According to his peeps, the PM will announce tighter Covid-19 protocols today. But just how much tighter are we talking about here? Meanwhile, our Covid sitch goes from worse to worser with deaths piling on and active cases now within spitting distance of the 30,000 mark.

Elsewhere in today's newsletter, Muhyiddin's support in Parliament hangs in the balance; an Umno man gets too high-handed; and our moneybags minister is slammed for blowing smoke up his own behind.

One more time ... with feeling

For the love of toilet paper, get it right!

Are we looking at a stricter Conditional MCO? A full-on lockdown? Something in between?

With the country’s worsening Covid sitch, a lockdown seems highly likely. However, until PM Muhyiddin Yassin announces the deets today, we know f*** all about the kinda curbs we’ll be staring at. Heck, as this newsletter goes out, we don’t even know what time n̶o̶t̶ ̶o̶u̶r̶ ̶A̶b̶a̶h̶ Moo will be gracing our screens!

Essentially, the gomen announcing an announcement three whole days beforehand, without any further clear communication, has led to three whole days of rumours and misinformation spreading like wildfire. The result is much confusion, growing fears and snaking lines at the county’s hypermarkets. Goodbye toilet paper, hello bidet.

Sinister (short for Senior Minister la!) Ismail Sabri Yaakob and the Domestic Trade Ministry have advised public not to fall for “fake news” that food and other essentials items are running low, noting there’ll be plenty of time to prep once Moo’s spoken. But considering this ain’t your first rodeo, shouldn’t you gomen fellas have anticipated the panic buying?!

Many have also questioned if MooMoo & co. will do what’s needed, i.e. announce a complete lockdown (ala March 2020’s MCO) or introduce half-assed measures (like the no-travel-ban CMCO) ’cos of fears from business groups, and even certain peeps in gomen (allegedly! allegedly!).

Let’s face facts. Absolutely no one wants curbs that’ll kick the economy in the nuts and affect our livelihoods. But the country’s healthcare system is buckling. So either we impose strict measures now — some experts feel a 12-week circuit-breaker order is needed — or we suffer the fate of countries and regions that preferred soft measures and are now paying the price. Just look at Canada, eh?

Your move, MooMoo.

Worse and worse

Our Covid infection numbers have been in the shitter over the past three days – there were 7,527 new cases from Friday to Sunday (raising the total active cases to 27,332). But worse than those figures is the fact that Malaysia’s fatality rate’s shot up too.

Since Friday, the daily death tally’s been an awful 16 (a record!), 5 and 9, respectively. That’s really bad. Worse, in fact, when you realise we’ve registered 80 deaths in just the first 10 days of 2021! For context, we had under 100 deaths for the first nine months of 2020. FYI, the total death toll now stands at 551.

In short, those vaccines can’t come quick enough. Which is why it’s really welcome news that the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) has given conditional green light to the first Covid-19 vaccine we’ll be getting — the one produced jointly by Pfizer and BionNTech.

The NPRA, you’ll remember, has to okay drugs before they can be used here, with the gomen previously saying approvals can take anywhere between 90 to 120 days. The approval now means our inoculation plan has been fast-tracked. And while a wee bit more info’s still needed from the manufacturers (this guide tells you what criteria’s required for conditional registration), for all intents and purposes, the vaccine oughta be ready for roll out almost as soon as the shipments land on our shores next month.

On the subject of vaccine registration, Science Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has said Malaysians shouldn’t be concerned about the different vaccines — Pfizer/BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Sinovac etc. — and who gets what. In fact, we won’t be getting to choose. The important thing, Minister Janggut said, was for NPRA to approve the drugs.

If you’re still worried, here’s an explainer on the Pfizer vaccine.

Anyhoo, here are some other Covid bits and bobs:

  • Economic Affairs Minister Mustapa Mohamed has tested positive for Covid and is being treated in Kota Bharu. Now, of course, we’re glad the h̶e̶l̶a̶n̶g̶ minister’s in stable condition and being taken care of. Now, what of other non-minister p̶i̶p̶i̶t̶ patients still waiting for a hospital bed?

    Incidentally, Tok Pa had been in contact with the PM, a bunch of ministers and even the Agong days before testing positive on Jan 9.
     
  • Thaipusam celebrations are off in Penang for the first time in a century and in Selangor ’cos of the pandemic. Hindus have been advised to conduct prayers at home or at temples in strict compliance with SOPs.
     
  • According to Human Resources Minister M. Saravanan, some assholes (our word, not le minister’s) employers are hiding workers’ Covid-positive results for fear of not being able to operate as usual. It’s unclear, though, what action is being taken against these (insert curse word here).
     
  • A Sibu woman has been identified as a superspreader after infecting 37 other people at her longhouse following her dad’s funeral.

Hanging by the hair on his chinny-chin-chin

Moo isn’t having the best start to 2021, what with that darn health crisis, and Umno snapping at his heels, putting his premiership on the line.

It gets worse. Umno’s Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub has now withdrawn his support for Perikatan Nasional. That means that PM Moo’s lost the razor-thin support he enjoyed in the Dewan Rakyat.

