If you’re in the habit of getting smashed and then getting behind the wheel of a vehicle, you’re not gonna love our lede today. The government is expected to table a bill to amend the Road Transport Act to include harsher penalties for drink driving. And, they will also lower the alcohol limit.

In other news, old man Maddey takes a swipe at the Perikatan gomen and the new Dewan Rakyat Speaker; opposition leaders take a swipe at the old man, supposedly, for a racist statement he recently made; a YouTube vlogger gets on a high horse about the Al Jazeera kerfuffle; and, schools reopen after months “off” during the MCO.

Drinkers beware!

Slamming the brakes on drink driving

One of the biggest issues to surface in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday was the proposed amendments to the Road Transport Act 1987 to cover drink driving – and what a set of amendments they are!
 
Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong detailed some of the proposed changes and they are real doozies that include stiffer penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and a lowering of the permitted alcohol limit.
 
Here’re some of the adjustments which will be tabled before the Cabinet tomorrow before they’re eventually brought to Parliament: 

  • Section 44 will now differentiate between causing injury and causing death, with the latter “earning” the offender a harsher sentence;
     
  • The punishment under Section 44 will be increased from a maximum jail sentence of 10 years to 15 years, with the maximum fine increased from RM20,000 to RM100,000. Subsequent offences will see the maximum sentences increased to 20 years’ imprisonment and a RM150,000 fine;
     
  • Those convicted under the Section will also have their driving licences suspended for 20 years, an increase from the current five years for the first offence and 10 for subsequent offences;
     
  • Section 45A, meanwhile, will be amended to make imprisonment mandatory for anyone who drives or attempts to drive a vehicle while intoxicated. The current punishment is up to a year’s jail and a fine of between RM1,000 and RM6,000 for the first offence. It is unclear, however, whether the punishment will be increased under the amendments;
     
  • The alcohol limit in breath will be lowered from 35 microgrammes (µg) per 100ml to 22µg/100ml, while the limit in blood will be reduced from 80µg/100ml to 50µg/100ml and 107µg/100ml to 67µg/100ml in urine. Also, while currently, a breathalyser test reading of above 0.08 means you’re legally drunk, a mere 0.05 reading will do the trick once the amendments are passed.

Meanwhile, on calls by fellow Perikatan Nasional party PAS for the sale of alcohol to be banned, Wee said he’d held discussions with PAS Youth and several non-governmental organisations on this, and there was a need to differentiate between consuming booze and driving while drunk. The Transport Minister was referring to a call from PAS Youth to temporarily ban the sale of alcohol to solve drink driving problems.

If you recall, the proposal was met with loud protests from many people, including Opposition politicians, Wee’s own party MCA, as well as entertainment outlet and restaurant owners. There was even a statement that any ban on alcohol would be an infringement of the rights of the indigenous communities of Sabah and Sarawak. 
 
In truth, there’ve been too many road incidents related to drink driving this year. In the first five months of 2020, 822 motorists were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, while there were 22 accidents involving drunk drivers.
 
So, we do have to laud both the Perikatan gomen and the Pakatan Harapan administration before them for these amendments. It was Pakatan which first got the ball rolling, after all, and Perikatan that is now taking it to fruition.

Now if only there was a way to ensure that these laws are enforced once they’re approved and gazetted.

Parliament and politics

The furore over Azhar “Art” Harun replacing Mohamad Ariff Mohd Yusof as Dewan Rakyat Speaker hasn’t died down. And we guess it won’t for a while.
 
Yesterday, former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad blogged about it, saying that this was an example of Perikatan bulldozing its way through Parliament as well as showed the Muhyiddin Yassin administration’s apparent disregard for Parliamentary regulations and the Rule of Law.
 
Maddey said the two-vote majority obtained by Perikatan in getting Ariff replaced proved that this was a move which was not supported by everybody (well, duhhhh!). He also lamented that there’d been no vote to approve Art’s appointment. 
 
Well, as we’ve pointed out before, there was no other candidate, since Pakatan didn’t nominate one themselves. But as we also pointed out after that, the Opposition does have a legitimate grouse in that there was no 14-day notice filed so as to allow it to nominate someone.
 
