That wily old codger Rais Yatim was elected Dewan Negara president after a rumoured four-way fight for the position didn’t materialise. Instead, the veteran politician saw himself in a one-on-one tussle with a Pakatan man and easily won the day.

Meanwhile, PM Muhyiddin Yassin is a popular man, apparently. So is his Perikatan coalition - but his own party, Bersatu, isn’t so much; DAP supremo Lim Guan Eng was, for a short while, barred from entering Sabah and immediately did what he does best, accuse the gomen; and, our Covid-19 numbers have again dipped into the single-digit realm.

Old man mountain

Rise up, Rais

Remember how we said yesterday there was a report that said that ol’ cat named Rais Yatim, considered a shoo-in for the post of Dewan Negara president, would be challenged by three other senators and therefore wouldn’t have an easy time?
 
Well, the writers of that report were mistaken on two counts, at least. Rais romped to a relatively easy win over Pakatan’s Yusmadi Yusoff, polling 45 to 19, with one senator absent. 
 
That wasn’t something unexpected, though, considering the vast majority of senators are politicians and the majority of these are from Perikatan. Just take a look at the official page for the Dewan Negara if you don’t believe us. So basically, the voting went along party lines, as Rais is a Bersatu man nominated by PM Muhyiddin Yassin. 
 
But wait. Weren’t there supposed to be four names in the hat for the post? Well, Warisan’s Theodore Douglas Lind withdrew from the race and the purported candidate from Umno never actually materialised.
 
Speaking to reporters later, Rais claimed Umno must have felt awkward naming a candidate considering the PM himself had nominated him. After all, it wouldn’t look good for Umno to challenge Moo’s choice for presidency of the House. But this report says the top Umno leadership never actually wanted to nominate anyone. 
 
Anyhoo, our man of many political lives also said there was no need for him to resign from Bersatu just because he is now Dewan Nagara president, as there was no convention for him to do so. This after suggestions from opposition leaders that he should resign to show impartiality and to set a good example for future generations of senators. 
 
But just who is Rais Yatim and more importantly, does he deserve to be the Dewan Negara president? Well, he’s no stranger to the legislative branch of government. You could Google his background, but if you couldn’t be arsed, then here’s the skinny on him: 

  • He is 78 and has been in politics since dinosaurs roamed the earth (OK, not quite, but you get what we mean)
  • He was a state assemblyman for a term and MP for six terms.
  • He was MB of Negeri Sembilan between 1978 and 1982, after which he was a Cabinet minister from 1983-1987 and 1999-2013. Prior to his appointment as N9 MB, he was a deputy minister of Law (1976-1977) and Home Affairs (1977-1978).

In the wake of Yusmadi’s defeat, opposition senators decried the nomination of Rais by MooMoo Yassin, saying only senators could nominate one of their own as president. They said they had nothing against Rais, but the process was flawed. 
 
OK, so we think these fellows are making a mountain of a molehill. Even if Muhyiddin hadn’t nominated Rais, someone else from Perikatan would have. The results would have been the same, and therein lies the actual flaw of the system, ladies and gents.
 
That there is an overwhelming majority of Perikatan members means that the Perikatan nominee is bound to win. If the majority of the senators were from Pakatan, then that coalition’s candidate would win.
 
So, how do we solve the problem? Well, let’s first go back to some background information on the Dewan Negara, or Senate, which is the Upper House of Parliament. 
 
The Dewan Negara, with 70 members – who are all appointees –  is supposed to provide checks and balances to the Dewan Rakyat, which is made up of the people we elect as MPs. All bills tabled and passed in the Lower House have to also be passed in the Upper House before being passed to the Agong for royal assent.

However, any bill which is not passed by the Senate may likely only be delayed. After a year, the same bill can be tabled again in the Dewan Rakyat and if passed again, doesn’t have to go to the Dewan Negara for approval, but straight to the King for assent.
 
Now, originally, the Dewan Negara’s make-up was supposed to provide for a majority of state-appointed reps to ensure the various states were better represented in the Federal system. 
 
However, the Senate’s constitution was amended to allow for the King to appoint 44 senators (another 26 are appointed by the various states), making it possible for non-partisan consideration of bills, since the state appointees were politicians. The thing is, most of the King’s appointments are politicians as well.
 
To solve the problem of impartiality, there should be more appointments of non-politicians. We should see more intellectuals, more activists and, well, more of everything else being appointed senators if we really want the Dewan Negara to be more of an institution of checks and balances, not just to the Dewan Rakyat but to the government.

But don’t hold your breath for this to happen. The reason why the appointees are political is simple. While it’s obviously unethical to stack the deck in your favour, we’re talking about politics, where ethics usually has no place. It works in the government’s favour to reduce the Senate to a simple rubber stamp, for obvious reasons – minimum resistance to push through any political or legislative agenda.

