The police are apparently thinking of using the Sedition Act against Al Jazeera over its documentary criticising the government for the alleged mistreatment of migrants in raids conducted during the MCO. Cos, you know, it’s seditious to say anything bad about Malaysia.

In other news, we can expect the poverty rate to go up; the OPR has been slashed for the fourth time this year for a 16-year low; our Covid-19 numbers are still low; and, despite Muhyiddin Yassin and Anwar Ibrahim being declared top dogs in their coalitions, things are not as stable as they seem.

Cops cry 'sedition'

The fine line between defamation and sedition

In our newsletter yesterday, we had a long segment dedicated to news about a piece by Al Jazeera on the treatment “accorded” to migrants during the movement control order (MCO) and how the Malaysian government was insisting on the news organisation apologising for it. It was also confirmed that an investigation was being conducted under Section 500 of the Penal Code for defamation and offences under the Communications and Multimedia Commission Act . 
Well, it now looks like the investigation could be not just for defamation, but possibly for sedition. IGP Hamid Bador says the investigation has been opened and, as it goes along, investigators will see whether the scope falls under the Penal Code (for defamation… and that’s criminal defamation, mind you), or the Sedition Act. 
But there’s more. Bukit Aman will call up the news organisation and its reporter for questioning, as well as anyone linked to the documentary piece. Yes folks, even those interviewed. One of these people, a Bangladeshi, is also now being sought by the Immigration Department for alleged immigration offences (what else?). 
But before we start getting our knickers in a twist, say our coppers, we should know that the probe isn’t anything new, as it was begun as early as last month (as if that makes any difference). And, they warn would-be detractors not to tarnish Malaysia’s image. 

That’s all well and good, if indeed anyone tries to tarnish our image without cause. But if the criticism is warranted and the issues real, doesn’t that mean that it is our own actions that have tarnished our image? Is our reaction to the whole episode, well, an overreaction, akin to taking a mallet to a mosquito? So, what tarnishes our image more? That report – whether correct or erroneous – or our reaction to it?
As it is, it seems like the gomen is causing the issue to become a far bigger one than it was at first. The government could have simply responded to the questions put to it by Al Jazeera. If they hadn’t done that, they could have replied to the allegations, say in an exclusive interview with AJ. Or just over Twitter even, like what Health DG Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah did yesterday, though we don’t really agree with some of the things he said. 

They could have even just ignored all of this and the story would have flickered out in a matter of days. Even if they’d wanted to punish AJ, they could have done so by initiating a civil suit, making it a case of just defamation instead of criminal defamation.

But now, we don’t just have criminal defamation, we also have sedition allegations!
What this is doing is taking things from a mere issue of mistreatment (allegedly, allegedly) of migrants to that of freedom of the press. And as we mentioned in yesterday’s newsletter, we’ve been doing so well in that department over the past couple of years.
PKR’s Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil, known to be a rather big advocate of press freedom even when he was in government (not just when he is in the Opposition lah), says Putrajaya must ensure that the media have the freedom to be independent, though this doesn’t mean they can publish fake news. And we really couldn’t agree more. 
But it’s not just AJ that is being probed over the issue of the treatment of migrants. The director of an NGO is also being investigated for an FB posting about the mistreatment of foreigners at an Immigration detention centre. Heidy (yes, not Heidi) Quah was summoned to Bukit Aman to have her statement recorded over the posting, after which she exited and said police were professional but it was still upsetting and hurtful that she should be investigated for exposing alleged mistreatment of foreigners. 
Really, what we should be doing, instead of probing people or organisations, is taking note of these allegations and investigating whether they are true. Yes, we aren’t the country with the worst record in regards to the treatment of foreigners, especially “illegal” ones, but we don’t have the best record either. And yes, we do have a big problem of undocumented migrants.
Perhaps it’s best for our authorities to concentrate more on investigating criminal syndicates bringing in foreigners illegally, or the various enforcement personnel who are aiding and abetting them. Take, for instance, the 23 enforcement personnel already arrested in Johor for this very reason. Surely it’s not just in our southernmost state where such problems occur?

More poverty in Malaysia now?