Anyhoo, as we know, on Monday, Art replaced Ariff and Deputy Speaker Nga Kor Ming, who was also set to have been booted out, resigned and was replaced by Umno MP Azalina Othman Said.
Interestingly though, while Art appeared to fumble on his first day in charge, Azalina proved more than capable of handling tense situations.
 
The Pengerang MP arrived a little late for yesterday’s afternoon session and received hell from Opposition MPs. However, she recovered splendidly. In fact, both deputy speakers acquitted themselves well, tackling heated arguments amongst the MPs from both sides of the political divide with firm hands
 
Anyway, here’s a rundown of some other Parliament- and politics-related things from Wednesday:

  • Opposition MPs, including head honcho Anwar Ibrahim, hit out at folks who peddle certain perceptions about the various races of Malaysia, noting that it was not right, for example, to say that the Chinese were rich and the Malays were lazy. Though no names were mentioned, it took no major brain activity to deduce that they were hitting out at one of their own. After all, it was Maddey Mohamad who’d only recently said the Chinese in Malaysia were extremely rich.
     
  • Barisan Nasional Youth chief Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki says Malaysian youth are fed up with the chaotic nature of national politics as well as its racial and religious slant, putting the blame squarely on the shoulders of the previous Pakatan government which, he said, had sought to tear the country apart. We have no doubt that the youth are fed up, YB. But perhaps you should also look at BN too?
     
  • Parti Warisan Sabah president Shafie Apdal has hit back at former BN chairman Najib Razak after the latter claimed that Shafie, when he was Rural and Regional Development Minister, had frequently rejected the open tender process for projects. Shafie said Jibby only started attacking him only after he became a PM candidate for the Opposition. Najib, however, replied that he’d criticised Shafie even before that, but the Sabah CM “did not notice”. The Jibster again proves that he really is quite the Internet troll.
     
  • Umno’s assemblyman for the Perak state constituency of Slim, Khusairi Abdul Talib, passed away yesterday after suffering a heart attack while playing golf. He was 59. Meanwhile, PKR was quick to say it would contest the by-election to come. Really, PKR? You couldn’t wait, say, a day before announcing this? By the way, Khusairi had secured the state seat in the 14th General Election with a 2,183 majority win over candidates from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) and PAS.

Top 15 mistakes about that top 15 mistakes video

The fallout from an Al Jazeera report on alleged ill treatment of migrant workers in Malaysia during the MCO is still a hot topic. 
 
Following the revocation of the work pass of a Bangladeshi man who had been interviewed by AJ, several quarters were contacted by The Sun. Two of these (including, incredibly, an NGO called Migrant Care) said migrants shouldn’t be saying bad things about the country in which they are earning a living and so it was perfectly fine for action to be taken against the foreigner. 
 
But the article also quotes Society for the Promotion of Human Rights sec-gen Ivy Josiah, who says the action taken against the foreigner gives the wrong impression that migrant workers have no rights, seeing as how he was only talking about the purported suffering of his community.
 
Let’s recap. The report talked about raids against migrant workers during the MCO. It has come under fire from various quarters, including the government, and even prompted a police investigation. AJ, however, is standing by its documentary/report. 
 
In actuality, the raids had, long before the AJ documentary, come under heavy criticism from the likes of the Malaysian Human Rights Commission and NGOs like the North-South Initiative and Lawyers for Liberty. They said migrants were not acceptable casualties and that the move was counter-productive in the fight against Covid-19 as it would only cause the foreigners to fear coming forward to get themselves tested. 
 
Of course, there have been many quarters who have come out in support of AJ, or against the gomen for the crackdown in the midst of the pandemic. But there have also been many others who have criticised the AJ documentary.
 
Dustin Pfundheller, the YouTuber who runs the Other Side of Truth channel, recently uploaded a video entitled “Top 15 Mistakes in Locked up in Malaysia’s Lockdown video by Al Jazeera”, is an example of those critical of the AJ documentary.

We’ve found it to be terrible, to put it mildly, so much so that we feel the need to point out the mistakes in a video about supposed mistakes. Oh, and we’re not gonna link the video either, as we don’t want to drive traffic to nonsense.
 
