Schools in Malaysia will be fully reopened by July 22, the government announced yesterday. But anyone worried about how social distancing will be applied can rest assured as schools will be given the choice of three different models to follow, depending on availability of space to allow for SOPs to be followed.

Meanwhile, the country reached a new milestone in its Covid-19 management; and, Perikatan Nasional is strengthening power even as Pakatan Harapan seems to be imploding.

Back to school blues (again)

Time to get back in uniform, kids

Frazzled parents who have no idea what to do with their kids who aren’t going to school need worry no longer. Within three weeks, all national school students will have to be hitting the books again.
 
The government yesterday announced that all schools will reopen on July 15 for those in Years 5 and 6, and Forms 1 to 4, Form 6 (Semester 1) as well as remove classes, while those in Years 1 to 4 will return exactly a week later. This will involve some 4.26 million students. 
 
This will mean that all schoolkids will be back in their respective classes by July 22, following the return to school for those taking upper secondary level examinations earlier, on June 24. Like June 24, the two dates set are Wednesdays, and we believe this is for the same reason given for the earlier Wednesday reopening, to give an extra two-day window over the weekend to assess the situation on the ground, review the standard operating procedures (SOPs) and analyse components which need to be improved. 
 
Those returning to schools will have to follow the same SOPs which were announced when school reopened for upper secondary levels. That means that, among others, desks will be at least a metre apart; temperatures checked upon entry for students, teachers, parents or visitors; face masks worn at all times and, though canteens are allowed to open, the kids will will have to take whatever they buy back to classrooms for consumption.
 
Oh, and co-curricular and sporting activities are still not being allowed. So, those who are itching to kick a ball about, play some hoops, smash a shuttlecock around or anything even remotely similar to exercise of any sort together, will have to wait a while longer. 
 
But with many schools pressed for space, how will the Education Ministry maintain social distancing and having desks a metre apart? Aren’t they worried such things will lead to the possibility of more clusters of Covid-19 infections and a spike in the country’s numbers?
 
Well, to give credit where credit is due – the Perikatan government has been doing well in dealing with the pandemic so far. They have acted where and when necessary, and generally steered us well, even if communications seem to be lacking at times. For all our moaning and whinging, it’s sobering to realise that countries like the US, India, Mexico, etc show us how badly things can go wrong if the situation isn’t managed well enough.
 
We’ve avoided that fate so far largely because the politicians and administrators have mainly left the experts to steer our national response to the crisis; even the reopening of schools is being done with the input of health officials. So it came as no surprise that, SOPs aside, there is also a plan to tackle space constraints.
 
Schools will be allowed to choose from three different models, depending on the availability of space. Schools which have sufficient space to maintain classrooms with social distancing SOPs in place will use a single-session model, those which do not will use a double-session model. As a last choice kinda thing, schools that don’t have enough space for even a double-session model can turn to one which utilises a rotational system. 
 
The rotation model for secondary schools will see those in Forms 5 and 6 having to attend school daily, but others can be rotated according to their respective streams. For those in primary schools, students can take turns attending classes according to their class or year.
 
So, come July 22, the entire gamut of Malaysian education from preschool to pre-university will have resumed, what with preschools and kindergartens nationwide having opened yesterday. They will be joined in October when public and private university students are again allowed to attend physical classes. 

Things are slowly getting back to normal as far as education is concerned – at least as normal as can be with Covid-19 precautions in place. All the rights things are being done. Let’s hope we are still on the right path.

The sweet, sweet smell of success

Apart from the dates for the reopening of schools, the biggest Covid-related news yesterday was there was only one new case over 24 hours ending at noon. And that, too, was an imported case of a Malaysian returning from abroad.
 
What that means is that there was no local transmission reported in Malaysia for the first time since March 2. That’s right folks. Zero local transmission. None, nil, nothing, nought, zilch, kosong, sifar, nic, nada, diddly-squat, bupkis, zip, sweet Fanny Adams and whatever other way you’d care to say it in. 
 
