The Cabinet has come out to lambast anyone trying to undermine national unity by playing up racial and religious sentiment. This came in reaction to a letter from a lawyer who threatened a school over its Chinese New Year decorations. But why did this guy get the space to make such threats in the first place? In other news, the MACC created a sensation by releasing audio clips allegedly proving a high-level conspiracy involving several people, including dear old Jibby Razak; Zuraida Kamaruddin has been likened to the Angel of Death (well, not outright); and, things are getting heated in the race for the Kimanis parliamentary seat.

Lunar New Year lunacy

Loony New Year

Pretty much the entire Cabinet came out yesterday to slam Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz, the guy who threatened a school in Puchong to take down CNY decorations because they were apparently offensive to his delicate religious sensibilities and that of the Muslim students in the school, and unconstitutional to boot.

All jolly good. Nice to see our politicians for once saying and doing the right thing. But it doesn’t make this episode any less disturbing. See, there are several things that are still problematic about the whole debacle. 

Firstly, why did the police initially “advise” the school to take down the decorations to “de-escalate” the situation? Is this how we react to extremists in our midst now? By kowtowing to their demands? So, if some joker were to demand next time that Christmas cards sold in bookshops, or Thaipusam processions to Batu Caves be stopped, are we gonna obey in order to “de-escalate” the situation?

Secondly, why was it necessary for this supremely nonsensical issue to be escalated to the education ministry in the first place? Right off the bat, the headmistress of the school should have simply told Mohd Khairul – a lawyer and a Malay political party VP – to kindly bugger off. Yet, the political and racial climate is so charged that the poor woman probably felt intimidated enough to feel she needed to escalate it to her bosses, and the whole thing became a national issue. Also, it seems that there were teachers in the school itself that supported the complaint

You know who took down symbols of other religions? The Taliban. Is that what we want to turn into? If Mohd Khairul and the teachers who support him feel the way they do, they are welcome to teach at and register their kids at the nearest sekolah tahfiz. But a national school is a place for all Malaysians to not just study, but learn about each other’s beliefs, religions and values in order to bring us together as one nation.

The third and possibly most important issue is this: people are falling over themselves to point out that CNY isn’t a religious, but a cultural celebration. But so what if it IS religious? Does that mean we cannot put up decorations to celebrate it? Does this mean that Christmas, Deepavali, Thaipusam, Wesak Day, Vaisakhi, or even Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Hari Raya Haji, Maulidur Rasul and others cannot be acknowledged?

Non-Muslim schoolkids spend weekly assemblies standing respectfully silent when Muslim prayers are recited, and working adults attending functions, especially government functions, do the same thing. So why not show some respect in the opposite direction?

The essence of multiculturalism is tolerance. Putting up decorations to mark celebrations ISN’T the same as propagating a religion. But if Mohd Khairul feels the way he does, he may want to stay away from our malls in case the CNY decorations there make him suddenly feel like making a trip to Kek Lok Si in Penang!

In any case, Mohd Khairul has gotten himself into hot soup for his “troubles”. IGP Abdul Hamid Bador has ordered that he be investigated after finding that the letter the loyar buruk had written had “elements of intimidation and incitement” in it. Padan muka.

One final thing. Notice who’s been deafeningly silent about this whole thing? Umno and MCA. Sickening to see that politics seems to trump common decency even over something like this. And you know who else is playing the invisible man? Our brilliant Unity Minister, P. Waytha Moorthy. Why does this guy always vanish right when it comes to things that concern him??!?

Wiretaps, MACC and sub judice

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) created quite the sensation yesterday by releasing nine audio clips apparently of phone conversations, calling them evidence of a “conspiracy of the highest level”.

The clips feature (allegedly, allegedly) ex-PM Najib Razak, wifey Rosmah Mansor (or is that ex-PM Rosmah Mansor and hubby Najib Razak? We’re not quite sure anymore.), former MACC chief Dzulkifli Ahmad, former Tabung Haji chairman Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim, and Najib’s former principal private secretary Shukry Mohd Salleh.

The recordings, said MACC numero uno Latheefa Koya, had been sent to MACC anonymously and would be sent to police for further action.

Among the recordings were a conversation between Najib and Rosmah in which the latter was said to have told Najib he was the PM and should take charge, apparently in reference to then MACC head Abu Kassim Mohamed. The conversation contained the phrase “Can I advise you something?”, allegedly by Rosmah to Najib, which later started trending on Twitter.

Another conversation was between Najib and UAE crown prince Mohammed Zayed Al Nahyan. The conversation was regarding allegations of money laundering against Jibby’s stepson Riza Aziz and what the MACC alleged was an attempt to cover up the issue.

Amazingly, the Jibster later came out to say the recording actually vindicated him as it showed both he and Riza were unaware of where the money to fund Hollywood blockbuster Wolf of Wall Street, produced by Riza’s movie studio, had come from. That would be 1MDB, for those of you who are somehow unaware of it.

Najib also warned that the release of recordings of tapped conversations of a PM could hurt diplomatic relations between two countries. Ironically, as pointed out by one lawyer, it was Jib’s administration which had made it legal for the government to wiretap conversations.

Meanwhile, a recording of a conversation between Azeez and Dzulkifli (allegedly, allegedly) appeared to reveal them discussing the 1MDB probe and the Tabung Haji scandal.

But wait just a minute. Doesn’t the release of these recordings seem a little dodgy, legally we mean? 

Pressed as to whether this would constitute sub judice in Najib’s ongoing 1MDB trial, Latheefa, a lawyer before she was appointed MACC chief commissioner, said it regarded offences which were not part of the ongoing trial.

