It’s not 100% certain yet … not until the Prime Minister gets the consent of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, and some sort of announcement is made. Nevertheless, the writing on the wall is crystal: Pakatan Harapan is dead and with it the dream of Malaysia Baru and Anwar Ibrahim’s hope of becoming the country's eighth PM.

But why and how did this all happen, and what occurs next?

In other news – and let’s face it, everything else is way, way, way behind the No. 1 story today in terms of importance and priority – all 34 charges against the LTTE 12 get dropped, and the EPF announces modest dividends that most people seem okay with.

Closing time

Putus Harapan

Brace yourselves. This is gonna be a long entry as there’s a lot to unpack here.

The story in one line is this: Pakatan Harapan is dead, and if PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad gets his way, there’ll soon be a new bunch of fellows – comprising reps from Bersatu, PKR, Umno, PAS, MIC, MCA, Parti Warisan Sabah, and Gabungan Parti Sarawak – setting up shop in Putrajaya.

It’s far from certain at this point just how many MPs from the so-called new coalition Mahathir has on his side, but some reports claim it’s at least 130, which means the old man would be able to ditch Pakatan and lead the 222-seat Dewan Rakyat as boss of the still officially unchristened (and unholy) pact.

Pakatan and current allies Warisan and UPKO have 139 seats in the Dewan right now. However, any exiting (of Mahathir’s Bersatu, Warisan and/or the PKR MPs aligned to its deputy president Azmin Ali) will certainly tip the scales against the present ruling coalition. 

If you’re interested in the numbers game, you can check out the various permutations here. But the long and short of it is Anwar Ibrahim said it best when he remarked on Sunday night that there’d been a betrayal, plain and simple, in utter defiance of agreements and the mandate handed to Pakatan in the 14th general election.

Let’s face it too – there’s a fair bit of karma at play here. Those of you old enough to remember may want to cast your minds back to 2008 when Anwar tried to trigger the fall of the government by getting 30 BN MPs to defect to his side. It’s essentially the same thing now, with one crucial difference – it’s succeeding where Anwar failed. But it was wrong then and it’s wrong now. 

Anyways, to rewind a bit, this particular circus started Sunday morning when news of a bunch unexpected party meetings began making headlines. At first, of course, few thought much of the rumours of an impending coup. Nevertheless, it soon became apparent that not only were Bersatu’s top guns meeting, but so too were PAS and Umno bigwigs and the PKR fellas aligned to Azmin.

Certain leaders at the various meetings had claimed they were just normal get-togethers. However, soon after the respective meetings ended, reports emerged that a number of leaders – reported to be Home Minister and Bersatu prez Muhyiddin Yassin, Umno boss Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, GPS president and Sarawak CM Abang Johari Openg, Warisan’s Shafie Apdal, PAS No. 1 Hadi Awang and Azmin – had made their way to Istana Negara to try and convince Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah that they had the numbers to oust Pakatan and take over the running of Malaysia.

Thing is, no announcement to that effect emerged from the Istana, or from the Sheraton hotel in Petaling Jaya later in the evening where 130+ MPs, apparently aligned to Maddey, met. However, what we did get was confirmation of sorts, courtesy of Umno sec-gen Annuar Musa and MIC president SA Vignewswaran, that Pakatan is no more, Azmin has left PKR, and Umno will “very likely” be part of a new coalition headed by PM Maddey. 

Najib Razak is apparently one of the 130+ MPs who’re supporting Mahathir. There’re conditions konon, but the real story is that the once sworn enemies now appear to be cool with working together. Politics eh?
 

Now, if you think that all these maneuverings seem dishonest, deceitful, and a mockery of the democratic process, you’re right because they damn well are. The rakyat, the facts show, junked parties like Umno and PAS in the last GE. So, as far as we’re concerned, they have no business coming back into the picture through the backdoor. If they win power through an election, fine. But this is just wrong. 

Some may argue that the MPs stil have individual mandates and therefore changing parties essentially doesn’t mean they don’t still have the mandate from their constituency – but let’s face it. How many voters do you think voted on the basis of individual MPs vs the party and ideals they represented? Switching parties midstream just proves once again that it’s power and not responsibility at the top of their minds.

What we’d really, really wanna know though is how the hell did it ever get to this stage when the waters seemed calm less than two days earlier?

In the wee hours of Saturday, Mahathir at a press conference following the much-publicised Pakatan presidential council meet had said that he’d been given the go-ahead by his colleagues to decide on an appropriate time to relinquish power. And that would be only after the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in November. The PM had added that the agreement was pretty clear, and he’d have total say on the matter. 

Yes, a few Anwar supporters appeared less than pleased and there were even stories that discussions at Friday’s meet had been extremely heated. Still, the general feeling was that the decision to let Mads decide his own exit was in the best interest of the coalition and the country.

So what exactly happened between then and Sunday morn that compelled Mahathir to sell out Pakatan and hitch his cart to other horses?!?!  And how long exactly has Mahathir been planning this? You don’t engineer these kinds of things overnight. Did he EVER plan to hand power over to Anwar?

If – or rather, when – this new government comes into power, here are some things to watch out for:
1) PKR will be decimated – Azmin’s departure will trigger an exodus of his supporters. But better for the cancer within to be excised rather than fester, we say.

2) DAP will be in big trouble too. They’ve been public enemy number one for Umno and PAS, and if they’re out of power, it’s gonna be interesting to see how they cope with that. 

3) With Umno, PAS, Bersatu and a large element of PKR in one boat, expect MCA and MIC to become mere window dressing as non-Bumi support really isn’t necessary to anymore. What does this mean? Well, if you’re a minority, prepare to become a political non-entity.

