Yemen’s warring sides agree to swap 1,000 prisoners

THE warring sides in Yemen’s long conflict have agreed to exchange 1,081 prisoners, the United Nations mediator said yesterday following talks in Switzerland.

Yemen’s government, which is supported by a Saudi-led military coalition, and Iran-backed Huthi rebels resolved to swap some 15,000 detainees as part of a peace deal brokered by the UN in Stockholm back in 2018.

Tussle over Sabah CM’s post piles pressure on Perikatan after Anwar’s federal takeover claim


Sabah Bersatu chief Datuk Hajiji Noor (centre) poses for a group photo with Gabungan Rakyat Sabah leaders during a press conference at the Magellan Sutera Resort in Kota Kinabalu September 26, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Sabah Bersatu chief Datuk Hajiji Noor (centre) poses for a group photo with Gabungan Rakyat Sabah leaders during a press conference at the Magellan Sutera Resort in Kota Kinabalu September 26, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

COMMENTARY, Sept 28 — The aligned Perikatan Nasional (read: Bersatu) and Barisan Nasional (read: Umno) are deadlocked over which should get to choose the next chief minister of Sabah after their Gabungan Rakyat Sabah coalition won the state election.

PN has insisted on its Sabah chief, Datuk Hajiji Noor, while BN has argued that it should be Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin who led the coalition there.

While the two met with Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Juhar Mahiruddin over their potential appointment yesterday, both went away disappointed as the Sabah governor declined to name either as the new CM and instead asked for more time to consider.

Their dispute is centred on the premise that the party with the most seats should decide the candidate to be CM, based on a reading of the state constitution that the person should be the “leader of such political party” that won the majority of seats and who commanded the confidence of the majority of state lawmakers.

Superficially, this would be Gabungan Rakyat Sabah that included PN, BN, and an assortment of aligned local parties who jointly won 38 seats from the 73 available, but the argument exists because the coalition was informal and could not consequently be the “political party” with the majority.

This pushes the contest lower down to the allied coalitions, where there is more clarity by virtue of PN’s 17 (11 of which were from Bersatu) and BN’s 14 seats (all of which were from Umno).

Sabah Umno chief Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin waves at reporters during a meeting with Gabungan Rakyat Sabah leaders at the Magellan Sutera Resort in Kota Kinabalu September 27, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Sabah Umno chief Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin waves at reporters during a meeting with Gabungan Rakyat Sabah leaders at the Magellan Sutera Resort in Kota Kinabalu September 27, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

However, BN could have a significant advantage in fighting for the post, thanks to the president of the rival PKR party, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Anwar claimed sensationally days before the Sabah election to have secured a “formidable” majority with which to form a new government and declared Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s PN federal administration effectively collapsed.

While Anwar has not established the number of MPs supporting him — or disclosed any number, for that matter — he has at least forced Muhyiddin to come out and repeatedly assert his continued legitimacy as the prime minister.

Intriguingly, BN chairman and Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has also issued a cryptic statement acknowledging support for Anwar from within his coalition and party.

Muhyiddin’s majority in Parliament has never been officially established but is thought to be a two-seat advantage as that was the margin with which PN managed to replace the Speaker and his two deputies previously.

A loss of support from just two Umno and BN lawmakers would send this below the 112-seat majority needed to remain the government of the day.

In such a climate, a tug-of-war with Umno over the position of Sabah’s chief minister could exacerbate the former’s discontent with PN and push the country closer to a possible change of government, an early general election, or the destabilising threat of either.

As such, with Anwar seemingly poised to capitalise on any rift between Umno and Bersatu, securing the Sabah CM’s post could be winning the battle to lose the war.

General Operations Force member injured after being dragged by vehicle driven by smugglers in Pahang


Police said a member of the 7th Battalion of the General Operations Force in Kuantan almost died when he was dragged for almost 100 metres by a vehicle suspected of being driven by a smuggler. ― Picture by Hari Anggara
Police said a member of the 7th Battalion of the General Operations Force in Kuantan almost died when he was dragged for almost 100 metres by a vehicle suspected of being driven by a smuggler. ― Picture by Hari Anggara

KOTA BARU, Sept 27 — A member of the 7th Battalion of the General Operations Force (PGA7) in Kuantan, Pahang, almost died when he was dragged for almost 100 metres by a vehicle suspected of being driven by a smuggler headed to a neighbouring country with cooking oil and wheat flour.

Kelantan police chief DCP Shafien Mamat said the incident happened at about 4 am in Lubuk Setol, near Rantau Panjang in Pasir Mas, near here, last Friday.

He said the incident happened when the 30-year-old corporal and his colleague were patrolling the Malaysia-Thailand border area and came across two four-wheel drives which they became suspicious of.

“The officers instructed the driver (of the vehicle) to stop for inspection.

