Parliament may have only been convened for a couple of hours on Monday, but even that short sitting was enough to show everybody just how wafer-thin PM Muhyiddin Yassin's majority support is.

In other news, Anwar Ibrahim goes missing from a press conference, Tommy Thomas sets the record straight one more time, and superheroes appear on business registers.

The power of two

Two's a crowd

In the days following his appointment as the eighth Malaysian PM, Muhyiddin Yassin in a public address said that while his appointment may not have been by way of the ballot box, he did truly have the support of a majority of the Dewan Rakyat. Well, folks, it turns out that Moo wasn’t lying. He does, in fact, have a parliamentary majority … of two!

 

Monday’s two-hour Dewan Rakyat sitting may have been carefully planned to avoid any real confrontation and questions about the PM and his government’s mandate. However, seating arrangements for the meeting (which showed a mere 114 MPs aligned to the government) as well as a subsequent complaint by Sri Aman’s Masir Kujat that he’d been wrongly forced to sit with the uncool Perikatan Nasional kids (which took Moo’s numbers down to 113) have surely illustrated to the rakyat just how precarious the PM’s position is. 

 

Is it any wonder then that Muhyiddin appeared to be doing his darndest, in the runup to Monday’s meeting, to stop his party colleague and now nemesis Dr Mahathir Mohamad from tabling that confidence vote in Parliament – or for even having a proper sitting, for that matter?

Is it also any wonder that Moo has been doling out the goodies (GLC positions, special envoy roles, etc) left, right and centre over the past few months? Clearly, the message is that loyalty shall be richly rewarded as Moo does everything he can to cling on to power. It’s also why Moo has been doing all he can to avoid a proper sitting of Parliament – he wants to wait until he can shore up more power. But with him being in such a weak-ass position, how long will it be before the tail starts wagging the dog?

 

And speaking of Moo’s old nemesis, PM7 Mahathir was decked out in his official duds and present on Monday, though he was made to sit in an unfamiliar place, across the aisle from the government parliamentarians, and not even at in the Opposition’s numero uno position. That spot – of the Parliamentary Opposition Leader – was occupied by frenemy Anwar Ibrahim. Maddey, meanwhile, was many seats down, and you can be sure he was none too happy about the demotion.

 

You know who’d have been pleased as punch, though? Sheraton Hotel loyalty club member Azmin Ali, who was positioned just a seat down from MooMoo. Traditionally, it’s the Deputy Prime Minister who occupies the seat closest to the PM. So while our dear PM8 has maintained that he has no deputy, Azmin’s place on the government front bench, ahead of fellow senior ministers Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Fadillah Yusof and Radzi Jidin, AA will surely be taken to mean that he’s the de facto DPM.

 

Anyhoo, in terms of Parliamentary business, Monday’s sitting was, masks and social distancing aside, pretty straightforward, with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah delivering the opening address and the government’s MPs generally, thumping their tables in agreement. You can watch the whole speech here, of course. However, if you don’t have the 28 minutes to spare, here’re three main points to note:

  1. The country cannot afford to go through another period of political uncertainly, especially now with the rakyat getting hard hit by Covid-19. That’s why the Royal address, our King says, was set as the only item on the Monday’s agenda.
  2. In February, when everything was topsy-turvy following the Sheraton Move, the King had asked Mahathir to stay on as PM. However, the old man was adamant about relinquishing his position.
  3. Muhyiddin was appointed PM after the King found that he, more than anyone else, commanded the confidence a majority of MPs.

Naturally, some fellas have taken His Majesty’s speech to mean that Perikatan is legit, and should no longer be challenged or called a “backdoor government”. However, while it is true that Moo’s appointment was done by the book (read: per The Federal Constitution), that hardly means Perikatan is free from challenge or criticism. 

 

The job of elected reps in Parliament is to bring up matters affecting the rakyat. And if one of those issues happens to be related to the manner in which power was shifted and was seized back in February, then those MPs are well within their rights. To suggest otherwise, as Mahathir says, might mean that we’d be better to just shutting down Parliament for good.

 

Incidentally, in case you’re wondering, PM Moo’s two-seat majority is a new record low. The PM with the slimmest majority before this was Maddey with 10 seats, in the immediate aftermath of the 14th General Election.

What makes it worse is that the Perikatan Nasional alliance isn’t a formalised coalition – which means Moo’s allies could choose to break ranks with him at any time and on any matter. Legislation could prove to be a nightmare. More importantly, the threat of party hoppers will be ever present. One hop to the other side and we have gridlock. Two hops – or two stopped heartbeats – and the government falls. 

