The Auditor-General’s Report has again given us an insight into just how efficient our government ministries, departments and agencies are (sarcasm mode fully on). Released in Parliament yesterday, the report includes a passage that details that nearly 1,000 our roads may be ticking time bombs.

In other news, an MP has retracted an offensive remark made in the Dewan Rakyat but is still being lambasted for it (and rightly so); the opposition is still pissed about the appointment of the new Speaker of the House; there may be a new political party soon; and, we’re back to having no local transmissions of Covid-19.

Government 'efficiency'

Slopes of death and other sordid stories

The Auditor-General’s Report is a journalist’s dream. Every time it is tabled in the Dewan Rakyat, there are oodles of noodles things for journos to write about, many of which are critical of government ministries and departments.
 
These are juicy little tidbits about the way these entities are mismanaged, or just plain cheated. Yesterday was no different as the third series of the A-G’s Report for 2018 was released, a little later than planned.
 
With all the things going in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday, only a few items in the report came out in our media. But of the little that did come out, this was probably the most shocking: apparently, routine maintenance inspections of slopes along federal roads in the peninsula hadn’t been carried out for seven years. In other words, if a slope was in danger of collapsing, no one would know it. 
 
And, you have to remember that this was the 2018 A-G’s Report. Have these slopes been inspected since then? The report goes on to say that there were 946 high-risk slopes in the peninsula, with Pahang having the most at 276.
 
So basically, there are nearly 1,000 stretches of federal roads which are potential death traps. Should a landslide occur, there is no telling how many people could lose their lives.
 
Let’s put things in perspective. Malaysia is a country which experiences torrential rain. The volumes of water loosen soil and can, without warning, send earth and mud crashing and flowing downhill. It has been estimated that some 100 landslides happen here annually
 
Just take, for example, the Karak area in Pahang. Between 1985 and 2015, there were at least 12 reported landslides, the worst of which was in 1995 near Genting Sempah, when 21 people were killed and 23 others injured. 
 
The sad thing is that the excuse given for the halt to the routine maintenance inspections was financial constraint. Shouldn’t precautionary measures, and important ones at that, be a priority, so people don’t lose their lives for nothing?
 
But the ‘fantastic’ news didn’t stop there. According to the A-G, more than a third of vessels belonging to our security forces (in this case, the Royal Malaysian Navy, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and Maritime Police) are either damaged or not functioning properly, crippling efforts to curb smuggling and encroachment. 
 
That is absolutely brilliant, especially when coupled with the fact that the A-G also found that our beloved friends in China encroached sovereign Malaysian waters 89 times between 2016 and 2019 (that Malaysia knows of, at least). The Chinese Coast Guard entered our waters illegally 72 times, while the People’s Liberation Army-Navy did so 17 times. 
 
And if our security forces are crippled, so was our Immigration Department. Between 2016 and 2018, there were more than 200,000 foreigners with no record of departure from Malaysia. This was because the Malaysian Immigration System, or MyIMMs, experienced nearly 4,500 “downtime” issues!
 
The good news is that the department has managed to trace and resolve some records, amounting to some 15,000 foreigners, leaving ‘only 198,479 record unresolved. Where these people are, whether they had left the country or not, remains a mystery.

Perhaps this is why someone like former Sabah CM Musa Aman managed to leave the country in 2018, despite supposedly being on an Immigration blacklist. 

The big question, as always, is what happens now? What happens to all these cases of mismanagement? Are they investigated further to determine if there are elements of corruption? Is action taken against those involved? Most importantly, what changes?

No forgiving Baling

If his first day as the new Dewan Rakyat Speaker wasn’t as smooth as he had hoped it would be, Azhar “Art” Harun yesterday sorta made up for his mistakes from the previous day.
 
He reviewed the House’s hansard and come to the conclusion that remarks by Baling MP Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim against DAP’s Batu Kawan MP Kasthuriraani Patto the previous day were indeed offensive and ordered the Umno man to retract his “gelap” (dark) remark. 
 
Azeez complied, but gave the stupid excuse that he had meant the area in which Kasthuri had been seated was dark, and that it was not meant to describe her person. Kasthuri objected to this, calling for action to be taken against Azeez.
 
She said the remark was personal, as Azeez had also told her to put on powder. And we gotta say Kasthuri has every right to think it so. Azeez’s defence was plain ridiculous.
 
And we’re not the only ones to think so, as women’s rights coalition Joint Action Group for Gender Equality has also called for sanctions against Azeez, even though he had retracted his statement. The coalition says Parliament must not allow any semblance of racism, colourism and sexism in its proceedings. 
 
