The infighting within Umno intensifies as voting day for Budget 2021 approaches at the Dewan Rakyat. Worse, it's threatening to bubble over and affect us all.

Elsewhere in today's newsletter, there are mixed messages as to whether race and religion are behind KL's soon-to-be-introduced hard liquor rules, Malaysia Airlines seeks a cash injection from Khazanah Nasional, and relaxed travel rules for Covid-19 green zones has us turning, well, green with envy.

Snipe, snap, split?

The Great Fissure

There’s trouble brewing within Umno and it may all come to a head when it’s time to vote on Budget 2021 this week.

Barisan Nasional boss Ahmad Zahid Hamidi may have initially pledged the support of his coalition, which includes Umno’s close to 40 Dewan Rakyat reps, in the runup to the tabling of the Budget, or nama sebenar: Supply Bill (Budget) 2021. 

Nevertheless, as devoted readers of BTL would already know, there’s been a load of bickering since then. Which is why some observers wonder if the Budget vote will see Umno split in two, with those who’re hot for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Bersatu on one side, and everyone else on the other.

If you recall, certain Moo champs have already warned that voting against the loose Perikatan Nasional gomen’s money plan will be seen as a betrayal of the rakyat. However, it’s obvious not everyone in the party feels the same – there’s been growing support for the proposal MPs be allowed to break ranks with Umno. 

The first vote on the Supply Bill is slated to be called at the Dewan Rakyat this Thursday. Just FYI, in the absence of any parliamentary vote of confidence – or no-confidence – for or against MooMoo, the direction the Budget vote swings is seen as a proxy vote to gauge le premier’s parliamentary support.

Of course, if the number of no-confidence motions that ‘ave been tabled thus far was considered as vote, Moo and co. would’ve lost big time as a record 25 motions of no-confidence was filed against him, versus just two in his favour. 

Already Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah a.k.a Ku Li has said he won’t participate in debates on the Budget until the PM’s legitimacy faces the no-confidence test. Just to jog your memory, House Speaker Azhar ‘Art’ Harun has repeatedly said he cannot allow any private no-confidence motion to take precedence over government matters.

Guess we’ll just have to wait and see if the Umno vet turns up in the Dewan when it’s time to vote on the fiscal plan. And indeed if he and other Umno reps stand against MooMoo.

While bad blood’s been simmering for a while now, shit’s sure been hotting up between the Bersatu-friendly Umno fellas and the anti-Moo brigade recently, with arguments getting more pointed and personal. Here’s a sampling:

  • Ketereh MP Annuar Musa (one such fella who’s been called out over his apparent rosy relationship with the Bersatu PM) has said Umno suffers from a superiority complex and believes it’s still the party of old. 

    The reality, he’s said, Umno is divided and weak. Despite this, it still managed to get 11 reps appointed to Cabinet (including Annuar, wink wink), yet certain members keep claiming Umno is being sidelined. 
     
  • Umno bigwig Puad Zakarshi thinks Brother Nuar doth talk too much. Yes, Umno were the biggest losers in GE14, but it’s unfair for Annuar to make it seem like it’s the s̶p̶o̶i̶l̶t̶ ̶b̶r̶a̶t̶ “bad boy” who’s always demanding to have his way.
     
  • Puad also added Annuar was behaving like a Bersatu spokesperson in claiming that PAS, Umno’s Muafakat Nasional partner, would refuse to head into GE15 if Moo’s party wasn’t part of the equation.
     
  • Still, the biggest burn of all came courtesy of former Pulai MP Nur Jazlan Mohamed who claimed party’s leaders and grassroots had long rejected Annuar for taking up PM Moo’s cause. Which is why Annu was ejected from his role as Umno sec-gen and replaced by Pontian MP a.k.a chef nasi goreng strawberry Ahmad Maslan.

    Now, we admit we may be reading a wee bit into Nur Jazlan’s remarks but Saudara Annuar, you’ve really gotta know you’ve messed up when you’re replaced by this dude, right?

Regardless of how things end up, be sure it’s the rakyat who’ll pay the price. After all, the Budget affects us all and can we really afford a fractured, or worse, overthrown government at this juncture, when we’re literally battling for our lives.
 
Anyhoo, while Umno’s not-so-merry men and women continue to bicker, Moo’s team appears determined to convince everyday Malaysians that Budget 2021 is all about taking care of Makcik Kiah, Pak Salleh, En Lee and Puan Rani. How? Via vans blaring info on the gomen’s fiscal plan

The gomen has, of course, been using vehicles to broadcast messages on Covid-19 and relevant health protocols since the pandemic hit here earlier this year. However, the “propaganda vans” spotted in Taman Tun Dr Ismail and Bangsar over the weekend suggest the focus has now shifted from saving the rakyat to saving itself. 

Oh well, we guess desperate times call for desperate measures, huh?

