A leaked circular warning of total economic shutdown if we fail to reduce our Covid-19 caseload may've been an overexaggeration, but with no let-up in our daily infection numbers, would a stricter lockdown really surprise anyone?

Elsewhere in today's newsletter, Anwar Ibrahim's still going on about having the numbers, and the judge who convicted Bossku gets transferred to the civil court.

Bolting the door

Heading for a lockdown?

Are we heading into a full lockdown ala the first MCO? 

For the mo, the powers-that-be are keeping mum. But rumours of a total economic shutdown were ramped up to 11 on Sunday thanks to a leaked circular claiming strict close-shop orders if Malaysia fails to reduce the Covid-19 rate by the time MCO 2.0 ends on Feb 4.

The leaked communique was from EU-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Eurocham) bossman Sven Schneider (yup, the same dude who whacked our Money Minister recently) to members detailing an “urgent” meeting with International Trade and Industry Ministry (Miti) reps.

According to Sven, Miti folks had zeroed in on sectors like manufacturing as primary sources of infection, discussed possible measures and were set on imposing a full lockdown should things not improve (allegedly! allegedly!).

This caused somewhat of a rumpus with an opposition lawmaker calling for transparency and an Umno lawmaker – troll king Najib Razak no less – calling for stricter measures now.

In damage control mode, Eurocham later denied there’d been any real indication of an imminent shutdown by the folks in Putrajaya. Did Svennie imagine it then? Time for Miti to clear the air, sayeth Umno.

Still, the situation right now is crappier than an Indah Water treatment pond. And the rise of workplace clusters suggests that for all the gomen’s good intentions in balancing life with livelihood, allowing many industries to stay open now might’ve been the wrong move.

On the subject of questionable moves, you’ve gotta wonder about the gomen’s recent decision to allow the Thaipusam chariot procession from Jalan Bandar’s Maha Mariamman temple to Batu Caves and back again in the midst this pandemic shitshow. FYI, Thaipusam falls on Jan 28.

According to authorities, only 10 devotees max will be allowed to follow the chariot, no music is to be played, and the chariot can’t make any stops. 

Thing is, there’s a whole lot about this that’s unclear. For example, who’s gonna handle crowd control and how many security/Rela/police personnel are we talking about? Will a video crew be allowed and will these guys be counted among the 10 devotees? How many organisers/temple folks will be managing the chariot?

Also, if the National Security Council thinks Thaipusam processions are fine, why is it only being allowed in KL and not in other states? 

Maybe it’s a coincidence, but the move comes after PN’s Kedah MB came under fire for nixing the Thaipusam public holiday due to MCO. A gomen overcorrection you think?

For the record

It’s been exactly one year since the very first Covid-19 cases reached our shores. Today, Malaysia’s Covid numbers are worse than ever, with our recording-breaking form showing no signs of abating.

True, it’s not all bad news considering yesterday’s record of most recoveries in a single day (4,427). Nevertheless, the past three days did see us set new unwanted benchmarks for daily deaths (18 on Friday) and infections (4,275 on Saturday). 

Stats-wise, this means our cumulative death toll stands at 678 with total infections at 183,801 and active cases at 41,677.

What a long way we’ve come since those early days of Covid management success to now being among the top 20 countries with the quickest rise in cases? We’re now second to Thailand in Asean and have outpaced countries like Indonesia and the Philippines that’d previously struggled to contain the disease. 

Fellas like Senior Minister (Security) Ismail Sabri Yaakob has claimed it’s cos of foreign immigrants and the rakyat, ‘cos we apparently dunno how to observe physical distancing rules. He may have a point but ya know, Izzy, was it the people or you gomen folks who triggered the 2020 Sabah polls and failed to comply with SOPs – and for that matter, are still agitating for elections?!?

Anyways, here are a few other Covid-related highlights from the weekend:

  • A total of 213 Covid assessment centres are set to classify patients and determine if they can be treated at home. This is a positive move fo’ sho’ considering how stretched our health system is. But can we manage this when we currently can’t even manage contact tracing?
     
  • The Health Ministry’s set to hold trials for two oral medications — Ivermectin (IVM) and Favipiravir — to determine their effectiveness in treating Covid. IVM is used for parasitic infestations while Favipiravir is an antiviral drug used to treat influenza.
     
  • Several condos are apparently forcing tenants to get tested for Covid. It seems that while certain condos are targeting foreign tenants, some others require all tenants, even locals, to furnish test results. Sure, it pays to be cautious.

    But as far as we can tell, condo managements don’t have the authority to impose policies like this and keep people out of their homes. BT-Dubs, you can read our previous special report on xenophobia in the time of Covid, here.
     
