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Police roadblocks in MCO-era Malaysia are meant to keep us safe. Yet, incidents of harassment involving women (allegedly! allegedly!) suggest that's not always the case.

Elsewhere, our Covid-19 numbers dip slightly; the gomen promises free vaccines for all; a minister's in hot water again for apparently breaking SOP; and Umno leaders deny knowledge of a secret slush fund.

To serve and protect?

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

In other words, “who’ll watch the watchmen”? Our police are in the spotlight thanks to two episodes of alleged sexual harassment that’ve prompted renewed calls for tougher laws.

In the first case, a woman claimed an officer who’d earlier stopped her at an MCO roadblock tried to pick her up. The b̶u̶a̶y̶a̶ copper had jotted down her phone number on the pretext of carrying out his duties, and later texted her to “get to know her” (allegedly! allegedly!). 

The incident, recounted by the alleged victim on Twitter resulted in more claims of inappropriate behaviour surfacing. This included a more troubling one in which an itchified officer at another roadblock pointed out that a woman wasn’t wearing a bra, forced her to exchange phone numbers, and asked her to expose herself to avoid a fine for failing to produce her driving licence (again, allegedly! allegedly!).

The cops involved have since been identified. However, while Bukit Aman’s Integrity and Standard Compliance Department boss promises investigations that’re transparent and thorough, what’s unclear is if a criminal probe is also on the table. After all, outraging and insulting modesty are crimes under the Penal Code (see Sections 354 and 509).

The cases have renewed calls for better laws — to both regulate cops and protect women. And what especially sucks is that these could’ve already been in place. 

In the case of police oversight laws, despite a push when Pakatan Harapan first took office, the Bill that would’ve seen an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) set up never got passed. Instead, said Bill was replaced by the watered-down Independent Police Conduct Commission (IPCC) Bill, and even that’s not been passed yet!

Meanwhile, the Sexual Harassment Bill keeps getting postponed and will probably be delayed more now that Parliament’s been suspended.

Incidentally (and infuriatingly), while several women politicians have spoken out against the recent cases, the only thing Rina Harun, the current women, family and community development minister, has said is that the Sexual Harassment Bill will be ready imminently. Thing is – she said much the same in July last year!!!

BTW, if you’re keeping score, dear Datuk Seri’s also said zilch about the Miri lockup rape incident involving a teenage girl and the death and abuse of a kid in Melaka. You know, all the stuff that should fall under her purview?

P.S. These two articles (links here and here) on what the cops can and cannot do at roadblocks should clue you in on your rights as a road user.  

Is it getting better? Or do you feel the same?

Huzzah! Covid vaccines are coming! And they’re gonna be free for everyone, citizens, non-citizens, and undocumented migrants alike, according to our Great Immunator!

The move to innoculate everyone’s a welcome and necessary one, no doubt. Still, you’ve gotta wonder if undocumented folks’ll get amnesty and if they’ll even trust us enough to come forward this time. The herd immunity plan’ll only work if more folks come forward for inoculation.

Lest we forget, promises of no action were made before to get all these migrants tested only for the powers-that-be to U-turn and initiate raids and arrests. Once bitten, twice shy. 

Registrations kick off in March — signing up is necessary for problem-free dispensation, since vaccination is voluntary. Folks can soon enrol manually at hospitals/clinics, through a special hotline number, the MySejahtera app, officers in rural areas, and a to-be-launched website.

Anyway, just hang tight – PM Muhyiddin Yassin’s set to announce more deets tomorrow.

Ooh, also – Happy Valentine’s Day to us! Yesterday’s Covid-19 tally of 2,464 was the lowest Malaysia’s registered since Jan 11 (when it was 2,232).

Recoveries were at a record 4,525 while active cases appear to be trending downwards over the CNY break. FYI, a total of 12,665 cases and 42 deaths were recorded between Thursday and Sunday.

We’ll take any silver lining, regardless of how slim, despite the fact total infections and fatalities are inching towards 270,000 and 1,000 respectively.

It’s also too early to tell if we’re heading to the two-digit daily case projection by May, especially as the Rt or infectivity rate’s inched upward since Feb 11’s low of 0.88. (See last Tuesday’s BTL for how the Rt values work.)

Furthermore, the Health Ministry isn’t testing as many people as it used to, so let’s not get too carried away and discard our face masks just yet, especially since most of us will have to wait till 2022 to get those free vaccinations. 

Dining in, party of way too many?

After coming under fire for “coincidentally” walking with pals in contravention of MCO rules, FT Minister Annuar Musa’s in the doghouse again — this time for breaking bread with a group of peeps at the same table during an urban farming event.

Why is this bad? Cos gomen – his gomen! – rules clearly state only two people per table are allowed!

Annuar’s since claimed he only sat for a moment but got up in a jiffy as organisers hadn’t abided by SOPs. Could this be true? Maybe. But why sit at all when it should’ve been clear to anyone with two eyes and a kindergarten understanding of math that there were more than two diners at the table? 6 ≠ 2 sir!

Also, would any other regular joe have gotten away from an RM1k fine with that excuse?

Here’s another thing, aren’t events a no-no during the MCO? The National Security Council’s latest guide clearly state that official and non-official gomen and private events aren’t allowed (refer to page 8 here). If so, how and why did an urban farming event get approved? And shouldn’t Annu have known this?

