Firstly, Happy Deepavali to all our friends who celebrate the festival of lights! We hope you had a lovely time over the long weekend.

And now, on to the news. Saturday, Nov 2 is nomination day in Tanjung Piai, but Pakatan Harapan has already named its candidate for the impending by-election there – local boy Karmaine Sardini. The man’s opponent(s) though remains a mystery.

Also in the news, 12 people linked to the LTTE are set to be brought before the court today, the woman in the Johor mat lajak case is freed, and Khazanah warns about populist government policies hurting businesses.

Bringing it all back home

The kampung boy

Here’re a few things you should know about Karmaine Sardini, Bersatu’s candidate for the upcoming Tanjung Piai by-election:

  1. He’s a 66-year-old school teacher-turned-architect-turned-politician. He’s also a former imam.
  2. He’s an ex-Umno man who previously served as Tanjung Piai Umno division treasurer.
  3. He’s currently Tanjung Piai Bersatu chief as well as on the board of Yayasan Pelajaran Johor.
  4. He’s a Pontian native who lost to Umno’s Ahmad Maslan by 800-odd votes in GE14. Yes, THAT Ahmad Maslan.  
  5. If he wins, he will have the coolest name in Parliament.

Is he the right candidate to help Pakatan Harapan retain the seat? We don’t know. But what we do know is that Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin was quick to point to Karmaine’s local boy status as one of the reasons he was picked to stand. No doubt, the fact Karmaine is known to the good people of Tanjung PIai could prove crucial come election day. There is one teeny-tiny issue, though: we still have no idea who from Barisan Nasional (or PAS, for that matter) he’ll be up against.

According to the grapevine, it’s pretty certain an Umno candidate will be fielded. But word also has it that MCA, which had a hold on the constituency from 2004 to 2018, is unwilling to give up the seat.

So sure, MCA chief Wee Ka Siong may have just yesterday called on party members to stay united and work together to ensure victory in Tanjung Piai. However, will he feel the same if BN bossman Ahmad Zahid Hamidi opts to not go with the MCA candidate (rumoured to be two-time Parliamentarian and the previous occupier of the seat Wee Jeck Seng)? Zahid himself is already issuing veiled warnings about the possibility of internal sabotage. So all may not be rosy in BN-land.

Incidentally, in case you haven’t already noticed, if BN does field an Umno candidate, it would effectively be an Umno vs. (ex)Umno contest.

While mud hasn’t as yet been slung, it does seem like silly season has well and truly begun, what with Johor Umno chief Hasni Mohammad taking a dig at Karmaine’s age and suggesting that the Bersatu man could pass away while serving his term. That’s damn kurang ajar if you ask us. Also, aren’t Bossku Najib Razak as well as Umno supremo Zahid also 66?!?!

Oh and speaking of silly season, try this one on for size: Gerakan, the former BN component party that lost all the seats it contested in GE14, believes the Tanjung Piai by-election could be the perfect stage to mark a return to politics. Those adorable muppets.

Terror charges on the cards

All 12 people picked up by the cops over their alleged links to the defunct Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are expected to be brought to court and charged from today. And it looks like the two DAP assemblymen nabbed – P. Gunasekaran (Seremban Jaya) and G. Saminathan (Gadek) – will be among the first up.

Just in case you haven’t been keeping up with the issue, Gunasekaran and Saminathan, along with 10 others, were arrested in swoops between Oct 10 and 12 for their alleged involvement with the LTTE. Then on Oct 13, counter-terrorism tsar Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay said the cops were also monitoring Indian actor-turned-politician Seeman, who’s apparently travelled in and out of Malaysia frequently and has ties to suspects here.

Many allegations, counter-allegations and arguments have erupted since the first arrests concerning, among others, conspiracies and the police’s use of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) (which Pakatan Harapan themselves have condemned). However, Ayob has maintained throughout that SOP has been followed. Plus, he’s also said police have evidence of a planned attack on the Sri Lankan high commission in Kuala Lumpur as well as of huge financial transactions which were meant reactivate the LTTE here. 

Given all that, it will be interesting to see what charges are levelled against the 12 suspects. Ayob’s laundry list of accusations are serious and the cops will now have to begin showing the evidence. We’re also wondering if the detainees will be granted bail. Generally, suspects charged with terrorism-related offences aren’t eligible for bail. But we live in strange times …

Free to go

Sam Ke Ting, the woman charged with causing the deaths of eight teen cyclists two years ago, has been freed with the Johor magistrate’s court ruling the prosecution had failed to prove its case against the sales promoter.

