Kerajaan Perlu Bersungguh Mempertahankan Kedaulatan Negara

Di antara kapal-kapal nelayan China yang ditahan di perairan Johor oleh Agensi Penguatkuasaan Maritim Malaysia (APMM) – gambar APMM/Kyodo.

Minggu lalu, Agensi Penguatkuasaan Maritim Malaysia (APMM) telah menahan sebanyak enam buah kapal nelayan China dan seramai 60 orang anak kapal di perairan negeri Johor. Keenam-enam buah kapal tersebut yang didaftarkan di Qinhuangdao, 1300km ke utara Shanghai, sedang dalam perjalanan ke perairan Mauritania di barat Afrika apabila mengalami kerosakan berhampiran Tanjung Setapa di Pengerang. Kapal-kapal tersebut ditahan kerana berlabuh dalam perairan Malaysia tanpa kebenaran.

Apa yang menarik di sini ialah keenam-enam buah kapal tersebut adalah dalam perjalanan sejauh berpuluh ribu batu nautika untuk menangkap ikan di barat benua Afrika. Menurut kajian Overseas Development Institute, China mempunyai sebanyak 16,966 buah kapal nelayan jarak jauh. Dari jumlah tersebut, sebanyak 12,490 buah beroperasi di luar perairan China yang diiktiraf antarabangsa di antara tahun 2017 dan 2018. China menguatkuasakan sempadan perairannya mengikut nine-dash line yang direkanya pada tahun 2012 yang bertentangan dengan UNCLOS.

Selain penguatkuasaan yang dilakukan oleh China Coast Guard (CCG) berkenaan sempadan perairannya, penguatkuasaan juga dibuat ke atas tempoh larangan memancing di perairan Laut China Selatan. Penguatkuasaan ke atas larangan tersebut menyaksikan pertembungan di antara nelayan Vietnam dengan CCG. Dalam sebuah kes dalam bulan Jun 2020, sebuah bot nelayan Vietnam telah dikepung dan dilanggar hingga rosak oleh kapal-kapal milik CCG. Awak-awak bot Vietnam tersebut ditahan dan disiksa serta dipaksa menandatangani sebuah dokumen yang memaksa mereka mengakui perbuatan mereka melanggar tempoh larangan menangkap ikan.

Vietnam selama ini menggunakan tindakan diplomatik untuk membantah tindakan CCG, namun penggunaan saluran diplomatik yang terlalu kerap tidak membawa sebarang makna tanpa tindakan yang lebih keras untuk mempertahankan kedaulatan perairannya hinggakan nota-nota bantahan itu dianggap retorik semata-mata serta dimomok oleh rakyat Vietnam sendiri.

Tindakan CCG menghalau bot-bot nelayan Vietnam memaksa mereka untuk belayar lebih jauh ke Selatan untuk menangkap ikan, dan ini mengakibatkan mereka sanggup menceroboh ke dalam Zon Ekonomi Eksklusif (ZEE) lain-lain negara termasuk Malaysia dan Indonesia. Keadaan ini menjadikan mereka lebih terdesak; maka terjadilah insiden-insiden keganasan di laut termasuk serangan ke atas bot ‘Penyelamat 7‘ milik APMM baru-baru ini yang berakhir dengan kematian seorang nelayan Vietnam.

Bukan mudah bagi sebuah agensi barisan hadapan masa aman seperti APMM untuk mengawasi dan mempertahankan kedaulatan perairan Malaysia yang seluas 614.159 kilometer persegi. ZEEnya sahaja mempunyai keluasan sebanyak 453,186 kilometer persegi. Majoriti aset yang dimiliki APMM bukan sahaja lebih sesuai digunakan di kawasan laut wilayah iaitu sekitar 12 batu nautika (22 kilometer) dari garis dasar (titik purata paras air surut terendah), malah ada yang berusia lebih 60 tahun dan boleh mendatangkan bahaya kepada anak kapal sekiranya dirempuh atau terperangkap dalam ribut dan gelombang yang kuat. Aset-aset ini juga tidak mampu menandingi aset-aset CCG yang jauh lebih besar dan berkeupayaan untuk berada di kawasan rondaan lebih lama.

Penggunaan aset-aset TLDM untuk membantu mengawasi dan mempertahankan kedaulatan perairan Malaysia di waktu aman juga hanyalah bersifat ‘barisan kedua.’ Penggunaan aset-aset tentera untuk membuat tugasan penguatkuasaan sebenarnya tidak langsung sesuai, malah lebih mudah untuk mencetus konflik di antara Malaysia dan negara-negara yang menceroboh. Pada bulan April 2012, sebuah kapal peronda tentera laut Filipina, ‘BRP Gregorio del Pilar‘, telah dihalang oleh dua buah kapal “penyelidikan” milik China iaitu ‘Zhonggou Haijian 75‘ dan ‘Zhonggou Haijian 84‘ daripada menahan lapan buah bot nelayan China di persekitaran Terumbu Scarborough. Ianya menjadi sebuah insiden diplomatik yang lebih sukar ditangani pada ketika itu kerana China lebih sukar untuk berkompromi kerana sebuah aset tentera telah digunakan.

