Regular Malaysians have been forced to stay home for the past month, on pain of arrest, in an effort to stop the spread of Covid-19. By and large, we've accepted the rules with good grace. But it's turning out that these rules don't seem to apply to those who fancy themselves as the leaders of this nation.

On the bright side, though the partial lockdown is now into its second month, things actually do seem to be getting better and there is genuine hope that we've turned a corner in the fight against the devastating virus.

One rule for the goose, another for the gander?

Do as I say, not as I do

It’s not been an easy month. Since the Movement Control Order (MCO) began in mid-March, Malaysians across the country have gone into isolation, largely keeping to the compounds of their homes and venturing out only to get groceries and necessities. 

And even when that happens, people don masks and gloves and go out alone, getting errands done quickly before making a beeline for home. Yes, there’ve been idiots around the country who’ve flouted the MCO to do shit like celebrate a birthday partyplay golf or even go dating, among others.

Whenever people try to pull nonsense like that, the long and heavy arm of the law has come crashing down. Between March 13 and Apr 18, over 9,000 people were arrested for breaking MCO laws. No excuses have been accepted, even if people were broke and looking to catch fish or simply a couple of octogenarians lining up for free food

But you know who’s been getting away with wiping their asses on the MCO rulebook? Our politicians. The very people we’re trusting and hoping to lead us out of this crisis. Over the past few days, we’ve been subjected to story after story of our MPs and ministers doing as they bloody well please without being called to account. 

First among equals in this pantheon of stupidity is Deputy Health Minister Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali, whose claim to fame is that he enjoyed a jolly meal at a tahfiz school in Perak with about 30 other people, including a state executive councillor and students, during the MCO. 

As a doctor, and as the deputy air suam health minister, Noor Azmi has absolutely no excuse for doing what he did, and Malaysians across the board have been quick to hammer him for it. Even his fellow politicians have piled on. MCA has called him a ‘bad role model’, Umno veep Khaled Nordin said he should resign and Kinabatangan MP Bung Moktar Radin has called Noor Azmi a bloody idiot. When Bung Moktar can justifiably call you stupid, you know you’re in a pickle. 

But you know who seemed to think it was all right for Noor Azmi to do what he did? The Perak police chief, who seemed to not be very bothered at all over the entire matter. That is, until the public outcry. Now, the cops are saying they’ll take the statements of those that attend the makan. But really, why the double standards? When average Joe breaks the law, it’s an immediate fine or jail time. But when a politician has some tea and crumpets, they get a cozy chat with the local bobby?

And Noor Azmi isn’t the only dingbat politician to pull a stunt like this. Terengganu Menteri Besar Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar also got into trouble after visiting state Umno boss (and former MB) Ahmad Said’s house, ostensibly to discuss aid distribution. How’d he get caught? Well, apparently our friends had a fun little photo session with volunteers who were ‘thrilled’ to see the MB. 

Ahmad Said tried to play the noble martyr, saying he, and not the volunteers, should be the one punished if found guilty. He also defended himself, saying politicians had to be ‘on the move’ for the welfare of the people. 

Pardon our French, but that’s a load of horseshit. Ahmad 1 could’ve spoken to Ahmad 2 over the phone, videoconferenced or sent smoke signals. There was no need to physically meet. And even if they did meet, there was no need to sit down to a six-dish lunch (seven, if you count the fruits) after that. And lastly, politicians don’t need to be ‘on the move’ because it’s the volunteers that do the heavy lifting. 

Oh, but that’s not the end of it. For Exhibit C, we have Deputy Rural Development Minister Abdul Rahman Mohamad, who apparently had a bunch of people over at his house to do a little cake cutting for his birthday. Abdul Rahman is denying it was a party, but his excuses are so goddamn stupid we aren’t even going to go into them here. 

And like Noor Azmi and the two Ahmads, you don’t see the authorities coming down on them with the same alacrity they show for regular folk – mealy-mouthed excuses are accepted wholesale and the politicians get their statements recorded before being sent on their merry way.

Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob says elected reps can conduct programmes, but must follow SOPs and insists there are no double standards. If that’s the case, why do politicians get the benefit of investigations and statements recorded while regular folk are fined or arrested on the spot? And why the special treatment for politicians to ‘conduct programmes’ when there are numerous government departments, NGOs, etc already doing the same thing? So, sorry if we don’t buy the line about there not being double standards. 

Malaysians are pissed off, and they damn well should be. Frontliners are putting their lives on the line to help us. They go home and worry about whether they’re infecting their families. Regular people are separated from ageing parents due to fears of transmission. People have lost income. Migrants are in limbo. The whole country is at a standstill. 

