Apparently, the 26th person to have tested positive for Covid-19 here in Malaysia has directly infected 16 people and indirectly, another five. And another 180 of his direct contacts are awaiting results on tests on conducted on them. Talk about being a superman in the worst possible way. Meanwhile, the political maelstrom we are in continues, with even a UK-based paper chiming in on what's happening here, and getting a telling off for its troubles; and, an inquiry into the disappearances of a Christian convert from Islam and his Indonesian wife was told the couple had received death threats.

Super infector

Social disease

If we thought seven was a big jump in numbers for new Covid-19 cases detected in Malaysia, how about doubling that?

Health officials said yesterday 14 new cases of Covid-19 were reported, bringing the tally to 50. And guess what? Like the seven cases the previous day, all 14 this time around were linked to Patient 26, a top officer of Khazanah and UDA Holdings Bhd.

The latest patients had all come into close contact with Patient 26 during functions he attended. Based on his activities, Health authorities have identified 215 people who came into close contact with him. Of these, 16 tested positive, 19 tested negative while 180 results of tests are still pending. Oh, and five people who came into contact with one or more of the 16 people who tested positive also tested positive, bringing the total number of people in the cluster to 21.

In other words, there may be even more people our little Covid-19 super carrier has infected. And contact tracing work was still being carried out. So that number could go up even more. Lovely.

Even though the disease has been swirling for months now, it seems like news about Covid-19 is suddenly popping up all over the country.

Felcra has confirmed that one of its directors has tested positive for Covid-19 and has ordered employees attached to its headquarters to work from home. Meanwhile, Subang Jaya Medical Centre, in a statement, said three of the 14 new cases were detected there, including a nurse who had attended to one of the patients.

The Immigration Department, meanwhile, has shut down all autogates and e-gates. The move is an added measure to control the spread of Covid-19. Sarawak, however, has taken the extra measure of barring foreign arrivals with a history of travel to mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Iran, South Korea and Italy, some of the worst-hit countries as far as the virus is concerned.

The Royal Malaysian Navy, meanwhile, will be testing all crew members of the frigate KD Lekiu, which is set to dock today in Kota Kinabalu. The warship had left Busan, South Korea, on Feb 18 after successfully completing a mission to escort a tanker there. The navy said this was a proactive measure, adding that crewmen would be quarantined on the ship while samples taken from them are tested at Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Globally, nearly 95,000 people have so far been infected with Covid-19, with the death toll at 3,249 mark. In order to contain the spread of the coronavirus causing Covid-19, many functions involving a large number of people have been canceled worldwide, including Friday prayers in Iran, where the death toll has reached 92. Even James Bond has not been spared, with the upcoming screening of the latest movie in the spy franchise, No Time To Die, being delayed in Europe amidst Covid-19 fears.

Chinese scientists, in fact, have found that there were actually two strains of the coronavirus. The more aggressive strain was more prevalent in the early stages of the outbreak but that has died down somewhat. The researchers said the spike in Covid-19 cases was “likely caused by mutations and natural selection besides recombination”, meaning the original strain evolved (sadly, in a non-mutant, non-X-men kinda way).

Oh and get this… a Pomeranian belonging to a Covid-19 patient in Hong Kong has tested a “weak positive” for the disease in the first possible case of human-to-animal infection anywhere in the world. But fear not, as “experts” believe that the weak signs of positive infection may just indicate that while the little pooch had merely picked up traces of the virus in its nose and mouth rather than being actually infected. Even so, it will be quarantined for a while.

Which mugs will be put in the Cabinet?

As we expected, much has been said about the delay in the next sitting of the Dewan Rakyat from March 9 to May 18.

The official reason for the postponement was so new PM Muhyiddin Yassin could appoint his Cabinet and for MPs to be able to craft questions for the new ministers, but PKR’s Subang MP Wong Chen is having none of that. Sure, take some time, he says. But why such a long delay?

