It’s a bear! It’s a seladang! No, it’s Jho Low! Hiding in plain sight somewhere people apparently get plastic surgery done to look like bears and seladang. Incidentally, Monday was also Jho-boy’s 38th birthday. Sadly, nobody could wish him since no one could, you know, find him.

Also in the news, Malaysians hate carpooling, and PAS is happy to work with non-Muslim parties, so long as they aren't extreme.

We're going on a bear hunt!

The bear necessities

Okay, we admit it. We love making jokes about everybody’s favourite fugitive businessman. Even so, we certainly could never have thought up the one the country allegedly harbouring Jho Low has told Malaysia for not finding and deporting him i.e. that it’s hard to zero in on the guy ’cos he’s had so much plastic surgery done that he now looks like Paddington/Baloo/Yogi (we’d say Winnie the Pooh, but Xi Jinping’s got that one locked down).

This isn’t the first time the nip-tuck theory/excuse has surfaced. A year ago, unnamed sources in a report in The Star (not The Onion) claimed Low had probably had facial reconstructive surgery done to avoid detection. But going under the knife to make oneself look like a bear (with the gait of a seladang, apparently) surely takes the cake honeypot.

IGP Hamid Bador never mentioned where specifically investigators believe Baloo Low is hiding out, but he did huff and puff about certain countries not cooperating with Malaysia. Kinda like Malaysia not cooperating with India over Zakir Naik, bro?

Meanwhile, new deets have emerged about that alleged Cypriot passport. 

According to Cypriot newspaper Politis earlier, Low had obtained Cyprus citizenship after splurging on a villa there. It turns out now he also had the backing of the island nation’s Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos II who helped fast track Low’s naturalisation bid by writing recommendation letters to the Cyprus government. The reason His Grace was so keen on supporting Low? Investments. Guess, Jessie J was right after all. It is always about the cha-ching, cha-ching.

In other Jho Low/1MDB-related news, Money Minister Lim Guan Eng says while the government’s already forked out RM8.9 billion to date, there’s still RM50.75 billion of 1MDB debt to pay. Lim says funds from the Assets Recovery Account – which includes retrieved money – will be used to pay off the debt. Unfortunately, the RM1.45 billion currently in the account is only enough to cover interest from September 2019 to April 2020. Meaning our grandchildren will probably still be paying off this one.

Meanwhile in the High Court, Najib Razak was warned about gallivanting and giving speeches in Tanjung Piai despite telling the court last Thursday he wasn’t well. Jibby maintains the warning was a general one and not targeted at him specifically, but you’d expect him to split hairs about something like this, wouldn’t you? No mention was made of his friend Baloo though.

PAS hearts moderate non-Muslims

PAS which, at least since 2002, has revealed itself to be anything but progressive and moderate, says what the Opposition bloc needs right now are moderate non-Muslim allies, like new buddy MCA.

Yup, MCA may have previously criticised other parties (read: DAP) for working with PAS. However, as far as Hadi Awang is concerned, that’s all water under the bridge especially as “single-seat” MCA isn’t “extreme” (read: not DAP).

The Islamist party has aligned itself with DAP before, in Barisan Alternatif and Pakatan Rakyat. However, there were clashes both times on issues related to Islam. MCA though isn’t likely to rock the boat (not now, anyway) about stuff like that. Which is why it’s gotten Hadi’s seal of approval.

The subtext here, of course, is: we have no problems working with non-Muslims, so long as they toe the line. It’s gonna be interesting to see how much MCA is going to bend backwards, especially when it begins to look like it’s pissing off its core Chinese base. And how PAS will react when MCA begins to swing back the other way …

Meanwhile, Hadi’s noted PAS may have to revamp its Gagasan Sejahtera coalition following the Tanjung Piai by-election and that’s mainly due to ally Berjasa messing it up for PAS. 

PAS formed Gagasan together with Berjasa and Ikatan in 2016 to serve as a sorta third force against Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional. However, the Muafakat Nasional pact with Umno, signed just recently, meant PAS would have to back BN’s choice of candidate for Tanjung Piai i.e. MCA’s Wee Jeck Seng. Berjasa entering the fray, thus, has left Hadi and co. red-faced. 