The government has rebutted allegations by a former UN rapporteur that it was “backtracking” on its seriousness in tackling poverty and that the current rate is higher than reported
Minister in the PM’s Department Mustapa Mohamed, who holds the economy portfolio, says what Philip Alston claim just ain’t true. We are serious in tackling poverty, he says, and will soon announce the new poverty line, based on 2019 calculations and methodology.
Expect the poverty rate to increase from the current 0.4%, says Tok Pa, as the 2005 methodology was obsolete. This is because the per capita income had doubled to RM40,000 from RM20,000 per household in 2005. In 2005, the poverty line was set at RM980 per household and it’s impossible for it to remain at that rate. 
Tok Pa also says the new poverty rate will be announced soon, so perhaps Alston was a little premature in his accusations. But we have to ask, just why did it take 15 years for the new poverty rate methodology to be announced? If per capita income doubled over the course of 15 years, the government could have at least announced new poverty rates every once in a while. 

The Pakatan Harapan government had promised to revise the rates, which is what Allston was complaining about as he thought the Perikatan government was not gonna follow this. But really, Muhyiddin Yassin’s administration has only been in power for a few months and had more pressing matters like Covid-19 to attend to. 
So really, if fault lies with anybody, it is with the Pakatan administration under Dr Mahathir Mohamad, which had two years to address the issue, and, of course, the Barisan Nasional gomen before that.
But the poverty line is not the only issue right now, either. Our economy, much like the rest of the world, has been hammered by the Covid-19 pandemic. The biggest indicator of this, perhaps, is the fact that Bank Negara Malaysia has again cut the overnight policy rate, this time to just 1.75% – the lowest since 2004. 
This is the fourth time this year alone that BNM has slashed the OPR. The first was in January, on the back of a slump in the global economy thanks to the US-China trade war. In March, the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic saw the OPR reduced again. Two months later, the pandemic again saw a cut in OPR. 
Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz says the next three to six months will prove crucial for economic recovery. He says the OPR cut was due to the global economic conditions, as the world had yet to recover from the pandemic. 

As a reminder, in case you’ve forgotten: a lower OPR means lower interest rates. That cuts two ways. Base Lending Rates rates for loans go down, which means you pay less for your houses. But the interest you get on savings and fixed deposits also go down. The intention is to encourage people to spend money and therefore stimulate the economy. 
On a related matter, the moneybags man says the 2021 Budget, set to be tabled on Nov 6, will be framed across four broad themes – caring for the people, steering the economy, sustainable living and enhancing public service delivery. He also sees Malaysia’s GDP improving by 6.3-7.5% in 2021. 
Is Tengku Zafrul’s prediction accurate? Well, it all depends on Malaysia’s continued success in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, he says. But, it’s in line with a previous forecast by the Asian Development Bank, which said our GDP would contract by 4% this year but recover to post a 6.5% growth in 2021. The International Monetary Fund was the latest to post a forecast, with an even more optimistic (and hopefully accurate) growth prediction of 9%

So, hopefully things are looking up, or will be soon, considering the vast majority of our economic activities have reopened again and our Covid-19 infection numbers are consistently low.

Low but not quite there yet

And now, for our (now usual) segment on Covid-19.
The good news continued yesterday as we remained in the single-digit realm as far as new cases are concerned. Yesterday saw six new cases, four of which were imported. The cumulative now stands at 8,674. Recoveries were just a little lower, with five having been discharged from hospital, bringing the recovery rate to 97.8%, or 8,481 of the total number. There were no new deaths, leaving the mortality rate at 121 or 1.39% of the total. 
There was also more good news yesterday as it was reported that there are now just two states with 10 or more active cases in the country. Surprisingly it’s neither Selangor nor Kuala Lumpur (for all intents and purposes, whenever the authorities talk about anything, they refer to Kuala Lumpur as a “state”). Negri Sembilan has the most (11), with Sabah running closely behind (10). KL has nine cases, Selangor has seven, while Johor and Sarawak have one each. 
Meanwhile, with news that Australia’s second biggest city, Melbourne, is reentering lockdown due to Covid-19, Malaysians there are being advised to reach out to our High Commission in Canberra if they need urgent assistance. For now, though, our Malaysian brethren say all is good and that they aren’t surprised that parts of Victoria, including Melbourne, were going back into lockdown as many people in Melbourne had taken the pandemic lightly. 
Here are some other coronavirus-related news which appeared yesterday:

