Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Nurul Izzah’s appointment: What nepotism?

Jalan Kapas, 1feb23: It is hard to defend Anwar Ibrahim’s decision to appoint his own daughter, Nurul Izzah, as the Prime Minister’s senior financial advisor. The PM being Anwar himself, that is, aside from beiing the Minister of Finance as well. But Omar Ong, once an advisor to a prime minister of this country, and not one of Anwar’s favourite persons (if I’m not mistaken), suggests that Anwar’s appointment of his daughter could easily be justified. The good thing is Omar does not try to fool anyone by saying that the appointment isn’t an act of nepotism because it is, which ever way you want to see it. But so what? Omar argues in his latest posting on his blog Musings of the (occasional) thinker, planner and do-er that nepotism is alive and well in Malaysia, and has been so since Merdeka. 


There are many who today argue that nepotism in whatever shape, form or circumstance, has no place at all in society and public office. That it is by definition a corrupt, self serving act that inevitably corrodes trust and good will in society. I am not one of them and if it is not already obvious, more sanguine in my view.

But I would very much like to hear how those who subscribe to such an unequivocal belief, would characterise the moral and ethical positions of Tun Abdul Razak and Tun Hussein Onn during their time in public office.

I am also certain there are those who honestly and sincerely believe nepotism has no place in society and I would like to understand your perspective as it applies present day to the 10th Prime Minister, his party as well as to the DAP, PAS and other Sarawak & Sabah based parties, where such practices are alive and well. 

Is nepotism by sheer virtue of its presence, a death knell for public trust and good governance?

Or can it also be a benign force in a period of great personal mistrust, misunderstanding and Machiavellian machinations among the great, the good, the bad and downright ugly who lead in our name?

READ ALSO:  Much Ado about Nurul, also by Omar Ong 

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Will Anwar do the inappropriate with Singapore?


KL, Jan 27: I don’t know why the editors at The Vibes decided to drop the word “irregular” from the headline as that was exactly how Attorney-General Idrus Harun, in his report to Anwar Ibrahim’s Cabinet on Jan 11, had put it: the decision by Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s administration in 2018 to withdraw the review application in relation to sovereignty over Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge was “irregular and inappropriate”. 

In the diplomatic world, every word, nuance, punctuation is thought through. When Anwar meets his Singapore counterpart early next week, he may choose to omit either or both words the AG used or both PMs may decide to defer talks on Batu Putih altogether. 

The top officials of their foreign ministries, however, don’t have the luxury. They will have to visit the subject, even though it has been 15 years since the ICJ gave away Malaysia’s outcrops off Johor to the republic. It’s their job.

I believe a lot of Malaysians are still interested to know. Why Tun Mahathir withdrew the application. Why AG Idrus think it was irregular and inappropriate. Did an officer in ex AG Apandi Ali’s office really advise Mahathir to withdraw. How and why did we lose Pulau Batu Puteh. Where is ex AG Gani Patail in all this? How will this affect Malaysia-Singapore ties under the unity government led by Anwar?

It will also be interesting if the potentially game-changing High Speed Railway project, which was stalled also by the previous Pakatan Harapan government and later terminated by the Muhyiddin administration (costing us taxpayers some RM380 million of money for nothing), will be raised between Anwar and his counterpart.

The Singaporeans are, obviously, still hopeful. Their media (read HERE) seem to be. 

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Averting a UiTM tragedy

Bangsar, 12 Jan: At the UiTM’s faculty of communications and media studies’ 50th anniversary celebration last October, vice chancellor Dr Roziah Mohd Janor pooped the party by announcing the merger of the faculty with two unrelated disciplines; namely, the Computer Science & Mathematics faculty and the Information Management faculty. Everyone was dumbfounded. Protests qucikly followed. 

Last week, the poor VC gave in to pressure from the faculty’s alumni: she promised to undo the merger. But it would take three to six months before the mistake can be “dismantled”, according to news reports.

You may call this merger-demerger whatever. In one word, I’ll call it regressive. A waste of everyone’s time and resources. Ngabih  boreh.

If this ill-conceived merger is not reversed, it will be a tragedy.

