Uh-oh! You better grab those masks, sanitise those hands and take a step back. Despite a somewhat stable daily Covid-19 case count, a rising infectivity rate has health authorities worrying of a possible fourth wave.

Elsewhere in today's newsletter, a couple of ministers get slammed for their ice-cold responses to fresh grads' low salaries; Warisan ditches Pakatan Harapan; and Najib Razak's back in the hot seat with his graft conviction appeal.

Endless wave

Here we go again

Our daily Covid-19 numbers have hovered in the 1k+ region for a while now, and deaths have remained relatively low — Monday’s tally was 1,070 cases and 7 deaths. That’s 14,278 actives cases in all and 1,295 deaths.

But we can’t rest on our laurels as a rising infectivity rate suggests a fourth Covid-19 wave could be in the offing in four to eight weeks!

On Sunday, the nationwide Rt rate, which points to the reproduction rate of Covid cases, was at 1.01, with levels rising to as much as 1.59 in Labuan, 1.54 (Putrajaya), 1.25 (Perak) and 1.19 (Pahang). 

An Rt value of above 1.0 means the disease is spreading fast. Thus, our current levels are a huge concern, especially as it comes on the back of some other worrying news. Among them, vaccine registration numbers remain low, a tonne of clusters have emerged at schools in the last month, and the finding of a highly-contagious-less-susceptible-to-vaccine variant of the virus (which has been isolated, luckily).

Yesterday, all five million Malaysian students were back in school for the first time since the third Covid wave. However, about 20 Covid clusters had already shown up in educational institutions during the past month! FYI, physical classes resumed on Jan 20 for high schoolers sitting for major exams, while kindie and primary schools reopened on Mar 1.

Yes, long-term remote learning only widened the learning gap – plus kids can’t be forced to stay at home forever. But surely 20 friggin’ clusters in a month suggests a failure of procedures, processes and protocols?

On low vaccine registration, Great Immunator Khairy Jamaluddin has said the gomen might reexamine its registration policy by July if sign-ups remain low.

It’ll also consider if compulsory registration for certain high-risk groups is the way to go. For now, demand outstrips supply, but that’ll not be the case in July when the various vaccines delivery schedules pick up.

Phase 2 of the national vaccine programme, which involves high-risk folks, kicks off on Apr 19 with eight states, and the rest of Malaysia a few days later. Appointment notifications are already being sent out (it’s two weeks before the scheduled shot).

Note – A reminder will be sent three days before the appointment and another the day before. While inoculation’s voluntary, once you’ve agreed to a shot, attendance is compulsory. 

While we’re on the subject, care to explain, YB, how come the rollout got pushed to the 19th when our “warm water” minister just last week said it was brought forward to Apr 17? Conflicting info like this is what helps misinformation spread, you know.

Of gratitude, not honour

Don’t look now but fresh grad salaries have fallen below the minimum wage mark

Naturally, a whole bunch of folk are pissed off, more so cos’ certain gomen peeps seem keener to justify the current situation and put people down.

Minimum wage was set at RM1,200 (for 57 major towns) and RM1,000 (for the rest of Malaysia) on Jan 1, 2020. Yet the Stats Department revealed last week that new graduate salaries fell to below that last year.

What’s horrible though is that fellas like de facto Economic Affairs Minister Mustapa Mohamed and Human Resources Minister M. Saravanan have suggested graduates zip their lips and be grateful they’re even offered peanuts.

We get it. Unemployment has indeed gone up, and our economy’s shrunk since Covid hit.

While there’s some measure of truth in the view that any job’s a good job in the current climate, statements like these from our ministers appear tone-deaf, insensitive as hell, one-sided – and could provide employers carte blanche to use Covid as an excuse to skimp on pay.

Let’s be clear – not every company’s suffering. Over half of our 100 largest public-listed companies listed higher profits last year despite Covid. On the flip side,  it’s undeniable that many businesses and entire sectors of the economy have been hit. Hard. 

We don’t know who these minimum-wage fresh grads are and which sectors they work in. And yes, they may be lucky to just have a job in these tough times as companies struggle to stay afloat.

But it isn’t too much to expect our gomen to show a little empathy and care for v̶o̶t̶e̶r̶s̶ people. As one opposition MP’s pointed out, it’s their responsibility to ensure folks aren’t being taken advantage of.

He’s even calling for an independent, bipartisan committee to look into youth unemployment, which is a constructive and positive way to address the situation and find a solution. 

 

Tok Pa’s said salaries could be relooked at when the economy recovers. But is there a plan in place, or is this lip service? And what of other Malaysians forced to take salary cuts? 

Also, this problem with fresh grads getting the short end of the wage stick ain’t new; it was a problem way before Covid hit us hard!

What’s needed is a clear plan to address the issue, not ministers telling the rakyat to bugger off and be grateful for crumbs.

🎶🎶How can you mend a broken pact🎶🎶

Looks like there are more broken romances apart from the free-falling Umno-Bersatu marriage. Close to three years from linking with Pakatan Harapan, Parti Warisan Sabah’s detaching itself from the once ruling, now opposition coalition in preparation for the next general election.

Warisan was never officially a part of PH. But it had a special relationship with the pact that saw five of its peeps appointed ministers and deputy ministers in ex-PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s seventh cabinet. Now, that association’s been officially ended.