  • On the subject of testing, Bukit Gasing rep Rajiv Rishyakaran has expanded his affordable Covid test initiative. Testing, previously just at the MBPJ Multipurpose Hall, will now also be held at Pusat Rakan Muda Kompleks Arena PJ. The centres use the antigen rapid test kits (RTK-Ag) which are priced at RM70 per test.

And the drums of politics beat on

Despite the deep doo-doo we’re in Covid-wise, politics refuses to sleep.

One usual culprit, Anwar Ibrahim, is continuing to bang on about having the numbers — not to form a government this time, but to have the current state of emergency reevaluated.

According to Bang Nuar, there’re about 114 or 115 MPs also opposed to the emergency declaration. And that figure is enough to petition the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to reconsider his order and allow Parliament to reconvene.

While this all seems pretty straightforward, with even Sarawak’s GPS on board, word has it Umno MPs opposed to PM Moo’s emergency move are reluctant to stand up and be counted. Bit potong stim if true considering their boss’s big talk about refusing to be bullied.

All this basically means that Anwar once again won’t get the numbers lah.

Incidentally, MooMoo’s current biggest fan, PAS boss Abdul Hadi Awang, has called for a stop to the politics and bickering about who has what numbers and who should be prime minister right now as the country focuses on what’s important — battling Covid-19.

But as many peeps have said before, it’s well and good to say there’s a greater need at hand, but where, pray tell, are the checks and balances when Parliament’s been suspended? 

Also, isn’t one of Hadi’s own men attempting to push ahead with a dumbass anti-LGBT taskforce idea and possible harsher laws against LGBT folks, as the country battles the pandemic? Focussing on ‘what’s important’, are we?

Transfer rumours and other things

Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali, the judge who convicted Jibby Razak of graft just six months ago, is being transferred from the KL criminal court back to the civil court. 

Nazlan was originally a commercial court judge – the commercial courts are part of the wider civil courts system, just so you know. Neways, Naz was transferred to the criminal courts in July 2018 to preside over Jib’s SRC International corruption case. 

His new transfer, effective March 1, will mean he’s leaving criminal cases behind for the foreseeable future. He does have other high-profile cases to conclude first, though, including another 1MDB-linked case concerning the gomen’s US$340 million forfeiture suit against PetroSaudi International Limited; and separate graft cases involving Jibby and ex-Treasury sec-gen Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah, and ex-Felda chair Mohd Isa Abdul Samad.

It must be noted that judges are moved around all the time, and the Malaysian Bar and law experts have maintained there’s nothing strange in that. Unfortunately, when you have m̶i̶s̶c̶h̶i̶e̶f̶-̶m̶a̶k̶e̶r̶ Jibby himself suggesting Naz’s prior move was “sudden“, it could be difficult convincing folks on the street that everything’s above board.

While you chew on that, here’re some other dangling bits of news:

  • Former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad has responded to rumours of ill health with a vid confirming he’s at home and well. Rumours had circulated on Saturday of the ex-premier being hospitalised.
     
  • Muda’s heading to court over the Registrar of Societies’ rejection of its application to be registered as a political party. The ROS also recently rejected a similar application by Maddey’s new party Pejuang.
     
  • In addition to improving TV Pendidikan broadcasts, the gomen’s looking to set up a dedicated education channel to help kids learn better at home.
     
  • Suaram’s responded to the alleged brutal death-in-custody case of G Jestus Kevin and is insisting this justifies the urgent formation of the long-touted Independent Police Complaint and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC). To refresh your memory, the gomen tabled the Independent Police Conduct Commission (IPCC) last year, which is a watered-down version of the original IPCMC.

    However, it’s hard to shake the feeling that not enough people are getting riled up about this tragic death. We have a health crisis on our hands, and there’re worries aplenty. But a man was killed on the instruction of those entrusted to protect him, people!

“I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I'm going to learn, I must do it by listening.”

- Larry King -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Google has threatened to shut down its search engine in Australia while Facebook’s vowed to remove news from Aussie users’ feeds if tech companies are forced to pay for news.

    However, the Australian government has said it’s inevitable these companies will have to toe the line if they wanna operate Down Under once a new law compelling payment comes into force.
     
  • As POTUS Joe Biden looks to rewrite many of his predecessor’s policies, a move to impeach Donald Trump could derail the current president’s efforts to unify the United States.
     
  • Drug kingpin Tse Chi Lop, one of Asia and the world’s most wanted men, has been arrested in the Netherlands. The dude, dubbed Asia’s El Chapo, is believed to be the leader of Sam Gor, a drug cartel that’s a mega-producer and supplier of meth.
     
  • Legendary talk show host Larry King, who was most recently hospitalised for Covid-19, has passed away aged 87. It’s unclear if King, who’s faced a number of health issues in recent years, died from Covid.
     
  • According to a new study, hand sanitisers are hurting children’s eyes. Researchers in France have found that the high concentration of ethanol in sanitisers could kill cells in the cornea.

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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