The King declares emergency but only in Batu Sapi, postponing the by-elections there. Clearly, the gomen's learnt its lesson from the Sabah polls which led to a spike in Covid-19 cases, but could this be a tangled web we're weaving?

Meanwhile, we find out more depressing figures about what this stupid pandemic is costing us; our daily infection numbers drop to triple digits (huzza!); and, there's a bunch of corruption-related news.

Moo gets his emergency, kinda

Necessary evil, but beware the slippery slope

Leader supremo Muhyiddin Yassin and his government has made good its plan from earlier this month to get the Agong to declare a state of emergency in Batu Sapi. This is to avoid a by-election in the Sabah seat, at least for the time being so we can deal with our rising Covid-19 numbers.

 

To recap, the seat was declared vacant in early October after the death of its MP, Warisan’s V.K. Liew. However, the statewide Sabah polls on Sept 26, you know from the ill-advised coup attempt which has now seen both sides of the political divide behave like petulant children and point fingers, had led to a significant, deadlier spike in Covid infections, with Sabah feeling the worse of it.

 

If you remember, Moo and his band of merry Perikatan Nasional men had tried to get the King to declare a nationwide emergency towards the end of October. The feeling at the time, however, was this was a major overkill and critics accused le PM of trying to postpone Dewan Rakyat proceedings and stay in power (allegedly! allegedly!).

 

That plan was shot down by the Ruler who instead called on all politicos, to stop politicking for once and work together, what with Covid and Budget 2021 vote coming up.

 

This time, His Majesty made the darurat proclamation after briefings by prime minister Moo, health officials, the Election Commission (EC) and chief secretary to the gomen as to what’s in the best interest of the rakyat. 

 

With this, despite nomination day just four short days away, all preparations for the Dec 5 Batu Sapi polls must come to a halt, until further notice. The EC’s said it’ll set a new date for the polls.

 

Muhyiddin, in a televised address yesterday, once more admitted the third Covid wave occurred because of the Sabah elections (no shit Sherlock considering politicking by your own PN politicians was a major factor in this.) Yet it was cricket sounds as far as an official apology goes.

 

Apart from the obvious health threat an election would pose to the people, MooMoo also gave several reasons for wanting to push the state polls, namely:

  •  Possible poor compliance would render any strict election SOP useless (we’re looking at you politicians too!)
     
  • The EC was having trouble recruiting staff to work during the polls due to health fears. Essentially, they’ve only managed to find 143 peeps. They need 837 for Sabah.

What does this mean?
 

But what does this emergency mean for Batu Sapi folks anyway? Well, apart from no elections, nothing much will change. MooMoo has assured there’ll be no military rule, nor lockdown, in Batu Sapi. 

 

Sabah CM Hajiji Noor and other politicians from the state welcomed the news. One of these was Parti Warisan president and former CM Shafie Apdal, whose party held the Batu Sapi seat under Liew, though he cautioned the by-election must be held as soon as the pandemic was under control. One-track mind, this guy. 

 

While we give props for Muhyiddin and co. for learning from the Sabah polls, we are concerned that if not careful, this move could put us on a very slippery slope.

 

After all, this move would set the precedence for any upcoming elections, such as Gerik in Perak and Bugaya in Sabah, whose incumbents only recently passed away. Taking this further, Pejuang MP Mukhriz Mahathir yesterday mooted that the Federal Constitution be amended to allow for elections to be postponed until Covid-19 (or any other pandemic, we figure) is contained. 

 

But for how long? What happens should the powers that be decide to abuse this precedent, whether out of laziness or, worse still, political expediency? What about Sarawak state polls? Or worse, GE15?

 

One thing this episode has highlighted, though, is the fact our electoral system needs to be revamped. Many other countries, including our so-called frenemies down south Singapore and New Zealand, have held safe elections during Covid-19. In fact, dozens of countries have done it, and we could learn a thing or two from them. 

 

Systems such as e-voting or an improved, large-scale postal voting system need to be studied and implemented. The problem with the first idea is that it will take time to implement and the second, as EC deputy head honcho Azmi Sharom recently pointed out, there’s a huge trust deficit as far as voters are concerned. 

 

Naturally, there’s scepticism on the part of the public as Malaysia’s never been done before on a large scale. But let’s face it, a big reason for the trust deficit is due to all the politicking that goes on and the claims of ballot fraud.

 

There are other problems with postal voting as well. One of the reasons the Agong made the decision he did yesterday was that the EC’s data showed that nearly half of Batu Sapi voters have incomplete addresses, meaning that postal voting would’ve been difficult to implement. 

 

But, this can’t go on. Eventually, we will need to come up with either a new voting system or proper, honest, science-based SOPs. Covid-19 and its effects aren’t going away anytime soon. And what happens if another pandemic hits us in the future?

 

All it takes is political will and sincerity…the question is, do our leaders have it?

