It's another dark day as Malaysia records its second-highest number of Covid-19 deaths to date.

In other news, Pakatan Harapan continues its losing streak in its attempt to vote down Budget 2021; and, there are more gender equality woes for Malaysian women, this time for those living abroad and married to foreign nationals.

Far from equal

Eleven in one blow

It seems every time we receive relatively good news in terms of our Covid-19 numbers, the very next one is screwed up.

After a very brief dip to triple-digit increases, Malaysia went back up to four with 1,075 new cases. With 948 recoveries, our active cases went up to 10,802

But worst of all, the country saw 11 more deaths, the second-highest on record so far (we had 12 deaths on Nov 3). This brings the death toll to 376. The total number of infections is now at 69,095, just short of 70,000.

We don’t know how many new cases were linked to that most notorious of active clusters – the Teratai cluster involving mainly Top Glove workers. But the company was still very much in the news.

After news the cluster was spreading beyond factory staff and family, Top Glove had hoped to reassure the public, especially those living near its factories in Meru, Klang. It promised it’s working with authorities to ensure a “safe environment”, with closures of its factories being done in stages. 

People are still pretty much on edge, though. Pictures of Top Glove employees scaling their dormitory’s walls went viral on the Net pretty quickly, causing some major concerns. The dorm is currently under strict lockdown.

Still, police played down the matter as a non-issue. It seems the workers had merely gone to a makeshift grocery store located within the enhanced movement control order (EMCO) area. Some short cut! 

The glove-making giant, meanwhile, has lodged a police report over the alleged abuse of one of its migrant worker by a member of the security forces. In the incident caught on video, a man said to be a Top Glove employee is seen writhing on the ground as another man, dressed in military fatigues, holds what appears to be a whip. It’s hard to watch and again highlights the terrible way we treat our migrant community here.

Just look at how we house them. The rapid spread and scale of the Teratai cluster have once more brought to light the problem of substandard and crowded accommodations given to the migrant labour force. If you remember, some 21 investigation papers have been opened against Top Glove and several other factories for such offences (allegedly! allegedly!)

Sadly, this is pretty much the standard in Malaysia. But even hardcore cynics like us were left stunned by how widespread this is. Human Resources Minister M. Saravanan has revealed more than 90% of migrant workers’ accommodations fell far below minimum standards. 

We’re tempted to crown Sara the King of Understatements, as he has said this was “very worrying”, especially with the current Covid-19 pandemic. This is a human rights issue, not a Covid-19 issue. It was taking place well before Covid hit our shores and will continue to happen unless the gomen enforces strict rules, and prioritises the welfare of these workers and clamp down on discrimination.

Incidentally, migrant domestic workers’ groups held a press conference yesterday on the violence and abuses domestic workers face and urged the gomen to provide them with protection

One needs only recall the cases of Nirmala Bonat and Adelina Lisao to know just what sort of abuse some of these women go through. 

Back to Covid, here’re a few other related bits of news that came out:

  • The National Fatwa Council will be issuing a statement on Covid-19 vaccine, and whether or not it complies with Islamic lawde facto Islamic Affairs Minister Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri has said.  
  • Singapore could get a vaccine manufactured by Moderna as early as this month if the country’s Health Sciences Authority approves its use.

    If that happens, it could provide Malaysia with the chance to monitor the vaccine’s efficacy, similar to the planned use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in the UK.  

  • Speaking of Singapore, our neighbours at Peninsular Malaysia’s bottom 😊  have denied hundreds of Malaysians are homeless in the island republic. It was reported hundreds are sleeping by the roadside or on benches there as the borders have been closed.  
  • Bank Islam Malaysia’s chief economist has express confidence the country will recover super-fast from the pandemic and post a GDP growth of 6.5% next year, thanks to Budget 2021. We’re not sure what he’s smoking, but we sure could use some. Secretly, though, we’re hoping he’s correct.  
  • The National Security Council has said posters circulating online that the CMCO in several states and the three federal territories will be extended until Jan 3 are fake

Back to the drawing board, Anwar

Another day of Budget 2021 votes and yet more pressure is mounting on opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim as one-by-one, the various ministries are getting their budgets approved at committee level in Parliament. 

Things have gotten worse for our perennial PM-wannabe from where we left off yesterday. Not only did three more ministries get their budgets passed, one of them was the International Trade and Industry Ministry. Ya know, the one helmed by Anwar’s one-time-bosom-buddy-turned-Judas Azmin Ali.

