The government did an ace job of managing things in the early days of the pandemic. But as Malaysia’s Covid-19 numbers go up again, the feeling among the rakyat is that the powers that be are just not leading in the way they’re expected to - and worse still, refusing to take responsibility for their fumbles.

Elsewhere in today’s newsletter, the Higher Education Ministry cocks up by being wishy-washy, police and the MCMC probe porn chat groups, and an MP’s demise means we’ll be facing yet another by-election in Sabah.

Leadership and the art of tai chi

"It's not us, it's you."

A total of 897 new Covid-19 cases and one death have been recorded over the past three days (bringing the death toll to 137), but according to the poobahs in Putrajaya, a nationwide lockdown isn’t being considered. Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has said that’s ’cos the outbreaks are limited to areas and clusters that can and have been isolated, for the moment at least.

 

For example, MooMoo notes while there’s been an uptick in Kedah, most of the cases are confined to the prison in Alor Setar or clusters already identified. Ditto, the spate of new infections in Sabah.

 

The PM isn’t wrong, of course – many of the recent cases are being registered in areas already under surveillance. Even so, infections are rising in other places too, like in Selangor, where 31 new cases were registered yesterday alone.

 

Be that as it may, the government has no plans to re-introduce stringent movement curbs for the whole country, nor inter-state/inter-district travel restrictions like in Sabah. If a particular area is affected by a sudden spike in cases, it may be locked down – case in point, the targeted enhanced MCO sanctioned Sunday for Alor Setar Prison. But districts, states and the country as a whole will be not be affected.

 

In a sense, you can understand the logic behind the reluctance to order enhanced restrictions like we were treated to earlier in the year. Malaysia, after all, reportedly lost RM2.4 billion daily when the Movement Control Order (MCO) was in force. It’s very likely that reimposing such curbs could plunge us into a worse economic state, with the B40 group and blue-collar workers sure to be among the hardest hit.

 

But you know what’s even more worrying than another MCO? It’s that the country’s leadership doesn’t appear to be taking a clear stand on the crisis. Instead, what the government seems to be trying to do is tai chi the blame away after it’s been throughly laid into for having placed politics above health and safety.

 

As we previously noted, there seems to be a direct correlation between campaigning for the recently concluded state polls and the rise in infections in Sabah. Yet, to hear PM Moo tell it, the dire situation in the Land Below in the Wind is simply down to undocumented migrants. How convenient.

 

The Benteng LD cluster was, in fact, sparked by two infected illegal immigrants. But lest anyone forgets, it was a failure to separate infected persons from other inmates at the detention centre in Lahad Datu that resulted in the disease spreading like wildfire. To refresh Moo’s memory, rights group have long warned against the crackdown on undocumented migrants during the pandemic as lumping those detained in already-crowded centres would be a recipe for coronavirus soup. The threat of arrest will also lead many to hide when they should be getting tested. 

 

Anyhoo, as his boss was busy blaming illegal immigrants, owner of the Invisibility Cloak, Health Minister Dr Adham Baba has also decided to train his guns on the rakyat, claiming the worrying Covid situation was exacerbated by the rakyat’s complacency.

Dr Air Suam has a point. Just look at the daily tallies of MCO violations, including cases involving fucktards like these. Be that as it may, it’s pretty rich to blame the rakyat for the sorry state of affairs now when politicians are equally (if not more) guilty on account of having attempted a power grab and forcing an election in Sabah in the midst of a major health crisis.

And we’d just like to remind the good doctor that the dickhead who went to Turkey and didn’t bother quarantining himself (luckily he didn’t test positive) was not a regular member of the proletariat, but a politician and minister. We distinctly remember his brother politicos practically falling over themselves to defend him. And now they have the nerve to act like all of this is only the people’s fault. Wankers. 

 

At least Umno information chief Shahril Hamdan – whom you’ll remember contracted Covid-19 while campaigning in Sabah – was quick to acknowledge on Twitter he and his colleagues had a part to play in the whole mess. Even so, while the gesture was noble and all, admitting mistakes on social media ain’t the same as calling out one’s associates and insisting they apologise for the actions.

It may be a political gambit, still, we guess, we should be grateful Shahril doesn’t appear to have to his head in the sand, unlike Izzy Sabri who insists it’s unfair to blame politicians for the muddle since infected politicos only make up a small percentage of the recent cases. Stupid is as stupid says?

 

And speaking of stupid, despite it being pretty clear one would have to be a royal doofus to call a state or general election right about now, Sarawak Chief Minister and Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu president Abang Johari Openg obviously didn’t get the memo. He told a PBB convention on Saturday that Sarawak’s polls could be held at “any time from now.” 

 

It’s madness to even consider such a thing, of course, given what we saw with Sabah. However, truth be told, we’re not entirely sure Abang Jo wasn’t just playing to the crowd. After all, he has till before Sept 2021 to call for the 12th state election. There’re also, at present, some pretty strict rules in place to protect Sarawakians from imported Covid-19.

 

P.S. In terms of stats, Sunday’s rise in Covid infections means our active cases are teetering on the brink of 2,000 (it’s actually 1,961). A week ago, the number was 950. Meanwhile, the cumulative infection tally stands at 12,381.

