Despite promising fireworks, Umno's AGM proves to be a rather duller affair this year with very few sparks. Still, it wasn't without some drama and party chief Ahmad Zahid Hamidi comes out of it a happy man.

Elsewhere in today's newsletter, VVIPs are in the spotlight over Covid-19 SOPs; youths rise up over Undi 18; and a footballer’s in trouble here for standing in solidarity with his countrymen in Myanmar.

Happy Monday folks!

Strike up the bland

PAU kurang pedas

Umno’s highly anticipated 2020 PAU (Perhimpunan Agung Umno or AGM) turned out to be less spicy than expected with a whole lotta tough talk and little action.  

In a nutshell, the two-day meet revolved around the Umno-Bersatu-PAS’ rocky marriage, with political lines being drawn in the sand over the party’s direction come GE15.

Oh, and there was accusation of censorship, only not just by the media this time, but from an Umno man himself!

Here’s a breakdown of the main threads from the AGM:

  • Going it alone

Umno el presidente Ahmad Zahid Hamidi got his way. As per the earlier Umno supreme council decision, the party will end things with PM Muhyiddin Yassin’s Bersatu come GE15.

 

It’ll instead contest under the BN banner. There might be room for strategic partnerships with “sincere and honest partners” post-elections, but that’ll only come after/if Umno-BN kills it at the polls.

 

For the mo, and despite what one Anwar Ibrahim may have you believe, there’ll be no alignment with DAP or PKR either. 

 

PAS, though, is a different story. The Islamist party has so far tried to straddle the fence in this messy divorce, but Zahid wants PAS to unfriend Bersatu and PM Moo

PAS numero uno and dos, who attended the Umno do, have kept mum. Other PAS’ leaders, though, seemed kinda miffed at having their loyalty questioned. One of ’em — party sec-gen Takiyuddin Hassan — appeared so hurt he took time out the pen an emo post so melodramatic it’s earned pride of place as today’s #QOTD!

  • Save the breakup date

Anyways, the break from PN could come a lot sooner, like Aug sooner, when the emergency order’s slated to end. This based on Moo’s promise of snap polls once the emergency (and pandemic) ends. But if there’s no sign of polls, then Zahid & Co. can decide the best exit date.

 

If and when that happens, PN Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob and others have promised to quit their cushy gomen posts. Of course, Zahid #1 critic and FT Minister Annuar Musa might take a very different view. 

  • Be a man!

It’s no secret that Annuar – who was booted out at BN sec-gen earlier this year – is on team “Stay with PN”. He’s claimed head honcho Zahid was stifling voices of dissent at the AGM.

Poor dude. There was no love for him at the AGM, with traitor posters being printed and the Z challenging him to prove his manhood by quitting his cabinet post. Oh, and his aide got slapped with a six-year suspension too.

  • To God be the glory

As predicted, race and religion played a significant part at the meet, with the recent High Court “Allah” ruling earning a mention and Zahid promising to amend our Federal Consitution to beef up the country’s Syariah laws if Umno secures two-thirds majority in GE15.

FYI, two-thirds translates to 148 seats in the Dewan Rakyat — something BN hasn’t come anywhere close to achieving since 2008. Still, there’s always the possibility of a post-election alliance (see above) securing enough support in Parliament to push amendments and laws through. 

  • Who be da PM?

The dominance of Zahid’s point of view at PAU 2020 aside, questions remain about who could potentially serve as Umno’s PM should the party win big next time out. 

At the mo, he’s calling the shots. But don’t discount deputy boss Mohamad Hasan, despite the jokey manner of his answer to the big question. 

P.S. PM MooMoo’s putting on a brave front. He doesn’t look to be sounding the war drums against Umno just yet, but his tentative stand is that if Umno’s determined to contest all its seats in GE15, Bersatu’s ready to take its frenemy on. But despite The Moo’s tough talk about contesting all 222 seats, it simply doesn’t have the grassroots machinery (machinery that Umno has had over 7 decades to build) to realistically make any such move. 

Double, double, mucho trouble

Despite Putrajaya’s repeated talk of no double standards, evidence keeps on a-piling that one’s status in Malaysia determines Covid-19 SOPs.

Take the case of Deputy FT Minister Edmund “PM approved my leave” Santhara. First, he was allowed to visit family abroad (which isn’t supposed to be OK), and now he’s been allowed to quarantine at home upon his return! So is that double double standards or quadruple standards (allegedly! allegedly!)? 

“Justification” for Mister Ed’s New Zealand “holiday” aside, the rules are clear — those arriving in Malaysia have to isolate at designated quarantine centres for 10 days (7 days if you take an RT-PCR test three days before departure and test negative). Yet, not in our dear Bersatu deputy minister’s case.

Health DG Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah’s since explained that leeway was granted to Ed ’cos he returned from a low-risk country and had a “suitable home” to isolate in. What exactly constitutes a “suitable home” and why are we just hearing of this?

Two other fellas — both pilots — who faced somewhat similar situations have also called BS, claiming such considerations weren’t on the table in their cases, even when there were extenuating circumstances (e.g. death in the family). Heck, one of the guys even claimed he’d been fully vaccinated against Covid!

But it’s not just gomen peeps, but celebs too, it seems, who get seemingly preferential treatment. Case in point, VVVIP/businessperson/actress Neelofa’s grand wedding at a KL hotel. 

The event was highly publicised, so there were ample pics online from various angles showing how none of the finely dressed guests, including de facto Religious Affairs Minister Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri, seemed to practise any social distancing. 

