It's the final countdown
Free as a bird
Less than a month after Riza Aziz’s legal discharge, another person who’d previously been prosecuted during Pakatan Harapan’s tenure in Putarajaya has seen charges against him quashed.
Musa Aman, who served as Sabah Chief Minister for 15 years, from 2003 to 2018, had originally been charged with 46 counts of corruption and money laundering in relation to timber contracts. And the claim back when he was first hauled to court was that a tonne of money had been pocketed as inducement for awarding those concessions.
On Tuesday morning though, Malaysians were treated to news of every single charge against Musa being dropped and the former CM being declared a free man.
(Side note: The prosecution had actually requested for a Discharge Not Amounting to Acquittal, which would’ve left the door open for further enquiries. However, Judge Muhammad Jamil Hussin, who heard the case in the Kuala Lumpur High Court, decided to dish out a full acquittal. This means is that even if new evidence were to one day surface, there can be no further charges on the issue, barring a few very unlikely circumstances.)
Musa, of course, has always maintained that the case against him was politically motivated. And in a statement by his lawyer on Tuesday that drew attention to how previous investigations against the politician had found no evidence of guilt, that stance was reiterated.
But was Musa really a victim of Pakatan’s revenge politics, as claimed?
Well, back in 2018, there’d been a tussle for the CM’s post between Musa and Parti Warisan Sabah’s Shafie Apdal. And Sabah Umno man’s contention has always been that the old allegations were purposely revived just to give Shafie the upper hand.
Now, cases should always be levelled against people based on evidence and not which party one is with. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that all politically motivated cases should be junked. The main consideration should always be whether there’s evidence on the face of it. And if there is, then that’s all that matters.
In other words, the issue of motivation should really be secondary to the question of whether there is enough genuine evidence to support the accusations of wrongdoing.
In any event, Musa’s now won his acquittal. And on a day too when a fella from a rival party is claiming the new political machine is out to get him.
Like the former CM, Warisan veep Peter Anthony is also calling his seven-hour interview by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission over a road project politically motivated. But let’s not jump to conclusions for the moment, shall we? After all who’s to say the graftbusters don’t have enough evidence to justify an enquiry?
Incidentally, current Attorney-General Idrus Harun has explained the withdrawal of charges in Musa’s case, noting that the lack of access to records and witnesses, some of whom have died, may have made prosecution impossible. Hmmm. We guess, that might make sense. If not for the fact that the prosecution might already have considered that two years ago when the charges were first proffered.
Dark days ahead
Speaking of political persecution, the increasing number of people getting investigated and charged under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 of late suggests the country’s turned a deeply distressing corner.
Just a month ago, in response to a tweet by a journalist that she was being investigated over an article, Comms Minister Saifuddin Abdullah had promised to defend freedom of speech, regardless of whether the government liked what was being written. Yet, there was not a peep from him on Tuesday, when a blogger was taken to task over two posts concerning PM Muhyiddin and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
The story was the same last week when the founder of civil society group Centre to Combat Corruption & Cronyism (C4) Cynthia Gabriel was called up by police over a statement urging for Perikatan Nasional to be probed for allegedly “buying MPs”.
Section 233 of the CMA, in case you don’t already know, concerns the improper use of network facilities or network service and includes phrases and words that are so damned broad that it’s possible for a person to be jailed for up to a year and/or fined up to RM50,000 simply for posting content that annoys someone else.
During his time in office, DAP’s Gobind Singh had repeatedly noted that Section 233 was way too wide and open to abuse. Unfortunately, despite numerous promises of study and amendment, nothing was done. And that’s perhaps why we’re faced with the current problem.
Yes, the challenge for any government is to balance freedom – in this case, the freedom of speech and expression – with protection from harm. However, the manner in which this Perikatan appears to be moving to quell dissent via the CMA is worrying and indicates perhaps that those dark days when folks were thrown in prison for expressing their views are here again.
According to Bersatu secretary-general Marzuki Yahya, the deal’s been done. The Opposition pact’s official statement though is more cautious, and notes that decisions will only be finalised “within this week”.
Here’s the big question, though: should the rakyat care?
In our newsletter last week, we pointed out how strained relations between former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his protégé-turned-rival-turned-ally-turned-rival-turned-ally Anwar Ibrahim effectively left the door open for that whole mess with the Sheraton Move to happen.
In the runup to GE14, the two Opposition bigwigs had promised to work together for a better Malaysia. And you know, people believed it too. Regrettably, as the days passed, their rivalry consumed Pakatan, resulting in the whole damned government collapsing.