Back to school blues

Speaking of love poor leadership in a time of cholera Covid, the Higher Education Ministry (MOHE) has come in for lotta flak thanks to a last-minute note urging universities to postpone the registration and orientation process for new students.

 

In an advisory on Friday, the ministry said due to a spike in the country’s coronavirus numbers, it was recommending unis shelve all physical registration exercises and also consider doing the same for classes and other gatherings.

 

These were the problems with MOHE’s statement though: One, it was issued only after loads of students had already arrived at their respective unis to get enrolled on Saturday and settle in on campus. Many have been left stranded as a result. Two, it never clearly spelt out whether the advice meant varsities could still proceed with physical registration and/or classes and the like if they decided to.

 

Minister Noraini Ahmad, got bashed left, right and centre by students and parents on social media. She then quickly scrambled to give a lame excuse to apologise and explain some of the confusion, noting that the recent spike in Covid infections was unanticipated, hence the lateness of MOHE’s note. Unfortunately, while some may be willing to close an eye to the statement’s delay, the minister’s remarks that her ministry’s advisory was in line with unis having autonomy to make their own decisions was wishy-washy as hell.

 

Look, we understand the idea behind unis being given leeway to make up their own rules and regs, but certainly not in national public health matters like this??!? After all, ma’am, if your ministry thought the rise in infections was so worrying that it warranted guidance being issued, then you should’ve damn well taken a stand and been firm with your instructions. You were put in your position to lead, not be some aunty dispensing advice nobody listens to!

 

By the way, here’s another question for you: does the advice cover private unis, and if it doesn’t, why not? 

 

Dr Parmjit Singh, president of the Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities, has said private higher education institutions are exempt from following MOHE’s advice as enrolment at many private places began earlier. As such these institutions have only been asked to conduct classes with fewer students. Question is, though, what about the unis and colleges that are welcoming new students in October? And more importantly, why the double standard with regard to the conducting of classes?

 

Also, no one appears to have told the Immigration Department there’re two sets of rules ‘cos those fellas have just gone and imposed a blanket ban on foreign students entering the country until Dec 31, regardless of whether they’re heading to public or private unis and notwithstanding the prior receipt of approvals to enter the country.

 

In short, this entire thing is a clusterfuck of monumental proportions. And in case you’ve forgotten, this isn’t the first time MOHE has messed up in this way.

 

In March, a whole lotta confusing advice and directives resulted in students at both public and private higher learning institutions rushing to return home – and crowding transport terminals in the process – only for them to be later told to stay put when the MCO took effect. 

 

Anyways, while MOHE certainly failed this particular test, a whole bunch of Malaysians passed with flying colours. Among those who deserve mention are former education minister Maszlee Malik (doing perhaps a far better job than when he was minister) and Muda, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman’s new party, that collected a tonne of cash for stranded students. Also deserving of a mention is author and #KitaJagaKita initiator Hanna Alkaf, who worked to compile a verified list of places where students could get help. 

Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) too, has decided to give affected students RM100 each, and this is a nice move, especially as it comes barely a day after the university was forced to deny accusations it had turned away students who had come for registration. 

 

It’s a sad day when our ministry is so bloody hopeless that individuals, groups and universities have to figure out workarounds to problems that should rightfully be tackled by Putrajaya. 

 

Incidentally, as all this crap was going on, Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA) in Terengganu was forced to shut for sanitisation work after discovering a staff member to be Covid positive. Dah lah jatuh, ditimpa tangga pulak tu.

 

Here’re some other Covid-19 highlights from the weekend:

  • As Sungai Buloh Hospital preps for an influx of Covid-19 cases, other hospitals in Selangor have been alerted that they may be called upon to receive the former’s non-Covid patients. Sungai Buloh Hospital was the designated Covid-19 hospital when the MCO was first implemented.
     
  • Umno senator Ahmad Masrizal Muhammad is the latest politician to test positive for Covid-19. Masrizal, who is also the deputy environment and water minister, is understood to have been campaigning for Barisan Nasional during the Sabah polls.
     
  • Meanwhile, Masrizal’s party, Umno, has joined the voices of those calling for a three-month extension to the loan moratorium. The National Union of Bank Employees agrees with this particular call.
     
  • This isn’t exactly new news but flew under the radar. The International Commission of Jurists’ has released it’s September 2020 Global Health report on the right to access healthcare. While Malaysia may have done well in managing the crisis, especially earlier on, it was mentioned in the report for its less-than-ideal healthcare responses to undocumented migrants, the LGBT community, and the Orang Asli.

Good night, good sir

Former de facto Law Minister Liew Vui Keong passed away Friday due to complications from a lung infection. The ex-minister and Parti Warisan Sabah permanent chairman had been initially warded in mid-September for a suspected slipped disc but later contracted pneumonia and slipped into a coma.

 

Though a Warisan man from 2018, VK, 60, was with BN component party LDP for ages before that, even serving as the party’s president from 2006 to 2014. He was a deputy minister in Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Najib Razak’s cabinets prior to joining Warisan and being made Pakatan Harapan’s minister in charge of law. He’s also remembered for pushing for important reforms while de facto law minister, including to abolish the death penalty and to make stalking a crime. Let’s hope his efforts will come to fruition one day.

