An ominous Friday the 13th
Are we headed towards a government that controls everything we say or do? We dunno. But things sure look ominous.
What are we talking about? Well, nothing much except that bit of news yesterday about the Perikatan Nasional gomen considering the introduction of a new anti-fake news law to counter disinformation and sedition, especially in regard to the monarchy.
According to de facto Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan, despite various initiatives taken by the government to discern accurate news and counter falsehoods through ministerial bodies, fake news continues to be a serious threat. And that, apparently, is the reason the gomen is now thinking about tabling new anti-fake news legislation.
Before we get further into things, let’s have a quick recap, shall we? The previous Anti-Fake News Act was tabled by the then Barisan Nasional government and passed in 2018, just in time for the 14th General Election.
So, when Pakatan Harapan took over the government following GE14, measures were immediately taken to repeal the Act. Unfortunately, the Dewan Negara refused to pass a bill repealing the law the first time around. And that meant that the then government had to go through the motions again, and wait about a year before the law was finally junked.
Now, back to the present …
Taki says a new anti-fake news law is needed to counter disinformation and deal with sedition, and well, maybe he has a point. The fake news problem has only gotten worse in recent years thanks to yet more Internet trolls, cybertroopers and YouTubers who spout and spread disinformation. Having said that, what should not be forgotten is that in the BN-sanctioned version of anti-fake news legislation, fake news was anything the government said it was.
Now, what makes the introduction of a new anti-fake news law a major concern is that it comes on the back of clampdowns on free speech and dissent.
Remember that whole episode with Al Jazeera and its documentary on the treatment of undocumented migrants in Malaysia during the movement control order (MCO)? Well, there have been other incidents too. Like the investigations into lawyers, activists, politicians like DAP’s Hannah Yeoh and PKR’s A. Xavier Jayakumar, and journalists.
The latest episode involves a student group which got into trouble for a Facebook posting which some people claim is disrespectful to the Agong.
Earlier this month, police began investigations into the FB posting by the University of Malaya Association of New Youth (Umany) entitled “Yang Di-Pertuan Agong should not interfere in national affairs”. And while the group apologised to the Agong yesterday over the article and removed it from its FB page, it may not be enough to stop the authorities’ on-going sedition probe. ‘Cos as it stands, Umany’s former president Wong Yan Ke is set to be charged today for an offence related to the whole affair. His “crime”? Recording a police raid on the house of his successor.
Now, put all that together and add the fact that the gomen has decided to revive the so-called Special Affairs Department a.k.a Jasa (though we prefer the English acronym 😊) and you have a lot to be worried about.
In the past, Jasa was viewed as nothing more than a propaganda machine for the government and despite assurances that it will not be so this time around, folks are still wary.
However, the bigger concern is that we might, once more, be on course to stifling free speech.
Bringing down the House
Despite the Agong recently decreeing for our “lawmakers” to stop politicking, things haven’t changed much. In fact, many of them are still acting like idiots.
On Wednesday, if you recall, the Dewan Rakyat descended into chaos when Bintulu MP Tiong King Sing criticised Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah for not visiting Sabah during the height of the Covid-19 third wave, accusing the good doc too of being “afraid to die”. That led to the ejection of DAP MP RSN Rayer for refusing to sit down and shut up while Deputy Speaker Azalina Othman Said made a ruling on Tiong’s remarks.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of that as on Thursday, the stupidity went up a notch!
It all began when DAP head boy Lim Guan Eng asked Speaker Azhar “Art” Harun to revisit the ruling made by Azalina. You see, after kicking Rayer out, all Azalina did was ask Tiong if he wanted to withdraw his remarks or continue with his debate. And of course, Tiong picked the latter.
Was that silly? Well, many people, we included, think so.
Anyway, LGE’s request resulted in an uproar that led to ol’ Artie saying he’d read the Hansard and while he thought the debate had been crude (meaning Tiong had been crude), a ruling had already been made (by Azalina) and he didn’t have the power to overturn it. This led to Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng saying that Azalina’s ruling was stupid.