When I enrolled into the faculty in 1982, UiTM was still just an “institute” but its School of Mass Communications, the brainchild of some of hte country’s finest intellects, was churning out quality journalists, broadcasters, pr practitioners and advertising execs. Today the faculty’s influence on the country’s media landscape is indisputable.

The varsity should be looking into ways to expand its comms and media studies faculty’s capabilites in order to address the various challenges posed by social media, cyber security, and tiktok. Its comms faculty should be leading national efforts to help the nation deal with cyber security issues, fake news, online scams, 

Read also: After UKM, now UiTM stops pro-democracy forum

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Rm1.3 billion projects in Sabah just tip of iceberg (Now we know what they all did just days before the Nov 19 GE)

KL, 10 Jan: Poor pundits sure got themselves worked up for nothing by the so-called Sabah political condunrum. Was it even that - a conundrum - in the first place? Joniston Bangkuai, the state assemblyman for Kiulu, laughed it off: 

“Just a storm in a tea cup,” he told me. “Our ship remains steady.”

Indeed. Just days after threatening to bring down the Hajiji-led state government, Umno/BN strongman Bung Mokhtar, a controversial figure in Malaysian politics, finds himself face down in the political crap of his own making. His attempt at political blackmail, which is what this conundrum really is according to some political observers, has brought about a terrible backlash, not just against himself but Umno and BN in the state. 

Chief Minister Hajiji Noor himself seems unaffected, if not stronger than before. There is a sense of finality to this when Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, fresh from his quick visit to Jakarta, said Hajiji had his support to continue leading the state goverment. Read HERE.

“Touching,” Joniston said, “that a few upright Umno state assemblymen (in the state) have stayed clear of those out to topple the CM and continued to support Hajiji.

“What is even more significant is the support of the seven Aduns from (Anwar Ibrahim’s) Pakatan Harapan.”

Under Hajiji’s leadership, Sabah, always one the poorest states in Malaysia, posted RM6.6 billion in revenues in 2022, its largest ever, and a healthy RM33 billion in investment.

“To put it in a nutshell, there is really no reason to disrupt the encouraging development momentum or to replace the Chief Minister,” Joniston added.

But all the reasons in the world now for the relevant authorities to rush in and investigate claims that some of those behind the failed coup had hastily given out some RM1.3 billion worth of projects during the days leading up to the recent general elections in November. 

Were those projects given out to cronies with blatant disregard of proper procedures? Were proceeds from those projects used for the election? Or did people pocket the money for themselves?

People believe Hajiji became a target for the coup after he reportedly refused to sign off the RM1.3 billion projects.

Interestingly, we’ve been hearing that the same thing also happened in several ministries in the Federal government just prior to the GE. The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission is already onto one corporation that was said to have almost emptied its coffers in the days leading up to the elections, according to my sources. 

I guess we’ll know more soon enough …

Read also:

Kinabalu coup bid shows Anwar is weak: poor pundits

Bung mahu Shafie Apdal, lantik Salleh Menteri Kewangan, ambil semula RM1.3 bilion tidak dilulus MOF Sabah

Krisis Sabah: Ini semua salah Haji, kata Shafie Apdal

Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Trio to be called in for MACC's probe into RM600 billion pandemic budget - Sources

 Muhyiddin, Zafrul and KJ to be interviewed by anti-graft body

KUL, 7 Dec: Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz is fast becoming the most prominent member of Anwar Ibrahim's Cabinet but for the wrong reasons (and not necessarily his own doing). Read  Abu Dhabi trip  and Shameless Royal lobby.

Latest, the Minister of International Trade and Industry can surely expect a call  from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to assist in the MACC's probe into how some RM600 billion was spent during his tenure as Minister of Finance to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic that officially hit the nation in 2020. 

People told me former PM Muhyiddin Yasin, who made Zafrul senator and MOF in 2020, will also be called in by the anti-graft body. Former Minister of Health Khairy Jamaluddin will also be asked to assist in the investigation. Point to note: KJ was Health Minister since Aug 2021. Under Muhyiddin, he was holding the science and technology portfolio.

