From Najib To Doraemon: Here Are The 25 Most Read Malaysian Political Stories In 2020

#LangkahSheraton wasn't the only big thing to happen this year.

Cover image via Bernama (Facebook) , Hari Anggara/Malay Mail , Bangkok Post , Samsul Said/Bloomberg News via Wall Street Journal

2020 is finally coming to an end. COVID-19 had everyone's hearts in their throats this year and we had to bid goodbye to many beloved figures, such as Kobe Bryant and Chadwick Boseman.

Meanwhile in Malaysia, not only are we crippled by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but we have also suffered the plummeting of the price of crude oil to an 18-year low — severely affecting our national revenue.

We have also seen many major changes in our politics.

So to give you a quick rundown of all the political developments this year, SAYS has created a chronological list that features all the most-read political stories of the month.

It all began with the resignation of a Cabinet minister.

1. Dr Maszlee resigned as the Education Minister

The year began with the resignation of Dr Maszlee Malik as the Education Minister on 3 January.

The position was later filled up by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, with the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) saying that he would only be heading the ministry "temporarily".

During his 20-month stint as minister, Maszlee managed to abolish examinations for students in Year One to Three and implemented a streamless school system, among other things.

2. "Can I advise you something?"

On 8 January, Malaysians turned their ears towards one of nine leaked audiotapes that recorded a telephone conversation between former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.

When the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) revealed the audiotapes, they said the recordings show a "criminal conspiracy at the highest level" within the Barisan Nasional (BN) administration.

From the 45-minute recordings, one particular line from Rosmah stood out  — which is "Can I advise you something?"

Rosmah's passive-aggressive tone while saying the line amused Malaysians nationwide and it sparked countless memes online.

Najib's administration had legalised the act of phone tapping in 2012, and the law was later used against him. 

Read the full story 

3. DAP threatened to quit Pakatan Harapan

DAP deputy secretary-general Nga Kor Ming told Oriental Daily that his party was ready to withdraw from Pakatan Harapan (PH) if the Cabinet refused to recognised the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC).

Image via 馬來西亞東方日報 Oriental Daily News Malaysia (Facebook)

In late January, component party in the then-ruling government DAP threatened to "withdraw" from the coalition if the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) was not recognised.

UEC is a standardised test for Chinese independent high school students. Recognising it would allow certificate holders to apply for entry into all local colleges.

It was part of Pakatan Harapan's (PH) manifesto to recognise UEC. A task force was set up in October 2018 to study the matter, but the results of the study were delayed several times.

With Dr Maszlee's resignation and Dr Mahathir becoming the interim Education Minister, it was uncertain when the Cabinet would make a decision on the matter.

In light of that, DAP deputy secretary-general Nga Kor Ming announced that his party would leave the government if the Cabinet refused to recognise the Chinese examination certificate.

Read the full story here.

4. PAS, UMNO, and Bersatu, among others, shook up the nation with the 'Langkah Sheraton'

On the night of 23 February, Malaysia witnessed the first glimpse of a week-long political crisis that would later be dubbed as 'Langkah Sheraton'.

On that Sunday, local media reported that 130 MPs from PAS, UMNO, Bersatu, and 10 parliamentarians from the PKR splinter faction aligned with Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, among others, were said to have formed an alliance to topple the PH government.

Amidst the political turmoil on 24 February, Dr Mahathir resigned as the seventh prime minister, before being re-appointed by the Agong to be the interim prime minister on the same day.

Following which, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah summoned MPs to the palace to find out which premier candidate commands majority support.

It all came to an end with Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin emerging on top and he was sworn in as the eighth Prime Minister on the first day of March.

To understand what led up to the Langkah Sheraton, check out a detailed timeline story here.

5. 10 UMNO leaders were put on trial for corruption charges

Image via SAYS

Following the formation of the new government, concern was running high that UMNO leaders who were charged for various corruption crimes would be set free.

To keep the public informed on the matter, SAYS gathered a list of 10 UMNO politicians who were charged in court.

The list includes leaders like UMNO president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, former Sabah menteri besar (MB) Tan Sri Musa Aman, and Baling MP Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim, among others.

Check out the list here.

6. Perikatan Nasional's Cabinet line-up and resignation of top officials

Image via SAYS

Over a week following Muhyiddin's swearing-in as the premier, he announced the full Cabinet line-up on 9 March.

Prior to that, the country also bid goodbye to Latheefa Koya as the MACC chief.

On 6 March, the same day Latheefa resigned, Malaysia welcomed Tan Sri Idrus Harun as the new Attorney General (AG), replacing Tommy Thomas who resigned on 28 February amidst the political crisis.

Here are three things you need to know about Idrus Harun.

7. Ministry advised Malaysian women to speak like Doraemon

On 27 March, the Ministry of Women, Family, and Community Development (KPWKM) was embroiled in controversy for advising women to put on makeup and dress up while working from home.

They also encourage women to speak like Doraemon with their husbands.

After publishing sexist tips for women in a series of posters, many Malaysians and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) criticised the ministry for its misogynistic advice.

The issue also sparked countless memes online.

