It was an explosive affair last night when the Bersatu supreme council met for the first time minus now “sacked” chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Four council members who are supporters of the former chairman staged a walkout and declared the meeting, Maddey’s sacking and the Perikatan Nasional pact not valid.

In other news, a Bersatu deputy minister resigned and then went to meet Maddey; Covid-19 guidelines for schools when they eventually reopen are out; there was a massive spike in new coronavirus cases; and, the penultimate day of oral submissions for Najib Razak’s SRC International corruption trial saw more sparring between prosecution and defence.

Also, it feels like there's a public holiday every week these days, which must be fate's cruel sense of humour, since we can't actually go anywhere and take advantage of the break. Anyway, next Monday is a public hol as it's the Agong's official birthday. Enjoy the long weekend and see you again on Tuesday! Oh, btw, we've got one of our special reports coming out this weekend, so keep your eyes peeled for that. :)

Not the president's men

Thumbs down, middle finger out

If Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin thought it had been the end of his troubles within his party when the party booted out Dr Mahathir Mohamad, son Mukhriz and three others, he had other things coming. And last night’s supreme council meeting, greenlit by the Registrar of Societies and held amidst tight security, sure proved him wrong. 
 
At least four members aligned with former chairman Maddey attended, including one Akramsyah Sanusi, the son of former Umno stalwart Sanusi Junid – and boy did the quartet make its presence felt. Akramsyah’s presence was something of an enigma as he and two others were reportedly sacked from the party two days before. However, he claimed his termination letter had later been withdrawn. 
 
Akramsyah and the other three – Youth information chief Ulya Aqamah Husamuddin, Abu Bakar Yahya and Tariq Ismail – staged a walkout two hours into the meeting, with Ulya later telling reporters any decision made at the meeting would not be valid. He cited two things which the four didn’t agree with. The first is the formalisation of the sacking of Mahathir and co. The second was the formalisation of Perikatan Nasional, which Ulya said meant the current pact was not formalised before this and therefore made the provisions used to get rid of Maddey not applicable. 

What this means is this: when Mahathir and his gang had their memberships nullified, the reason given was because they had joined the opposition bloc in Parliament. However, the Akramsyah Barbershop Quartet’s argument seems to be that the nullification cannot be valid since Bersatu hadn’t been in a formal coalition with its government partners to begin with. 
 
This was the second blow for PM Moo yesterday, the first being the resignation of Deputy Works Minister Shahruddin Salleh, who met with Mahathir soon after resigning. Though he dodged the question of whether he still supported Perikatan in Parliament, Shahruddin was reported to have said in his resignation letter that he would remain a Perikatan backbencher
 
Mads himself, however, is facing troubles of his own, well apart from those he is facing from Muhyiddin. The former PM met with old Pakatan allies in DAP and Amanah, as well as Warisan president Shafie Apdal, earlier in the day, but most conspicuously missing were protégé-turned-enemy-turned-political-bedfellow Anwar Ibrahim and PKR. Is this a signal Anwar is no longer willing to work with Mahathir? Would that even be a shocker? Interestingly enough, all the Pakatan bigwigs met with Anwar later and hinted at “big changes” to come. 

If Maddey can no longer count on PKR and Anwar’s backing, will his Bersatu support and power base melt away? After all, without PKR, Mahathir hasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of wresting Putrajaya back.  
 
Maddey also took a blow in Johor. Following a threat from the Johor Sultan that he would dissolve the state assembly if there were any more political power struggles, state Bersatu chairman Mazlan Bujang said not one of the 11 Bersatu elected representatives would leave Perikatan. This came after the Bersatu reps held a meeting with Muhyiddin the night before.
 
Meanwhile, a rumour is apparently making the rounds that there have been talks between Bersatu and Muafakat Nasional to let the party join Umno. Such a move would make Umno once again a powerhouse, but would also be a major grouse for many members as a large number of members had left Umno when Maddey and Moo founded Bersatu. However, a Bersatu Youth member said Muhyiddin had rejected an offer from Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi for the party to rejoin Umno. 

And lastly, speaking of Umno, former party big gun and former Melaka CM Ali Rustam is back in the limelight again. He has now been awarded a “Tun” title and been appointed the new Melaka governor. Ali Rustam was Melaka chief minister for 14 years, from 1999 to 2013 and it was under his watch that Melaka became a fully developed state

Guidelines for schools released

The government yesterday released a set of guidelines, or standard operating procedures, for the reopening of schools, and there were no real surprises. 
 
