Our Election Commission comes under a hail of criticism for postponing Undi 18. Which is fair – just what the hell has the EC been doing while the rest of us worked our asses off from home?

Elsewhere in our newsletter, there's more trouble for youths as the reopening of schools takes a Covid toll; we delve into what bombs to expect at this weekend's Umno AGM, and were former Pakatan Harapan leaders targets of an assassination plot? Hot diggity damn!

Pity the young

Undi 18 still Undi 21

The EC has played out our youths. It’s announced it’ll postpone implementing Undi 18 and automatic voter registration (AVR) to Sept 2022!

Why’s this a big deal? Cos’ those in the 18-20 age bracket will likely not be able to vote in GE15 if it’s called after the state of emergency ends in Aug. That’s an estimated 1.2 million potential votes down the drain!

A quick recap. Two years ago, when Pakatan Harapan still held the keys to Putrajaya, Dewan Rakyat unanimously passed the bill to amend the Federal Constitution to lower the minimum voting age from 21 to 18 and implement AVR in a rare showing of bipartisan support.

Several complementary laws do need to be updated/gazetted for this to happen, but it was still supposed to have been all systems go in July this year. Now the EC’s said things got pushed due to the blighted MCO. 

Funny how we’re only now hearing about this pandemic-induced delay and not a peep before, a year after MCO was first enforced, or even earlier this month or in Feb, when several Bersatu and Umno leaders had cast doubts over the practicality of the plan. Had they known something we didn’t?

Unsurprisingly, the EC’s news was greeted with disbelief and anger, with the commission being hit with accusations the delay is politically motivated and
unconstitutional. One organisation has even insisted the registering of 18-year-olds as voters can be done under the present system without having to wait for AVR. 

Meanwhile, youth movement Undi 18 and youth party Muda have said they’ll be taking this to court. Will they have better luck than the eight opposition MPs calling on PM Muhyiddin Yassin and de facto law minister Takkiyuddin Yassin to resign? Let’s see.

It’s one hell of a clusterf**k, and we can’t do anything cos, well, Parliament ain’t in session, is it? Even much-needed changes to labour laws can’t be tabled. 

If it’s any consolation, you young folks can still contest in the coming elections. Yes, you read that right. You’re apparently too young to pick your leaders, but are old enough to stand as one. 🤦

Spicy PAU on the menu?

After mucho delays, Umno’ll finally hold its 2020 AGM (or PAU, for Perhimpunan Agung Umno) this weekend. 

Covid restrictions, of course, see the whole shebang being conducted both physically and virtually. Yes folks, a meeting like this, which will see at least 1,000 delegates attending physically, is okay while Parliament with its maximum MP capacity of 200-plus (and most of us remember how few MPs actually attend Parliament) is deemed unsafe. Go figure. 

Anyway, back to Umno’s PAU. Somehow, we don’t think the physical/virtual format will put too much of a damper on the fireworks that usually erupt during these filled-to-the-brim meets.

Umno’s been a juggernaut in Malaysian politics since before there was a Malaysia even, so its AGMs are always much-covered events. Previous years have seen fiery debates as party leaders look to pander to the audience, and it’s one of the few times grassroots members of the ruling party get to voice out views so publicly. Safe to say, look for more of the same this time around.

As for what’s on the agenda over the next two days, here’s what you can expect:

  • The Umno-Bersatu-PAS love triangle

Political analysts believe this’ll be the meat in the PAU, so to speak. 

Delegates are set to vote on Umno’s supreme council’s decision to sever ties with PM Moo’s Bersatu and Perikatan Nasional come GE15 as alliances within the ruling coalition have been fluid.

This is largely due to Umno’s general unhappiness at playing second fiddle, alleging Bersatu’s been claiming the lion share of gomen posts despite Umno having the largest number of MPs in the group. The extent of the revolt, however, has been disputed by some.

As we’ve pointed out before though, challenging a supreme council decision is not gonna be easy.

On the sidelines, will be Umno’s cooperation with PAS which has found itself to be the unfortunate slice of meat between the Umno-Bersatu buns.

  • Faction war

Even as cracks within PN have appeared, Umno has also had to deal with factionalism within – one led by chief Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in favour of breaking away from Bersatu, and those opposed to that, which is a group that includes influential former BN sec-gen Annuar Musa. 

  • Umno-Pakatan Harapan cooperation

Opposition leader and PKR head honcho Anwar Ibrahim certainly ruffled feathers when he admitted to being in informal talks with Umno on possible cooperation in the next GE.

His Harapan colleagues have made clear they do not intend to buddy up with their political rivals, while yesterday, Umno veep Ismail Sabri Yaakob – the highest-ranked Umno guy in Moo’s cabinet, also stated firmly there’ll be no team up with PKR and DAP.

All eyes will now be on what the Umno rank and file have to say.

  • GE15 seat allocations

Whether or not PN remains intact come snap polls, all will undoubtedly touch on the distribution of seats being contested. After all, all three parties target the same voter base and splitting of votes three or two ways will only hurt the Malay-Muslim w̶o̶r̶l̶d̶ ̶d̶o̶m̶i̶n̶a̶t̶i̶o̶n̶ cause.

 

You can also expect lots of sabre rattling (or is it keris waving?), with pro-Malay and pro-Islam speeches. But hey, this is Malaysia. Hasn’t this been par for the course for decades now?

