Beware of 'improvements'
For better or for worse?
Abandon all hope ye who prayed for the repeal of the Sedition Act, the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA) and all other laws which ye have deemed excessive.
Yes, folks. The Perikatan government has decided that the Sedition Act and SOSMA are still needed, and in fact, need to be “improved” instead of repealed.
This is a sharp departure from the previous Pakatan Harapan government’s stance, which had said (or should we say “claimed”?) it would repeal certain laws. Of course, despite almost two years in power, our politicos in Pakatan failed to repeal, or even amend, any of these laws, though we don’t know if this is from a lack of trying or due to too political resistance.
Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin, in one of his rare appearances, didn’t reveal just what was meant by “improving” these laws, which begs the question of whose standards are being used when our esteemed overlords say they want to “improve” things.
Will they tighten and clarify the laws so they can’t be abused by those in power? Or does it mean that these laws will be further widened to include more examples of “crimes”, making them even more “draconian”, for lack of a better word, and even more open to abuse and political manipulation?
As it is, the government has come under fire for investigations into critics, including opposition politicians, activists and even journalists. The latest in a series of such actions was against Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) northern region coordinator K. Sudhagaran Stanley, who was arrested late Monday night.
Sudhagaran was believed to have been arrested for an FB posting over the defacing of murals of certain national leaders. He was later released on police bail.
Criticising the arrest, C4 said heightened police investigations on human rights and anti-corruption advocates for expressing dissent in relation to matters concerning public interest, had become a cause of great concern. It said while the government has a right to disagree and object to many such comments, it should embrace the importance of critical thinking while safeguarding the right to freedom of expression.
And really, we have to agree with this. It is only through criticism – constructive criticism that is – that any mistakes can be rectified and we can grow as a nation. It’s something that we – all of us, not just the government – need to embrace.
Another example of the Sedition Act being used to curb dissent, many say, is the investigation against Al Jazeera and its staff for a documentary which was critical of raids against immigrants at the height of the movement control order (MCO).
Former PM4/7 Dr Mahathir Mohamad came out yesterday to say the government should have explained “our side of the story” instead of taken action against AJ. This is one of those rare occasions when we actually fully agree with the doc. Of course, the mess we are in can be traced back to the good doctor’s 80s rule, when he came down hard on news organisations and firmly put in place many of the playbooks to silence the media that we still see being used today.
(Side note: We questioned yesterday whether the National Film Development Corporation statement that AJ didn’t have a licence to produce, exhibit or distribute the documentary was valid considering it’s a news org and whether it was still relevant in the age of YouTube – and, if we may add today, the age of smartphones. Well, you really should read this article, which answers these questions.)
If the Sedition Act and SOSMA are, indeed, improved so as to ensure that they are used only in absolutely necessary circumstances and not used by the powers that be to put down dissent, they should also be used for all, and not just a select group of people. Take for instance everybody’s “favourite” foreign preacher, Zakir Naik.
Zakir has made some pretty disturbing statements in the past which can said to threaten racial and religious harmony in Malaysia (though these days, we hardly hear from him), including these comments. But no real action has been taken against him. And this has led to him suing people like Penang Deputy CM II P. Ramasamy, with the courts yesterday setting a five-day hearing beginning March 22 next year.
Oh, since we’re on the topic of the Sedition Act and SOSMA, which Hamzah says was needed to curb such things as terrorism, you should know that 12 people (and four kids) linked to terror group Islamic State, have returned to Malaysia from Syria. Of these, nine are in prison, one is currently on trial, another is under a restriction order under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and one was released, though we weren’t given the reason for this release.
Let’s be real. We live in a day and age where there is a need for laws to combat things like terrorism, extremist ideologies, transnational crime, etc. Many people wouldn’t argue against laws – possibly even including preventive detention laws – to aid in that ongoing battle.
But the least that could be expected is for those laws to not be used as political tools, to curb free speech or dissent, and or to make life more crummy for us regular folk.
Well, this is embarrassing!
Remember how PM Muhyiddin Yassin’s speech on Monday was criticised by former Transport Minister Anthony Loke, who questioned some of the “strange calculations”? Well, the PM’s Office admitted yesterday that some of the figures quoted by Moo were wrong. The good peeps of the PMO have given the breakdown of what figures were erroneous, and while there were only three instances, we gotta ask: How in the hell did they mess this up?
That led to former moneybags minister Lim Guan Eng questioning whether the Perikatan government had been exaggerating the effectiveness of the Prihatin stimulus package. He is asking how could the gomen have saved 2.75 million jobs if the unemployment rate is at an all-time high of 5.3%, amounting to about 830,000 people.