There was no word as to when schools will fully reopen. But even when they do, only those in Form Five and Form Six, as well as those who are set to take international exams of the same level as SPM and STPM, will be allowed back
 
Other than that, the guidelines state that body temperatures checks would be done on all who enter the schools, whether teachers, students or visitors, while social distancing norms will be maintained at all times. This includes in classrooms, where desks would be placed at least a metre apart, with excess students placed in another class. Students will also have to practice distancing during recess. After buying their meals at the canteen, they will have to eat in the classrooms as this will not be allowed in canteens. 
 
As for teachers in government schools, they have been told to be on standby to be recalled starting next week. Meanwhile, schools which remain closed have been urged not to collect fees from parents. This was in response to reports that some semi-private schools have asked parents for fees. 
 
While the Health Ministry said two days ago it is confident the SOPs would be enough to put a stop to any spread of Covid-19 in schools, there is still that niggling fear that reopening schools, even if it is just for a limited number of students, may not be a good idea.

It wasn’t too long ago (read: last week) the ministry had said more sectors and schools would be only reopened if the number of daily infections remain low, but this is something that has yet to happen (more on that later). 
 
There is also that oh-so-great possibility, some might say probability, that the students themselves won’t stick to social distancing norms. They are young, they have been cooped up at home without any interaction with friends. Who’s to say they’ll stick to social distancing? Who’s to say that they won’t pull their tables closer together, for instance, during their recess, so they can chitchat, eat or revise together?

What about sports and games? Will those be cancelled? If not, how will they implement social distancing on the football field and basketball court? What about students who are dating each other? How’re the powers that be gonna stop them snogging each other in dark corners? Point is, there are a lot of ways this could go wrong and not many ways to actually police their behaviour.
 
The teachers union had some good suggestions, but so far there’s been no news as to whether the government is taking heed of them. Of course, the start date still hasn’t been declared, so we hope schools will only be reopened when our infection numbers are low, thus minimising any risk of a rise in the infection rate and new clusters.

Massive increase in Covid-19 numbers

The country saw its biggest jump in the number of new Covid-19 cases for some time yesterday. And it only served to prove a point made by non-governmental organisations much earlier on.
 
There were 277 new Covid-19 cases yesterday, pushing the total number of cases detected in Malaysia to 8,247. With only 28 people discharged from hospital (for a total of 6,559 recoveries so far), that meant that the number of new cases was nearly tenfold that of recoveries. 
 
Here’s the thing, though. Of the new cases, 271 were foreigners. And all but one were from the Bukit Jalil Immigration detention centre. Of the six Malaysians, two were imported cases as these were students returning from abroad.
 
What exactly does this mean? Well, it’s been a trend over the last few days that many cases are coming from Immigration detention centres. If you take away these cases, Malaysia would be well in the single-digit realm as far as new cases are concerned.
 
What this highlights is what NGOs have been warning us about have really come true. These NGOs, such as the Women’s Aid Organisation, had said that conducting raids against undocumented foreigners would be counterproductive as if any of these are Covid-19 positive, they would then pose a risk to everyone at detention centres, including Immigration officers. 
 
It had already proven true when the first cases of Covid-19 were detected at the Bukit Jalil centre, as they were among those who had actually been detained before the MCO began. This meant the infections had been “imported” into the centres by other undocumented foreigners who were detained later. 
 
The detection of the cases yesterday was the result of a second exercise to swab detainees for testing. So, there can be no faulting the government on its efforts to screen the foreigners. But, the fact remains that these people were brought in despite advice from NGOs to suspend raids to encourage foreigners to come forward willingly for testing, without the threat of possible detention for whatever Immigration offence they may have committed. Let’s hope that this plea last week from another NGO for a moratorium on raids will be heeded now. 

The other question is – the Health DG had previously said infection numbers would have to go down to the single digits before the MCO can be lifted. Since infections among locals have all but hit that threshold, does this mean things will revert to normal come June 10? Somehow, we doubt it. 

But in any case, PM Muhyiddin will be addressing the nation in a live telecast at 3pm today to detail a short-term economic recovery plan. We suspect he will also announce whether the current CMCO will be extended or lifted as well. So, stay tuned to your TVs, folks. 
 
There were other Covid-19 news which appeared yesterday, and we’ve tried to compile the more relevant ones for your reading pleasure (or displeasure as the case may be):

  • The Malaysian Medical Association wants Muhyiddin, in his economic recovery plan, to focus on six areas within the healthcare sector which it says was being overlooked at the moment. 
     
  • Our rarely-heard Health Minister has disputed claims the MCO is against the law (after months of being in place, mind you) and adds that the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act will be amended. 
     
  • The government, meanwhile, is drafting a Temporary Measures Bill to mitigate the social and economic impacts of the pandemic. 
     
