Covid-19 fears could see Parliament proceedings cut short for the rest of the week. Talk about a major buzzkill. At least one MP, though, wants to know if it all isn't just part of a plan to suppress opposition voices.

Elsewhere in today's newsletter, two politicians get hauled up by the cops, the National Security Council (NSC) mulls stricter movement curbs, and Maszlee Malik quits Pejuang.

Bringing down the House

Parliament potong stim

Ya know how we predicted that the current Dewan Rakyat sesh would be an explosive one? Well, instead of fireworks, all we got on day one was a damp squib after the House sat for just half a day,

 

In a nutshell, the call was made to cut short Monday’s sitting after an aide to a member of the Dewan Negara – Senator Ras Adiba Radzi – tested positive for Covid-19. According to Ras Adiba, the officer, who’s also her younger sis, had tested positive after undergone screening at Parliament on Wednesday.
 

For the mo, it’s unclear if shortened hours will be the norm for the next 25 days the Dewan’s in session. However, it’s looking likely we’ll be seeing half-day sittings – 10am to 1pm – for the rest of this week, except for Friday when the federal budget’s slated to be tabled.

Why just three hours before lunch? Does Covid-19 sleep in late in Malaysia? Is it only powerful after tucking into nasi kandar

Apparently, the decision was made by party whips after the Health Ministry warned of high transmission risks. There are no two ways about it – Covid-19’s a menace. And if there’s a real threat of exposure, measures must be taken. 

 

It’s true SARS-CoV-2, the virus causes Covid-19, spreads more rapidly in crowded, poorly ventilated enclosed spaces, and with prolonged exposure.

At least one MP though, PKR’s Batu rep P. Prabakaran has questioned if the move isn’t just another political ploy to bury some of the motions brought by the opposition. FYI, a total of 25 out of the 64 motions filed are no-confidence bids against Primer Ministro Muhyiddin Yassin. 

 

Still, it’s a shame as many important items require debates like amendments to the Cooperatives Act and Poisons Act, a Bill on the formation of the Independent Police Conduct Commission (IPCC), and yes, Budget 2021.

 

Comms Minister Saifuddin Abdullah has said the shortened working hours aren’t likely to affect lawmakers’ ability to debate. Reps will just learn to cope like they did when time limits were imposed for debates and replies. While that may be true, what’s also true is we wouldn’t have needed to discuss any of this if PM Moo’s government hadn’t summarily dismissed holding virtual Parliamentary meetings in the first place.

 

The Dewan Rakyat Standing Orders currently don’t allow for online sessions. However, these are extraordinary times. And as many people have already pointed out, it’s certainly possible for the Standing Orders to be tweaked. It boils down to political will. 

 

Of course, virtual sittings would mean, Covid or no Covid, the august House would be free to meet unencumbered. Unless (and this is tinfoil hat territory here) that’s exactly what some people do not want. 

Politicians probed

Barely a week since a DAP assemblyperson was arrested for alleged sedition, two more politicians have found themselves hauled up over statements made.

The two cases – involving former Umno supreme council member Lokman Noor Adam and Amanah’s Mujahid Yusof Rawa – appear to be unrelated. However, considering Ronnie Liu’s arrest, they might (or might not!) point to a clampdown on dissent by the current powers that be. 

 

What the two cases have in common is that investigations into both appear to centre on claims made against PM Moo.

 

Lokman is being probed in connection to a Facebook vid containing elements of “criminal intimidation and rude words” (allegedly! allegedly!) uttered against our glorious leader. Mujahid, meanwhile, is being investigated under several laws including the Sedition Act for statements made about Muhyiddin’s appointment as Malaysia’s eighth premier.

 

Now, Lokman has run afoul of the law before and has even been charged for making dangerous and irresponsible claims on video. However, the current probe comes at a time when Umno – the party which Carrot Boy used to belong to (until he was sacked for attempting to stoke tension between factions) – is reconsidering its support for Moo.

 

In the case of Mujahid, what’s odd is that the supposed offending statement was made back in March in the early days of Muhyiddin’s premiership. 

 

Of course, there’s no time limit to criminal investigations, and suspects can be charged any time. Still, we’re talking eight months after the fact here. Cops working through the backlog?

 

For the record, Mujahid wasn’t the only one who questioned Moo’s appointment back in March. Many other politicians, including Mujahid’s Amanah colleague Khalid Samad, allegedly did too. None of the others’ been hauled up yet, however.

 

Speaking of investigations, there’s been no news of one since a police report was lodged against Bersatu’s Rais Yatim for questioning the Agong’s decision (allegedly! allegedly!) to reject the MooMoo’s emergency bid.

Incidentally, Universiti Malaya has said it’s investigating a student group for discussing the King’s role and well, telling the Ruler not to interfere in national affairs. Oof!

Curb your enthusiasm

It was another good news-bad news kinda day as far as our Covid-19 numbers go.

For example, a major good piece of news is that our active cases have dipped below 10,000 once more. The bad news? That’s not stopping the gomen from considering more stringent curbs in the coming days.

 

Yes, although he’s admitted the uptick in Covid-19 isn’t incredibly steep anymore, premier Moo is adamant more rigorous measures are needed given the wave the country’s being hit with.

As such, the NSC will be re-looking at the current standard operating procedures (SOP) for sports and social activities to possibly reinstate some movement control order (MCO)-level type restrictions, the kind we had to deal with back in March.
 

Seriously, the man who calls himself Abah, couldn’t ‘ave been considered way earlier?!?!

 

Experts have been making noise about the looseness of many of the SOPs almost as soon as the conditional MCOs (CMCO) were announced for KL, Putrajaya, Selangor, and Sabah, what with the flipping and flopping on weddings and such. 