Mister Congeniality

So, Merdeka Center has released the results of a survey and we’re a little surprised by the results – and a little confused by some parts of it.
 
PM Moo Yassin, apparently, has a 69% approval rating among the 3,000-plus respondents while Perikatan is apparently the most favoured party or coalition. Muhyiddin’s approval rating is higher than that of his predecessor, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, when the centre released its findings in July last year. Maddey’s rating was 62%. 
 
Interestingly, there were lots of differences between Muhyiddin now and Mahathir then. The Moo has the support of younger respondents, receiving more than 70% approval from those aged between 21 and 40. Mads in 2019 primarily had the support of older voters.
 
In terms of household income, those earning RM3,999 or less viewed Muhyiddin positively while in 2019, Mahathir had the support of households with incomes above RM4,000.
 
But the biggest difference of all is that our current PM received the support of 91% of civil servants or those in GLCs, while back when he was Supreme Leader, Mahathir only had 57% support from this particular category of respondents.
 
But here’s the confusing part. Perikatan’s top showing as the political entity viewed most favourably by Malaysians is followed by BN (40%), PAS (39%), Muafakat (37%) and Bersatu (28%). Pakatan was at the bottom of the heap at 25%.
 
Did you notice that, apart from Pakatan, the rest are all members of or a coalition which supports the Perikatan gomen? Is this contradictory then? Did people vote twice? There’s a fair bit of ambiguity there and Merdeka Centre’s explanations… well, they don’t explain jack.
 
The centre says the results indicate that respondents favour Perikatan as it is seen as a unifying factor. It goes beyond specific party loyalties. Good luck digesting that.
 
Anyway, Merdeka Center’s survey also asked respondents whether they agreed with the guilty verdict handed down by the High Court against former PM Najib Razak for charges related to SRC International. Some 61% of those polled said they did, while 18% said they disagreed with it. 
 
OK, we’re guessing the other 21% either didn’t answer the question or were undecided. Either way, we must point out that whether or not a person is guilty must be based on evidence alone and is only for the courts to decide. Just because more than half of Malaysia thinks ol’ Jibby is guilty is neither here nor there.
 
It’s not that we support the Jibster. But we need to point out that such surveys should serve merely as an indicator of the people’s trust in the justice system. It could even be an indicator of how successful Bossku’s PR campaign was. 
 
Meanwhile, our man Moo has admitted that Perikatan doesn’t have an election manifesto, but says that doesn’t mean it isn’t accountable to the people.
 
It’s a pretty obvious point, isn’t it? The gomen can still be judged according to how it does and whether it has lived up to the people’s expectations. In a nutshell, the people’s expectations are Perikatan’s manifesto.
 
Perhaps one of the possible expectations Muhyiddin needs to take heed of is political stability in the country. His “coalition” is still on shaky ground, what with Umno/BN insisting on not formally joining forces with Perikatan.
 
Umno numero dos Mohamad Hasan yesterday said seat allocations within his party for the 15th general election was almost complete. Next up would be discussions with other BN component parties, followed by talks with Muafakat partner PAS. Then, and only then, will Umno/BN begin negotiations with Bersatu, a process which he said would be “a bit complex”. 

All this indicates that the Perikatan administration is far from stable. It is a mere “marriage” of convenience. Sadly, the Merdeka Center survey respondents may have gotten things wrong in seeing Perikatan as a unifying factor.

Poor LGE cries foul... again

DAP sec-gen Lim Guan Eng has kicked up a fuss after being barred from entering Sabah.
 
The man known as Tokong has accused Putrajaya of interfering in the sovereignty of Sabah by having the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission order him barred from entering the state. Taking to FB, Lim said he arrived in Kota Kinabalu International Airport and was given a social visit pass, but before he could climb into a car, he was approached by an Immigration officer and told to reenter the airport. 
 
There, he was informed that MACC had ordered him barred from entering the state. However, after 30 minutes, he was allowed to be on his way.
 
Mr Brylcreem is incensed the Federal government had interfered (allegedly, allegedly) as whether someone is allowed entry into Sabah is solely the jurisdiction of the state government. Under the 1963 Malaysia Agreement, Sabah and Sarawak have the right to bar anyone, including other Malaysians from the peninsula, from entering their states.
 
Caretaker Sabah CM Shafie Apdal has supported Nobita’s claims, saying Lim had been placed on the MACC watchlist on the orders of Putrajaya. He said the Sabah Immigration director had informed him that the order came from “KL”, adding however that Sabah had its rights and that “KL” could only decide on income tax and MACC cases, and that too only to prevent those on the watchlist from leaving the country. 
 
MACC head honcho Azam Baki, however, has denied issuing any order for Guan Eng to be barred from entering Sabah. The court, he said, had only impounded LGE’s passport so he can’t leave the country, but he could still enter Sabah using his MyKad. 

