Even though Malaysia’s done really well in battling Covid-19, the past couple of days have seen the number of active cases here go up. Not just that, we’ve recorded a new death and more infection clusters.

Elsewhere in today’s newsletter, trouble appears to be brewing between Azmin Ali and his new BFFs; the cops aren’t too sure where a certain editor is; another MP gets kicked out of Bersatu, and Parti Warisan Sabah considers letting Dr Mahathir Mohamad join as a member!

The numbers go up!

What comes down, must go up

The past couple of days have seen the global cases of Covid-19 infection shoot through the roof. While Malaysia is generally still alright, a moderate spike in local cases has sent shivers down many a spine. Worse, not only have we recorded one more death in just about a week since the last fatality was registered, the active cases have also surged to 103.

There’s been a bit of seesawing of the number of active cases over the past fortnight, with the figure dropping to as low 63 on July 9. But new infections, marked by two days of double-digit increases since Friday, have seen the amount of people needing treatment in hospital surge past the 100 mark for the first time since July 1.

Are the new figures worrying? Heck yeah, they are! Because not only have cases here increased – the cumulative tally now stands at 8,779 – so too have the number of infection clusters. Two days ago there were four new clusters. On Saturday, one more. And yesterday, there were another three, one of them at an eatery in the heart of the capital, in Brickfields.

Only two people – both of them Indian nationals – have tested positive for the disease from the restaurant cluster, so far. Nevertheless, the Health Ministry is monitoring the situation closely and has already had as many as 250 people tested.

It’s too early, of course, to say if Malaysians are actually throwing caution to the wind, as some folks (including this former Health Ministry deputy DG) have alleged. Or, whether stricter measures need to be put in place. However, the numbers in the country suggest we would all do well to adhere to health protocols and standard operating procedures if we don’t want to find ourselves in the same boat as places like Australia and Hong Kong, which were hailed for their success in handling the pandemic only to see restrictions re-imposed.

Incidentally, Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah says Malaysia’s 123rd recorded death was of a 72-year-old man with a history of high blood pressure and stroke. The victim, who was a resident of an old folks home, had complained of fever and cough from July 10. He was admitted to the hospital on July 17 but regrettably, died on arrival in emergency.

 

Here’re some of the other important Covid-19 news items from the weekend:

  • Home quarantine for people entering the country may now be in force. Nevertheless, the Malaysian Medical Association says it supports the proposal for the mandatory quarantine of returning citizens and foreign nationals at quarantine centres. The association says this is because such a move will help reduce the risk of infection and prevent situations where folks don’t adhere to 13th-day screening requirements. 
  • new ceiling price for face masks will be announced on Aug 10. The RM1.50 price tag will stay till then, however. 
  • Meanwhile, an MP who was previously hospitalised for Covid-19, has called on the government to make the wearing of masks mandatory in high-risk areas such as markets, malls, schools (where it, shockingly, isn’t compulsory!) and on public transport. This, Bandar Kuching MP Kelvin Yii says, will help stop pre- or asymptomatic individuals from spreading the virus unknowingly. Here, by the way, is an interesting piece on countries with mask mandates and how effective such rules have been. 
  • Close to a hundred people were picked up over the weekend for breaching safety protocols and regulations under the Recovery Movement Control Order. Many of the offenders, it seems, were arrested for taking part in activities where social distancing was non-existent.

Trouble in paradise?

He may be seen by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin as the de facto deputy prime minister but it sure seems that all is not well for Azmin Ali – at least as far as his new allies in government, PAS and Umno, are concerned.

Things haven’t exactly been a bed of roses for dear Min since that fateful day at the Sheraton in February. (Eg, check out this incident from the days of the Conditional Movement Control Order, when his new pals lambasted him.) However, it’s gotten a wee bit worse for Azmin since then, with PAS and Umno divisions in Selangor now saying they won’t work with him.

This fallout is from a meeting held between Azmin, in his capacity as International Trade and Industry Minister, with state representatives in Selangor earlier this month that saw no Perikatan Nasional peeps in attendance. 

 

The apparent snub saw many fellas, including the state’s Umno chief Noh Omar and Selangor PAS commissioner Ahmad Yunus Hairi, crying foul. And now, it seems the leaders of those parties’ divisions in Gombak, the federal constituency where Azmin has held sway since 2008, have followed suit. 

 

But worse for Min, the two divisions lambasting him now are also accusing the former PKR man of sidelining Muafakat Nasional in Selangor.

 

It’s anyone’s guess, of course, if Azmin does indeed have an agenda against Umno and PAS in Selangor. Nevertheless, Gombak PAS chief Salehuddin Mohd Nasir may have a point in suggesting the minister’s loyalty is questionable. Why? Well, months on from Sheraton, Azmin still ain’t a member of any party.

 

Azmin and 10 other federal lawmakers who left or were sacked by PKR earlier this year have identified as Bersatu members in Parliament, true. But, they’ve yet to officially join the party. Still, could one really rely on a technicality to question the allegiances of a man who played a key role in toppling Pakatan Harapan?

 

In any case, Azmin doesn’t only seem to be in the middle of a spat with Umno and PAS political leaders but also former Treasury secretary-general Irwan Serigar, who’s challenged the minister’s GDP growth projection of between 6.3% and 7.5% for next year. It’s all a bit technical juvenile with one fellow accusing the other of not knowing his stuff, but the between the lines message (sorry, we couldn’t resist!) seems to be that certain Umno-linked folks are committed to showing Azmin up.