  • DAP MP Hannah Yeoh has scolded former PM Najib Razak for being a very naughty boy. She said it is atrocious of Jibby to remark on possible snap polls, and to call for the Election Commission to prepare Covid-19 prevention SOPs ahead of the possibility, at a time when the nation is struggling to deal with the effects of the crisis. We gotta go with the Jibster on this one. The EC needs to be prepared for anything and not bury their heads in the sand, which is what Hannah seems to be suggesting. 
     
  • Malaysia recorded a trade deficit of RM3.5 billion in April, the first deficit after 269 consecutive months (that’s more than 22 years, if you’re wondering) of surplus. 
     
  • AirAsia, with an estimated 25,000 staff worldwide, including 10,000 in Malaysia, is reportedly looking to downsize its number of employees. However, there is no word as to how many people will be let go. 
     
  • Malaysians have lost a combined total of RM5.5 million to face mask scams since the MCO began in Malaysia. 
     
  • Senior minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob says there will be some major policy changes regarding the employment of foreign workers and entry of illegal immigrants into the country after the pandemic is done with here. He also said chided employers who force their staff take unpaid leave for “quarantine” purposes after interstate travel, saying they don’t get to decide on such policies. 

'Jho-boy did it'

The SRC International corruption trial of former PM Najib continued yesterday with more oral submissions, with the defence blaming one now infamous businessman for everything.
 
Defence lawyers for Jibby said Jho Low, our version of Dr Richard Kimble, is to blame for the RM42 million taken from SRC International. Evidence, they said, pointed to the “fact” that Najib wasn’t involved in an alleged premeditated plan to take the money from the company and that Low had deposited RM10 million into the then PM’s accounts just to ensure Jibby’s cheques didn’t bounce. 
 
They also said the Jibster had always presented a truthful defence, and that he had been a victim of misrepresentation by Low. Poor fellow. We feel for this honest and virtuous ex-leader of ours. Really. We do. 
 
But here’s the best part. Lead defence counsel Shafee Abdullah said it had been difficult for his team to come up with a defence for Najib by stating he is a victim of a scam by Low, a former SRC International CEO and other “rogue bankers”. WTF? Was that an admission of guilt on Jibby’s part?
 
Sadly, it wasn’t or it would have been a whole lot easier for judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali to decide the whole thing. What Shafee meant was basically that Jibby was also the victim of his own position as the then PM. Since he was a man of “immense power”, people (and the prosecution) would ask how it was possible he could not be aware of what was going on. 
 
Shafee also questioned the disconnect in the prosecution’s case that Najib was involved when he supposedly only received the RM42 million three years after he had allegedly used his power and position to get two RM2 billion loans for SRC International. Wouldn’t he, if corrupt, have asked for the money upfront, before the loans would be approved, he asked.
 
Ad hoc prosecutor V. Sithambaram, however, countered this by saying there was no issue with lapse of time. He said Jibby could have ordered the loans to be approved with the knowledge that money could be siphoned off at any time once the loan was deposited into SRC International’s accounts, considering former CEO Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil was a director of the company and signatory of the bank account. 
 
(NOTE: Nik Faisal has been alleged to have been involved in the whole affair but had turned prosecution witness. Najib’s defence team had earlier in the trial painted the former CEO and MD of the company as one of the masterminds behind the funds taken out of SRC International.) 

Oral submissions are set to end today in the SRC International trial, but Najib is still facing other trials, one of which has to do with 1Malaysia Development Bhd. That trial, which was supposed to have resumed yesterday, has been postponed to June 29

“In war you can only be killed once, but in politics, many times.”

- Winston Churchill -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • As thousands continued to protest across the US, a memorial service for George Floyd, who died at the hands of Minneapolis police recently, was held with famed American preacher Rev. Al Sharpton hitting out at the country’s human rights record, saying blacks had been marginalised for hundreds of years because America “kept your knee on our neck”
     
  • Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, thousands were also out on the streets as a vigil to remember the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown took place despite a ban on the annual event due to the coronavirus pandemic. 
     
  • The number of Covid-19 cases worldwide has breached the 6.5 million mark, with more than 385,000 deaths. The US is still the worst hit nation with more than 1.8 million cases and 107,000 deaths. Meanwhile, a study has shown that the virus in New York, the worst hit of all the US states, came via Europe and not directly from China. 
     
  • A series of polls has shown that US President Donald Trump is now the underdog in this year’s presidential election. But does anybody trust polls anymore, after what happened in 2016?
     
  • A 43-year-old German man is being investigated in connection with the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, who was just 3 when she vanished in Portugal in 2007. The British girl is presumed dead by German prosecutors. 

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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