Gōngxǐ gōngxǐ! After a barrage of criticism, the powers-that-be issues a new set of rules for the coming Chinese New Year celebrations.

Elsewhere in today's newsletter, the Covid-19 vaccination plan kicks into gear despite a lack of clarity; a woman wins her years-long case to be declared non-Muslim; and we all saw this coming – Big Brother pores over Tommy Thomas's book.

Alright stop! Flip flop!

Flip it and reverse it

You can hold the pasar malam CNY reunion dinner plans ya’ll! 

After getting whacked by everyone and their dog, the gomen’s announced a much-improved update to the SOPs for the coming festivities. (FYI, we covered the OG SOPs in Friday’s newsletter).

Here’s the skinny on the changes:

  • Reunion gatherings are back on — BUT limited to 15 family members residing within a 10km radius and within district/state lines.

    Prayers at places of worship are allowed (max 30 peeps) on Feb 11 (CNY Eve), 12 (CNY Day 1), and Feb 19 (Feast of the Jade Emperor).

    Prayer sessions are capped at 30 mins per session between 6am and 2pm on the stated dates.
     
  • Naturally, wearing of masks and social distancing rules still apply.

Sure, the new rules aren’t as accommodating as Hari Raya’sDeepavali’s  and Christmas’ last year, but remember, our Covid numbers then weren’t nearly as high as they are now (we’ll get to that). 

Also, the facts show that the greenlighting of interstate travel around Christmastime did no one any favours. Ho-Ho-Hopeless!

In case you’re wondering, the gomen had recently come under fire for well, not even knowing when reunion dinner takes place, and unequal allowances being granted for a tonne of other stuff (like okaying pasar malams but not family dinners at home). 

And now that we’re done with CNY, let’s talk about leeways elsewhere. Malaysia and Indonesia have agreed to a travel bubble arrangement to bolster bilateral trade.

When and how this’ll take place is still up in the air for now. But it looks like the deal, agreed to during PM Muhyiddin Yassin’s nasi padang date with Indonesian prez Joko Widodo, will give tourism a massive shot in the arm.

Many have derided the plan as how’ll it work with domestic travel bans in place? For now though, it’s limited to gomen officials and investors. Also, could the deal result in travel clusters? Highly likely if the usual half-baked SOPs we’ve become used to are put in place. 

Enforcement, too, has been piss poor since MCO 1.0. And a now, almost a year on, Bukit Aman’s internal security and public order boss Abd Rahim Jaafar, has finally admitted to the problem. He’s conceded enforcers themselves find MCO 2.0 rules confusing as heck!

Its great coppers are copping to this, but their confusion’s costing us common folks thousands of ringgit in fines, with us having to jump through hoops to appeal. We repeat, that’s why it’s so important for the rules to be clear, precise and logical.

BT-Dubs, on the subject of confusing, it seems physical classes for SPM students, who only just returned to school, will end tomorrow. 

SPM’s set to begin on Feb 22. Candidates were initially required to return to classes physically till then. Now, however, the Education Ministry appears to have changed its mind.

Officially, the MOE has stated in a circular that this is for candidates to self-study. But the likes of Maszlee Malik and one Najib Razak are calling BS and demanding to know the logic of ordering kids back for physical lessons only to close schools just before exams.

Education Minister Mohd Radzi Md Jidin has been conveniently missing in action, incidentally. Perhaps he’s still out celebrating his new Datukship? 🤷

Steady as she goes

While our Covid-19 numbers seemed to have steadied at the 3,000s from Friday (3,3913,847 and 3,731 for FridaySaturday and Sunday respectively), the daily death toll’s still high with a massive 46 over the past three days. Plus, active cases are now at a record high of 51,241.

The slim silver lining to all this though is that the nationwide infectivity rate (Rt) appears to have dipped ever so slightly.

The Rt was over 1.00 for about a month. On Friday, the figure dropped to 0.99, which means the disease appears to be spreading at a slower rate.

The Rt refers to le virus’ reproduction, or transmission, rate at a given point in time. It’s not to be confused with that other often-used term R0 (pronounced R-naught). That’s the virus’ potential to infect others, meaning how many people can be infected by one positive case.

If you’re confused, this article explains the diff. However, if you can’t be arsed to read it, just know an Rt below 1.00 is good!

Meanwhile, the national vaccination plan is kicking into gear, with Stadium Malawati in Shah Alam set to begin operating as a Covid assessment centre from today. Also, there’s confirmation that a batch of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines will arrive earlier than scheduled.

While it’s good to note things are progressing on the inoculation front, there’re loads about Malaysia’s vaccine plan we’ve yet to be clued in on.

For example, we know the order of priority for vaccinations is frontliners, followed by senior citizens/high-risk individuals/disabled and finally, the rest of us adults. However, how are we all gonna be identified, registered and grouped in time? We’re talking some 27 million people here.

Vaccinations are set to kick off on Feb 26, so we need clarity pronto.

