End of the 'holiday'
Back to school blues
The “holiday” for students in forms Five and Six, as well as those studying for the Malaysian Vocational (SVM) and Malaysian Higher Islamic Religious (STAM) certificates, will soon be over.
The school year was suspended on March 18 when the movement control order (MCO) was put in place, but with the coming of the recovery MCO (RMCO), it was decided that schools would soon reopen, albeit with social distancing and other measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in place. And, it has now been decided that those sitting for the SPM, STPM, SVM and STAM certificates will have to go back to school on June 24.
The move involves some 500,000 students at 2,440 schools nationwide, and includes those sitting for international certificates of the same level. The date for the reopening, he said, was decided upon after taking into account advice from both the National Security Council (NSC) and the Health Ministry.
The Health Ministry had last week released a set of guidelines for schools when they reopened. Among these were that temperature checks would be taken upon entry, desks at classrooms would be placed at least a metre apart and that students would not be allowed to eat at the canteen during recess but would have to buy their food and eat at their desks. Oh, and no sports activities.
And yesterday, the Education Ministry said spot checks would be conducted at schools to ensure these standard operating procedures (SOPs) are being followed and that all preparations for the reopening of schools are on schedule, ahead of June 24. Parents and guardians have also been advised to not send sick kids to school. Regardless of Covid-19, what kind of parent forces a sick child to go to school??!?
The Education Ministry is confident the school syllabus for the year can be completed despite the three-month-long hiatus, but would have to be restructured. In any case, students have some breathing time as upper secondary exams have been postponed to the first quarter of next year. The kids are probably looking at their juniors enviously though; the lower secondary PT3 and the primary school UPSR have been cancelled for the year.
But it remains to be seen how the school year will now be altered to allow the upper secondary students to catch up on their lessons. Will the school year have to continue past the end of 2020? Or will the subjects be shortened or simplified to make life a little easier for the teens?
There is still no news about when other students will be allowed back in school, either. This is expected to be announced much later, with the RMCO set to run till Aug 31. At present, online lessons are expected to continue, though this is not without its problems as well, considering the huge gap in terms of Internet coverage and connectivity between urban and rural areas.
The question we – and more importantly, the government – should consider is that the longer this goes on, the greater the gap between the haves (urban, internet-connected kids) and the have-nots (rural, internet-deprived) will grow. At the end of all this, how many kids will have been left behind and what will this mean for their futures?
Just the two of us
Fantastic news, folks. Yesterday saw only two new cases of Covid-19 infections, the lowest since before the MCO began. And, for the second day in a row, there were no local transmissions among Malaysians.
What exactly does that mean? Well, one of the new cases was an imported one, that of a Malaysian who was infected abroad and then returned to the country. The other was that of a foreigner. So, hooray!
The two cases bring the total number of Covid-19 cases to 8,338. But there was more good news as there were also 39 people discharged from hospital, bringing the total number of recoveries to 7,014 for a recovery rate of 84%. Sadly, a 61-year-old Malaysian who had been hospitalised since March 15, even before the MCO started, became the 118th fatality yesterday.
Despite the low numbers over the past few days, Health DG Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said screening for Covid-19 would continue for high-risk groups. He also said Malaysia could consider allowing cross-border travel with countries like Singapore, Thailand and Brunei soon, though several factors will have to be taken into consideration.
Yesterday marked the first day of the RMCO, and a number of related reports came out, including that the government had gazetted the RMCO into law. With the RMCO, a number of restrictions have been lifted, including the ban on interstate travel. While traffic on the highways remained relatively light, authorities are preparing for a flood of vehicles over the weekend, beginning tomorrow, as people are expected to balik kampung for the Hari Raya season, something they missed out on during the Aidilfitri hols.
Just don’t forget that the ruling of a maximum of four people per vehicle still applies, though. And, those four will have to be from the same family.
Anyhoo, here’s a roundup of the other big Covid-19 and RMCO stories which appeared yesterday:
- The government is fine-tuning the bill on tackling Covid-19, officially called the Bill on the Implementation of Interim Measures to Reduce the Effect of Covid-19.
- Those without face masks will not be allowed to board public transportation, despite more relaxed conditions under the RMCO.
