Former premier Najib Razak’s stepson Riza Aziz has, controversially, been given a reprieve of charges brought against him for stealing (allegedly, allegedly!) a whopping amount of cash from 1Malaysia Development Bhd. All he has to do is give back just half the amount, apparently.

In other news, a minister has issued a “stern warning” to those who spread fake and seditious news; the battle of the Bersatu bigwigs continues with a conveniently-timed release of an audio clip featuring Dr Mahathir Mohamad; the Sultan of Kedah will meet with all the state’s assemblypersons to determine who should be MB; more people are set to lose their jobs thanks to Covid-19; and the PM’s own adviser thinks there should be a lockdown for Hari Raya.

Riza hands in 'Get Out of Jail Free' card

Why MACC? Why?

While everyone was caught up with the hot reports and goss from the country’s political scene as well as updates about Covid-19, one piece of news almost slipped by quietly. Like a thief in the night!
 
Riza Aziz, the stepson of former PM Najib Razak, was given a discharge not amounting to acquittal (DNAA) with regard to five counts of money laundering involving US$248 million allegedly taken from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB). And it seems the judgement was given on condition Riza returns a portion of the money. 

That portion to be recovered, in case you’re wondering, is US$107.3 million, which is not even half the amount he’d allegedly taken (or been given, depending on how you look at it). Also, it seems the discharge is wholly dependent on Riza keeping up his end of the bargain. Should he not keep his word, the charges can be reinstated
 
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) says the deal with Riza was made when Tommy Thomas was Attorney-General. Thomas had resigned his position in February after the fall of the Pakatan Harapan government, so Riza must have been waiting a long time for his DNAA if this is true. But, more importantly, the former A-G has denied any such deal.

Tommy says Riza’s lawyers had sent a representation to the A-G’s Chambers regarding the case, but he’d handed it over to Gopal Sri Ram, the lead prosecutor in the case, to examine, and that up to that time no decision had been made on the matter. Despite this denial, however, MACC chief commissioner Azam Baki is standing by the commission’s statement of a deal having been made during TT’s time as A-G, saying the decision was made by the prosecution team.
 
So, which is it? Could it be that both statements are true? Tommy says he had handed over the matter to Gopal. Could Gopal have made the decision without first checking with the A-G?

Whatever it is, in our humble opinion, a DNAA should not have been given. Why is Riza being let off the hook just because he’s returning money? The money can still be recovered while he is prosecuted. Yes, the US Department of Justice has offered deals in its efforts to seize assets in America from those who’d been deemed to have used 1MDB money to purchase them, but that’s the DoJ! It doesn’t really have any skin in the game, to use an American sports saying, as the money belongs to Malaysia and not the US.
 
The case against Riza is one of corruption, plain and simple, involving the theft of Malaysian funds. If he really did do it, then why should we let him get away with it just because he is giving us back some money?
 
And here’s the big question: are we going to see the same thing happening with graft trials involving other VIPs like Jibby himself, wifey (and Riza’s mummy) Rosmah Mansor, Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor and Sabah Umno top gun Bung Moktar Radin and wife Zizie Samad? Will this be another new norm? We sure as hell hope not.

(Don't) tell me sweet little lies

Guess what? Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin has crawled out of the woodwork again to make one of his extremely rare statements. And this time, it’s a threat!
 
Issuing a “stern warning” to folks spreading false information and seditious news, Hamzah says the government will not compromise with offenders and use all legal means at its disposal, such as the Penal Code, Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and Sedition Act 1948. The minister’s warning came after his colleague Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s announcement that authorities have opened 264 investigation papers on alleged false news pertaining to Covid-19 this year. 
 
But wait just a darn minute, did he say the Sedition Act? Wasn’t that supposed to have already been repealed by Pakatan Harapan?

Well, it hasn’t. In July 2019, then PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad said a new law was being drafted to replace the Sedition Act. That new law is, however, still on the drawing board, it would seem. And since Bersatu and its Perikatan Nasional allies have booted Pakatan out and taken over administration of the country, it’s about as likely to see the light of day as pigs are to grow wings and take to the skies.

Yes, PM Muhyiddin Yassin may have been part of Pakatan, but we don’t know really Moo’s stand on the Sedition Act. But, he’s now working with Barisan Nasional, that perfected the use of the Sedition Act when they were in power. (Actually, Mahathir too appeared to have no problems with the Sedition Act when he was in power.)
 
Anyhow, the Sedition Act still stands, and with that law still in force, there is a danger that it can be abused. So yeah, consider yourself warned.

