The World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency due to it having now appeared in 18 countries. At home, there are now 8 cases. Though no Malaysian has been reported to have been infected, it's still pretty scary. In other news, people are lauding the government push for stiffer penalties for drunk driving, but say it won't mean anything without stringent enforcement; Amnesty International ain't too impressed with our human rights record; and, some lawyers deliver a slap to the face of the IGP (not literally, lah) and tell him to just follow orders.

Global warning

It's now a global problem

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the novel coronavirus (nCoV) a global health emergency.

It’s about bloody time they did it. The number of people infected now stands at 9,480, while the death tolls stands at 213. The only place where there’s been no report of the outbreak yet is South America. 

WHO said, in declaring nCoV a global emergency, it isn’t so much what’s happening in China but that the virus has infected 98 people in 18 countries, including eight cases of human-to-human infection in Germany, Japan, Vietnam and the US.

In Malaysia, an eighth case of nCoV has been reported, the victim again a tourist from China, while 14 travelers from Wuhan were turned back at KLIA, in line with the government’s move to temporarily ban entry into the country for visitors from the epicentre of the infections.

In fact, the federal government is studying the necessity to temporarily ban all flights into the country from China, besides those from Wuhan and Hubei province. Sabah, however, has already taken the step to suspend all China flights, while Sarawak will, for now, stop all foreign students who returned to China for the recent Lunar New Year holidays from reentering the state.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents has stopped all outgoing trips to China, in line with the China National Tourism Administration’s ruling banning all travel in and out of mainland China.

In its efforts to evacuate Malaysians from Wuhan, meanwhile, the government is engaging with Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia, saying any plan to fly our citizens out of the affected city would involve the two airline companies. But China has yet to respond to Putrajaya’s plan.

The government also doesn’t think there is a need to enact a new law to combat fake news spread by irresponsible quarters regarding nCoV. Multimedia and Communication Minister Gobind Singh Deo said present laws were sufficient for action to be taken against anyone causing panic and public disorder via fake news about the virus. Here’s the latest example of some of the disinformation that’s been flying around about the virus.

Oh and by the way, if you’re a trader intending to take advantage of the situation, you’d best think again. There are anti-profiteering laws as well. That’s what happened to three Sabah shopowners who apparently decided to double the prices for face masks, since these are in demand due to the virus outbreak and flu season.

No enforcement, no point

Following the announcement by Transport Minister that the government will seek stiffer punishments for reckless driving and driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol, a laudable move if ever there was one, several quarters have come out to give their two sen’s worth.

And, the government should really pay attention to these views and take ’em into account when drawing up legal amendments or plans to combat reckless driving or DUIs, cos they’re good points. 

The first and most important of these is enforcement. Far too often, while there are great old laws or new ones being drawn up, the lack of enforcement means these laws really have no teeth.

Civil rights lawyer Syahredzan Johan is urging the police and the Road Transport Department (RTD) to step up enforcement of road laws, saying merely increasing punishments would be inadequate.

Syahredzan said this showed the government, unlike the previous administration, has the political will to act. But he would say that, wouldn’t he? After all, he’s Lim Kit Siang’s political secretary.

Eatery and nightclub owners also harped on stricter enforcement as being key in combating DUI problems, especially, but added that awareness campaigns were also important. Malaysia Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors’ General Association said motorists should be more responsible and know their limit when consuming alcohol.

It recommended more campaigns to create awareness of the problem of drink driving, but stressed there needed to be an increase in enforcement efforts especially at outlets that serve alcohol

Everybody’s favourite activist for almost everything under the sun, Lee Lam Thye, in his capacity as chairman of the Alliance for Safe Community (Ikatan), said the government must study how to make awareness campaigns more effective so as to ensure those intending to drink either don’t drive or travel with a designated driver. 

And here’s a pretty good kicker – the government must ensure enforcement of laws is done “with integrity”. In other words, what Lee is saying is that corruption is a no-no if we are to ensure stiffer punishments can effectively bring down the number of accidents involving DUIs. How the gomen is gonna ensure no corruption is involved… well that’s anyone’s guess at the moment. 

Meanwhile, Malaysia Psychiatric Association president Hazli Zakaria has suggested that the best way moving forward would be to include mandatory assessment in any case of DUIs, or at least in fatal accidents.

What this means is that any punishment meted out to those convicted of offences stemming from a fatal accident would include mandatory assessments of alcohol abuse problems and the accompanying treatment programme.

The desolation of smug

Dr Mahathir Mohamad sure sounded all smug yesterday when he said the world no longer views Malaysia as a kleptocracy, and that we are once again a respected nation.