The ministry apologised three days later.

8. Appointment of politicians to GLC positions

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan.

Image via Azhar Ramli/New Straits Times

On 12 April, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan made a public statement claiming that all government MPs who are not in the Cabinet will be given a position in government-linked companies (GLCs).

The news came as a shock to many political analysts as GLC appointments can be viewed as "political rewards" in exchange for political loyalty.

Although the PH administration did appoint its coalition members to GLC top posts, Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said it happened only on several occasions.

He also said they did not make it a rule that all non-Cabinet MPs will be made GLC chairmen or chief executive officers (CEOs).

In response to Takiyuddin's statement, SAYS created a list to find out which MPs were given GLC posts after Perikatan Nasional (PN) came into power.

Read the full story

9. Deputy Health Minister and Perak exco member fined for breaching MCO

Image via Malay Mail

On 28 April, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali and Perak state executive councillor (exco) member Razman Zakaria were fined RM1,000 each for violating the Movement Control Order (MCO).

This came after the two were caught dining with a group of people at a tahfiz in Lenggong, Perak.

The duo can be seen in a photo enjoying a jamuan (banquet) with at least 20 people who were not practising social distancing.

10. PN's first parliament sitting

The Parliament sitting was initially scheduled for 9 March, but following the change of government, it was pushed back to 18 May.

On that day, the Dewan Rakyat session went by without a single MP discussing issues pertaining to the governance of the country. Instead, the only agenda was Sultan Abdullah's royal address.

During his speech, not only did he ask MPs not to start another political crisis in the country, but the Agong also applauded the frontliners for their efforts in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Everyone in the august hall joined the Agong in a standing ovation.

Read the full story here.

11. Musa Aman acquitted

On 9 June, Musa Aman was acquitted of 30 charges of corruption and 16 charges of money laundering.

The High Court's decision came as a shock to many opposition MPs.

AG Tan Sri Idrus Harun said the reason why the 46 charges pressed against Musa were dropped was due to the "unattainability of documentary evidence and witnesses vital to the case".

Read Idrus' response here.

12. "Too Dark, Can't See" - Baling MP to Batu Kawan MP

Baling MP Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim was in hot soup after making a racist and sexist remark against Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto on 13 July.

Not only did Abdul Azeez say Kasthuri was "too dark", but he also told her to "just put on some powder".

The Baling MP retracted his remarks and apologised the next day.

Despite the Opposition's repeated demands for Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun to make a ruling against Abdul Azeez, the Speaker decided to let the matter slide and gave him a warning.

Read the full story here.

13. A series of disputes in the Dewan Rakyat

Azmin Ali (left) accused of using racial stereotypes in the Parliament by Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad and Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming (right).

Image via Buletin TV3/YouTube

The 14th Parliament sitting was filled with many political conflicts and controversies.

From reinforcing stereotypes in the august hall to ignoring Opposition MPs' motions, the Parliament sitting also witnessed many firsts in the country's history, such as the first removal of a Speaker in Commonwealth history.

Here are six times MPs' questions were ignored or dismissed in the Dewan Rakyat.

14. Najib sentenced to jail

On 28 July, Najib became the first former prime minister to be sentenced to jail.

During the conclusion of the SRC International trial at the Kuala Lumpur High Court, Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali sentenced him to 12 years in jail and fined him RM210 million for his seven corruption charges.

Check out the reasoning behind Najib's conviction here, and click here to learn about what will happen next for the Pekan MP.

15. Lim Guan Eng charged for corruption

Between 7 August and 11 September, former finance minister Lim Guan Eng faced multiple charges for soliciting bribes, money laundering, and dishonest misappropriation of property.

Lim's wife Betty Chew was charged in court as well.

During the period, he was ordered to pay RM1.1 million in bail, but members of the public managed to raise RM2.9 million in a 'RM10 in solidarity with Lim Guan Eng' fundraising campaign.

In total, he is currently facing five charges in multiple courts.

16. Sodomy allegations resurfaced in politics — again

In mid-August, sodomy allegations against a politician made a comeback in Malaysia.

According to a statutory declaration (SD) dated 29 June 2020, a politician is said to have paid a man for anal and oral intercourse.

At that time, Federal Crime Investigation Department (CID) deputy director Mior Faridalathrash Wahid said the police would investigate "every aspect" of the matter, but Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador later said it was a waste of police resources to look into it.

The three-page SD consists of a very detailed account of how the politician had sex with the claimant on four occasions in 2013, each time paying him RM300 for the service.

On the fifth occasion, the politician allegedly asked the claimant to bring a friend to commit sodomy with him.

Read the highlights of the SD here.

17. Khairuddin flouted MCO rule

On 18 August, Seputeh MP Teresa Kok revealed in the Dewan Rakyat that Plantations and Commodities Minister Khairuddin Aman Razali flouted a MCO rule after returning from Turkey for a work trip.

Although he tested negative for COVID-19 upon his return, he did not self-quarantine for 14 days — a mandatory measure to curb the spread of COVID-19 during the MCO period.

