2020: The year of unprecedented events

The pandemic has become the highlight for this year with Malaysia’s political landscape seeing a change in federal administration


MUCH has been said and written about past years, but nothing would have prepared Malaysia and the world on what has taken place in 2020.

It came as no surprise as online users of Dictionary.com voted “unprecedented” as the People’s Choice 2020 Word of the Year after the online dictionary named “pandemic” its Word of the Year.

This unprecedented and to some extent, catastrophic, pandemic has become the highlight for this year — as the government, businesses and people adjust to the new normal due to the coronavirus.

Malaysia’s political landscape also brought in some major surprises which resulted in a change of federal administration — that led to a slew of changes in state government and government-linked entities.

For the first time in more than 50 years, Malaysia had to go under a national lockdown in March. Subsequently, the rakyat was introduced to the term “Movement Control Order” (MCO) as the nation continued to fight against the spread of Covid-19.

As a result, economic sectors such as retail, aviation and tourism have suffered a cruel twist of fate as these past twelve months point to a totally different growth direction, contrary to the positive expectations and hype of the Visit Malaysia Year in January. Some businesses shut their doors for good, leading to an increase in unemployment,with 748,200 persons left jobless as of October.

The announcement of Covid-19 vaccine, which is expected to reach the nation’s shore in February, may bring much-needed relief to Malaysians, who remain resilient through all of this.

Here is a recap of some major news events that have taken place in Malaysia this year:


Malaysia reported the first case of coronavirus on Jan 25, and it was traced back to three Chinese nationals who were in close contact with an infected person in Singapore.

The first Malaysian to test positive for the virus was a 41-year-old man, who travelled to Singapore from Jan 16-23 for a meeting which involved international delegations including from China. The case was detected on Feb 5.

Covid-19 cases grew at a slower rate until a case was detected in Brunei which originated from a tabligh gathering at a Sri Petaling mosque in Selangor in March. The Sri Petaling cluster infected a total of 3,375 people, including 2,550 Malaysians.

As of Dec 24, there were 468 Covid-19 clusters in the country, the highest being from glove factory-linked cluster, Teratai, which detected 6,003 positive cases.

Fall of PH and Rise of PN

The Pakatan Harapan (PH)-led government officially collapsed on Feb 24.

On that date, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad resigned as prime minister (PM). Subsequently, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced that 26 MPs from the party pulled out from PH, followed by the resignation of nine PKR MPs announced by the party’s former deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali.

Dr Mahathir was later appointed as the nation’s interim PM before the Yang di-Pertuan Agong AlSultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah named Muhyiddin as the eighth PM on Feb 29. Muhyiddin later declared Perikatan Nasional (PN) as the new government coalition, although it was officially registered in August.

MCO and Emergency

The government enforced the MCO on March 18, to help counter the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Malaysia is still currently under the Conditional MCO, except for some green zone areas.

There are also Enhanced MCO (EMCO) in which the social and economic activities will be limited and the Targeted EMCO which is aimed at specific areas.

Muhyiddin had requested for a nationwide emergency, but the King announced on Oct 25 that there was no urgency to invoke emergency powers nationwide.

However, the King consented for a localised emergency in Batu Sapi and Bugaya in Sabah, and Gerik, Perak, allowing by-elections in the areas to be cancelled.

The DNAA of Riza Aziz and Tengku Adnan

Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz, the stepson of former PM Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak, was given a discharged not amounting to acquittal (DNAA) on money-laundering charges involving US$248 million (RM1.25 billion) allegedly linked to 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

Sessions Court Judge Azman Ahmad made the ruling on May 14 after both parties agreed to it following several representations filed by Riza Shahriz against the charges.

Separately, High Court Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali granted a DNAA to former Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor in his RM1 million corruption trial following an appeal for the order by prosecutors on Dec 7.

Tengku Adnan, however, was convicted of receiving a total of RM2 million for himself under his capacity of civil servant from Aset Kayamas Sdn Bhd director Tan Sri Chai Kin Kong in 2016. He was granted a stay of execution pending appeal.

Najib’s Conviction

On July 28, Najib was sentenced to 12 years of jail and fined RM210 million for abuse of power involving RM42 million funds misappropriated from SRC International Sdn Bhd.

He was granted a stay of execution pending his appeal.

His 42-page appeal, which was filed on Oct 19, stated that Najib had failed to get a fair and just trial in the case.

Najib said Justice Mohd Nazlan had erred in his findings in deciding to call him to enter his defence on the charges against him.

1MDB-Goldman Sachs Settlement

Goldman Sachs Group Inc will have to pay over US$5 billion (RM20.8 billion) to global authorities and take about US$174 million from current and former executives to put the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) matters behind the firm.

The Wall Street titan has agreed to pay over US$2.9 billion in criminal penalty and disgorgement as part of a coordinated resolution with criminal and civil authorities in the US, UK, Singapore and elsewhere, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) said in October.

The global resolution led by DoJ and action by the Hong Kong authorities against Goldman Sachs entities followed the US$2.5 billion payout plus US$1.4 billion guarantee agreement between the New York-headquartered investment banking firm and Malaysian government sealed in July — a US$3.9 billion settlement for all the criminal and regulatory proceedings in Malaysia concerning 1MDB.

All in, Goldman Sachs is looking at over a US$5 billion tab to clean up the mess caused by its 1MDB dealings across the globe, tantamount to two-thirds of a year’s profits.

Sabah By-election

The Sabah by-election was held on Sept 26, following the dissolution of the state government made by Governor of Sabah Tun Juhar Mahiruddin on the advice of then Chief Minister (CM) Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal.

The decision was made to dislodge another political impasse as Parti Warisan Sabah-led state government and the Opposition maintained claims of majority numbers to lead the state.

PN won the election with a simple majority of 38 seats and Bersatu’s Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor was named as the new CM.

Sarawak-Petronas Settlement

The Sarawak state government and Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) have concluded negotiations of a commercial settlement after resolving differences over the imposition of state sales tax on petroleum products and other oil and gas matters on Dec 7.

In September, Petronas paid RM2.95 billion in sales tax on petroleum products to Sarawak owed from 2019.

The sales tax payment by Petronas and its subsidiaries was the result of a settlement reached between Petronas, the federal government and the state government.

Anwar Ibrahim’s Unsuccessful PM-ship Gambit

Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim announced that he had a “strong, formidable and convincing” majority to take over the government in a press conference on Sept 23, days before the Sabah by-election.

He was granted an audience with the King on Oct 13. However, Istana Negara said he did not present the name list of MPs who supported him to substantiate his claim of having enough numbers to form a government.

Anwar also failed to block the passage of Budget 2021 in the Dewan Rakyat, despite him maintaining to return the people’s mandate in days prior to the budget.