In short, expect Berjasa to be given the boot. Or for Gagasan to be folded.

Carpool karaoke

In 2017, the Malaysia Automotive Association (MAA) reported there were a total of 28,181,203 vehicles on Malaysian roads. Now, a new survey reveals a whole load of those vehicles are probably being occupied by a single driver at most times.

It’s particularly bad in the Klang Valley, where 87% of people drive alone to and from work. This isn’t exactly surprising and we also don’t really have an issue with the assertion that Malaysia is the worst in the world in terms of single-driver commuter stats.

But the biggest problem with this survey – which was done by the good folks at Cent-GPS who brought you contentious stuff like “everyone hates the UM protest” and “Malay and Indian grads are discriminated against” – is that the major reason it gives for people choosing to drive alone is the “the affordable cost of fuel and toll in Malaysia”.

Yes, we do have the cheapest petrol in the region. But our toll rates suck. And, ultimately, the question of affordability is relative and comes down to individuals’ incomes and other expenses. 

But what makes Cent-GPS’s survey report most mind-boggling is its seeming contradictions. On the one hand, the firm says increasing toll and fuel rates would make driving alone a ‘luxury afforded by the rich”, while in practically the same breath urging the government NOT to abolish tolls as they help “regulate and reduce the number of cars on the road”.

So, keep the tolls because they will reduce the number of cars, even though those would be only rich folks’ vehicles? And to hell with the B40? Who commissioned this report? Toll concessionaires??!?

The wackiness doesn’t end there for Cent-GPS. The survey company listed the desire to listen to music and gather thoughts as well as not wanting to layan colleagues as bigger factors to people driving alone than our horrible public transportation system?!

Yes, maintaining fuel subsidies will hurt everyone in the long run and tolls, IF implemented properly, MAY help ease traffic congestion. But none of this would work if you don’t give people proper alternatives. Singapore, Hong Kong, etc work because their public transport systems are brilliant. Ours … isn’t.

Odds and ends

As usual, there were a few other interesting stories yesterday. Here’re the highlights:

  • PM Mahathir Mohamad says he will absolutely positively certainly definitely step down before GE15 and right now, it’s Anwar Ibrahim who’s in line to the throne. Not Azmin Ali.
  • The lawyer for Thomas Orhions Ewansiha, the Nigerian PhD student who died in Immigration Department custody, has called for the inquest into his death to be sped up.
  • It seems that about a thousand Gerakan members have quit in protest of the party’s decision to contest in Tanjung Piai.
  • The government may give the greenlight for bauxite mining, which was halted in 2016 following environmental issues in Pahang, to resume. That is provided new SOPs being tested are effective.
  • Malaysian Teoh Ze Tong has won Singapore’s Star Search talent competition, which made a return after 9 years on hiatus. We know Singapore is always turning to Malaysia for talent (and decent food!), but this is just a bit too on the nose, innit?

“I’ve had so much plastic surgery, when I die they will donate my body to Tupperware.”

- Joan Rivers -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Police have discovered 41 people of apparent Afghan origin alive in the back of a refrigerated truck in north-east Greece. The truck driver – a 40-year-old Georgian national – has been arrested. The current case comes two weeks after 39 bodies were found in the back of a lorry in Essex. 
  • Fifteen countries will sign the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in 2020, but not India, which is choosing to sit out the trade pact over unresolved issues.
  • Hundreds of Singaporeans held a rare rally to protest the government’s immigration policies which they claim are robbing them of jobs, housing and schooling. So far, so Trump’s America.
  • In other Singapore news, e-scooters will be banned from foothpaths in the island republic from today and needless to say, a whole load of folks are looking to get rid of the zippy little things.
  • Nasa has finally revealed what its Voyager 2 spacecraft has learnt since crossing into interstellar space. The data is allowing scientists to understand, for the first time, what happens in the farthest reaches of space. 

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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