The devil's in the details

Some disturbing figures emerged yesterday regarding the Covid-19 pandemic in Malaysia, and no, we’re not talking about the daily numbers.

 

A total of 2,713 SMEs had to shutter between March and Oct thanks to that damned virus and the resulting loss of business. More disturbing is the fact 221 employers had to close even after receiving assistance via the gomen’s Wage Subsidy Programme. 

 

There’s no telling how many people went bankrupt, however, as Human Resources Minister M. Saravanan didn’t have that particular data. We suspect, though, this could be a pretty high number. 

 

Just consider this article quoting police statistics that 266 people committed suicide between Mar 18 and Oct 30, with the main reason being loss of employment and family problems. While it’s important to note that NOT all cases were due to the impact of the pandemic, it’s enough to get us concerned.

 

In fact, the numbers quoted by Saravanan are only a part of the full statistics. They involved only SMEs, after all. Just over a week ago, we learnt that more than 30,000 businesses have had to close down since March, with August seeing the highest amount at 17,800. 

 

And the effects of the current crisis aren’t limited to health concerns or loss of businesses. Up to Aug 20, nearly 2,000 domestic abuse cases have been reported while between March and October, the gomen’s psychosocial hotline received some 35,000 calls. We’d bet our entire savings (EPF Accounts 1 and 2 included) that these numbers have shot up since then. 

 

We also learned last week that there’d been more school dropouts since the pandemic began compared to the previous year. 

 

And it’s not just bad news for us homo sapiens. There’s this report yesterday that donations and earnings have dried up for Zoo Negara. It now has only three months’ worth of funds in its coffers. The good news for our national zoo is that the Energy and Natural Resources Ministry has said it’ll help out wherever possible, though it says zoos are business entities and therefore shouldn’t rely on government assistance. 

 

These are just some of the sobering numbers that hit home the need for us to band together and flatten that Covid infection curve. Still, the past 24 hours have seen some (relatively) good news.

 

After five straight days of four-figure increases in infections, the number of daily new cases nearly halved and is back to triple digits. There were 660 new cases, with 630 recoveries. The number of active cases has dropped to 12,814. Sadly, there were four deaths yesterday, bringing the cumulative death toll to 322

 

Sabah recorded the highest number of cases at 387, followed by Selangor at 139. Together with the cases in KL and Putrajaya, Selangor’s tally meant the Klang Valley saw a total of 173 cases.

 

There were also eight new clusters yesterday involving six states (Sabah, Selangor, Penang, Sarawak, Johor and Melaka) as well as KL and Putrajaya. However, three clusters were also declared as having come to an end. 

 

Here are a few of the other Covid-19 stories which came out yesterday:

  • The enhanced MCO at three locations in East Sabah and the one at the Seberang Perai prison and quarters in Penang have been extended. Meanwhile, two locations in Ipoh have been placed under EMCO. 
     
  • On the bright side, the National Security Council will meet tomorrow to decide whether to lift the CMCO on several states which have recorded low numbers of infections. 
     
  • Malaysia and China have signed a five-year agreement to strengthen cooperation over the development of a vaccine. The deal will also see Malaysia be given priority in receiving any vaccine developed by China. 
     
  • MPs from both sides of the great political divide have mooted a windfall tax for companies that made a huge profit during the pandemic. They’re looking primarily at glove makers. 
     
  • While over 300 deaths are regrettable, health authorities have said various strategies implemented by the gomen has kept the number of Covid-19 deaths in Malaysia relatively low. It’s at nine deaths per one million population, far below that of the US (741 per million), the UK (732), the Philippines (70) and Indonesia (54). 

Korupsi, opresi, obsesi diri...

Between news of the Batu Sapi emergency declaration and Covid-19, several 1MDB and other corruption-related reports emerged.

 

Since our humble newsletter yesterday led off with news about that Billion Dollar Whale Jho Low (again, not a fat joke), we thought we’d start off with a small itty, bitty bit of news about him. 

 

In a somewhat stinging rebuke of the gomen and police, Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo asked what was being done to bring Fugitive Jho back to the country. Top cop Hamid Bador has repeatedly assured police are working on hauling Jho’s arse back, but to parrot YB Gobind, how?

  

Meanwhile, former glorious leader PM Najib Razak has asked a US court for permission to seek documents and testimony from investment bank Goldman Sachs and its former Southeast Asia chairman Tim Leissner to help in his defence against criminal charges here. The US Department of Justice has said about US$4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB, which Najib co-founded in 2009, including some funds Goldman had helped raise for the firm. 

 

Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has said it’ll probe three issues under the Defence, Transport and Education ministries. These are the Defence Ministry’s land swap deals, the Transport Ministry’s Automated Enforcement System (AES) and the Education Ministry’s 1BestariNet project which interestingly enough, was during PM Moo’s time as Education Minister. 

