Despite recent squabbles and on-going backbiting, PM Muhyiddin Yassin insists Bersatu's alliance with Umno and PAS is crucial for the unity of Malaysia's Malay-Muslims. How long this ménage à trois can last, though, is anyone's guess.

In other news, rumours abound that Anwar Ibrahim's prepared to quit as opposition leader if he fails to show majority support in the Dewan Rakyat, the Bugaya and Gerik by-elections' set for Jan, and did the oldest man in the world succumb to Covid-19 in Sabah?

United they stand

Three's company

Bersatu’s current alliance with Umno and PAS is the will of God, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has declared. And this union, our glorious leader said, will lead to greater unity of the country’s Malay-Muslims. Alright, guv’nor.

MooMoo, you’ll recall, has come under intense pressure from Umno in recent weeks for apparently sidelining that party’s men and women in favour of his own peeps. However, during his policy speech for the third Bersatu AGM on Saturday, the Bersatu president was all about mending fences and trying to convince party members that its partnership with Umno and PAS is solid.

The PM has admitted, of course, that the path ain’t an easy one to tread. But for the greater good and a stronger “jamaah” (Arabic for congregation), it’s vital the trio sticks together, or so he said, even if it makes for a very uncomfortable love triangle.

If you think you’ve heard this kinda rhetoric before, you ain’t wrong ’cos Malay-Muslim unity is essentially what Muafakat Nasional, that political marriage between Umno and PAS, is all about. However, with the honeymoon between that duo looking to be now over — they’ve agreed to contest the next general election with their own logos, for one — what seems quite clear is that Moo is attempting to bind PAS to his side.

Will it work? Who knows?! But the rumblings over the past couple of weeks plus a quote by an Umno bigwig about PAS favouring Bersatu appear to suggest Bersatu has indeed become the Islamist party’s main squeeze.

Anyhoo, what’s funny about Moo’s talk of strengthening Malay-Muslim unity is that a motion for the setting up a new non-Bumiputera wing was also greenlit during his party’s AGM. FYI, only bumiputeras are allowed to be full party members, while non-bs are “associate” members.

Bersatu sec-gen Hamzah Zainudin has said the approval “proves” the party’s openness and inclusivity. Here’s the million ringgit question: How can there be openness and inclusivity when the party’s president has made it crystal the main struggle is all for one community?! 

Also, how big a role/ how much clout can non-bumiputera “associate” members actually have in terms of positions and contributing ideas? Or is this all a ploy to give Bersatu a multiracial veneer? 

In other AGM news, Bersatu has officially abolished the post of chairperson, the position once occupied by former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad. In so doing, certain members have attempted a rewrite of history. 

Take Youth Chief Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad’s remarks, for example, that sought to lay every bit of the party’s success at MooMoo’s feet.

According to Fayhsal, everything Bersatu has achieved in its short life has been ’cos of Moo Yassin, and that includes breaking Barisan Nasional’s monopoly in GE14 and giving Malaysia two PMs. 

Incidentally, the Cambridge Dictionary defines brown-nosing as “trying too hard to please someone, especially someone in a position of authority, in a way that other people find unpleasant.” We just thought you should know that.

PS – In kinda related Bersatu news, one-time PKR strongman Azmin Ali has claimed the fall of the Pakatan Harapan government and the establishment of Perikatan Nasional was all Maddey Mohamad’s idea

The current PN minister has said the plan was for Mahathir continue being PM but with a far larger majority. However, a spanner was thrown in the works when Mads resigned as premier. It was only then that Moo stepped in like a knight in shining armour (allegedly! allegedly!) to save the day.

On Azmin’s falling out with Anwar, the former PKR deputy president has said he’d always supported the PKR big boss, but his former boss became a bitter person after being released from prison. 

Now, we dunno about you guys, but to us, whether or not Anwar is a bitter isn’t the point. What should only matter is whether AI is all about doing good for the country or fulfilling his own aspirations to ascend that throne in Putrajaya.

Oh and if you need a bit of a laugh this morning, Min had also claimed he was never politically ambitious! L-O-L!

PPS – Despite Moo appearing to mends ties with Umno and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi telling his mates not to pressure MooMoo about stuff like the Deputy PM’s post, some of his colleagues are still attempting to stir shit. But hey, perhaps backbiting is just a part of this particular love story.

Will Anwar stay or will he go?

The opposition and Anwar Ibrahim have gotten a right bollocking since that apparent bungle in the Dewan Rakyat last week during the Budget 2021 vote. And now it seems the PM-forever-in-waiting may be prepared to step down from leading the opposition if he’s unable to prove he has the backing of a majority of MPs.