Art instructed Lip Eng to withdraw the slur against Azalina and when the DAP man refused, he suspended Lip Eng for two days. Kepong Lim, however, refused to leave the House, and Art added another three days to his suspension!
It didn’t end there, though, as following the commotion in the House, Tokong Lim said a motion would be tabled soon to challenge Art’s decision not to punish Tiong.
You know, at one point during that whole episode yesterday, Art had told Lip Eng that he was “too much”. And we have to say that our MPs really are too much.
At a time when they should be debating the Budget to ensure that we poor plebs are getting the best deal we can to fight that damned pandemic, these brilliant souls are more interested in name-calling and bratty behaviour.
Yes, Tiong could’ve worded things better and reprimanded Noor Hisham for not doing enough for Sabah frontliners without calling the man a coward. Yes, the ruling by Azalina was silly. But why did something so remeh-temeh need to be dragged out for two days?!
The thing is, Noor Hisham doesn’t need you guys to defend him. Lotsa people have lambasted Tiong, and organisations like the Health Ministry, the Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Service and even the Malaysian Trades Union Congress have defended Noor Hisham.
Heck, even a Sarawak state minister has said he feels ashamed over Ah Sing’s remarks. So, why exactly are we wasting precious time in the Dewan on such silly things?
Just get on with doing your jobs, and stop trying to kiss Noor Hisham’s posterior just ‘cos he’s the cool kid in town can or not?
Covid-19 surges in Klang Valley, Negeri
As far as Covid-19 is concerned, things are looking up in Sabah, but as we said in yesterday’s newsletter, it sure ain’t so rosy in the peninsula.
Superman Noor Hisham says that Sabah is stabilising in terms of infections. Unfortunately, cases appear to be on the rise in Peninsular Malaysia, particularly in the Klang Valley and Negeri Sembilan. One of the problems with the KV, our man says, is that there’re about six million people who’re constantly moving about. In N9, meanwhile, the 240 new infections yesterday came from existing clusters.
For the record, there was an increase in the daily numbers with 919 new cases recorded. The good news, however, is that recoveries (996) outnumbered new cases. And that means that active cases are now down to 11,419. There was also one fatality, raising the death toll to 303.
Speaking of EMCOs, there was a bit of shocker for the authorities on Thursday when they found that about 400 people in Medan 88 in Bandar Baru Salak Tinggi, Sepang, which was supposed to have been locked down starting yesterday, had gone missing. This was discovered when Sepang District Disaster Management Committee members interviewed residents there.
According to our Health D-G, the 400 may be undocumented migrants who fled the area to avoid being detained by the authorities during screening. Whether this is the case or not, however, Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Ismail Sabri Yaakob has vowed to track them down and arrest ’em, though we’d be flummoxed if he does it himself lah.
Izzy, meanwhile, has also clarified why sports tournaments like the Malaysia Cup have been stopped, while live events such as the Anugerah Bintang Popular Berita Harian (ABPBH) have been allowed to go on. It’s simple, he says. The gomen is worried that contact sports can lead to a rise in infections. In the case of live shows, though, strict standard operating procedures can be followed. For example, the ABPBH will go on without a live audience.
Our former minister of colourful bajus also said that those with foreign domestic helpers stranded overseas can apply to have them allowed back into the country, though approvals would be at the discretion of the Immigration Department. We really don’t understand though why this is okay but Bangladeshi workers stranded in their country aren’t allowed to return.
Anyhoo, here’re some other Covid-related news items that came out yesterday:
- Former two-time
dictatorPM Dr Mahathir Mohamad has suggested a 30% pay cut for ministers in order to reduce expenditure in the 2021 Budget, adding that our ministers certainly won’t starve despite the Covid-19 economy. We love the sarcasm, Atuk, and we’d like to suggest maybe an even bigger cut for Health Minister Adham Baba, since, ya know, he can probably survive on air suam alone.