It was a pretty close thing, though, as a bloc vote saw PM Muhyiddin Yassin’s Perikatan Nasional side pull yet another one over Anwar’s Pakatan by 110 to 104 votes. Still, we’re pretty sure Nuar was smarting about that one and had visions of Moo and Min having a good laugh in the MPs Lounge over teh tarik later. 

Later, the budgets for the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry and the Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Ministry were passed by voice vote. That means the score has climbed to 11-telur against Pakatan. If that was a score in the Malaysian Super League, the MACC would’ve been called in to investigate possible match-fixing. 

The abject failure to vote down the budget at the committee stage thus far has led political analysts to advise the PKR bigwig and gang to look for Plan B (or C, or D – we’ve lost count). Basically, Pakatan and friends must now start preparing earnestly for the next general election. 

One analyst, though, has said a push for a vote of no confidence against MooMoo is still possible. That option will only work if some government backbenchers (we’re looking at you Umno-rians) support the vote, and even then, that’ll still likely lead to GE15. 

The other big issue to come out of the budget voting yesterday was that there’s now been a system change when it comes to counting bloc votes. Each bloc leader will directly be observed by an MP from the “opposing side” during counting. 

But what can you expect when our MPs don’t seem to be able to count. The new system, after all, came about after Perikatan’s Shabudin Yahaya mistakenly counted Nazri Aziz as having been present during a previous bloc vote.

The new move may be a win for the democratic process, but as can be seen in the picture accompanying this report, it’s not great for physical distancing, pandemic or not. 

On the Shabudin gaffe, although he later apologised and the count was revised, that didn’t stop Pakatan’s Fahmi Fadzil from submitting a motion to debate disciplinary action against the Tasek Gelugor MP for misleading the House. An earlier motion was rejected due to a technicality, but the second one was accepted by Speaker Azhar ‘Art’ Harun, who’s ordered Shabudin to explain his actions.

Policy matters that matter

Just two days ago, we reported on how women are still getting the short end of the stick in Malaysia, especially where wage gap, employment and political opportunities are concerned. 

Well, our gomen has “kindly” (sarcasm mode set to full blast) added to that list, and it affects Malaysian women abroad, too.

Let us bring you up to speed. Malaysian women with foreign husbands are being prevented from conferring citizenship on their children born overseas. In case ya didn’t know, our Federal Constitution only guarantees automatic Malaysia citizenship to children born overseas to Malaysian dads. It’s silent on those born overseas to Malaysian moms. Peachy innit?

The fight for equal citizenship rights has been going on for years, even during Pakatan’s time, to no avail. Rights groups such as the Malaysian Campaign for Equal Citizenship have been campaigning for the word “father” in the constitution “with at least one/either parent”.

Now, according to current Deputy Home Minister Ismail Mohamed Said, it’s cos of national security concerns

Yes, you read that right. National security concerns. Cos, you know, kids with foreign fathers are gonna come and blow us up!

OK, so it’s not quite that. But apparently, dual citizenship is a matter of national security. Our man Ismail had informed the Dewan Rakyat yesterday that “most” countries follow the rule that children follow daddy-o’s citizenship. So, as his warped logic went, if we allow citizenship to children of Malaysian women with foreign hubbies, they will have dual citizenship.

Ismail must be drinking the same warm water Health Minister Adham Baba is swallowing, as he obviously can’t count. According to Women’s Aid Organisation, there are only 25 countries that restrict women from conferring nationality to children, including good ol’ Malaysia. 

A quick check, in fact, will show you that countries like the United Kingdom, the United States and France confer citizenship to children of citizens, no matter the gender of the parent. 

Also, is he suggesting there’s no way parents of kiddos born to Malaysian men abroad will not try to sneakily apply for dual citizenship for their children anyways in countries that do follow mom’s nationality?

The policy was immediately slammed by Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah for being insensitive to the status of Malaysian women and their children. She has said Ismail’s statement reaffirms the inequality that exists in our nationality laws with gender-discriminatory provisions that deny women the same rights as men. Tl;dr – This is discrimination, plain and simple.

It is high time that such biased and nonsensical policies are done away with. The policy, in fact, fails one of the fundamental duties of government, which is to protect Malaysian citizens. For instance, Malaysian women fleeing abusive foreign spouses will have no place to which to turn as their children are not considered citizens.

This is also why our country needs more women in high gomen places and more gender sensitivity training.

When it comes to immigration and citizenship, in fact, the bigger issue the Home Ministry should worry about in terms of national security is the fact that there are Immigration officers who sell the country by allowing undocumented migrants in by taking bribes and looking the other way. We have already found so many recently and yesterday, one more was nabbed for taking an RM22,000 bribe. 