We agree with this, of course. There is no place for this shit in the august House (actually, anywhere, for that matter). It’s gone on for too long, even in state legislative assemblies. Who can forget DAP bigwig Nga Kor Ming (yes, the same one who until recently was Deputy Dewan Rakyat Speaker) calling then Perak MB Zambry Abd Kadir “metallic black” and having to apologise for it?
 
Azhar’s position, of course, has become a controversial one as PM Muhyiddin Yassin’s motion to replace the previous Speaker went through without a vote. Pakatan Harapan has called his appointment a black mark on democracy as it was interference by the executive arm in the legislative arm of government. 
 
They also questioned why the appointment of Azhar had not been put to a vote, a theme also taken up by a group of MPs (the Bersatu “rebels”, of course) led by former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad
 
Azhar had been appointed after he was nominated by PM Moo, who is Pagoh MP, to replace Mohamad Ariff Mohd Yusof. Muhyiddin had tabled a motion to have Ariff replaced and this went through after the “ayes” beat out the “nays” by 111 votes to 109.
 
Muhyiddin, as an MP, has the right to table a motion, and it had been accepted by Ariff himself. But the bone of contention is that there was no 14-day notice filed, therefore depriving the opposition of the opportunity to nominate their own candidate.

The sad part is that Art Harun may eventually turn out to be a good Speaker – his previous track record as a lawyer and the chairman of the Election Commission indicate as such. But the manner of his appointment and his actions on the first couple of days on the job would no doubt forever be a black mark. 
 
Anyhoo, our MPs were a rather busy lot yesterday as a number of things were discussed. Here are some of the more relevant or interesting reports out of Parliament:

  • The Perikatan gomen is not thinking about formulating anti-party hopping laws, at least for now, as they are considered unconstitutional. Funnily enough, they have an ally in this respect in Maddey Mohamad, who says he is not against party hopping but added that what befell the Pakatan government when MooMoo took Bersatu out of the coalition was intolerable. Translation: If people were to frog it over to Mads, that would be OK, but it isn’t if they hop out of bed with him. 
     
  • Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamarudin was up in arms yesterday when egged on by Pakatan’s Mahfuz Omar, who had suggested that she should check with PAS whether it was in favour of her pet project, a push for local government elections, as the Islamist party was afraid that non-Muslims would take over the country. Zuraida hit back by saying none of the Pakatan MPs had supported her when then PM Mahathir shot down her push when Pakatan was in power. 
     
  • Meanwhile, DAP MPs said later they would support Zuraida if she were to push for local government elections, which the minister said would cost somewhere in the region of RM308 million
     
  • The Special Committee to Review Alternative Punishments to the Mandatory Death Penalty will table a comprehensive report to the Cabinet for discussion and approval. Yes, that’s the same committee set up under the Pakatan gomen which had promised but never got around to doing away with mandatory death penalty laws. 
     
  • Several MPs are calling for the government to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry into misconduct by the previous management of Lembaga Tabung Haji which led to RM10.3 billion in losses. 
     
  • There seems to be further opposition to the setting up of the proposed Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC). Pontian MP Ahmad Maslan has suggested that police agreement be obtained before the commission is set up. Last year, IGP Abdul Hamid Bador had urged the government not to be hasty in tabling the IPCMC Bill in Parliament, despite only several months earlier giving his support for the commission to be set up. 

Founding fever?

Will we see a new political party in Malaysia soon?
 
No, it’s not the party purportedly being set up by former PKR deputy prez Azmin Ali. There is no such application so far, at least as far as the Registrar of Societies is concerned. 
 
It’s one which may well be founded by our favourite nonagenarian, Mahathir. In an interview with a Hong Kong based business news website Investvine, Mads floated the idea of contesting under a new party which he would found, presumably with other Bersatu rebels and supporters. 
 
If that happens, it would be the second party he will have founded, having set up Bersatu together with sonny-boy Mukhriz and present PM MooMoo in 2016. 
 
In the interview, Maddey said a number of other things, including that the present gomen had impinged on media freedom and that he had been against nepotism during his time as PM4. And we laughed. 
 
It’s not that we don’t agree with him. We do. Well, in the first instance we do. In the second, well, we have our reservations.
 
What we find funny is that this seems to be a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Let’s take a look at press freedom. Don’t just take our word for it that Mahathir was no champion of press freedom in the 1980s and 90s.
 
An excerpt from this book shows that Mahathir controlled the press, which didn’t have anything critical to say about the government under him. He is stated as being a mistrust of the Malaysian press, exceeded only by his detestation of the foreign press. Or how about this opening line from an article in the magazine Foreign Policy, which declares ol’ Maddey one of the world’s 10 greatest enemies of press freedom? 
 