The cops, following a whole bunch of whacking by Malaysians on soc-med, opposition lawmakers and at least one of Annuar’s rival Umno colleagues, have said they’ll investigate. Will anything come of this? Time will tell.

Speaking of SOPs, non-Muslim places of worship have been allowed to reopen although with stricter SOPs in place.

Among these rules are that worshipers are limited to 30 people max. This appears to be starkly different from the sitch at mosques and suraus at certain locations like in the Federal Territories, where up to half the capacity of a venue’s allowed. 

The different rules might well be ‘cos things pertaining to Islam are decided on at state-level while stuff concerning non-Muslim places of worship come under the purview of the National Unity Ministry

Still, need we point out that Covid-19 isn’t particular about the faith of its targets, so we might wanna have some consistency in how the pax limits are applied. 

Anyhoo, here’re a few more MCO and Covid-19 highlights:

  • More sports and recreational activities are now allowed under the MCO with driving and flight schools also able to resume operations.
     
  • Health experts warn that extending the MCO by another week or two — it’s set to end on Thursday — will do nothing to curb a surge in cases.
     
  • Price caps will be set for Covid tests. Currently, RT-PCR tests are priced at RM150 while it’s RM60 for the rapid test variety in public hospitals/clinics. The costs vary greatly, though, at private facilities.

Of slush funds and other bits and bobs

There’s been much focus on Umno’s alleged secret unaudited account over the past few days, with party leaders consistently denying the existence of the account, which is allegedly meant for political donations. 

The revelation, made by the prosecution in a 1MDB-linked suit, alleged that the account was set up in 1988 when Dr Mahathir Mohamad was Umno prez. However, the party’s current leaders say they know nothing about it. Maddey could know more, but so far, PM4/8 has kept mum.

Last check, the account reportedly had some serious change – over RM190 mil last year! To know more on this account and why this is a big deal, you can read this explainer piece.

While you chew on that, here are more odds and ends in the news:

  • Malaysia’s economy contracted last year to its lowest point since the 1998 Asian financial crisis. But, analysts feel we’re well-positioned for recovery, depending on the policies introduced.
     
  • Gerakan, which left Barisan Nasional in the wake of GE14, has formally joined Perikatan Nasional. So much for wanting to be a third force huh?
     
  • All restrictions for EPF’s i-Sinar initiative, which allows for cash withdrawals, have been removed. This was previously only available to contributors who’d lost their jobs or whose incomes were significantly reduced ‘cos of the pandemic.

    FYI, this move comes after EPF announced it was replacing its CEO. Outgoing Tunku Alizakri Alias had been vocal against allowing contributors to withdraw funds from Account 1, saying that would “mortgage the future” of members.
     
  • The operators of Sugarbook will be investigated following claims uni students have been using the app to hook up with sugar daddies.

    A ban of the app’s also being mulled. We dunno, shouldn’t actual bad behaviour (you know, like cops overstepping their boundaries) take priority over what seems to be consensual relations (keyword, consensual) between two adults?
     
  • Yesterday was the 79th death anniversary of Lt Adnan Saidi, the iconic hero of the Battle of Pasir Panjang. Rest in power, sir. We wonder what you’d make of the country you fought and died for. 

“I cannot trust a man to control others who cannot control himself.”

- Robert E. Lee -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Donald Trump survived his impeachment trial after the majority of Republicans in the US Senate refused to punish him for the Capitol riots. 

    The main point of contention among Republicans was that the Senate had no jurisdiction to punish a non-sitting president. Thing is, it was Republicans like former senate majority leader Mitch McConnell who’d rejected the idea of trying Trump while he was still in office!
     
  • Japan was hit by a 7.3 magnitude quake Saturday. While it didn’t do a whole load of damage, it’s significant in that it’s an aftershock of the devastating 2011 Tōhoku earthquake. An aftershock 10 years later! Malaysian timing! 😂
     
  • Protests in Myanmar show no signs of stopping since the country’s military usurped power two weeks ago. In response, the junta’s once again shut down the internet and blocked mobile services to large swathes of the country.
     
  • Yoshiro Mori, boss of Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic organising committee, has resigned a week after making derogatory statements about women. Mori had complained during a meeting that “talkative women” make meetings “drag on too long”. 
     
  • Quite a bit of stuff on the Covid front. The biggest one is that China apparently refused to share raw patient data with the WHO team who visited Wuhan, the site of the first Covid outbreak. Instead, they only gave case summaries.

    Without that info, WHO scientists can’t conduct their own analysis on how early and how widely the virus spread in China. This is especially troublesome since WHO has found signs that the outbreak was much wider in Wuhan than originally thought. Problem is, WHO needs access to hundreds of thousands of blood samples – which China ain’t giving them access to. 🤦
     
  • Meanwhile, AstraZeneca will begin Covid vaccine testing on kids, with 300 children, between the ages of six and 17, in the first batch of trials. 
     
  • Auckland’s locking down for three days following the discovery of new cases of Covid-19. The three-day period is a weird one considering the disease’s incubation period is much longer. Still, maybe Jacinda Ardern knows best.

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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