The Health Ministry’s pissed at a whole bunch of people under home quarantine who’ve yet to get retested. But even a blind man could've seen this problem coming from a mile away.

In other news, Shafie Apdal isn’t sure he wants to be PM; floods wreak havoc in Sabah; early voters head to the polls in Chini, and yet another person’s been arrested over the murder of a “Datuk Seri”.

An avoidable headache

Dodgy test dodgers

Even as Malaysia records 15 straight days with no Covid-19 deaths and a daily increase of a mere 3 cases, we appear to have stumbled thanks to a problem that’s plagued us since the Movement Control Order (MCO) began in mid-March: Covidiots. 

Specifically, previously quarantined Covidiots who haven’t done what they’re required to.

 

You see, in early June, the government decided to shut a bunch of quarantine centres and allow Malaysians who’d returned from abroad and been admitted to finish their 14-day quarantines at home. The shift to a home-based self-isolation policy, authorities said, was ’cos only a very small percentage of overseas returnees had tested positive. As such, the feeling was that it’d be more convenient and cost-effective for everyone concerned to just confine themselves at home. Besides the MySejahtera app as well as the requirement to wear observation bracelets would ensure people could be tracked.

 

It transpires, though, that one other requirement was for the individuals involved to get themselves retested on the 13th day of the quarantine period. However, we’re hearing now that at least a quarter of the discharged number has yet to do that. That’s 1,472 morons, in case you wanted the facts in numerals.

 

(Side note: Despite discharged individuals having tested negative previously, a second test is normally always required because there’ve been numerous instances where people test negative first, only to show signs of infection later. See here for the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s explanation of how this can happen.)

 

Yup, Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has now gone from Superman to Hulk and warned those concerned that under the Infectious Diseases Act 1988, they risk fines and getting their asses thrown in jail. However, you’ve gotta wonder why our health authorities didn’t see this problem coming from a mile away.

 

Look, we’re not saying that returnees under observation shouldn’t have been sent home. As the government has noted, self-isolation at home really was the better option. Still, it should have been easy to guess that not everyone would abide by the rules. As such, there should’ve been plans in place like, oh, we dunno, home visits to dodgers maybe?

 

Incidentally, with regard the authorities being able to track folks via MySejahtera and the approved medical identification tags, the reality is that while some of the bugs may now have been fixed, MySejahtera has been plagued by a shit tonne of issues, not least crashing unexpectedly. And as for the ID bracelets, well, they’re simple plastic tags lah that can very easily be snipped off.

 

Anyways, what we have right now is a f̶a̶i̶l̶u̶r̶e̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶c̶o̶m̶m̶u̶n̶i̶c̶a̶t̶e̶ steaming pile of poop and with international students, expats and more Malaysians due back soon, the gomen really needs to make sure this issue doesn’t recur.

 

Here’re the other coronavirus news items from Monday, by the way:

  • Visitors to shopping malls no longer need to record their temperature multiple times and will now only have to do it once. At the entrance. 
  • Theme parks, water parks included, are now open to the public. Social distancing rules and standard health protocols will, no doubt, still have to be maintained. But you’re now free to ride on a rollercoaster. If you want to, that is.   
  • A couple of new Covid-19 cases in Cambodia have been linked to Malaysia. One of the patients, in fact, was previously warded here, treated and discharged after two weeks. D-G Hisham, however, says there’s no cause for alarm as a positive test could mean the virus is present but not active. 
  • Everyone returning home from abroad, except for disabled persons and gomen officers, will have to fork out for Covid-19 testing. Students returning home for the first time will also be exempted from paying. This is silly – and unfair. Why charge people for a mandatory test? After all, what’s the gomen gonna do if a person says they have no money? Let them skip it? Put ’em on  flight back where they came from? Jail them?

Shafie buat bodoh

In yesterday’s newsletter, we wondered if Shafie Apdal was The Chosen One? Well, guess what? Shafie wonders the same thing!

 

Yes, peeps. In the continuing saga of Pakatan Harapan Plus: How to Lose Friends & Alienate People, the man whom we thought had been picked to deny Anwar Ibrahim a shot at the title now appears to not know if he wants to be prime minister.

Talking to the press two whole days after his anointing by former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad and everyone (friends, foes and Bung Moktar Radin) had already weighed in, the Sabah Chief Minister said he was grateful at being named the Opposition’s PM candidate, but needed time to consider stuff. He would also, he said, need to consult with his people in Parti Warisan Sabah and think about what becoming PM would mean for his home state.

