After weeks of backstabbing, betrayals and backdoor shenanigans - Malaysian politics in other words - it looks like the Muhyiddin Yassin administration will finally start taking shape, with the PM announcing his Cabinet lineup today. In other news, with Parliament only meeting in two months and all legal avenues apparently shut (for now), Pakatan Harapan seems to be moving to exert pressure on Muhyiddin’s government via diplomatic channels and the foreign media. Also, Covid-19 cases in the country have spiked again, and Malaysia celebrated International Women’s Day yesterday with not much of a celebration.

Muhyiddin's merry men (and women)

Muhyiddin gets a new Cabinet today

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin (we’re still getting used to saying that) will be meeting with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong at 11am today to present his new Cabinet lineup.

And if the King has no issues or objections (and he isn’t likely to have any), Moo will unveil his lieutenants at a press conference at 5pm today, which will hopefully help put the ugly politics of the past few weeks behind us and set us all back on the path to normalcy.

Will the Cabinet be Umno-dominated? Will the guys currently facing court cases be making a return? Will we see more women ministers and deputy ministers in the line-up? No one can really say for sure right now.

There’s a bunch of speculation on who’ll be in Team Moo, including the likes of Kepala Batas MP Reezal Merican Naina Merican, and ex-ministers Khairy Jamaluddin, Hishammuddin Hussein and Ismail Sabri Yaakob. But the most intriguing name that’s been thrown into the mix is former Finance Minister and once PM-wannabe Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.

If he does make it into Cabinet, it would be another slap on ex-PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s face; the two had a famous falling out decades ago, which led to Maddey all but killing the guy’s political aspirations. 

Anyhoo, here are the other things you need to know before you take on the day:

  • Even though Bung Moktar Radin and Wanita Umno are cheering him on, Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi says he doesn’t want a ministership, adding that his proposed list of names to PM Moo included new faces, young personalities and professionals as well as Sabah and Sarawak politicians.
     
  • PAS big kahuna Abdul Hadi Awang also claims he hasn’t demanded a position and says he’d be happy be remaining a fisherman. Uh-huh.
     
  • On rumours that Moo could reach across the aisle and offer Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad his old job back, the ex-Health Minister says there’s no way he’d accept. However, the good doc says isn’t averse to working in an advisory role on a health taskforce or something like that.
     
  • The Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Services (Cuepacs) insists that only civil servants be appointed to top positions in government agencies like the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to avoid the slew of resignations that normally follow a change in government when political appointments are made. (Sidenote: We have a new Attorney-General, and the dude – Idrus Harun – is actually the brother of Election Commission boss Azhar Harun. Azhar a.k.a. Art was handpicked by the former government to head the EC and everyone expected him to tender his resignation following Pakatan’s ousting. However, it seems like he might be sticking around for a while yet.)
     
  • Meanwhile, Perlis Mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin says he’s been assured by the current man in charge (that’s Moo, in case you weren’t sure) that the new Cabinet will only feature men and women who’ve been cleared of wrongdoing by the authorities and will absolutely not include anyone with fake degrees.  

It also seems that the current PM is eager to meet the former PM to discuss, among other things, their falling out. Maddey has, however, told his former colleague to go fly a kite get rid of the “corrupt Umno people” first.

And speaking of Maddey, the great and powerful, it seems that the good doctor rejected Anwar Ibrahim’s proposal to become DPM. Lots of excuses were given, including that the timing was inappropriate and that Anwar was more in tune with politicking rather than administrating. 

To us, it’s once again a sign that the only person Mahathir wanted in power was Mahathir himself. Part of us, while sad at how things unfolded, still can’t help thinking “good riddance”. At least, when it comes to Maddey.

99 cases of coronavirus on the wall...

From 55 on Friday morning, Malaysia now has 99 Covid-19 cases, and it seems that quite a few of the new cases can be traced to Patient 26 i.e. Khazanah Nasional Bhd exec director and UDA Holdings Bhd chairman Hisham Hamdan.

According to the Health Ministry, however, 24 people from the total number have fully recovered and been discharged. Nevertheless, two people under treatment have been placed in intensive care. 

There’ve been no Covid-19 deaths recorded in Malaysia so far, of course. However, the two cases in ICU right now has certainly raised alarm bells.

That being said, the Ministry’s effort to trace undiscovered infections not linked to the already known clusters of infection have yielded negative results. So far, 567 samples have been tested, and thankfully, every one of them appears to be A-Okay.

Meanwhile, in light of all the new cases, the government has taken some extra precautionary measures; among the most major is barring cruise ships from docking here.

Now, it can be argued that the move is extreme. However, this might be our best option at present considering the Diamond Princess case, in which one-fifth of the ship’s 3,711 passengers and crew were found to have tested positive for Covid-19, and the incident involving an American passenger of another vessel testing positive upon arrival in Kuala Lumpur. Also, as Health D-G Noor Hisham Abdullah confirms, we just don’t have enough medical personnel to deploy to Malaysia’s ports to screen and treat suspected cases.

Incidentally, it looks like another run to China to bring Malaysians there home is not on the cards. Malaysia’s Ambassador to China, Raja Nushirwan Zainal Abidin, confirmed, however, that no Malaysian there have so far tested positive for the disease. So that’s good at least.

Women still have a long way to march

Despite a march in the city centre, there wasn’t a whole lot to write home about International Women’s Day yesterday, and maybe that’s the problem, really.

Yeah, celebrations this year, both here and around the world, were always gonna be muted what with everyone concerned about Covid-19. However, the fact remains that more than a hundred years from the first Women’s Day, and 25 years from the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which resolved to address issues concerning gender equality, we’re no closer to achieving fairness in the world. 