- Seputeh MP Teresa Kok has urged the National Security Council to review its ruling that only two people can be in a car at any one time in Controlled MCO (CMCO) areas. She says this is unreasonable especially for couples with young children.
- The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia has urged the government to release drugs addicts and refugees as well as those being held in remand for petty and non-violent crimes to relieve the problem of overcrowding and reduce the risk of further outbreaks in detention facilities.
- Childcare centres and nurseries are allowed to operate in CMCO areas, but they must first seek the approval of the Social Welfare Department and follow strict SOPs.
- A vaccination programme will be ready to be rolled out once a safe and effective vaccine is found. Priority will be for frontliners, the elderly and those with comorbidities.
- With education severely impacted due to the pandemic and the MCO in its various forms, many netizens have suggested that schoolchildren be held back a year. However, the National Union of the Teaching Profession is against the idea, saying that this could have “compounding negative effects” on the kids.
This and that
As usual, there were a number of other bits of news that didn’t quite make it to our main sections. Here they are in brief:
- Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari is still wailing about sabotage by water polluters, this time claiming that peeps are out to smear the state gomen’s image. Sorry sir, but we think it might be just a case of unscrupulous people looking to save money by illegally getting rid of their waste.
- Meanwhile, the National Water Services Commission (SPAN) has denied claims by Selangor exco member Hee Loy San that it had been slow to react to the presence of effluents, leading to four water treatment plants having to shut down this week.
- Ex-education minister Maszlee Malik still holds his former portfolio close to heart. He says his vote for the 2021 Budget will be determined by the Perikatan gomen’s education policy.
- Meanwhile, in other Budget news, a PKR MP has warned that the Covid-19 lockdown could lead to a surge in tuberculosis infections and has called for a bigger allocation to tackle TB and non-communicable diseases.
- The government plans to regularise undocumented migrant workers in, for now at least, four sectors – construction, manufacturing, plantations and agriculture. This will be for jobs considered 3D (dangerous, difficult and dirty).
- Sadly, the “monster” 500kg crocodile caught in a drain in Limbang has had to be euthanised as it had suffered several gunshot wounds to the head before Bomba personnel arrived on the scene.
- A man desperate to avoid a roadblock so he could return to his family for Deepavali got into an accident while driving against the flow of traffic on the North-South Expressway near Tapah. You can watch a short video clip of the incident here.
“The answer to injustice is not to silence the critic, but to end the injustice.”
- Paul Robeson -
IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS
France has become the worst-hit country in Europe with more than 1.9 million confirmed Covid-19 infections and 93% of its ICU beds occupied.
Meanwhile, India’s capital of Delhi appears to be battling a winter surge of cases, reporting a record 8,500 cases in a single day. India, in total, has more than 8.6 million cases – the world’s second-highest after the United States.
- A report has warned that the halt in vaccination programmes due to the Covid-19 pandemic could result in a surge in measles infections and deaths. In fact, there were 870,000 measles infections and 207,000 deaths last year, the highest in almost 25 years!
- Amnesty International says scores of civilians have been massacred in the growing conflict in Tigray in northern Ethiopia, with witnesses blaming the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) for the killings. Battles between government forces and the TPLF broke out last week.
- More Republicans have broken ranks with outgoing President Donald Trump and his refusal to cooperate with President-elect Joe Biden, saying Biden is entitled to intelligence briefings even if they were not ready to recognise the Democrat as the winner of the Nov 3 election.
The Donald, meanwhile, may be coming to terms with the fact that he ain’t gonna get his way with regard to election challenges. Although he’s still publicly claiming voter fraud, the Orange Man has reportedly told allies he will run again in 2024.
- France has honoured the youngest hero of the French Resistance during World War II by inscribing his name on a memorial alongside those of other anti-Nazi freedom fighters. Marcel Pinte was just six at the time, carrying messages for the Resistance. He was sadly killed when a gun carried by another Resistance member accidentally went off.