 

By the way, it’s not just Azmin who’s been feeling the heat from PAS and Umno but also his No. 1 fan, Zuraida Kamarudin, whom some political commentators believe is in a very precarious position for insisting on seeing certain Pakatan policies (specifically the one with regard local council elections) through. 

 

Oh well, what’s that saying about sowing and reaping again?

Of emblems and confusion

The hullabaloo over a book bearing the national coat of arms (Jata Negara) on its cover has yet to die down, with the latest issue centering on the whereabouts of its editor, Kean Wong.

 

According to police, Kean, who left Malaysia earlier this year, has yet to surface anywhere. Be that as it may, when he does emerge, the editor of the banned Rebirth: Reformasi, Resistance, And Hope in New Malaysia is guaranteed to be arrested. Here’s the funny thing though: Kean’s lawyer says it’s no secret where his client is and cops have not just had the guy’s address for about two weeks now, but his email address and mobile number too! Even so, no contact has been made.

 

Kean, the lawyer says, has been an Australian permanent resident for close to 30 years and called the country home since 2003. He’s also, it seems, been there since Jan 28, when he returned from visiting his fam in Malaysia. So all this talk about the editor being untraceable is ludicrous.

 

We’re not sure what the real story is and whether or not wires have unintentionally gotten crossed, or if all this is part of some campaign to make him look like a fugitive. However, we do have to say that we find the situation quite strange.

It’s been pointed out elsewhere before, but we just need to say this here and now: how did this go from an investigation into the image on the cover, to an investigation of the contents of the book itself? Especially considering these were pieces that had been published elsewhere before and apparently didn’t have a problem then? The only ones who can clear all this up is the police, but we won’t be holding our breath waiting for an explanation. 

 

Anyhoo, it looks like Kean Wong’s not the only one’s who’s come under fire for allegedly using the Jata Negara in contravention of the Emblems and Names (Prevention Of Improper Use) Act 1963. A company that printed the coat of arms on the insides of shoes is also being investigated and while the folks responsible have apologised for the mistake, Comms Minister Saifuddin Abdullah is adamant that sorry’s no cure, and the company will have to face the music if found guilty.

 

Now, a number of legal experts have offered opposing views on what amounts to improper use of the Jata Negara since the Rebirth issue first blew up and what we’ve been able to deduce from the various arguments is that the law is anything but clear. Which is why it’s perhaps a good thing that the Info Department is in the process of coming up with a guidebook on what’s accepted and what’s not with regard the nation’s logos and emblems and even the Jalur Gemilang.

 

The “new rules” might mean, of course, that an iconic piece of performance attire like the late Sudirman Haji Arshad’s Malaysian-flag inspired getup is no longer deemed acceptable. Or it might not. Ditto with that habit by footballers to emblazon their country’s flag on their boots. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Odds and ends

It was, by all accounts, a pretty quiet weekend. Nevertheless, there were still a number of things that made the news, and which you should know about heading into Monday. Here’re the important bits and pieces in brief:

  • Sri Gading MP Shahruddin Salleh has been sacked by Bersatu. The party said Shahruddin’s membership was stripped after he informed the Dewan Rakyat that he didn’t wanna friend PM Muhyiddin and co. and would rather not sit with them. The rebel MP previously resigned from his position as Deputy Works Minister on June 4.
     
  • The Comms Ministry will check to see if Al-Jazeera’s Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown docu feature was granted a licence by the National Film Development Corporation (Finas). The absence of a production licence could constitute an offence, Minister Saifuddin Abdullah says. Jeez, enough with Al Jazeera already!
     
  • The “Spend for Malaysia” campaign, which is aimed at boosting the country’s economic recovery, may not be as successful as the government hopes it’ll be. In fact, at least one economist questions how people are expected to spend when they just can’t afford it. Besides, if Malaysians are too focused on spending, there’s a real possibility that they might fail to save the money necessary to pay off stuff like loans.
     
  • It may seem stranger than fiction but Parti Warisan Sabah is not opposed to accepting Dr Mahathir Mohamad into the fold! Speaking of Mads, our dear doctor has once more sought to explain his resignation as PM and lay the blame on everyone else but the man in the mirror.
     
  • He may have recently met with Chinese educationists but this, his office says, shouldn’t be taken to mean that PM Moo Yassin’s government is committed to recognising the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC). Meanwhile, the Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia (Huazong) agrees that recognition of the UEC must be in line with the national education policy.
     
  • Former minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman has put to bed concerns of “psychological torture” during a prolonged questioning session, adding that he was treated well by Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officers investigating the disappearance of a large sum of moolah from his house. The Muar MP further noted that he himself had consented to being quizzed after hours.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of bandages and adhesive tape."

- Groucho Marx -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • In addition to being whacked by Covid-19, India has also been hit by severe floods that have displaced millions of people. Meanwhile, a hundred animals, including at least eight rare rhinos, have also died in the floods.
     
  • China has once more refuted claims of human rights violations in Xinjiang against the Uighur people, even as new drone footage shows prisoners being shackled and herded onto trains.
     
  • John Lewis, a titan of the civil rights movement who marched on Washington with Martin Luther King, passed away on Saturday. He was 80.
     
  • This year’s English FA Cup, which is set for Aug 1, will be an all-London affair following the victories of Arsenal and Chelsea in their respective semifinals against Manchester sides City and United. Arsenal and Chelsea previously met in the 2017 final.

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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