The Wuhan coronavirus continues to plague our shores, with seven new Covid-19 cases being reported yesterday. It's the biggest jump in a single day - and we don't even have a health minister now! It's now 36 cases in Malaysia, following a global trend of rapidly escalating infections outside of China. Meanwhile, just in: The first Parliament session for the year will convene on May 18 instead of March 9 as initially scheduled. BTL will have more on that tomorrow. In other news, our political imbroglio continues to hog the headlines, while we hear testimony from Jho Low himself (well, not in person) about his role (or lack thereof, he claims) in the billions we lost through SRC International and 1MDB.

Covid-19 back with a vengeance

Seven in one blow

Malaysia recorded its largest number of Covid-19 cases in a single day, with seven new cases – all involving Malaysians – reported yesterday. And it seems all can be traced to one patient.  This brings the total number of cases here to 36, with 22 recoveries and 0 deaths (phew!). Of these, 18 involved Malaysians, 15 Chinese nationals and 3 others.

In a nutshell, from Jan 25 – Feb 16, Malaysia detected 22 cases, all of which have since recovered. After a wonderful lull of 11 days, the second wave of detection began. Since Feb 27, there have been 14 new cases, in keeping with the global trend of a more aggressive spread of the virus.

Authorities have since traced the seven new cases back to one patient – Case#26 – a senior member of Khazanah Nasional and UDA Holdings. The same person was in contact with a former minister and deputy, both of whom, thankfully, tested negative. Meanwhile, all UDA Holdings Bhd employees at Pertama Complex have been ordered to work from home.

Last week we learned that Covid-19 has spread to all continents save for Antarctica, which doesn’t have a human population other than those who live on scientific bases! This is a scary thing considering it means even the Arctic Circle has been hit by the virus. To date, there have been over 92,200 cases globally and 3,135 deaths. Over 48,000 have recovered.

In fact, although China still makes up the majority of overall reported cases globally, the number of new cases being reported there is falling, but rising in other countries. About 81% of Covid-19 cases outside China come from South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan. It’s so bad in Iran that the government has released 54,000 prisoners in an effort to stop the spread of the illness. All eyes are now on WHO to determine if the coronavirus spread has reached global pandemic levels. Read the latest findings by the WHO here.

Anyhoo, back to our beloved country. Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) cut its overnight policy rate by 25 basis points to 2.5% to reduce the impact of the outbreak, especially on the country’s exports and tourism. This is the second time this year the OPR has been cut, with the 2.5% rate the lowest it has been for 10 years.

But even before BNM announced the cut, investors were quick to take profit following expectations the world’s central banks would take action to mitigate the global economic slowdown due to outbreak. The FBM KLCI jumped over 14 points in the first few minutes of trading. However, by noon, the gains had been reduced to below 2 points, also following the global trend.

New PM Muhyiddin Yassin was briefed by Finance Ministry officials on the country’s fiscal position and measures under the economic stimulus package announced last week by old (no pun intended) and then interim PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad. After hearing the brief, Moo directed the gomen “machinery” to implement all Budget 2020 and stimulus package initiatives and monitor their effects on the economy closely. 

BTW, we’d like to take just a little bit out of your time to say kudos to our former Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad. Despite being out of a job (as minister, anyway), he has been updating his FB page with news about Covid-19. Nice fellow, this. This is one Pakatan Harapan minister we will miss.

Moo-laysian politics

It must seem like The NeverEnding Story (most of you 80s folks will get this) for new PM Moo.

Muhyiddin can expect to face a motion of no confidence in the next Dewan Rakyat sitting as Pakatan attempts to wrest back power by showing he doesn’t command majority MP support. They aim to show that it’s PM4 and PM7-turned interim PM-turned PM9 wannabe Mahathir with the most support. Now, political analysts are saying Muhyiddin should beat everyone to the punch by instead tabling a confidence vote on his government to silence detractors and end the political crisis.

Umno is having none of that and has instead called for the Dewan sitting, initially scheduled to begin March 9, to be postponed. Umno sec-gen Annuar Musa says the new gomen needs at least two months (say what, now?) as there were “many matters” to be ironed out. Technically, a delay is well within Muhyiddin’s rights as he has till June 5 to call for a sitting, i.e six months from when the last Parliament session ended. And it looks like Umno got its wish as Speaker Tan Sri Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof announced today that the next House sitting will be on May 18.

Meanwhile, PAS has called for all Malaysians, and yes, they specifically mentioned one Mahathir bin Mohamad, to support Muhyiddin as PM. Scared much, Umno and PAS?

Umno, especially, should be afraid. Bersatu Boy Wonder Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman says he will remain in Bersatu to fight corruption in the new government from within. Our former minister of youth and sports (and, judging from the huge variety of issues he chose to take up over the past two years, Minister of Everyone) had previously said he wouldn’t work with Umno, but now apparently will, in the interests of fighting corruption, of course. Is this a matter of principle, or political survival?

Meanwhile, PAS has said they agree that the new Cabinet (that’s if there is a chance for Moo to form one) must not include those involved in corruption. The party says nothing (surprise, surprise) about Muafakat National allies like former PM Najib Razak and current Umno prez Ahmad Zahid Hamidi who are facing a slew of graft charges but have yet to be found guilty, or innocent, as their cases are still ongoing in court. What a cop-out.

