An investigation into corruption and bribery involving European plane manufacturer Airbus has implicated lotsa airlines. And among them are Malaysia’s very own AirAsia and AirAsia X. In other news, PM Maddey says Science and Maths will be taught in English again, and we head to Wuhan to bring our people home.

Come fly with me

Now everyone can bribe

Fresh from Boeing announcing its first full-year losses in two decades, rival plane manufacturer Airbus has found itself dragged into the unfavourable spotlight too, thanks to what a United Kingdom court has described as “endemic” corruption within the company.

Basically, what Airbus did, court documents reveal, was bribe airline officials to secure contracts in 20 countries, and among the companies implicated are Taiwan’s now-out-of-business TransAsia Airways, Indonesia’s Garuda and Citilink Indonesia, Sri Lankan Airlines, and our very own AirAsia and AirAsia X.

Yup, AirAsia has “vigorously” denied it did anything wrong. But the info supplied by Airbus during the nearly four years of investigations is serious enough that both the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and  Securities Commission are looking into the case.

In a nutshell, the AirAsia allegations concern the ordering and purchase of planes (180 of them!) in exchange for sweet “rewards”, and a US$50 million sponsorship of a sports team linked to two “key decision-makers” at AirAsia. 

Now, court documents don’t exactly name the sports team in question. However, they do say that the team, while legally unrelated to AirAsia, was jointly owned by the decision-makers, whom the court dubbed Thing One and Thing Two AirAsia Executive 1 and AirAsia Executive 2.

For the record, AirAsia’s top execs have been linked to English football club Queens Park Rangers as well as the now-defunct Caterham Formula 1 team. However, while you’re free to guess who the documents were alluding to, we’d rather not speculate.

Anyhoo, AirAsia, in its denial, says it will cooperate with the MACC. However, even before it opens its books and offices to the country’s graft busters, you can be sure the company’s shareholders will be expecting an explanation. Which is why the airline might need to conduct its own investigation into the case, and if necessary, suspend the execs involved.

Incidentally, Airbus’ settlement of US$4 billion (which it has agreed to pay to the governments of the United States, UK and France, the three countries that investigated the company) is a new global record. The previous record settlement involved Brazil’s Odebrecht, that shelled out US$2.6 billion following investigations into shady infrastructure deals involving the company.

Psst. Keep an eye on the market today to see if AirAsia’s share prices take a hit from all this unwanted attention.

Mind your language

We kinda guessed that it’d be among PM Mahathir Mohamad’s first objectives as Acting Education Minister, and on Friday he confirmed it – Science and Maths will be taught in English once more. Small problem, though: his Cabinet appeared to have not been clued in.

In 2003, Mahathir, in his first tenure as PM, had introduced the Teaching of Learning of Science and Maths in English (PPSMI) policy. The reason, at least according to Mads was that English was a more suitable language for the subjects and thus, would provide students with a more competitive edge. Unfortunately, the policy encountered loads of resistance from both sides of the aisle (PKR and Anwar Ibrahim were among PPSMI’s most vocal critics) and in 2009, the programme was officially junked.

Maddey’s never been happy about the policy’s axing though, and very soon after returning to power, called for it to be reinstated. 

The issue with PPSMI 2.0 though is also the problem with Mahathir 2.0 and that is that the PM doesn’t have the kinda power and support he once did. Meaning that despite the old man’s announcement on Friday and what cheerleader-in-chief Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman may think, the policy might not actually get implemented.

DPM Wan Azizah Wan Ismail says a final decision on PPSMI has yet to be made. But the noise from within Pakatan Harapan (read: Parti Amanah Negara and folks in PKR) and without (read: Umno and PAS) suggests that just like before, this is gonna soon devolve into silly debates on patriotism with schoolkids, once more, left to bear the brunt.

Let’s be clear. We have no issues with Science and Maths being taught in Bahasa Malaysia. However, can the jokers who come with education policies start actually thinking about the kids? 

If BM is the better option given the resources and situation in the country currently (poor proficiency of English in rural areas, lack of trained teachers, etc.), then, fine, let’s go with that. After all, it’s not like countries that don’t teach in English (China, Japan, South Korea) have turned out nations of dunces.

