The man behind the Sivagangga Covid-19 cluster has been fined a whole lot of moolah and will spend five months in jail for violating his home quarantine orders. Well deserved, indeed, though maybe he should have been given a harsher sentence, seeing as how he is single-handedly responsible for infecting at least 44 others to date.

Meanwhile, a prominent former female minister has praised Kamala Harris, United States presidential candidate Joe Biden’s choice for running mate; Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s remark about “Malays in a neighbouring country” has touched a raw nerve with a politician in Singapore; an Umno MP admits the Sedition Act has been abused in the past but doesn’t want it repealed; and, M. Indira Gandhi doesn’t give a damn about the cops trying to negotiate with her ex-hubby to get him to return with their daughter.

Super-spreader super screwed

Jail House Blues

The owner of a nasi kandar restaurant in Napoh – the index patient for the notorious Sivagangga cluster – has been fined RM3,000 and sentenced to five months’ jail for four counts of violating home quarantine orders by visiting three banks and an Inland Revenue Board branch.
 
Nezar Mohamed Sabur Batcha, a 57-year-old foreigner with permanent resident status here, was found guilty of all four charges in proceedings held in Alor Setar Hospital, where he is currently warded. However, the jail sentences will run concurrently, meaning he will only spend five months behind bars. 
 
The punishment is fitting, of course, as Nezar had caused, at last count, 44 other people in Kedah and two other states to be infected with Covid-19 all because he had ants in his pants and couldn’t keep himself at home. He should count himself bloody lucky, though, as the max jail sentence is two years on each of the counts. Meaning he could have ended up spending up to eight years in the slammer, if, that is, the magistrate in the case had decided to go for the full terms and order that the sentences run consecutively.
 
Anyhow, we hope the sentence serves as a deterrent for those who think they are special and don’t have to follow quarantine SOPs. The number of people breaching quarantine orders, in fact, is worrying the government so much that it’s now been decided that enforcement authorities will no longer issue compound fines, but haul guilty parties to court – where jail terms could be imposed.
 
That’s not the only decision that has been made by the powers that be, though. Apparently, some foreigners have refused to pay up after their vacation at quarantine centres in the country. So, now, they’ve been ordered to pay up upon arrival, or just stay at the airport “till whenever”. 
 
We’re kinda not sure about this decision, though. Where in the airport will these people stay?! And, won’t they be at risk of infecting others if they have Covid-19, then?! Will we then see a KLIA cluster?!
 
Speaking of clusters, the Sivagangga cluster – so named because Nezar was supposed to have been on home quarantine after returning from a visit to Sivagangga in India – is far from the only active cluster. We have a few more and significantly too, a brand new one in Kedah called the Tawar cluster.
 
There are nine cases in this cluster, which made up the bulk of the 15 new Covid-19 cases yesterday. Of Thursday’s new cases, four are imported. Incidentally, there are currently 183 active cases in the country. 
 
Anyhoo, here are some other Covid-related highlights from yesterday:

  • Ratings agency RAM Ratings has revised its GDP forecast for Malaysia. It now says the country’s economy will contract by 4% this year, a much worse forecast than earlier when it said the economy would shrink by 2.4%. Lovely. Just lovely. 
     
  • The Health Ministry has yet to see any data from Russia’s so-called Sputnik V vaccine. It says the vaccine will need to be examined first before a decision on whether to order it is made. 
     
  • The government has decided to be flexible with employers that’re looking to hire but not receiving responses from Malaysians. These employers can now hire foreigners who’ve been let go by other Malaysian employers. 
     
  • It’s official: the ceiling retail price for three-ply face masks will be RM1 per piece from tomorrow. The move, however, has met with some resistance from pharmaceutical bodies that are urging the government to engage them before making decisions in the future. 

The good, the bad and the ugly

It was kind of mixed day for international relations yesterday.
 
First off, we had Rafidah Aziz, arguably Malaysia’s most well-known woman politician, praising United States vice-presidential candidate, Senator Kamala Harris, the running mate to the Democratic Party’s Joe Biden, a former veep himself.

The Iron Lady of Malaysian politics says Harris has the right qualities, so her ancestry, gender and faith don’t matter. Not one bit. 
 
For the record, Harris is the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India. She is a Baptist, but is also deeply rooted in the Hindu beliefs of her mother. Also, she’s the first black and first South Asian woman to win a major ticket in US presidential election history and if the Biden-Harris team claims victory, Harris will be the first ever female VP.
 
