Another minister's in the spotlight over an apparent breach of Covid-19 SOPs at a cycling event. The organiser claims there was nothing "fun" about the event. Still, you can bet there'll be no 'get fined RM10k first, appeal later' treatment here.

In other news, we gotta convince elderly Malaysians to get vaccinated; the gomen springs plans for new/not-so-new laws on Islam, and Anwar Ibrahim continues buddying up to Umno.

Ride along, nothing to see here

I want to ride my bicycle

From skipping quarantinejoint morning walks and special temple visits to a PM welcoming committee, the past year has seen the powers that be unable to shake allegations of double standards when it comes to enforcement of Covid-19 SOPs.

You’d think with rising public frustrations, they’d be more careful, wouldn’t you? Tell that to the National Landscape Department (NLD), which on Saturday organised a cycling event in apparent stark defiance of the latest movement control guidelines.

The rules, as they stand, are crystal — events that make social distancing difficult are a strict no-no. And group events such as fun runs, fun rides, marathons, and triathlons are expressly forbidden (See Page 11 here). Yet, pics from the event at Bukit Kiara Park show cyclists being flagged off by Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin.

The NLD’s appeared to brush off all the hate it’s gotten since Zuzu posted pics of the do by claiming the event wasn’t a public one, nor was it a public “fun ride“. Instead, it just featured 30 cyclists cum department employees.

Needless to say, the rakyat can smell the BS from a mile away. And so can Troll Master General Najib Razak, who asked, if the event wasn’t a fun ride, might it have been a boring ride? 😅 Either way, we’re sure the fun-o-meter is not a gauge in determining if an event breached SOP or not. 

It’s unknown where enforcement authorities were when all this went down, but will RM10,000 fines be issued to everyone in attendance? Zuraida too, as per the ‘saman-first-ask-questions-later’ approach being employed by enforcers on us plebs?

After all, if, like us, Zu and Co. feel hard done by, they could always appeal to the district health office lah. Still, we’re not holding our breaths.

Incidentally, the gomen’s now admitted to problems over the implementation of the RM10k summons for MCO/SOP breaches. It’ll soon spell out what offences would entail the total fine and what won’t.

Perfect innit? As usual, we seem to only wanna sort shit out after the fact.

Anyways, for non VIPs, Pakatan Harapan and Umno are offering free legal aid to help those among us who’ve been unfairly slapped with the fine.

It's an age thing

Despite senior citizens being next up on the Covid vaccination list, mucho concerns have surfaced about elderly persons being hesitant to get jabbed.

There’s no detailed survey as such to show how serious vaccine hesitancy is among this particular group. But info obtained from a handful of interviews and anecdotal accounts suggests that Malaysia ain’t much different from the United States and Canada that’ve reported similar problems.

FYI, Phase 2 of the National Immunisation Programme is slated from April – Aug, targetting some 9.4 million high-risk folks, including the elderly and those with comorbidities. 

So what can we do? Well, besides arm-twisting (not literally!) your parents/grandparents to sign up to get jabbed, Vaccines Tsar Khairy Jamaluddin has called on physicians to help counsel senior folks to get inoculated. 

Additionally, Le Beard promised that the gomen would work with NGOs, elected reps and the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry to get the word out and help them register to be inoculated. 

Lawmakers like DAP’s Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto are organising drives to help the elderly without smartphones register (this Twitter exchange between her and KJ shows some refreshing bi-partisan cooperation for the common good).

Oh, and there’ll be dedicated comms campaigns too, though we can’t say if J-Kom (i.e. the former Jasa) is involved.

Meanwhile, in somewhat related news, the Great Immunator has said the AstraZeneca vaccines will still be deployed for use as soon as they get here.

This, despite several countries having paused their rollouts due to reports of blood clots in certain recipients. KJ’s assured that the gomen will keep studying the clinical data on recent incidents. Malaysia’s move is in line with the World Health Organization (WHO) advice for immunisation campaigns not to be halted.

(Sidenote: Some countries have also refused to sanction AstraZeneca vaccines for the elderly. But those moves have more to do with efficacy concerns — they’re reported to be less effective in persons above a certain age — than anything else.)

BTW, the Sinovac vaccines will start being administered here on Thursday. As previously reported, KJ’ll be the first in line.

And here’re a few more Covid news for you in brief:

  • Monday saw our daily case numbers dip to the lowest it’s been this year, with 1,208 new infections and 3 deaths. Health Minister Dr Adham Baba has said that if the downward trend continues, we could be seeing about 500+ daily cases by May. Fingers, toes and eyes crossed.
     
  • About 1.4 million people never completed their Covid vaccine registration via MySejahtera. If you’re one of these, you’d best get on it pronto or miss out on an immunisation appointment.
     
  • On the subject of appointments, rest assured vaccines will remain free even if you’re handed a date at a private hospital/clinic. 
     
  • Pahang may be under RMCO, but it looks like there’ll be no island getaway yet as Pulau Tioman’s been put under Enhanced MCO from today to March 29.

Religiosity complexity

De facto Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Ahmad Marzuk Shaary has sprung the news that Putrajaya’s planning to introduce some new-not new Syariah laws in a five-year plan that began last year. 

The PAS man’s said this’d include amendments to the Islamic party’s favourite Act 355; and a federal law to halt the spreading of non-Muslim religions to Muslims called the Control and Restriction on the Propagation of Non-Muslim Religions Bill.