The woman had been driving along Jalan Lingkaran Dalam near the Mahmoodiah Muslim cemetery in Johor Bahru at around 3am on Feb 18, 2017, when she ploughed into a group of more than 30 youngsters riding modified bicycles a.k.a. basikal lajak. Eight teens were killed and eight others injured in the incident, while Sam was charged with reckless driving.

On Monday though, Magistrate Siti Hajar Ali held that evidence tendered in the case had shown the road was dark, hilly and winding, and that a driver could not possibly have anticipated the teens being there at that time of night. More importantly, the magistrate said she was convinced Sam had been wearing her seatbelt, and not been intoxicated or using her mobile phone at the time of the accident.

Expressing disappointment, the families of the eight victims say they’ve yet to decide on what to do next. And while we do feel for them and expect they would want to seek redress, we have to wonder whether there’ll be opportunists waiting to pounce and turn the court’s decision into a racial issue.

This case was, after all, racially charged from the very beginning due to the ethnicity of the victims – who were all Malay – and of the driver, who is Chinese. There were arrests and the Johor Palace was even forced to get involved and warn folks to stop with the hate. So there is definitely reason to worry that it could head that way again.

Despite folks like Syahredzan Johan trying to preempt any trouble by breaking down and explaining the court’s decision, the comment threads on news outlets’ social media posts on the story have been pockmarked by people taking sides largely along racial lines. So yeah, watch this space as it’s probably just a matter of time before some genius politician plays the ‘us vs them’ card.

Who wants to be popular?

Populist moves may seem like manna from heaven, but often do nothing for the country and can in fact have adverse effects on business.

Need proof? Take a look at the government’s affordable internet move which resulted in a 60% drop in Telekom Malaysia’s shareholder returns and Khazanah Malaysia losing as much as RM3.5 billion.

Yes, Malaysian broadband prices were ridiculously high and needed to be brought down. However, Khazanah isn’t wrong in saying the government must be more mindful that certain policy decisions — despite how good they may seem — have drastic consequences, not just on profits but staff, who may find themselves laid off. (An op-ed in The Star way back in March had actually said the same thing.)

One wonders whether the Pakatan Harapan folk – and Communications Minister Gobind Singh Deo in particular – did any kind of feasibility study at all before issuing the diktat to telcos in the country. And by that same logic, despite silly Tony Pua videos, how much actual study was put into the cost of fulfilling the promises they made pre-GE14?

So what’s the solution then? Well, it’s pretty simple: the government needs to look at the bigger picture and stop doing things just to be popular. In other words, yes, Pakatan may have promised the sky, the moon and the abolition of tolls. However, ensuring a stable economy might mean some promises are just not fulfil-able. 

Odds and ends

As usual, a wee bit more happened over the (long) weekend. And here are some of those highlights:

  • PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad says it’s the Pakatan presidential council that’ll determine the next PM. No one else!
  • Malaysia has moved up three spots in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index and Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) and according to Saudara Lim Guan Eng, this shows the Pakatan government does, in fact, know how to manage the economy.
  • Mahathir man and Bersatu supreme council member Kadir Jasin wants the government to zero in on Indonesian businessman Peter Sondakh, who allegedly conspired with Jibby Razak to bleed Felda. 
  • Cameron Highlands MP, BN’s Ramli Mohd Nor, has embarked on a nationwide tour to speak to his fellow Orang Asli around the country and learn about their plight. Bravo Ramli!
  • Finally, it isn’t exactly essential news but this lovely, feel-good vid about a family that’s embraced the best of Malaysia is sure to warm your hearts. It sure did ours.

“Nobody would say, ‘I’m voting for this guy because he’s got the stronger chin,’ but that, in fact, is partly what happens.”

- Daniel Kahneman -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has died, having killed himself and three of his children in a raid by US special forces. However, there is concern that “lone wolves” could mount retaliatory attacks on US entities, especially in Southeast Asia.
  • Hong Kong is in recession, its financial secretary says, following more than five months of unrest. Meanwhile, a university president has come under fire from protesters after he refused to shake hands with doctoral graduates who wore banned facemasks on stage during their convocation. Seems like graduates are rising up everywhere, huh?
  • Thousands, including celebs like Terminator Arnie Schwarzenegger, have been forced to evacuate their homes following a wildfire which started near Los Angeles’ Getty Center.
  • The EU says it’s okay with delaying Brexit by up to three months while PM Boris Johnson seeks a snap election.
  • This is fascinating: a new study has zoomed in on the exact region all modern humans originated from. Wanna guess where this Garden of Eden was?

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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