Sound and vision

A second audio clip, apparently from Bersatu’s final supreme council meeting before it left Pakatan Harapan, has been leaked. And we just can’t help but feel the timing of the leak, just before Parliament convenes on May 18, is too much of a coincidence.
 
While the first audio file was allegedly of Bersatu president Moo saying it should be left to chairman Maddey to decide if Bersatu should divorce Pakatan, this second clip features the latter, apparently telling party leaders not to make him break his promises. Taken together, the two clips (and maybe others which have yet to make an appearance) are meant to show it was Muhyiddin’s decision and his alone to talak tiga with Pakatan. 
 
The fact that this is coming just days before the May 18 Parliament sitting, when Mahathir was supposed to table a motion of no confidence against his own party president, is kinda convenient, don’t you think? Sure, the intended results are moot now considering Parliament will only convene for a day, and that too to merely to listen to the King’s opening address. But it does feel like the leaks were planned to drum up support for the good doctor.
 
Mads has, of course, spoken out against the impending one-day sitting, as have a host of other people, especially Opposition lawmakers. The latest of these are PKR’s Selayang MP William Leong and Amanah president Mohamad “Mat” Sabu, who even threatened taking “debates” to the streets, seeing as how they aren’t being allowed in the Dewan Rakyat. 
 
Mahathir has also hit out at Muhyiddin and the latter’s supporters in Bersatu. News that there was an attempt to convene a supreme council meeting minus Maddey and sonny-boy Mukhriz, who is party deputy president, was met with some anger, with the nonagenarian saying such a meeting would be illegal. Mahathir says, though, that he is willing to face expulsion from the party. However, it must be done by the book.
 
The former PM is also busy elsewhere, fighting his son’s battles in his home state of Kedah. Mukhriz, as we know, is fighting to keep his post as the state’s MB, and news that 23 Kedah assemblypersons have submitted statutory declarations to the Sultan saying they’ve lost faith in Mukhriz must be alarming to the old man.
 
In any case, Kuah assemblyman Mohd Firdaus Ahmad, who was purportedly one of those who’d signed the SD, denied doing so and met with Mads, who also happens to be Langkawi MP, under which the state seat of Kuah falls. Following the meeting, Firdaus cryptically said he would “choose what was best”, adding Mahathir had impressed upon him the need to fight for the sake of religion, the people and the country. 
 
Thing is, even if Firdaus throws his support behind Maddey Jr, that still leaves 22 assemblypersons on the other side. These include two PKR-turned-independent assemblymen who were labeled troublemakers even before they decided to quit Anwar Ibrahim’s party.
 
Just when this battle royale in Kedah will be resolved is anyone’s guess, but it could come soon. This is because the Kedah Ruler has granted audiences to all 36 assemblypersons today, much like how our King met with MPs before appointing Muhyiddin the eighth PM of Malaysia. 
 
Anyways, there were some other pieces of political news that came out yesterday, and here’re those odds and ends n brief:
  • PKR president Anwar has announced he is now the Pakatan Harapan chairman, having taken over from Mahathir. He says the decision was agreed upon by the coalition’s member parties.
     
  • Meanwhile, Anwar has defended the joint statement he recently issued with Mahathir. The statement, he said, was issued on the basis that he is now leader of the Opposition, which includes the Bersatu faction aligned to Maddey. Just how a party can have members who are part of the government as well as the Opposition is beyond us.
     
  • While there remains some unity within Pakatan (minus Bersatu, of course), the same can’t be said of Muhyiddin’s Perikatan. The pact hasn’t been formalised yet and Barisan Nasional sec-gen Annuar Musa says there is no rush to do so as member parties already enjoy a harmonious relationship. Sure. If you say so, boss.
     
  • Former BN party Gerakan, which was once opposed to any backdoor government being formed, will throw its support behind Muhyiddin and his Perikatan government. This may not matter much, considering Gerakan was completely obliterated in GE14, but hey, some reward from Moo might be forthcoming.
     
  • Umno will field a candidate to defend its Chini state seat in Pahang after coming to an understanding with Muafakat Nasional partner PAS. Okay, but have you come to an agreement with Bersatu yet? 

No work blues

Malaysia’s unemployment rate could rise to 5.5% this year, thanks to that blighted curse of a pandemic currently on our shores.
 
Yes, folks, Covid-19 is royally screwing us over, and though the Department of Statistics says the government’s move to reopen most economic activities will help, unemployment will still rise. And we’re not yet talking, mind you, about what happens if we see a second wave of infections and the country gets locked down again!
 