4) And what about all those trials against Najib Razak, Rosmah Mansor, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, etc? Don’t be surprised if they magically go away – the same way you shouldn’t be surprised if people like AG Tommy Thomas and MACC supremo Latheefa Koya are also removed from their positions. (Btw, Dear Najib – we’re sorry we called you Jibby, the Jibster, etc. Please don’t throw us in jail. BTL wuvs you, we truly do)

Incidentally, Anwar, who called an emergency meeting with leaders of DAP and Amanah late Sunday night, is set to meet the Agong today. The initial story was that the meeting had been scheduled way in advance. However, considering all that’s gone on, you can be sure it will be anything but ordinary.


But here’s what’s really infuriating. Less than two years ago, Maddey and co were going around the country saying over and over again that Najib was a thief, that Umno and BN were not the same party that fought for independence, that they were the source of all that’s bad in this country. Maddey even made a video of himself shedding these crocodile tears back then. And yesterday, you could see these same jokers – Maddey aside – in Sheraton PJ, smirks plastered all over their faces because they knew they were the cat that ate the canary. 

The same old bunch of people that Mahathir called crooks are the ones he’s crawling into bed with now, and who’ll soon be snuffling in the troughs of power, like swine at a feeding. We should really have pushed for laws to force an election if/when parties/politicians defect from or break the coalition they were in. But hey, guess that’s too late now.

Modest returns

As expected, the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) declared low dividends for 2019. However, while there was some moaning, the general sentiment seems to be that given the crap economy, the announced rate of 5.45% for conventional savings and 5% for Syariah savings isn’t too lousy really.

Yes, 5.45% is almost a percentage point down from last year’s 6.15%, but even the Malaysian Trade Union Congress was of the opinion that given the challenges, the rate was fair.

The bad news, however, is that we could be seeing low dividends for 2020 too. If, that is, local and foreign markets keep performing as they did last year.

In case you weren’t already aware, about 70% of EPF’s money (RM924.75 billion as at Dec 31, 2019) is invested domestically, with the rest in foreign markets. In the past, that meant that in the event of poor returns within the country, the retirement fund could always count on overseas investments to soften the blow. Unfortunately, that was next to impossible in 2019, what with the United States-China trade war, and the protests in Hong Kong going on for longer than anyone could have anticipated. 

Still, word is that this year could turn out even worse, thanks to Covid-19 already battering local industries. Furthermore, despite the government’s projection of 4.8% economic growth, analysts aren’t so sure we’ll hit the targets (and that was even before all the power transition nonsense).

The solution, folks like the MTUC suggest, might be for the retirement fund to invest more aggressively outside Malaysia. However, EPF chief Tunku Alizakri Alias notes that a knee-jerk reaction isn’t likely to help. Plus, gambling with members’ retirement savings isn’t on. And he’s right. 

It looks like our political investments have turned out to be a dud. The last thing we need now is for our financial investments to follow suit.

Tigers uncaged

Tommy Thomas has been on the receiving end of a lotta flak since assuming the role of Attorney-General in June 2018, and though at times the criticism has appeared to be justified, way too often, the unhappiness has stemmed from the colour of the guy’s skin, his religion and his Bahasa Malaysia skills.

Now, the knives are out once again. And this time it’s got to do with TT dropping charges against the 12 people who were nabbed and detained for their alleged links to the defunct Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LLTE).

The story around the time all the accused were picked up in October 2019 was that the 12 individuals – including DAP assemblymen P. Gunasekaran (Seremban Jaya) and G. Saminathan (Gadek) – had tried to reactivate the LTTE here. Additionally, there were accusations of involvement in a planned attack on the Sri Lankan high commission in Kuala Lumpur.

On Friday, however, Tommy T dropped all 34 charges against the 12, claiming there was no “realistic prospect of conviction” ’cos the only evidence against these guys seemed to be that they were fans of slain LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran and some of his (also now dead) lieutenants.

PAS and a bunch of other fellas (like this former minister who was allegedly asked to leave for messing up at his job) though are pissed with TT, and want his head on a platter, their reasoning being that the AG’s actions have compromised national security since the LTTE is still listed as a terror group by the Home Ministry.

Zaid Ibrahim, who was once in charge of legal affairs and judicial reform in Abdulah Ahmad Badawi’s cabinet, has, however, called the claims against Tommy T nonsense, noting that regardless of who or what’s on the Home Ministry’s list, it is the AG who decides whether or not to prosecute cases.

Incidentally, while we agree with TT dropping the charges, Amanah’s legal bureau point about the need to review the status of other detainees held under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) should not be overlooked, especially if they too fall under the exclusion category of the Penal Code (specifically in Section 130B(4)) where actions which are not intended to cause death, serious injury or risk to public safety, aren’t considered as acts of terror.

“So this is how liberty dies … with thunderous applause.”

- Padme Amidala -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Covid-19 is spreading faster than efforts to contain it, and experts say the world is fast approaching a “tipping point”. Meanwhile, the number of infections worldwide has risen to 79,930 with as many as 2,645 deaths recorded.
     
  • Some of the world’s biggest economies – such as Japan and Germany – are on the brink of recession, thanks in no small part to Covid-19. Winter is coming, people. 
     
  • Britain’s Tyson Fury knocked out Deontay Wilder in the seventh round of their title fight on Sunday to bag the WBC heavyweight crown. American Wilder had claimed 41 knockouts from 43 previous matches before the bout with Fury. Despite the amazing win though, Fury does not expect his next match to be a four-belt unification matchup against compatriot Anthony Joshua who currently holds the IBF, WBA and WBO titles.
     
  • It’s finally happening, and it appears that HBO Max has won the right to stage the reunion every Friends fan has been waiting for since the show ended in 2004. Details of the reunion special have, however, yet to be made known.

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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