And if we find that English is preferable, that’s fine too. However, what we absolutely do not need is more flipping and flopping.

Bring it on home to me

Even as the number of infected people worldwide increases and the Wuhan virus claims the life of its first victim outside China, the good news is that the number of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) cases in Malaysia has stayed at eight since Thursday. This is despite the worldwide tally having skyrocketed to 16,762 people infected and 361 killed so far.

And, more good news – after lots of planning and negotiation, today, we’ll finally evacuate the hundred-plus Malaysians who’ve been stuck in Hubei since the Chinese government ordered a lockdown of the province last week.

 

China had initially said no to our request for Malaysians trapped there to be brought home via military aircraft, so today, a special AirAsia flight is being dispatched to get the job done.

The plan is that those on the evacuation list will be screened first at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport before being allowed to board the flight home. They’ll also be checked upon arrival at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). And anyone displaying symptoms will be immediately transferred to a hospital. 

 

But while it’s great we’re bringing our people home, isn’t it a bit risky? After all, one of the scariest things about 2019-nCoV is that people can spread it before symptoms start to show, right?

Malaysia, like other countries that have ordered evacuations, is certainly justified in thinking about the wellbeing of its citizens in Wuhan. However, experts warn that the repatriations may, possibly, hasten the spread of the virus. Matthew Driskill, a Singapore-based aviation expert, for one, explains that the air filtration systems in planes may not be able to filter out something as small as a virus. Meaning, what we could end up with if we’re not careful, is a whole plane of sick people.

DPM Wan Azizah assures the public, however, that even evacuees who appear healthy will be quarantined and monitored for up to 14 days. And this will apply to the flight crew and officials too. So yeah, fingers, toes, eyes and ears crossed.

By the way, the Health Ministry says you can leave your face masks at home if you don’t have flu-like symptoms. What’s more important is to make sure to keep washing your hands regularly with soap.

And lastly, it seems our neighbours in Thailand may have stumbled upon a cure for the virus. Let’s pray it works.

This and that

And here’re a few more things you should absolutely know heading into Monday.

  • Syed Saddiq may come off as an annoying twerp most times, but that’s still no excuse to crash his parties and threaten the dude. Which is why we’re glad the cops have nabbed two fellas responsible for inciting a crowd of some 200 people to interrupt the Youth and Sports Minister’s gathering in Ulu Tiram, Johor on Friday night.
     
  • Police insist there’s no cover-up in their investigation of a drug-fuelled party in Puchong at which 17 people, including a Selangor state rep, were arrested. However, the probe could take up to three months!
     
  • Umasundari Sambanthan, the wife of late MIC chief VT Sambanthan, passed away on Friday. She was 90. Uma was the last surviving dignitary present at Tunku Abdul Rahman’s declaration of Merdeka in 1957.
     
  • Finally, Rosmah Mansor’s trial in relation to a solar project for schools in Sarawak begins in the Kuala Lumpur High Court today. Rosie is accused of pocketing about RM187 million to ensure a company from Bintulu that allegedly rented out cars won a contract to install and maintain solar power systems at 369 rural schools.

“Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.”

- George Washington -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • The long goodbye has finally happened with the UK quitting its 47-year-old relationship with the European Union. However, there might be a chance for Scotland to re-join, assuming, of course, it can gain independence first.
     
  • Novak Djokovic came out tops in a thrilling 3hr 59min final to bag his eighth Australian Open men’s singles crown. The Serbian downed Austrian Dominic Thiem 6-4 4-6 2-6 6-3 6-4 to score Grand Slam No. 17. American Sofia Kenin, meanwhile, bagged the women’s singles title by beating Garbine Muguruza, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.
     
  • A man with a hoax device strapped across his chest was shot dead in Streatham, south London after he stabbed two people. The attacker, identified as convicted terror offender Sudesh Amman, was well-known to British counter-terrorism authorities and had been under surveillance. 
     
  • Yesterday was a really rare one. The date, 02/02/2020, was a palindrome, which means it reads the same backwards and forwards. Here’s how often something like this happens (hint: not very often). What’s REALLY cool is that it was also a palindrome day of the year (33) and had a palindrome number of days left in the year (333). 

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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