According to the guys supposedly involved, the rumours are untrue: there’re no plans to form a new coalition to take over the government. But is there more than meets the eye? Especially now that an Umno supreme council member has been sacked! In other news, we now have 17 coronavirus cases in the country, and DBKL plans to pedestrianise five city streets by the end of the year.

More than meets the eye?

When you play the game of thrones...

Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi claims there’s no truth to rumours that his party is looking to form a pact with Bersatu, and PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad and PM-forever-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim say pretty much the same thing. But are things really as these guys would have us believe about the so-called Pakatan Nasional pact?

If you recall, the rumour late last week was that Umno was set to meet Friday to decide on aligning with Maddey’s Bersatu. However, at least according to Zahid, the matter was not even broached. Nevertheless, what the party’s supreme council did decide to do at that meeting was axe everyone’s favourite supercarrot Lokman Adam from both the council and Umno.

Lobakman had publicly slammed Zahid last week for apparently trying to get Umno to work with Mahathir. And on Friday, the party had had enough of his carrot-y antics.

Umno sec-gen Annuar Musa says Carrot Top Lokman had been dishonest and had tried to pit former prez Najib Razak against the current Umno leadership. But could the sacking also just be ’cause Lokman was speaking the truth (yeah, we know it’s hard to believe) about Zahid’s plans, and the Umno boss really can’t have that?

Anyhoo, the official word is that there’s no pact between Umno and Maddey’s Bersatu. But get this, though – PAS, which is currently in a union of sorts with Umno, says it’s open to forming a government with both Umno and Bersatu. Also, the Islamist party is planning to table a motion in Parliament next month to pledge support for Mahathir to see out his term as PM!

Mahathir has promised numerous times that he will keep his word and hand over power to Anwar. But what indeed happens if a majority of MPs in Parliament want the old man to continue to lead the country? 

DPM Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Anwar’s wife, believes that come what may, Maddey should pass the baton to her hubby as promised. (You’d hardly expect her not to, right?) But the truth is this: under Article 43 of the Federal Constitution, the Prime Minister must be an MP who in the judgment of the King is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the Dewan Rakyat.

(We also find it ironic Jijah is insisting that the promise be kept, yet other promises made by Pakatan pre-GE14, important ones such as the repeal of repressive laws, have yet to be fulfilled. But that’s politics, ain’t it?)

In an interview on Saturday with the Malaya Post, Maddey addressed his promise to hand Anwar power but warned that while he has every intention of keeping it, any PM candidate must secure majority backing in the Dewan.

Can PKR bossman Anwar do it though? Especially when it’s not just the Opposition and Bersatu he’ll need to contend with, but many from within his own party (read: supporters of deputy president and Econs Minister Azmin Ali) who’ve already aligned themselves with Maddey.

Answers on a postcard, please.

It's now 17

From 14 on Friday, the number of confirmed novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) cases in the country has jumped to 17.

Of the three new cases, two are Chinese nationals from Wuhan, while one is an elderly Malaysian, who happens to be the mum-in-law of the first Malaysian to have been infected with the virus.

According to the Health Ministry, the 65-year-old woman had come into contact with the virus during a Chinese New Year reunion with family members. And what’s particularly worrying about the latest case is that the victim was already not in the best of health, what with suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes, partial paralysis of the body, and relying on a pacemaker.

But while 17 cases is indeed cause for concern, it’s important to note that three people have made full recoveries in the past week. In fact, the third and latest patient, a 63-year-old Chinese man who was discharged on Sunday afternoon, did not even require treatment with antiviral drugs.

Meanwhile, DPM Dr Wan Azizah has announced that in addition to a ban on travellers from Hubei, Malaysia is also shutting to door to visitors from Zhejiang and Jiangsu following the Chinese government’s decision to extend its lockdown to seven cities in the two provinces. There are, however, no plans to stop Malaysians from travelling to Singapore, even though the island republic has raised its virus alert level from “yellow” to “orange”. We will, nevertheless, hold discussions with our neighbours on how best to protect workers from both countries.

Oh and by the way, remember how the ministry just last week told us to leave our face masks at home and not panic? Well, now the same guy who said that – Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye – wants you to refrain from shaking hands and opt instead for the “Salam Malaysia”, a greeting apparently thought up by former Tourism Minister Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir way back in 1999 that involves placing one’s right hand over the chest.