In a press statement, Wong took to goading (more like insulting, actually) PM Moo by saying that a “good and organised” PM would call for Parliament to sit ASAP, no later than the end of March, to show he has consolidated power and has “legitimacy to rule”. Wong said the postponement was a sign of weakness and also claimed Muhyiddin could be facing problems setting up the Cabinet, alluding to “horse-trading for ministerial positions” between members of the Perikatan Nasional pact. We suppose this is what our outspoken MP is saying is the reason behind the delay.

Firstly, Muhyiddin doesn’t “rule” – only the Agong rules. Secondly… sticks and stones, man. Wong can say whatever he wants but at the end of the day, by delaying the sitting but calling it before June Muhyiddin is still going strictly by the book, breaking neither law nor convention in his actions. 

Could Wong be right about the horse-trading? Possibly. Is that a sign of weakness on Moo’s part? Hell no. What do you think went on before Mahathir appointed his Cabinet in 2018? Do you think there was no jockeying and horse trading prior to him selecting his lieutenants?

This is part and parcel of politics; Moo is now in the process of consolidating his power and position by divvying up the rewards in terms of Cabinet appointments and also looking to poach more MPs to his banner. By May, his aim will certainly be to appear in Parliament in an unassailable position. This is canny politics, not weakness. 

What does seem to be true though is that Umno is reportedly starting to kick up a fuss about potential Cabinet positions, which is a bigger threat to Muhyiddin’s position than any taunts Wong Chen can throw his way.

Officially though, Umno sec-gen Annuar Musa says Moo must not be saddled with preconditions and should be absolutely free to appoint whomever he chooses, despite rumours that Umno has imposed a number of preconditions on our new PM. He said this when asked if the premier should follow the tradition of appointing top government party leaders to the Cabinet. 

PAS president Hadi Awang sang the same tune, saying PAS would not impose any conditions on the makeup of the Cabinet. Speaking after meeting Muhyiddin, Hadi said he had offered his views, but had told Muhyiddin that the only criteria for ministers would be that they have “integrity, qualifications, skills and are representative of society”. Well said, Hadi! Now we’d like to remind you that the LGBT community is also part of our society and should, by your logic, also be represented. 

But by far the biggest reaction of the day came because of an editorial by The Guardian which accused our King of engineering a royal coup to topple the Pakatan government formed after a “historic election”. The paper also went on to say the Agong “could even call” for fresh elections in his efforts to keep Pakatan out.

This is a load of utter horseshit. Why? If anything, what happened is Mahathir Mohamad’s fault for resigning, even if he had gotten wind of a Muhyiddin plot to come out tops. Once Maddey resigned, Cabinet had to be dismissed. The King was exercising his constitutional powers – and more importantly, his responsibility – in everything he did. BTW the king’s authority here is based on the Westminster system of democracy that we got from the UK. 

And why does The Guardian make it sound like a sinister thing if the King calls for fresh elections? Wouldn’t that be preferred to a “backdoor government” since the people can then choose whether to say “screw you” to the new Muhyiddin-led gomen? The Guardian piece smacks of whitesplaining and you wonder if they’d have written it if the same events unfolded in a Western country. Anyway, you can read a pretty good commentary on The Guardian’s piece here

Anywayz, for the sake of keeping an already long piece as short as possible, here are briefs of other things that happened yesterday in regards to the political sh*tstorm we find ourselves in:

  • Former PM Najib Razak says he is looking forward to a “more conducive atmosphere” at his graft trials in connection with 1MDB and SRC International with the new gomen installed, or rather with Pakatan out of the way. And you wonder why some people are wary of Umno being back in power?
     
  • Johor PKR’s Pemanis assemblyman Dr Chong Fat Full (we swear that’s his real name) has quit the party to become a Perikatan-friendly independent, giving the new coalition the majority in the state legislative assembly.
     
  • Umno prez and BN chairman Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has submitted the name of an Umno candidate for the CM’s post to the Melaka governor.
     
  • It’s business as usual for the joint Pakatan-Bersatu Kedah government as Maddey Junior, Mukhriz Mahathir, is still the MB. However, don’t be too surprised if this changes at any time, since Bersatu in Kedah is split between those loyal to the party and those in the Mahathir-Mukhriz camp.
     
