be censored in Malaysia. Not surprising he’d say that, considering how initial reports suggesting that he did got bashed by all and sundry.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

- Samuel Beckett -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Gotabaya Rajapaksa has won the Sri Lankan presidential elections. Rajapaksa, the former defence head honcho who led the brutal defeat of the Tamil Tigers 10 years ago, ran a nationalist campaign based on a promise of security and a vow to end religious extremism in the Buddhist-majority country.
  • It’s madness in Hong Kong, with petrol bombs and arrows flying through the air. Yes, arrows. A police officer was shot with an arrow and students started a fire to stop police entering their campus during a siege at a university in the city.
  • This is shocking: leaked documents obtained by the New York Times show just how China organised its brutal crackdown on Muslims in Xinjiang province.
  • Saudi Arabia’s state oil company, Saudi Aramco, is gearing for IPO – and it’s set to be the most valuable IPO in history, with a value of $1.7 trillion. And the best part is that’s actually lower than the $2 trillion the country’s crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, was hoping for it to be valued at. 
  • Donald Trump’s health is apparently very good. How anybody can be alive, let alone have good health, on the diet of Coke and burgers that Trump has, is quite beyond us.

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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