 

In case you missed yesterday’s Between The Lines and the most recent bit of drama, Mads’ latest suggestion – after PKR and frenemy Anwar Ibrahim said they wouldn’t back Dr M for a third term in office – was to have Shafie lead as PM with Anwar and Daddy’s Boy Mukhriz flanking him as deputies. The proposal has yet to get the buy-ins of DAP, Parti Amanah Negara and especially, PKR. However, that hasn’t stopped political analysts and commentators from talking up the pros and cons of a Shafie-led Pakatan Plus.

 

Shafie, for his part, says he trusts h̶i̶s̶ ̶l̶o̶r̶d̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶s̶a̶v̶i̶o̶u̶r̶ Maddey’s judgement and is sure the old man had considered everything before making his announcement. But that’s really neither here nor there. The Warisan boss has been loyal to Mads from the day he quit Umno back in 2016, so he’s sure not gonna say different. He knows which side of his bread is buttered.

 

By the way, speaking of Mahathir, the good doc’s come out to clarify that the decision to select Mukhriz as one of Shafie’s deputies had not come from him but Amanah and DAP. He notes, however, that when sonny boy’s name came up, he didn’t oppose it.

 

Maddey’s rivals – among them Najib Razak – have laid into him since Saturday over the latter’s proposal which seems to ensure Mukhriz’s ascent to power. But while the old man denies that that’s the case, the circumstantial evidence surrounding Mahathir’s latest power play tells a quite different story. 

 

(Mukhriz was also named DPM in a previous leadership proposal. However, that one, which had Anwar in the driver’s seat, didn’t get the full backing of Pakatan Plus’ leaders.)

But sorry lah – whatever Maddey is saying just reeks of bullshit to us. The same guy who is fighting tooth and nail to keep Anwar from becoming the PM candidate says he has “no right to object” that his son’s name came up as DPM candidate. One rule for the goose and one for the gander, eh?

Let’s face it – the fact of the matter is that regardless of what he’s said in the past, Mahathir won’t be satisfied until he’s pulled a Lee Kuan Yew and built a political dynasty. Then, and only then, when he’s seen sonny boy safely on the way to becoming PM, will he leave us all the hell alone. 

 

In related news, meanwhile, even PKR leaders have come out to support Amanah and DAP in rejecting any and all attempts to hatch a deal with Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin. Their statements come following news that Brother Anwar has held meetings with Hamzah as well as PM Muhyiddin Yassin. Hamzah, by the way, is regarded as one of the key architects of the Sheraton Move. 

Ask what you can do for Sabah

Whether or not Shafie A. is finally picked as Pakatan’s candidate for the premiership, what can’t be denied is that a Sabah PM may actually manage to ensure Sabah and, yes, Sarawak, finally get their due. Or it may not.

Yesterday, while discussing the possibility of taking up the top job, Shafie noted that his mentor Maddey has been really good to Sabah since the 14th General Election, and during negotiations even agreed to resolve 17 out of 21 things East Malaysian leaders had requested under revised terms of the 1963 Malaysia Agreement. This is true, of course. Mahathir and Pakatan Harapan did make significant inroads in resolving MA63 rights. Nevertheless, the severe floods which have hit Sabah over the past few days suggest there’re many more meat and potatoes issues that require attention.

When Pakatan came to power, much noise was made about how East Malaysia would finally get the attention it deserves. Regrettably, two years on, and with a new coalition in control in Putrajaya, the situation, at least in terms of flood management, seems to be much the same as it’s always been, with regular folks bearing the brunt.

 

Heavy rain wreaked havoc in Sabah over the weekend, resulting in rivers in a number of districts bursting their banks, and thousands of people having to be evacuated to relief centres. Yup, the water is receding in certain places, and some evacuees have headed home. However, areas like Kota Belud have been cut off to light vehicles and there’s a very real possibility the situation could get a whole lot worse there and everywhere else.  

 

On Sunday, the Current PM-In-Waiting (ahem) Shafie said he had, weeks earlier, instructed that rivers and drains in the state be cleaned. However, it doesn’t seem to have worked. So now, the Sabah CM’s accusing those involved with a Federal flood mitigation plan of having wasted money on a feasibility study instead of actually dealing with the situation.

 

Incidentally, more than RM500 million was approved last year to solve Sabah’s flooding woes. However, it’s unclear where the cash actually went. And that is perhaps why Sabah’s opposition leaders have taken Shafie and his government to task for doing exactly what they’d accused the former Barisan Nasional state gomen of doing: fuck all.

