It’s yet another by-election win for Barisan Nasional. But does Kimanis actually signal that the former ruling coalition’s poised to return to Putrajaya? Elsewhere in today’s newsletter, PKR veep Zuraida Kamaruddin is handed a show-cause letter over remarks made at a party gathering, and Ambiga Sreenevasan warns Pakatan Harapan to act on reforms or get ready to face street protests.

The winner takes it all

The song remains the same

What was supposed to be a relatively straightforward win for Parti Warisan Sabah – at least according to one survey – turned into a 2,000-odd vote walloping. And in the aftermath of Barisan Nasional’s victory in Kimanis, we seem to be hearing the same old songs being sung i.e. that Pakatan Harapan (and ally Warisan) really, really, really need to start listening to the people, and that BN’s star is on the rise again.

Before getting into all that though, here’re some stats for you:

  • The Kimanis by-election saw a turnout of 79.92% (or 23,703) of the total registered voters in the constituency. Yup, the figure’s still some way short of the total number of people who came out to vote in GE14 (86.16% or 25,519). But 79.92% is significant for being the highest turnout from all 10 by-elections conducted since May 9, 2018.
  • Of the total votes cast, 12,706 were secured by BN’s Mohamad Alamin, a significant improvement over former incumbent Anifah Aman’s 11,942 in 2018.
  • Defeated Warisan candidate Karim Bujang actually notched 1,000-odd votes less than he did in GE14.

So how significant are the numbers? What went wrong for Pakatan/Warisan? And does BN’s fifth victory from the last six by-elections suggest the tide has indeed shifted since that momentous day in May 2018?

In terms of issues, there’s certainly a case to be made for BN taking advantage of hot local issues like immigration and the Sabah Temporary Pass (PSS). We were in Sabah over the weekend and the fear and bitterness over PSS among the people we spoke to was a real and palpable thing. Whether that fear is real or deserved is secondary – BN’s tactics worked as it skewed perceptions to their advantage.

But there might also have been other factors at play, like the economy, promised reforms that have yet to become a reality, PM Mahathir Mohamad’s failure to initiate a proper succession plan and yes, perhaps even the Bossku phenomenon.

The writing on the wall, as far as PM-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim sees it, is that the polls should serve as a wake-up call and Pakatan should double down on efforts to regain the rakyat’s trust. Thing is, he said the same thing after Tanjung Piai. And after Rantau. And after Cameron Highlands. But not a goddamn thing has changed.

Indeed, some people – like Maddey and new Anwar Azmin Ali – seem convinced Pakatan still has time to course correct. Yes, even after five victories out of the last six by-elections for BN. Is it any wonder then that Najib Razak and co. smell a comeback on the horizon?

A survey published just last month suggested that support for Pakatan and BN/Muafakat Nasional/PAS-Umno is split down the middle. But has the pendulum already swung towards Jibby and company? And will it stay in that position until the next general election? It’s tough to say for sure. But at this moment in time, who’s willing to bet against on BN winning G15?

The person one feels for the most would be Anwar, who increasingly looks like he’s getting buggered by fate. If he ever gets the keys to the PM’s office before the next elections, he’s likely to have the most uphill of tasks in retaining Putrajaya. If he fails, history will remember him as a PM who lost the government and likely forget the reasons why.

Show-cause dilemma

The problems in PKR show no sign of abating. And especially not now that vice-president Zuraida Kamaruddin’s been handed a show-cause letter by the party’s disciplinary board.

Zuraida, who is also Housing and Local Government, has come under fire before for apparently skipping meetings. However, this time, the complaint seems to centre on her remarks at a gathering in early December of PKR leaders aligned to deputy president Azmin Ali.

The meeting in Kuala Lumpur, held hours after the PKR convention in Melaka ended, was significant for the massive support Azmin managed to attract. It also made the news for another reason: Zuraida’s speech at the event, which included a slew of allegations against Anwar Ibrahim. (Among Zuraida’s claims were that the PKR bossman was being influenced by forces within the party and that Anwar had himself tried to convince her of the authenticity of sex videos allegedly featuring Azmin.)

Zuraida maintains that she was speaking the truth that night at the Renaissance. But what truly matters isn’t if she lied or not, but what impact a show-cause letter issued to Azmin’s No. 1 cheerleader could have on the two factions within the PKR.