In Malaysia, back when Pakatan was in power, a big deal was made by certain folks about how there were more women in positions of power in the government. And while that may have looked on the surface to be true, the reality is the five ministers and four deputy ministers only made up 18% of the Cabinet. That’s not all that different from the seven Abdullah Ahmad Badawi racked up between 2003/2004 or the eight he put in Cabinet in 2008. Hell, even Najib Razak had 10 women (albeit only two ministers) in his 2009 Cabinet!

Can PM Moo improve on Pakatan’s less than representative figure? Considering there are only nine women MPs in Perikatan Nasional currently, we’d suggest not holding your breath.

In any case, the United Nations notes a slice of the pie isn’t equality because, and we quote the organisation’s women chief Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, “only half is an equal share and only equal is enough.”

Of course, the problem of inequality isn’t just confined to Malaysia. In fact, while the record shows that much progress has been made over the years, there’s a long way left to go. Don’t believe us, here’re some facts from the UN:

  • Around 75% of parliamentary seats worldwide and a whopping 73% of managerial positions are held by men
     
  • Women do three times more unpaid care and domestic work than men
     
  • Women make 16% less (or 35% less, depending on the country) than men for doing the same job
     
  • Also, there’re only 62% of women aged 25-54 in the workforce globally compared with 93% of men

So where do we go from here? Well, in Malaysia we could start with making sure that certain initiatives introduced by the previous government – like the Sexual Harassment Bill, which was set to be tabled during the upcoming Parliament session, and the Gender Equality Act, that was being drafted together with civil society reps – don’t die and get pushed through by the new folks in charge.

But all this change doesn’t only have to happen in the corridors of power. Regular guys can also help make the change by relieving some of the burden women face on the home front. Read this to see how some women go crazy juggling between work, spouses, children and chores.

Under pressure

Remember the Guardian’s editorial last week which accused the Yang di-Pertuan Agong of engineering a coup to topple the Pakatan Harapan government? Well, Istana Negara has now issued an official response, and the long and short of it is the Palace, like us and many other Malaysians, also feels the piece was a steaming pile of horse manure.

Okay, okay, Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin, the Comptroller of the Royal Household, was more dignified in his statement. However, he did label the article as being “appalling” and “misleading”, and pointed out that the king had acted in line with the Federal Constitution over the entire crisis.

We know some of you are probably thinking, “But hey, inaccurate or not, international organisations will write and say what they want and the whole point of press freedom means that everyone’s entitled to their opinion, right?” Well, yes, you are right. But what if the Guardian’s op-ed is all part of an elaborate plan by the previous folks in charge to exert pressure on the current government?

On Friday, Free Malaysia Today, quoting certain unnamed sources, including a Pakatan Harapan insider, reported that a new wave of “diplomatic pressure” looks to have already begun thanks to a small group of well-connected writers in Britain as well as a handful of influential politicians. And this is, the piece says, is part of Pakatan’s plan to get back to the top.

Using the international media to exert pressure on Malaysian administrations is not a new tactic, of course – it was one Anwar Ibrahim perfected and refined during his many years in PKR. Is he masterminding this, or are his international connections at play here? Who knows?

Now, there’s no way to actually prove all of this – unless, Pakatan leaders fess-up, of course – but the facts show that within the last week we’ve been treated to horribly inaccurate piece in the Guardian, a Northern Irish MP raising concerns in the House of Commons of religious freedom under Perikatan Nasional being restricted, and former Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman slamming the current government on Al Jazeera’s UpFront programme.

The Syed Saddiq interview was revealing as it was clear the ex-minister kept attempting to undermine the Moo administration by repeating over and over (to the point that he sounded like a broken record) that Moo had gotten into bed with global kleptocrats. He also continued to defend and protect Maddey, which, of course, meant that Saddiq got a right royal grilling from the host, Mehdi Hasan. 

But, here’s another thing to think about: While Pakatan politicians keep accusing PM Muhyiddin Yassin’s Perikatan Nasional government of being an illegal “backdoor” one for having toppled a legit sitting government via a coup, isn’t using diplomatic channels and the foreign media to sway public opinion just as messed up? 

Anyways, whether or not the so-called plan actually bears fruit is anyone’s guess. Nevertheless, what is certain is that the political upheaval here has caused at least one government to be concerned about returning a pile of cash (RM1 billion, to be exact) allegedly stolen from 1Malaysia Development Berhad to us. So mission success?

“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.”

- Sheryl Sandberg -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • At least four Saudi Arabian royals have been arrested in an alleged bid by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to consolidate power in the Kingdom. The Saudi royal court has, meanwhile, released pics of MBS’ father, ruler King Salman, carrying out royal duties to apparently show that the king is “fine and healthy” and that the detentions were simply being carried out enforce discipline among the royals. And you thought getting sent to your room was bad.
     
  • At least 10 people were killed when a hotel in south-eastern China that was being used as a Covid-19 quarantine centre collapsed on Saturday. It’s understood that while 48 people were rescued from the rubble, some 23 remain missing.
     
  • Even though millions of people face a major lockdown as Italy attempts to get the Covid-19 threat under control, there was some joy for folks in a small town south of Modena when red wine started flowing from their taps and showerheads thanks to a malfunction at the local winery.
     
  • Formula 1 bosses have confirmed that next weekend’s season opener in Melbourne will go on as scheduled. However, the Bahrain GP – the second race on the calendar and set for March 20-22 – will be a “participants-only event” and be held behind closed doors.

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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