Author Archives: wcw

Enough of overdrive politicking

While the Covid-19 pandemic and struggling economy has gripped the nation and Malaysians, our power jostling politicians continue to be more preoccupied with power and positions.

MANY ongoing political developments in our country are simply not making sense – at least that’s the consensus. It’s becoming harder to make sound assumptions because they are mostly unsound.

That’s because we think on the level when we make our assessments, unlike politicians, who are not normal. They are bent on pushing Malaysia into becoming a dysfunctional democracy.

In the past week, I’ve had to force myself to read endless streams of data bytes, fake news, official statements, gossip and half-baked analyses.

The usually reliable news outlets are no better. In them are stories obviously planted by untrustworthy politicians or their operatives, to suit their interests.

It’s near impossible to switch myself off from this exercise in futility, but there’s no running away from it. My job requires me to know as much as I can.

My bosses, clients and contacts call me up incessantly to be brought up to speed with the latest. I am expected to know, so they think.

I’m supposed to be the one to distinguish real news from fake ones.

But I’ve had to tell them, apologetically, that I’m just as clueless as them because we’re now dealing with very confused politicians who urgently need sanity checks.

They can’t be thinking straight, and that’s conclusive. Every afternoon, between 5pm and 6pm, we dutifully turn on the television to learn the latest number of people infected with the dreaded coronavirus.

I guess some of us also want to find out what eye-catching attire Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has chosen from his wardrobe. The shirts look like batik, but that’s still open to debate.

Slowly but surely, we’ve become utterly confused by the number of abbreviations he has used for the numerous directives and standard operating procedures.

When his briefings end, we wait patiently for Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Noor Hisham Abdullah to update us on the status of the pandemic.

I’m certain that none of our politicians are bothered with these statistics. The only numbers they are concerned with is whether they have accumulated enough statutory declarations (SD) to topple the sitting Prime Minister, while those in government are counting if they still have the numbers since the commanding majority is negligible.

Here’s why we’re befuddled. Prior to Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim seeking an audience with the Yang di Pertuan Agong, he said he had “formidable and convincing” support from Members of Parliament to form a new government. He was quoted on Sept 23 as saying that their support was “indisputable”.

After his audience with His Majesty, Istana Negara issued a statement to say Anwar did not present a list of Members of Parliament who supported him.

The Comptroller of the Royal Household Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin, in a statement said, Anwar had disclosed the number of MPs he claimed had declared support, but he didn’t provide their names.

OK, let’s give Anwar the benefit of the doubt. Surely he can’t be so brazen as to seek an audience with the King if he had nothing to show for it.

We are told by nameless supporters that Anwar needs to keep the names closely guarded to prevent them from being counter-offered. So that comes back to the point why SDs are useless and worthless because the signatories can change their minds at any time.

If some press reports are to be believed, there were also purported letters signed by some heads of parties that were sent to the King. Names have been mentioned but they have remained silent. Nobody is even sure if they have received the approval of their members, as working with political enemies is surely a serious matter.

Well, that’s not something we can verify, but what is factual is that the King no longer wants to meet any of them. It’s probably right on the money to suggest that the palace and many of the Rulers are upset with the conduct of our politicians. Fuming, to be precise. In their minds, these politicians are disconnected from reality.

The Covid-19 pandemic has crippled the economy, yet these politicians are only interested in jostling for power. Their actions are just disgusting.

Now, there are other mind-boggling scenarios if Anwar indeed has strong numbers. He would need to get the support of Umno, PAS, Warisan, Amanah, PKR, DAP, Gabungan Parti Sarawak and the Barisan Nasional to put together a powerful coalition.

Umno leaders are getting pelted by their grassroots for working with Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia. It’s no secret that many Umno leaders are angry that their party has given so much to Bersatu despite having greater numbers.

One top Umno leader told this writer that “the longer we stay in the government, the faster we will die”.

But how can Umno leaders work with the DAP, or how would the DAP tell its members that it’s now OK to work with Umno?

Surely the MCA and MIC, and GPS, would never want to cooperate with the DAP either. Don’t forget Gabungan Rakyat Sabah, either.

It’s also unimaginable that PAS would sit side by side with Ama-nah.

Have we now come to the point where “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” and Malaysians are about to hear how these politicians are doing this “to save Malaysia” rather than to save themselves? Unfortunately, many gullible Malaysians will believe this.

As we cast our attention on Anwar, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has suddenly appeared out of the blue. None of us were aware that he submitted a letter to the Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun to table a vote of no confidence in the PM.

