This may have slipped through your radar over the weekend, but PM Muhyiddin Yassin laid out the cost of the MCO in terms of lost revenue for the country - and boy it ain't cheap.

But on the bright side, with recoveries stacking up and new infections still trending lower, we may be coming to the endgame soon. About bloody time, we say.

Also, have you noticed the shitstorm that's erupted over what a Rohingya activist is said to have said? If you haven't, never fear as here's where you can get the skinny on it. Be warned, though: you may not like what you read.

Here's what the MCO is costing us

MCO's hefty price tag

So, PM Muhyiddin Yassin appeared on our tellies over the weekend for an interview with RTM and Astro Awani. 

While most of what he said was the usual nonsense that can be filed in the “in one ear and out the other” folder, one thing did leap out. Moo said the Movement Control Order (MCO) is costing the country RM2.4 billion a day, due to the suspension of businesses it’s causing. 

What this means is that the MCO would have cost us RM134.4 billion by the time May 12 – the date the latest extension ends – rolls around. That’s a nasty number and it doesn’t end there. If you remember, Bank Negara Malaysia had previously projected that our GDP for 2020 is gonna be dire – between -2% and 0.5%, compared to 4.3% last year. The MCO alone is expected to cost us about 25% of our GDP this year. 

It could have been worse, according to the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research, which said the country could’ve faced a GDP loss of RM123 billion had the government not come up with its RM260 billion Bantuan Prihatin Rakyat economic stimulus package. 

In any case, this MCO shutdown is being felt across our business landscape. While some businesses have been nimble enough to quickly pivot to cope with the MCO, many larger ones – which employ far more people – have struggled. Among the ones to be hit early on were airlines. More recently, two of the big companies to be impacted were Tan Chong Motors and Berjaya

Despite all this, the PM insists people will be cared for. It’s all well and good to hear that, but the reality of it is our government, despite all its babble, has yet to properly articulate what its strategy is to manage the country’s recovery post-MCO. 

While there’s no playbook on how to bounce back from this – and while we know that when we emerge, it will be into a remarkably different world – there are already a lot of good suggestions that the government would do well to take heed of. For example, there’s no reason why the country shouldn’t look at this crisis report the Penang Institute did for Penang and see what’s applicable nationwide. 

And while they’re at it, they would also do well to listen to Lim Kit Siang, who’s been arguing for an exit strategy. The Penang Institute and Uncle Kit’s suggestions are both compiled in this pretty good Malay Mail analysis that also looks into what other countries are doing as they emerge from their own lockdowns.

That said, what Uncle Kit is bleating about may not exactly be music to Moo’s ears since Kit’s main argument is there should be an emergency meeting of Parliament to debate the MCO exit strategy. 

Which brings us back to Moo’s sermonising over the weekend. Part of his spiel was that the private sector should look into ways to reduce business costs by embracing digitalisation. 

Brilliant. We agree that going digital is crucial Mr. Prime Minister, and are glad you’re such a visionary. Which is why we’re also wondering – if that’s the case, why aren’t you allowing digital-enabled virtual Parliament sessions? Guess we all know the reason for that, don’t we? 😉

The end is near (or so some say)

Some clever people down in Singapore have predicted the exact day Covid-19 will all but end in Malaysia. According to the Singapore University of Technology and Design, that magical, glorious day when we’re 97% Covid-free is May 6

How did they come up with that date and why is 97% the magic number? Well, it’s all very clever stuff that includes graphs and data modelling and whatnot, and it’s apparently been successful in predicting when SARS would end, back in 2003. If you’re a data hound or a sucker for punishment, you can check out the details here. On our part, while we hope it’s true, it seems a little wishful to think this whole thing will be behind us in 10 days. 

That said, we’re getting to be in better and better shape. Yesterday, we recorded only 38 new cases and no deaths, while 100 more people recovered. All in all, we’ve had 5,780 infections, 98 deaths and 3,862 (66.8% of total infections) recoveries so far. 