Just days before Zuraida was issued the letter, PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution assured supporters that the six party reps in the Pakatan Harapan presidential council – Anwar, Saifuddin, Azmin, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Tian Chua and Xavier Jayakumar – were committed to speaking with one voice, kinda like the Borg, on the transition issue. But is that really possible now considering at least two of the six in the council are associates of Zuraida? Also, and here’s the bigger question, will Anwar’s bid to become PM be adversely affected if the PKR disciplinary committee decides Zuraida shouldn’t just be censured, but sacked? After all, it would be easy to build a narrative against Anwar as a man who can’t keep his own party together and who’s therefore not fit to lead the nation.

So yeah. Anwar needs to take control of his party and snuff out any form of dissent. But can he do that without risking an all-out war against protege-turned-rival Azmin?

Taking it to the street

Ambiga Sreenevasan, the former Bersih and National Human Rights Society chief, has warned that the rakyat could take to the streets again should Pakatan Harapan not implement certain promised reforms. It’s the second time in less than a month that she’s said it too. 

The main reason for Ambi’s frustration these past months is no doubt due to Pakatan dragging its feet on stuff it should have already settled yonks ago, like the promised repeal of the death penalty. Additionally, there’s the government’s refusal to release the report of the Institutional Reform Committee (IRC), which was submitted in June 2018. (TL;DR the IRC report included recommendations for overhauling the executive, legislature and judiciary as well as government agencies, and proposals on the abolition of certain oppressive laws.)

Sure, it’s great Ambi’s taking the Pakatan Harapan government to task, just as she had the former guys in charge. However, is the lawyer, who was part of the IRC, partly responsible for the government’s inaction? Also, is she further at fault, as Gerakan deputy boss Oh Tong Keong says, for having urged Malaysians to vote Pakatan in the run-up to GE14?

Back in the days now forgotten, Ambi, in her role as Bersih chief, had put Anwar in his place for suggesting he had pull in the NGO. She’d had also been very clear any alliance between Bersih and the then Pakatan Rakyat was merely for security. However, things became way more partisan in 2018 when she decided to work in hand-in-hand with not just Pakatan, but Maddey too.

Ambi now says she doesn’t recognise the Pakatan leaders she once backed. But seriously, shouldn’t she have known what she was in for or that take ANY side would seriously destroy any image of neutrality? 

So yeah, there may be street protests should Pakatan keep on its current path, and Ambiga may well be at the forefront of them. But would that be too little too late? After all, it was she who once said once you give someone power, there’s no taking it back.

This and that

A wee bit more happened over the weekend. And here’re a few of the highlights: 

  • Hundreds of people gathered in the heart of the city to protest the on-going detention of 12 people linked to the LTTE. The protest, which was joined by leaders from both Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional, was held to mark the 12’s 100 days in detention. A high court recently held that S.13 of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, which denies those arrested under the Act the right to apply for bail, is unconstitutional. However, as yet, none of the accused have been released on bail.  
     
  • Acting Education Minister Maddey says kids can wear black, brown, white or grey shoes to school. It matters less if the shoes are black or pink with polka dots, what the country wants to see is proper education policies put into place during his tenure. But already we are hearing rumours that some in the ministry are using former minister Maszlee Malik’s resignation as a way to stymie reform efforts. Looks like the deep state is still hard at work, folks.
     
  • Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng says the government could well have done away with tolls if it didn’t have to contend with a RM150 billion debt thanks to 1Malaysia Development Berhad. But Jibby Razak is having none of it, claiming that the so-called lack of funds isn’t stopping the government from engaging in expensive mega projects. This guy continues to score points at Pakatan’s expense.
     
  • social security scheme will be introduced for the 300,000-odd Malaysians currently working in Singapore once a study by the Social Security Organisation (Socso) is completed in April or May.
     
  • Malaysia is poised to roll out 5G technology by the third quarter of this year, PM Mahathir says. He added that 5G marks a significant first step in the goal to achieve sustainable growth for the country by 2030 … yeah, even though we were supposed to have hit that milestone this year with Wawasan 2020.

"People shouldn't be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people."

- V for Vendetta -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Seventeen new cases of a flu-like virus have been reported in Wuhan, China. The virus is causing massive concern due to its link to SARS, which resulted in 650 deaths in China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
     
  • In what’s become known as the Luanda Leaks, a consortium of journalists in over 20 countries has exposed how Africa’s richest woman, Isabel dos Santos, used her status and connections to build a US$2bil empire. 
     
  • Conor McGregor took out Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone in a mere 40 seconds in his first MMA fight in 15 months. What’s perhaps more significant is that the fighter reportedly pocketed £60 million for the bout. That works out to £1.5 million per second!
     
  • Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have officially quit the British royal family and will no longer be known as His and Her Royal Highnesses. In his first public address since the news broke, Harry expressed ‘great sadness’. The couple is also set to return the £2.4 million taken from taxpayer funds used to renovate their home. 

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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