After months of keeping mum, the government has finally announced the next step in the move to decriminalise drug possession. And yes, you've guessed it. It's to form a special task force to look into it.

In other news, Anwar Ibrahim hits out at politicians who play the race card, saying they are the ones to blame for the tensions in the country; several people, including two DAP assemblymen, have been charged with offences over connections (allegedly, allegedly) to a defunct militant organisation; and, the former 1MDB CEO wishes he could turn back time (as do we all).

(Another) special task force formed

Syed Saddiq's latest project

Back in June, Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said the government was looking to decriminalise drug possession for personal use. Then we didn’t hear anything else about it.

Yesterday, however, Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, said the government had formed a special task force to speed up the process. The task force, the Boy Wonder said, will comprise his ministry, the Home Ministry and the office of the Chief Secretary to the Government.

So why exactly is his ministry involved? Well, unlike recent times when Syed Saddiq poked his nose into issues which didn’t seem to involve either youth or sports, this time there’s actually a valid reason. You see, the majority of drug addicts in the country are youths.

According to National Anti-Drug Agency statistics, there were 18,417 cases of drug addiction among youths aged 19-39 (and 550 cases of addiction among juveniles) compared to 6,300 among adults aged 40 and above. So if you put together the number of addicts among youth and juveniles, we get roughly 75% of the number of addicts nationwide. And yes, we’re aware that people in their 30s really shouldn’t be called ‘youths’, but hey, we don’t make these rules!

Anyway, so far, around the world, 17 countries are known to have completely decriminalised drug possession, another nine have decriminalised marijuana possession, two allow recreational use of marijuana and three (besides Malaysia) are considering decriminalising drug possession.

In 2001, Portugal became the first country to decriminalise drug possession. What was then a radical step for a country which was in the grips of a drug problem soon bore fruit. Since then, drug-induced deaths have dropped to five times lower than the European Union average and an astonishing fiftieth of the United States. HIV infection rates have also declined. The number of drug users, especially among those aged 15 to 24, has also dropped.

Syed Saddiq didn’t mention the timeline involved in the process, but this will be interesting to see. Will we see the same results Portugal did? Only time can tell.

FanBoy defends 'atok ... again

Speaking of Syed Saddiq, the Bersatu Youth leader was quick to come out with a statement defending his chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s speech at the recent Malay Dignity Congress.

The PM, he said, was merely saying Malays need to reflect on themselves and not blame others for their troubles. He also said Mahathir’s speech was similar to an address he made to Bersatu Youth wing members not too long ago.

Syed Saddiq is not entirely wrong – Maddey did point out the things Syed Saddiq said he did. But the problem is that’s not all grandpa did. Firstly, his statement expressing regret that ‘Malay elements’ in the Pakatan Harapan government weren’t strong really showed us the Pakatan promise of not being as racially divided as Barisan is really nothing more than a marriage of convenience.

Secondly, Mahathir’s presence at the event was a tactit endorsement of all that went on there, from Zainal Kling’s racially incendiary speech, to the unfair and frankly ridiculous demands made during the congress, such as:

  • Abolition of vernacular schools
  • All top government positions be held only by Malays
  • Use only Jawi as the official form of government communication

The problem is Mahathir is playing the victim card by saying they are being targeted simply for the fact they were Malays holding a Malay congress. But the reality is the old man and his protege are both trying to whitewash what actually happened. ​And they’re fooling nobody – except those that probably already believe their spiel.

The timing of Syed Saddiq’s statement to reporters in the lobby of Parliament seems a little suspect. Not too long before that, perpetual bridesmaid Anwar Ibrahim had said in the Dewan Rakyat that the blame for all the racial tensions in the country had to be borne by politicians.

We couldn’t agree more with Anwar (for once). Racial politics may have (and if the italics are not enough, then we state here that we are emphasising the word “may”) worked for the country at one time, but it does not now. Identity politics are a no-no now. In fact, an expert recently said this dangerous game could lead to a May 13, 1969-type event.

Politicians keep identity politics alive because keeping us divided serves their interests and allows them to win votes more easily by appealing to deep-rooted chauvinist fears. But voting along racial lines does not a united country make.