The article containing Rafidah’s comments also saw prominent Malaysians like activist Ivy Josiah and politicians Teresa Kok and Nurul Izzah Anwar singing Harris’ praises. But really, it was Rafidah’s views which caught our attention because, well, meritocracy. Plus the fact that the remarks reek of hypocrisy!

Malaysia’s Federal Constitution does not expressly state that the prime minister must be of a specific race. However, the rhetoric here always seems to be about race and religion, and how only a Malay will be accepted as the country’s leader.

Actually, let’s not even talk about PMs and deputy PMs, not too long ago, lots of folks had lots of things to say when a Chinese fellow was appointed finance minister!

Oh, and by the way Kak Fidah. Just curious. You do realise that your mentor and idol Dr Mahathir Mohamad has a new party, right? A pro-Malay one. Like his previous pro-Malay parties.

By the way, speaking of Maddey, the man who apparently likes making enemies, has ruffled international feathers again!
 
You see, in his blog post announcing the short name of his new party-to-be, Pejuang, our favourite nonagenarian referenced a certain neighbouring country, questioning if it was still “Malay”.
 
The posting, in the form (well, kinda anyway) of a pantun, reads: “Look at the Malays in a neighbouring country. Is their country still Malay?”
 
Needless to say, said pantun solicited a reaction from our friends down south, with Singapore Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam questioning which country Maddey was referring to. 
 
It’s really a case of dumb and dumber, here. On the one hand we have this 90-something “recalcitrant” who cannot stop shoving his finger up Singapore’s behind, and on the other, we have a minister in Singapore who’s so sensitive that he still needs to react to Maddey’s silly remarks. Double sigh!

Of laws, abuse and negotiations

Laws. We need them if we don’t want chaos and anarchy. But laws are so very often abused and easily so, by the powers that be.
 
That can be said of so many laws in Malaysia, and one of the more oft-abused laws is our very own Sedition Act. In the past, it has been used against activists, opposition politicians and even the regular Joe on the streets.
 
Yesterday, a high-profile Umno MP, himself a former de facto Law Minister, admitted that the Sedition Act was abused in the past. Nazri Aziz could also have said it “may” be still being abused, but for the purpose of keeping things to what he actually said, let’s just leave it at that, shall we?
 
Nazri said this in Parliament when debating the merits of the National Unity Ministry. It was in the course of a bipartisan proposal to amend the Sedition Act to include the element of intent. 
 
Nazri said the Act is still needed, so it should be “modernised” to include intent. Sedition Act currently states that intent is irrelevant, which means it doesn’t matter if a person intended to commit sedition or not to have broken this law. 

This element was deemed unconstitutional in 2016 by the Court of Appeal. However, the CoA’s ruling was overturned by the Federal Court two years later, which means we’re back at square one now. 
 
There have been many calls, of course, for the Act to be repealed because it is a wide-ranging law that can be so easily abused. The bipartisan proposal is obviously merely to amend and not repeal the Act, but as they say – baby steps. 
 
Proving intent will make it more difficult for sedition cases to be won, thus making it more difficult for the powers that be to abuse the law and use it against those critical of the gomen. Well, theoretically at least.
 
The axing of capital punishment was also discussed in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday. Current Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan said the matter would be discussed in the Cabinet following the submission of the final report of a special committee to review mandatory death penalty laws on July 17. 
 
Meanwhile, the Federal Court has ruled that the prerogative for penalties for offences, including mandatory death, lay with Parliament and not with the courts. In an 8-1 majority decision, the apex court dismissed appeals brought by four people who argued that the mandatory death penalty under the Dangerous Drugs Act and the Penal Code, for narcotics trafficking and murder, respectively, was unconstitutional. 
 
Since we’re talking about court rulings and laws, we thought we’d also touch on the latest in the 11-year saga that is M. Indira Gandhi’s fight to be reunited with her youngest child, Prasana Diksa, who was abducted by her own father, Muhammad Riduan Abdullah.
 
We learned on Wednesday that Riduan and Prasana have fled the country (for this and some background on the whole case, you can refer to our newsletter yesterday). Now, we hear IGP Hamid Bador claiming to be doing everything necessary to bring father and daughter home so she can be reunited with her mother. 
 