On a separate matter, Ismail’s boss Hamzah Zainudin has said the gomen is mulling the idea of allowing big corporations to bring in foreign workers in return for financing the repatriation of undocumented foreigners being held at Immigration depots. It’s an interesting concept, we must say.

In other policy matters, the new criteria for EPF’s i-Sinar withdrawal facility have left many confused. One of the main complaints was that the requirements states only those whose income had been reduced by 30% or more were eligible. Netizens claimed this contradicted Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz’s winding-up speech for the budget that anyone whose income had been affected could supposedly withdraw from Account 1. 

This and several other issues were also seized upon by Umno personalities, including inglorious former leader Najib Razak. They have said those earning low incomes would be disproportionately affected by even a small decrease in earnings. 

Meanwhile, de facto Economy Minister Mustapa Mohamad has attributed Patronas’ RM21.03 billion Q2 net loss to economic factors currently affected by the pandemic and not politics. He had been questioned in Parliament whether it’s true that the Petronas chairman’s position had been offered to Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and whether this had jeopardised market confidence, causing the loss.

Tok Pa, however, sidestepped the issue and didn’t deny or confirm if Ku Li’d been offered the position. 

Still on Petronas, its prez and group CEO Tengku Muhammad Taufik Tengku Aziz has said natural gas is expected to contribute nearly RM400 billion to public finances over the next decade. 

Bits and bobs, this and that

Here are a number of other reports that caught our eye yesterday:

  • The life expectancy for newborn Sabahans could be two years shorter in 2020, compared to a decade ago, a study has found. As if that wasn’t enough bad news for Sabahans, we also learned the state’s poverty rate is the highest in the country at 19.5%, with Kelantan coming in second at 12.4%. 
     
  • There seems to be a small war being waged in Kedah between MB Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor, a PAS man, and MIC. Sanusi had hit out at MIC for protesting the demolition of an alleged illegal Hindu temple, saying as a political party, it should be upholding the law and should be deregistered for inciting unlawfulness.

    MIC No. 2 M. Saravanan hit back at Sanusi, saying the MB had gone back on a promise to inform the federal gomen before any non-Muslim place of worship is to be demolished. Sanusi, however, is unfazed
     
  • Sahabat Alam Malaysia has criticised the Kedah gomen following news the state entered an agreement with a KL-based joint venture company to explore rare earth elements.
     
  • According to a court filing by Mohamed Apandi Ali, then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad had ignored the role of the YDP Agong in the removal of as Attorney-General. Apandi is challenging his unceremonious sacking in 2018. 
     
  • Thirty-three people, including Sabah CM Hajiji Noor, have dropped their challenge against the consent given by Governor Juhar Mahiruddin to dissolve the state legislative assembly in July. 
     
  • Sime Darby Plantation Bhd (SDP) has said it has found no basis to continue its probe into allegations of sexual harassment in its estates, as published by the Associated Press (AP), and has closed the case. This is as the complainant has withdrawn her complaint and a colleague who claimed to have witnessed the incident now denies it. 
     
  • Selangor police have received another five reports alleging sexual offences against a celebrity TV preacher who is under remand to facilitate investigations into various sexual assault claims against him. 
     
  • Another 15 people have been remanded in connection with the shootout between smugglers and two General Operations Force personnel last week which saw one policeman killed and another badly wounded. 
     
  • Hero teacher Samuel Isaiah, who was one of the finalists in the Global Teacher Prize, lost out to a teacher from India. Even so, he has said his mission to bring change to Malaysia’s Orang Asli children is far from over

“Men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less.”

- Susan B. Anthony -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Beware the Thalaivar! Indian film superstar Rajinikanth has formally announced he’s set to enter politics, vowing a “corruption-free” gomen in his home state of Tamil Nadu. He’s the latest in a long line of big-name actors to join the Big P.
     
  • China’s Chang-e, which landed on the moon on Dec 1, has left the moon’s surface. It’s set to make its way to Earth with precious samples gathered from the lunar surface. It’s more than 40 years since lunar samples were last brought back to Earth.
     
  • The number of hospitalised US Covid-19 patients surpassed 100,000 on Thursday, as former presidents – including Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton – volunteered to get vaccinated on television if needed to boost confidence in the safety of inoculations. 
     
  • Portugal has announced plans to vaccinate people against the coronavirus voluntarily and F.O.C. (that’s our favourite price tag!). The first phase will kick off next month.
     
  • Several US states, led by New York, are investigating Facebook Inc for possible antitrust violations and plan to file a lawsuit against the company next week. 

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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