While we're not popping the bubbly just yet, Monday's Covid-19 numbers are certainly encouraging. After all, our daily caseload hasn't been this low in months!

In other news, the gomen coughs up a ton of cash for the binned KL-Singapore rail project; Umno's BN partners want clarity over its decision to cut ties with Bersatu; and there's much ado about water up north.

Down on the upside

Now stay down!

After close to three months of crazy stats, Malaysia’s daily Covid-19 numbers have finally fallen below the 1,000-mark

TBH, 941 new cases (and 5 deaths) aren’t something to whoop about, but we’ll take any win. It’s a positive sign given how yesterday’s stats have further revealed downtrends in most (but not all!) states and FTs, including in former infection hotbeds like the Klang Valley. Also, active clusters have dipped to 373 from what it was a month ago (491).

We’ve also been told that Phase 2 of the national Covid vaccine programme will be kicking off on April 19. Better yet, it could also include registrants under Phase 3, i.e. the general public. 

Phase 2 — involving the elderly, those with preexisting health conditions and persons with disabilities — had initially targetted inoculating nine million folks. Thing is, only about two million have registered (Come on, guys!)

Vaccine Tsar Khairy Jamaluddin has declared that the gomen can’t, and won’t, wait forever for folks in Category 2 to sign up. So, they’ll bump up those in the next phase. Hey, you snooze, you lose! 🤷

Phase 2 recipients, meanwhile, needn’t fear being forced down the queue as a result of this move. Tok Janggut has assured that MySejahtera’s algorithm would automatically push high-risk folks up the list upon registration.

In other vaccine news, Putrajaya’s finally considering allowing private hospitals to procure vaccines on their own, and will soon be releasing a framework.

Some folks may prefer this as they get to cherry-pick their choice of vaccine. However, Le Beard’s warned that even if private deals are struck, delivery of vaccines may likely only happen in the third or fourth quarter of the year. So a parallel vaccine rollout may only be possible by end 2021. 

So if you’ve yet to register, assuming that by waiting to pay for private vaccine, you’ll get jabbed earlier than in the free gomen plan, you could be wrong. 

While you chew on that, here’re a few more Covid-related highlights:

What's the plan, man?

Umno may have made up its mind about ending things with Bersatu and not aligning with Anwar Ibrahim and/or DAP in the run-up to GE15. 

However, other Barisan Nasional partners aren’t as jazzed up about the whole thing. They’ve said it’s anything but crystal what’s gonna happen now and post-elections.

You’ll recall that Umno big bossman Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had warned he could pull his party outta PN on Aug 1 (when the emergency’s lifted), if not sooner, and Umno’s ministers have generally said they’ll comply with a quit decision (FT Minister Annuar Musa notwithstanding). 

All this quit talk led to a procession of Umno ministers to PM Muhyiddin Yassin’s office yesterday. Who knows what they spoke about, but we’re betting their
backsides are getting a little sweaty at the prospect of losing their juicy ministerial portfolios despite all the sabre rattling at Umno’s weekend AGM

And speaking about losing juicy ministerial gigs – BN’s other reps in the current gomen don’t seem too thrilled about this whole quit thing either.

Any decision to quit cabinet, sayeth Transport Minister/MCA head honcho Wee Ka Siong, must be a collective BN – and not a unilateral Umno – one.

Human Resources Minister/MIC deputy chief M. Saravanan, meanwhile, has said party grassroots must first support any decision, be it whether to go solo come snap polls, or to accept Umno’s big plan to strengthen syariah laws.

Sara’s MIC boss SA Vigneswaran has pointed out that while Zahid may appear adamant about not hooking up with DAP/PKR and/or Bersatu now, what about after the elections?

The Z Man’s had already said Umno could work with partners post-GE15 to form a gomen. One way of looking at the current sitch is, of course, is that Zahid & Co. are being wishy-washy about the whole thing and telling members at the AGM what they wanna hear. 

It stands to reason Umno’s just waiting to see how events unfold and will then make whatever decision is most expedient. Whatever. It. Takes. Loyalty to old friends and allies be damned.

Speaking of old friends, what of Umno’s Muafakat Nasional buddy PAS? Well, PAS chief Abdul Hadi Awang’s made a veiled reference to Umno, calling on it to be patient and not divide the Muslims and “non-extreme non-Muslims”.

Hear that Zahid? Build bridges, not walls.

Train in vain

We knew it’d come down to this when the project was axed back on Jan 1. But to hear Malaysia’s had to cough up S$102.8 million (RM320 mil) in compensation for not seeing the KL-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) project through is hard to stomach. 

How’d it get to this?

