Like foreign workers, refugees in Malaysia have been hit badly by the Movement Control Order. But will the powers-that-be step in and give them the help they need or let them risk starvation?

Elsewhere, the signs suggest that Covid-19 is helping PM Muhyiddin solidify his position as premier, and Putrajaya makes a hair-raising U-turn as Miti’s website goes crash, boom, bang.

Also, today is the Tamil New Year, and we'd just like to wish Chittirai Puthandu Vazhthukkal to all our Tamil friends!

Do the right thing

Time to act

Remember when one former Umno boss reached across the aisle, linked arms with his counterpart in PAS and vowed to help the marginalised Rohingya people because it was the right thing to do? Well, one of those two jokers is now the Troll King of social media (see below) while the other fellow has morphed into an expert writer of epistles. Meanwhile, the Rohingya within our borders are allegedly staring at starvation.

We highlighted last week how migrant workers in the country have been hit hard since the start of the Movement Control Order. We’re also hearing that the urban poor – those in the B40 group – are in dire straits, with even basic things like food not properly reaching them.

With all this, is it surprising to hear that refugees here – which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates at close to 200,000 – have been just as badly affected?

It’s common knowledge that despite all our strutting and posturing, Malaysia doesn’t officially recognise refugees. However, with the very real prospect of many of these poor people dying either from lack of food supplies or ’cos they just can’t afford medical treatment, isn’t it about time for the powers that be, and especially those fellows who talked a good game before, to put their money where their mouths were and extend aid? 

In case you were wondering, a common misconception is that the welfare of refugees during the MCO is being taken care of by the government. However, with the exception of Penang, that doesn’t seem to be the case. What’s worse, certain support groups, like the Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation Malaysia (Merhrom), which are actually endeavouring to help refugees here, claim to have found it tough to do their jobs.

Merhrom boss Zafar Ahmad Abdul Ghani, for one, says that he’s asked the authorities repeatedly to allow him to distribute supplies to the various communities in the Klang Valley. However, he claims to have yet to receive a response.

By the way, Portugal recently announced that all migrants, including refugees, with pending asylum applications, will be treated as citizens at least until July 1 so that they can get access to much-needed health services and welfare benefits. Which goes to show that it’s certainly possible to do the right thing. The only question is: do governments like ours want to?

All the Prime Minister's men

There’s no real data – not yet, anyway. However, the anecdotal evidence – tweets, Facebook comments and some rather fawning editorials – suggests Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s approval rating is at an all-time high. And according to at least one person, MooMoo is making use all the good vibes around him to solidify his position at the top of the Perikatan Nasional pyramid.

Yes, we know. BTL has been all about Covid-19 this past couple of weeks and politics, despite being deadly, is not coronavirus-related. Except that maybe this Moo story kinda is. Especially when you consider veteran newsman Abdul Kadir Jasin’s assertion that the PM’s used the pandemic to not only delay Parliament from convening but also to stop his party Bersatu from holding meetings and elections while he ingratiates himself with his new Umno bedfellows in the hopes of one day soon, merging Bersatu with Umno and heading that Frankenstein monster.

Is Kadir reading too much into Moo’s moves? Perhaps. That bit about Moo leading a merged Bersatu-Umno may be easier said than done when you consider all the Umno warlords and Bossku fans that are unlikely to forget how he once turned on Najib Razak.

Still, it’s easy enough to see how Muhyiddin’s making damned sure that his position is rock solid when Parliament does eventually reconvene by moving to reward Perikatan Nasional MPs with either important government/political jobs (Pengerang MP Azalina Othman Said is set to be appointed a deputy Dewan Rakyat speaker, for example) or cushy posts in government-linked-companies.

We’ve already seen Machang MP Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub appointed Malaysian Palm Oil Board head. Kota Kinabalu’s DAP MP Chan Foong Hin has been fired as Labuan Port Authority chairman, which means you can expect another appointment there.

And word is there’re loads more MP appointments to come. Some folk, like the G25 and Rafidah Aziz, are raising holy hell about this, but don’t expect Moo and co to give a wet fart about what they’re saying. 
However, whether this means a return to power for the likes of Bung Moktar Radin and indeed Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Jibby, is not entirely clear. Still, would you be surprised if those guys did make a return? Especially considering that Moo needs friends, allies and frenemies alike on his side if he hopes to stay on as PM.

BTW, speaking of the Jibster, Bossku says there’s absolutely no problem with the government appointing politicians and politically-linked fellows to head GLCs, ’cos, unlike Pakatan Harapan, Perikatan had never promised it wouldn’t do so in a manifesto and then broken that pledge. Fair? Well, yeah maybe. 

