There was good news all round yesterday as the country’s largest cluster of Covid-19 infections was declared closed after four very long months, while for the second time in a week, there were no local transmissions.

In other news, universities and colleges will begin reopening this month, an Umno vet (not the animal doctor kinda vet) has made an unusual suggestion about PM Muhyiddin Yassin and there were contrasting (terribly so) news about the two biggest national airlines.

And now, the end is near...

Cluster un-fμ€cked

You gotta see it as the end being near as far as Covid-19 is concerned when the country’s biggest cluster of infections has officially been declared dead in the water. OK, so that may not be the official term, but you get what we mean.
 
Yes folks, after more than four months, the Sri Petaling tabligh cluster and all its subclusters has finally ended as no new infections were recorded over the past 28 days, the length of time for two cycles of the Covid-19 incubation period. It was a doozy, to be sure. That one cluster led to 3,375 people, including 2,550 Malaysians, being infected, and spawned 17 subclusters across the country. 
 
And there is even more good news. For the second time in a week, there was no new local transmission in Malaysia. There were three new cases, but all were imported ones as Malaysians returning from abroad tested positive for the coronavirus. This brings the total number of cases in Malaysia to 8,677
 
Five people were discharged, raising the total number of recoveries to 8,486 for a recovery rate of 97.8%. There was also no new deaths for the 24th day in a row, leaving the death toll at 121.
 
And as the nation continues to recover, Sarawak has been declared a green zone as there are now less than 10 cases in the state. That leaves only Negri Sembilan with 10 cases or more. 
 
But we’re not out of the woods yet. With 70% of the Covid-19 cases in the country being asymptomatic, the authorities are still being cautious, despite the encouraging numbers. Asymptomatic cases are those who don’t show any symptoms, so there could be people out there who are positive for Covid-19 but no one knows it. 
 
This, perhaps, is one of the reasons why this year’s Merdeka Parade has been cancelled, besides the obvious fact that thousands of people turn up for the event. 
 
Still, life for most people is slowly going back to normal, or at least the new normal. Schools will be reopening fully (somewhat) by July 22, but the Education Ministry says worried parents can opt not to send their kids. The only caveat is that they will have to officially notify the school administration of their decision. 
 
Meanwhile, university and college students can start returning this month, though this will be done in phases. And, by October, all institutions of higher learning will be fully reopened

As we said, things are slowly getting back to normal. But any slip up may lead to our Covid-19 numbers climbing again, and this could even lead to the country returning to a full movement control order. Perhaps it’s best we leave you with this warning from the Sultan of Selangor, who expressed concern that there may be another wave of infections should the public not comply with the standard operating procedures set by the authorities. 

Hop on back, Muh

So, the rumblings within Umno about having to basically know-tow to PM Muhyiddin Yassin and Bersatu for the sake of unity within Perikatan Nasional has led one prominent Umno man to come up with a… errr… novel idea.
 
Padang Rengas MP Nazri Abdul Aziz, once a top gun within Umno, has suggested that Moo, who is Bersatu president, should return to the party where he was once deputy president and take over from current Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. The ouster of Zahid, he says, should not be an issue as it would be for the good of the party. 
 
Just why is he suggesting this? Well, Nazri seems to think that Muhyiddin’s return to the party from which he was sacked in 2016 would be A-OK as it would bring the PM’s post back to Umno and this would assuage all those who are irritated with the fact that despite Umno possibly garnering the most number of seats in the next general election (GE15), it would be Bersatu and Muhyiddin who would have control. 
 
Nazri also doesn’t mind whether Muhyiddin comes alone or whether he brings along the other Bersatu MPs with him. But he doesn’t say what he thinks should happen to Bersatu should Muhyiddin return, specifically whether the party many see as an Umno splinter group would then be absorbed or whether it would go it alone, or perhaps even return to Pakatan.
 
After being booted out of Umno, Muhyiddin went on to found Bersatu along with other former Umno bigwigs like one Dr Mahathir Mohamad (who’s he, again?) and the good doctor’s sonny-boy, Mukhriz Mahathir. The party was part of the Pakatan set-up which romped to a stunning victory in GE14 in 2018, but earlier this year, Bersatu up and left Pakatan and formed a loose coalition with Barisan Nasional, PAS and other parties like Gabungan Parti Sarawak, with MooMoo as PM
 
So, a Muhyiddin return would kinda complete the frogging circle, wouldn’t it? Of course, that’s just merely a suggestion for now and it would be more than likely that there would be some (if not many) in Bersatu who would not be agreeable to a return to Umno. But, stranger things have happened.
 
Speaking of frogging, Bukit Gasing assemblyman Rajiv Risyakaran has submitted a proposal to table a motion for Selangor to come up with an anti-party hopping law. The DAP man wants the law to say that any elected rep who switches party mid-term should automatically have his position vacated as he would have betrayed the mandate of the people who elected him. 
 
We have to support this move and wish it would be so at the federal level as well. Malaysians generally vote based on parties, and not candidates, so hopping to another party would be a betrayal of the people’s mandate. It’s immoral, to say the least. Or is it?
 
Legal experts have said in the past that enacting such laws would be a problem. Though generally seen as immoral, there are circumstances where party hopping may actually not be so. Such laws, for instance, would also punish those politicians who genuinely change parties due to their conscience, and not for personal gain. 
 
In a reply in the Dewan Rakyat in 2019, Deputy Minister in the PM’s Department Hanipa Maidin had told Ramkarpal Singh that the then Pakatan government had no plans to formulate anti-frogging laws, simply because the Federal Constitution gave Malaysians the right to form associations and joining any political party was a part of this right. As such, the Pakatan gomen believed any such law would be challenged in court and could be declared unconstitutional. 
 
That reasoning does make sense. But we bet Pakatan wishes it had tried to get the law passed in Parliament now, having lost the seat of power.
 
Anyhoo, here are a few other politics-related stories which appeared yesterday:

  • BN secretary-general Annuar Musa has acknowledged that Pakatan state governments have the right to not dissolve their respective legislative assemblies should a snap general election be called. Meanwhile, experts concur, saying these state governments, however, would have to ensure that they have two factors on their side: a strong majority and that they have the approval of their respective heads of state to continue to govern. 
     
  • Bersatu’s Rural Development Minister Abdul Latiff Ahmad has been forced to apologise for saying Umno was unpopular in Sabah after his remark led to an uproar among his Perikatan allies and following calls for him to resign
     
  • Senior Minister Azmin Ali has denied he is planning to register a new political party with the Registrar of Societies. Reports have repeatedly surfaced claiming that Azmin had submitted an application to register a party named Parti Keadilan Negara, suggesting it was a breakaway party from PKR. 
     
  • After withdrawing a legal suit contesting his removal from Bersatu, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman has received an invitation from Amanah Youth to join their party

A tale of two airlines

Malaysia’s two biggest airlines, like all airline companies in the world, are facing lots of problems, especially following the slump in travel following bans during the Covid-19 pandemic. But Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia were in the news yesterday for two very different reasons, one good and the other bad. Like, really bad.
 
The nation’s flagship carrier gained some leverage over its low-cost carrier cousin when Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that MAS had responded positively to the gomen’s call for airlines to reduce ticket prices now that the International Air Transport Association had ruled that flights can operate at full capacity. As such, MAS would be offering special 20% discounts for tickets for students, teachers and lecturers. 
 
There has been no such word about a response from AirAsia, but that really is the least of its problems. The bad news came in torrents for the world’s best low-cost airline yesterday. First, AirAsia Group Bhd’s securities trading was halted temporarily almost as soon as Bursa Malaysia opened yesterday. This was because notes accompanying its results for Q1 were amended to include its auditors’ unqualified opinion statement relating to uncertainty over its status in view of the economic condition and the Covid-19 pandemic. 
 
But was it really due to the economic uncertainty and Covid-19 pandemic? It came out later in the day that the company’s external auditors, Ernst & Young (E&Y), stated that AirAsia Group’s net loss was RM283 million. And this was for the financial year ending Dec 31, 2019. So, that was before anyone even knew about Covid-19. What’s worse is that the company’s current liabilities exceeded current assets by a massive RM1.84 billion.
 
What this means is that even if AirAsia sells off all its assets, it can’t cover its liabilities. Liabilities such as those red-liveried Airbus aircraft we can see flying all over the world. So, it’s basically not just the economic slump and the pandemic, though it is a huge factor.
 
Later in the day, AirAsia Group triggered the criteria of the Practice Note 17 (PN17), which involves financially distressed companies under Bursa Malaysia’s Main Market Listing Requirements. The group, however, will not be officially classified as PN17 for 12 months, in line with measures implemented by Bursa Malaysia. 
 
(NOTE: In case you’re a little lost as to what the devil PN17 is, this article will help you understand it all. We hope, at least.) 
 
That wasn’t the end of it, however. As we said, trading was only temporarily suspended. When it resumed, AirAsia Group’s shares fell, ending the day with a drop of 15 sen to 70 sen. This time last year, the company was trading at almost RM3 per share. 
 
We have to wonder, though, whether the proposed merger between MAS and AirAsia, considered last year and then again earlier this year when the Covid-19 pandemic so badly affected the airline industry, would have saved both airlines from the financial shithouse (pardon our French) they are in right now, especially where it concerns the latter. Last year, it was seen as AirAsia saving MAS. Right now, it may seem like a mutually-beneficial move. 
 
Perhaps any such merger, should it have gone through, would mean AirAsia also being absorbed into the Khazanah Nasional fold (or partly, anyway). As such, would the government move to bail out the newly-merged company, as it had done so many times before with MAS?

Who knows.

Crime doesn’t pay

There were so many crime-related stories yesterday that we thought we’d lead our “odds and ends” segment with these articles.
 
Police are investigating a prominent NGO activist for allegedly groping and kissing a trainee doctor at a hospital in KL in November. The activist’s actions was said to have led to several members of the NGO to resign. One of those who resigned took to social media to say the NGO members had lost faith in the suspect’s leadership.
 
The trainee doctor was allegedly so traumatised by the incident, he took four months to get over it and file a police report. The suspect himself has replied that he is seeking legal advice before making any statement to the media.
 
If you’re wondering what NGO this is, well another NGO has named it. This happened when Joint Action Group for Gender Equality urged the NGO, Islamic Renaissance Front, to initiate an independent investigation into the allegations of sexual harassment. 
 
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission has arrested an ex-aide of former Defence Minister Mohamad “Mat” Sabu for allegedly taking millions of ringgit in kickbacks from a company for a defence contract worth RM56 million. Mat Sabu’s party, Amanah, later named the aide as Mohd Azhar Che Mat Dali, the former political secretary to the then minister, and slammed MACC for using excessive force (allegedly, allegedly) in executing the arrest and subsequent raid of Amanah headquarters. 
 
In other news, Lawyers for Liberty have whacked the Immigration Department for issuing a circular providing details of a Bangladeshi man interviewed by news organisation Al Jazeera in a documentary which criticised the Malaysian government for its handling of undocumented migrants during the MCO, saying that this could put the man at risk of “untold harm”. LFL also called the gomen response to the whole issue disproportionate. Civil society groups have also come out in support of AJ and press freedom. 
 
Meanwhile, the AJ reporter, cameraman, editor and producer involved in the documentary have been summoned to Bukit Aman to have their statements recorded, but have yet to respond. And, police are looking for the Bangladeshi man as well. 
 
In related news, a Bernama TV talk show host has been censured for remarks she made about AJ on air, though there is no word as to what disciplinary action was taken. Herleena Pahlavy had called AJ Al Jahiliyah, an Arabic term meaning “ignorance” and usually referring to “pagan” Arabia. She later ended the show by telling AJ to “shut up”. 
 
OK, we get that “Leena” thinks she was being patriotic. And everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But while there are probably a lot of people who don’t agree with AJ’s documentary, there are also many who think otherwise. But to make these statements on air? Just plain unprofessional.
 
Anyway, here are a few other of the headline-grabbing news items that came out yesterday:

  • The KL High Court has allowed the MACC’s civil suit to forfeit more than RM830,000 of alleged 1MDB funds from Pahang MCA. 
     
  • Socso lost RM26 million in false disability claims to several syndicates between 2017 and 2019. This could have risen to RM68 million if the organisation hadn’t realised the claims were fake and continued to make payments on them. 
     
  • Sabah has asked the federal government for RM2.5 billion in funds for flood mitigation projects under the 12th Malaysia Plan. 
     
  • Here’s some good news. The Economist Intelligence Unit, the research and analysis division of Economist Group, has ranked Malaysia third in the Asia Pacific region in terms of cancer preparedness. Yay Malaysia! 

“Seriousness is a disease."

- Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Global Covid-19 stats now show that there are almost 12 million infections with more than 544,000 deaths. The dubious honour of “world leader” is still the US, which has now surpassed three million cases with a death toll of over 131,000
     
  • But US President Donald Trump still seems to be in denial, even threatening to cut funding to schools which do not reopen this Fall. 
     
  • Meanwhile, the Brazilian Press Association says it will sue President Jair Bolsonaro for possibly exposing members of the media to infection after he took off his mask during the press conference where he announced that he had tested positive for Covid-19. 
     
  • A South Korean court has ordered North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un to pay compensation to two former prisoners of war who spent decades as forced labourers up north. Yeah. Good luck with that. 
     
  • British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, a former girlfriend of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, will face an arraignment and bail hearing on July 14 on charges of sex trafficking. Maxwell is said to have provided underage girls to Epstein, who committed suicide in prison last year, for sex purposes and is also believed to have taken part in the sex acts. 
     
  • Ivory Coast’s Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly has died at 61. Coulibaly had been chosen as the ruling party’s presidential candidate in the country’s upcoming October elections.

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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