Our coppers, it seems, are in touch with Riduan through a third party and are trying to persuade him to return. Police are also seeking a more amicable solution to the issue, including perhaps getting Riduan some sort of access to his daughter once she is returned. How nice. But Indira doesn’t seem to think so (who can blame her?) and has told Hamid to follow the court’s decision to award sole custody to her. And she’s absolutely right.

Let’s be very clear here – it’s not the PDRM’s place to decide to find an ‘amicable’ solution, ‘negotiate’ with Riduan or ‘persuade’ him to return. The court’s decision is very clear – Riduan has broken the law and needs to be brought to justice. That’s the only thing Hamid and his policemen need to concern themselves with – not finding a win-win situation between a criminal and his victims. 

By not following the ruling of the court, aren’t Hamid and co committing contempt of court? But the question is, who watches our watchmen?

Scraps and snippets

As usual, there were lots of other things that made the news yesterday. Here are a few of the more important and/or interesting ones:

  • PM Muhyiddin Yassin says the gomen is committed to ensuring the success of the bumiputera agenda and, as such, has formed the Bumiputera Prosperity Council. The government has also agreed to the Bumiputera Agenda Steering Unit (Teraju) becoming the main coordinating agency for the bumiputera socio-economic development agenda. Question: is there a council or unit for non-bumis? 
     
  • The High Court has set Sept 22 to hear an application to strike out a suit brought by former PM Maddey Mohamad challenging the appointment of Dewan Rakyat Speaker Azhar “Art” Harun. 
     
  • Police have opened two investigation papers against burger seller Mohd Asri Hamid (namer glamer Asri Janggut), the man who brought to light allegations of illegal gambling operations in Sungai Buloh being protected by cops and Shah Alam City Council (MBSA) officers. Before you get your knickers in a twist, though, Asri isn’t being investigated ’cos of those allegations, but because he had allegedly insulted the police force and armed forces by claiming they did not pray. 
     
  • Meanwhile, a fifth MBSA officer has been remanded in connection with investigations into The Janggut’s illegal protection racket claims. This brings to six the number of people arrested in the course of investigations so far. 
     
  • Philippine authorities have arrested Idang Susukan a.k.a. name Abu Jihad, a sub-leader of militant group Abu Sayyaf, who is also wanted by Malaysia for the 2015 kidnappings of two men from a restaurant in Sabah, one of whom was later beheaded. 
     
  • Umno sec-gen Annuar Musa has sought to stir the shit pot by asking if Mahathir’s new party is a mere puppet ’cos not only does Parti Pejuang Tanah Air feature Maddey and sonny-boy Mukhriz as its top two leaders, the old man’s even decided to call Pejuang by the acronym PAPET. It’s not the wittiest of remarks, but hey, Annuar isn’t really known to be witty.
     
  • In related Pejuang news, it seems like more people have defected from Mahathir’s former party, Bersatu. This includes 13 politicians who contested the 2018 general elections as Bersatu-ians. Even so, Bersatu sec-gen Hamzah Zainudin says there’re more people joining his party than Maddey’s new one. 

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

- Martin Luther King, Jr. -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Israel and the UAE have struck a historic deal to normalise relations, with Tel Aviv agreeing to suspend plans to annex part of the West Bank of Palestine. Though hailed by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, the deal has caused dismay among Palestinians, who’ve noted that “neither the UAE nor any other party has the right to speak in the name of the Palestinian people.”
     
  • The US is actively recruiting scientists from abroad to develop a vaccine of its own following Russia’s claim of having come up with a Covid-19 cure.
     
  • President Donald Trump says he is blocking Democrats’ effort to include funds for the US Postal Service and election infrastructure in a new coronavirus relief bill. The move has been criticised in a CNN analysis, which further notes that The Donald’s choice of words is proof that he is attempting to block mail-in voting for the US Presidential Election. 
     
  • American nuclear-capable stealth bombers have been deployed to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean for the first time since 2016 as US-China relations continue to be strained. 
     
  • An Australian sailor has been posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, the Commonwealth’s highest military honour for valour, 78 years after he went down with his ship during World War II. Edward “Teddy” Sheean, a gunners mate who was only 18 at the time, was wounded but continued firing his anti-aircraft gun as the ship was sinking from an attack by Japanese aircraft on Dec 1, 1942, near what is now Timor-Leste, with survivors saying they even saw tracer bullets rising from beneath the water’s surface after the ship sank below the waves. 

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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