A snip too far
Let’s be honest. Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s confirmation of a longer restricted movement period to April 28 wasn’t really surprising. The increasing number of red zones, Covid-19 cases – it was 4,683 infections and 76 fatalities yesterday – and the emergence of new subclusters meant an extended lockdown was always going to be the safer option. What was unexpected, though, was the government’s announcement of a relaxation of restrictions for certain industries and of course, the confusion and backlash that ensued once the details had been revealed.
The list of the sectors being allowed to conditionally resume operations is pretty long and you can check it out here if you really, really want. However, in case, you’re a bit lazy (or, like us, gila babi lazy), the TL;DR version is that Phase 3 of the Movement Control Order will see, among others, barbershops and hair salons, car service centres, optometrists, social health centres (including TCM practitioners), hardware stores, electrical and electronic shops and laundries as well as companies in the building and aerospace sectors re-opening.
What you also need to know is that complaints followed almost as soon as the complete list was disclosed by International Trade and Industry Minister Azmin Ali, so much so that the government is now waffling and saying stuff like, oh, maybe we’ll only allow businesses in green zones to operate.
Yeah, the MooMoo administration’s decision to allow certain businesses to resume operations was probably well-intentioned. However, when your own Health Director-General as well as one Najib Razak are urging a rethink, you’ve gotta know you’ve messed up. Again! And so soon after that beer factory cock-up too!
Yes, folks, there’s been much confusion since Friday relating to, among others, why traditional and complementary medicine is now being considered essential services, and what the heck legal-related services for science, professional and technical services actually means. However, the biggest issue revolved around the government’s decision to allow barbershops and hair salons to open.
In a nutshell, while it is true that many of us are in dire need of trims, there remain loads of unanswered questions about how social distancing will be maintained at barbershops/hair salons, whether hair cutting tools will be adequately cleaned and disinfected, and just what kind of risk haircuts pose to both customers and barbers/hairstylists. Perhaps, what the government has in mind is something like this?
For the record, dry haircuts are allowed across the Causeway during Singapore’s current circuit breaker (read: lockdown) period. However, the lack of clarity and referable guidelines here in Malaysia has resulted in everyone and their dog getting worked up about the move. Which is why what we now find is the government attempting to cover line and saying all opinions will be considered before a final decision is made.
Seriously, guys, we’ve been locked down for a month already. Get it right already lah! Or, we could all just opt for these hairstyles instead.
Incidentally, businesses that want to apply to reopen can send in their applications today. Fair warning though, things could change. This is Malaysia, after all.
Fake news days are here again
There’s no denying it. The past coupla months have seen misinformation and disinformation (okay, okay fake news!) spreading faster than the coronavirus. In fact, the situation is so bad right now that global news sites have been compelled to publish fake news detection guides and advisories, while WhatsApp’s even imposed new message-forwarding limits.
Unfortunately, there’s been apparently no letup in the crap being spread. Which is why governments across the world, and in Asia especially, have resorted to tightening laws and throwing hundreds in the slammer.
The problem with this approach, though, is that while the powers that be have come down hard on actual guilty parties, there’s growing concern that dissent will be purposely be targeted and stifled thanks to rules that are way too vague.
Take for example the Malaysian government’s latest advisory that, despite claiming to be all about stemming misinformation and disinformation about Covid-19, looks like a return to the glorious recent past of the (now dead) Anti-Fake News Act.
Think we’re exaggerating? Well, check out these six categories of info that our glorious leaders claim constitute fake news:
- News that lowers the reputation of an individual, an organisation, and the nation
- News that instils hatred towards the ruling government and leaders
- News on the country’s critical information systems
- News on extremist teachings
- News that touches on religious and racial sensitivities
- News that contains elements of pornography, gambling and fraud
Yes, yes, we get it. Fake shit – like this nonsense Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh put up – in a time of crisis seriously undermines all the good work being done by our frontliners and diverts attention away from what’s actually important i.e. flattening that damned Covid-19 curve. Thing is, regardless of the intention, legislation and rules – if and when they are introduced as a last resort to maintain order – must always be crystal and not utterly baffling.
And what about this ‘news that instils hatred towards the ruling government and leaders’? For example, does our government’s new advisory mean idiotic advice like warm water kills coronavirus can no longer be condemned? What about barbershop and beer factory U-turns (see above)? Or Doraemon voices? Or confusing advisories? Can those be slammed or are they all now beyond reproach?
Honestly, if hating your government and your leader is a crime, half the world – certainly half the US and the UK – would have to be put behind bars.
And let’s not forget the distinctions here – it’s the government politicians that appear to be untouchable here. So it looks like it would be okay to attempt to spread hate about opposition politicians – say, by sending out letters claiming they are Freemasons?
Oh, and pray tell, in what universe does news on extremist teachings constitute misinformation/disinformation?
In discussing the government’s stance, Comms Minister Saifuddin Abdullah says that despite Perikatan Nasional wanting to embrace freedom, democracy, and the right to information, in times like these, it’s crucial no compromises be made in dealing with purveyors of fake news.
Maybe so. But shouldn’t all the processes and rules be clear as day so people know exactly what they shouldn’t be doing? Also, boss, what kind of a message is your administration sending when one of your colleagues singles out “online news portals” for censure? Oh wait, can we even ask stuff like that anymore? Or does that now constitute fake news?
Other Covid-19 bits and bobs
As has come to be expected, the headlines over the last couple of days were packed with coronavirus-related news. Here’re the more important odds and ends:
- Despite the number of recoveries now standing at 45% of the total number of Covid-19 infections, we’re far from out of the woods, which is why the Health Ministry is now widening its screening net to other high risk areas, like shops in the vicinity of Malaysian Mansion and Selangor Mansion, where an enhanced MCO was imposed just last week.
- Meanwhile, the occupants of yet another building – the PKNS flats in Kampung Baru, this time – are being tested following the death of a resident there for Covid-19.
- No positive cases of Covid-19 infection have been detected among the Malaysians who were quarantined upon returning from abroad. However, the Health Ministry maintains that the 12,000-odd returnees will continue to be monitored for the full 14 days,
- It appears that several major exams, including the STPM, SPM, PT3 and UPSR, may be postponed further following the MCO’s extension. The Education Ministry had previously announced that the start of the SPM exam would be postponed from early October to mid-November, with the UPSR set for early September and the STPM scheduled for early November.
- Fresh from the Doraemon hullabaloo, the Women and Family Development Ministry has seen it fit to dish out new advice on diffusing tension in the home, and once more, the underlying tone appears to be that women in abusive relationships are the ones at fault. The advisory, by the way, came courtesy of Deputy Minister Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff, the genius who allegedly closed her Twitter account after an irresponsible post on Covid-19 went viral.
This and that
Not everything this past weekend was about Covid-19 though. And here’re a handful of the other things that made the news:
- According to de facto Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan, all government MPs who don’t already have government jobs will soon be promoted to lead government-linked companies. And the reason for that, the PAS sec-gen says, is that they’re all qualified on account of being MPs. R-r-r-right.
- Former Court of Appeal judge KC Vohrah, who was well known throughout his career for many bold and landmark decisions, has passed away. Vohrah, 83, was most recently a member of the Institutional Reforms Committee (IRC) under the previous Pakatan Harapan government.
- It appears that Penggerang MP Azalina Othman Said will soon replace DAP’s Nga Kor Ming as one of the Dewan Rakyat’s two deputy speakers. The other deputy speaker Mohd Rashid Hasnon, meanwhile, was one of those who hopped over to Bersatu from PKR. So his position looks safe. Strangely, though, sources claim the Perikatan Nasional government has no plans to replace the current Dewan Rakyat speaker, despite Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof being an Amanah man.
IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS
- The United States has surpassed Italy as the country with the most Covid-19 deaths. The US’ death toll now stands at close to 22,000, with more than half a million infections reported. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump, the guy who claimed in January that his government has everything “totally under control”, now says the SARS-CoV-2 “germ” has “gotten brilliant.”
- Fifty years after the breakup of the Beatles, Paul McCartney’s handwritten lyric sheet, which he used during the recording of Hey Jude, has been auctioned off to an anonymous buyer for nearly US1 million. That’s certainly one way to take a sad song and make it better!
- According to a new study, SARS-CoV-2 can travel up to 4 metres in the air. That’s twice the distance that current guidelines say should be maintained between people!
- Boris Johnson has finally been discharged from hospital. However, the British PM is set to continue with his recovery at home while Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab deputises for him.
- Formula 1 legend Sir Stirling Moss has died following a long illness. The Briton, who won 16 Grands Prix in his career and is widely regarded as one of the best drivers to never become world champion, was 90.