So here we go, in order of the mistakes the video points out in the AJ report:

15) Saying it’s illegal to take footage of security apparatus. But the footage was of an area under EMCO and not military or police base, which are sensitive areas. Even local media companies took images and videos of places in lockdown and security personnel stationed there.

14) Saying AJ complained about not being allowed into high risk areas.  AJ never complained. It was merely a matter-of-fact statement that they weren’t allowed in the area.

13) Saying that you have to ALWAYS allow comments on video and taking them to task for not allowing comments. Where does it say you have to always allow comments? And, need we remind our dear Dustin about what happened with Malaysiakini precisely for comments on their site? 

12) Saying that AJ shouldn’t complain about the government not responding to their queries as it had better things to do than to respond because they were fighting Covid-19. Firstly, the documentary came out well into the RMCO, so the worst was already over and the government would have had the time to respond. Secondly, that shouldn’t even be an excuse as the media’s job is to report and hold those in power to account for any wrongdoing. AJ was not on a “high horse” but merely going through proper journalistic processes and offering the government the right to reply. Did our intrepid vlogger do the same for AJ? Here’s what the BBC has to say about Right to Reply. 

11) Forgetting how racism works. This one’s a beauty. He says 7% of Malaysians are Indian. And, get this, they apparently look exactly like migrant workers, legal or illegal. So, if the Malaysian government was racist, they would target anybody that looks Indian, Bangladeshi or Pakistani. We don’t know how many minutes he’s spent in Malaysia, but Malaysian Indians come in various colours and hues. To say they look exactly like migrant workers is, well, racist (and wrong!). 

10) Saying Malaysia treats migrant workers better than almost anywhere else. We gotta ask… by what measure? Is he implying there isn’t inherent, whether institutional or societal, racism towards migrant workers in this country? Perhaps he should take a look at our special report on xenophobia in the era of the pandemic. 

9) Illegal migrant workers could have just put in some effort to show they obeyed the law and got a work permit. This is a broad generalisation and overly simplistic explanation to a very complex and nuanced problem. Yes, there are illegal workers. But there are also undocumented migrants who are victims of people smuggling, those whose documents are held by their employers and refugees who aren’t recognised by our government. It’s not as simple as walking up to the Immigration Department and getting a work permit.

8) Saying illegal immigrants take jobs away from Malaysians. The vlogger points to a specific part of the AJ vid which says that one employer got 500 applications from Malaysians to fill up 60 places which had earlier been filled by migrant workers. Sorry mate, but you’re just using one specific example to bolster your overall argument. This report states that Malaysians who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic are the ones competing with foreigners. And, while it’s true that some employers take advantage of cheap foreign labour so they can turn a higher profit, the majority of foreign workers are here because Malaysians don’t want to do the so-called 3D jobs due to the social stigma attached to them. 

7) Saying illegal migrant workers put the whole country at risk of Covid-19. He’s saying it’s important to track and trace migrant workers who are Covid-19 positive. Nobody is arguing against that. But there’s a big difference between “track and trace” and “incarcerate and deport”. The threat of that drove illegals underground, thereby defeating the purpose of the whole exercise.

6) Saying AJ acts as if sitting in the sun and getting questioned is horrible. Errr… yes, it is. Children and the elderly were allegedly handcuffed in the sun for hours. People could have died, gotten sunstroke, etc. And this guy trivialises it. That’s a complete lack of empathy and awareness, and he actually says “you are blessed” about the people who had to sit in the sun. Is it just cos they’re foreigners? Would he be alright if it was his child stuck in the blazing sun?

5) Saying AJ forgets that everybody is going through a really hard time now. Malaysians have lost their jobs and the focus that only illegals are struggling is unfair. This is a stupid argument because it’s not an either/or debate. Just cos Malaysians are struggling, doesn’t mean this one report cannot focus on migrant issues. The video conflates two completely different things and adds 2 and 2 to get 5.

4) Saying the report is misleading and not honest. Again, he brings up the handcuffing of the migrant workers, including children and says he doesn’t think this is true. He asks for proof, saying even if it were true, it isn’t a big deal and compares it to a trip to the dentist, which is “way worse”. WTF? Does he even know the kind of mental and physical trauma that can cause a child? His lack of empathy is SHOCKING. And what exactly does he base his allegation on the supposed inaccuracy of the report on?