But hold on, how is all this talk about 1MDB, when Jibby’s 1MDB trial is ongoing, not sub judice?

The legal fraternity is divided, apparently, but lawyers do agree that whether or not it is sub judice, it is trial by media. And as much as we hate to say this, Najib is entitled to a fair trial, just like every other Abu, Muthu or Ah Chong.

So it comes as no surprise that Najib’s lead counsel, Shafee Abdullah, says the defence was “seriously contemplating” contempt proceedings against MACC and Latheefa in particular. He points out that under normal circumstances, a police report would be lodged and investigations carried out in strict secrecy, instead of things being put out in the open.

He also says Latheefa had pointed out Dzulkifli had been discussing official secrets, but had done the same by releasing the audio clips. Fair point there, counsellor.

The questions now, are these: Why did Latheefa feel the need to turn this into a three-ring media circus? Is this an investigative move or a political one? And more importantly, by doing what she did, has Latheefa and the MACC handed Jibby the means of getting off the hook on a technicality?

Zuraida: Malaysia's Angel of Death?

Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin has apparently earned the wrath of some doctors.

These doctors are saying Zuraida is “helping people to die” by announcing an allocation to build smoking huts in public areas. All the good work by the government, in particular Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, in enforcing smoking bans in public places and eateries, will be undone.

OK. We see their point. The aim of the smoking ban, ultimately, is to stop people smoking altogether. Meaning, stopping people from smoking now and stopping future generations from taking up the habit.

But the government’s attempts previously to discourage smoking by upping taxes on tobacco only led to more and more ciggies being smuggled into the country. 

Most hardcore smokers are hardly going to stop. So Zuraida’s logic is probably that it’s better to have an enclosed area which will keep them away from non-smokers who care about their health. The problem though, is whether or not a ministry should be spending a million bucks to build state-of-the-art smoking huts to facilitate this destructive habit.

This is just as short-sighted as the government’s statement last November that the it will consider reducing smoking fines from RM250 to RM150 if the fines are paid off early.

We think this is utterly ridiculous. Why reduce fines? If anything, the government should put in a clause that late payments would see fines increase, and keep on increasing the later the payments are made.

PSS, oh PSS

With just over a week to go before Kimanis folk head to the polls, the race for the seat is hotting up, with various issues having been thrown into the spotlight.

The latest issue is that of the Sabah Temporary Pass, or Sabah Provisional Pass (PSS), which is meant to merge the various documents held by migrants in Sabah to ensure better enforcement and other matters. The documents in question are the  Kad Pendaftaran Orang Asing Khas (IMM13) issued to Filipino war refugees, Kad Burung-Burung (we didn’t make that up!), and Census Certificate.

The opposition and those opposed to PSS are claiming the pass will see foreigners eventually absorbed as citizens, making the immigration problem in Sabah even worse. Among them are Umno Supreme Council member Rahman Dahlan, who has called on Kimanis voters to reject Warisan candidate Karim Bujang at the polls to send a message to the Pakatan government in Putrajaya over the PSS issue.

Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (Star) president Jeffrey Kitingan, Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president Yong Teck Lee and former Kimanis MP Anifah Aman are expected to join a protest against PSS being held three days before the Jan 18 polling day. Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal, of course, disagrees with this course of action, saying this is “not the way” to do things.

(Ironic, isn’t it? When BN was administering the nation, the then opposition parties always championed the rights of people to protest. Now, when in government, they say protests are not the way to do things. As the Malay saying goes, dua kali lima lah.)

Meanwhile, candidate Karim insists it was the previous BN administration that had come up with the idea of PSS. Accusing the opposition of turning its back on the move merely for political purposes, he nevertheless maintained that even though it was a BN idea, the Pakatan/Warisan government thought it a good one to pursue.

Sabah opposition party PBS, meanwhile, is rallying behind BN despite no longer being in the coalition, with president Maximus Ongkili saying that he didn’t think the PSS move was a genuine attempt by the authorities to solve the state’s immigration woes. The reality of this whole thing is that most of these problems have stemmed from BN-era policies, such as this one, that the current government is trying to untangle.

Oh, and get this. Everybody’s favourite politician from East Malaysia, Bung Moktar Radin, says “stupid ministers” in the state, among other reasons, would help BN candidate Mohamad Alamin win by a 5,000-vote majority. He didn’t name these stupid ministers, though.

It really is silly season in Kimanis.

“Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one's own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.”

- John F. Kennedy -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • US President Donald Trump has confirmed that there were no casualties from the Iranian missile strike at Iraqi air bases. He also says Iraq appears to be de-escalating tensions. Meanwhile, the US is expected to limit the White House’s actions when it comes to Iran. Get the latest news here.
     
  • Speaking of Trump, there appears to be no end in sight for the standoff between the Republican-majority Senate and the Democrat-led House of Representatives in terms of the rules of impeachment of El Presidente.
     
  • A Ukraine International Airline Boeing 737 crashed shortly after take-off from Tehran, killing all 176 on board. Western investigators say there are no signs that the aircraft had been brought down by a missile, and the crash is believed to have been caused by a technical malfunction.
     
  • UN investigators say Houthi rebels were not responsible for an attack on Saudi oil facilities in September, according to a document sighted by Reuters. The report is seen as giving credence to a US claim that the attacks were the work of Iran.
     
  • The 2020 Academy Awards will not have a host, the second year in a row. Last year’s ceremony went hostless for the first time and saw a rise in viewership. 

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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