People in Petaling Jaya can’t seem to catch a break though. One of the worst-hit districts in the country, the latest positive case was detected in a trader at the Taman Megah market. As a result, all 60 traders at the market will now be tested for the virus as will any customers who came into contact with the infected trader.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has said people will not be allowed to cross state borders during the long May 1 to May 3 weekend. In his daily press briefing, Ismail Sabri (whose shirts are looking more and more like a TV test pattern every day) said the government would study all applications that come in and decide things like whether travel between different-coloured zones should be permitted, as well as when travel should be allowed to take place. 

However, if they’re gonna study each application, they’ve got a mammoth task ahead of them – in less than 12 hours since the government launched its app for people to apply for inter-state movement, over 300,000 have asked for a travel permit! And that number is only gonna skyrocket further! 

But at least these people are seeking to travel legally. Since the MCO began on March 18, over 20,000 people have been arrested for violating movement restrictions. Lawyers, though, are urging the Attorney-General to not push for jail sentences for MCO offenders. 

Of course, those 20,000 don’t include Deputy Health Minister Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali, Terengganu Menteri Besar Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar or Umno prez Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s daughter Nurul Hidayah. All these jokers were caught red-handed flouting the MCO, but to date have only had their statements taken and are being ‘investigated’ for their blatant disregard of the rules. 

Guess this whole arrest business is just for us unwashed plebs, eh?

Baying for blood

It wasn’t so long ago Malaysians were jumping up and down in support of the Rohingya cause.

In international forums, leaders were taking the Myanmar government to task for its treatment of the community, while back here we’d have regular gatherings and shows of support and solidarity in the name of Asean brotherhood, Muslim brotherhood and whatever other kind of brotherhood applied. 

Well, looks like those warm, fuzzy feelings are long gone and the Rohingya are now public enemy numero uno. It all started when just over a week ago, Malaysia turned back a couple of ships bearing Rohingya refugees. In one of the incidents, it’s believed at least two dozen people died. 

On the back of that, there emerged social media postings attributed to Zafar Ahmad Abdul Ghani, a local Rohingya NGO head, allegedly criticising Malaysia and demanding citizenship for the Rohingya as well as equal rights for them. 

Separately, there has also been a voice note going round on social messaging apps, allegedly by a Rohingya, disparaging Malays and demanding Selayang (we’d have asked for Bukit Tunku, but whatevs…) be given to them. 

Cue the Malaysian backlash. Everybody and his dog has had their say about this – and most of it isn’t complimentary. Those who piped up (and in some cases directed a torrent of abuse) include ex-PM Najib Razakthe odious Ibrahim Ali, and the head of some random local charity group

In fact, this is probably the only time you will ever see the flamingly liberal comments section of Malaysiakini and the famously bigoted Ibrahim Ali singing from the same song sheet – and we’re quite sure the title of that song is Xenophobia. But jokes aside, it must be horrible to be in Zafar’s shoes now. The poor man has been getting death threats – regardless of the fact that he insists the incendiary post is fake and is denying ever saying such things

To make matters worse, the Rohingya community, which must be in a panic now, has moved quickly to condemn Zafar and essentially throw him under the bus, saying he doesn’t represent them. The Rohingya are actually urging the government to take action against him!

But you know what action the government should take? Well, the government has been probing people left, right and centre for spreading fake news. So maybe they should get their butts in gear and see if Zafar’s denials are legit or if this is another case of fake news. And while they’re at it, they may want to investigate the death threats against the guy too.

That aside, it’s shameful Zafar is being turned into a public pariah in this way by his own people, considering the guy has headed his NGO for years and has been consistently advocating for his community. 

But what’s more shameful is the bit of our own making: despite our public and international posturing and despite the fact that almost 180,000 refugees have found their way to our shores (101,010 of them Rohingya), the fact remains that Malaysia isn’t a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.

This means refugees in our country are officially considered illegal migrants and have no proper access to education, employment or healthcare, and basically live in limbo

With that as a background, and with there being so many of them living among us (there were 17 Rohingya NGOs that signed the statement disavowing Zafar!) with no clear explanation as to their status, it was always just a matter of time before things came to a head.

Because let’s face it, we don’t accept the Rohingya – we merely tolerate them as long as they are seen and not heard. The smallest sign of them wanting to fight for their rights – even if that sign is fake – has resulted in Malaysians reacting in the most visceral way.

What’s happened says more about us than it does about one Rohingya activist who may or may not have said what he’s accused of saying. And what it says about us isn’t very flattering. 

PS: Anwar Ibrahim waded into the issue, with his usual empty political rhetoric. Click here to read it if you give a shit about what he has to say.

Odds and ends

And finally, here are all the other dangling bits from the weekend’s news – Covid and non-Covid – that don’t quite fit anywhere else. Enjoy!

  • Students in institutes of higher education will be able to start going home from today, provided they don’t live in red or yellow zones. Good news for those kids who’ll be reunited with their families. For those that can’t yet, stay strong!
     
  • Only 400 Malaysians will be allowed to enter Johor from Singapore every day from now on. In addition to that, all returnees will be held in quarantine for 14 days. This is happening as Singapore’s positive cases skyrocketed to beyond 13,600 over the weekend. The island republic now has one of the highest infection rates in Asia. 
     
  • That said, the main source of imported Covid-19 cases in Malaysia has been Indonesia, which accounts for over 70% of all the positive cases in quarantine centres for Malaysians returning from abroad. 
     
  • Good news for pet owners! Vets are allowed to operate during the MCO, but by appointment only. Now you can take Fido to get that suppository he’s been needing. 
     
  • Remember how we have a deputy women’s minister who doesn’t know anything about women’s issues, or a health minister who knows nuts about health (or general knowledge, for that matter)? Well, we can now add an an arts minister who knows jack about the performing arts to that list of dumbasses. 
     
  • Communications and Multimedia Minister Saifuddin Abdullah has taken a potshot at the previous government (you know, the one he was formerly part of), questioning its integrity. But if they were as crooked as you say, why did you wait till you got your new backdoor ministry before opening your piehole, Saifuddin?
     
  • Batu MP P. Prabakaran says he’s rebuffed an attempt to get him to defect from from PKR. Malaysia’s youngest MP insists he’s not a traitor and that he will stay loyal to the party. Let’s see if this holds true in the long run.

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Wuhan is where this pandemic apocalypse began. But yesterday, after thousands of deaths and months of battling Covid-19, the Chinese city was finally declared free of the outbreak as the last patients left the hospital.
     
  • Spain, one of the countries worst hit by the coronavirus, has recorded its lowest daily Covid-19 death toll in a month. ‘Only’ 288 people died of the illness on Sunday, down from Saturday’s total of 378. For the first time in weeks, children have been allowed outdoors. We can almost hear Spanish parents sobbing in joy. Spain, along with France and Italy, are preparing to ease lockdown restrictions as the recovery continues.
     
  • As Donald Trump skulked in the bowels of the White House and groused (yet again) over the negative press coverage of his handling of the Covid-19 crisis, it’s looking more and more obvious that the United States well and truly screwed the pooch in how it responded to the pandemic. 
     
  • You know what one of the most unexpected ‘victims’ of Covid-19 has been? K-Pop. With most venues shutting down, South Korean entertainment’s money-spinning concert tours have gone dark. Rats, what are we gonna do without K-Pop in our lives? 🙄 (Yes, we ARE a bunch of grumpy and sarcastic old bastards.)
     
  • Has Kim Jong-un kicked the bucket? Speculation is mounting that the North Korean dictator has gone kaput after he missed the anniversary of his grandpa’s birthday on April 15. But South Korea insists their northern nemesis is alive and well, so we guess we’ll find out when we find out lorrrr.

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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