In a statement on the first anniversary of the National Anti-Corruption Plan (NACP) 2019-2023, the PM said 25 of the 115 initiatives under the plan were already in place. He credited the performance of the Pakatan government in turning around the image of the country, leading to an improved ranking in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index.

The greatest impact of the gomen, he said, were efforts to improve governance, integrity and combating corruption.

“Today the prime minister of Malaysia is no longer accused of stealing public funds for personal interest,” he said in his statement.

Bravo, sir. Bravo. But that’s pretty easy, isn’t it? All you have to do to ensure people don’t see Malaysia as a kleptocracy is to to make sure the PM (that’s you, of course) isn’t seen stealing public funds.

And yes, we have to applaud current government (and MACC, of course) efforts to combat corruption. After all, it is bearing fruit.

But maybe you might want to put the backslapping on hold for a little while. We may be improving on the corruption front, but Amnesty International says there’s still a lot to do on human rights.

According to Amnestry’s 2019 Review of Human Rights in Asia Pacific report, Malaysia still lags in areas like the protection of LGBT and indigenous communities.

The report also mentioned that the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission had still to be set up. Malaysia, it said, also not only failed to repeal “draconian security laws” but continued to use laws restricting the right of freedom of expression such as the Sedition Act and Multimedia and Communications Act.

Other areas that drew criticism were Malaysia’s continued struggle to abolish the death penalty, custodial deaths, religious freedom, and the country’s position towards refugees and asylum seekers.

Can we add to that the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act – Sosma – which is still in use today despite being one of the laws which Pakatan vowed would be repealed?

Remember that law, Maddey? It was used against 12 people accused of links to a long-defunct (we say again, defunct) terror organisation called the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). And two of these are members of your own coalition, elected representatives no less.

Its use and the continued detention of the 12 men are the subject of much criticism, including from another member of your coalition, P. Ramasamy. The Penang Deputy Chief Minister II asked a pertinent question of the federal government in an opinion piece yesterday: Is the Pakatan government willing to condone obnoxious laws?

So yeah, Maddey. Fighting corruption is super-duper important. But don’t forget everything else.

Do as you've been ordered, IGP

Did IGP Abdul Hamid Bador put his foot in his mouth?

Lawyers for M. Indira Ghandi, the woman whose Muslim convert husband abducted their youngest daughter more than a decade ago, are questioning what sort of “win-win” situation the nation’s top cop was talking about when commenting on a possible RM100 million suit against him filed by the aggrieved mother.

They want Abdul Hamid and the police force to just follow court instructions and find the girl, Prasana Diksa, instead of looking for any “happy ending” for both parties (Indira and her ex-husband, Muhammad Ridhuan Abdullah). And quite frankly, we agree with them.

Raj & Sach, the legal firm representing Indira, said there was no necessity for the IGP to look for a win-win situation when the court had ordered the arrest of the ex-husband and the return of Prasana Diksa to her husband.

“Yours is not to make reply, yours is not to reason why, yours is but to do and obey the judgment of the Federal Court. The IGP has failed to give effect to the order of the Federal Court,” the firm said in a statement, in what was a really cool paraphrasing of lines from the poem “Charge of the Light Brigade” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

The legal firm also questioned whether the police force knew the whereabouts of Ridhuan and Prasana Diksa, in light of Abdul Hamid’s statement of a win-win situation.

Was it just a case of foot-in-the-mouth syndrome when the IGP talked about a “happy ending” and a “win-win situation”, or do police actually know where Ridhuan is keeping Prasana? If they do know and haven’t been acting on it… well, there’ll be hell to pay.

For those not too clear about what’s going on, here’s a quickie recap. In 2009, when Prasana was just 11 months old, she was taken away from Indira by her father, shortly after he converted. Ridhuan also unilaterally converted her and her two older siblings, who are with their mother.

After a long legal battle, the courts ruled the unilateral conversion illegal. The Federal Court last year also ordered police to track down and arrest Ridhuan and return Prasana to Indira. Nothing, however, has been heard of father and daughter since then, despite Abdul Hamid saying in July last year that police had doubled their efforts to locate them and that he had taken a personal interest in the case.

Whatever it is, the ball is now in your court, Tan Sri IGP. Do your job!

“Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory.”

- Albert Schweitzer -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • John Barasso, the third most senior Republican in the US Senate, says he is confident President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial will end by “Friday or Saturday”.
     
  • Meanwhile, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives has passed two pieces of legislation seeking to control Trump’s powers to send troops abroad.
     
  • European Union leaders say they will find new paths to forging a relationship as an ally with Britain following Brexit.
     
  • Guess what peeps. We’re all Neanderthals. Research now shows all of us have Neanderthal DNA in our genetic make-up, including Africans who, prior to this, were thought to have no link to our extinct human relative.

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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