What the country needs in order to have some sense of, well, sense, is for Parliament to be dissolved and a general election called as soon as it is safe to do so. 

Last, but not least – yesterday’s sitting also reminded us that our parliamentarians can be absolute dingbats. Exhibit A: ex-minister Teresa Kok. Our friend put up a post on FB preaching about how all MPs wore masks and practiced social distancing in Parliament. And she accompanied that post with a pic of herself and ex-ministers Teo Nie Ching, Yeo Bee Yin and Hannah Yeoh posing with ex-PM Maddey. And they were all standing shoulder-to-shoulder without their masks on

Najib Razak, of course, noticed this and called Teresa out for not following Parliament’s SOP. Good point, Jibby. Except for the part where you too mugged for pics without your mask on.  

Honestly, why does it seem like the only ones who can’t use their brains and follow the protocols are those supposed to be in charge of steering us out of this whole mess?

Where o where can Anwar be?

So yeah, Monday’s Dewan Rakyat sitting lasted a mere two hours. However, that was hardly the end of that ’cos immediately after, Opposition MPs, led by Maddey held a press conference in Putrajaya to discuss the sitting as well as their failed attempt to kick out Moo by way of a Parliamentary motion. Here’s the thing though – said presser was conducted sans Anwar Ibrahim, the Opposition leader, and 38 other PKR lawmakers.

 

It’s no secret that Anwar and Mahathir haven’t been on the best of terms since the old man stopped being PM. However, the two have managed to be civil enough to issue joint statements together and even meet. So why wasn’t he up front, at the main table, answering questions alongside Mads, DAP chief Lim Guan Eng, Amanah’s Mohamad Sabu and Warisan president Shafie Apdal? 

 

Well, depending on who you believe, Anwar either had an interview with the New York Times or did not feel like being “used” by Mads yet again. As for the absence of PKR MPs, who knows? It could well be they were notified about the event quite late, as one of them has claimed. But are we really expected to believe that every single one of them had something better to do?

 

Seriously, it’s bad form, any way you look at it because those joint Pakatan statements aside (another one was issued shortly after Monday’s PC), a lack of visible unity is certainly gonna make the people cautious about supporting the Opposition again. 

 

It’s true, a united front won’t actually guarantee anything. (Remember all that bickering about power transition when these jokers were in power?) However, if these dudes can’t even maintain the pretence of unity now, what chance they’ll actually be able to form a working a government if a bid to unseat Moo actually succeeds? 

 

Anyhow, the press conference saw Mahathir in the lead and as expected, potshots were taken at his former Pakatan colleague Muhyiddin, with Mads calling him the current PM a “rogue” who hasn’t kept to his word. 

 

Hmmm. We can understand the sentiment, of course, especially as it’s hard to deny how Moo, who once attacked Umno, see no problem in working with the perompak, penyangak, penyamun dan pencuri he once claimed to despise. Still, aren’t the criticisms typical Mahathir? Both his successors before this were lambasted for apparently being not good enough. And now, the old man’s turned his sights to Moo.

 

Honestly, this is as tiring as those endless Spider-man reboots.

Tommy T strikes back ... again

The saga of Riza Aziz and The Missing Millions continued Monday with the government’s former top lawyer Tommy Thomas, once more, attempting to set the record straight that he played no part securing a deal for Najib Razak’s stepson. 

 

Actually, not only did TT claim to have had no hand in the decision that will see Riza go free in exchange for returning less than half of the sum allegedly  misappropriated, the ex-Attorney-General also wants it to be crystal clear he’d never ever, ever have okay-ed such a stupid deal.

 

In a nine-point statement issued on Monday, Tommy noted that the United States Department of Justice (DoJ), which has already dispatched billions to us, would’ve returned the allegedly pilfered monies to Malaysia with or without Riza being let off the hook. As such, there was absolutely no need for the prosecution/court to have granted him a discharge not amounting to acquittal (DNAA). The lawyer pointed out further that he’d scrutinised and analysed every single case he prosecuted during his tenure as A-G, and that same rigour had been called on when he decided to charge Jibby’s stepson. In short, he knew there was a good chance of winning, so letting the film producer off was truly silly.

 

Tommy also went on to whack his successor Idrus Harun’s claim that the former A-G had “agreed in principle” to the discharge, saying not only was no decision made, such a thing involving billions, if it had happened, would certainly have been in writing. 