The zero-transmission milestone was announced by Health DG Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah yesterday. He also said that there were no new deaths, leaving the cumulative death toll in the country at 121. The good news continued, too, as 21 people were discharged, bringing the total to 8,375 of the 8,640 cases so far. That’s an awesome recovery rate of 96.9%. 
 
Noor Hisham said the Health Ministry was now targeting maintaining that magical zero-transmission number for 28 days. It’s not impossible, he says, if Malaysians continue to follow the SOPs set by the ministry. For the record, Noor Hisham had previously said the country can only be declared Covid-free when it has maintained zero cases for 28 consecutive days, a number that corresponds with two incubation cycles of the coronavirus. 
 
We’re certainly on the right track, it would seem, but there remains the fear that some Malaysians may cause the numbers to spike again because of a lackadaisical attitude. Take for instance a recent report that a quarter of those who had completed their home quarantine had not taken their second test for Covid-19 on the 13th day of quarantine. 
 
That means 1,472 people are out there who could, potentially, be spreading Covid-19. The government yesterday warned that police will pull a Liam Neeson and use their special set of skills to track these people down and… err… force them to take the tests. Okay, not EXACTLY like Liam Neeson then.
 
In other kinda Covid-19 news, Tenaga Nasional Bhd has announced that there will be no electricity surcharge from July to December. This follows complaints of high electricity bills during the MCO recently. The move, however, mostly benefits commercial users as only domestic users with bills of less than RM77 are exempted from surcharges. 

Perhaps this lack of consideration of domestic users is why people are so pissed with TNB, to the point where TNB workers are at risk of being assaulted

United we stand, divided you fall

While Pakatan Harapan Plus is still at odds over who should be their numero uno should they retake Putrajaya, Perikatan Nasional, it would seem, is just the opposite, at least for now.
 
A big pow-wow among the nine presidents of the various parties in what is so far a loose pact (Perikatan still isn’t a formalised coalition) saw them reiterate their support for PM Muhyiddin Yassin and resolve to strengthen their cooperation. This, Moo announced, was for the sake of political stability,  the people’s well-being and the country’s stability. 
 
It’s yet another sign that Perikatan could possibly take a step closer to being formalised, after the previous night’s meeting between the Umno-PAS pact of Muafakat Nasional and Bersatu, in which the matter was discussed. 
 
A possible effort to undermine the cooperation among the Perikatan parties also seems to have failed. A purported list of Perikatan “candidates” for the various parliamentary seats for the 15th general election has been analysed and deemed fake by Malaysiakini, though there is a possibility that the list is merely a Bersatu “wish list”. 
 
Indeed, Perikatan is feeling so emboldened that one PAS VP felt the need to get a little dig in at his political opponents, telling PKR president Anwar Ibrahim to quit Pakatan and instead back Perikatan and MooMoo. Pakatan, says Nik Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah, has a dim future and Anu is unlikely to become PM under the coalition. Boy, that truth must hurt for Anwar.
 
This came after former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad repeated a previous statement, that Saudara Anwar is not popular enough among the Malays to become Pakatan’s PM candidate. In other words, Anwar just ain’t saudara enough. 
 
Anyhoo, here are a number of other politically-tinged articles which came out yesterday:

  • Former Umno treasurer Salleh Said Keruak has confirmed applying to rejoin the party, saying that it had been a mistake to have left in the first place. BN, meanwhile, is ready to welcome him back with open arms. No word on whether they’ll sing Kumbaya.
     
  • Finding a replacement for Azhar “Art” Harun as Election Commission chief, said to be the government’s choice for the next Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat, is proving a problem due to a lack of suitable candidates
     
  • The Home Ministry has banned the book “Rebirth: Reformasi, Resistance and Hope in New Malaysia” for its supposedly offensive cover which features what is claimed by some to be a modified Malaysian coat of arms. 
     
  • Rights group Lawyers for Liberty has criticised the police probe into the book, saying no offence had been committed as the law only prohibits the unauthorised use of the coat of arms. Other lawyers have also weighed in on the matter in this article. 

