Pledging billions to address coronavirus impact, Mahathir says Malaysian parliament to decide next prime minister – dpa international

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KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s interim prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Thursday that the country’s parliament will reconvene next week to settle who will run the next government, with elections possible if lawmakers cannot decide. “If the Dewan Rakyat (parliament) fails to find anyone with a majority we will have to go to a snap election,” he added. 112 seats are needed for a majority. Mahathir teamed with long-time rival Anwar Ibrahim to win Malaysia’s last elections in 2018, agreeing to hand the leadership to Anwar by May 2020. But Mahathir later stalled on the promise, leading to renewed rivalry between the two. Three parties have backed Anwar’s bid to be prime minister, after previously working under Mahathir as part of the government that fell on Monday. With two major opposition parties calling for elections, Mahathir could struggle to regain the premiership. “At this moment I don’t have the power to form a cabinet,” Mahathir said. “Whoever wins I will accept.”

Parties vie to form new government after Malaysian premier quits – dpa international

BANGKOK — Malaysia’s political parties are holding a flurry of meetings as contending factions jostle to replace the Pakatan Harapan/Alliance of Hope coalition government that collapsed on Monday when Mahathir Mohamad resigned as prime minister. Party representatives lined up to meet Mahathir, who is interim prime minister until a new administration is formed, amid competing claims about who has the 112 parliamentary seats needed for a majority. Various parties are due to meet Malaysia’s king, Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, later on Tuesday as part of the formalities of setting up a new government. The king, clad in a shirt and tie, brought burgers and fries to journalists gathered at the palace gate on Tuesday afternoon. He plans to interview each lawmaker individually on Tuesday and Wednesday in attempt to ascertain what grouping has a majority. Annuar Musa, the secretary-general of the opposition United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), told local media on Tuesday morning that an alliance with several opposition parties – as well as members of the former government, including Mahathir’s Bersatu party – will give UMNO enough MPs to try form a government.

Malaysian parties rally to reinstate premier hours after he quits – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Hours after Mahathir Mohamad’s shock resignation as Malaysian prime minister on Monday, parties in his governing alliance clamoured to endorse his immediate return, as a power vacuum emerged in South-East Asia’s third-biggest economy. Not only did Mahathir resign, but his Bersatu party pulled out of the governing Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) coalition at about the same time, moves that seemingly meant the government’s imminent collapse. But Mahathir’s former government allies seem unprepared to let the 94-year-old go. Lim Guan Eng, Malaysian finance minister and leader of the Democratic Action Party (DAP), a mostly Chinese-Malaysian part of the alliance, said during a press conference later on Monday that it supports the renomination of Mahathir, who was the world’s oldest head of government before he stepped down.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad quits government – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Mahathir Mohamad on Monday resigned as Malaysia’s prime minister and his Bersatu party has quit the governing Alliance of Hope coalition. Mahathir’s move comes after a weekend of drama, with parties from both government and coalition meeting all day Sunday and Anwar Ibrahim, the designated successor to Mahathir, alleging “betrayal” by allies. Anwar and Mahathir met on Monday morning, shortly before Mahathir, at 94 the world’s oldest Prime Minister, announced he would quit. Mahathir previously said he wanted to remain as leader until after Malaysia hosted the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in November.

Malaysia’s leader-in-waiting alleges plot to topple government – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR – Anwar Ibrahim, the designated successor to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, accused members of Malaysia’s governing coalition of betrayal as a series of all-day party meetings fuelled speculation that a new government could be formed at his expense. “We are waiting for further information, but there were attempts to bring down the Pakatan government involving our former friend Bersatu (the party led by Mahathir and one of four governing coalition parties) and a small faction from PKR (the coalition party led by Anwar) who has betrayed us,” Anwar said, in a video posted on Facebook. 

Announcement of Malaysia power handover date put off again – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s 94-year-old Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad again declined to set a date for the long-promised succession of Anwar Ibrahim, a former rival.  “For tonight, there is no time, no date fixed,” Mahathir said, seated beside Anwar during a midnight press conference in the administrative capital Putrajaya.  Anwar said that Mahathir has the coalition’s “full support.” “In the meantime, I will just be patient,” he said.

Coronavirus means Ash Wednesday restrictions for Asia’s Catholics – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Catholics in Southeast Asia will have to do without one of their most recognizable motifs due to the coronavirus outbreak. On February 26, the Christian holy day of Ash Wednesday this year, Catholics in Malaysia and the Philippines will have dry ash sprinkled onto their heads instead of the usual smearing of a damp grey-black ash cross. Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, stated that the measures were motivated by “our concern for the well-being of our brothers and sisters” and the taking of the “utmost care and efforts towards the prevention of the spread of COVID-19.” The virus that has spread to around two dozen countries, has killed over 2,200 people, mostly in China, where the pandemic originated.

Southeast Asia’s “jaw-dropping” wildlife trade a concern as virus outbreak continues – dpa international

Frogs for sale in a Singapore wet market (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Newly compiled statistics published by TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network, show that more than 200 tons of African elephant ivory and almost a million pangolins have been trafficked through South-east Asia since the turn of the century. “Not a day goes by without a wildlife seizure taking place in South-east Asia, and all too often in volumes that are jaw-dropping,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy TRAFFIC’s Southeast Asia director. The trade in wildlife across Asia has come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks due to the deadly coronavirus outbreak, amid speculation that the virus – which has killed more than 2,000 people – originated in a central China wet market where wild animals were sold and eaten. “llegal wildlife trade will always provide opportunities for viruses to jump from wildlife to people,” TRAFFIC’s senior communications officer Elizabeth John said.

Former Australian and Malaysian prime ministers at odds over MH370 air tragedy – dpa international

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak arriving at Kuala Lumpur High Court on February 10 2020 for one of his ongoing corruption trials (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak said on Wednesday that there is “no proof” that the pilot of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was responsible for the unexplained disappearance of the aircraft in 2014. Najib was reacting to comments by former Australian premier Tony Abbott, who said in a TV documentary about MH370 that “my understanding – my very clear understanding – from the very top levels of the Malaysian government is that from very, very early on here, they thought it was a murder-suicide by the pilot.” Abbott, who was Australia’s prime minister at the time of the flight’s disappearance, did not name any officials in the recording, which will air on Australian TV on Wednesday evening. In comments on his personal Facebook and carried in local media, Najib said that it was unfair to blame the pilot “unless and until a black box and cockpit voice recorder were obtained.”

Malaysians tagged as Asia’s worst plastic polluters – dpa international

Plastic packaging in a Kuala Lumpur mall (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — A report published on Monday listed Malaysians as the biggest per capita users of plastic packaging in a region responsible for more than half the plastic litter in the world’s oceans. The report by the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) covers China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, which together account for “around 60 per cent of plastic debris entering the ocean.” The average Malaysian uses 16.78 kilograms of plastic packaging each year, according to WWF estimates, with Thailand next at 15.52 kg per person per annum. “Rapid economic growth has led to an immense increase in the use of plastic, especially for packaging consumer goods,” the WWF stated, linking plastic use with rising affluence across the region.