Now, following a meeting on Tuesday at PKR headquarters between the Opposition’s top leaders – this time with Anwar in attendance – the duo might once more be hoping that Malaysians buy into the Maddey-Anwar tag team fairytale. Thing is, why should anyone believe that history won’t repeat itself?
Maszlee Malik, whom Between The Lines frequently flayed for his idiotic statements while he was at the helm of the Education Ministry, perhaps makes the most sense when he says that Pakatan needs leadership right now, and that may not necessarily be Anwar or Mahathir, but a younger, capable person.
Unfortunately, for Masz and us, last we checked, Pakatan Harapan doesn’t really have a lotta capable younger leaders who could easily slip into the older guys’ shoes … unless, wait, Maszlee surely wasn’t talking about himself, was he?
In related news, by the way, Maszaboy, Maddey and the other ousted Bersatu-ians have filed a suit challenging their sacking from the party. They’re also seeking to have the court declare that Moo isn’t the acting chairman, as he claims to be. Of course, it’s uncertain if such a suit will succeed, what with the Registrar of Societies already making things very clear. But a show of strength is certainly needed right now. Especially if the old man intends to return for yet another title bout.
From a (social) distance
We’re only just entering and the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) phase and there already seems to be major confusion about operating protocols. Take for example the social distancing requirement.
On Monday, senior minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob had said quite clearly that despite the country being in recovery mode, social distancing and other related practices would still be the order of the day. Regardless of that statement, however, public transport operator Rapid Rail Sdn Bhd announced early Tuesday it was nixing social distancing measures on its trains and in its stations.
This obviously, resulted in a shit storm. And no sooner had Ismail, Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong and a whole load of Malaysians slammed Rapid, that the company backtracked, vowing to play by the rules in future.
It’s unclear what the hell the transport operator was thinking when it made its initial announcement on Tuesday (perhaps the intent was merely to help ferry as many commuters as possible?) however, the incident does show you that if a company as large as Rapid could make such a blunder, it’s a given that other businesses and services will be looking to bend the rules. Perhaps it’s for the best then that our boys in blue have promised to monitor the compliance of procedures and protocols at business premises and public areas from now until Aug 31.
By the way, despite Rapid’s gaffe and some other confusion concerning how certain states are going to implement the new curbs (Selangor says it hasn’t as yet received SOP protocols from the Federal government, for example), for the second day in a row, Malaysia registered a mere 7 new cases of infection – no Malaysians were among this number, with six cases being imported and the sole local case also involving a foreigner. Also, a record 281 patients got discharged! This means our recovery rate is now 83.7% (or 6,975 people) of the total 8,336 cases.
Here’re the rest of the important coronavirus-related news bits from Tuesday:
- Malaysia will continue to use hydroxychloroquine on Covid-19 patients even though the World Health Organization (WHO) has suspended clinical trials for the drug. According to Health Director-General Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, while the drug isn’t an authorised form of treatment, it has been found to delay or stop the progression of the disease.
- Over 800 reports of domestic violence were filed with the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) in May marking a sharp spike from when the MCO was first introduced. Noting that positive measures have already been taken by the government, WAO nevertheless pointed out that gaps continue to exist and prevent victims from getting the help they need.
- The decision on reopening schools will be brought to the Cabinet today for approval before an official announcement is made.
- Quarantine centres at designated hotels will cease to operate from today. The move is in line with the government’s decision to have returning Malaysians isolate themselves at home rather than at quarantine centres.
“In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.”
- Robert Frost -
IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS
- George Floyd has finally been laid to rest. Just as his killing resulted in widespread protests against injustice towards black Americans, his funeral in Texas too became a rallying point for calls for racial justice.
- Singapore appears to be facing threats on two medical fronts: Covid-19 and dengue. The island republic has recorded 10,000 dengue cases so far this year, with close to 400 coming in the last week alone.
- According to a new study, Covid-19 could have been spreading in China as early as August 2019. The study, conducted by Harvard Medical School, utilised high-resolution satellite images of hospital travel patterns and search engine data to determine the disease’s spread in Wuhan.
- While schools in many parts of the world look to resume face-to-face lessons, Philippine Education officials says the country’s kids will not be ushered back to school until a Covid-19 vaccine becomes available.
- “There are so many unknowns.” That was the gist of the WHO’s attempt to cover line following comments by an official that asymptomatic people only rarely spread Covid-19.