Some other things that happened

As news came in that Goldman Sachs is nearing a deal with the US government to avoid a guilty plea in its trial in America related to 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), former PM Najib Razak’s own 1MDB-related case was carrying on in the KL High Court. 
 
Former 1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmy testified that he was unaware whether three board members had met with two BSI bankers in Singapore as part of an alleged conspiracy to launder billions of funds. The two bankers had later been convicted by Singaporean courts of offences related to the 1MDB scandal.
 
Cross-examined by Jibby’s lead defence counsel Shafee Abdullah whether the former premier could have known of such a meeting, when Shahrol himself did not, the witness said he could not answer for Najib. Shafee, one of the best criminal defence lawyers in the country, then got in a dig, saying he expected Shahrol to be a “good deflector”. 
 
Throughout the Jibster’s 1MDB and SRC International corruption trials, the defence has maintained that the former Supreme Leader of Malaysia was unaware of what was going on, despite being also the finance minister. Everything has been placed at the hands of fugitive financier Jho Low.
 
We’ll have to wait for a while for the next installment of the trial after judge Collin Sequerah allowed Jibby’s application to put today’s proceedings on hold as he was required to campaign for the BN candidate in the Chini by-election. Chini is a state seat under the Pekan parliamentary constituency and Najib is the Pekan MP. The trial will resume only on July 15. 
 
Anyway, to keep this newsletter as short as possible, here are some news items we thought important enough to include here in brief:

  • The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission has detained an ex-aide of former Penang CM Lim Guan Eng in connection with investigation into the state’s proposed undersea tunnel project. Meanwhile, the commission has obtained a four-day remand order against a former Penang Port Commission official who had also been arrested in connection with the investigations. 
     
  • Malaysia will take legal action against the EU over its anti-palm oil campaign via a dispute settlement programme under the World Trade Organisation. 
     
  • Police are mulling using restricted residence measures under the Prevention of Crime Act against those involved in illegal racing. Cos, yeah, illegal racers are hardcore criminals who require being sent away. 
     
  • The Federal Court will today hear contempt proceedings against Malaysiakini and its editor-in-chief Steven Gan. This case is absolute bullshit because it takes Kini to task for readers’ comments on article pages. The accusation is that Kini is ‘facilitating contempt’. By that logic, there’s a lot more facilitation of contempt on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Lowyat. Should we expect to see Mark Zuckerberg or Jack Dorsey hauled up the way Gan is?
     
  • The FT Mufti’s Office has banned Muslims from using face-swapping app FaceApp because it is akin to “changing God’s creation” even though it is not done through physical means. The app’s gender-swapping function may also lead to confusion of a person’s true identity, apparently. OK then. 🤷
     
  • Malaysia’s first basilica, the Minor Basilica of St Anne in Bukit Mertajam, is now open for viewing digitally

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today."

- Malcolm X -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • More than 300 people have been arrested after thousands braved a ban to protest the new, controversial national security laws in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, the UK has offered residency rights and paths to citizenship to millions of residents of Hong Kong, once its colony, following the implementation of the new laws. 
     
  • In what is sure to lose him even more votes, US President Donald Trump has called a planned “Black Lives Matter” mural in New York’s famed Fifth Avenue, near Trump Tower, a symbol of hate. Meanwhile, hundreds of officials who worked for former Republican President George W. Bush are set to endorse Trump’s opponent, Democrat Joe Biden. 
     
  • Over in Russia, Trump’s counterpart Vladimir Putin has been granted the right to extend his rule until 2036 in a landslide vote. 
     
  • Health experts have slammed the US for hoarding the only licensed Covid-19 drug, Remdesivir, after it was announced that it had bought 500,000 treatments, representing pharmaceutical company Gilead’s entire production capacity for July and 90% for August and September. 
     
  • Italian police have scored the biggest drug bust in world history, netting 14 tonnes(!!) of amphetamines, valued at $1 billion. And guess who’s responsible for producing it? ISIS. Yes, that ISIS!

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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