- The Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry launched its tourism recovery programme yesterday to coincide with the start of the RMCO which allows interstate travel and domestic tourism. Minister Nancy Shukri, however, warns that the recovery of the local tourism industry would have to be a step-by-step thing.
- Two-thirds of Malaysians want the work-from-home programme instituted during the MCO to continue, a survey has revealed.
- Police say crime dropped by nearly 50% during the MCO and CMCO. However, they also say more than 26,000 people were arrested for various offences under the restricted movement regulations.
- The number of daily road crashes and fatalities dropped considerably during the MCO, police say, but increased as soon as certain restrictions were relaxed under the CMCO. How much will you bet it will increase again under the RMCO?
Hope springs eternal
The world of Malaysian politics never ceases to amaze (or is it amuse?) us.
If it isn’t the shenanigans, horseplay, hanky-panky and monkey business our politicians take part in, it’s the expectation certain people have that politicians can be counted on to do the right thing. Really, though, we don’t know if that’s possible. After all, isn’t it a famous saying that politics is a dirty game?
Which is why it was kinda funny when a bunch of non-governmental organisations, including that oh-so-bright-eyed-and-bushy-
Bersih, Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia and Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement, better known by its acronym ABIM, called on parties from both sides of the great political divide to reach a consensus to “reconfigure politics”. Their intention, of course, is to have the warring parties bring political stability to the country, which we have to say is well-intentioned and, well, would be good for all of us Malaysians.
It’s kind of an idealistic hope and one not likely to happen. But hey, it’s a strange world. After all, Maddey did dump Brother Anwar like a bad burrito, only to get back into bed with him later on, much to the surprise of many. So, who are we to scoff?
DAP central committee member Liew Chin Tong, however, has less lofty goals. He merely wants Mads and Anwar to bury the hatchet to “chart the way forward for coalition politics”.
Liew is regarded as one of the key movers and strategists in DAP and it’s highly likely that he recognises that Mahathir (not to mention the support he has among Bersatu members, past and present) is needed by the Pakatan Harapan parties. After all, Anwar himself admitted yesterday that Pakatan and its allies (unofficially known as Pakatan Harapan Plus) don’t have the numbers (yet) to form the majority in the Dewan Rakyat.
Anwar, in a Facebook Live session, said the coalition has 107 MPs – five short of the 112 needed to form a simple majority in Parliament. Is that the truth or is the opposition keeping their aces in the hole, hoping to lure PM Moo into a false sense of security, so they can spring a no-confidence motion at the next sitting of Parliament? Jeng jeng jeng!
Meanwhile, a Pakatan ally, Parti Warisan Sabah president Shafie Apdal, has hit out against the Muhyiddin administration, saying the Perikatan government is applying political pressure on Warisan reps to gain power in the Land Below the Wind and to stay in power in the federal government. He claims there’s plenty of “talk” about attempts to buy Warisan MPs and assemblymen. This after eight Warisan MPs said rumours a number of them would quit the party were untrue and they were fully behind Shafie.
BN man and Sabah Umno top dog Bung Moktar Radin, however, sees things differently, saying the acquittal of former Sabah CM Musa Aman of corruption charges would see the political landscape there change.
Oh, by the way, Attorney-General Idris Harun has issued a statement outlining why charges were dropped against Musa. One of the main reasons cited was an affidavit from former AG Abdul Gani Patail affirming a decision in 2012 that no action be taken against Musa as the money allegedly taken by the then CM was actually for political funding. Other reasons were that witnesses for the prosecution had either passed away or were no longer in Malaysia.
Songs of innocence
Speaking of former AGs, another has popped up and, for no apparent reason at all, made some odd allegations.
Mohamed Apandi Ali claims a former federal court judge, the very one now prosecuting corruption cases against former PM Najib Razak, had met him in 2018 to coax him into arresting Jibby, who was then the PM, at the behest of another former PM (that’s a lot of exes with axes to grind!).
He claimed Gopal Sri Ram had told him PM4 Mahathir (who was yet to be PM7 then) had arranged for police in Putrajaya to arrest the Jibster on Apandi’s instructions and had also arranged for a magistrate to issue a remand order.
There was no indication as to why Apandi has suddenly made these allegations, posted on his Facebook page. Nor was there any reply from Sri Ram. Sri Ram is the ad hoc prosecutor in both trials Najib is currently facing: one for 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) and another for SRC International.