Muhyiddin lost his bid to become PM a second time when his coalition Perikatan Nasional came in second behind Anwar Ibrahim's Pakatan Harapan at the general elections on Nov 19. He was PM from Feb 29 2020 to Aug 16 2021. Ismail Sabri succeeded him until last month. Under Ismail's premiership, Muhyiddin was made chairman of the National Recovery Council, a position that carries the status and perks of a Cabinet minister.

The MACC has confirmed investigating the RM600 billion spending yesterday (read HERE).

Saturday, December 03, 2022

Anwar's Cabinet: zzz ...

 KUL, Dec 3: I don't mean to be rude, my zzz refers to the three Zs: Zahid Hamidi, Zafrul Abdul Aziz and Zambry Kadir. (Rafidah Aziz got the first two Zs but missed out on the third in Why Zahid, Why Zafrul?) in Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim's newly-formed Cabinet.

Both Zafrul and Zambry lost in the general election. The voters rejected them in their respective constituencies. Dr Dzulkefly (with a D not Z) Ahmad, the former Health Minister who defeated Zafrul in Kuala Selangor, did not get any Cabinet position. Ahmad Nordin Ismail of Perikatan Nasional, who beat Zambry the Barisan Nasional secretary-general in Lumut, was also left out. Anwar, instead, made Zafrul his Minister of International Trade and Industry (Rafidah Aziz's former portfolio) and Zambry as the Foreign Minister.

Zahid's appointment as Deputy Prime Minister has been highly contentious because he has an ongoing court case. But he did win the election in Bagan Datok against underdog Pakatan Harapan's Shamsul Iskandar, even though by merely 348 votes. Shamsul has emerged a hero among the PH crowd for taking on the Barisan Nasional chairman in his backyard. A couple of days more of campaigning and he might have beaten Zahid, some said.

Anwar, however, clearly does not need a hero in his Cabinet.

So why Zafrul? People talk in hushed tones about his lucky stars as a member of the royalty, of how the former banker who does not even hold any post in his party could rise so high above his colleagues. More disturbingly, people whispered about "hidden hands" behind his appointment, of how the Palace was involved in wanting to keep him in Cabinet despite him losing the election, despite his not having any party position, and his having done poorly as the Minister of Finance under the short-lived Muhyiddin's administration and the uninspiring Ismail Sabri's government. The veteran politician Wee Choo Keong, in fact, describes Zafrul as "the worst MOF Malaysia has ever had" on Twitter.

Rafidah, a veteran politician, knows the answer(s) to her own question Why Zaful, why Zahid? I suspect. But instead of giving us answers, she beats around the bush. So people will continue to talk and maybe they won' talk in hushed tones if an acceptable answer is not gotten for them.   

In any case, the new PM has got his Cabinet formed. One likes it or detests it, Malaysia has now a political government in place to set policies to steer the country ahead and fulfil promises made in the various parties' manifestos. 

We can hope for the best. But right now it's a cloudy, gloomy Saturday, folks. Perfect for an afternoon zzz ...

Thursday, December 01, 2022

Zahid Hamid does not have to be the "bitter pill" that we need to swallow

KUL, Dec 1: Imagine DPM Zahid Hamidi courting a group of international investors, talking about good governance and transparency and the government's intolerance towards corruption one day and the very next day he's appearing in court to defend himself against alleged misdeeds of those nature. It's worse than irony and it would be tough for Anwar Ibrahim, the new Prime Minister, to defend himself and the integrity of his new government. It's a great disservice to the voters who wanted a government unblemished by the so-called court cluster, the blatant corrupt practices. 

I have nothing against Zahid. He married a girl from Masjid Tanah, Melaka, where my kampung is, has always been friendly and humble as a human being, and was a hardworking MP, Cabinet Minister and DPM to Najib Razak. A fellow big biker to boot.

But making him DPM because he "played a pivotal role in getting this grand coalition together", as Tian Chua words it in his article Zahid Hamid: A bitterpill but necessary is tough to chew let alone swallow and digest. 