 

VK’s demise means the Batu Sapi seat in Sabah, which he won in GE14, is now vacant. Under election rules, the Election Commission (EC) has two weeks to decide on a by-election date after being informed of the vacancy and a by-election must be held within 60 days of the Dewan Rakyat being informed.

With Covid-19 cases going up and up in that part of Sabah and an increase in cases attributable to the recent state polls, the EC is sure to be under pressure to come up with health protocols that ensure voter safety.

 

For the record, while VK cantered to victory in Batu Sapi in 2018 on a Warisan ticket, the constituency has traditionally been a Parti Bersatu Sabah stronghold.  

 

Impending elections aside, here’re some other things that made the news over past few days:

  • The police and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) are investigating claims that a bunch of Telegram chat groups are circulating photos of women without their consent. The groups’ activities were brought to light by several women who discovered their pics being shared without their consent. This makes our blood boil.

    Among the groups being probed is one which purportedly has over 30,000 members and is being used to spread pics taken from social media platforms as well as pornographic content

    Non-consensual dissemination of intimate images is a rightfully a crime under Malaysian law and suspects can be prosecuted under a number of legislations, including the Penal Code, the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998. Here’s a quick guide on what victims should know and do in the event they find their images being disseminated non-consensually or are threatened with the distribution of private material.
     
  • It’s more showerless days to come for over 300,000 households in 274 areas in the Klang Valley which have been hit by another round of water cuts after yet another case of river pollution. The pollution, which was detected in Sungai Semenyih, has resulted in the Sungai Semenyih and Bukit Tampoi water treatment plants having to be shut down. The latest incident comes just a month after the last one, involving pollutants in Sungai Gong, resulted in 1.2 million households being affected by water disruptions.
     
  • And if that wasn’t disruption enough, brace yourselves for more bad news: Celcom is facing network issues, and the result is that you may not be getting cell coverage – and more importantly, data! And if you think you’re in the clear because you’re not using Celcom, think again as several other providers also use Celcom’s network. Details here.
     
  • Here’s what you need to know about the second phase of the Malaysia Population and Housing Census that’s set to begin on Oct 7. Long story short, official enumerators will be going door-to-door beginning Wednesday and if you’re living in Malaysia, you have to layan them.
     
  • As if the closure of bars and music venues hadn’t hurt enough, it seems that about RM30 million in royalties owed to recording artistes, musicians and performers has been left unpaid. The problem appears to be that huge amounts of cash are either stuck with licensing companies that’ve since shut down or that the moolah can’t be paid out due to legal complications.
     
  • We’re not sure if ex-Election Commission chairman and current Parliament Speaker Azhar “Art” Harun is living on planet Earth. Our friend, who is supposedly a smart guy, said he “didn’t expect” the ruckus over his appointment as Speaker. Gee, the previous Speaker (who did a fantastic job, mind you) was summarily sacked and you were installed in his place as part of a highly controversial putsch to put an unelected government in office – and you didn’t think anybody would scream blue murder? We’ve checked and the official Malay word to describe this is bangang.  🤦

“It’s not denial. I’m just selective about the reality I accept."

- Calvin and Hobbes -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Despite earlier mixed messages, it looks like United States President Donald Trump’s could soon be discharged. Even so, his Covid-19 diagnosis has thrown his administration and the upcoming Presidential election, due in just about 30 days, into chaos. For one, the Donald will likely have to exclude himself from the campaign trail for a prolonged period.

    Meanwhile, here’s a list of Trump’s cabinet members, aides and advisers, who’ve been in contact with El Presidente and tested for Covid-19.
     
  • Still on US politics, Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s speedy appointment to the Supreme Court appears to be under threat now that at least three Republican senators have tested positive for Covid-19. Yup, members have attended recent Senate hearings remotely, however, there’s opposition to allowing them to do so for something as important as a supreme court nomination.
     
  • Archaeologists have unearthed 59 ancient sarcophagi near Saqqara, the necropolis of the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis. It’s understood the coffins likely belonged to priests, senior statesmen and prominent figures (like an ancient Egyptian Elvis?) from the 26th Ancient Egyptian dynasty.
     
  • Mecca’s Grand Mosque or Masjid Al-Haram, which surrounds Islam’s holiest site the Kaaba, has reopened to limited umrah pilgrimages. Up to 6,000 pilgrims  – from Saudi Arabia only – will be allowed in per day. The site has been closed since March due to concerns over Covid-19.

    And half the world away, the Solomon Islands, which had been one of the few Covid-free spots in the world, has just reported its first case – a student who’d just returned from the Philippines. 
     
  • Kenzo Takada, the founder of luxury fashion brand Kenzo, has died of Covid-19 related complications. Born in Japan in 1939, Takada moved to Paris in 1964 and began establishing himself as a fashion designer.

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.

trident media logo

Trident Media · Seksyen 35 · Shah Alam, Selangor 40470 · Malaysia

Scroll to Top
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap