Malaysia’s Covid-19 numbers are getting worrying again, and PM Muhyiddin Yassin’s government is now mulling making it compulsory for masks to be worn in public.

In other news, recognition of the United Examination Certificate’s become an issue again, certain GLC heads claim they ain’t making as much dough as rumoured, and Dewan Rakyat Speaker Art Harun’s actions get scrutinised again.

Masks on!

Just when we thought we were out ...

We’re not in trouble again. Not yet anyway. However, the recent uptick in Covid-19 infections implies that as loads of people got sent home from the hospitals here in the past few weeks, we might just have become too complacent for our own good.

Think that’s an overstatement? Well, Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob confirms that more than 300 people were arrested on Sunday for partying at pubs and nightclubs nationwide in contravention of Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) rules. And there’s also this – a photo that’s since gone viral of a patient-under-surveillance who, as the tag on her wrist suggests, should’ve been Netflix and chilling self-isolating at home instead of going out in public and putting tonnes of others at risk.

Back in May, health experts and even one Najib Razak had warned that relaxing movement curbs could result in a surge in cases of infection. However, the assurance given then by those in authority was that strict adherence to health protocols would see us through to the end. 

In hindsight, and with new disease clusters emerging left, right and centre, that appears to have been wishful thinking.

 

Speaking of new clusters, one of the most worrying has been discovered at an old folks home in Kluang, Johor that’s so far thrown up 14 cases, a great many of whom are, as expected, aged persons that are as vulnerable to succumbing to the disease as a former resident of the facility who was confirmed to have died from Covid-19 days ago. 

 

(Side note: Kluang is where the Malaysian government imposed enhanced movement curbs back in March.)

 

Anyways, all this crap has led Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to warn Malaysians that there’s a real risk of lockdown rules being reintroduced if we don’t get our act together pronto. 

 

It’s no exaggeration to say that our economy sucks balls right now, with unemployment the worst it’s been in years. However, significant progress has been made since businesses were allowed to open up and now, we’re even daring to look towards a GDP growth of up to 7.5% next year. Unfortunately for all of us, all those gains and hopes of recovery will be dashed should we need to shut shop again. 

 

That’s why, for a start, what the government is looking to do is to make it compulsory for masks to be worn in all public places.

 

It’s debatable, of course, whether mandatory masking is gonna help ward off a second wave of infections. (Especially if worn wrongly). However, with the numbers the way they are, there’re few other options. But we’ve by now seen so many cases of places that thought they beat the virus, slacked off and then saw a resurgence. So the lessons should be learned by now.

 

By the way, there’re now 122 active cases, with three people in intensive care. No deaths, however, have been recorded since Sunday, so the fatality rate is still at 123, with the overall tally of cases now standing at 8,800.

Much ado about UEC

The Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) issue has been dragged into focus again following PM Moo’s meeting with a Chinese coalition of associations last week. And once more, there’s a threat of the whole matter becoming all about race.

In a nutshell, what you should know before we begin is that the UEC is a standardised examination that’s sat for by students of Chinese independent schools. The test is accepted in many parts of the world for entry into university and college. Nevertheless, Malaysia has never recognised it for admission to public unis. 

What you also need to know is there’s been a bit of disagreement about what exactly was said at that meeting between PM Moo and the Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia a.k.a. Huazong last week.

On Friday, the story, as far as Huazong told it, was that Muhyiddin had expressed a personal wish that the government would one day recognise the UEC. Days later, however, the PM’s Office clarified Moo had never said the government would okay the exam, but instead, had stressed that the UEC should be in line with the national education policy.

Acknowledgement of the UEC is particularly thorny and many quarters, including Umno and Muhyiddin’s Bersatu, have had problems with it in the past. Yep, supporters of the exam say its standard is higher than the SPM. However, the big bone of contention appears to be that its syllabus isn’t Malaysia-centric.

Despite all that though, Pakatan Harapan had promised to get the examination accepted, and had even set up a task force to study its implementation back when it was in power. Unfortunately, there never was a right time for the task force’s report to be handed in – what with Pakatan’s Education Minister first being given the boot, Dr Mahathir Mohamad then taking over the education portfolio, and finally, the coalition losing Putrajaya. And so, we’re back to where we were years ago with no certainty, and a bunch of people screaming for and against the exam being recognised by the current administration.

Eddin Khoo, chairman of the UEC policy task force established under the previous government says his report is good to go. However, he recognises too that handing it in now may result stir the pot some more. And that, given how volatile the situation with Chinese education can get, is not gonna do anyone any favours.

 

Incidentally, one party that’s kept uncharacteristically quiet through the latest bit of controversy is Perikatan Nasional partner MCA, which had included recognition of the UEC in its election manifesto back in 2018 and was quick to call out the previous guys in charge for dragging their feet on recognising the exam. 

Guess they’re not interested in rocking the boat either, huh?

All about the (GLC) money, money, money

According to the rumour mill, heads of government-linked companies and agencies draw a shit tonne of moolah each month. Be that as it may, a coupla PM Moo’s recent appointees are calling bullshit, with one of them in particular claiming he makes only RM8,000.

Allegations of GLC heads minting ringgit began circulating almost as soon as news surfaced months ago of Muhyiddin allegedly doling out chairmanships and the like to secure his position as PM. And those assertions surfaced again on Monday in the Dewan Rakyat, with an MP alleging that Moo’s Perikatan Nasional government could end up spending as much as RM25 million by the end of the year just to keep all his men in office.

Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, the Prasarana Malaysia Bhd chairman and Pasir Salak MP, however, claims the accusations are false and that his take-home pay is only RM8,000 a month

Now, we can’t say, of course, if the Umno man is indeed telling the truth ’cos one, Perikatan MPs assets and income have yet to published on the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s website, and two, Prasarana is some months away from filing its annual report with Bursa Malaysia. Still, what we can tell you is that Tajuddin was so riled by the allegations in the Dewan on Monday that he decided to out UDA Holdings Bhd boss Jalaluddin Alias too, claiming the Jelebu MP also makes the same amount.

Meanwhile, former minister Mahdzir Khalid also denied claims that he’s been pocketing a cool RM1 million a month in salary and allowances since taking over as Tenaga Nasional Bhd head. Unfortunately, dear Madz wasn’t as forthcoming with the remuneration deets of his employment contract as Tajuddin was. Even so, here’s something to consider – Leo Moggie, who was TNB boss in 2018 and 2019, is said to have drawn RM876,790 in 2019 and RM883,039 the year before in his role. That’s in total for the respective years though. Not per month.

Anyways, wages aside, how much these guys make a month is only one part of what people are not too pleased about – the other is whether they actually deserve to be in the positions they’ve been appointed to.

Money Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz noted a couple of days ago that only qualified MPs had been appointed to lead GLCs. However, at least one former Pakatan cabinet member has been dismissive of the explanation, while another questioned if the recent appointees’ academic backgrounds had been vetted.

To be fair, all Moo’s GLC appointees may well be the right people to heading their respective companies/concerns/kongsis/whatnots. However, claims that these folks should be leading simply ’cos they’re elected reps have done nothing to allay concerns that they are in their roles simply as insurance for the PM.

Of Art, artwork and other odds and ends

Art Harun’s in the spotlight again barely a week from assuming his role as Dewan Rakyat Speaker, and this time, it’s got to do with a note he wrote to try and get a judge to excuse Jibby Razak from court proceedings.

To cut a long story short, the judge in the case had initially refused to let Jib ponteng court to attend Parliament. However, Art’s note ended up swaying the learned dude, who then decided to end the trial early last Thursday.

Art has since defended himself over the written message, claiming he was merely making a request. However, some critics, like Ramkarpal Singh, feel the legal doctrine of separation of powers – which champions the independence of the executive, legislature and judiciary – renders Art’s letter an unacceptable interference.

 

One other person who had a valid point was Bersatu’s Rais Yatim, who noted that Article 8 of the Federal Constitution states that every person is equal before the law and thus, Art’s action sets a dangerous precedent that might be taken to mean that MPs are eligible to certain exceptions and exemptions. It’s not often we find ourselves agreeing with #yorais, but in this case, the man, who is being touted for the role incoming Dewan Negara president, is correct!

 

Here, anyways, are some other dangling bits and pieces of news from yesterday:

  • Remember that mural that featured our Yang diPertuan Agong and Malaysia’s coronavirus hero Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah? Well, it’s now been painted over, thanks to some irresponsible arseholes who apparently nothing better to do with their time than vandalise the wall. 
  • DAP’s Anthony Loke, who headed the Transport Ministry when Pakatan was in power, has called on PM Muhyiddin and his team to explain some of the strange calculations from his speech on Monday. We ourselves were quite lousy at math in school, but even we could tell that certain figures quoted – like the one about aid to e-hailing drivers – didn’t add up. 
  • The National Film Development Corporation (Finas) confirms that Al Jazeera didn’t have a licence to film its Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown docu feature. It’s true, of course, that Section 22(1) of the Perbadanan Kemajuan Filem Nasional Malaysia Act 1981 makes it mandatory for a licence to be applied for before a film can be made. However, a couple of questions to be asked are one, whether the rule should apply to news media companies, and two, if this law is still relevant in the era of YouTube. 
  • Hannah Yeoh has filed a suit against former inspector-general of police Musa Hassan for allegedly claiming that the Segambut MP was on a mission to turn Malaysian into a Christian nation
  • Utusan Malaysia is back y’all and it’s promised to be truthful, credible and objective. Hmmm … we guess we’ll have to wait and see if that’s true. Since, you know, it really wasn’t any of those things the last time round. Anyhoo, Utusan‘s sister publication, Kosmo!, has also returned.

“Only a fool tests the water with both feet."

- African proverb -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Trials of an experimental coronavirus vaccine have revealed it to be safe and to trigger a strong immune response. More research of the Oxford University initiative is, however, needed.
     
  • Donald Trump says the United States has one of the world’s lowest Covid-19 mortality rates. But that’s nowhere near true. In fact, it’s opposite from the truth!
     
  • Kanye West has, meanwhile, launched his campaign for the presidency in bizarre fashion with a speech that not only denounced abortion but also repeatedly referenced Adidas and threw shade at the work of abolitionist Harriet Tubman.
     
  • The pandemic has affected all professions, including the Tower of London’s famous Beefeaters. It’s understood that a number of the Tower’s 37 guards are set to lose their jobs as part of cost-saving measures.
     
  • Amsterdam’s prostitutes have been badly hit too, with many sex workers reported to have quit the industry either due to lockdown curbs or fear of contracting Covid-19.
     
  • The UK has suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong with immediate effect over the island city’s controversial new security law. China ain’t gonna be pleased, yo.

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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