  • There will be no extension to the loan repayment moratorium, so borrowers are advised not to wait till the last moment to deal with their debts. 
  • The travel industry will take up to four years to fully recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. 
  • Cuepacs is the latest union to urge the Education Ministry to revise the new academic year calendar to allow the second term school holidays to coincide with Hari Raya Aidiladha so that families can balik kampung. OK, we see no harm in that, considering the Aidilfitri exodus couldn’t happen.
  • A foreign content creator who uploaded a video praising Malaysia for its swift and effective handling of the Covid-19 crisis has slammed Facebook for blocking the clip for promoting “false, misleading and deceptive claims”. Just when did we turn into Donald Trump? 

Still a political quagmire

You would think that since we now know who will be the PM candidate for both Perikatan (Muhyiddin Yassin) and Pakatan (Anwar Ibrahim) during the 15th general election (GE15), things would be a lot simpler and more stable.

You would think that. But you would be wrong.
PKR, obviously, is all for el presidente Anwar to be The One. But of the two other Pakatan mainstays, it seems that Amanah is split. The presidential council, apparently, made the decision without consulting the grassroots, who don’t want Anwar as PM.

And, at least one Amanah member has resigned because of it. It is only Khairuddin Abu Hassan, a well-known Mahathir fanboy, though. So is it surprising? Does it really even matter?
It’s much the same over in Perikatan as Umno leaders seem to be giving out mixed signals. Party veteran Shahrir Samad says he wants assurances that Umno is not getting the short end of the stick by supporting Bersatu president and current PM Moo and sticking with Perikatan. At the same time, Umno supreme council member Annuar Musa says his support of Muhyiddin is only for the present (read: if snap polls are called super soon) and can’t say whether it will remain so if GE15 is held a few years from now. 
So yeah, there doesn’t appear to be any sort of political stability at present, with Perikatan only slightly more stable than Pakatan. And, we can’t say whether there will be any following GE15 either.
As far as snap polls are concerned, analysts and health experts have pooh-poohed the idea, saying it would be folly to do so with Covid-19 still present in Malaysia. They say Malaysia is also not ready for it financially, considering that a general election would cost somewhere in the region of RM500 million and the country is experiencing economic problems thanks to that blasted coronavirus and the resulting MCO. 
In other news, an affidavit filed on behalf of PM MooMoo in answer to a legal challenge on the validity of the May 18 one-day Parliament sitting says it was indeed valid. Dewan Rakyat secretary Nizam Mydin Bacha Mydin says the sitting abided by the Federal Constitution and the Dewan Rakyat standing orders. 
Speaking of Parliament, there will be new SOPs when the Dewan Rakyat meets again this month. All those attending will need to have the MySejahtera app and will have to follow other SOPs such as wearing face masks at all times and practising social distancing measures. 
Anyhoo, here are some other political news which appeared yesterday:

  • Former Bersatu Youth chief Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman has withdrawn his suit contesting his dismissal from the party. 
  • Nga Kor Ming says he will “not stay a minute longer” if he is voted out as Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speaker. Muhyiddin, as Pagoh MP, is expected to table a motion to replace Nga and Speaker Mohamad Ariff Mohd Yusoff with Umno’s Azalina Othman Said and former Election Commission chief Azhar “Art” Harun. 
  • Umno has set Nov 27 and 28 for its annual general meeting, with the assemblies for its Wanita, Youth and Puteri wings set for Nov 26. 
  • Meanwhile, investigations have also been opened against Bersih 2.0 for protests against the so-called Sheraton Move which eventually led to the downfall of the Pakatan Harapan government and Perikatan Nasional taking over the reins of the country. Its chairman, Thomas Fann, was called in for questioning but invoked his rights to remain silent and only answer questions in court. Bersih 2.0 is only the latest “victim” of what a human rights watchdog has called a backsliding on free speech by the Malaysian gomen. 

“It is the press, above all, which wages a positively fanatical and slanderous struggle, tearing down everything which can be regarded as a support of national independence, cultural elevation, and the economic independence of the nation."

- Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf -




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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