It’s true, what the man formerly referred to as “tokong” says. It does sound a little fishy. But it could just mean that the unemployment rate could have been a lot higher if not for the stimulus package. So, perhaps the gomen should give the exact figures and explain how they came up with the numbers.
Meanwhile, the country’s largest groups representing employers and employees have called on the government to extend the loan moratorium. Both the Malaysian Employers Federation and the Malaysian Trades Union Congress said the post-Covid outlook was still bleak. They agreed that although the economy has resumed, it’s still far from business as usual, and the ending of the moratorium could see more businesses having to shutter.
Interestingly, this was what former PM Najib Razak, who is also a former moolah minister, had said last week. He had called for the gomen not to bow to pressure from banks and instead extend the moratorium.
Since we’re on the topic of financials during this pesky little pandemic, we will leave you Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong, who said airline companies are expected to lose RM10.9 billion and airport operators RM2.1 billion this year. However, he had some good news for travellers, saying airfares would likely return to the 2019 average by November this year.
No more home stays
It was bound to happen, wasn’t it?
With our active Covid-19 numbers climbing, and irresponsible people on home quarantine not getting tested and even running to restaurants to eat, the government has decided to revert to having returnees being placed in quarantine centres. Starting Friday, those returning to the country will not be allowed to undergo home quarantine.
At one time, there were more than 1,000 people on home quarantine who had not taken their second test for Covid-19. The number was eventually reduced, but at last count, there are still 63 who Health DG Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, worryingly enough, said have now gone off radar, meaning they can’t bloody be traced!
One woman on home quarantine in Perak was pictured eating out, and is now reported to be in hospital as she has tested positive for Covid-19, while the authorities are tracing a man who similarly broke home quarantine regulations and was pictured eating out.
Is it any wonder, then, that we’ve gone back to the days of mandatory quarantine at designated centres? But that solves just one problem. Another is the general lax attitude of many Malaysians who seem complacent or just plain stubborn, leading to more local transmissions.
Our numbers continued climbing yesterday as another 15 new cases were reported, with only four cases being imported ones. The number of active cases has now climbed to 130, more than double the number of July 9.
Another new cluster has been detected, this time in Kuching. This brings the number of new clusters to 13 over the past 10 days alone.
Meanwhile, the government has locked down an old folks home in Kluang where 13 people have tested positive. The cluster there is believed to have been started by an outsider.
As the numbers climb, the Malaysian Medical Association has urged the authorities to strictly enforce SOPs. And, rightly so, cos if you’re still in doubt as to whether Malaysians really are flouting SOPs, then consider the fact that nearly RM6 million has been collected in fines from people who broke MCO regulations.
While Malaysia is, apparently, on the “international radar” for its success in dealing with the pandemic, all this will come to absolute bupkis if our numbers continue to climb. In fact, experts are warning that the next wave could be even more explosive.
So, the announcement that the gomen is contemplating making the wearing of face masks in public compulsory is welcome. Expect that to happen soon, as this would be a natural progression should the infection rate continue to rise. After all, more and more countries are making it mandatory for face masks to be worn, so why shouldn’t we?
By the by, one of those found in breach of MCO regulations was Top Glove. Funnily enough, the violations were found during an investigation into the company over claims of forced labour (which found them not guilty of the accusations, in case you’re wondering).
The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had recently issued a detention order against a shipment of Top Glove products over claims of forced labour and other human rights violations against its foreign workers. Top Glove MD Lee Kim Meow (yes, you read that right), however, has denied this, saying that these were old allegations which had been addressed by the company.
Say what, doc?
Quite a number of things happened in Parliament yesterday, but the bulk of the stories that came out of the Dewan Rakyat were centred around just one man: Maddey Mohamad.
Mads was debating the royal address and made some rather outlandish statements. But probably the most bizarre of these statements is that there were no race riots in KL because of equitable property ownership and wealth equality.
Our favourite nonagenarian has always complained about inequality among the races where wealth is concerned. Just last year, he said Malaysia’s celebrated multi-racial composition was a boon as well as a bane as the disparity in income was preventing it from reaching developed nation status. Recently, he picked on the local Chinese community, saying they were extremely rich.
It’s a bit disingenuous of Mahathir to claim this, actually. Most Malaysians are a generally tolerant lot, and racial issues usually only crop up when people are egged on by politicians who play the dangerous game of identity politics.
Maddey also slammed Najib Razak, saying our PM6’s claim that DAP was dangerous and capable of destroying the Malays was, well, nonsense. If that were true, our man says, current PM Moo could have just “destroyed” DAP with a stroke of a pen when he was Home Minister by deregistering them.