In a nutshell, the Machang MP’s renunciation means PN only has the backing of 110 of the House’s 220 MPs. But while that may appear bad for Muhyiddin, political observers have suggested we mayn’t be looking at a change of gomen just yet. And that’s mainly ‘cos the opposition is fractured.

In terms of numbers, Pakatan Harapan (comprising Amanah, DAP and PKR) has 91 seats. But to take Putrajaya, the coalition needs its reps as well as Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Pejuang (comprising 4 MPs), Parti Warisan Sabah (8 MPs), Muda’s Syed “botak now” Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman and the few remaining fellas (Ahmad Jazlan included) on board. 

It’d probably be easier to herd cats, analysts said (again, we’re paraphrasing here).

Moo’s also to unlikely to resign ’cos there’s no law requiring him to do so. Still, what he may and should do is seek an audience with the Agong, who could decide, like in Feb 2020, if the Pagoh MP has the support of most parliamentarians to continue on as PM.

Regardless of his next steps though, you can expect Moo to be under intense pressure from foes and frenemies in the run-up to Umno’s AGM on Jan 31 where the PM’s fairweather friends will decide if they wanna cut ties with Moo’s Bersatu and/or push for snap polls.

Speaking of an impending GE, Umno sec-gen Ahmad Maslan seems to have more strawberries on the brain than actual brains. In dismissing the concern of holding polls during a pandemic voiced supposedly by a lesser-educated coconut grater, Mad Maslan said highly educated folk, specifically PhD holders, would understand the need for elections.

Mr CGPA 3.85 added, too, that if people could queue up for food at markets and restaurants during this pandemic, then they surely line up to vote.

You’re right, bro! Food’s just as important as making sure Umno returns to power, so yes, an election should be called, Covid be damned. There ain’t no need to worry about getting sick and dying if everyone can just heed the advice of one of your highly educated, genius colleagues and drink gallons of air suam!

Incidentally, PAS boss Hadi Awang has said his party’s not keen on polls in the middle of Covid and floods. 

Does that make sense? Perhaps. But we’re guessing Hadi doesn’t have a PhD.

This and that

What was probably intended as a rah-rah post on LinkedIn, got Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz a whole lotta unwanted attention when his claims of PN’s success in attracting high foreign investments had gotten slammed by business community leaders.

You can check out Zaf’s post and the responses in detail here. Tl;dr – the money minister was taken to task by business leaders and even one Najib Razak for apparently painting a false rosy picture of the economy.

Of particular note was the response by Sven Schneider, head of the European-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce, who whacked Zaf for not once meeting chamber reps and listening to EU companies’ concerns about Malaysia. Ouch! Word on the street is Dewan Bahasa’s looking to inserting Zaf’s mug next to the definition of “Bikin Malu” (we joke!).

Zaf’s smoke up his own ass aside, here’re some other highlights from the weekend:

  • The Federal Court has ruled a 2015 travel ban on Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah for criticising the gomen as invalid.
     
  • Penang CM Chow Kon Yeow has “taken responsibility” for the decision that led to a brand new Merc being bought for his official use. Tau takpe.
     
  • According to the gomen, former minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor was allowed to pay a lesser amount in tax arrears ’cos the Inland Revenue Board can issue discounts when a taxpayer appeals against an order. Ku Nan had initially been ordered to pay RM57.17 million in unpaid taxes from 2012 to 2017 but eventually coughed up just RM40.3 million.
     
  • PKR’s Nurul Izzah Anwar focused on working behind the scenes and suggested it might be better if more political leaders did the same. Anwar Ibrahim’s daughter stepped down as PKR veep in 2018 and has steadfastly refused to participate in active politics, including discussions on PH’s PM candidate. 
     
  • Prasarana Malaysia has finally released RM375 mil in payments to LRT3 contractors after complaints the former was withholding money to allegedly influence the appointment of sub-contractors.

“I’m the one guy who says don’t force the stupid people to be quiet. I want to know who the morons are.”

- Mark Cuban -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • It’s been a rough weekend for Indonesia on account of a fatal passenger plane crash and deadly landslides in West Java.

    In terms of fatalities, human remains and wreckage continue to be retrieved from the site of the Sriwijaya Air Flight 182’s crash in the Java sea, while at least 11 people are confirmed to have perished in the landslides.
     
  • Twitter has permanently suspended outgoing United States President Donald Trump’s account “due to the risk of further incitement of violence”. The order came following protests in the US capitol last week which saw the prez call rioters “patriots”.

    Is, suspension the right move? You bet! Still, where the hell were Twitter’s balls years ago when The Donald was using the platform to spread misinformation about things like Barack Obama’s citizenship?    
     
  • WhatsApp is making users share personal data like contacts’ phone numbers with Facebook, its parent company. A pop-up note on the messaging app says that users who don’t agree to the new terms of service by Feb 8 will be barred from using the app. 

    This article though, notes that WhatsApp’s actually been sharing user data with FB since 2016.
     
  • Hong Kong has jailed three people in excess of five years for their involvement in a protest at the city’s airport last year. The trio — Amy Pat, Lai Yun-long and Ho Ka-lok — were also found guilty of assaulting a Chinese state media reporter.

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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