Anyways, here’re are few other coronavirus-related news:

  • Talk about coming full circle. Dr Lee Chew Kiok, a pioneer medical frontliner in the early days of the pandemic who treated the first Covid cases here, has herself contracted the disease.
     
  • She’s not alone. Some 5,000 healthcare workers have contracted Covid-19 since the pandemic hit.
     
  • The gomen has said foreign workers can be allowed back into the country if employers can guarantee proper living conditions to prevent the Covid spread.
     
  • The hashtag #KitaMintaLima trended on Twitter over the weekend. Of mysterious origins, the movement is urging the Agong to grant five things to ease the rakyat’s burden. The five are:
    • Targeted and effective MCO (so not the one we have);
    • Fair and impartial enforcement of the SOPs;
    • Frontliner support by channelling all resources to combat the pandemic;
    • Automatic bank loan moratorium and cash aide for the people throughout MCO;
    • Devices and internet data for all students.

Pro-tip: Don’t hold your breath waiting for this to happen. 

I do declare

Legal decisions and legal eagles were in the news the past three days. Chief among them was a woman’s successful bid to be declared a non-Muslim.

Rosliza Ibrahim was born out of wedlock to a Muslim father and non-Muslim mother. She’d been battling for six years to be recognised as a non-Muslim as she’d been raised Buddhist by her mother.

Happily for her, the Federal Court on Friday agreed. The nine-member apex court panel ruled 7-2 that while Rosliza had a Muslim name, there was no evidence to show she’d been raised in that faith. 

It was noted that this case differs from the infamous Lina Joy’s case. A Christian convert, Joy was born into Islam and later sought to have ‘Islam’ removed from her IC via the courts.

Cases involving Muslims seeking to leave the religion have often come under intense scrutiny. However, ex-deputy law minister Hanipa Maidin noted that court chose not to play to the gallery in Rosliza’s case. Kudos, your lordships! 

In other legal news, more people have come out to slam the suspension of whistleblower judge Hamid Sultan Abu Backer, with the Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) in particular noting how the judge wasn’t allowed to explain himself. 

To refresh your memory, the appellate court judge was, well, judged and essentially placed in cold storage after the Judges Ethics Committee suspended him until his retirement (coming soon) over claims he made against the judiciary.

Incidentally, this report – on alleged corruption in the judiciary as detailed by a repentant Kelantan magistrate convicted of graft – is a must-read.

On the topic of spilling the tea, Uncle Tommy Thomas looks to be in for more trouble on account of his book.

At last count, over 164 police reports have been lodged against the former AG! Worst of all (not unsurprising), apart from police probe, the Home Ministry’s scrutinising Tommy’s book with an eye on an outright ban. 

On top of this, former glorious leader Najib Razak will be filing a defamation suit against Mr T. Wow!

Talk about ruffling a whole load of feathers, TT!

This and that

Here’re some other things that elbowed their way into the news:

  • Racial politics will drive away non-Malays, sayeth Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the former PM twice over who traded in one Malay party (Umno) for another (Bersatu), and is now at the helm of yet one more (Pejuang). Wasn’t he also in charge when Malaysia became one of the few countries in the world to reject ICERD, the treaty against racial discrimination?
     
  • Meanwhile, on Dr M’s prediction of the Bersatu-Umno-PAS gomen collapsing after the next general election, FT Minister Annuar Musa has said that won’t happen ’cos the parties are all on the same page. Uh-huh. Pull the other one.
     
  • Uncle Lim Kit Siang’s got a question for PM Moo — Dude, where’s my bipartisan emergency committee?!

    MooMoo had promised the establishment of a special committee to advise the King on the emergency. However, one not as yet appeared.
     
  • Courier company J&T Express has promised to compensate customers following the publishing of a viral video which depicts workers at a sorting hub in Ipoh tossing parcels about following alleged bonus disputes.

    There were also reports of food and drink going missing from packages.

“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.”

- George Burns -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Even though former US presidents have been allowed to receive intelligence briefings, POTUS Joe Biden believes his orange-hued predecessor, Donald Trump, should be excluded from that list. It’s left to be seen, however, if the policy will be officially changed.
     
  • Myanmar has blocked Twitter, Instagram and Facebook a week on from a military coup that saw Aung San Suu Kyi and leaders from the previous government detained. Undeterred, thousands of citizens rallied over the weekend to denounce the takeover.
     
  • More than a hundred people are feared dead after a Himalayan glacier broke off and crashed into hydroelectric damn in northern India, causing a devastating flood.
     
  • The Grim Reaper was busy over the weekend, claiming The Sound of Music star Christopher Plummer, 91, ex-world heavyweight champion boxer Leon Spinks, 67, and legendary singer Engelbert Humperdinck’s wife of 56 years, Patricia. 
     
  • Saharan dust is blowing in the European wind ‘cos of a unique meteorological phenom, and it’s resulting in some really gorgeous pictures.

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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