Twenty cases of Covid-19 infection have been linked to a home quarantine breaker in Kubang Pasu. And now, targeted movement curbs are being enforced in four Kedah localities.

Elsewhere in today’s newsletter, Sabah Umno and its allies quarrel over seat allocations for the upcoming state polls, Umno refuses to be a part of formalised Perikatan Nasional, and Lim Guan Eng asks more legit questions about that Goldman deal.

'Lockdown' in Kedah

Trouble in the north

We’d been warned about this! And now, approximately two weeks from Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin going on national television and cautioning against complacency, a series of lockdowns is being enforced in Kedah.

To be clear, the Northern state is, on the whole, still A-Okay. Nevertheless, a spike in cases involving a cluster in Kubang Pasu has resulted in targeted enhanced movement control orders (TEMCOs) being introduced in four areas – Hosba, Ah and Binjal (in Kubang Pasu) and Kampung Ulu Padang Sanai (in Padang Terap).

The movement curbs – which were announced following the Health Ministry’s confirmation on Sunday of 11 more cases in the cluster – mean that no one is being allowed in or out of the localities. It also means that schools and business – except for those deemed essential – have been ordered to shut.

The cluster in the spotlight, referred to as the Sivagangga cluster, was identified last week after the owner of a nasi kandar restaurant in Kubang Pasu was discovered to have broken home quarantine following his return from Sivagangga in India, and infected a number of restaurant workers and a family member. To date, 20 cases of infection have been detected.

For the record, Kedah was one of the first states to be declared Covid-19 free back in April. Guess it’s true what they say about good times not lasting forever, huh?

In other news, meanwhile, the face masks in public rule became mandatory on Saturday and according to our authorities, most folks were found to be complying. Unfortunately, as expected, there’s been quite a bit of confusion due to the absence of clear guidelines.

Should diners at restaurants keep their masks on until their food arrives? Should joggers don masks? These questions, and others, have yet to be answered by the National Security Council, and as we’ve pointed out before, they really should’ve been made crystal in the run-up to Aug 1.

It must be noted, nevertheless, that thanks to a viral message on compulsory mask use in cars that was subsequently debunked by the NSC, we do have a little more info than before on where you absolutely have to mask on (public transport, pasar tanis, supermarkets, recreation parks, and tourist spots were among the areas the Council mentioned) and who’s exempted from the ruling (children under two, the disabled, and individuals who can’t wear face masks by themselves). Nevertheless, there’s still a shit load of other stuff that hasn’t been explained.

By the way, our overall Covid-19 infection numbers have seesawed a bit since our last BTL, with two days of single-digit increases and double digits on the other two days. Significantly, though, there’s been one more death – this time involving a 64-year-old Filipino man in Sabah – bringing the overall fatality rate to 125. Active cases, meanwhile, are at 210.

 

Here’re a few other important Covid-related updates from the long weekend:

  • Singapore and Malaysia have detailed the procedures relating to travel between the two countries that are set come into effect on Aug 10. Among the rules being mandated are a seven-day stay home ruling and strict adherence to controlled travel itineraries. 
  • Even as things look nasty in Kedah, Kuching’s seen its red zone status downgraded to yellow thanks to a bunch of recoveries. However, while no new cases were reported on Sunday in Sarawak, there’re still 10 active clusters in the state. 
  • The term “social distancing” has been replaced by “physical distancing” in light of the distance (one metre) that people are required to observe between each other. Will it make a difference? Who can tell?

Tricky situation

In Sunday’s exclusive piece about the Sabah political crisis, we zeroed in on what led to the state legislature being dissolved and what the impending election means for the Land Below the Wind. A bit more, however, has happened since we sent out yesterday’s special report, with the main focus being on how Perikatan Nasional and its allies hope to take power in the upcoming polls when they don’t seem to be on the same page.

Seat allocation in elections is always tricky. However, back when Sabah Umno and Barisan Nasional ruled the roost, they tended to make sure arguments were behind closed doors. Perikatan, unfortunately, appears to be a different kettle of fish with no clear policies on quarrelling in public. Which is why we’ve seen, for example, Bersatu and Umno tussle in the open, with a veep from the latter party even labelling the former a brood of vipers bunch of traitors.

Bersatu, in case you were wondering, says it’s identified 45 seats to potentially stand for. Unfortunately, eight of those seats were formerly Umno’s and only became Bersatu’s after the owners switched sides following the last General Election.

Sabah Umno boss Bung Moktar Radin says that there’s time enough for discussions with its Barisan Nasional and Perikatan partners, of course. But can he really guarantee everyone’s kept happy, and more importantly, sticks to the script to take on Parti Warisan Sabah only in straight fights?

By the way, on the issue of straight fights, Bung may also need to ensure that the assemblypersons who supported former chief minister Musa Aman’s takeover bid last week get picked to play come Election Day. The plan to take the state may have been scuppered by Shafie Apdal and the dissolution of the state legislature, sure. But the piper(s) will certainly need to be paid in order for Sabah Umno to ensure one-on-one contests don’t turn into royal rumbles.

Incidentally, here’s something interesting: Even though Sabah Umno does not have the same clout it once did, as a matter of convention, the party’s big kahuna is usually named CM in the event of a polls victory. The problem now, however, is that the current Sabah Umno chief isn’t the fellow who planned the coup last week and led Sabah as CM from 2003 to 2018 – it’s Bung!

 

The Bocor King has come out, of course, to deny rumours of a spat between himself and Musa and accused “enemies” of attempting to drive a wedge between the two. However, the dude’s own announcement that he’d be contesting a state seat in the upcoming polls – something Bung hasn’t done since 1994, when he lost to PBS’ Joseph Sitin Saang – suggests that the five-term Kinabatangan MP has ambitions of his own. Yep, he says Sabah Umno has many potential CM candidates. But he also hasn’t denied that he wants the top job. And that’s important.

We dunno about you, but to us, this is already looking to be more exciting than the final season of Game of Thrones.

When you're out, but in

On Thursday, Umno’s current president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced that his party wouldn’t be joining Perikatan Nasional and unsurprisingly, everyone and their dog stood to attention! But then we all listened again to Zahid’s remarks, and realised that not very much had been said.

The gist of the announcement, in case you missed it, was simply this: Umno never joined the Bersatu-led Perikatan pact officially, and as such, has no intention of becoming a component party, should the coalition be registered as an official entity. Even so, Umno remains committed to the current administration.

Confused? Well, think of it like this. You know how Parti Warisan Sabah isn’t officially a member of Pakatan Harapan but is still committed to the Opposition coalition’s cause? Yeah, well same diff. 

Be that as it may, the one aspect about the Umno announcement that’s still a tad puzzling is how Zahid’s statement about Perikatan was augmented by remarks concerning Umno’s dedication to Muafakat Nasional, its political union with PAS which, get this, Bersatu was recently invited to join!

Honestly, we really dunno if Umno’s announcement was devised as a show of strength – Zahid says people can draw their own conclusions – or if other plans are afoot. However, what we can tell you is that one Azmin Ali, who’s been technically party-less since the Sheraton Move, has also apparently been invited to be a part of Muafakat!

That’s right folks. Even though the former PKR deputy president has recently found himself in the crosshairs of a few of his new colleagues, he and his gang appear to be on the Muafakat invite list too! 

Incidentally, in a sorta related update, dear Min, it seems, is bent on leading a charm offensive in Penang on behalf of Perikatan, with Permatang Pauh, the home base of former mentor Anwar Ibrahim, serving as the first stop of his tour.

It’s left to be seen, of course, if Azmin and Perikatan’s plan to win hearts and minds will actually translate to real gains considering Pakatan’s dominance in the state since 2008. However, if the Sheraton Move and indeed the recent crisis have taught us anything, it’s that loyalty means very little in politics.

More Qs on that Goldman deal ... and other odds and ends

That deal Malaysia cut with Goldman Sachs Inc. for compensation over its role in the 1Malaysia Development Board (1MDB) scandal is still being discussed, and once again the guy who formerly headed the Money Ministry is taking Perikatan Nasional to task for it.

 

If you recall, Saudara Lim Guan Eng had a lot to say following the government’s announcement of its agreement with the Wall Street investment bank last week, and the main issue being brought up by the former finance minister, this time, is whether we’ve been duped.

 

According to Guan Eng, Pakatan Harapan had previously insisted on nothing short of US$7.5 billion in compensation, as it would’ve covered the bonds the bank helped facilitate as well as interests costs. However, that figure was almost halved in the recent deal, which begs the question of whether “justice is served”.

 

PM Moo and his Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz have yet to respond to any of the concerns voiced over the Goldman deal though, so it’s anyone’s guess if Saudara Lim will get his latest query answered. But he, like the rest of Malaysia, is certainly entitled to an explanation.

 

Elsewhere, in related 1MDB-developments, another international banker has been found guilty over his role in the scandal. The TL;DR version is that the dude acted carelessly despite there being signs of money laundering. Meanwhile, Macau’s top security official has not only denied that Jho Low is hiding out there, he’s also slammed our cops for breaching international police practice by “unilaterally” releasing information without prior consultation. Ouch!

 

Here, anyways, are some other bits and bobs from the weekend’s headlines that you should know about heading into Monday:

  • Pakatan Harapan has agreed to allow Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Bersatu faction to contest the upcoming Slim state by-election against Umno. The Slim by-election will be held on Aug 29, with nominations set for Aug 15.
     
  • The Comms Ministry is formulating laws to “protect” the music industry. Hmmm. If protecting means ensuring the industry thrives, then, by all means, go ahead. We have a sneaking suspicion though, that the gomen’s idea of protection will include elements of control.
     
  • Contrary to rumours, former PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is not ill, an aide of his confirmed. Viral messages on Sunday had suggested that the ex-PM’s health was deteriorating.
     
  • Former Bersih chief Ambiga Sreenevasan has refuted claims she’s being considered for the role of Election Commission boss. The lawyer and human rights activist was forced to issue the denial after right-wing group Pertubuhan Pribumi Perkasa Malaysia (Perkasa) kicked up a fuss about Ambiga’s apparent appointment.

“If a frog becomes a king, he will make the whole kingdom muddy."

- Mehmet Murat Ildan -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Australia’s Victoria state has declared a “state of disaster” and introduced nightly curfews for the capital, Melbourne, in a bid to rein in a new wave of Covid-19 infections. Under the new movement curbs, only one person per household is allowed to leave their homes once a day during non-curfew hours to stock up on essentials.
     
  • Meanwhile, even as health experts in the United States warn that some 20,000 more could die there within the next three weeks, President Donald Trump has sought to contradict his infectious diseases consultant Dr Anthony Fauci that the country’s high numbers are due to less aggressive government policies. According to The Donald, the US has more cases simply because “we have tested far more than any other country.” Uh-huh. That’s why.
     
  • According to a new study, Ernest Hemingway’s published works are littered with errors. That’s not the fault of the legendary writer, though, but blundering editors and typesetters who in one instance, apparently, couldn’t tell a bat from a hat.
     
  • Arsenal bested Chelsea 2-1 early Sunday morning to bag a record 14th English FA Cup. The Gunners’ goals came courtesy of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, while Christian Pulisic scored for Chelsea.
     
  • By the way, that Nike ad that social media’s gone crazy about has been viewed over 30 million times since it was released days ago. Watch it here, if you haven’t already.

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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