Malaysia ain’t alone in recommending against shaking hands, of course. (Singapore has done the same.) However, experts caution that such a move might be overkill and unnecessary unless, of course, the virus is actively circulating in the country. They say, if you wash your hands regularly, you should be fine. But hey, since we don’t exactly have this virus figured out, perhaps you should do what makes you comfortable.

Incidentally, the global death toll from the virus has now surpassed the number of SARs victims with 904 deaths recorded and 40,000+ people infected worldwide. SARS killed 774 people in 2003.

Taking it to the street

Despite it being suspended soon after a trial run was announced last year, Kuala Lumpur City Hall is determined to go ahead with its plan to pedestrianise at least five city streets by the end of 2020, and at least 10 in five years.

The goal, KL Mayor Nor Hisham Ahmad Dahlan says, is to reduce traffic in the city as well as cut carbon emission. As such, DBKL is looking at closing five main roads this year, among them Jalan Raja and Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman. 

Pedestrianisation has been hugely successful in many parts of the world, such as in Pontevedra, Northern Spain, where a decision to ban cars from a 300,000 sq metre area in the city has resulted in massive reductions in CO2 emission and a thriving economy of small businesses. A similar move in Mexico City saw a 30% increase in commercial activity and a 96% decrease in violent crime. 

The question is: how much of all this has been relayed to folks here, especially traders and other peeps who’re gonna be directly affected by DBKL’s plans?

Last year, more than a thousand traders in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman staged a protest claiming that they hadn’t been consulted over the planned trial closure. Their contention was that with reduced traffic, their businesses were bound to fail.

This time, Nor Hisham says, there’ll be more awareness campaigns, public engagement and consultations. But will authorities push ahead with the plan at the end of the consultation and study period? Or will the powers that be, once more, suffer cold feet?

Md Nazri Mohd Nordin, the former president of the Malaysian Institute of Planners, for one, notes that the government has been talking about road closures for almost three decades. But every single time a plan’s looked workable, the fellas in power have lacked the political will to see it through.

Malaysia, as the town planner points out, is late to the party in terms of building green and sustainable cities. So this road closure move is definitely what the country needs. But do the guys in charge have the gonads?

Odds and ends

The weekend saw a few other things make the news. And here’re some of the more important bit and bobs you should know about:

  • Tamrin Abdul Ghafar, the son of former DPM Ghafar Baba, is due to be interviewed by police today over a blog post criticising Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim. The post, entitled “TMJ – Bodoh Sombong Yang Tak Boleh Diajar”, had slammed Tunku Ismail over his quarrel with PM Maddey.
     
  • According to an Australian news report, a new mission to find missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 could be launched soon. The News Corp report says that the victims’ next-of-kin are working with the Malaysian government to dispatch seabed searcher Ocean Infinity to locate the plane.
     
  • Despite a video clip of an altercation making its rounds on WhatsApp, DAP’s Bagan Dalam rep Satees Muniandy says he was in no way involved with vandalising a booth set up by followers of self-styled Godman Swami Nithyananda at the Thaipusam festival in Penang. Meanwhile, the Penang Hindu Endowment Board says it never gave permission for Nithyananda followers to set up the booth in the first place.
     
  • The US Embassy is disappointed with PM Maddey over his call for US President Donald Trump to step down. The PM had claimed that Trump’s peace deal for Israel and Palestine was “utterly unacceptable” and favours Israel, as such, he should resign.

“Vote for the man who promises least; he'll be the least disappointing.”

- Bernard Baruch -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • At least 29 people were killed and dozens more injured when a soldier went on a rampage in the Thai city of Nakhon Ratchasima on Saturday. The soldier, Jakraphanth Thomma, who had first opened fire in a house before moving to an army camp and then a mall, was shot dead by commandos on Sunday morning.
     
  • Ireland has begun tallying the votes from Saturday’s general election and it looks like Sinn Féin, the once political arm of the Irish Republican Army, has made huge gains. It’s still anyone’s game though at this point.
     
  • Thousands of folks stranded on a cruise ship in Hong Kong were allowed to disembark after all 1,800 people aboard tested negative for 2019-nCoV. The ship had been grounded upon arrival in Hong Kong on Wednesday.
     
  • Bill Gates is set to purchase the world’s first hydrogen-powered superyacht. The ship, which features an infinity pool, helipad, spa and gym, is valued at US$644 million. That’s about five times more than what Genting Malaysia paid for the Jho Low’s old boat.

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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