Tbh, this whole thing is a sordid mess of “he says, he says” arguments and finger pointing. Let’s face it, unless somebody leaks a memo (do they even have those anymore?) with the instructions to ban LGE, everything else becomes just allegations, accusations, rumour or innuendo.

With a state election round the corner, there’s always a political advantage to be had by riling up the electorate. At the end of the day, this is really a molehill considering Guan Eng was allowed on his merry way in just 30 minutes.
 
In other Sabah-related news, we have a couple of articles about flags, one involving BN and the other involving Warisan.
 
PAS, it seems, is almost likely to use the BN logo during the impending Sabah elections, the first time it will do so since 1974, when the party was part of the coalition. The decision has been informed to BN top guns and there are apparently no objections. 
 
It’s a pretty smart move as PAS is not particularly well received in Sabah. To battle under the BN flag would definitely be an advantage for the party.
 
Now, on to the second one and this one is a rather significant one. Parti Amanah has decided to contest under the Warisan banner, a decision made as a way of standing in solidarity with the Pakatan ally and its president, Shafie. 
 
Again, a smart move as Amanah is a PAS splinter party. But what this does is pose a bit of a quandary for PKR. Despite calls from PKR Sabah to let it decide which banner to use, party president Anwar Ibrahim had announced that the party would use its own logo in the state polls. 

What this means is that Amanah’s decision leaves PKR largely on its own. Yes, there will still be cooperation, but will this obvious to voters? Or, will they see a fractious Pakatan Plus?

Odds and ends

A smattering of other topics appeared in the news yesterday and we’ve compiled some of them here:

  • There were only six new Covid-19 cases yesterday, of which only two were local transmissions. This brings the total number of cases to 9,360. However, with just four recoveries, the number of active cases has risen slightly to 153. There were no deaths, leaving the fatality count at 128
     
  • The notorious Sivagangga cluster is almost done with as there have been no new infections for 23 days, leaving the number of cases at 45. If there are no new cases for 28 days, the cluster will be officially declared over. 
     
  • The Health Ministry is urging 9,490 people linked to Amanjaya, which has been placed on temporary administration lockdown, to come forward for Covid-19 screening. 
     
  • From a record 778 RMCO violators on Monday, Tuesday only saw 39 people being arrested. Guess Monday’s Covidiots were party-goers celebrating Merdeka Day?
     
  • The company at the centre of the durian farm legalisation scheme controversy in Raub, Royal Pahang Durian Resources-PKPP, has come forward to clear up certain misconceptions and dismiss claims that none of the farmers are backing the scheme, saying that some 300 have engaged with the company. 
     
  • Some of the Raub farmers, however, have urged the Pahang government not to treat them “like criminals” over the unlicensed farming issue and instead engage them in civil discourse
     
  • A police officer who was involved in the investigation into the disappearance of Pastor Joshua Hilmy and Ruth Sitepu told a Human Rights Commission inquiry that he was unsure about the couple’s religious activities. He said he only knew that Joshua was a Muslim who converted to Christianity and became a pastor, adding that he was told by a colleague that Joshua was being investigated for sedition. 
     
  • The Cabinet has agreed that the appointment of MACC chiefs will, from now on, be determined by a vote in Parliament. Two thirds of the House will have to vote in favour of the candidate. 
     
  • The commission, meanwhile, has yet to open investigations into any of the 101 direct negotiation deals signed by the Pakatan government. This is because MACC investigators are still going through the projects to determine if there were any elements of corruption. 
     
  • The MACC has conducted an investigation into the takeover of the Automated Enforcement System project following claims it was done at an above-market rate of RM555 million by the Armed Forces Fund Board (LTAT). However, there has been no word about the status of the investigation. 
     
  • Only 2.9% of vernacular primary schools have agreed to include the teaching of Jawi as part of the Bahasa Malaysia syllabus. 

“Politicians, old buildings and prostitutes become respectable with age.”

- Mark Twain -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • The US has imposed sanctions on an International Criminal Court prosecutor and blacklisted the head of the ICC’s Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division for investigating whether American troops committed war crimes in Afghanistan. The move, which the ICC says is an attack on the rule of law, has earned condemnation from rights groups. 
     
  • China will overtake the US as the world’s top economy by 2032. While the Chinese economy is rising notably, perhaps this should be taken with a pinch of salt, considering that this is the opinion of researchers at the Development Research Centre of the State Council, the Chinese government’s cabinet. 
     
  • India and China are squaring off in the Himalayas again. Here’s the lowdown on that. But seriously, this is starting to sound like a broken record. 
     
  • Tests carried out on Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny showed that he was poisoned by a Novichok chemical nerve agent
     
  • Five years after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, the trial of 14 people allegedly involved in the terror event has finally begun

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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