In case you’re a bit blur, amendments to Act 355 a.k.a Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 a.k.a “Hudud Bill” has long been advocated by PAS in a bid to increase punishments allowed under the Act and could lead to partial implementation of hudud.

Also, if you remember, Marzuk previously said the gomen’s looking to amend the same law to enable tougher punishments against the LGBT community (FYI, here’s a detailed explanation on the Act and how amendments could/could not affect non-Muslims).

It’s interesting to note that while PAS has always made it a goal to get Act 355 amended, it’s always had to push the motion in Parliament via a private member’s bill (meaning non-government motion). The last time PAS made such a move was in 2018 before GE14. The attempt didn’t go anywhere. 

Now, though, the party’s in a position to spearhead the changes it wants as part of the PN gomen if they’re introduced as government bills. This would give em precedence over other matters when Parliament does eventually sit (if it’s not dissolved first again, that is). 

The big question, of course, would be whether PAS can convince PM Muhyiddin Yassin to make the party’s Syariah goals part of the PN agenda. It might be a problem if MooMoo’s gomen is pursuing the “moderate” path now. 

Still, if elections are truly around the corner, PAS’s move will likely appeal to its supporters and score it brownie points with potential voters of a similar mindset.

As for the Propagation of Non-Muslim Religions Bill, it’s not exactly clear right now what the new bill will entail but similar enactments already exist in several states. But as to what it will do? Precisely what it says it will: prevent non-Muslims from propagating their religion to Muslims. But not vice versa of course. 😏

BTW, this isn’t directly related, but the gomen’s appealing the High Court’s decision that the word “Allah” can be used by non-Muslims in Malaysia. We expected this one as the ruling does go against a 1986 Home Ministry directive. So any gomen will want to seek a decision by the country’s appellate courts. Plus, the gomen cannot be seen to take a side in a matter that is so divisive between the Muslim and non-Muslim community.

Outside of the legal process, a meeting’ll be held with muftis and law experts today to come to a resolution on the matter. Also, our coppers are investigating a fellow for stirring trouble over the court’s recent decision.

As we said before, may cool heads prevail.

Friends and lovers and other stuff

Azmin Ali may think he’s got a shot at ironing out the friction between Bersatu and Umno, but the latter’s elections director Tajuddin Abdul Rahman is firm — there’ll be no negotiations for 13 parliamentary seats Umno lost through defections.

The plan, Tajuddin has said, is for Umno to contest ’em all come GE15.

However, even as things get more fractious between Umno and Bersatu, PAS, which has found itself caught in the middle, has said there’ll surely be ways to resolve the tension and bring the estranged lovers back together.

We can’t say if that’s being overly optimistic on PAS’ part. But what we can tell ya is that while all this is going on, Anwar Ibrahim’s continuing to woo Umno. In fact, in his interview with Mingguan Malaysia, the PKR/PH head honcho talks about positive discussions behind the scenes and even goes so far as to shower praise on Umno boss Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and former PM Jibby. Yes, really. 🤢

While you chew on that, here’re a few more odds and ends from yesterday:

  • Investigation papers relating to the meat cartel scandal have been handed to the AG’s Chambers, the Johor branch of the MACC has said.
     
  • Still on the MACC, new katak Xavier Jayakumar has chosen to keep his lips zipped with regard to speculation that his quit PKR decision might’ve been due to a corruption probe that allegedly targeted friends and colleagues.
     
  • MIC is denying they are leaving BN to join another political bloc. Err… who’d want them, non-entities that they’ve become?
     
  • Namewee’s back in KL and has said he’ll be surrendering himself to the cops after completing the mandatory quarantine period. The rapper/filmmaker is being investigated over the film Babi which allegedly stirs racial tension. 
     
  • IGP Hamid Bador wants non-Bumiputra and Orang Asli members to make up 20 – 30% of the police force. Non-Bumis comprise a very small part of the force currently.

“Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, I'm begging of you please don't hesitate.”

- Dolly Parton, to the tune of Jolene -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • The Covid crisis may be having disastrous implications on global birth rates. That’s a problem as in parts of the world, retirees are already beginning to outnumber those coming into the workforce. Covid’s gonna make that worse.
     
  • Is the fish you buy the real deal? A massive Guardian study based on 9,000+ samples from over 30 countries reveals that seafood is being mislabeled everywhere. Sometimes customers are tricked into shelling out more for cheaper varieties, and at other times, you might not even be buying fish but … wait for it … pork!
     
  • Myanmar has imposed martial law in numerous areas in Yangon following a weekend of protests that saw some 50 people killed. Among the dead is a prominent activist who’s believed to have been tortured to death.
     
  • At least six people have been killed with dozens more missing following a sandstorm that’s blanketed parts of Mongolia and China in yellow sand and dust.
     
  • The Vatican will not bless same sex unions, calling them a “sin”.
     
  • Beyoncé now holds the record for the most Grammy wins by a singer — 28 — thanks to the three gongs she picked up for Best Music Video, Best R&B Performance and Best Rap Performance. Other big winners at this year’s awards were Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish. Here’s the full list of winners.
     
  • The 2021 Oscar nominees list is out, and it includes two women up for best director and a total of eight actors of colour. Riz Ahmed, Steven Yeun and the late great Chadwick Boseman lead in the Best Actor category.

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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