This sparked criticism that the government practised double standards, whereby very important persons (VIPs) can flout MCO rules, while normal people face harsh punishments.

The police and the Ministry of Health (MOH) were later involved to investigate Khairuddin's offence, and in the end, he was fined RM1,000 and Attorney General's Chambers (AGC) decided no further action will be taken against him.

However, it is worth noting that amidst the controversy on 22 August, he apologised for his mistake and pledged to donate four months of his salary to the National Disaster Relief Fund.

18. Muhyiddin celebrated his 200th day as the Prime Minister

On Malaysia Day, Muhyiddin celebrated his 200th day since he was announced as Malaysia's eighth Prime Minister.

To commemorate that, SAYS highlighted seven interesting facts about him in a story. Did you know his father was a renowned religious teacher and he once predicted that one of his children will one day become a minister? 

Read about it

19. Anwar claimed the PN government had fallen

On 23 September, Opposition leader Anwar announced that he had 'formidable' and 'convincing' support from MPs to form a new government.

He said he was granted an audience with Sultan Abdullah, but it was postponed after the Agong had reportedly fallen ill.

He claimed that the support he received came from defectors from UMNO and BN.

On 13 October, Anwar finally met the Agong, but Sultan Abdullah was unconvinced that he commanded majority support, contending that Anwar merely showed the number of MPs supporting him, but not all the MPs' names.

Read the full story here.

20. The Sabah state election

Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor sworn in as Sabah MB before Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Juhar Mahiruddin.

Image via Bernama via The Straits Times

On 27 September, the Sabah state election concluded with the Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) coalition winning 38 seats out of the 73 total seats.

The state election was held in the middle of a global health crisis. By the end of it, COVID-19 cases in the country surged exponentially from having 10,919 cumulative cases to 86,618 cases between 27 September and 15 December.

UMNO president Ahmad Zahid apologised for the mess that the state election had caused, while former youth and sports minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman contended that it was "double standard" treatment against politicians that led to the new wave of infections.

Bersatu's Sulaman assemblyman Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor was sworn in as Sabah's new MB on 29 September.

21. Liew Vui Keong passed away

Former de facto law minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong passed away on 2 October, leaving behind his wife, Linda Lee, and four children.

His passing prompted politicians from both sides, activists, and public figures to send their condolences, including Musa Aman, MCA president Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong, Syed Saddiq, former PKR vice president Nurul Izzah Anwar, and many more.

In commemoration of his 29 years of service in Malaysia's politics, SAYS highlighted seven reforms he pushed for while he was in the government.

Read the article here.

22. Rumours of an emergency

On 23 October, speculation was rife that Muhyiddin was going to declare a state of emergency in the country after he was granted an audience with Sultan Abdullah.

Following which, the Agong acknowledged Malaysians' anxiety and frustration, but he did not divulge nor mention if Muhyiddin had proposed to declare an emergency.

After leaving everyone in the country in the dark for two days, the Agong revealed that he decided not to accede to Muhyiddin's request to declare an emergency. 

Should the emergency be declared over that weekend, it is said that it would only be used against political activities.

To understand what could have happened if an emergency was declared, check out this story

23. The uphill battle to get Budget 2021 tabled and passed

Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz.

Image via The Edge Markets

The highly anticipated Budget 2021 was tabled by Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz on 6 November.

The Budget was specifically important for the country this year because many citizens' livelihoods were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, getting the Budget approved or rejected was also a test to see if premier Muhyiddin commanded majority support in the lower house of the Parliament.

On 26 November, the Budget was passed at the policy stage, while on 15 December, it passed the committee stage.

111 MPs voted in favour of the government and 108 against it in the showdown on Tuesday.

To learn what was proposed in Budget 2021, click here.

24. Gombak residents sued Azmin for cheating them of their votes

On 27 November, 10 Gombak voters filed a lawsuit against Azmin Ali for breaching his fiduciary duty and representations to his constituents.

They said Azmin committed the tort of deceit against them when he participated in the Langkah Sheraton to topple the former government.

"The defendant, at all material of times, had no intention of standing by the representations," they said.

The 10 plaintiffs are seeking compensation for the breach.

Read the full story here.

25. Political impasse in Perak

Perak BN chairman Datuk Saarani Mohaman (right) taking his oath of office as the 14th Perak MB.

Image via @bernamadotcom (Twitter)

On 4 December, Malaysia fell into another political impasse when former Perak MB Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu failed to garner enough votes of confidence during the state legislative assembly.

He resigned the next day and started a statewide political maneouvering, where even opposition party DAP offered itself to join UMNO to form a multi-racial state government.

However, the offer was quickly rejected.

As politicians from Bersatu, UMNO, PAS, and others wrestled for power over the state's top post, Sultan of Perak, Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah, summoned political leaders to the state palace to find out who commanded majority support.

However, the process failed to convince Sultan Nazrin on who should be the next MB.

In the end, a consensus was likely reached among the PN members and the coalition chose Perak BN chairman Datuk Saarani Mohamad to helm the Perak MB post.

Read the full story here.

Here are some other political headlines from this year on SAYS:

You may be interested in: