PM Muhyiddin Yassin was on the telly yesterday, with yet another announcement on what the plan is in the battle against Covid-19. But it feels like the strategy this time round is a little off.

Meanwhile, there’s still lots of debate whether the CMCO is a good idea; and there’s a whole lot of trouble brewing, politics wise, starting with our glorious leader facing a vote of no confidence brought about by his own party chairman.

CMCO extended, but…

Have we made a rash decision?

PM Muhyiddin Yassin announced yesterday that the conditional movement control order (CMCO) would be extended a further four weeks, till June 9. This means that by the time this is over – if it in fact does end on June 9 – Malaysia would have been locked down for 3 months.

But, the extension wasn’t unexpected considering the number of new Covid-19 infections daily is still in the high double digits. In fact, experts had already been calling for the extension even before Moo’s announcement. 
 
It’s almost certain a large reason for extending the CMCO was to avoid the massive crush of hundreds of thousands of people going back to their kampungs during Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Kaamatan and Hari Gawai; which is why Muhyiddin said interstate travel wouldn’t be allowed during the festive period.

It’s also likely why the CMCO has been extended for four weeks this time instead of the usual fortnight. Raya is expected to fall on May 24 while Kaamatan and Gawai will be on May 30-31 and June 1-2. Extending the CMCO for a month means the travel periods before and after these celebrations are covered, leaving no room for ambiguity.

The question though is, what’s the value of the government’s pronouncements considering the last MCO lasted less than half its supposed shelf life before the goalposts were moved, everything was loosened and the MCO became the CMCO? What guarantee is there that the government won’t have a change of heart and perform another U-turn?

And that’s just it – Muhyiddin has, in fact, already shifted the goalposts again. Remember when the gomen said Hari Raya visiting wouldn’t be allowed, even within the same state? That was just a few days ago. 

Yesterday, our grand poobah said the exact opposite – Raya visiting WOULD be allowed within state boundaries, with 20 people allowed at a gathering at any given time. 
 
There are so many things that could go wrong here. How do you practice social distancing in a situation like this? Do you expect people to not salam? How do visitors sit a metre apart if they are in a tiny PPR flat? How do you guarantee everybody sanitises themselves?

It will just take one infected person to set off a chain reaction. Even with the 20-people-at-a-time restriction, there could easily be 100-200 people visiting a home over the first two days of Raya alone. Imagine if these 100-200 people visit five different houses each, with 19 other different people. And those people then visit other houses. It could end up being disastrous. 
 
The oddest thing about this decision is how unnecessary it was. Why did Moo decide to do this, considering there hasn’t been any huge demand for open houses? The majority of Malaysians, no matter their religion, are aware of the dangers we’re facing.

The only ones with the faulty memories seem to be Moo and Co., who look like they’ve forgotten the lessons of the Sri Petaling tabligh cluster – just one gathering that caused a chain reaction and led to a large chunk of the cases in the country.

As it is, we’re still seeing new clusters. The latest is among foreign construction workers in Setia Alam, Selangor. Parts of Petaling Jaya’s old town have also been placed under enhanced MCO following an increase in infections in areas surrounding the Jalan Othman wet market, where a trader had tested positive for Covid-19 last month. And if you think that’s a small thing – think again, cos it’s gonna take 10 days to test all 2,900 residents in the affected area. 

Let’s hope the government thinks things through properly before they announce the SOPs for congregational prayers in houses of worship. Not performing obligations at mosques, churches, temples, etc is something people have largely managed to reconcile themselves with and there really isn’t a massive need to lift the closure on mass religious gatherings. So, whatever SOPs announced need to actually be enough to ensure we don’t trigger another wave. 
 
A new wave would be heartbreaking as the Health Ministry is confident of bringing the daily infection rate down to single digits within the next week or two. In all, there were 67 new infections yesterday, bringing total infections since the outbreak began to 6,566. There were 96 recoveries (5,025 in total). Nobody died of Covid, meaning that grim tally stays at 108.
 
But all this hard work – and all the sacrifices of our frontliners – will be for naught if new clusters appear because of the relaxing of regulations for Hari Raya. And the single-digit dream can be kissed goodbye, at least for some time.

Why the silence, Moo?

PM Muhyiddin in his address yesterday had a word of thanks for frontliners who’ve been working hard throughout our heavyweight title bout with Covid-19, as well as “all Malaysians from Perlis to Sabah” for their discipline in adhering to the MCO and CMCO. 
 
Too bad then he didn’t share his thoughts on the level of discipline of VIP violators (or their children). Listening to Moo speak made us throw up in our mouths a bit – it was both hypocritical and patronising for Moo to praise and advise us plebes for adhering to the MCO but not having the b̶a̶l̶l̶s̶ guts to say anything about Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali and Razman ZakariaAhmad Samsuri Mokhtar or Nurul Hidayah Ahmad Zahid and hubby. 

Anyway, let’s leave Muhyiddin’s scrotal gumption, or lack thereof, aside and look at other things. 

Though the CMCO is already well underway, there’s still a healthy debate going on as to whether it was a good move in the first place. We’ve said before it must have been a super-tough decision to weigh the need to keep everyone safe against ensuring the country’s economy is not too badly hit, and certain experts seem to agree.
 
Economists have praised the decision to ease restrictions under the MCO by replacing it with the CMCO, saying it’s necessary to balance the nation’s economic interests with public health. The decision, they said, was aided not only by the better-than-projected numbers as far as infections were concerned, but also the high compliance rate among Malaysians in general. 
 
However, the Malaysian Health Coalition (MHC) says the government must exercise caution and a gradual opening of economic sectors. MHC, which represents 45 organisations and 19 individuals, says it’s vital the government stipulates guidelines for the reopening of economies, while at the same time taking into account the views of various quarters, especially public health experts. 
 
Anyhoo, a number of other coronavirus-related things came out over the weekend, and here are some of the more relevant ones:

  • Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob says the government has so far collected just over RM40 million for its Covid-19 fund and detailed how the monies are being spent. 
     
  • The Inland Revenue Board says those whose applications for Bantuan Prihatin Nasional aid were rejected can now appeal the decision. However, they will have to submit supporting documents proving they’re unemployed or have had their income reduced. 
     
  • The government will loosen interstate travel rules for working spouses to allow them to reunite with their families. Looks like malam Jumaat is back, folks. 😉 
     
  • Kuala Lumpur City Hall has closed a construction site in Jalan Ampang for 30 days after 27 Covid-19 cases were detected among its workers. 
     
  • Health DG Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has praised health inspectors Shahir Razali and Mastura Maznor, calling them heroes and examples of the Health Ministry’s tagline “we are ready to serve”. Pictures have gone viral of the duo helping an elderly woman, with Shahir carrying her to get tested for Covid-19 and Mastura holding her walker. Well done!

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble

Politics is well and truly back to entertain (or to frustrate?) us!

It was again the other major topic over the weekend, beginning with Friday’s decision by Dewan Rakyat Speaker Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof to accept a notice from former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad for a motion of no confidence against PM Muhyiddin in the coming session of Parliament. 
 
Should the vote carry through, Muhyiddin would have to resign as PM or request for a dissolution of Parliament from the Agong, meaning we would have to go to the polls just two years after last general election. Of course, the King can refuse to dissolve Parliament if he so chooses. 
 
But even as news of the vote of no confidence came out on Friday, roadblocks were thrown in its way, with de facto law minister Takiyuddin Hassan saying government matters would be prioritised during the Dewan Rakyat session. With this session limited to just a day due to the CMCO you can see how the motion may not see the light of day – at least during this sitting. 

But here’s the thing with this no confidence motion. Yes, this is a backdoor government that isn’t representative of the people’s choices in the last elections. But on the other hand, is a change in government what we need during a time of crisis? Is the additional RM500 million cost of elections something we need to add to our beleaguered economy? Honestly, it’s a head-scratcher for us. 

Whatever it is, that one-day sitting of Parliament is looking dodgier and dodgier. The latest WTF moment is the Speaker’s decision to restrict press coverage to only government media. Journalist groups are hopping mad (with good reason) and have called for media access to be reinstated for all media organisations, and not just those bastions of independent journalism, Bernama and RTM.

The ostensible reasons for the restrictions is the oh-so convenient CMCO. Meaning, it’s OK for the media to cover everything else to do with Covid-19 and the MCO/CMCO, but not Parliament. Sheesh!
 
The drama about to unfold in Parliament looks like nothing compared to what’s happening in Mahathir and Muhyiddin’s party, Bersatu, though. Over the weekend, reports emerged that a party supreme council meeting (so party meetings are fine but parliament isn’t??!?) had been planned for today without Maddey, his son Mukhriz and Mahathir loyalists like ex-Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman.

As chairman and deputy president, Mahathir and Mukhriz are, of course, supreme council members and the meeting sans their presence is obviously a prelude to a move against them – the worst-case scenario is them getting the boot from the party. However, that meeting has been postponed, so that sword of Damocles continues to hang over the old man’s head for a while.

The younger man may not even last as long as that in his current position, as Mukhriz is facing an ouster from his position as Kedah MB. Mukhriz has lost the support of other Bersatu assemblymen as they sided with Muhyiddin on the party’s withdrawal from Pakatan. Let’s face it – he only ever enjoyed their support by virtue of being his father’s son and with daddy now in the doghouse, all that support is melting away. 

PAS and Umno are also against him continuing as the state leader and though PAS is still playing coy about any plan to replace Mukhriz as MB, his days are clearly numbered. 

Further south, trouble is brewing in Johor, between erstwhile partners Bersatu and Umno. Bersatu’s Mazlan Bujang had claimed the conflict, said to be over political appointments, had been resolved. But Umno’s Osman Sapian, a former Johor MB, called Mazlan a liar, saying nothing is resolved.

All in all, things aren’t looking good for Bersatu. Yes, they may be in government and have the PM-ship. But they’ve betrayed their old friends and aren’t endearing themselves to their new ones. And worst of all, they aren’t impressing the voting populace even one tiny bit. If things continue this way, it’s all but certain Maddey’s dire prediction will come true: Bersatu will be annihilated at the next general election.

And you know what? Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Bits and bobs

Here are some other things which came out yesterday that we decided to include in brief:

  • Outspoken former radio announcer and veteran actor Patrick Teoh has been arrested and remanded for three days to facilitate investigations into claims he had insulted the Tengku Mahkota of Johor in an FB post which has since been taken down.
     
  • Putrajaya is set to have its third mosque as well as a Quran Village as its population is set to increase from 120,000 to 300,000 in five years’ time. We know the vast majority of Putrajaya residents are Muslims and we’re sure another mosque will be very much needed in the future, but shouldn’t the government be prioritising the battle against Covid-19 and the recovery of our economy for the time being? Or at least wait till later to announce this. 
     
  • The Election Commission will seek the input of the National Security Council and the Health Ministry before deciding on steps to be taken for the Chini by-election following the death of the constituency’s assemblyman Abu Bakar Harun. 
     
  • The Domestic Trade Ministry has given its assurances that there will be adequate supply of goods for the upcoming Hari Raya celebration. 
     
  • Two boys aged 4 and 6 have, amazingly, been found alive 12 hours after a car crash in which their parents were killed. The two were said to have been flung out of the vehicle when it crashed after one of its tyres burst. What’s even more amazing is that the boys only suffered minor injuries. 

“Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash.”

- General George S. Patton -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • The total number of known Covid-19 cases worldwide has surpassed the 4 million mark, with more than 276,000 deaths. You can keep track of the numbers here
     
  • British PM Boris Johnson, himself a Covid-19 survivor, has revealed plans to modify the UK’s lockdown measures, including an alert system that is being planned. 
     
  • The US is considering more Covid-19 aid, having already set forth a US$3 trillion aid package, as unemployment rates are projected to rise above 20%. Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence says he will not self-quarantine even though his press secretary has test positive. 
     
  • Japan is looking at lifting the state of emergency in some areas ahead of the May 31 deadline. This despite the government saying that more than 90% of Tokyo hospital beds allocated for Covid-19 cases are occupied. 
     
  • As if battling the coronavirus wasn’t enough, Indian and Chinese border troops were reported to have battled each other recently, leaving 11 injured. Thankfully, it was just a physical clash with no firearms or anything worse involved. 
     
  • Rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Little Richard has died of bone cancer at the age of 87. The Grammy Award winner and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee was well-known for his flamboyant persona and hits such as Tutti FruttiGood Golly, Miss MollyLucille; and, Long Tall Sally

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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