As expected, the Pakatan Harapan presidential council meeting tonight was much talked about yesterday, with Anwar himself commenting, threats (veiled and not so veiled) being levied and allegations of different statutory declarations (we really do love our SDs) being bandied about.

In other news, we take a look at the expected rise in inflation as the Covid-19 outbreak takes a toll on global oil prices, and a hodge-podge of trials involving some famous and not-so-famous people.

Threats, tribulations and trials

D-Day for power transition?

Today is D-Day as far as planning for the transition of power between Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim is concerned. So, it came as no surprise that several stories touching on tthe Pakatan presidential council tonight came out yesterday, including comments from the “next PM”.

What did come as a surprise was that it was Bersatu supreme council member Rais Yatim (yes, that ancient frog) who was the first to come out with a statement on the transition of power. Rais has not been vocal of late, but this time he did open his mouth, and out came something so cryptic it could be seen as a veiled threat.

With Maddey insisting he would step down after we host the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November, and some Pakatan “prefects” pressuring him to hand over the reins of the nation before that, Rais chose to tweet that “something may happen” before November. “The prefects may not know what hit them then. There are other powers and factors at work,” was the rest of the tweet. 

Just what was that? A threat? What powers and factors is he talking about? Is he hinting Mads may not pass the baton to Anwar? Is there a secret code machine we need to have to decipher that?

Then, from what could be construed as a veiled threat, we moved on to an overt one. PKR veterans group Otai Reformis 1998 have threatened to take to the streets if Maddey is still in power after May. They want Mahathir to honour an earlier agreement that he would step down after two years as PM following the 14th general election.

And don’t for a second think they won’t. This is a group of people who took part in the Reformasi demonstrations after Maddey sacked Anwar as DPM in 1998. So there’s no love lost between them and Mahathir. Only Anwar could stop them doing what they want to do.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian penchant for SDs seems not to have abated one bit. PKR parliamentary whip Johari Abdul has initiated an SD for MPs to sign. The SD states that the signatory supports Mahathir as the seventh PM and Anwar as the eighth.

This new SD, which basically reaffirms the earlier agreement of a transition of power, has been signed by 40 out of the 50 PKR MPs. It, apparently, is in response to an earlier SD supporting Mahathir to remain in power till the next general election.

And what does the PM-permanently-in-waiting have to say about tonight’s supposed main event? Anwar wants the nation to focus on the economy, which has been affected by the Covid-19 outbreak, and not the transition of power.

The transition, he said, could be resolved in half an hour. What was more important was for the presidential council to focus on the economy. He also denied that he would pin down Mahathir or a specific date for the handover of power, saying the two men shouldn’t be pressured on the issue.

Anwar also appeared magnanimous towards his once-and-present boss, saying he’s open to the idea of including Maddey in his Cabinet once he takes over as the PM. Read that as a subtle turning of the screw on Mahathir, and a reminder that the power balance won’t always be in his favour.

What’ll happen tonight? Though many are expecting grand declarations and definite pronouncements on the transition, we wouldn’t be at all surprised if the whole thing turns out to be a damp squib, with the usual vague statements and non-committal commitments.

Focus on economy amid Covid-19 fears

Anwar was right about one thing: the powers that be really should be focusing more on the impact of Covid-19 on the economy instead of any transition of power issue.

We have already heard that the tourism industry alone has been affected by Covid-19 to the tune of RM3 billion. And the effects of the disease outbreak will go on and on.

RAM Ratings expects Malaysia’s overall inflation rate to rise to 1.8% in January 2020, from 1% the previous month, thanks to higher fuel prices. Oil prices are depressed due to the severity and duration of the Covid-19 outbreak in the world’s second largest source of global demand.

The Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry is is considering an injection (of cash, not drugs) to help tourism players counter the effects of Covid-19 on the industry but is pessimistic about achieving its targets for Visit Malaysia Year 2020, conisdering the global nature of the Covid-19 problem. 

Meanwhile, Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Ong Kian Ming says businesses most severely affected by the Covid-19 outbreak, such as those in the tourism, aviation and retail sectors, can expect to receive direct assistance under the coming economic stimulus package. He said his ministry had given its views on the package to the Finance Ministry, adding that business performances are expected to rebound in the second half of the year.

A number of other bits of news on Covid-19 came out yesterday. To make it easier for you, here are the highlights in brief:

  • A 61-year old Malaysian woman who is a passenger aboard the Diamond Princess Cruise ship quarantined at Yokohama Bay in Japan has been found negative for Covid-19. 
     
  • Meanwhile, the Malaysian couple aboard the cruise ship which tested positive are said to be in stable condition.
     
  • Two more Covid-19 patients here have recovered and been discharged from hospital, leaving only five more hospitalised.
     