Tian Chua the former PKR parliamentarian argued that:

Pakatan Harapan (PH) has chosen to be in coalition with Barisan Nasional (BN). When in partnership, the two blocs must accord each other with respect and accept parity. If BN parties were to nominate their chairman into the cabinet, it is not proper for PH to pick and choose who they want. That will be against the spirit of cooperation and mutual trust.

Zahid played a pivotal role in pulling the grand coalition together. Not forgetting there was strong rejection within BN for the coalition with PH at the initial stage. BN MPs were split over the choice of ruling partners. Zahid’s firm leadership swiftly ended the stalemate.

In order to govern effectively, PH and BN leaders have to build trust and confidence in each other. Undeniably, there is still lots of skepticism within BN, especially Umno. Zahid has demonstrated his ability to consolidate BN into a unified stance to cooperate with PH.

Furthermore, Zahid’s experience in government is a plus and he could complement the largely inexperienced PH ministers. He could also mediate between PH and the civil services and the conservative segments of the government. He could play a key role in stabilising the new coalition government.

Under a different circumstance, I'd perhaps agree with Tian Chua. But right here and now, we are talking about the need for Anwar Ibrahim, the new PM, to deliver his promise to voters and the people. 

“I want to reduce the size of the cabinet. I don’t want to continue this extravagant manner of employing or appointing ministers as a point of reward ... rewarding political masters in order to support me (as PM) .. I want them to support me based on my policies andmy commitment to good governance and anti-corruption ..." -  No more extravagance: Anwar assures lean Cabinet, appointments free of political placating

Zahid will be spending a lot of time in court (read 40 down, 47 to go). He will also be spending a lot of time looking over his shoulders because the rebels in Umno want him out as their party president. Supporters of Zahid as Anwar's DPM say that the No 2 position won't influence the outcome of the court cases but it will give him a solid base to defend his position in Umno and from there work on solidifying his own party within the new grand coalition with Anwar and PH.

It's Anwar Ibrahim's call. Tian Chua is absolutely wrong when he said it's not proper for PH to pick and choose who it wants if BN nominates its chairman (Zahid) to Cabinet. PH does not decide on the appointment of Cabinet, Tian Chua. The PM does and Anwar is the PM.

And Anwar Ibrahim as PM has the power to put Zahid in a position that won't compromise his policies and principles, won't put the process of justice in an awkward position, and at the same time accord Zahid the regards for his "pivotal role".

There are at least two possibilities:

1. The PM appoints Zahid as chairman of the Majlis Pemulihan Negara, replacing Muhyiddin Yasin.  That post comes with Minister status and perks. Establish a new framework for the Council. "Pemulihan Negara" should stress on rebuilding trust among the races, fighting extremities, and other threats to our society that reared their ugly heads during the GE15 campaigning.

2. Set up a new presidential committee comprising presidents and chairman of the various parties and components in the so-called grand coalition. Appoint Zahid as head of this committee in his capacity as leader of the second biggest bloc in the component. The committee shall build that "trust" Tian Chua was talking about as well as  

Tujuan sama dengan Majlis Pemulihan Negara. Minister status.

In either case, budget can come from the humongous allocation given to Jakim .. Anwar's Cabient will be spared of having to focus on these crucial issues and we will have the participation of all concerned parties. 

Many will see my suggestion as a deflectoin. It is. But to me Zahid performing outside Cabinet but within the grand coalition's framework and interest, with a mission that concerns us as a nation, is a smaller, easier pill to swallow.  

There's a third optoin, and that's for Anwar to leave one DPM post vacant until Zahid has cleared his court cases.

Till then, Zahid is innocent until proven guilty. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

The easy - and ideal - solution to who should be Anwar Ibrahim’s deputies

One DPM from Sabah, One DPM from Sarawak

Mont Kiara, 29 Nov: I read with great interest NST’s speculation on who Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim will likely name as his two deputies. Umno Deputy President Mohanad Hassan seems to be NST’s favourite. (Read HERE

Not mine. 

If I were Saudara Anwar, I’d appoint one DPM from Sabah and one DPM from Sarawak. 