And these entitled jerks are treating this like it’s some big party. 

The slow path to recovery

new Covid-19 cluster has been detected among Malaysians returning from abroad. The cluster consists of 43 students returning from Temboro in the Magetan province in East Java, which has been declared a red zone by the Indonesian government.

The good news is that all 43 have been quarantined, and it looks like the situation is relatively contained. 

On the whole, we still seem to be on the path to recovery in the battle against Covid-19. Despite new cases yesterday going up after two straight days of decline, the 84 recorded infections were still lower than the number of recoveries, which stood at 95. A few more deaths were recorded over the past weekend; the total number of people killed by the virus so far now stands at 89, while the people who’ve been infected since the beginning of the outbreak is now at 5,389

There’s further good news too – 14 of the 30 red zones around the country have less than 40 active cases each. Unfortunately, things aren’t quite as good in KL, where the number of active cases are the highest in the country.

That said, Health director-general and Man of the Year Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the government will look into three factors before deciding whether or not to extend the MCO – Covid-19’s virulence level and infectivity rate, and the economic consequences of the pandemic. 

In other words, you may want to hold on to those ‘Hallelujahs’ for a bit as it may still take a while before things go back to normal.

Efforts to find a cure to the virus are still continuing. Nine public hospitals in the country are taking part in a global collaboration called the WHO Solidarity Trial, in which clinical trials will be run on selected patients. We’re also hosting medical experts from China, and as Dr Noor Hisham says, we’re keen to not just learn from their successes, but also their failures. 

The government is also now talking about setting up a vaccine development research centre, and while it may be a case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted as far as Covid-19 is concerned, it could come in handy the next time something like this happens.

And the best of the rest ...

And now, for the rest of the Covid-19 stuff that made the news over the past couple of days:

  • You were probably wondering why we didn’t lead with this, since it’s all everybody’s talking about. Health Minister Dr Adham Baba has made the news again for all the wrong reasons. This time, it was for saying there are 500 countries in the world (for the record, there are just over 190). He has since clarified and said he misspoke. What we’re surprised about is just what a big deal people are making of this non-story. The man is clearly not bright – his infamous air suam statement proves that – but this was clearly a simple error and the reaction has, honestly, been over the top
     
  • Concerns are being raised that kids may not be receiving proper nutrition since they can’t access school meal programmes during the MCO period. More than 37,000 students from poor households who benefit from the programme are affected by the ongoing situation.
     
  • Covid-19 and the MCO hasn’t put a dent in the politicking in the country. The current government is blaming the former one for not preventing the Sri Petaling tabligh cluster, which has been met with a retort implying that Muhyiddin Yassin, then the Home Minister, was more focused on his backdoor government takeover than his ministerial duties – which included vetting large-scale gatherings like that tabligh
     
  • Not everybody is suffering during the MCO. In some cases, the shutdown is a boon. One of these is the National Fishermen’s Association, whose website has seen a fivefold increase in sales since the MCO. Good for them.

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Singapore has overtaken Indonesia and the Philippines to become the country with the most Covid-19 cases in Asean. Sadly, the ones worst affected in the island republic are foreign migrant workers, who live packed in like sardines in tightly-packed dormitories. This insightful piece highlights the reality of Singapore’s class divide and how it contributed to the problem.  
     
  • You know who’s gonna emerge as big winners from this whole Covid-19 thing? Organised crime. CNN reports that the Mafia is poised to exploit the pandemic – and not just in Italy. Not long ago, we read about how El Chapo’s daughter is going on a hearts and minds campaign by distributing aid packages, while gangs in Brazil were imposing strict curfews to help curb the spread of Covid-19. God help us.
     
  • Some countries, including Germany, New Zealand, South Korea and Israel, are gradually relaxing coronavirus lockdowns as the virus eases up in those parts of the world. And then, we have countries like Bangladesh, where 100,000 idiots defied lockdown orders to attend a funeral.
     
  • Even as the death toll in the US crosses 41,000, There are protests on the streets in some parts of the country, as people demand for governors to reopen state economies shut down due to coronavirus. And you guessed it right – Donald Trump is one of the biggest supporters of the protests. 
     
  • A bunch of singers, corralled by Lady Gaga, performed in a concert called One World: Together At Home. Think Live Aid, but from inside their own homes. Of course, what this meant was that the world got to get a glimpse of what these stars’ – Mick Jagger, John Legend, Beyoncé, Elton John, etc – homes looked like.

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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