After almost two years of parleying, we’ve finally got a commitment from Goldman Sachs to shell out as much as US$3.9 billion over its role in the 1MDB fiasco. But as massive as that amount may seem, the big question is – are we getting shortchanged?

Elsewhere in today’s newsletter, the cops get ready to move in on Covidiots, our Comms Minister issues another statement on filming licences, and Anwar Ibrahim still isn’t done talking about frenemy Mahathir Mohamad.

A 3.9 billion dollar question

The colour of Goldman's money

Following protracted negotiations with Goldman Sachs Inc., Malaysia has finally been promised a figure as compensation over the Wall Street bank’s role in the 1Malaysia Development Board (1MDB) saga that we can take to the, errr, bank. That magic number is (drum roll please…) US$3.9billion!

In case you’re not too clear on the issue, the TL;DR version is that the US bank had, during the tenure of one Najib Razak, assisted in raising three bonds worth US$6.5 billion for 1MDB, a large portion of which would later be pilfered (allegedly! allegedly!) by members of the Jibby administration, as well as senior Goldman employees.

The bank has always denied it did anything wrong. However, the institution’s big kahuna David Solomon did last year apologise to Malaysians over its role in the scandal and vow to make things right. Unfortunately, previous attempts by the bank to reimburse us were met with irritation by the former fellas in charge at Putrajaya, with ex-premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, among others, telling Goldman to go play far far until a suitable figure was on the table.

That suitable amount, as agreed to by current Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s Perikatan Nasional administration has now been revealed to be US$3.9 billion – a sum that includes US$2.5 billion in cash and a promise by the bank that it’ll help recover at least US$1.4 billion in assets purchased with the bonds.

Is that a fair deal?

Well, it depends on whom you ask.

According to the Finance Ministry and PM Moo, the sum agreed to by Goldman is not just way more than what was previously offered, it also serves as an admission of guilt. Moreover, it’ll mean that when added with the dough the US Department of Justice previously returned, our government would have recovered a cool US$4.5 billion in funds and assets. And really, that ain’t bad at all. That is, if you forget that Pakatan Harapan and Dr M had previously insisted on Goldman alone coughing up US$7.5 billion!

 

That being the case, it’s no wonder then that Lim Guan Eng, who was Rich Uncle Pennybags back before the Sheraton Move, is insisting we’ve been shortchanged. According to Saudara Lim, Pakatan’s previous claim had taken into account as much US$4 billion in allegedly stolen assets as well as US$1 billion in interest. As such, a deal now involving just US$2.5 billion in cash and the so-called promise of a return of US$1 billion-plus in assets will just not do.

 

We’re not entirely sure, of course, if Guan Eng’s right. Nevertheless, we gotta say that the clear disparity between the sum Pakatan original sought and the one Perikatan finally settled for demands that the current administration furnish Malaysians with a detailed explanation on not only what went down, but what else Malaysia intends to do to get back what’s rightfully ours.

But doncha think it’s kinda funny how when average schmucks like us have to pay back monies owed, it usually comes with interest, additional costs and whatnot, while when the fellas, like Goldman, who are rolling in it have to pay, they get discounts and sweet deals?

 

P.S. In a kinda related matter, the High Court has set July 28 to decide on Jibby Razak’s guilt or innocence with regard to the alleged pocketing of funds from former 1MDB unit, SRC International. We’ll have more for you on that tomorrow, though.

Covid prison blues

There’ve been ample warnings. However, with close to 3,000 people on home quarantine having failed to show up for Covid-19 second screenings, authorities have been left with no other option than to move in. And according to Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, this means that beginning Monday, Covidiots who haven’t kept to their end of the bargain can expect to be arrested and charged in court!

There’s no denying it. These irresponsible arseholes have put thousands of others at risk by not doing what’s required of them. As such, they richly deserve what’s coming to them. However, one question to ask is where guilty individuals will be detained once they’ve been nabbed?