Ku Li, as the Kelantan prince is called, has now hijacked the limelight from Anwar.

The whole country has suddenly received pictures of Ku Li with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his wife, along with loyalist Datuk Khairuddin Abu Hassan.

Khairuddin said the photo was taken four years ago, until it was pointed out to him that he and Dr Mahathir were wearing, or holding, facemasks.

Wearing facemasks, as we know, only became mandatory after the country was hit by Covid-19 this year.

Then, Khairuddin said this wasn’t something new to Dr Mahathir since he suffered a lung infection several years ago. However, others soon claimed the picture was taken last month when Ku Li hosted a birthday party for Dr Mahathir.

Sure, we believe you.

However, it’s hard to ignore that a plot seems to be hatching to stop Anwar.

For the benefit of young Malaysians born only after 1989, Ku Li left Umno to form Parti Melayu Semangat 46 after a bitter challenge against Dr Mahathir in Umno.

Well, that doesn’t mean they can’t be friends or new allies in a political arrangement. However, the moral of the story is, don’t place all your eggs in a politician’s basket. They can’t even be honest about a picture.

The New Malaysia, which most of us are hoping for, isn’t taking shape. The same ageing actors are still refusing to leave the stage with all still fighting to play the same lead role.

The Malaysian audience has had enough, and the time has come for these stalwarts to realise they have overstayed their welcome. The world has moved on without them. It’s time we dim the lights and tell them that the show is over. Please leave the building.

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´╗┐Delusions of grandeur

US President Donald Trump made world headlines when he announced last week that he had contracted Covid-19, and then was immediately whisked to hospital.

The world expected him to be confined for at least a week or more but surprisingly, he was discharged after three nights.

No one’s even sure if he’s now in quarantine at the White House. We’re hearing nothing at the moment. Did he discharge himself by exercising his presidential rights, or did the doctors really think he was already in the pink of health?

Come on, none of us believe this, unless politicians are a special breed of people immune to the virus.

Our leaders will be dealt with cynical smirks and disgust when they tell us that there are no double standards in the enforcement of quarantine and standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Ordinary Malaysians infected with the virus can expect to be isolated at Sungai Buloh Hospital, at least that’s what’s happening in our country.

In the United Kingdom, “victims” are being asked to stay home until significant complications surface. And that’s simply because the health system has collapsed, and they can’t cope with the sheer numbers anymore.

Then, there is the indifference among Britons towards the pandemic. Malaysians living there get the impression they are taking it lightly.

Many Britons allude to disliking instructions which impede on their personal liberties, so no one is going to tell them to wear a facial mask, or ban them from having their pint at the pub.

But at home, complacency is obviously one reason why our numbers have also shot up beyond the movement control order (MCO) period. In fact, it’s the grimmest picture we’ve painted yet since Covid-19 hit us.

If the MCO kept us indoors with its tight rules, then we are losing that safety net because it’s unlikely it will be re-imposed due to the disastrous implications for the economy.

We’re already worse for wear as layoffs and pay cuts have continued. Many companies are still struggling to stay afloat and signs indicate they can’t survive for long.

Our politicians must be deaf or plain clueless if they don’t know the sentiments on the ground.

Some people have put up banners venting their anger at the intense politicking taking place in Malaysia.

We may think they are politically motivated and aimed at making the government look bad, which could be the case, but seriously, people are just fed up because they have greater concerns on their minds.

The police also have better things to do than trace the people behind the banners in Ipoh and Johor Bahru.

And now, we’re all worried about becoming Covid-19’s next victim.

Surely it seems totally out of place for us to deal with a general election and jostle for positions while Malaysia faces numerous challenges.

In Sabah, former chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman has been targeted for triggering a snap state election.

Some of our politicians have become infected, thanks to the Sabah elections, in which necessary health SOPs were likely ignored.

And some of them probably think they have super immune systems, like Donald Trump, and returned to Kuala Lumpur and carried out their work like usual, without being quarantined at home.

Like with the first MCO, the fear is that it will be the marginalised groups like the B40, migrant workers and small local businesses that will be most affected.

Many Sabahans who returned to KL have contributed to the spread of the disease.

Malaysians have every reason to fear that a snap election or the coming Sarawak election will replicate the Covid-19 outbreak in Sabah.

We look bad because there’s only so much the Health Ministry and its frontline workers can do. If our politicians and campaigners choose to ignore the rules, no one can stop them, especially if they’re political bigshots.

Singapore, South Korea and New Zealand have all recently held their elections and managed to keep everything under control.