It’s unclear at this point what Warisan bossman Shafie Apdal’s intentions are. It’s interesting to note that the Sabah party’s announcement comes barely a week after Umno announced its split from Perikatan Nasional with the possibility of new political hook-ups post-GE15.

Could a Warisan-Umno team-up be in the offing? Nothing’s very sure at the mo with just about every party wiggling their hips at each other. Even the still-to-be-registered Muda is making googly eyes at Warisan (allegedly! allegedly!).

Even so, what’s crystal clear is that Warisan’s exit means Harapan’s lost an important East Malaysian ally.  

That said, PH chief Anwar Ibrahim couldn’t seriously have expected Warisan not to make a move of its own, with Shafie also eyeing the same prize Anwar’s been dreaming of forever, i.e. the premiership.

Meanwhile, on the subject of political alliances, the Barisan Nasional supreme council was due to meet last night, presumably to discuss support for the PN gomen. However, the meeting was called off at the last minute without any explanation.

Just hours before the meet was due to begin, at least two component party leaders, MIC’s SA Vigneswaran and PBRS’ Joseph Kurup, claimed to not have been officially informed.

MIC and Umno aren’t on the same page about support for the current gomen and friction between the two former lovebirds has been escalating. However, it’s not entirely certain where MCA and PBRS’ allegiances lie.

So yeah, there’s gonna be plenty of time for our political parties to clean up their Tinder profiles and think about whether they’re be gonna swiping right or left in the next few months.  

Of appeals and other stuff

Yesterday several important cases hit the courts. Of these, ex-premier Najib Razak’s appeal against his SRC International trial conviction took centerstage.

The Jibster’s team initially sought an adjournment to the proceedings, claiming vital documents from New York and Singapore were needed. However, the Court of Appeal had said no can do. 

The panel of judges did hear the defence’s contention that Jib’s High Court trial, which saw him sentenced to 12 years in jail, ought to have been heard by a more experienced judge than Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali.

In other 1MDB-related matters, a lawyer told the High Court in KL a bungalow belonging to Jho Low’s mum in Penang shouldn’t be subject to a forfeiture suit ’cos it’s got nothing to do with the sovereign fund. And in another case, ex-AG Mohamed Apandi Ali has claimed he’d never at any point ordered for probes into Jibby to be closed.

Jib’s former No. 2 Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was also in court on Monday. 

The sitting Umno prez had attempted to get 12 CBT charges against him consolidated into three. Unfortunately, the bid was rejected. To jog your memory, Zahid’s facing the CBT charges over his family’s Yayasan Akalbudi charity. He’s also on the hook for 27 counts of money laundering and eight counts of bribery.

Elsewhere, the rape trial involving Tronoh rep Paul Yong finally got underway. Yong, an ex-DAP politician now with Bersatu, was charged in August 2019 with allegedly raping his Indonesian domestic helper.

Court matters aside, here’re are other news pieces in brief:

  • Some 11 million Malaysian phone numbers linked to Facebook accounts have reportedly been leaked.

    This is part of 533 million accounts FB claimed were initially leaked in, that’s been dealt with. Even so, the compromised deets, which are available on the net, pose a security risk especially considering most Malaysian banks use SMS TAC codes.
     
  • Seven people have been arrested in connection with a cartel that scored as many as 354 tenders allegedly involving projects worth RM3.8 billion from gomen ministries and agencies.
     
  • The Transport Ministry’s officially announced the restoration of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) to the original BN-era alignment. Several Selangor and Negeri Sembilan state excos have criticised the move, with one Selangor rep insisting his state won’t cooperate with “big bully” Putrajaya.
     
  • Meanwhile, Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong’s come under fire for calling tech portal SoyaCincau an untrusted source over a report by the site on Facebook’s submarine cable project. Not to be rattled, SoyaCincau’s since posed three important questions on the issue to Wee.

    In a nutshell, the questions centre on Malaysia’s cabotage policy and whether tech giants’ concerns have been addressed. Your move, YB. 

“Baby, it ain't over 'til it's over."

- Lenny Kravitz -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • India’s daily Covid cases have surpassed the 100,000 mark for the first time. The latest surge of 103,558 cases takes the country’s cumulative total to 12.6 million, the third-highest after the US and Brazil.
     
  • Close to a hundred people have been killed following flash floods in Indonesia and Timor Leste triggered by Tropical Cyclone Seroja.
     
  • Myanmar’s junta has released 8 of the 11 people arrested for communicating with CNN during the latter’s recent coverage of the crisis in the country.

    CNN has come in for a lot of flak over its trip there, including for parachuting in a Western reporter instead of engaging a local and for participating in a reporting trip that was heavily stage-managed by the country’s junta. Here’s a short explanation of why this is 50 shades of wrong.
     
  • Jordan’s Prince Hamzah has said he’ll keep communicating with the outside world despite being put on house arrest following accusations of plotting to destabilise the gomen.

    In case you’re new to the crisis in Jordan, here’s an explainer.
     
  • Actors of colour swept the individual acting honours for the first time in Screen Actors Guild Awards history. Netflix’s Trial of the Chicago 7 took the main prize.
     
  • Meanwhile, Thandiwe Newton is “taking back” her name, correcting the spelling (previously Thandie Newton). She’s said the ‘w’ was removed from her first acting credit years ago. The original spelling means beloved in the Shona language of her mother’s native Zimbabwe.

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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