  • Police questioned former Bersih co-chair Ambiga Sreenevasan, Maddey spawn Marina Mahathir, Amanah deputy and vice Youth chiefs Amanah’s Muhammad Faiz Fadzil and Abbas Azmi, and 17 others over protests held over the weekend. The move saw international human rights NGO, International Commission of Jurists, to call for a stop to investigations into “human rights defenders”.

Couple 'made' to disappear

Missing couple Joshua Hilmy and his Indonesian Batak wife Ruth Sitepu received death threats because of the former’s conversion to Christianity, a Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) inquiry was told yesterday.

Ruth’s youngest brother Iman said he had learned of this from Joshua’s adoptive father Bebas Bagun. Asked why Joshua didn’t report the matter to the police, Iman said it was not unusual for “bad people” to threaten the couple.

Joshua and Ruth were last seen on Nov 30, 2016, but reported missing only on March 6, 2017. Ruth’s sister Ram Ram Elisabeth, who took the witness stand earlier, said when she and Iman came down in 2017 after learning of her sister and brother-in-law’s disappearance, the family was told not to lodge a report with the Indonesian embassy here.

Ram Ram said this was conveyed to them by their lawyer, who told them Malaysian police didn’t want the embassy involved and would handle the case themselves. She also said she visited the couple’s home in Kampung Tunku, Petaling Jaya, and found the fridge well-stocked, leading her to believe that their disappearance was forced.

The inquiry is being held to determine if Joshua and Ruth’s disappearance were under similar circumstances as that of Pastor Raymond Koh and social activist Amri Che Mat. Earlier inquiries into the missing pastor and activist had found that their disappearances were likely “enforced disappearances” by state agents.

Meanwhile, Koh’s wife Susanna Liew has been named among the 12 International Women of Courage (IWOC) for 2020. The US embassy announced this in a statement. The IWOC is presented by the US Secretary of State. Among Malaysians who have been awarded the recognition are former Bersih co-chair Ambiga Sreenevasan, transgender activist Nisha Ayub and M. Indira Gandhi for her fight to find her daughter, kidnapped and forced into conversion by her Muslim-convert husband.

Odds and ends

Here are some other things that bubbled yesterday: 

  • An MACC officer told former PM Najib Razak’s SRC International graft trial that a Saudi prince who had signed “donations” to Jibby had claimed immunity when a team from Malaysia went to Riyadh to record a statement. He had, however, consented to them interviewing his legal representative.
     
  • Former Umno sec-gen Tengku Adnan Mansor raged in court when it was revealed that he had assets amounting to almost RM1 billion whilst he was FT Minister. Ku Nan had earlier seen his bid for the matter to be revealed only in a closed courtroom rejected.
     
  • Former Attorney-General Tommy Thomas has clarified that he resigned as his appointment was made by former PM Mahathir and when the latter resigned, he felt compelled to do so too.
     
  • For reasons not stated, the official birthday of the Agong has been moved to June 8 instead of June 6. Hereafter, the official birthday of the King will fall on the first Monday of June throughout Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah’s reign.
     
  • The latest QS World University Ranking sees Universiti Malaya ranked in the world’s Top 50 for three academic disciplines: Library and Information Science (38th); Electrical & Electronic Engineering (46th); and, Development Studies (49th).

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

- John Lennon -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Billionaire Michael Bloomberg has dropped out of the race for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President and followed previous hopefuls in endorsing former VP Joe Biden. Biden took a healthy step towards the candidacy by winning 10 of the 14 states which voted on “Super Tuesday”.
     
  • The European Commission is looking to crack down on the gender pay gap, with women on average earning 16% less than men, perpetuating a pension disparity of 30% between the sexes.
     
  • US forces have carried out air strikes against Taliban targets in Afghanistan and called for an end to needless violence. This after reports of violence by Taliban militia forces just days after the two sides had agreed to a peace deal.
     
  • BMW has redesigned its iconic logo for the first time in two decades, changing the black ring around it to a transparent circle for a more modern look.

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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