3) Mixing up legal and illegal migrant workers. He harps on how AJ apparently mixes up legal and illegal migrants in their documentary, but doesn’t really explain how in Malaysia, the backlash against foreigners didn’t distinguish between the legal and illegal. Again, he should read our report on xenophobia. Or just scroll through comments on the various media websites and FB pages. He’ll see people attacking all migrant workers, legal or illegal.

2) Saying a military style lockdown is the ONLY thing that works. Really, it’s not. New Zealand did fine without that. Malaysia’s method worked for us, but it’s not the ONLY solution to the problem.

1) Claiming AJ never said good things about Malaysia. Firstly, he uses it as a plug to his other videos (cos you gotta drive traffic, right?). But in his accusation of bias against AJ, he’s doing the exact same thing by making Malaysia out to be a utopia where everything is perfect. We’re coming out of this okay, but we were NOT perfect.
 
Is the AJ report perfect? Nope. It has quite a few issues. But criticism must be fair and in context. And in this case, it isn’t. And it’s not just some random nut either; the video has been viewed over 362,000 times since it was uploaded just a day ago.

But why is Pfundheller doing all of this? We have three theories: 
1) He may actually believe what he’s saying and is Malaysia’s number 1 fan 
2) Like all YouTubers, he monetizes his videos and may have seen that his first few videos on Malaysia did well, and therefore wanted to ride this cash cow a little bit further 
3) Somebody is paying him to present Malaysia in a good light.

Whatever it is, the fact that he’s taken an extremely complex and nuanced issue and boiled it down to a listicle says a lot about his depth of understanding of this country, this region and all the things that make it what it is.

Covid-19 and all things else

It was a pretty good day all round for the country as far as Covid-19 was concerned.
 
Schools began reopening and things went smoothly, with Education Minister Radzi Jidin saying he was satisfied with the level of compliance to SOPs among both teachers and students. 
 
Also, there were only five new cases of infection  of Covid-19 yesterday, though all but one were local transmissions. This brings the number of cases in Malaysia so far to 8,734. There was a slight increase of active cases to 86, however, with only two recoveries were reported, while the death toll remains at 122
 
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein says the reopening of the Malaysia-Singapore border for those under the Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) and Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA) would be a test of the feasibility of a full reopening of the border. For the moment, though, only 2,000 people will be allowed to use the PCA on a daily basis. 
 
As usual, there was a bunch of other stuff yesterday, some of which we thought should be included here:

  • The 1MDB trial of former PM Jibby Razak continued yesterday with ex-1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi claiming that fugitive financier Low Taek Jho’s name was kept out of board meeting minutes to protect the Jibster.
     
  • At another court, meanwhile, Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor was facing her own corruption trial, and heard how the MD of a company allegedly paid Mama Rosie RM6.5 million for her “assistance” in helping the company secure a solar hybrid project for schools in Sarawak.
     
  • IGP Abdul Hamid Bador says there have been cases of police officers paying up to RM10,000 to third parties in order to pass examinations for the opportunity to gain promotions.
     
  • Kota Melaka MCA is objecting to any attempt to change the name of St Paul’s Hill to Bukit Melaka. 

“If you drink, don’t drive. Don’t even putt."

- Dean Martin -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • The US-China “war” has escalated somewhat, with Beijing summoning US ambassador Terry Branstad over American actions following the introduction of a controversial security law in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, a security expert says Beijing should reassess its strategies in the South China Sea to avoid conflict with Washington. 
     
  • The Twitter accounts of Bill Gates, Elon Musk and other big names across business, tech and politics have been hacked in what is being labeled as  brazen bitcoin scam.
     
  • Dozens of people have been arrested in Moscow after hundreds took to the streets to protest reforms which will see President Vladimir Putin being kept in power for another 16 years. 
     
  • Tech entrepreneur Fahim Saleh, the 33-year-old CEO of Nigerian motorcycle ride-hail company Gokoda, has been found dismembered in a luxury New York condo. 
     
  • Falling fertility rates will lead to a “jaw-dropping” global crash in children being born, say researchers. 
     
  • As the number of Covid-19 infections climb in Oklahoma, the state’s governor has announced that he has tested positive for the disease, the first of the 50 US governors to be infected. 

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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