In the past, a number of speeches have been controversial as far as race relations are concerned. For instance, in 2016, the then Youth vice chief had threatened the Chinese community for supporting DAP and a Wanita delegate questioned why non-Malays are appointed to GLCs. 

So, will we see a return to such polemics, or will the party try not to alienate other BN component parties if it’s looking to divorce Bersatu?

We’ll know soon enough.

Covid-19 in schools

It sure doesn’t look like it’s a great time to be young in Malaysia.

Apart from the whole brouhaha surrounding the botched Undi 18, we’ve also been told things aren’t so great for them on the Covid front.

Health authorities have confirmed that 41 Covid clusters involving learning institutions have been detected, affecting 2,228 people since early this year. Of these, 15 involved tertiary educational institutions, 13 secondary school clusters, and 10 primary school and preschool clusters.

Of course, we should note that not all cases comprise students as school clusters could also mean teachers, administrators, parents, even canteen operators.

FYI, physical classes resumed on Jan 20 for high schoolers sitting for major exams such as SPM, while classes reopened for others, including primary and preschool students, on March 1.

Health DG Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has urged the Education Ministry to consider immediately closing schools should any Covid cases be detected. But many have questioned if schools should have reopened in the first place?

This is especially as kids can’t be vaccinated and not all teachers and parents are yet either. Phase 1 of our national immunisation plan, after all, is mainly for medical and security frontliners, of which 74,000 have received both doses of the vaccine so far.

Phase 2, slated to begin next month, will see old-timers and other high-risk groups getting jabbed. Putrajaya has now said economic frontliners (whatever that means) have been added to this phase, with national vaccine head honcho Khairy Jamaluddin adding that the gomen is considering adding more groups

Meanwhile, here’re some other Covid-related news we picked up:

  • Our daily numbers went up slightly yesterday as 1,360 new infections were recorded. Two deaths bring the national death toll to 1,248. The number of active cases have dropped to 14,504
     
  • Our infectivity rate, however, has increased to 0.99, the highest it’s been in a month. 
     
  • The gomen has extended the Act that protects certain industries from legal action for failing to meet contractual obligations during the pandemic to June 30.

Bits and bobs

Here’s the rest of the big stuff that happened yesterday, in brief:

  • Police foiled a lone wolf Islamic State supporter’s plans to attack several leaders, including Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Lim Guan Eng, Mujahid Yusof Rawa and Tommy Thomas when they were still in gomen in Jan, last year.

    We’re only hearing of this now??? It’s no wonder Pakatan Harapan’s upset. Its presidential council is taking PM Moodin & co. to task for not informing them. He was home minister at the time.
     
  • Still insisting he has everything under control regarding the supposed “dirty cartel” of police officers seeking his ouster, IGP Hamid Bador has said there’s no need for an RCI or for MACC to get involved. Is that really his call to make? What’s the current Home Minister doing?
     
  • MUDA, meanwhile, has given the Registrar of Societies and Home Ministry a week to respond to its registration appeal or face legal action. 
     
  • The Selangor Islamic Religious Council has stressed that the use of “Allah” by non-Muslims in the state is forbidden by state law and fatwa. State law is what it is, but fatwa don’t apply to non-Muslims so we’re not sure what point the council is trying to make here.
     
  • A 40-year-old woman has been allowed to challenge her unilateral conversion to Islam by her convert father 30 years ago. 
     
  • Malaysia and Singapore have expressed hope for reconciliation in crisis-hit Myanmar. That’s it? What next – joining hands and singing Kumbaya? 
     
  • The High Court has allowed the gomen to keep RM48 million seized from the bank accounts of Jho Low’s father Larry because daddy-o wasn’t present in court, nor was his lawyer. 
     
  • An MP has challenged PM Moo to dispel rumours of hefty fees paid to lawyers involved in the gomen’s multi-billion ringgit settlement with Goldman Sachs over the 1MDB scandal by being transparent about it. 
     
  • The RM5.2 billion worth of Captagon pills seized by Customs officers recently were believed to be headed to third-world countries for use by militants.

“We are children, and that in itself should not render us meaningless."

- The West Wing -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • AstraZeneca has released an update on its Covid-19 vaccine clinical trials in the US, saying it’s 76% effective. 
     
  • Meanwhile, in another blow to Europe, which is facing surges in infections, Novavax has delayed its vaccine supply to the EU due to production problems. 
     
  • US President Joe Biden held his first press conference since taking office more than two months ago, promising to check China’s growing ambitionwarning North Korea over ballistic missile testing, touching on migration issues and saying he expects to seek re-election in 2024, among others. 
     
  • Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing allies have suffered a setback, falling short of winning a parliamentary majority, leaving a political deadlock that puts his future in question. 
     
  • This is one of the most talked-about stories of recent days: The Suez Canal, one of the world’s busiest waterways, has been blocked by a 224,000-tonne ship. This has caused the mother of all traffic jams, which could possibly last for weeks as efforts are made to dislodge the ship. Why is this a big deal? Well, a good 30% of all the world’s shipping container volume passes by the Canal every day. So yeah, pretty big problem this. 
     
  • New Zealand just keeps getting better and better. The country’s Parliament unanimously passed a law giving working mothers and their partners the right to paid leave after a miscarriage or stillbirth. 

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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