“But when the PGA7 personnel tried to interrogate the driver of the Mitsubishi Pajero vehicle, he (suspected smuggler) accelerated resulting in the officer clinging on to the driver’s side of the vehicle and being dragged for almost 100 metres,” Shafien said at a press conference at the Kelantan police contingent headquarters here, today.

The officer received outpatient treatment at the Pasir Mas Hospital for scratches and bruises on his limbs.

Meanwhile, Shafien said, the other four-wheel drive, an Isuzu Trooper, eluded them.

However, he said a 26-year-old man was arrested in Lubuk Setol at about 10.45pm on the same day and has admitted to being involved in the incident in which the PGA7 personnel was dragged.

“Police also managed to arrest two more men, aged 40 and 45, noon today,” he said, adding that his team was also tracking down two other suspects, aged between 22 and 37 years old. — Bernama

Sabah polls results show people’s confidence in PM, says Azmin

THE outcome of the Sabah polls shows the people’s confidence towards Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s leadership and the Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) alliance, said Mohamed Azmin Ali.

The Perikatan Nasional (PN) information chief said it was clear that Sabahans wanted a state government which is caring, inclusive and will preserve the state’s sovereignty and the people’s security.

Mukhriz: Pejuang not backing Anwar to form new government


Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir speaks to reporters after submitting the registration of Parti Pejuang Tahah Air at the Department of Registration of Societies in Putrajaya August 19, 2020. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir speaks to reporters after submitting the registration of Parti Pejuang Tahah Air at the Department of Registration of Societies in Putrajaya August 19, 2020. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 27 — Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang) is not throwing its support behind PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to form a new federal government, Pejuang president Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir has reportedly said.

Mukhriz noted that Pejuang has, to date, not been invited for talks with either Anwar or PKR regarding the push to form a new government, adding that it could not be that his party would then offer to work with Anwar.

“I myself find it odd with Anwar saying that the number of members of Parliament supporting him for that purpose is already sufficient for that purpose,” he was quoted saying by local daily Berita Harian.

Mukhriz noted there are at least 18 MPs when counting those from Pejuang, Parti Warisan Sabah, Sabah party United Progressive Kinabalu Association (Upko), and Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda) founder Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman.

“Maybe the figure of 18 is considered small and Anwar himself said that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is not included in the total support that he has,” Mukhriz was also quoted as saying.

Mukhriz also said that Anwar should provide proof in the form of signed declarations of support by the MPs who allegedly support him to back his claim of having the sufficient numbers to form a new government, noting that the Umno MPs who had been said to back Anwar had denied such a claim.

Dr Mahathir is the chairman of Pejuang, which was formed after a group of MPs had their party membership terminated by Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM).

On September 23, Anwar claimed that he had a strong and formidable majority to form a new government and that he would see the Yang di-Pertuan Agong soon after an appointment was deferred after the King was admitted at the National Heart Institute.

On September 25, palace comptroller Datuk Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin was reported saying that the Agong will not be taking any meeting for a week as he has been advised by his doctors to remain in the hospital for that period for observation.

Sabah win strengthens Muhyiddin’s position ahead of GE15, but national outcome may vastly differ, say analysts


Election poster featuring Perikatan Nasional chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin are seen in Keningau, Sabah September 24, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Election poster featuring Perikatan Nasional chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin are seen in Keningau, Sabah September 24, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 27 — Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s position going into the 15th general election looks more solid after yesterday’s electoral victory in Sabah by the Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) alliance that includes his party, several political experts said.

They noted the Bersatu president had signalled during campaigning that he may call for early national polls if GRS won the state election, as it has done. 

While the analysts agreed that the GRS win puts Muhyiddin in a better position to call for GE15, they did not share the PM’s sentiment that the motley assemblage he currently commands will elicit a similar outcome at the national level.

“Based on the spirit of federalism, any alliance that forms the state government will work hand-in-hand with the federal government. If GRS wins, Muhyiddin will be in a better position to announce for the GE15,” political analyst Kartini Aboo Talib Khalid told Malay Mail when contacted after the Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition that Muhyiddin leads claimed early victory after taking 37 seats for a simple majority in the 73-seat contest.

The Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) associate professor stopped short of predicting a similar outcome in the national election, noting the social-economic disparity among the states divided by the South China Sea.

“The election in Sabah exhibits the spirit of Sabah for Sabahans, with a dominantly agrarian society who is really concerned about the basket economy. 

“It will be too easy to connect the result in Sabah as a reflection of what will happen in the peninsula,” she said.

“I might reserve my option on this because peninsular Malaysia is more diverse than Sabah including the social class and orientation. However, the victory of GRS strengthens Muafakat Nasional’s position in GE15,” she added.

The different political partnerships that have formed in Sabah ahead of the state election and those at the federal level reflect the diversity Kartini spoke of. 

The GRS alliance that officially won Sabah, as declared by the Election Commission later, comprises the PN coalition of which Muhyiddin is chairman; as well as the Barisan Nasional coalition, chaired by Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi; and the state-based Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS).