 

Floods, in any case, are only one of East Malaysia’s problems. 

 

You have places with bad roads. Places with uncompleted roads. Places with no roads. And in some areas, you even get highways that magically appear during election time, only to go missing when the bunting and campaign posters come down. 

 

There’re also issues with poor internet connectivity. Illegal logging. And kidnappers in the Sulu Sea.

 

So yes, the support of Sabahans (and Sarawakians) is crucial for any coalition with dreams of governing Malaysia. But perhaps the time has come for politicians to ask not what Sabah and Sarawak can do for them, but what they can do for Sabah and Sarawak.

Chini bits and some other bobs

Only 18 people – all of them police officers – will cast their ballots when polls open today for early voting in the Chini by-election. We’re guessing, however, that most folks in the constituency are likely to be more interested in all the promises of development for their town than a bunch of policemen lining up to vote.

Elections usually tend to feature goodies and promises, and over the past few days, the people of Chini have seen a RM2 million haemodialysis centre and a RM60mil arms excellence centre pledged to their town. But would they maybe prefer an assurance by the candidates of Tasik Chini being restored to its previous glory? 

Tasik Chini is Malaysia’s second-largest freshwater lake, and used to be a huge tourist attraction. Sadly, it isn’t anymore.

Anyhoo, Chini updates aside, here’re some other things that made the news on Monday:

  • Eight people have so far been nabbed over the kidnapping and murder of a “Datuk Seri” businessman, and cops say they’re on the hunt for yet another man
     
  • Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar will pay to repair the parts of Hospital Sultanah Aminah affected by Sunday’s fire. Meanwhile, Jib Razak and a couple of Pakatan leaders have called for the report of a 2016 fire at the same hospital to be made public. Najib’s also urged the authorities not to take drastic action against CodeBlue editor Boo Su-Lyn over her stories on the 2016 blaze. The Jibster has worn many hats in his life, but “defender of a free press” sure is a strange look for him.
     
  • Another PKR leader – Sabah Women’s chief Rahimah Majid – has been sacked for allegedly being aligned to former deputy president Azmin Ali. Meanwhile, party veep Tian Chua has been issued with a warning. Chua, incidentally, is still the chairman of the Malaysia Productivity Corporation (MPC), a government agency under Azmin’s International Trade and Industry Ministry. He says, however, that the post doesn’t come with a salary.
     
  • Media Prima Bhd has announced that it’ll be letting go of 300 employees on July 31. The company’s previous downsizing exercise saw more than 500 staff members of New Straits Times Press group being axed. 
     
  • Twenty-one police reports have been lodged over a book cover which is allegedly offensive to the national crest. Our previously invisible Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin, who has apparently decided that it’s safe to come out of hiding now that Covid is almost behind us, has been talking tough, demanding police probe those behind the design and saying there’ll be no compromise with those behind this “unpatriotic” act. 

    Can we just say how glad we are that the authorities, despite being unable to catch Indira Gandhi’s husband or nab Jho Low, are so eager and willing to police our patriotism?

    Seriously though, this case begs the question of who draws the distinction between artistic interpretation and so-called offences against national emblems and whatnot. For example, would this iconic piece by Redza Piyadasa be considered offensive by our guardians? 

“You can't make anything idiot proof because idiots are so ingenious.”

- Ron Burns -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • At least seven people were killed when gunmen opened fire at the Pakistan Stock Exchange on Monday. A separatist group from the Balochistan province has claimed responsibility for the attack.
     
  • Facebook’s promise to stamp out hate speech and better protect vulnerable groups doesn’t seem to have achieved very much, with more and more brands announcing a halt to advertising on the platform. Here’s a list of all the companies that’re pulling ads.
     
  • A Covid-19 vaccine may do jack for the United States, Dr Anthony Fauci says, and that’s ’cos anti-vaxxers are standing firm that they won’t ever get themselves protected. Sigh. Some men (and women) you just can’t reach.
     
  • Mississippi has passed a bill to remove the Confederate emblem from the state flag. Tate Reeves, Mississippi’s Republican governor, says he will sign the bill into law.
     
  • According to a new research report, China is carrying out forced sterilisations on women in the Xinjiang. The report claims that the procedures are being done to curb the growth of ethnic minority populations in the Chinese region.

ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER

This weekday newsletter is brought to you by Trident Media, a group of Malaysian journalists with 60 years of combined media experience in four countries across TV, print and digital media.

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Trident Media · Seksyen 35 · Shah Alam, Selangor 40470 · Malaysia

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