Now, three weeks in, when we’ve successfully brought down the country’s infectivity rate’s to below 1.0, you guys suddenly realise that you may need to have another look gyms, futsal courts and the like? Tiu!

 

By the way, though there’re clear signs we’re trekking outta the woods, Monday’s Covid numbers saw the fatality rate increase by 2 (to 251) following two death-free days. Infections spiked by 834 to a cumulative total of 33,339. On the bright side, 900 more people were discharged from hospital, bringing the number of active cases down to 9,968!  

 

Here’re the rest of the Covid highlights from yesterday:

  • health ministry training facility in JB will be placed under enhanced MCO (EMCO) from Nov 3 to Nov 16. Separately, the EMCO for the Kepayan prison in Kota Kinabalu will be extended by two weeks until Nov 16.
     
  • Still on EMCOs, regulations are being tweaked to allow for one rep per family to travel outside movement restricted areas in Sabah to run important errands like getting cash from ATMs.
     
  • We’re still waiting on the NSC to finalise SOPs for the upcoming Nov 14 Deepavali celebrations. It’s slated to do so this week.
     
  • Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has refuted claims of a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontliners in Sabah, insisting the state has at least a month’s supply in store.

    He’s said the gomen’s already allocated RM25 mil to buy more equipment. The D-G was responding to a report by an anonymous public health worker who alleged the shortage has forced frontliners to purchase their own stuff. 
     
  • In related “fake news”, Noor Hisham also ripped into claims made on science journal Nature’s website. Malaysia is largely known for its affordable, accessible public healthcare, yet this article quoted a London-based Malaysian molecular immunologist as saying the country “lacks state health care” and families were being saddled with exorbitant medical bills. You must be wack girl, cos that’s plain bullshit!
     
  • Speaking of crap, PAS’ Nik Abduh Nik Abdul Aziz has defended his colleague Khairuddin “did-not-quarantine” Aman Razali, who’s been slammed over pics of him engaging with the elderly sans face mask. Nik Abduh has said this shows masks are not needed in less crowded spaces. That’s quite a spin. Tell that to the hundreds arrested or fined for not donning masks.

Indie Maszlee dan lain-lain

Despite appearing for all intents and purposes to be loyal to former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Maszlee Malik, the man who single-handedly destroyed Malaysia’s shoe-whitening industry, has decided to quit his former mentor’s party, Pejuang.

 

In a statement on Monday, the Simpang Rengam MP said the rakyat had grown weary of games of power and politics. As such, he was stepping away to serve and support the people as an independent rep. 

 

An aide to Mads though tells a different story. The former notes Maszlee’s departure appeared inevitable after he signed a statutory declaration supporting Maddey’s enemy Anwar Ibrahim’s bid for the PM job. The aide had said Maddey was particularly hurt by this and by Maszlee’s lack of grace to apologise over such betrayal.

 

Maszlee’s claim of going the indie MP route aside, some others are suggesting the ex-education minister could be lining up with former Bersatu colleague Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman in the newly-formed Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda).

 

It’d be interesting to see, of course, if Maszlee does team up with SS and what that will mean for Malaysian politics. Even so, we do have one question: isn’t 45 – Maszlee’s age – a bit too tua to join a party called Muda?

 

Here’re some other dangling bits of news that didn’t quite fit anywhere else:

  • Despite suffering losses this year, Petronas will pay a sum of RM34 billion in dividends to the federal government. For context, a sum of RM54 billion, which included a special dividend of RM30 billion, was handed to the government in 2019. 
     
  • Two directors of a construction machinery company are to be charged today over the most recent river pollution incident in Selangor that resulted in nearly 1.2 million households being hit with water cuts. Padan muka!
     
  • Dewan Rakyat Speaker Art Harun will look into the remarks made by Nik Muhammad Zawawi that rules regarding the consumption of alcohol had been “distorted and altered” in the Bible. Zawawi has consistently refused to apologise for the statements made in Parliament.
     
  • A commotion ensued in the Selangor assembly when Speaker Ng Suee Lim reprimanded five reps for dressing in baju Melayu instead of lounge suites. The five, however, maintain that no rules exist stipulating that suits are mandatory.

“We all know what Parliament is, and we are all ashamed of it."

- Robert Louis Stevenson -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Americans will pick between Joe Biden and Donald Trump as the next US president when polls open today in the United States (that’s Tuesday evening here). At the mo, Uncle Joe seems to be edging past The Donald in opinion polls. But if the 2016 election has taught us anything, it’s that it ain’t over till the Orange Man sings. 

    Have questions about the 2020 US Elections? This guide has the 411.
     
  • World Health Organization boss Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is on self-imposed quarantine after a contact tested positive for coronavirus. The man who’s been at the forefront of the world’s battle against the disease has said he’s, so far, experienced no symptoms.
     
  • Robert Fisk, the celebrated British journalist who won acclaim for his coverage of events in the Middle East, has died following a suspected stroke. Fisk, 74, was among the few Western journalists to interview Osama bin Laden, a feat he accomplished no less than three times.
     
  • Move over DespacitoBaby Shark Dance has just become the most-viewed video in YouTube history. The insanely catchy vid has now notched over 7.04 billion views since first uploaded in June 2016, with the music becoming an earworm for parents the world over. 
     
  • Movie star Johnny Depp has lost a libel case against Britain’s The Sun newspaper over claims he was an abusive husband. The judge in the case ruled that claims of Depp’s abusive behaviour towards ex-wife Amber Heard had been proven to be “substantially true”.

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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