Charged; no bail

As expected, those arrested by counter-terrorism police for alleged links to the defunct Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were charged in court yesterday.

These included two DAP assemblymen, G. Saminathan (Gadek) and P. Gunasekaran (Seremban Jaya). They were alleged to have been supporting LTTE and possessing items related to the militant group.

No pleas were recorded, nor were the accused allowed bail. They will have to sit things out in prison while waiting for their cases to be mentioned.

Meanwhile, it was an emotional scene outside the Selayang Sessions Court when the wife of scrap metal business owner A. Kalaimughilan broke down. Shouting that her husband was not a terrorist, M. Tamilmalar said he was a PKR Kepong member and was active, and lashed out at party president Anwar Ibrahim and other leaders for not helping him.

Later, Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin defended DAP, saying there were no links between the party and LTTE. He told the Dewan Rakyat the arrests of DAP members over their links (allegedly, allegedly) with the defunct terror group was due to the actions of individuals, and not anything to do with the party.

Muhyiddin was replying to BN’s Shahidan Kassim, who asked whether DAP was involved with LTTE. Cunning fellow, Shahidan.

'If I could turn back time...'

This could be the 486th time you’re reading this here, but Najib Razak’s defence counsel’s game plan is to blame Jho Low for everything that went wrong with 1MDB.

Lead defence counsel Shafee Abdullah yesterday described Low as a fox guarding a chicken during cross examination of former Terengganu Investment Authority and 1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi (yes, the dude is still on the witness stand). This after an incredible admission by Shahrol that, after a meeting with Najib in 2009, he went to see Low with the minutes of the meeting!

Once again, we have to say Shahrol, a prosecution witness, is doing wonders for the defence.

Shahrol also admitted he was the person referred to as “1MDB Officer 2” in 1MDB-linked lawsuits filed by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) in 2016, while executive director Casey Tang was “1MDB Officer 1”. He also claimed Low and Tang had lied to him during the course of the 1MDB fiasco, but that he wasn’t sure to what extent.

Meanwhile, Shahrol said he would resign as 1MDB CEO if he could revisit the opportunity. Turn back the clock? We’re pretty sure the prosecution wishes it could do that, too.

Odds, ends, bits and bobs

Today’s note is already quite long, so we’ll keep this brief:

  • The BN candidate for Tanjung Piai has been chosen, says MCA president Wee Ka Siong, promising the name would be divulged today. Gerakan, meanwhile, will be represented by deputy secretary-general Wendy Subramaniam (who now?).
  • The gomen will leave it to athletes to decide whether their attire should be syariah compliant. Yes. It shouldn’t be any other way.
  • The High Court has dismissed a judicial review that challenged the smoking ban at all eateries. A jubilant Health Ministry has hailed the decision, of course.
  • Penang Health Committee chairman Afif Bahardin has suggested a cut-off time for alcohol consumption in some areas as a means to prevent drink driving related deaths. 
  • Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong has tweeted his thanks to our beloved Queen for the special sambal belacan she has sent him and his father over the years. Awwww! Meanwhile, in other Lion City-related news, SIngaporean couples are apparently crossing the Causeway in search of egg donors.

“I don't do drugs. I am drugs.”

- Salvador Dali -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • British PM Boris Johnson has finally gotten his wish. The United Kingdom will hold its third general election in four years on Dec 12.
  • An aide to the acting White House chief of staff is expected to testify Friday before a closed inquiry looking to impeach POTUS Donald Trump.
  • US Senators have accused Boeing of putting profit before safety in seeking approval for its 737 MAX aircraft.
  • US law enforcement agencies are on the hunt for a 31-year-old child rapist who was mistakenly released from a Georgia jail.
  • WhatsApp has sued an Israeli surveillance firm for allegedly helping government spies break into the phones of about 1,400 users in four continents.
  • Sujith Wilson, the Indian toddler trapped in a well since last Friday, has died. Sujith’s fall and the subsequent rescue attempts gripped the world over the last weekend, with the #PrayForSujith hashtag trending on social media over the last few days.

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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