Lights. Camera. Pool Time.
Open for business
Restrictions have continued to be eased in the two weeks since the country officially moved into recovery mode, and on Monday we got a bigger boost with July 1 being announced as the date of Malaysia’s soft reopening.
Okay, yes, we’re still in the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) phase until Aug 31, so quite a few of the restrictions we’ve had to deal with over the past three months are still in effect. Nevertheless, come July 1, we’ll finally be able to resume some of the activities we enjoyed before the lockdown turned all of us into homebodies. You know, like dips in the swimming pool and visits to the cinema.
The National Security Council has yet to publish a comprehensive list of the sectors and activities being allowed to resume on July 1 – some industry players are still lobbying to be included – but based on Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s press briefing, we can tell ya the things greenlit included:
- Cinema and theatre performances as well as indoor live events
- Recreational swimming in public as well as private, hotel, condo and gated community pools
- Meetings and conferences of political parties, trade unions, cooperatives and all other registered organisations and societies
Datuk Seri Funny Shirts also says social distancing and health protocols are still to be adhered to, with events/performances/whatnot limited to 250 people max. However, the long and short of it is that you can watch Mulan when it opens here next month, and maybe squeeze in a swim before.
Interestingly, though, while there’re no express restrictions on children resuming the use of pools – Izzy Yaakob says the government is leaving it up to parents and pool operators – it’s unclear at this point if kids will be allowed back in the cinema. Golden Screen Cinemas, for one, says it’ll be introducing and implementing protocols like temperature checks, digital declarations for contact tracing, regular sanitisation and disinfection of facilities, and gap seating. However, as far as we can tell, no decision on kids being granted entry to movies has been made.
It should really no longer come as a surprise that announcements by the powers-that-be keep being made with so many things left unaccounted for. Nevertheless, if the RMCO period is really geared towards taking us to and beyond the finish line, then the government really has to start being more thorough. If not, well, then we risk experiencing an increase in cases of infection, just like Germany and South Korea did when they reopened for business. As a matter of interest, South Korea revealed just yesterday that it’s battling a second wave of infections, and this despite the country reducing its daily infection rate to single digits in April and having one of the best testing and tracing systems.
The government’s point about leaving it up to parents (as in the case of swimming pools) is also potentially problematic. In an article in The Atlantic in May (it’s a looong read, but really worth it), public health experts had warned that expecting regular folks to consider things like disease incubation periods and the like, and make decisions based on that, is a tall order. As such, it is imperative that the rules are clearly and properly articulated, with, if possible, zero ambiguity.
It’s also important that there’s no let-up in the info delivery on risks and threats as we head to July 1 and beyond.
In our special report on Saturday, Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr N. Ganabaskaran noted that good hygiene practices like frequent handwashing and social distancing have put us in good stead, not just in dealing with Covid-19 but also other communicable diseases. However, to ensure this remains the case, we must stay vigilant. And that can only be achieved if we’re constantly made aware of what threats swimming in a crowded pool, for example, could potentially bring.
By the way, July 1 is also the date pre-schools are set to re-open, though we’ve yet to hear about primary and secondary schools opening fully for business. Strange ain’t it? Students can now visit malls, go out for meals, swim (if their parents say it’s okay) and maybe even catch a movie with friends. But they still can’t go to school.
Hotter by 12 in Pedas
Despite no deaths being recorded for over a week and the overall recovery rate continuing to improve, Monday’s daily infection numbers saw 12 new cases being traced to a 𝚑̶𝚘̶𝚝̶ ̶𝚊̶𝚗̶𝚍̶ ̶𝚜̶𝚙̶𝚒̶𝚌̶𝚢̶ chicken farm in Pedas, Negri Sembilan that as of yesterday, is now responsible for 316 of Malaysia’s Covid-19 infections.
The Pedas cluster began with a small group of infected Malaysian workers. However, the disease was soon transmitted to other staff members there, resulting in all workers at the factory eventually being isolated and quarantined. The good news from this, though, is that despite the new cases recorded, 252 of the 316 patients from the Pedas cluster have been discharged.
Besides the 12 from Pedas registered yesterday, Monday’s infections included one that was detected during pre-surgery at the Selayang Hospital and two imported cases. In total, Malaysia has now recorded a grand tally of 8,587 cases of infection. However, only 289 of these are still being treated.
Speaking of imported cases, though, there could be an increased risk of imported infections now that more Malaysians are expected to make their way home from overseas; the government announced yesterday that Malaysians with foreign spouses and children can re-enter the country.
The authorities are insisting on registration with the Immigration Department, of course, but are quarantine measures are also necessary? The New Zealand example shows how easy it is to go from zero cases to a couple of positive ones very quickly without the right protocols in place.
Here, anyways, are a few other coronavirus-related odds and ends from yesterday:
- Malaysia is halting the use of hydroxychloroquine as the medication, that’s been traditionally used to fight malaria, has proven to be ineffective against Covid-19. Health Director-General Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah says the decision was made following a study of the drug’s effect on 500 cases.
- Meanwhile, recovered patients who were originally diagnosed with stage 4 and 5 Covid-19 will continue to be monitored for possible long-term lung damage.
- The Health Ministry has yet to determine how a tourist who was detained at the Immigration Department’s depot in Bukit Jalil died. A post-mortem has revealed side effects from a pneumonia infection, however, more tests are being conducted. The man, identified as Zeawdeen Kadar Masdar from India, was admitted to the MAEPS temp hospital in Serdang for Covid-19 on May 26 but was discharged on June 7 after receiving a clean bill of health.
Amending an amendment
Though MIC boss S. Vigneswaran’s contributions as Dewan Negara president may have largely gone unnoticed, his last day on the job will certainly be remembered for the thorny issue – the 1993 constitutional amendment and a proposal to reverse it – he chose to bring up.
The whole tale of how the said amendment came about and became law is long and many-faceted. (You can read about it here and here though.) However, the TL;DR version is that in 1992, following a very public quarrel between hockey coach Douglas Gomez and then Johor Ruler Sultan Iskandar involving allegations of assault, the government of the day, led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad, moved to curtail the powers of Malaysia’s royals by enacting a change to the Federal Constitution that saw them losing their immunity from prosecution.
Vicky, in his farewell speech on Monday, though put forth the view that as the constitutional amendment never got the okay of the Conference of Rulers, it was illegal. This means a reversal is in order.
But is the Vigman correct?
Well, as far as the law goes, Article 38(4) of the Federal Constitution is pretty clear that no law directly affecting the privileges and rights of the royals can be passed without the consent of the Conference of Rulers.
Even so, it’s not entirely clear if and when consent was obtained.
Sultan Azlan Shah, the late Perak Ruler, ninth Yang di-Pertuan Agong and former numero uno judge of the Federal Court, in a lecture on the role of Constitutional Rulers, makes fleeting mention of an impasse between the government and Rulers back in the day. However, he goes on to say things were soon resolved. And then, of course, there’s everyone’s favourite source of reference, Wikipedia, which notes that the amendment was pushed through and passed by Parliament despite the opposition of certain members of the Conference.
It’s all a little fuzzy, and truth be told, we can’t exactly be sure of what is what. However, what we can tell you is that the Vigster is cocksure.
In an explanation following his speech, the MIC bossman said that he’d done extensive research into the issue and is thus, very certain that the proper procedures weren’t followed. That’s why, he’s now proposing that reparations be made.
Now, we don’t deny that Vicky probably knows more about this matter than most other folks. (He says his interest in the issue was sparked following a parliamentary speakers conference in Johor.) However, be that as it may, you’ve gotta wonder why the issue was never brought up before today, and what indeed is the point of bringing this up now, when the Vigman is, officially, no longer part of the legislature.
You also gotta wonder why our dear Vignes couldn’t have chosen one of the many real issues of the day – our political crisis, our public health situation, our economy, human rights in Malaysia amidst the global Black Lives Matter movement – to speak out on.
The question of the immunity of a head of state has been widely discussed – here’s the fascinating Wikipedia page entry on their immunity in international law, for example. The queen in England is immune from prosecution, so such things aren’t unheard of or unpracticed. But is the practice right, and should it apply to all royals as opposed to just the agong, who is the head of state, as Vicky seems to be suggesting? We’ll let you decide that for yourselves.
Vicky says he’ll furnish the public with all 72 pages of the research he carried out, and we look forward to checking it out. However, what the MIC man might also want to do is state what he’s prepared to do to get that troublesome amendment re-amended.
Because you can be practically certain about one thing – it won’t be too long before Dr Maddey has something to say about all this.
Silence of the PKR lambs
After allowing every PKR member and their dog to weigh in on the stalemate over the Opposition’s Prime Minister candidate, Anwar Ibrahim Inc. has finally issued a gag order, warning all reps to avoid speaking to the media.
Yup, PKR hasn’t exactly come out to confirm the don’t-speak diktat. Nevertheless, Malaysiakini sources confirm that a message to that effect was dispatched by party comms director Fahmi Fadzil with the intention of preventing further damage to PKR’s relationship with Pakatan Harapan partners: Parti Amanah Negara and DAP.