Back during the Movement Control Order, rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch had warned that jailing lockdown violators might actually be counter-productive as close confines could result in Covid-19 spreading easily. That reasoning, it would seem, holds true in the current situation too. Especially if the plan is to load up jails with possibly infected persons before they’re hauled to court and brought before a judge.

The powers-that-be have yet to explain what protocols are gonna be put in place, so we can only hope that they’ve thought things through.

Anyhow, speaking of Covid-19 infections, Malaysia registered a total of 57 new positive cases over the past three days, more infection clusters and yet another death. Worst of all, a spike in cases in Kuching has resulted in the city being declared a red zone. No movement curbs have, as yet, been sanctioned. However, Sentosa Hospital, which has recorded 21 cases, has been closed to the public.

Funny Shirts Minister Ismail Sabri – who’s taken to dressing in more sombre colours these days – assures the rakyat that the government is adopting a wait and see attitude for the time being while working on tightening health and safety protocols. Nevertheless, if cases do start to climb to three digits, Putrajaya might be left with no other choice than to reintroduce movement restrictions.  

Incidentally, with regard to death number 124, Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah says the victim was a 63-year-old woman from Kuching with a history of diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Meanwhile, two other people are being treated in intensive care, with 171 more folks in hospitals nationwide.

Here’re some other important coronavirus-related news items from the past coupla days:

  • Cambodia has banned flights from Malaysia (and Indonesia) due to cases of infection being brought into the country. The Khmer Times quotes the country’s health ministry as saying that as many as 108 infections were recorded involving passengers on Malaysian and Indonesian flights. 
  • Catholic churches in Melaka and Johor have suspended all masses following news that priests there were exposed to a clergyman who’s since tested positive for Covid-19. 
  • Cross-border travel between Malaysia and Singapore could begin as early as Aug 17. The details of the commuting arrangement for essential business, official purposes and those on long-term immigration passes were agreed to by Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein and his Singapore counterpart Dr Vivian Balakrishnan. 
  • Malaysia can now screen up to 37,000 Covid-19 cases a day following the addition of more laboratories to the list of testing facilities. There are now 56 labs nationwide with screening capabilities as compared to 53 previously.

Lights, camera, confusion

The fallout from Comms Minister Saifuddin Abdullah’s statement about licences being required for all types of filming looks to be continuing. And worst of all, it’s the minister who’s actually been making himself look bad.

Saifuddin, if you recall, had come in for a lotta criticism last Thursday when he said that the National Film Development Corporation (Finas) Act made it compulsory for anyone and everyone intending to publish films on traditional and non-traditional channels to be in possession of Finas licences. The remark was, of course, later “clarified” with the dude asserting that he’d been merely explaining the law as it currently stood, true. However, quite a few critics, among them PKR’s Fahmi Fadzil, pointed out that despite Abang Din’s obvious U-turn, he’d had still somehow, failed to address whether social media users would be free from prosecution.

The matter was, nevertheless, eventually cleared up the following day, in yet another statement, this time touting the government’s commitment to amend the Finas Act. Regrettably though, while TikTok users and their ilk were finally assured that they wouldn’t be thrown in jail for not possessing filming licences, not a lot else was explained. For example, zero mention was made of just who/what qualifies as a social media user! So, if, say, The Star were to load a contentious video on Instagram – would they be considered a social media user or a media company? What if Al Jazeera were to put up a dodgy documentary on Facebook? 🤔

Sure, we guess definitions and other related stuff will need to be further studied and refined as the government works towards amending the Act. However, bearing in mind that one news organisation (i.e. Al Jazeera) is currently being threatened with prosecution for failure to obtain a licence over a docu feature (i.e. Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown), important loose ends should certainly have been tied up. And if that couldn’t have been done, then shouldn’t a moratorium on prosecution under the Act have at least been announced?

