Sometime in the middle of December, PKR’s Rafizi Ramli, who heads PKR-linked pollster Invoke Malaysia, was reported as having said: “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but someone must bell the cat.”

Of course, when someone bells a cat in English it means he is doing a job others refuse to do because of the risk involved.

Rafizi surely knew the risk because the bad news was about Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s popularity ratings that according to Invoke had gone down six months after becoming prime minister.

How would Dr Mahathir feel about Rafizi’s cat-belling act? If you were Dr Mahathir you surely would think, more than just a figure of speech, you were the belled cat.

Which is probably why, tongue in cheek style, Dr Mahathir said: “Rafizi knows what will happen.”

That to me is no compliment. I believe Rafizi also knew it wasn’t because he didn’t predict them all right.

The former Pandan MP was right about Pakatan Harapan winning enough seats to form the federal government but he was badly wrong about PAS.

He had said that before GE14, PAS would lose every parliamentary and state seat even in its stronghold of Kelantan. On the contrary, the Islamist party went on to win 18 parliamentary seats and 90 state seats on May 9.

Rafizi also did not get it right about his chances of winning the contest for PKR’s No. 2 post against Datuk Seri Azmin Ali.

Why was he and Invoke right about GE14 but wrong about himself? If he and Invoke failed to see it coming for him, why would they be right about Dr Mahathir’s ratings?

You see, belling a cat may get one the desired result, but if the cat is Dr Mahathir, the mouse could find itself carrying the bell instead.

That was what happened to Rafizi; he got belled!

In fact, to my mind, from Dr Mahathir’s side of the coin, Rafizi is the cat, and the Prime Minister not only belled the cat but he knew more ways than one how to skin it, too. He doesn’t have to do it himself though.

Hardly a week after Invoke’s find, a survey by Prof Datuk Seri Syed Arabi Idid and his assistant Azrul Hisyam Wakichan of the Electoral Studies Unit, International Islamic University of Malaysia, came up with a “no tangible change in public satisfaction with Dr Mahathir and PH as the ruling party since August”.

That’s cat skinning No. 1.

Cat skinning No. 2 came a day after that when Bersatu president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the party will prevail beyond the end of its founders’ era not because of Dr Mahathir or whoever but because Bersatu holds to its ideology and beliefs.

“(Bersatu) will not change as long as the sun and moon exist. As long as the stars are shining and flowers are blooming, our struggle will remain on course.” he was quoted as saying.

There is something about fortune tellers and palm readers. They can predict your future but it’s rare that we hear of them predicting their own.

If I were a clairvoyant Dr Mahathir is the last person I would want to predict. He’ll give you all the wrong signals and before you realise it, you’ll have read for him the lines on your own palm!

I think that was what Rafizi did.

In Sarawak we have this phrase, “pandei-pandei”. There is no perfect equivalent to this word in English. I think not in Bahasa Malaysia either.

Perhaps “memandai-mandai” is quite close, but it is still not there. When you say someone is “pandei-pandei” you are saying you are cleverer than him and he should just shut up.

Does that ring a bell?  

Or rather, did I just bell a cat?