This would make my Unity Government all-inclusive. This will put this nation back on track as envisioned by our forefathers in the Malaysia Agreement 1963. This may also set a template for future Cabinets. For example, if one day we have a Sarawakian as PM, one DPM will be from Semenanjung and the other DPM from Sabah.  

Mohamad Hassan, or Tok Mat Hassan as he is fondly called, was a corporate man before joining the big-time politics. He’s got the making of a finance minister. 

My good friend Rais Husin, the researcher and a senior member of the Bersatu party until just before the GE, has been promoting Rafizi Ramli, Anwar’s No 2 in PKR, as MOF. But I disagree. Rafizi had a hard time even explaining his actual worth after declaring his assets just before the general election. He is also quite vengeful (read HERE) and I’d avoid any trait that might lead to a repeat of 2018 when the MOF was said to have gone on a witch-hunt. In my opinion, the Education portfolio would be ideal for Rafizi. It is a very important portfolio in case you think it’s “beneath” Rafizi. Our future depends on the kind of education policies the Anwar administration dishes out. 

Johari Ghani, the former MOF 2 under the Najib Razak administration, is also a favourite for MOF position. I agree but - and it’s one big BUT - he will forever be bogged down by his (guilty by) association with the 1MDB scandal when he was the second MOF. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Why the King will pick Anwar Ibrahim as PM10

Nov 23: The 16th Yang DiPertuan Agong has probably seen more political drama than all his predecessors combined. Since assuming the throne in Jan 2019, Sultan Abdullah has witnessed the very short and rocky reigns of three Prime Ministers: PM7 Dr Mahathir Mohamad, PM8 Muhyiddin Yassin, and PM9 Ismail Sabri. He has had to deal with all kinds of antics from them, too, some outrightly disrespectful.

Tomorrow, after consulting his brother Rulers, the YDPA will be naming the 10th Prime Minister of Malaysia, a task that has fallen squarely on his shoulders after none of the coalitions that contested Saturday’s general election could garner a simple majority to form the federal government.

PM10 will be the fourth PM on Sultan Abdullah’s watch!

As I see it, the King has been left with no choice but to appoint Anwar Ibrahim as PM. 

Here’s why:

As of yesterday, the King had a choice: Anwar or Muhyiddin. But then Muhyiddin had to tell the world that he had rejected the King’s advice that PH and PN set aside their differences and form a unity government for the sake of the nation. I had expected this from Muhyiddin and said so in my tweet as soon as Mat Hassan, the Umno Deputy President, floated the idea in the media.

PH + PN to form govt is wishful thinking. Won’t happen. Unless Muhyiddin is willing to be one of Anwar’s DPMs. Plus, BN will make a weak Opposition. Good try, Tok Mat.

Muhyiddin’s outburst has been described as rude, arrogant and disrespectful of the Agong. I honestly don’t think the King will - or can - bail out Muhyiddin this time around. He has bailed out Muhyiddin too many times in the past. Read Does a government that disrespect the Agong deserves the respect of the Rakyat? (Three times the King bailed out Muhyiddin) 

To try and bail out Muhyiddin again this time will really be risking the wrath of the people.
In the unlikely event that ALL the MPs from Barisan Nasional, Warisan, GRS and GPS interviewed by the King were to tell him that they do not support Anwar to be the next PM, the fact remains that Anwar’s coalition Pakatan Harapan has the most number of seats in Parliament in the general election. The Agong knows this and knows very well that he can appoint Anwar as PM of a minority government.

But I did say “in the unlikely event …”... 

Chances are some, perhaps a good sum, of those MPs have told the King why Anwar, not Muhyiddin, has their support as the next PM. Which will make the task for Sultan Abdullah a little easier.

In the King we trust.

Read also:

Monday, November 21, 2022

22 Nov 2022, 2 pm

21 Nov, 2 pm: The King has granted Zahid Hamidi 24 hours to decide if the coalition he leads, Barisan Nasional (winner of 30 seats in the GE15), is going with Anwar Ibrahim’s Pakatan Harapan (82 seats) or Perikatan Nasional (73 seats) to form a government that will rule for the next 5 years. 