In a nutshell, the HSR was meant to connect KL and Singapore via a 350km line in 90mins flat. It was projected to add billions in both neighbours’ GDPs and create tonnes of jobs.

Unfortunately, at some point between 2016 (when the deal was first inked) and last year (when Covid-19 hit) and three Malaysian gomens later, the prospect didn’t seem as beneficial financially to Malaysia as it once did. Both countries also couldn’t agree on any changes. Hence the gomen’s quit decision.

Singapore’s story, though, is a wee bit different.

 

According to our cousins down south, the big reason why we dragged our feet over the project, eventually causing it to be cancelled, is that our gomen wanted the assets company at the heart of the project removed

The company’s role (Singapore claims la) was not just to manage, operate and oversee the project but to ensure both countries’ interests. But our fellas say this particular operational model just cost too much

Here’s a detailed timeline on how the whole deal went south (pun intended).

 

And if you’re wondering why Malaysia’s paying compensation for a dead deal, its cos Singapore’s already forked out a truckload of moolah (S$270 million or about RM829 mil reportedly) in prepping for the project. Whoopsie! 

Sidenote: In 2019, we remitted about S$15 million (~RM46mil) to Singapore when the project was initially suspended.

Could the payouts have been avoided? Perhaps not. Most contracts, after all, do entail some manner of compensation. Nevertheless, what’s particularly annoying is that some bright sparks in Putrajaya are already looking at wasting more dosh on a KL-Johor Bahru project we may not even need.

On the subject of rail lines and bloated costs, Putrajaya is calling on Selangor to stick with the original plans for the East Coast Rail Link project. The state, however, has postponed making a decision and that’s resulted in the federal government losing a whopping RM1.25 million a day (allegedly! allegedly!)!

Are we printing money guys?!

Water woes and more

The Kedah-Penang water squabble is getting more intense by the day.

Now, groups like the Consumers Association of Kedah (They’re called CAKE. We kid you not.) and Water Watch Penang are calling for federal intervention if an amicable solution can’t be reached.

If you haven’t been clued in on this interstate l̶o̶v̶e̶ ̶s̶o̶n̶g̶ water fight, the tl;dr is that Kedah wants to build 14 tanks upstream of Sungai Muda to ensure adequate water supply for peeps in the state. Problem is, this’ll affect Penang, which draws water from the portion of Sungai Muda within its borders.

To prevent Penang from getting “muddy water“, Kedah MB Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor wants the neighbouring state to pay up to RM50 million a year to extract raw water from the river. But Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow ain’t budging over Penang’s perceived riparian rights and has threatened to sue.

That aside, here’re the other big things that made the news yesterday:

  • The US will seize all Top Glove products. The move comes after the country’s Customs and Border Protection claimed it’d found “sufficient information” to deduce the world’s largest glovemaker employed forced labour in manufacturing its rubber gloves.
     
  • When will Parliament reconvene? Not long more, de facto Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan has said, just another 6 months and 20 days till the emergency ends. That’s half a year bro!
     
  • Four Penang Bersatu lawmakers boycotted a meeting with the state’s exco yesterday, claiming their constituents are being denied funds previously approved for infrastructure projects.

    Penang CM Chow, however, has maintained that the monies have not been held back but are now in the hands of “adopted assemblypersons” picked by the state when the four oppo reps frogged it over from PKR to Bersatu.
     
  • There’s no way Umno and politicos who received moolah from ex-PM Najib Razak could’ve not known the funds were from 1MDB, a prosecutor told the KL High Court.

    He said that knowing Jib didn’t have endless means, a question that should’ve been obvious was: where did the Jibster get the money?
     
  • Lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla has called on AG Idrus Harun to announce a decision on whether to pursue a case into the 2018 death of firefighter Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim.

    Idrus promised over a month ago that the AG’s Chambers would issue a statement on the matter after police had reportedly conducted a fresh probe on the case.

“I've always said that in politics, your enemies can't hurt you, but your friends will kill you."

- Ann Richards -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • The Ever Given has finally been freed! This is thanks to a fleet of tugboats, intensive dredging and, in no small part, swelling tides. Shipping traffic in the Suez canal has since resumed.

    BTW, if you think steering through the canal’s a piece of cake, this interactive game is guaranteed to prove you wrong.
     
  • The World Health Organization’s set to deliver its report today on Covid’s origins. Spoiler alert: The wildlife trade’s probably gonna be blamed for the coronavirus entering Wuhan. 
     
  • The trial of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis cop accused of killing George Floyd, has officially begun. Live updates are available here.
     
  • The duo who died in a suicide attack at a church in Makassar, Indonesia, on Sunday has been identified as newlyweds who learnt to make bombs online.

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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