Mahathir elaborated by citing the case of the Communist Party of Malaya, which was crippled when it was deregistered and outlawed. Again, rather disingenuous. While the CPM took up an armed struggle, DAP obviously isn’t doing that. It’s comparing apples to oranges, as the saying goes.
But Maddey is absolutely right in that Jibby’s statement was nonsensical and done to scare the Malays. Then again, Mads had been known in the past to use such scare tactics against DAP, as the Jibster reminded him just last month. Just like the curbs on media and free speech, our toxic brand of race politics is also something that can be traced back to the first Mahathir regime, when he fine-tuned many of the tactics still in use today.
Mahathir claimed Najib’s lies about DAP eventually led the Bersatu supreme leadership to exit the Pakatan Harapan coalition. This, he said, led to him being forced to resign as PM. So, according to Maddey’s roundabout logic – it’s all Jibby’s fault? If he’s seriously suggesting this, it means the old man has either finally gone demented, or thinks the rest of the country has.
Anyhoo, here are some of the other things which came out of the Dewan Rakyat yesterday:
- Speaker Azhar “Art” Harun has vowed to take a sterner stance on racist, sexist and seditious remarks in the House. OK, well we’ll believe it when we see it.
- The government will not increase water tariffs as the people are still suffering from the financial effects of Covid-19. Again, seeing is believing.
- DAP’s Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh yesterday read out a transcript of an audio recording purportedly of PM Muhyiddin saying he would try to entice Umno MPs to join Bersatu with the offer of posts in GLCs. He had earlier been stopped by Deputy Speaker Azalina Othman Said from playing the recording. Is this proof (unverified though it may seem) of a Watergate-like scandal?
- A Perikatan lawmaker has called for a royal commission of inquiry into alleged mismanagement of the country’s financial resources by Pakatan after it sold off assets “wholesale” and accrued a national debt of RM124.5 billion. What is it with our politicos and RCIs?
Morality and other things
So, we had this fantastic little piece of wisdom from a Perak exco member yesterday. Apparently, having many baby hatches in the country will result in more babies being abandoned, says Perak Women Development, Family and Social Welfare Committee chairwoman Dr Wan Norashikin Wan Noordin.
This follows two cases of babies being thrown out windows, one in Penang almost two weeks ago, and the other in Perak just a few days ago. In fact, on Monday, the body of a foetus was found in a Indah Water sewerage plant in Sri Damansara, Selangor.
Such a statement just flies in the face of logic. The very reason why baby hatches were set up is because there is a rising number of cases of baby dumping.
Did Wan Norashikin actually mean that the more baby hatches we have, the more promiscuous our teens are gonna be? We sure hope not, or we should just rename the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry (the portfolio upon which our good doctor’s state level committee is based) the Morality Ministry.
In a related development, Penang Women and Family Development, Gender Inclusiveness and Religions other than Islam Committee chairwoman Chong Eng has called for new laws under which women can be charged for dumping their babies. This, she said, should replace murder charges, as there was no room for negotiation once there is a conviction.
Moving along, as usual there were a number of other things which came out yesterday. Here they are in brief:
- The King, with the consent of the Conference of Rulers, has decreed that Muslims in Malaysia will celebrate Hari Raya Aidiladha on Friday, July 31.
- Construction of the JB-Singapore Rapid Transit System will begin in January and is expected to be completed in 2026.
- A senior manager of an agency under a GLC has been remanded for five days for allegedly receiving bribes totaling RM300,000 to award projects in Terengganu.
- Ten nations, including Malaysia, have appealed for the inclusion of 11 sports currently not on the list of events in the Vietnam Sea Games next year. These include such staples as netball, sailing, tenpin bowling, squash, lawn bowls, cricket and rugby, which are all potential gold medal events for Malaysia.
“The best minds are not in government. If there were any, business would steal them away."
- Ronald Reagan -
IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS
- Tensions over the South China Sea have escalated, with the Chinese air force “sending a warning” to the US Navy by conducting live fire drills in the disputed waters.
- In an exclusive report, CNN says POTUS Donald Trump paints himself as being tough on China, but privately imports “tonnes” of Chinese goods via his business organisations.
- As the global stats for Covid-19 approaches the 15 million mark, with deaths more than 610,000, it has been estimated that at least a quarter of New Delhi’s sizeable population of 20 million are infected.
- Meanwhile, the US has charged two Chinese men for allegedly spying on American companies doing Covid-19 research and receiving help from Chinese state agents for other thefts.