In case you sudah lupa, Anwar’s claimed back in Sept to have majority MP support to take over the gomen back à la PN, but that claims been untested. Instead, he instructed opposition comrades not to seek a bloc vote on Thursday which would’ve revealed his and PM Moo’s support numbers (you can read here to get the low down on the drama over Friday’s budget vote).

Anwar’s office has since denied any plans of his resigning, of course. However, according to several MPs with apparent first-hand knowledge of what’s what, it’s true. Anwar’ll concentrate instead on strengthening PKR for the next GE. 

Make of these two statements what you will. The point, of course, is not whether Anwar stays or goes. But that the federal budget, which the opposition previously lambasted as being inadequate to deal with the fallout from Covid-19, has now passed the policy stage in Parliament’s lower house.

Anwar has since claimed the move to allow the gomen’s money plan to pass Thursday’s prelim stage is a win for the people. This is as the gomen’s made a tonne of concessions and tweaks – like an automatic moratorium on loan repayments for those in the B40 category – that’ll benefit everyday Malaysians. 

Yet, the Pakatan Harapan boss has also claimed the opposition will continue fighting the budget at the committee stage from today right up to Dec 15. In any case, win, lose or draw, when the time for the final vote comes, the question is what Anwar’ll do if he still doesn’t have majority support of the House? Or what if he does?

Also, bear in mind that the matter at the heart of this power play is our national budget. If it’s ultimately rejected, what happens to the allocations for frontliners, civil servants and the rest of us? Crucially too, what happens to the government?

The opposition’s made a big deal about the rakyat’s needs being why it’s opposed to PM MooMoo’s money plan. So, we hope Anwar and co. are truly fighting for our best interests and have considered any likely repercussions to their actions.

While you’d expect Anwar’s eternal frenemy Mads Mahathir, one of the 13 MPs who’d attempted to force a bloc vote in the Dewan, to be especially pissed at Anwar’s manoeuvrings, several PKR peeps are also critical. This includes his own daughter, Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah.

Now, Izzah’s statement, issued together with PKR MPs Akmal Nasir (Johor Bahru) and Hassan Karim (Pasir Gudang), may not necessarily show that she’s at war with daddy-o. Still, it does perhaps suggest that even the people closest to Anwar are anxious about his plans and worried about what comes next for the opposition and the rakyat.

Covid questions and other matters

Malaysia’s Covid-19 numbers have increased significantly over the past three days, and once more it looks like the atrocious living conditions of foreign workers is contributing to a surge in cases.

But first, in terms of the most recent numbers, more than a thousand cases were recorded daily from Friday to Sunday bringing the country’s cumulative infection total to 64,485. While the number of recoveries has also been high – 3,591 people over the last three days – the death toll’s increased too, by 9. The fatality rate now stands at 357.

As horrible as the recent figures are, though, the most shocking stat to come out of the weekend is the age of one of the deceased – an undocumented migrant in Sabah who was 130 years old (allegedly! allegedly!)

Did the deceased recently arrive in Malaysia? Has he been here for over a hundred years? Was he working immediately prior to his demise? None of these things appears to be known. The Health Ministry has said the pakcik’s true age is hard to determine as he had no identification documents. All the authorities had to go on were statements from the victim’s next-of-kin.

Well, if true, better call in the folks at the Guinness World Records! For the record, Jeanne Louise Calment of France is acknowledged as the oldest person to have ever lived. Calment was 122 years and 164 days when she died in 1997.

Anyhoo returning to the numbers, yesterday once more saw a huge surge of cases being recorded among workers at construction sites, and as before, folks like us are asking: what the hell’s gonna be done?!

Health DG Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has said action needs to be taken pronto to address the risk of confined, crowded and generally crappy accommodation (duh!). However, the likes of the Malaysian Medical Association have lambasted the gomen for lacking the will to tackle the situation head-on. 

For example, thanks to changes to specific laws, employers are liable for fines of up to RM50,000 per worker for failing to provide accommodation that meets basic standards of hygiene and safety. 

The new rule took effect on June 1 this year, but enforcement only appears to have begun last week! And at least one company that was in the news last week for the allegedly horrible condition of its worker dorms has claimed it has yet to be contacted over penalties.

Here’re a few more Covid-19 updates from the weekend:

  • Malaysia has signed deals for the procurement of vaccines for 30% of the population. The agreements, PM Moo Yassin says, have been signed with drugmaker Pfizer and the Covax facility. 
     