Nothing to cheers about

Speaking about Annuar Musa, the Federal Territories minister’s been hard at work defending KL’s hard liquor ban.

In case you missed our BTL entry on it last week, beginning Oct 1 next year, a whole bunch of restrictions will be imposed on businesses in KL that have traditionally been legally selling alcohol without much hassle. This includes prohibiting the sale of hard liquor at sundry shops, convenience stores and Chinese medicine shops. 

Despite a tonne of people continuing to voice their objections, the ol’ boy’s insisting there nothing wrong with it. By way of justification, he’s said the new guidelines are in line with similar rules around the world.

Mr Minister has the power that be in Kay-El had referred to surveys as well as alcohol sale guidelines practised by our frenemy Singapore and in Europe.

Now, it’s good, naturally, to know that studies were carried out beforehand, his explanation only raises more questions than it answers. For example: 

  1. What are the results of these so-called surveys conducted, 
  2. Where and when were they conducted, and with whom?
  3. Were stakeholders, like sundry shop owners and relevant trade and consumer groups, brought to the table for discussions?

At the mo, we’re not being given the full picture. Authorities may have convinced themselves the new ruling is for everyone’s good, but small business owners and trade groups are pouring a different drink. Not only were they never consulted (allegedly! allegedly!) on the new move, they stand to lose significant income when the rules do come into effect— arse timing when businesses are already suffering due to the impact of the Covid pandemic.

And here’s another thing to consider: Singapore and certain European countries may well have strict rules on alcohol sale and consumption, and these might really be good. (In Sweden, for example, only state-run liquor stores are allowed to sell hard liquor while our neighbours down south restrict the sale of booze in certain areas.) However, despite how great certain rules may seem with respect to certain countries, they should be analysed for application here after taking into account our own local conditions. 

But the gomen has yet to explain what exactly is the problem they are trying to solve here. It’s also not enough to say shit like they’ve received “public complaints” on alcohol-linked social problems, sale of illegal booze or alcohol to minors without given us the data to back this up. Transparency in regards to rulings that affect us, is that too much to ask?

Nothing to do with Race and Religion?

All that aside though, the FT minister has taken pains to insist there isn’t anything overtly religious or racial about the new ruling. Pray tell, if it’s nothing to do with religion, then why’s the federal de facto RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS deputy minister quick to stick his nose in?

Ahmad Marzuk Shaary wasted no time in remarking that the gomen is not ruling out the possibility of expanding the guidelines beyond KL! He has said the matter “involved religious demands” and received positive feedback from Muslims and non-Muslims. So Abang Nuar, jawapan muktamad? Still wanna stick with the it’s-nothing-to-do-with-religion spiel? 

Incidentally, the FT MIC has welcomed the new regs cos the party’s been actively campaigning for the past few decades against the sale of illegal samsu and alcohol. FYI, new rules also include a complete ban on samsu sales from Dec 15, 2020. 

P.S. In kinda related unrelated news, pub owners and musicians that’ve seen their businesses badly hit this year are still being required to pay entertainment licence fees and related taxes for 2021. Yes, despite no indication if they’ll even be allowed to resume operations in the next 12 months. Many have been out of work since the MCO started in March! Some things are honestly beyond logic.

The low-down on lockdown

There’ve been numerous complaints about the still on-going conditional movement control order (CMCO). While loads of folks continue to moan about the lack of clarity and implementation issues, at least one guy – Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah – believes the gomen’s curbs have been effective in controlling the spread of Covid-19 and flattening the infection curve.

 

According to the good doc, recent studies has shown that if lockdowns are implemented quickly, and everyone is committed to duduk rumah, the chain of infection can be broken. Which is exactly what happened here back during the days of the MCO.

 

Unfortunately, while full lockdown measures were proven to be effective for us previously, the economic cost of a full MCO was deemed to be too high this time around. That’s why Malaysia’s third wave of infections necessitated the implementing of conditional restrictions only. Still, Noor Hisham has claimed these measures (half measures?) have successfully prevented against a huge upsurge in cases.  

 

Now, he may be on the money on terms of the effectiveness of lockdowns. However, we must add that what really doesn’t help in the fight against Covid are unclear rules and inconsistent enforcement.  

 

Anyways, while the CMCO remains in force in the Federal Territories (Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya), Negeri Sembilan, Penang, Perak, Sabah and Selangor, with Kelantan joining the fray on Saturday, the folks at Terengganu, Malacca and most parts of Kedah and Johor are free! Free! 

 

The added bit of good news is that the National Security Council has given the all-clear for travel between green states (those not under CMCO) and green districts (areas which haven’t registered coronavirus cases for 14 days in a row). Paint us envious.

 

Generally, police permission isn’t needed if you’re travelling between, or within, a green state. However, the situation is a little more complicated if one aims to travel through red zones. This piece explains the different scenarios better. We can already see problems arising ’cos well, who’s gonna check that travellers aren’t breaking the rules and stopping where they aren’t supposed to?