  • Putrajaya will bring back a second batch of Malaysians from Wuhan on Tuesday. However, Foreign Affairs Minister Saifuddin Abdullah didn’t disclose the number of people who would be on the flight home.

Trials of the rich and (in?)famous

A number of trials made the headlines yesterday and we thought we’d lump them all together for your reading pleasure (or displeasure, depending on how you feel about them).

First up we have a woman who was not so famous until her name suddenly popped up after GE14. Hasanah Abdul Rahman, the former DG of the so-called Malaysian External Intelligence Organisation (MEIO), officially called the Research Department under the PM’s Department, was charged with criminal breach of trust (CBT) amounting to RM50 million in October 2018. The offence was committed (allegedly, allegedly) on the night of GE14.

The former spy chief had filed a representation on the CBT charge to the Attorney-General’s Chambers last month, but the court hearing her case was told yesterday the AG had rejected it. Details of the representation, however, were never provided to reporters. The court was also told Hasanah had decided to change her defence team.

Over at the Rosmah Mansor graft trial, the court was told that RM5 million in cash withdrawn from Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd (the company that allegedly bribed Rosie) bank accounts were for “RM” – the only problem is the witness could not specifically identify Rosie as “RM”.

Meanwhile, Treasury deputy secretary-general Othman Semail testified that despite his objections, the government had approved the RM1.25 billion solar hybrid project for schools in Sarawak.

He said though he wrote to then PM and Finance Minister Najib Razak with objections to the project, officials could only advise the Finance Minister and ultimately Jibby was the “decision maker”.

In yet another court, former DPM Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was facing his own trials and tribulations. Azlan Shah Jaffril, the director of visa processing company Profound Radiance Sdn Bhd, said that the words “consultation fee” written on a cheque for RM300,000 given to Zahid was crossed out and replaced with “charity” because his employee had made a mistake.

Azlan said the cheque was indeed a donation for charity, adding that two other cheques issued for RM1 million and RM700,000 had the words “charity” and “political fund”, respectively. The cheques were issued in the name of Lewis & Co, the trustee of Yayasan Akalbudi a foundation started by Zahid. Zahid is facing 47 charges of various offences involving  funds belonging to Yayasan Akalbudi.

Odds and ends

Here are a few more things we figure you should know from yesterday’s news:

  • An Australian a̶t̶t̶e̶n̶t̶i̶o̶n̶ ̶s̶e̶e̶k̶e̶r̶  ex-pilot says he would “bet his house” he knows where Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 ended up in the Indian Ocean, even going so far as to provide the coordinates for his predicted location.
     
  • A report has been lodged urging police to investigate social media posts claiming Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng had chaired a meeting in relation to Tabung Haji. The report claimed the posts were meant to “spread religious and racial hatred”, a statement from the office of de facto Islamic Affairs Minister Mujahid Yusof Rawa said. Meanwhile, Urusharta Jamaah Sdn Bhd has denied rumours that Lim had shut down TH Hotels and laid off its workers, calling the allegations malicious and irresponsible.
     
  • Wanita MCA has called on the Terengganu government to review its new policy of gender segregation at events, where female singers are not allowed to perform for male audiences during shows in the state. They say such regulations would put Malaysia in a bad light and jeopardise the economy. They also said the state’s directives should uphold multicultural and moderate values, as well as respect for basic human rights and freedoms.
     
  • A Muslim teachers organisation has filed an originating summons in Kota Baru seeking to have vernacular schools declared unconstitutional. This is the third such bid in the country.
     
  • Guess who’s back in the news? It’s Muhammed Yusoff Rawther, the last person to accuse Anwar of sexual assault. Police have apparently revived the probe into the case as there’ve apparently been concerns that the outcome of the last investigation had been influenced by political figures.

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.”

- Abraham Lincoln -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • US President Donald Trump says he won’t be issuing a presidential pardon to close friend Roger Stone, who was sentenced to 40 months in prison for lying to Congress and threatening a witness regarding his efforts for Trump’s 2016 campaign, at least for now. The Donald says he wants to “see the process play out” as he believes Stone would eventually be exonerated.
     
  • The Attorney General for New Mexico has sued Google, alleging that it acquired personal information from school children in the state, violating their privacy rights.
     
  • California is expected to pass a resolution formally apologising for supporting “unjust exclusion, removal, and incarceration of Japanese Americans” during World War II.
     
  • The terror attack by a right wing extremist in Germany that left nine people – all with immigrant backgrounds – dead reveals the “poison of racism” in the country, Chancellor Angela Merkel says. 
     
  • Larry Tesler, the scientist who created the “cut”, “copy” and “paste” functions on computers, has died. He was 74.

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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