In case you’ve missed the recent drama as well as yesterday’s newsletter, PKR’s rejection of Mads Mohamad as the so-called Pakatan Plus PM candidate has resulted in mucho friction, not so much with Maddey’s rebel Bersatu-ians or Parti Warisan Sabah, but close pals DAP and Amanah. Worse, the tension’s been exacerbated by all the PKR also-rans and never-wases who’ve attempted to take the party’s allies to task for not backing their
Lord and Saviour president, Anwar.
The thing about this gag order though, is that while we’re at least saved from having to read yet another statement by PKR cheerleader-in-chief Mohd Farhash Wafa Salvador Rizal Mubarak, the move is unlikely to change Opposition’s fate. Especially too as DAP and Amanah are refusing to budge over their support of Maddey.
In a joint statement yesterday, DAP and Amanah maintained that their support for Anwar has never wavered. However, If he really wants to be installed as Malaysia’s 10th PM, then he’d need to shut up and be assured by a written agreement that the top job will be his in six months.
Yep, folks, a new agreement. In writing. You know, kinda like the earlier agreement they had. In writing. You know, the one that Maddey decided to postpone, delay and otherwise ignore?
Anyway, as we said yesterday, all this snapping and bitching doesn’t necessarily mean Pakatan Harapan’s days are numbered. However, it does certainly look like, barring some miracle, these guys won’t manage to put aside their differences and retake Putrajaya.
By the way, in related news, one of Mad’s aides insists the old man did not meet with Perikatan Nasioanal leaders – specifically Hishammuddin Hussein and Azmin Ali – during a recent trip to Langkawi. The former PM was there in Langkawi, sure. But no meetings took place, it’s claimed.
Mahathir has continued to state he will never work with Muhyiddin again. However, with accusations flying back and forth that neither he nor Anwar has the magic 112 Members of Parliament needed to wrest power from Perikatan, rumours of secret meetings between the old man and his current rivals keep being brought up. No confirmation of these meets has, as yet, surfaced, though. But could it be just a question of time?
Our big stories aside, some other interesting news items also surfaced on Monday, and here they are in brief:
- A part-time model who killed a motorist in 2017 while driving against the flow of traffic on the North-South Expressway has been found guilty of reckless driving and sentenced to five years in prison. The 22-year-old was also slapped with a RM18,000 fine.
- He may not look like a bear no more, but capturing Jho Low is still proving difficult. Inspector-General of Police Hamid Bador says cops know where the portly pirate is hiding, however, there still are certain constraints facing authorities.
- The court says it will need a least a month to decide if former PM Najib Razak has to enter a defence in the Inland Revenue Board’s suit against him over RM1.69 billion in unpaid taxes. The IRB’s claim is for between 2011 and 2017 and includes the RM2.6bil donation that magically found its way into the Jib’s bank account.
- Even though it was a Pakatan election pledge, Umno Youth wants a Royal Commission of Inquiry into allegations of fund misappropriation at Tabung Haji to be initiated. The wing says such a move will help restore investor confidence in the institution.
- Warisan’s Peter Anthony, who was due to face more corruption charges in Kuala Lumpur on Monday, did not actually make it to court. The story is that he’d been warded at a hospital in Sabah the previous day for vertigo. That’s the sensation of feeling off-balance, by the way, not the brilliant Alfred Hitchcock thriller.
“When life gets you down, do you know what you've gotta do? Just keep swimming.”
- Dory -
IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS
- The number of Covid-19 infections worldwide has breached the 9 million mark, with more than 470,000 deaths recorded. Meanwhile, Brazil has become the second country after the United States to register 50,000 deaths or more.
- Saudi Arabia has banned international pilgrims for this year’s haj. This year’s pilgrimage will be limited to a small number of people, of all nationalities, who are already residing in the Gulf nation.
- India’s Mukesh Ambani has edged his way into the Top 10 of the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Ambani, who leads Reliance Industries and is estimated to be worth US$64.5 billion, is the only Asian in the Top 10. Jeff Bezos, who’s valued at US$160 billion, remains at the top of the pile with Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg just behind.
- One of the highlights of the yearly tech calendar just happened yesterday – Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (or known to us nerds simply as WWDC). The company’s slew of announcements included that it will move from using Intel chips to its own hardware. But for us users, the most important announcement is that Apple will be launching iOS 14. Here’s hoping it won’t slow down older phones too much.
- Justin Bieber says that it’s “factually impossible” he sexually assaulted a woman at the Four Seasons in Austin in 2014 as he was actually at an Airbnb with then baby, baby, baby Selena Gomez at the time of the alleged incident.
- A suspected toxic package that resulted in panic, an evacuation, and as many as 12 postal workers in Germany being sent to the hospital turned out to have been nothing more than a shipment of durian. What a bunch of wusses!