Pakatan did make a tonne of political appointments, and heck, even defended their choices. However – and this is crucial – Promise 22 in Buku Harapan was only concerned with state and national GLC board members, and the facts show the GLC appointments were largely based on merit and professionalism. 

Pssst, Saifuddin Abdullah. Is what Jibby said an example of fake news?

Crash, boom, bang

So, an FAQ on what can and cannot be done by businesses has finally been released a full three days after the International Trade and Industry Ministry published its list of sectors which would be allowed to resume operations under Phase 3 of the MCO. But guess what? There’s no mention of barbershops and hair salons because it seems that the government, having listened to the people, now believes that letting hair grow long and shaggy like Chewbacca is the safest option for everyone.

As we mentioned in yesterday’s newsletter, not one thing about the MooMoo administration’s announcement on haircuts was clear. So this particular bit of backpedalling was always expected. Still, it’s funny that Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaacob, who made the U-turn announcement, said the decision to withdraw the approval for barbers/salons had come about after Putrajaya had heard from not just the public, but NGOs and experts too. Seriously, did no one think that it might’ve been a good idea to you know, run the proposals by these NGOs and experts before going public?

Anyhoo, you know how businesses that wanted to apply to resume operations had been told to file their applications yesterday? Well, no sooner had a bunch of folks accessed the International Trade and Industry’s website on Monday that the bloody thing crashed! But here’s the best part: Miti decided to lay the blame for the crash on nosey parkers who apparently had no business accessing the site in the first place. Incidentally, this isn’t the first time Miti’s website has crashed. A similar problem occurred on March 19 when essential service providers had been asked to send in applications.

Yes, increased traffic can lead to site crashes, but this is a government website for crying out loud. It shouldn’t happen! Regardless of how many people are poking around. Plus, considering how this shit has happened before, shouldn’t Miti have tested its servers and all the other doohickeys to ensure there wasn’t a repeat performance? It’s fairly routine now to have systems that dynamically adjust server capacity to match traffic volume! Three guys writing an email in the early morning shouldn’t have to point this out to the people running the damn country. Sheesh.

In any case, Miti and its mess aside, here’re some other important Covid-19 related items that made the headlines yesterday:

  • The number of Covid-19 recoveries has gone up again. However, even though the 168 discharges exceeded the 134 new cases on Monday, vigilance is still super necessary. Especially too since even more subclusters have been detected. The total tally of infections in the country, BTW, now stands at 4,817 with 77 deaths logged.
     
  • Putrajaya has reiterated that Ramadan bazaars will not be permitted during the MCO. However, the Perak state government, at least, seems determined to go ahead with drive-thru bazaars once the restrictions have been lifted.
     
  • More buildings in Kuala Lumpur could be placed under enhanced MCOs, Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa says. And like Selangor Mansion and Malayan Mansion, it seems the “new” buildings being looked at are also mainly being occupied by foreigners. 
     
  • Selangor will see a total suspension of mosque activities – including Friday and congregational prayers – until at least May 31. The order to shut shop was made by Selangor ruler Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah. FYI, Aidilfitri is expected to fall on either May 23 or 24, so the suspension is sure to affect Hari Raya prayers.
     
  • The number of red zones in the country now stands at 26. Meanwhile, Lembah Pantai has maintained its position atop the Covid-19 scoring charts with a whopping 496 cases.

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • It’s no secret that Donald Trump and his government’s top infectious disease expert don’t see eye-to-eye. However, a retweet of a message calling for Dr Anthony Fauci’s head (“Time to #FireFauci”) might be the surest sign yet the good doctor is getting the boot. Bet you didn’t realise you were watching The Apprentice: Coronavirus Edition, did you? All jokes aside though, the most worrying thing about The Donald’s response to the Covid-19 crisis is that he seems more concerned about how he is being perceived than in actually tackling the problem at hand.
     
  • Global oil prices jumped slightly Monday almost immediately after OPEC and its allies announced an agreement to cut oil production by 9.7 million barrels per day from May 1. The production cuts, which will gradually taper, are set to end in April 2022.
     
  • Thousands of people have returned to work in Spain as the country continues to record a decreasing number of fatalities. Spain remains one of the worst-hit nations, though, with close to 170,000 cases and 17,000+ deaths recorded.
     
  • A recent rise in Covid-19 infections in China linked to foreigners has seen reports emerge of the government targeting and discriminating against people of African descent. The alleged incidents, which include reports of African students and expats being evicted from their homes, has resulted in tension between Beijing and many African nations. Mind you, it was mere weeks ago that Asians in the West were complaining of racism on account of the coronavirus.
     
  • BTW, we missed highlighting this yesterday, but good is good, and this 24-plus minute Easter Sunday performance by Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli in an empty Milan Cathedral is guaranteed to be remembered for its haunting brilliance for years to come. 

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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