What's a small thing like a global pandemic that's infected millions and killed hundreds of thousands when there's politics to be played? As the single-day sitting of Parliament draws near, the temperature is rising as our so-called leaders begin jockeying for power and position.

That said, there's still a lot to talk about on Covid-19. A new infection cluster has been detected; a senior minister clarifies that companies won’t actually be shut down if just one employee tests positive; and, an MCO violator speaks about how she was bullied by other inmates in prison.

Everybody wants to rule the world

Divided we stand

The movement control order (MCO) seemed to have kept the ugly business of politics in check somewhat. But this week’s lifting of many restrictions seems to have also been an unofficial green light for politics to make a return, with a vengeance.
 
Shenanigans began with news that Semporna MP Shafie Apdal had submitted a notice to Dewan Rakyat Speaker Mohamed Ariff Yusof to initiate a motion for a vote of confidence for former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad when Parliament sits on May 18. The vote was ostensibly to prove Maddey still had the support of the majority of MPs in the House. 
 
The notice, however, was later rejected by Ariff on grounds it was akin to questioning the power of the Agong to appoint a PM, in this case, Muhyiddin Yassin. That led a Sabah Umno man to suggest Shafie should resign as Sabah CM, which is just plain daft. Just imagine if MPs had to resign their posts just cos their notices or motions are rejected! 
 
But that ain’t the end of it. Shafie’s notice was dated May 1. Three days later, Mads himself apparently sent a notice of his own, this time one for a vote of no confidence against Moo. So, the Bersatu chairman has drawn battle lines against his own party president. There has been no word from Ariff, however, about Mahathir’s notice. 
 
In truth, we all know Bersatu is a house divided (ironic, considering the party’s name). Many were not for the split from Pakatan Harapan which eventually led to the Perikatan Nasional agreement with Barisan Nasional and PAS. Mahathir has said before he didn’t want to work with Umno. But the infighting took somewhat of a backseat (or maybe just moved to Zoom?), when Covid-19 began taking over our lives.
 
That all changed again on Wednesday when party Youth chief and Mahathir acolyte Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman said the wing rejected any cooperation with Umno, in solidarity with Maddey, and wanted to return to the Pakatan fold. Two thirds of those present at a Youth exco meeting, he said, had voted in favour of this. 
 
Syed Saddiq’s statement led to a whole lot of criticism and counter statements. At least four Bersatu Youth state chapters and two exco members have steered clear of Syed Saddiq’s statement, while nearly 75% of the 191 Youth divisions issued a joint statement saying they would rather stick with the party’s supreme council decision on Feb 23 to withdraw from Pakatan. Meanwhile, the party’s information chief has also issued a warning that party members who fraternised with the opposition would find themselves facing action, including sackings. 
 
Things are also not looking rosy for Bersatu deputy president Mukhriz Mahathir. Maddey Jr. seems to be on his way out as Kedah MB. Obviously, he stands with daddy-o. The problem is most Kedah Bersatu assemblymen are siding with Muhyiddin – and with Umno and PAS waiting in the wings, it comes as no surprise that he may be on borrowed time. In fact, that’s just what state PAS commissioner Ahmad Yahaya says. 
 
On the flip side, all is not well in Perikatan either. Take this story that Umno doesn’t want to formalise the loose coalition. Yeah, it says Umno will still defend the government formed under Moo, but it’s not a good sign when one of the major parties within the pact doesn’t want anything formalised. Umno prez Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, however, says his gang will make known its stand soon, perhaps after he and PAS counterpart Abdul Hadi Awang meet with Muhyiddin

All in all, it must be squeaky bum time for Muhyiddin. As it is, his party is a puny one with an outsized influence (largely thanks to the legacy of ex-PM Maddey). But with the infighting, it’s influence no doubt diminishes as its ranks thin. And with its erstwhile allies practicing political social distancing from it – no doubt to ensure they can capitalise on any Bersatu slip-ups – Moo’s footing is far from solid. No wonder he’s doing his best to stay out of Parliament. 
 
But it may be some comfort to him to know there are also problems within PKR, which has recently been on a sacking spree. Wanita PKR deputy chief Daroyah Alwi has hit out against the party leadership for sacking 348 members and suspending another 285, including her boss, Hanizah Talha. She claims it was a move to protect leaders appointed by the president (Anwar Ibrahim), though she doesn’t name these leaders. At least six of those sacked or suspended from the party have also gotten the boot from their positions in local councils in Selangor as well. 

Speaking of Anwar, the former PM-in-waiting is now parliamentary opposition leader. Pakatan had written to both the Dewan Rakyat and the PM’s Office informing them of the decision, apparently arrived at after DAP had declined to nominate one of their own as opposition head honcho. 

So there you have it, folks. Lies, intrigue, backstabbing, betrayal. The stage is slowly being set for May 18. 

Covid-19: The good, the bad and the ugly

It’s mostly good news, some bad news and a bag of mixed news on Covid-19 and the conditional movement restriction order (CMCO) over the past two days.
 
The bad news is there’s now a new cluster of infections, among staff of a shopping mall in KL – mostly the security guards. There are 10 cases so far, nine of whom are Nepali citizens who are housemates. The other is a Malaysian. However, this could soon grow as the results of tests conducted on 79 others are still pending. 
 