If Zahid goes for PH, they will have just enough seats - 112 in total - to rule. On the other hand, Zahid + PN = 103 seats, which means they’ll need GRS and Sabah’s GPS to make up the number to form a government.

Either way, both PH and PN need Zahid to form a government. Suddenly, Malaysia needs this most-maligned man of the most-maligned party to move on. Zahid is facing multiple charges for money laundering, mismanagement, etc. All politically-motivated, of course, he’s maintained that from the start. Me, thinking like a PAS leader, seeing how close the so-called Islamist party is to taking over this country, I’d say that maybe this is the Almighty’s way of punishing us for not even adhering to the most basic legal doctrine.

Innocent until proven guilty, right? 

In my previous postings, I have laid out two things Anwar Ibrahim must NOT do IF he does become Prime Minister of Malaysia. 

The first is don’t go on a witch-hunt. Read HERE

The second is not to give Lim Guan Eng, the DAP  chairman, any Cabinet post. He was made Minister of Finance hy Tun Dr Mahathir Mohanad in 2018. He has had his chance and I think he failed miserably. You may disagree.

Now, the third thing Anwar must NOT do if he becomes PM is, if I may, to include Zahid in the Cabinet. In fact, Zahid should not be given any role in the new goverment until he has cleared himself of all the charges he’s facing in court. In the event that the courts find him guilty beyond any reasonable doubt, Zahid will have to face the music. Rule of law. 

Until then, he’s the legitimate leader of a coalition that now happens to be key to the formation of our next government. 

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Respect the mandate


Pakatan Harapan          82 seats

Parikatan Nasional       73 seats

Barisan Nasional          30 seats

GPS                              22 seats

GRS                               6 seats

Warisan                          3 seats

*Two seats to be contested at a later date due to candidates’ demise 

Malaysia, Nov 20: While we slept, yes while the nation slept, Perikatan Nasional chairman Muhyddin Yasin told the nation that his coalition, which had garnered the second largest number of seats in the GE15, had secured “a letter with instructiions” from the Palace to form a new government.

I don’t know about you but I felt that this was not right. The image of the Yang Dipertuan Agong despatching such a letter in the dead of night to Muhyddin (or Mahiaddin) and not Anwar Ibrahim, whose coalition had won the largest number of seats at the election, just doesn’t sit well.

But that was what Muhyiddin @ Mahiaddin claimed to have happened. Around midday, the former PM posted a tweet about a meeting he had just had with the leaders of two other coalitions, GPS and GRS, purportedly to discuss the formation of a government.

In the meantime, Anwar, the only one who can claim that his coalition has more than one-third of the Dewan Rakyat (PH won 82 of the 220 seats contested, which works out to 36.9 per cent; PH won 73 or 33.1 per cent) has not gotten any “letter with instructions” from the YDP Agong. 

How come?

Article 43(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution provides that the YDPA shall first appoint a PM who is a Dewan Rakyat member who in his judgement is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the Dewan. Read The Prime Minister’s appointment after GE15.

No one coalition managed to cross the 112-seat threshold to form a simple majority in Parliament and that’s why we are having an impasse now, where no one party or coalition has enough numbers to form the next government. 

But common sense, and perhaps even fair play, dictates that the leader of the coalition that won the most number of seats - and that would be Anwar not Muhyddin - would be the most likely to command the support of the majority of the members of the Dewan Rakyat. The King ought to give him the first shot, no?

So why did Muhyddin jump the gun? I had no answer to this chap sitting across my table during breakfast at McD here in Ampang.

“I slept at 4am, sir. What time did our Agong give this Muhyiddin the haha letter?”

The Palace will have to respond sooner or later to this developing crisis. Don’t let gilakuasa politicians take the nation for a ride again. Listen to the people’s wishes. Respect the voters and their choice. Respect the mandate.

We the people are waiting, watching. So much have been stolen from us lately. Will one more mandate robbed even matter? 

Or would it be the straw that finally breaks the camel’s back?

Nurul Izzah’s appointment: What nepotism?

Jalan Kapas, 1feb23: It is hard to defend Anwar Ibrahim’s decision to appoint his own daughter, Nurul Izzah, as the Prime Minister’s senior...