All the campaigners, regardless of their allegiance, must bear the blame in one way or another. The Election Commission has mandated that campaign events adhere to physical distancing, temperature checks, recording attendances, limiting the size of rallies and the mandatory use of face masks and hand sanitisers.

Yet, parties still conducted traditional campaign events where members shook the hands of potential voters, said Thomas Fann, chairman of election watchdog Bersih, who was in Sabah to observe the polls.

The Edge reported that photographs from the campaign trail showed one politician from the Gabungan Rakyat Sabah side, who later tested positive, not wearing a mask while squatting inches away from a trader at a wet market. Authorities later closed the market indefinitely.

The Health Ministry should have insisted that everyone returning from Sabah be self-quarantined for 14 days. The same rules should be applied with no exceptions.

But the government said there was no need for the two-week confinement if those returning from Sabah tested negative.

DAP assemblyman Lim Yi Wei tested positive five days after returning from Sabah, even though an initial test at the airport showed that she didn’t have the virus.

Then, there is Religious Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Dr Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri, who has also tested positive for Covid-19.

He attended a Cabinet meeting and had close contact with Cabinet ministers and Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, all of whom have since undergone health screening. He also attended numerous events from Sept 24 to Oct 4. Those who have been exposed to virus carriers are advised to go for Covid-19 screening at any government clinic as soon as possible.

In many of the photographs, he was seen not wearing a mask.

Yet, during the MCO, he was very careful, so this can only be attributed to complacency, which many of us are guilty of. The only difference is we never needed to visit Sabah or attend the many functions politicians have to.

The paradox is that politicians still eat, sleep and dream about having elections as soon as possible, purportedly to serve us better, but without the thought that an election could put us all at risk of being infected with the virus.

It seems that getting themselves elected and being rewarded with positions are more important than anything else, and at the end of the day, what could average Malay-sians get even if these politicians can dramatically transform their lives? Nothing.

While the new Members of Parliament enjoy their new perks and privileges, the rest of us are still stuck with our pay cuts and eating the same “economy rice” or “nasi budget”.

Malaysians have earned the right to be cynical and pour scorn on these selfish politicians.

There is a famous Malay proverb, “harapkan pagar, pagar makan padi”, which, translated to English means, we depend on the fence, yet the fence “ate” the padi.

This proverb is normally used when a person is relied upon and trusted to protect something, yet is the one destroying the subject of protection.

My friend Anas Zubedy has modified it instead to “harapkan politik, politik makan hati”, which means if you place your hope on politics, you will end up disappointed.

Then there is another proverb “sebab nila setitik, rosak susu sebelanga”, where the closest English equivalent would be, because of one person’s bad behaviour, the whole community gets a bad name, or one bad apple spoils the bunch.

Anas thinks it should now be “sebab politik setitik, rosak negara sebelanga”, meaning because of politics, the whole nation has been affected.

I will stick to one simple Malay word whose nuances can only be captured in Bahasa Malaysia: it’s meluat (fed up). I hope our politicians who dream every night of delusions of grandeur get it.

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Catch-22 a-calling

THE most disturbing news of the week has to be Covid-19 returning with a vengeance. Sure, it never went away, but this looks to be the scariest wave of the pandemic yet.

The Health Ministry announced yesterday the disturbing news that we had 317 new confirmed cases, the highest number of infections since Malaysia became a casualty of the deadly virus.

Sabah and Kedah recorded the highest numbers yesterday, with 155 and 102 respectively.

The signs have been growing. New cases reported on Friday had already reached 287.

The bulk of them (128) were from the jail in Kedah identified as the Tembok cluster, while two new clusters were identified in Selangor, Seri Anggerik (eight cases) and Seri Setia (one case).

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said Malaysia was probably experiencing a “new wave” as the number of cases continued to climb.

“If we look at the chart, we have an increase in cases lately. That probably is the beginning of a new wave,” he told a press conference on Thursday.

We seem to have gone back to the movement control order (MCO) period when we registered 190 cases on March 15.

Dr Noor didn’t mince his words when he tweeted on Thursday, “How about all stay at Home for awhile again?”, which hinted his frustration, and likely echoed that of the frontliners’.

He downplayed it later, explaining that it was merely an advisory, and suggested that Malaysians who need not be out and about should just stay at home.

Basically, if we need to leave the house, we should adhere to the standard operating procedures (SOPs) installed by the Health Ministry since Day One of the MCO in March, and the reason we have arrived at the recovery MCO stage.

Dr Noor’s tweet has snapped us out of our false sense of security, since alarming triple-digit figures have returned.