Is this why PM Muhyiddin’s own public health adviser, Dr Jemilah Mahmood, is suggesting lockdown during the Hari Raya period?

As we know, Moo and gang have already greenlit Raya visiting within state boundaries on the first day of Aidilfitri. However, the good doctor’s suggestion seems to fly in the face of her boss’ decision. She also has the backing of the Academy of Medicine of Malaysia, which says Raya celebrations should only be allowed among families residing in the same house
 
We don’t know how they feel, however, about the decision to allow Friday prayers at mosques in green zones.

Yep, de facto Islamic Affairs Minister Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri announced yesterday that prayers at mosques and suraus are now allowed. However, there’ll be strict SOPs in place. Plus, Muslims can continue to pray at home if they so choose, he says. (Selangor says it will follow the decision, but will do so in stages, beginning with state mosque, where prayers will be broadcast “live” and congregations limited to just 12 people. Perak and Johor, too, will limit congregations to 12 while Melaka will only reopen mosques on May 29. Kelantan, though, will keep mosques and suraus closed for now.) 
 
Meanwhile, Malaysia’s recovery rate rose to 78.47% with 70 people discharged yesterday, bringing the total number of recoveries to 5,351. There were, however, 40 new cases reported while the death toll rose to 112 after one more person passed away.
 
Despite the positive signs though, Health Director-General Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has warned that Malaysians may need to adapt to new norms as the battle against Covid-19 could be a five-year struggle. This follows a statement from the World Health Organization (WHO) that it could take four to five years to rein in the pandemic. In any case, and on a happier note, Noor Hisham said medical frontliners could be allowed to go on Hari Raya leave on a rotational basis as the current trend shows only a double-digit increase in new Covid-19 cases daily. 
 
Here are some other news items regarding Covid-19:
  • Tenaga Nasional Bhd has introduced a relief package for customers comprising an easy payment plan which includes, among others, a surcharge waiver on late payments. Can we get a bigger discount instead, o ye gods of lightning?
     
  • Although married people are now allowed to travel inter-state to be with their spouses, they will need to get a permit from the police to do so.
     
  • Selayang wholesalers and traders who returned to their shops and stalls after the EMCO there was lifted have had to dispose of RM10 million worth of rotting perishables that were not touched for more than three weeks.
     
  • Saudi Arabia has agreed to donate more than 7.5 million units of medical equipment to Malaysia for its fight against Covid-19. Let’s hope this is not like the “donation” previously given to the former BN government.
     
  • This is a cute story. The Wildlife and National Parks Department has named the two first-ever pangolins born in captivity “Corona” and “Corina”

Bits and bobs

Here are a few other stories which appeared yesterday:
  • Radio personality Patrick Teoh was released on police bail after the remand period for his detention expired yesterday. Teoh is being investigated for allegedly insulting the Tunku Mahkota of Johor in a Facebook posting which was later deleted.
     
  • The trial of five people for the murder of deputy public prosecutor Anthony Kevin Morais five years ago has been delayed as the defence claims the MCO prevented them from meeting their clients in Sungai Buloh prison. 
     
  • Defence proceedings in the trial of a teenager for the deaths of 23 people in a fire he allegedly set at a tahfiz school in Kuala Lumpur three years ago is set to continue on June 11 and 12.
     
  • The KL High Court has set May 18-22 for the continuation of the trial of former Umno sec-gen Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor for allegedly receiving RM2 million in bribes from a businessman.
     
  • A newborn girl who was thrown from the balcony of a fourth floor flat unit in Penang by her teenage mother but thankfully, survived. The baby is in intensive care but in stable condition

“It is better that a guilty man should not be brought to trial than that he should be acquitted.”

- Livy -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • The global death toll for Covid-19 has passed the 300,000 mark, with more than 4.4 million infections recorded, according to statistics compiled by the Johns Hopkins University. The virus is also having worrying effects on mental health globally.
     
  • US President Donald Trump has taken to task his country’s top infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci for warning against reopening the American economy prematurely, saying his comments were “unacceptable”.
     
  • Meanwhile, The Donald has also threatened to cut ties with China over how Beijing “allowed” the pandemic to happen.
     
  • Rick Bright, who was removed from his post as director of the US office responsible for developing drugs to fight Covid-19 allegedly after he resisted attempts to push drugs championed by Trump as a cure for the coronavirus, has told a House of Representatives subcommittee that the US will face the “darkest winter” if it doesn’t improve its response to the pandemic.
     
  • Here’s something which may worry some of us. Hair loss is apparently becoming more prevalent among Asian men, a new study shows. Yikes!

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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