However, the statement itself is nothing really new, as the man had made statements in 2016 that the saintly Najib had not known about RM42 million deposited into his accounts, and reaffirmed this in March this year.
More importantly, Apandi says these revelations are just the beginning of more to come. Is he merely trying to shill the memoirs he says he’ll write? Is this a more personal feud between him and Maddey, Sri Ram and co? Or is this just Apandi now being emboldened by the political winds that are blowing in his direction once again? Time will tell.
Meanwhile, the High Court has allowed an application by Najib to inspect items seized by police in their investigations into 1MDB. Two other parties – a jeweller based overseas and Jibby’s wife Rosmah Mansor – are also seeking to inspect the items, but nothing has been decided on these applications yet. Still, seeing as how Rosie is the Jibster’s wife, we guess she’ll know when he knows. Pillow talk in the Razak homestead, eh?
On the topic of seized items – Najib’s lawyer Shafee Abdullah has complained police “destroyed” luxury handbags taken from Mama Rosie and her daughter by using magic ink markers to “tag” them. They used the markers to write directly on the bags, some of which were worth tens of thousands of ringgit. Our hearts break for these two poor little rich girls, but yeah that was kinda dumb of the coppers.
Meanwhile, in a related matter, the man everyone (even Najib) is blaming for the mess that was 1MDB is said to have found new ways of moving his money around, despite all the Interpol red notices out against him. The Wall Street Journal says Jho Low, has been moving money through Kuwait, thanks to his Mid-East connections.
Bits and bobs
Okay, take a deep breath. We know today’s newsletter has been quite a trek, but we’re almost at the end (of the local news, at least!). Here’s the best of the rest:
- At a time when thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of Americans are taking to the streets in Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police, one “towering” Malaysian has decided to create a controversy of his own. Lim Kok Wing, the founder of Limkokwing University (and star of Pixar’s The Incredibles), has angered Malaysians for a billboard which proclaims him the “King of Africa” and portrays him as the “saviour” of Africa. We don’t even need to explain why that shit is so many shades of wrong, do we?
- Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission officers have arrested two managers of government-linked companies for allegedly accepting RM800,000 in bribes for a broadband contract worth millions of ringgit. They have also arrested four company directors for involvement in a syndicate which had misappropriated subsidised cooking oil.
- A Sabah minister who is a Warisan VP, Peter Anthony, was called in for questioning by MACC officers for the second day in a row over allegations that road concession contracts worth about RM1.5 billion were awarded directly to five contractors.
- International rights group Human Rights Watch has issued a statement saying the gomen is backsliding on free speech after journalists, opposition politicians and activists critical of Perikatan were investigated.
- Police are investigating Bersatu’s Youth info chief and an aide to former Youth chief Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman after the MACC lodged reports against them. The former had allegedly defamed the commission while the latter had claimed MACC officers tried to intimidate her.
- Here’s some good news, at least. Universiti Malaya climbed 11 spots to 59 in the QS World University Ranking, its highest ever position. Four other Malaysian public universities also showed improvements and feature in the Top 200. So, all it took for our university rankings to improve was for all classes to be cancelled and all faculties shut.
“If there were no schools to take the children away from home part of the time, the insane asylums would be filled with mothers.”
- Edgar W. Howe -
IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS
- Philonese Floyd, the younger brother of George Floyd, the African American who died at the hands of Minneapolis police, testified before the House of Representatives Judicial Committee saying his elder brother didn’t deserve to die in what he called a modern-day lynching.
- Washington DC has approved a raft of reforms after days of protests against police brutality. Meanwhile, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is updating its definition of racism.
- Mumbai has recorded 51,000 Covid-19 cases, which means it now has more than the peak number in Wuhan, where the pandemic began. Overall, India now has over 266,000 cases. The US is still miles ahead of the rest of the world though, with the latest number of Covid-19 cases there now surpassing two million, and 12 states reporting rises in hospitalisations. Worldwide, there are now more than 7.3 million cases with 412,000 deaths.
- Israel’s Supreme Court has struck down a law which retroactively legalised 4,000 settlements built on privately-owned Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.
- JK Rowling has responded to the barrage of criticism levelled at her over her recent comments on trans issues by penning a lengthy personal essay.