Happy Valentine's Day folks! So, there really is a plot to gather signatures to keep Dr Mahathir Mohamad in place as the PM forever. OK, maybe not forever, but at least till the end of Pakatan Harapan's first term as administrators of our tanahair. And all because some people just don't want to see poor Anwar Ibrahim in power. In other news, one firm has massively downgraded our forecasted GDP growth, thanks to that pesky virus from Wuhan; corruption reigns at the RTD (quite possibly everywhere else in Mesia?); and, Arabian stallions and private jets are mentioned in trials involving Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor.

A plot's afoot

Ada Harapan untuk Anwar?

We sure love statutory declarations. Barely 24 hours after claiming he wasn’t “officially informed” of any statutory declaration supporting Dr Mahathir Mohamad as PM for a full term, PM-wannabe Anwar Ibrahim has now made a volte face.

Anwar yesterday confirmed the existence of a “cunning plot” purportedly involving lawmakers from PAS, Umno, and several wee free PKR members in a thinly-veiled statement masked as a friendly reminder (quote-unquote) to his frenemy Maddey.

Making sure to state clearly that the Mads was not in on any such plot to stay in power  ̶t̶i̶l̶l̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶e̶n̶d̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶t̶i̶m̶e̶ till the next GE, Anwar said the transition of power between Mahathir and him would be finalised at the f̶i̶g̶h̶t̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶d̶e̶a̶t̶h̶ Pakatan presidential council meeting next week. Essential Anwar wants to make sure he’s no jilted bride, and is pressing Mahathir to pin down a handover date, to after the Asia Pacific Economic Council (APEC) meeting in KL in November as earlier promised.

For the uninitiated, prior to GE14, there was an agreement within Pakatan that Mahathir would become the first PM of the new government but will hand over reigns to Anwar after a few years. Now both Mahathir and Anwar have repeatedly assured the pact was on but the Mads has been notoriously vague over when that would be.

Recently, whistleblower website Sarawak Report claimed several MPs had signed an SD supporting Mahathir as PM for the remainder of Pakatan’s first term as government. The issue comes in the wake of a planned move by PAS to table a confidence vote for Mahathir at the next Dewan Rakyat sitting in March – both moves seen as engineering to block Anwar from the PM throne.

So will everything go according to plan for Anwar? Before Anwar’s statement, sources told Malaysiakini that Maddey has the support of more than 130 MPs, including those from Gabungan Parti Sarawak, and could issue an ultimatum to the presidential council in the event there is pressure for him to step down.

Another source, however, claimed Anwar has the backing of 129 MPs, based on the premise that all DAP and Amanah MPs would back him, as well as almost half of the 39 Umno MPs. We assume, of course, that many PKR MPs (at least the ones not aligned to party numero dos Azmin Ali) would side with Anwar, even though this isn’t mentioned, but we kinda scoff at the mention of Umno MPs.

Meanwhile, in an immediate reaction to Anwar’s statement confirming the plot, Umno Supreme Council member Mohd Razlan Muhammad Rafii (wait… who now?) released a statement of his own. Razlan questioned the legitimacy of Anwar becoming the next PM when he couldn’t even command the support of all his party’s MPs. 

You gotta admit, there is some logic to that.

Covid-19 bad for business

When it rains, it pours.

The world is already gripped by fear thanks to the Covid-19 – or the disease formerly known as the Wuhan coronavirus – and Malaysia’s economy took a massive beating in the fourth quarter (Q4) last year due to several other factors. Now comes news that Fitch Solutions has revised down its 2020 real gross domestic product (GDP) growth forecast for Malaysia from 4.5% to 3.7%.

The downward revision was made thanks to the Covid-19 scare. Fitch Solutions says even though Malaysia has a relatively well-diversified economy in terms of sectors, much depends on the economic health of both China and Singapore, two economies which it says are closely linked and likely to slow further in 2020.

Fitch, however, said an imminent economic stimulus package set to be announced by the government by next month would likely put a floor to the deceleration of the GDP caused by the health scare. 

Yet forecasts earlier this month, including one from RHB Research, had said Covid-19 would have only limited impact on the nation’s economy this year, and that, too, only in Q1 and possibly Q2. RHB Research, therefore, had maintained an earlier forecast of 4.3% GDP growth year-on-year.

Meanwhile, the government has confirmed a 19th Covid-19 case in Malaysia, that of a tourist from China who is the daughter of the 16th case detected here. This comes as Japan reported the death of one person, the third case outside of mainland China.

The Malaysian Trades Union Congress, meanwhile, has warned employers not to use Covid-19 as an excuse to shortchange employees. In saying this, MTUC secretary-general J. Solomon said the current situation called for engagement between employers and trade unions to ensure that the disease and the resulting fear is contained.

Fear is very much at the centre of many things as far as Covid-19 is concerned. Labelled a global health emergency (and rightly so) by the World Health Organisation, fear of the outbreak has led to negative impacts on various industries – worse hit are the tourism and airlines industries – but worse yet, a rise in racism and xenophobia, especially against anyone who looks Chinese.

One Chinese Malaysian student in Perth found herself unceremoniously locked out of her rental home with her belongings left outside, for choosing to “travel back home for CNY” during the outbreak, although the poor girl had gone nowhere near China. #Facepalm. We’re quite sure throwing-people-out is not one of the prescribed measures recommended by world experts to combat the disease (if you’re unsure what’s the deal with the virus and what to do about it, this handy guide can help).

Before the fear of the virus gets us all, read this beautiful piece by Wuhan girl, Yuli Yang, reminding us of the human element at the heart of this crisis.

Crooked RTD men at it again

Remember the time when 46 Road Transport Department officers were arrested for corruption involving logistics companies? Between The Lines remembers. The extent of the arrests nearly crippled the Penang RTD. You’d think that’ll put a stomper on any more palm-greasing activities. 

You’d think.

Well, according to a special report, corrupt RTD officers left standing stopped their nonsense following the MACC arrests for a time, but were soon back to their old tricks.

The journalist who wrote the special report interviewed employees of a logistics company who claimed that such companies were again being threatened by the corrupt officers. The news portal was even shown text messages from these officers and transaction slips purportedly showing payments made into intermediary accounts used to cover the officers’ tracks. 

Lorry drivers, too, recounted how they had to pay bribes after being harrassed by RTD officers. And sources said it was a long and tedious process to get the bad apples among RTD officers sacked. (Really, does it matter that it’s a long process? Get rid of them, no matter how long it takes.)

You can read the special report, which is a rather lengthy one, here.

Following the exposé, RTD says it will lodge a report with the relevant authorities. Saying it took the allegations seriously, it added that it would never compromise on any corruption and abuse of power in the department.

Seriously, folks. Are we surprised? To be fair, the new government and police chief do seem to be coming down hard on graft (as our dear old Bossku and wife would well know). But there always seems to be more cases uncovered. With headline for the special report screaming “Institutionalised corruption in RTD”, it’s hard to shake that feeling corruption has been institutionalised everywhere else in Malaysia.

At the end, it matters now whether the corruption occurred during the previous BN or the current Pakatan rule… corruption seems to be a way of life here. So here’s to more arrests. Much, much more.

Planes, stallions and the Razaks

The separate graft trials of everyone’s favourite celebrity couple Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor served up some great stories yesterday. To recap, Jibby is on trial for seven charges involving RM42 million linked to an 1MDB subsidiary, while Rosie is fighting three charges concerning an RM1.25 billion solar project for 369 rural schools in Sarawak.

We really had troubled figuring out where to start, so we just decided that since Jibby was a former PM (yeah, we can just hear ya saying Rosie was the real PM), we’d start with his trial.

Former Foreign Affairs Minister Anifah Aman testified yesterday that the late Saudi King Abdullah Abdulaziz Al Saud had, 10 years ago, offered money to Najib as a personal donation. This corroborated testimony from another former minister, Jamil Khir Baharom, that the Jibster’s claims of receiving a personal donation to the tune of millions from Saudi royalty were true.

Anifah, like Jamil before him, said the money was deposited into Najib’s personal bank account to make it easier for him to control disbursement, while also testifying that the matter was never discussed with the Cabinet as the King had made it clear that it was a personal donation.

King Abdullah was apparently so generous (OK, so Anifah didn’t exactly say this) that when Najib admired a painting of some Arabian stallions, the Ruler offered to gift our dearest former PM a stallion. But Jibby, of course, politely turned this offer down. Great guy.

With the personal donation, of course, Najib could have bought an Arabian stallion of his own. But he didn’t. Instead, he bought a RM500,000 watch for wifey Rosie (such a romantic), and when lead prosecutor V. Sithambaram questioned Anifah about whether this was “right”, Anifah admitted that it was not.

Meanwhile, lead defence counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah informed the court that a report on the authenticity of Najib’s signatures on several documents submitted as evidence in the trial would be ready by Feb 26. The court had allowed the defence to call in an Australian handwriting expert to evaluate the signatures after our former glorious leader said he could not be sure if the signatures on the documents were his or were forgeries. 

Meanwhile, over at Mama Rosie’s trial, the defence team showed prosecution witness Mahdzir Khalid a picture of a Gulfstream private jet and asked the former education minister whether it was his plane. After scrutinising the picture, Mahdzir denied ever owning a private jet.

Errr…. Mahdzir. Why would you need to scrutinise the picture if you never owned a jet ah? Suspicious lah bro!

Anyway, Mahdzir also denied flying to casinos around the world, but when asked if he had ever flown in the plane to places like Alor Setar and Kuching, he said he was not sure. Hmmmmmm…

Mahdzir also again denied that he was trying to fix up poor ol’ Kak Mah by (falsely?) testifying against her, just so he could escape graft charges relating to the non-existent solar hybrid project. Defence counsel Jagjit Singh had introduced a letter purportedly written by Mahdzir’s lawyers to the Attorney-General’s Chambers saying that he was willing to testify in the case.

After Mahdzir stepped down from the witness stand, former Education Ministry secretary-general Madinah Mohamad was called up. Madinah testified that Jibby himself had green-lit the project, saying she received minutes from the then PM with a note written by him to agree to implement the project.  She also testified that Rosmah had, on one occasion, told her to expedite the project.

Interesting stuff and we’re nowhere near the end. Both trials continue next week.

“Tactics is knowing what to do when there is something to do. Strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do”

- Savielly Tartakover -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • The UN human rights office has released a long-awaited report listing 112 businesses linked to Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian West Bank. The move was criticised by Israel but lauded by Palestinians. And just who are these businesses? Just companies like Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia Group and Motorola Solutions, among others. 

  • Eight Republicans joined Democrats in the US Senate to support a motion to limit President Donald Trump’s war powers, advancing it to a final vote by this week. 

  • Almost 15,000 new coronavirus cases have been reported in Hubei today, up 10X from a day prior, while deaths have doubled the day before. The increase is because China has revised its method of counting infections. Overall, 60,000+ cases and over 1,300 deaths have been reported worldwide. 

  • The Chinese F1 Grand Prix in Shanghai has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak. It had originally been scheduled for Apr 19. Similarly, the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the world’s biggest mobile technology conference, has also been cancelled. Bummer.

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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