 

Meanwhile, Malaysia registered a rise in cases over the past three days. And while a total 3095 infections registered on FridaySaturday and Sunday. Meanwhile, a total of 9 deaths were also recorded over the past three days. This being the total number of active cases to 12,843 and deaths to 335

 

Here’re a few other dangling Covid bits:

  • Singapore has mandated a 14-day quarantine at dedicated facilities for all travellers entering the country from Malaysia. With the exception of those arriving from Sabah, the republic had previously imposed only a seven-day home quarantine on Malaysians entering the country. 
     
  • spike in cases in Kota Kinabalu is expected following screenings at two densely-populated locations — Telipok and Kampuung Numbak — which have been placed under enhanced MCOs. 
     
  • The Teratai cluster has now ballooned to close to 1,500 infections. The cases involve workers at Top Glove Bhd’s Meru factory in Klang.
     
  • Meanwhile, the Health Ministry has confirmed that a loophole in processes and procedures at the KLIA resulted in a man who’d just returned from Sabah not being issued a quarantine order and sparking a Covid cluster. Five positive cases have so far been linked to the Bah Bercham cluster.  
     
  • And in absolutely heartbreaking news, a man who died of Covid-19 in Perak is reported to have left a note to his family in which he apologised and urged them to look after themselves. The note, written by Ahmad Ahmad Taib, 58, reads: “Tolong doa dan terus solat hajat. Abah mintak maaf. Jaga diri semua.”

Flotsam and jetsam

It was a generally quiet weekend, yet here’re some of the more important odds and ends that made the news:

  • The 2020 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings ended Friday with the adoption of the APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040 and the 2020 KL Declaration. 

    The Putrajaya Vision is focused on the prosperity of current and future generations and is aimed at achieving an open, dynamic, resilient and peaceful Asia-Pac community by 2040. 

    The KL Declaration, meanwhile, looked at a number of trade and economic areas as well as highlighted the need for access to safe, effective and affordable vaccines.
     
  • Former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad is still egging on frenemy Anwar Ibrahim, claiming the younger man’s refusal to accept him will hamper Pakatan Harapan’s bid to regain Putrajaya. Yawn.
     
  • Malaysia Airlines is hoping to restructure its business and is seeking a cash injection from its sole shareholder Khazanah Nasional. According to reports, the airline could be looking for Khazanah to pump in as much as US$500 mil.
     
  • The Pahang assembly has approved an amendment that allows up to five people to be appointed to the state legislature without needing to be elected to office. According to the state gomen, the move is meant to ensure minority representation. Unfortunately, as opposition reps have noted, this tweak is open to abuse.
     
  • Harapkan pagar, pagar makan padi. More Immigration Department officers have been detained in a probe into a syndicate that targeted foreign workers and illegal immigrants and is also allegedly involved in human trafficking. The investigations have resulted in a total of 53 people being arrested so far and a fleet of luxury vehicles being impounded. 
     
  • The Malaysian music industry is much poorer following the deaths of popular composers Ruslan Mamat and A. Ali. Ruslan, 59, who made a name for himself as an outstanding dangdut songwriter in the ’90s, passed away late Thursday from a heart attack.

    71-year-old Ali, meanwhile, died in his sleep early Saturday. The musician rose to prominence as a member of seminal rock band Kembara, was an exemplary composer who’s best known for having penned Zaiton Sameon’s mega-hit Menaruh Harapan.

“It's hard to win an argument with a smart person, but it's damn near impossible to win an argument with a stupid person.”

- Bill Murray -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • The World Health Organization has advised against using the antiviral drug Remdesivir to treat Covid-19 patients as trials show “no meaningful effect on mortality or other important outcomes for patients”. Remdesivir, which was initially developed for the treatment of Ebola, recently became the first coronavirus drug to receive the approval of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

  • Meanwhile, the FDA has granted emergency approval for an experimental antibody treatment that was given to President Donald Trump when he was found to be Covid-19 positive. This may or may not be a YUGE deal. 

  • Hackers linked to the Chinese, Russian, Iranian and North Korean governments have apparently been trying to steal secrets from Covid vaccine developers. Here’s a list of the states and hackers believed to be targeting pharma companies and academic intuitions. 

  • Lawyer Lee Suet Fern, the daughter-in-law of Singapore’s late PM Lee Kuan Yew, has been handed a 15-month suspension over misconduct in the handling of her father-in-law’s will. Suet Fern was found to have “blindly followed” directions from her hubby, Lee Hsien Yang, who was set to benefit under the same will.
      
  • The Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble initiative has been put on hold following a spike in coronavirus cases in Hong Kong. The travel deal which allows a limited number of passengers to travel between the two countries without having to undergo quarantine will be re-looked at in December.

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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