Speaking of Ahmad Zahid, he got off with a slap on the wrist in court after failing to produce a letter on a purported meeting with Muhyiddin over the new Cabinet line-up the previous day. The court had allowed an adjournment of his corruption trial after the former DPM claimed he had to meet his new boss, until, of course, the Prime Minister’s Department (PMD) issued a statement saying no such meeting took place.

Apologising, Ahmad Zahid said a letter couldn’t be issued as Moo’s political secretary couldn’t sign one, seeing as how the latter had yet to be officially appointed. The prosecution wanted to the accused with contempt but the learned judge ruled there was no need as this was merely a “miscommunication”. Right.

Look, we can go on and on. In just over a week, Malaysia lost its government, replaced its prime minister and is awaiting a new Cabinet, and clearly, we still have some way to go yet. There is a lot to unpack, so to keep this as short as possible, we have contained some of these reports in brief:

  • GPS chairman and Sarawak CM Abang Johari Openg said the Sarawakian group chose Muhyiddin over Maddey because “there was no other choice”. In other words, it was between the devil and the deep blue sea and the deep blue sea won. Or was it the devil? It sure is hard to tell these days.
  • Apart from challenges by outside forces against his “Perikatan Nasional” bloc, there are signs of internal fissures within Moo’s own loose coalition. Non-Muslim MPs are concerned that, with such a huge Bumi representation in PN, their views will not be heard. It’s a legitimate concern, it must be said.
  • Pakatan and Maddey loyalists within Bersatu are to hold briefings to explain to their grassroots and supporters events leading to Muhyiddin being declared PM8.
  • Adly Zahari has confirmed that the Melaka governor had “sacked” him as chief minister (CM), adding he will go on a “Save Melaka” roadshow.
  • Speaking of CMs, Sabah’s Shafie Apdal has asked Sabahans to “keep calm and soldier on” amidst rumours of party-frogging among state legislators which could lead to the fall of the Warisan-led state gomen. Shafie’s Warisan had declared support for Maddey earlier, but since Muhyiddin was appointed PM8, has been rather quiet.
  • PKR veep Tian Chua deflected questions about former party numero dos and close ally Azmin Ali and gang, adding that the new gomen has no clear future nor direction. He also says his one regret was not being able to unify PKR. How to unify when you supported one faction over the other lah, saudara? Did that slap on the head you received outside PKR HQ the other day knock some screws loose?
  • Lawyer Fadiah Nadwa Fikri, who with several others is being probed by police for sedition over demonstrations against Muhyiddin recently, has urged Malaysians not to be intimidated. Azmin Ali, meanwhile, has urged police to allow Malaysians to hold peaceful protests but also warned protestors to respect public order.

Jho Low gives us the low down... sorta

Political imbroglio aside, life must go on for all of us, including Jibby Razak, whose SRC International trial continued yesterday with testimony from three MACC officers. 

The first to take the stand was Mohd Nasharudin Amir, who had gone to the UAE in 2015 to record a statement from close Jho Low associate Tan Kim Loong. Tan, the beneficiary owner of several companies which sent billions of ringgit to the Jibster, claimed he didn’t know who he was sending the money to. Tan’s statement to the MACC is the only source for Tan’s side of the story as he has since disappeared.

Questioned by the prosecution, Nasharudin said the statement recorded from Tan had been prepared ahead of the “interview”. He also agreed that he didn’t know whether Tan had prepared the statement himself. MACC investigating officers Azhari Karim and Ting Ing Ping then took the witness stand, separately, to affirm their roles as officers present during the statement recording of Jerome Lee Tak Loong and everyone’s favourite fugitive Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low. Tan, Lee and, as we all know, Low are now untraceable, and the court allowed the statements to be tendered as evidence.

Low’s statement, of course, was the subject of much interest. In his statement, Low denies having control of Najib’s bank accounts, nor managing the former PM’s credit cards. He also says while he “may have” advised Jibby on issues relating to SRC and 1MDB, he ultimately didn’t have any say in the running of the two entities.

Are we surprised? Can’t say we are. But we leave it to the courts to decide if Low really had no part to play in this whole expensive saga or as the Jib’s defence is claiming, masterminded it all with Jibby-boy a mere puppet on strings.

What we are saying, however, is that the cops should get up off their asses and arrest the guy already. Find him, bring him back home and torture the truth out of him (kidding, kidding). This statement sure ain’t enough. The only way Malaysians will get anything close to the truth is if we can find Low, bring him home and question him.

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

- Mark Twain -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN body policing Iran’s troubled nuclear deal with major powers, has admonished Tehran for failing to answer questions about past nuclear activities at three sites and for denying it access to two of them.
     
  • Indonesia’s most active volcano, Mt Merapi, has erupted again, spewing a huge ash cloud 6km into the air.
     
  • President Donald Trump has been on the phone with the Taliban amidst reports that violence had again erupted in Afghanistan, only days after the US and the Islamist group had agreed to a peace pact.
     
  • Meanwhile, after suing New York Times, the Trump campaign has done the same with Washington Post over opinion pieces it claims suggested improper ties between the campaign and Russia, North Korea or both.

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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