Police said they’ll be questioning the event organiser and hotel management – and not Neelofa, her new hubby preacher PU Riz, nor ol’ Zul for now – instead of employing the ‘saman-first-ask-questions-later’ approach used on us common folks.

Double standards aside, here’re some other Covid highlights from the weekend:

Denied at 18

The Election Commission’s (EC) headache must have worsened over the weekend as fallout over its decision to postpone Undi 18 (you can read our commentary on the delay here) continued. There was even a demo held outside Parliament. Youth power!

As far as the protest went, things were pretty civil, with speeches, an 18-min silent sit-down and some prominent folks (former education minister Maszlee Malik in outside da House, yo!) in attendance. 

The bigger concern was that our young un’s were met by heavily armed coppers with assault rifles and body armour. Bit of an overreaction, but we suppose police had no idea how bad the protest could turn out to be.

As things go in M’sia, a probe’s being initiated against the demo’s organisers for holding a gathering without due notice and failing to adhere to physical distancing protocols.

Despite what authorities say and regardless of when nationwide polls are called (Azmin Ali has said it’ll be only in 2023, despite his boss promising earlier polls), the decision to push Undi 18 to next year will have far-reaching implications.

Lest we forget, Sarawak state polls are due to be held by Aug 5 this year. That means some 135,000 18-20 year-olds in the Land of the Hornbills could miss out on having their voices heard at the ballots. Unsurprisingly, the youth wing of one of the state’s most prominent parties isn’t pleased.

BTW, remember troll king Najib Razak’s theory that PN’s keeping youths away from the ballot box ’cos young people don’t like the current ruling coalition? Well, poppycock, sayeth glorious premier Moodin! He’s claimed a lotta youths support his gomen. The problem, he says, is that it’s just not realistically possible to have Undi 18 up and running any sooner.

Moo’s law minister Takiyuddin chimed in, claiming the registration process is complicated and involves stuff like double-checking addresses. He said the EC needed space and time to get things sorted. What was the EC doing for the past two years, bro?

Incidentally, while most gomen peeps seem determined to wanna cover line about this whole mess, PAS chief Abdul Hadi Awang is supporting the delay ’cos apparently voting needs “mature” folks to choose a “mature gomen”.

Of course, this was anything but the line this dude was selling back in 2019! Also, perhaps the problem is we keep choosing gomens that are too mature

Graphic artist and political satirist Fahmi Reza had perhaps the most brutal and biting response to all this. Check it out here. 🔥🔥🔥

Bitsy bobsy odds and ends

And here’re a few more things you should know about heading into Monday:

  • Zahid Hamidi’s filed a massive RM220 mil defamation suit against
    Malaysiakini, claiming the portal misreported stuff from his ongoing criminal trial, and cast him in a bad light. This included even Bernama articles Kini uploaded as well as readers’ comments. Poor iddy biddy Zahid’s facing a slew of money laundering, CBT and corruption charges.
     
  • Selangor II winger Hein Htet Aun’s been handed a one-match suspension by FAM for flashing a three-finger salute as a show of solidarity with anti-coup protestors in his native Myanmar.

    Loads of folks are pissed at FAM’s decision given Malaysia’s stand against the Myanmar military. Still, it bears remembering that Hein isn’t the first football personality in the world to get into trouble for a political “statement”. Pep Guardiola and Robbie Fowler have found themselves sanctioned for somewhat similar incidents.
     
  • The Perak gomen’s investigating claims that million-year-old fossils and a wall at Gua Matsoorat were damaged during a drama series shoot there. The series’ production company has denied involvement, although director Michael Ang’s expressed regret over the incident and vowed to find the culprit(s).
     
  • There’ll be no MACC probe into the IGP’s “police cartel” issue as the matter’s an internal police one. DAP’s Gobind Singh Deo, though, isn’t so sure that should be the case, especially as there’ve been allegations of corruption too. Hear! Hear!
     
  • Still on our boys in blue. A probe’s been initiated following conflicting claims – one by a woman who alleged she was harassed by a cop at a roadblock when she was delivering milk products, and another by the cop in question who said he was misunderstood.

    This incident comes a month after other allegations of harassment involving officers at roadblocks have surfaced recently, including one where a woman was asked to expose herself to avoid a fine.
     
  • An arrest warrant’s been issued against Chan Eu Boon, the founder of hook-up site Sugarbook for failing to appear in court last week. Chan was earlier charged with publishing statements linked to public mischief.

“I may have lost someone who didn't love me, but you lost someone who truly loved you."

- Takiyuddin Hassan -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • At least 114 people have been killed on Saturday as people in Myanmar once again took to the streets to protest against the military coup. The killings, which have been labelled “mass murder” by top UN officials, saw a number of children slain. What makes this even more contemptible is that Myanmar’s generals apparently partied as the butchery was going on.
     
  • Two suspected suicide bombers have died in a blast outside a church in Makassar, Indonesia. One of the bombers has been identified as belonging to Jemaah Ansharut Daulah, a terror group that’s loyal to the Islamic State.
     
  • Dozens have been killed following a militant attack in northern Mozambique. The area has been under attack for almost a week now. 
     
  • Egypt’s president has ordered for containers to be lifted from the Ever Given, the massive cargo ship that’s been grounded in the Suez Canal since Thursday.

    BTW, in case you’re not too sure of what’s gone down, here’s an explainer in the form of a sea shanty.
     
  • Some 5,000 people attended a rock concert in Barcelona after passing same-day Covid tests. The concert, featuring Spanish indie pop band Love of Lesbian, didn’t require social distancing. But masks were still a must. In Asia, meanwhile, the pandemic has raised questions about the future of Thailand’s iconic Full Moon party.

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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