  • Meanwhile, clinical trials will begin here next month for an experimental Covid-19 vaccine that’s being developed by China. The trials will involve 3,000 participants.
     
  • In other news vaccine news, the gomen is set to embark on a campaign to stamp out misinformation on Covid immunisation. Hmmm … so long as it’s about Covid-19 and not a propaganda ploy, we think this is a good move.
     
  • Funeral events are believed to be contributing to a surge in Covid-19 cases in Kota Belud, Sabah. It’s understood that health officials are finding it challenging to convey the need for physical distancing and the like to communities in the affected areas.
     
  • Several jewellery shops in Kelantan were slapped with fines after checks found that a rush for gold by customers had led to many stores failing to adhere to and enforce health protocols like physical distancing. Gold prices have, incidentally, fallen quite a bit since the beginning of November. 

Twin by-elections on the cards

The Election Commission (EC) has set Jan 16 as polling day for both the Sabah state seat of Bugaya and the Gerik parliamentary seat in Perak. But while the election date as well as nomination (Jan 4) and early voting (Jan 12) dates have been determined, it’s understood further discussions on the polls are scheduled to be held by the EC, National Security Council and Health Ministry. 

Previously, Batu Sapi parliamentary polls were initially set for Dec 5, but a state of emergency declared there earlier this month has resulted in the elections there having to be shelved.

The elections in Bugaya and Gerik are being called following the deaths of Gerik MP Hasbullah Osman on Nov 16 and Bugaya assemblyperson Manis Muka Mohd Darah on Nov 17.

By-elections aside, here’re some other highlights from the weekend:

  • Putrajaya has decided to withdraw an RM2 billion loan guarantee for the Penang LRT project. The man who used to call the shots at the Finance Ministry, Saudara Lim Guan Eng, is claiming that it’s a blatant case of “political revenge”.

    In case you’re wondering, the Federal gomen isn’t coughing up the moolah for the project, just guaranteeing that Penang can pay back the loan it’s planning to take, so really, there shouldn’t be much of an issue. Unfortunately, Money Man Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz doesn’t see it as such. He has said the gomen’s “revised revenue and income projections” mean it can’t afford the guarantee at this particular time. R-r-r-ight. 
     
  • In other financial matters, Zaf has warned that foreign investors will think twice before setting up shop here if Putrajaya imposes a windfall tax on companies that are making money. A co-founder of Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman’s new party Muda, however, essentially said Zaf’s talking out of his ass ’cos Malaysia has had windfall taxes in place since 1998.

    The windfall tax issue was brought up recently by SS who said glovemaker Top Glove should be slapped with a windfall tax for allegedly not seeing to its workers’ welfare despite the company having profited from the Covid-19 pandemic.
     
  • A 42-year-old man was arrested after he allegedly flung his step-grandson from an apartment in Setapak. The m̶o̶n̶s̶t̶e̶r̶ man allegedly attempted to rape his sleeping step-daughter (the child’s mom) and was enraged when he was stopped by his wife and other step-daughters. The four-year-old was killed in the tragic incident.
     
  • The debate on DBKL’s liquor ban rages on with the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) proposing that regulations might work better than an outright ban. We couldn’t agree more!

“Most of these love triangles are wrecktangles.”

- Jacob Braude -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Thousands of farmers in India are continuing to protest against new legislation they claim could have a devastating impact on crop prices. Protest leaders have declined to discuss the issue with the government and have said they’ll demonstrate until their demands are met. 
     
  • A Singaporean woman, who contracted Covid-19 while pregnant, has given birth to a baby with coronavirus antibodies. The World Health Organization has said it’s not yet clear if a pregnant woman with Covid can pass antibodies to her foetus, but this appears to be precisely what’s happened in this particular case.
     
  • That strange and shiny monolith in the Utah desert has now mysteriously disappeared! But while it’s unclear who actually removed the structure, what does seem quite certain is that aliens had nothing to do with it!
     
  • David Prowse, the English actor who played Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, has passed away aged 85. Star Wars fans recognise the 6-foot-7 Prowse as being the physical embodiment of Vader, although it is James Earl Jones’ voice that’s heard in the films.
     
  • Mike Tyson’s much-anticipated return to the ring showed glimpses of the 54-year-old former boxing great’s glorious past. The eight-round exhibition match against fellow champ Roy Jones Jr., 51, however, ended in a draw
     
  • The Bahrain Formula 1 GP was overshadowed by a major crash that saw French driver Romain Grosjean’s car explode into flames and split in two. Grosjean, who had clipped fellow driver Daniil Kvyat’s car before hitting the barriers, thankfully, escaped unhurt.

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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