The number of new cases on Saturday was the highest registered ever in the country. During the first wave of Covid-19 cases in March and April, daily figures were below 260, although at that time, Malaysia’s testing capacity was below the current level.

Active cases yesterday reached 1,735, a level unseen since late April.

The number of Malaysians who found themselves infected while campaigning in the recent Sabah state elections has certainly set alarm bells ringing.

Last week, 35 teachers and 67 students were exposed to two SMK Pendamar Jaya female students who tested positive for Covid-19.

The girls and their family members had gone home to Sabah recently to attend a wedding, and a few of them tested positive for Covid-19 not long after returning to the peninsula. The family lives in Bukit Tinggi, which is close to Klang.

The school was not asked to close, with state health director Datuk Dr Sha’ari Ngadiman saying the infected students’ contact with other students was minimal.

He assured that necessary measures had been taken, but until the second tests are conducted on the teachers and students, parents, teachers and students will be on tenterhooks.

A different approach was taken in Penang. The school SK Per-matang Janggus, Penaga, was ordered to close from Thursday till Oct 8 after a teacher there tested positive for Covid-19.

Penang State Education Depart-ment director Abdul Rashid Abdul Samad said the closure order was issued to curb the virus’ spread.

“At the moment, the school will be closed for eight days and any other decision will be made after a meeting with the Ministry of Health (MOH),” he said.

So, two different approaches are being taken. The fear now is that more school children could be affected. It’s impossible for there to be zero infections because until a vaccine is found, we simply have to learn to live with this killer virus.

We must protect ourselves and stop being complacent, or even think it won’t affect us.

The consolation is that the authorities have now become more adept at dealing with the outbreak, and as Dr Noor has continually reminded, the onus is still on us to flatten the curve of the rate of infections by adhering to government guidelines.

But staring at us is the possibility of a general election being called within the first quarter of 2021.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is facing enormous pressure to call for a general election. It isn’t only because Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim claims he has enough Members of Parliament with him.

There are Umno lawmakers, especially those not holding government posts or facing multiple charges in courts, pushing for snap polls, too.

Also, Sarawak is already preparing for the prospect of state elections, and time is running out since Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Abang Openg must call for polls by June 2021.

Talk is that the Federal Government wants him to hold the state polls simultaneously with the general election, and that can only mean by the first quarter of 2021.

As Anwar waits for an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, it’s very unlikely that the King will simply consent for him to be installed as PM.

He would need to consult the current PM, too, to be assured Muhyiddin still commands the majority, even if it’s wafer thin. The two likely options include either asking for Parliament to be dissolved or waiting for Dewan Rakyat to reconvene next month.

Dewan Rakyat will sit from Nov 2 to Dec 15, with the Budget to be tabled on Nov 6, and it’s almost a certainty that this will be an election budget.

Muhyiddin will surely take every opportunity to conjure populist measures that will help him win the elections, particularly continuing relief for Malaysians, what with the Covid-19 pandemic still raging.

Then, there’s the 12th Malaysian Plan, which will be tabled in Parliament in January – and that will again be used to mirror the manifesto of the present federal government as it takes the final lap before dissolving Parliament.

Until these two important matters are tabled and settled, it’s unlikely that the GE will be held next month or in December, because there are no signs the machinery has been activated.

These plans will surely help Muhyiddin be portrayed as a credible leader to lead the country and earn him the mandate he desperately needs.

The endless politicking and instability have come at a heavy cost to Malaysia.

Foreign investors will not pour money into Malaysia if they are unsure who the PM will be tomorrow.

The longer we wait for elections to be called, the worse it will be for all of us, so the scenario is looking like a double-edged sword.

The concern here is, if the general election is called, we will have a serious problem dealing with the potential of a spike in Covid-19 cases, like with Sabah following its recent campaign.

Last week, financial analyst Fitch Solutions revealed its prediction that politics in Malaysia is expected to blunt economic growth for the next decade.

Combined with slower population growth and reduced fiscal space to cushion against negative future economic shocks, Fitch predicts real GDP growth to be at just 3.4% over the next 10 years, compared to 6.4% over the past decade.

“Having exhausted avenues of growth provided by lower-level industrialisation, Malaysia has to upgrade its economy in order to escape the middle-income trap,” it said in a commentary.

Fitch Solutions said any effort to upgrade the Malaysian economy may be hampered by political uncertainty and stalling reform momentum amid a shift toward populism, which is likely to present serious risks to its success.

The endless politicking, the worsening Covid-19 situation and the continuing slide in business and economy are dogging Malaysia. So, the least we can do now is restore political stability.

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