The good news is the number of new infections is still quite low, with 39 new cases reported yesterday, bringing the total to 6,467. No one died yesterday, leaving the death toll at 107 so far. There were also 74 recoveries, meaning the total number of patients discharged now stands at 4,776
 
But while the numbers are relatively low, it’s still not what the doctor ordered as health officials had previously targeted single-digit daily infections by May 5. Health DG Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah now says that goalpost has been moved to May 12, meaning we are a week behind our projections. This knowledge is probably why Noor Hisham says Malaysia has yet to enter the exit strategy phase of the CMCO. 
 
The Health Ministry will also look at how the CMCO “performs” before deciding whether to reopen more economic sectors. Yes folks, this includes barbers and hair salons so the mops on your heads will have to suffer a while more. Oh, and he says that we should stay away from dirty public toilets as well while Covid-19 is still amongst us. But dude, we’re in Malaysia. Are there any public toilets that AREN’T dirty?
 
Meanwhile, interstate travel has temporarily been opened for four days, beginning yesterday. Seven police control posts have been set up along several major highways to allow for random checks to be conducted to ensure people don’t violate travel regulations set by the government. 
 
Speaking of MCO violators, B. Lisa Christina, arguably the cause célèbre of the MCO jailing controversy, has said she was bullied by other inmates at Kajang Prison because she received a long custodial sentence. She said she had been willing to accept her sentence, until she found out others in prison with her were given much shorter sentences. If you may recall, Lisa was initially sentenced to 30 days in prison, but eventually had it brought down to a RM1,000 fine upon appeal. 
 
It must surely have been a traumatising affair for Lisa. Her case and others like it have caused an uproar among Malaysians, with several quarters coming out to call for an end to disparity when it comes to sentencing MCO violators. And yesterday, two retired judges and a senior lawyer questioned the calibre of some magistrates and called for steps to be taken to ensure they dispense justice in a humane manner. 
 
Anyhoo, here are some other things about Covid-19 and the CMCO which came out yesterday:

  • A ministers says the government had no choice but to restart the economy by instating the CMCO because projections revealed the number of unemployed people, currently at 520,000, would more than triple if it didn’t do so. 
     
  • While Penang was initially reluctant to follow the federal government’s lead in restarting the economy, it appears the state government is starting to relax certain restrictions. It will now allow akad nikah ceremonies as well as light sport activities to go on. Sarawak has also begun relaxing restrictions. It will identify specific projects within green zones for resumption.
     
  • Meanwhile, experts are warning that the CMCO should be extended for at least another two weeks beyond May 12 in order to bring down the number of infections and prevent new clusters from occurring. 
     
  • An economist has said Bank Negara Malaysia’s decision to slash its overnight policy rate to 2%, the lowest in a decade, would help the economy recover as it supports consumption and investment spending. Despite the cut, however, a survey shows more than half of the country’s SMEs will still have to downsize or restructure once the CMCO is lifted. 
     
  • Here’s one to get the juices going. Data shows Malaysians are shopping online for bread makers, exercise equipment and shaving supplies. No shockers there, but apparently one of the surprising items is sex toys

And, in closing ...

There were a few news items which came out yesterday which had nothing to do with Covid-19 or politics, so here they are:

  • Chini assemblyman Abu Bakar Harun, 60, died of a heart attack yesterday and was laid to rest at the Chini Muslim cemetery. The Election Commission is still awaiting official confirmation from the Pahang Assembly Speaker to begin preparations for a by-election. 
     
  • Police have recorded statements from nine teenagers aged between 13 and 18 in connection with a viral video recording of alleged child abuse and exploitation at a welfare home in Selayang. 
     
  • The US Department of Justice has reached a settlement to recover more than US$49 million worth of assets from an executive of UAE-based International Petroleum Investment Company allegedly purchased using 1MDB funds. 
     
  • price control scheme for 11 items for the upcoming Hari Raya celebrations will be announced soon. 
     
  • The Penang Island and Seberang Jaya city councils have agreed to lower the proposed increase in assessment rates after listening to objections from residents. 

Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.”

- Buddha -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • There are now more than 3.8 million Covid-19 infections worldwide, with over 266,000 deaths. The hardest-hit country is still the US, but the nation’s 2,000 or so daily death toll could have been halved if it had acted just four days earlier. 
     
  • A study shows that the coronavirus could have jumped to humans as early as October last year, while another reveals there is a small risk Covid-19 can be sexually transmitted
     
  • The pandemic has brought Bollywood, the world’s most prolific film industry producing something like 1,800 movies a year, to a crushing halt
     
  • Football fans can rejoice a little. Germany’s Bundesliga is expected to restart its 2019/2020 season on May 15. Meanwhile, English Premier League clubs are discussing increasing the variety of kick-off times to allow for the season to end by July should it restart in June. 
     
  • The US Department of Justice has decided to drop criminal charges against former Donald Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn despite the fact he had twice affirmed his decision to plead guilty to lying to the FBI over his interaction with a Russian diplomat during Trump’s transition into the White House. 
     
  • Today marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, and this Berliner recalls how, as a 15-year-old, he was relieved to realise German soldiers were gone and there were no more sounds of gunfire. 

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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