By the way, Saifuddin’s Friday statement also included a bold pronouncement of his government’s commitment to media freedom but honestly, that’s real head-scratcher when you consider not just the ongoing investigation and mooted action against Al Jazeera, but also the recent fine levied on Astro for airing a different 2015 Al Jazeera documentary, the investigations into journalists Boo Su Lyn and Tashny Sukumaran and of course, the escalating Jata Negara book issue.

Abang Din has, of course, yet to respond to calls to put his money where his mouth statement was by dropping all action against Al Jazeera. But hey, maybe there’ll be another press statement soon to address that.

P.S. The Bangladeshi dude who was at the centre of the Al Jazeera documentary controversy has been tracked down and arrested. His work permit has been revoked, and he’ll be deported and blacklisted from returning to Malaysia. 

Don’t you think it’s amazing how quickly our cops can work when they put their minds to it? Makes you wonder why it’s been more than a decade since M. Indira Gandhi’s husband went missing with their daughter, and yet, still hasn’t been nabbed – despite the cops admitting to knowing where he is!.

Odds and ends

It wasn’t exactly a big news kinda weekend. Nevertheless, a number of interesting things did elbow their way into the headlines. Here’re some of the highlights:

  • Despite what Mads Mohamad’s rebel Bersatu-ians may want, Anwar Ibrahim says no decision has been made on giving way to Dr M’s faction to contest the upcoming the Slim by-election.
     
  • Meanwhile, Brother Anwar has revealed that he does not believe Maddey’s assertion that Lim Guan Eng was the one who’d proposed Parti Warisan Sabah’s Shafie Apdal as the Opposition’s PM candidate. These guys really need to get a room.
     
  • Speaking of Guan Eng, the DAP bossman spent the weekend being quizzed by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission over the Penang undersea tunnel project. LGE was Penang Chief Minister back when the project was being studied and developed.
     
  • PKR veep Tian Chua has launched a new non-governmental organisations (NGO) called Daya that he claims is focused on bringing about a new Malaysia, whatever that means. Importantly, though, Tian Chua maintains that the NGO’s got nothing to do with former PKR deputy president and current Perikatan minister Azmin Ali, whom he was once aligned to.
     
  • A large number of hotels and pubs in Kuala Lumpur may soon be forced to operate “illegally” as Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s (DBKL) has yet to lift its freeze on the issuance of new liquor licences. DBKL’s move was announced in early June following a spate of drink driving accidents, however, the suspension has yet to be cancelled.
     
  • Malaysians have been advised not to wait till the last possible minute to add their deets to this year’s Population and Housing Census. The first phase of the census, which is being carried out online, runs from July 7 to Sept 30. Registration for the census can be done here.

“We live by the golden rule. Those who have the gold make the rules."

- Buzzie Bavasi -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Some 16 million people worldwide have now been infected with Covid-19. The total number of infections was at 15 million just four days ago. Almost 650,000 people have died so far. 
     
  • Meanwhile, North Korea has finally reported its first coronavirus case thanks to, it seems, a returning defector. Yeah getting Covid-19 sucks and all, but what we really wanna know is why someone who did their darndest to escape Kimland would try to return.
     
  • Don’t look now but with just about 100 days to go to the United States presidential election, the polls show Joe Biden to be edging Donald Trump. Uncle Joe may not be the most dynamic of candidates, but the numbers suggest that people, surprise, surprise, like him better than The Donald. That said, cast your minds back to 2016, when we were told by all and sundry that Hillary Clinton was the overwhelming favourite to beat the giant orange. Considering what happened then, you may want to keep the champagne on ice until Biden actually wins the election.
     
  • This past weekend saw the demise of three entertainment icons – screen legend Olivia de Havilland, TV host Regis Philbin, and blues rocker Peter Green. De Havilland won two Oscars in a prolific film career, while Philbin was most known for his stint on Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee (and later Live! with Regis and Kelly). Green, on the other hand, gained fame as the founder of legendary rock outfit Fleetwood Mac. 
     
  • The 2019-2020 English Premier League season has ended, with Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea securing the league’s top four spots. Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich, meanwhile, have been dumped from the top flight.

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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