The Muafakat Nasional pact is a separate political partnership comprising the big name Malay parties Umno, PAS, and Muhyiddin’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM).

Another UKM senior lecturer Suffian Mansor said GRS’ win could at least give Muhyiddin as PN chairman the edge in naming the next Sabah chief minister, should there be conflicting opinions among the different parties.

Muhyiddin has previously hinted at the possibility of Sabah PPBM chief Datuk Seri Hajiji Mohd Noor heading the Sabah government if GRS wins. 

Professor Sivamurugan Pandian told Malay Mail he too would not agree for now that the win in Sabah automatically would secure a mandate for Muhyiddin in a national election.

However, the Universiti Sains Malaysia lecturer added that it does put the PM on stronger footing to call for national polls even as his support in Parliament has been challenged by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

The PKR president sprung a surprise last week just days before the Sabah polls and claimed Muhyiddin has lost the parliamentary majority, which places a question mark over the latter’s position as PM.

“It shows the prime minister can consolidate his position as he’s the key factor for GRS. He can call for elections as he himself has said that before,” Sivamurugan told Malay Mail.

“Although many blocs existed, the voters could have focused on his role as prime minister who addressed their issues during Covid-19 and personalities were given preference.

“But pull factors in Sabah cannot be generalised nationwide. Different demography and geography,” he added.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia geostrategist Professor Azmi Hassan said the Sabah election showed Muhyiddin’s risky gamble to campaign so strongly during the Covid-19 pandemic has paid off.

Like Kartini, Azmi noted Muhyiddin’s hints of snap national election if GRS won. However, he thinks the PM may delay that call considering his PN federal government is still functioning.

“That’s what the PM said, isn’t it? He said regardless of what happens, it will reflect who wins in GE15. 

“If we look at these elections in Sabah, this is the first time there was a coalition of PN parties on the state level that was tested in Sabah. Seems like with this result Sabahans are accepting this coalition,”Azmi said on Bernama TV aired last night after GRS claimed victory.

“On the whole, it seems if Umno works together with others, this is the positive result that they get. So maybe this will go on to GE15. 

“However, personally if you ask me if we need to have an election now, I say no need. Even if PN has a slim four-five majority, they can still operate as a government. I know Umno people will be angry with me, but with the pandemic, we should wait,” Azmi said.

PM Muhyiddin faces major test in Sabah polls

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A defeat for Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s allies in Sabah state on Borneo will erode support among his seven-month-old government’s coalition partners, increasing pressure for snap national polls, observers warn. — Bernama pic
A defeat for Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s allies in Sabah state on Borneo will erode support among his seven-month-old government’s coalition partners, increasing pressure for snap national polls, observers warn. — Bernama pic

SEMPORNA, Sept 26 — Malaysia’s embattled leader faces state elections today that are his biggest political test since taking office, with analysts saying he desperately needs a win to strengthen his tenuous hold on power.

A defeat for Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s allies in Sabah state on Borneo will erode support among his seven-month-old government’s coalition partners, increasing pressure for snap national polls, observers warn.

Adding to his problems, the election comes just days after opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim launched a bid to topple his administration, claiming he had mustered enough support from MPs to take over.

Malaysia has been gripped by political turmoil since the collapse in February of a reformist government, which was headed by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and included Anwar, amid bitter infighting.

Muhyiddin seized power without an election and leads a coalition backed by a scandal-plagued party, but his administration has only a wafer-thin majority in parliament and critics say it is illegitimate.

The Sabah elections were called after a Muhyiddin ally launched a bid to take over the opposition-controlled local government. But rather than cede power, the chief minister dissolved the state assembly.

About 1.1 million people are eligible to vote for 73 assembly seats in the state on the northeastern tip of jungle-clad Borneo island, which is home to a dizzying array of indigenous groups.

Loose coalitions are backing the government and the opposition, but analysts say the vote is too close to call. Results are expected late Saturday.

The outcome will not directly affect the balance of power at the national level, but it is a key test of Muhyiddin’s popularity.

Despite taking power without a democratic vote, he has won praise for his government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, and received a 69 per cent approval rating in a recent survey.

“He needs a win to show… that the high popularity he enjoys can be translated into votes on the ground,” Ibrahim Suffian, head of independent polling firm Merdeka Centre, told AFP.

“If he loses badly, then the government could potentially collapse.”

Muhyiddin has faced pressure from his allies to call a general election soon to secure a stronger mandate, but some observers believe he wants to delay as long as possible.

That, however, may become difficult if he fares badly in Sabah.

Anwar’s power play has added to pressure on Muhyiddin but does not appear to have gained traction for now.

He has refused to reveal the number of MPs backing him while the king, who appoints the country’s premier, has postponed an appointment to see him due to ill health. — AFP

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