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. 

The case of the missing trees in Taman Tun Dr Ismail

  TTDI, 29 Nov: They are cutting the trees again in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, once one of the greenest housing estates in KL.  Well, it probably ...