 

Idrus, however, has yet to respond. Though truthfully, it’s not like anything would be clearer if he did.

 

What is abundantly clear though is that regardless of who’s at fault, Jibby’s stepson, who’d been facing five money laundering charges involving US$248mil (RM1.25bil) in 1Malaysia Development Berhad cash, is now a free man and only needs to return US$108mil (RM470mil) to ensure he stays outta jail. And that, let’s face it, is bloody ridiculous.

 

By the way, the Prime Minister’s Office has also attempted to set the record straight that PM Muhyiddin played no part in the decision to drop the case. 

 

So many people have tried washing their hands off of this mess that we’re surprised there’s still any hand soap left on supermarket shelves. 

No place for superheros

Malaysia’s series of movement control orders (MCO) and a general sense of vigilance and responsibility may be helping keep the number of Covid-19 cases under control. But you know what ain’t helping? Covidiots who either refuse to register themselves upon entering business premises or who choose to sign in with fake names and/or phone numbers.

 

Noting that “Batman”, “Superman” and “Badang” often make appearances in registers, Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob warned that fake IDs and numbers would only lead to problems should infections be detected and contact tracing be required. We get it. Having to put down your deets just to grab a bite may seem rather Orwellian. But now’s probably not the time to worry about Big Brother lah.

 

The number of infections may be manageable, true. However, lest anyone think we’re already out of the woods, yesterday’s numbers marked an increase from the previous day (47 from Sunday’s 22). Also, while we’ve had no Covid-19-related deaths since Saturday, there’re still 1,213 active cases, with 13 people in intensive care.

 

In fact, Health Director-General Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah Health has once more warned that taking the eye off the ball and insisting on doing stuff like travelling home for Hari Raya, could result in a spike of infections. The good doc further added that an MCO exit strategy would also not be considered until there’s a high compliance of standard operating procedures by Malaysians.

He’s a smart guy, our Noor Hisham, but we’re wondering if this sense. Firstly, we keep hearing about how MCO compliance rates are getting better and better. The last was just last week when we were told the national compliance rate is 95% on average. So how much higher does Noor Hisham expect compliance rates to be? 

Secondly, why wait for the last minute before discussing and communicating our exit strategy? Whatever happened to the old maxim, forewarned is forearmed? This exit strategy isn’t and shouldn’t be some big national secret, but something everybody should know and prepare for. Well, that’s our humble opinion anyway. 

 

Here’re the rest of the coronavirus-related news items in brief:

  • Despite the repeated warnings, people continue to attempt to cross state borders and balik kampung for the holidays. Authorities have stopped and turned back 2,931 vehicles in the past three days.
     
  • Nothing’s settled yet, but the government’s considering penalising parents who insist on gallivanting with their kids and putting them in danger.
     
  • Five Myanmar nationals who were recently deported from Malaysia have tested positive for Covid-19, The Irrawaddy reports. The news portal quotes a Myanmar Embassy exec as saying the five had been held at immigration detention centres in Malaysia for months prior to being sent home.
     
  • Part of Taman Tun Dr Ismail market will be closed from today as a precautionary measure after a number of traders there were screened. The partial closure will be in effect until June 1.
     
  • More than 20,000 entrepreneurs are expected to benefit from the government’s Entrepreneur and Cooperative Recovery Plan. The plan involves 30 programmes that are set to be implemented in two stages, from May-Dec 2020 (Phase 1) and Jan-May 2021 (Phase 2).

“Though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable.”

- Thomas Jefferson -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Results from human trials of a Covid-19 vaccine appear to be showing positive results. According to Moderna, the American company running the trials, eight participants were found to have produced antibodies following administration of the vaccine.
     
  • Nearly 200 million meth tablets and more than 500kg of crystal meth have been seized by Myanmar in what is being described as Asia’s biggest drug bust in decades. The bust was made near Lwe Kham village in the country’s Shan state.
     
  • While English Premier League clubs resume training with an eye on a June restart of the league, football bosses over in Scotland have voted to end the season there and declared Glasgow Celtic as champions.
     
  • The Acropolis in Greece and Saint Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City are among the European tourist attractions that have reopened to visitors. Strict health and social distancing protocols have, however, been put in place at the sites.
     
  • Cyclone Amphan is headed for the India-Bangladesh border. The cyclone couldn’t have come at worse time, what with both countries recording more Covid-19 cases and deaths,

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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