In the second instance, we have to agree somewhat with Mads. He did keep his children out of politics until he retired from office as PM4. But he has never entirely explained away accusations that it was nepotism that allowed the fruits of his loins to amass fabulous riches. The accusations don’t go away when there are situations like how, after Mahathir became PM7, a company linked to his son, Mirzan, was almost immediately appointed one of the fuel providers for government vehicles
 
In other political news, it appears that Parti Warisan Sabah president Shafie Apdal is still not happy that Pakatan Harapan has picked Anwar Ibrahim as its PM candidate. He said it had been Pakatan parties DAP and Amanah which had picked him as a possible candidate, adding that the U-turn in supporting Anwar showed just how indecisive Pakatan was. 
 
Shafie also claimed PM Muhyiddin, in the political horse-trading which followed the collapse of the Pakatan gomen earlier this year, had invited Warisan to join with Bersatu. He said he believed Moo was even willing to offer him the No. 2 position in order to gain Warisan’s support. 

All these point to a rather fractious Pakatan coalition. And, as pointed out by sources in this article, this is one of the advantages that Perikatan (which, to be fair, is looking increasingly fractious itself) would have if Muhyiddin were to dissolve Parliament now and call for snap polls. 

Covid-19 and the remaining bits and bobs

It was a good news, bad news kinda day as far as Covid-19 is concerned, though that does sound like a familiar theme over the past few months.
 
Let’s start with the bad news first. A local study of people who had recovered from Covid-19 shows that the level of antibodies in their system drops sharply after three months. The study was focused on the Sungai Lui cluster and this showed that those who recovered only had antibody levels of only 20%. 
 
This means that those who have recovered from Covid-19 could possibly be infected again at a later date. And if you think this is a local phenomenon, think again, cos Health DG Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah says studies in other parts of the world have shown similar results.
 
Also under the bad news column is that the unemployment rate is still on the uptrend. The unemployment rate for May stood at 5.3%, up 0.3% from April.

Elsewhere, there are still 225 idiots returnees who have yet to take their second Covid-19 test. 
 
The good news is that Malaysia is now back to having a zero local transmission rate. Yesterday’s four new cases were all imported, bringing the total number of cases to 8,729. There were also four recoveries, leaving the total number of active cases at 83. The number of deaths remains at 122
 
Meanwhile, here are a few other Covid and non-Covid-related stories which appeared yesterday:

  • Socso has distributed some RM5.2 billion under the Prihatin wage subsidy programme as of June 30
     
  • The Malaysia-Singapore border will reopen on Aug 10 under the Reciprocal Green Lane and Periodic Commuting Arrangement travel schemes, allowing citizens from either side to cross for work or official purposes. 
     
  • The government has identified two pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities belong to Pharmaniaga and Duopharma Biotech Bhd for the bottling of Covid-19 vaccines once these are found. 
     
  • Driving schools will be allowed to conduct courses and training sessions beginning Tuesday
     
  • The government is going to set up a Bumiputera Prosperity Council to empower bumiputeras. All good. But perhaps the bigger question they should ask themselves is why after all these decades of affirmative action policies and untold billions (hundreds of billions? a trillion?) spent, the community still hasn’t been empowered. And what about a prosperity council for non-Bumis who still need empowerment? When’s that gonna happen?
     
  • Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s corruption trial was told yesterday that a RM9 million donation to him to build mosques were “an investment in the afterlife“. We kid you not. 
     
  • Selangor has banned smoking, vaping and drinking in playgrounds and parks with immediate effect. Guess this means the days of night-time beers in the padang are over. Selangor-ians will just have to hop over the state line to KL if they want to have a sneaky ciggie or a cheeky nip. 

“The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help."

- Ronald Reagan -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • US President Donald Trump’s administration has dropped plans to deport foreign students enrolled in online-only classes. 
     
  • British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell has been denied bail in the Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking case against her. 
     
  • Hong Kong has unveiled its most sweeping social distancing rules yet even as the US reports promising results in one company’s quest to develop a Covid-19 vaccine. 
     
  • Police have identified a body found in Lake Piru, California, as that of missing “Glee” star Naya Rivera. Rivera had been swimming in the lake with her 4-year-old son and police believe she had managed to save the boy by pushing him onto the boat they had rented before she drowned. 
     
  • Grant Imahara, the popular co-host of “Mythbusters” who also made special effects for films, including the Star Wars prequels, has died suddenly at the age of 49. 

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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