 

The last we heard about the Defence Ministry’s land swap deal, made with private companies and alleged to have caused RM500 million in losses, was in July when the MACC said investigations were ongoing

 

The issue with the AES system is that the Armed Forces Fund Board takeover of the system cost RM555 million when the previous concessionaires had only invested RM40 million. Meanwhile, 1BestariNet was previously said to have been flawed from the start and the PAC has now said this was due to administrative weaknesses. 

 

Here are some other corruption-themed stories from yesterday:

  • Cheras MP Tan Kok Wai has alleged 42 plots of DBKL land have been sold since FT Minister Annuar Musa took over and questioned whether the sales were made by the book. The latter couldn’t, however, provide a list of the plots of land. Annuar’s said he’ll address the allegations in detail today. 
     
  • Transparency International-Malaysia has voiced concerns over systemic corruption in the civil service following news of the arrests of 27 Immigration Department officers involved in an immigration syndicate believed to have raked in more than RM14 million over four years. 
     
  • Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan, an association of Malaysian security forces’ veterans, has lauded the plan to rotate sensitive posts in the police force more often in the future to avoid the possibility of misconduct. Still, more needs to be done to root out corruption in the force, it’s said.

A little bit of this, a little bit of that

This is an interesting bit of news. The team handling Muslim Pro, an Islamic mobile application jointly owned by Malaysia’s Bintang Capital and Singapore’s CMIA, has denied it sold the personal data of its 100 million users to the US military. 

 

The US military had alleged it was buying up data from companies providing mobile apps from around the world. Among these are apps used by Muslims, including Muslim Pro. 

 

To take you down memory lane, this isn’t the first time there’s been a report of dubious links between Malaysians and the US military or its intelligence agencies (although we hope none of them are related)

 

There was the Fat Leonard scandal in which 34 people were charged in America. At the heart of the scandal was Glenn Defence Marine Asia, a ship husbanding firm owned and run by “Fat” Leonard Glenn Francis (that’s his actual nickname, we promise). Leonard’s a Malaysian who paid at least US$500 million in cash and other things including prostitutes to US Navy personnel in exchange for classified material on the movements of US ships and submarines so his company could have an edge over rivals. 

 

More recently, there was a report that the US Central Intelligence Agency had sold rigged encryption devices to several countries, including to us. The devices allowed the CIA to eavesdrop on secret communications between government officials. 

 

Meanwhile, US military aside, here are some other bits of news that came out yesterday:

  • EPF has clarified that contributors applying for an advance from their Account 1 under the i-Sinar facility will have to replace the amount with future contributions. 
     
  • The administration of four doses of the polio vaccine for infants will continue at government health facilities under the National Immunisation Programme, despite the CMCO. 
     
  • The government won’t ratify the Rome Statute, which allows the prosecution of those accused of genocide and war crimes, maintaining the decision made by the previous Pakatan Harapan administration. 
     
  • In yet another case of odour pollution in Selangor, the Rantau Panjang water treatment plant was shut down but restarted 2.5 hours later after being given the all-clear. 
     
  • Remember that bit about KL’s new liquor licensing rule to take effect in Oct 2021 (we may have mentioned it yesterday)? Despite the criticism, FT Minister Annuar Musa won’t budge. He’s tweeted that the decision not to allow grocery stores to sell liquor is final
     
  • Former culture, youth and sports minister Mokhtar Hashim, who was sentenced to hang but was pardoned for the 1983 murder of the then Negeri Sembilan State Speaker has passed away aged 78. There’s this rather entertaining piece about the murder, in which black magic was allegedly used. Seriously, who needs Netflix when you have Malaysian politics?

“ 'Emergencies' have always been the pretext on which the safeguards of individual liberty have been eroded.”

- Friedrich August von Hayek -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • The number of daily Covid-19 deaths globally hit a new record on Tuesday at 10,816. The cumulative total so far stands at more than 56 million cases and 1.345 million deaths, according to this tally by Johns Hopkins University. 
     
  • Pfizer and BioNTech have said Wednesday that a completed study of their experimental Covid-19 vaccine showed it was 95 percent effective. They have said the two-dose vaccine had no serious safety concerns and that the companies will apply for emergency use authorisation from US regulators “within days”. 
     
  • Ethics experts and critics of US President Donald Trump have called for a Senate Ethics Committee investigation of Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. This over his probe into the 2020 Presidential election after he said he didn’t look into states The Donald had won because their results were “not in question”. 
     
  • US regulators on Wednesday cleared the Boeing 737 MAX to return to the skies, ending its 20-month grounding after two fatal crashes that plunged the company into crisis. 
     

Whoops
Yesterday, we stated that according to the man on the run Jho Low, Najibby Razak spent more than US$500,000 on bling-bling for wifey Rosie. It’s a hefty chunk of change for sure, but we actually left out a coupla’ zeroes. It’s actually (allegedly! allegedly!) more than US$500,000,000.

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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