Berbalik kepada 12,490 buah kapal nelayan jarak jauh milik China yang beroperasi di luar perairan China yang diiktiraf antarabangsa, kekurangan aset dan penggunaan aset-aset yang tidak bersesuaian dengan kehendak operasi sudah tentu menyukarkan APMM. Sebagai sebuah agensi separa-tentera, ianya memerlukan aset-aset yang lebih besar, lebih keupayaan tembakan untuk menguatkuasakan undang-undang yang berhubung dengan wilayah maritim negara. Kehadiran kapal-kapal nelayan yang diiringi aset-aset CCG di kawasan Gugusan Beting Raja Jarom (North Luconia Shoals), Gugusan Beting Patinggi Ali (South Luconia Shoals) dan Beting Serupai (James Shoal) mencabar kewibawaan serta memberi calar kepada imej APMM.

CCG juga telah dikesan hadir mengiringi kapal-kapal nelayan China dalam perairan Indonesia di sebelah utara Kepulauan Natuna dalam bulan September 2020. Ini bermakna kita mungkin bakal menyaksikan insiden-insiden yang serupa dengan insiden yang melibatkan kapal ‘Haiyang Dizhi 8‘ milik China dengan kapal ‘West Capella‘ di barat-laut Sabah, tetapi kali ini di kawasan-kawasan carigali minyak di luar pesisir pantai timur Semenanjung pula.

Kerajaan harus membina keupayaan APMM sebagai agensi mutlak menguatkuasakan undang-undang berkaitan maritim di Malaysia. Kewujudan APMM pada dasarnya adalah untuk menyatukan kesemua 11 agensi berkaitan maritim di Malaysia. Namun, kehendak politik yang lemah masih menyebabkan peruntukan kewangan disalurkan kepada agensi-agensi yang sepatutnya tidak lagi melakukan penguatkuasaan undang-undang maritim. Ini adalah di antara sebab APMM bukan sahaja tidak mendapat peruntukan yang diperlukan, malah dianggap setara dengan agensi-agensi yang ia sepatutnya gantikan. Walhal, dalam apa jua keadaan yang melibatkan segala jenis insiden di laut, baik pencerobohan nelayan Kelas C dalam zon Kelas A, penyeludupan rokok dari negara jiran, penyekatan kemasukan Pendatang Asing Tanpa Izin (PATI) kesemuanya diletakkan oleh persepsi masyarakat di atas bahu APMM dan bukannya 11 agensi tersebut.

Selain aset-aset yang berpatutan, berkeupayaan dan bersesuaian, Malaysia juga harus gunakan pendekatan diplomatik untuk membawa usul supaya UNCLOS memberi takrif mutlak dan spesifik terhadap gugusan-gugusan pulau dan terumbu seperti yang berada di Laut China Selatan agar lebih mudah untuk keputusan-keputusan International Tribunal for the Laws of the Sea (ITLOS) dikuatkuasakan. Mungkin tidak keterlaluan juga dicadangkan, dalam ketiadaan suatu badan perjanjian seperti NATO, supaya Malaysia, Filipina, Vietnam dan Indonesia membuat satu gabungan agensi-agensi penguatkuasaan maritim untuk berhadapan dengan ancaman pihak China, disamping mengadakan perjanjian-perjanjian serupa dengan Malaysia-Thailand Joint Development Authority, tetapi untuk perikanan. Ianya lebih bermakna berbanding tunduk kepada kehendak China untuk mengiktiraf kedaulatan China di ZEE Malaysia.

Amatlah diharap agar Kementerian Kewangan dapat meluluskan peruntukan yang dimohon oleh pihak APMM demi maruah dan imej negara semasa pembentangan bajet tidak lama lagi.

The Unnecessary 260

Among the idiot politicians during the recent Sabah state election

Politicians don’t seem to have an inkling as to the reason people are angry. That’s because they’re selfish and greedy for power.

There was no real need for an election to be held in Sabah. It was the Governor’s call anyway whether or not to dissolve but only after the CM had made such a request. The request could have come only when the CM no longer has the confidence of the members of the Dewan.

There was no need to downplay the real dangers of COVID-19. But they did, and went ahead with it. They had programmes and ceramahs attended by definitely more than 250 people. No physical distancing by attendees and party people alike. Lots of handshakes.

There was no need for hundreds of campaigners from Malaya to flood Sabah to lend support. Were the Sabahans handicapped? Or were they incapable of winning the hearts and minds of voters there, in which case it underscores the notion that those parties did not have the support from local voters?

In this era of the COVID-19 pandemic, campaigns should be done digitally. And if the politicians have been doing their job, servicing the voters continually, there is no need to campaign even. And we would not have seen these 260 cases yesterday. Do you think by apologising you can cure the sick, turn back time and stop the virus from spreading?

Equally fast spreading is the IDIOT-19 virus where, again, politicians and their supporters are calling for a snap general election. If there’s anything that needs to be snapped really would be their neck that holds their redundantly empty head.

What does he expect by making this statement? That everything will be dandy?

Why Are We Purposely Losing the COVID-19 War?

COVID-19 patients in a High Dependency Unit (courtesy of Bloomberg)

On Day 1 MCO: our 10-day average number of cases was 146 cases per day.
On Day 10 it was 159 cases per day.
On Day 20 it was 170.
On Day 30 it was 69.
On Day 40 it was 40. All the above were during the full MCO.


On Day 50, we introduced the Conditional MCO. The 10-day average number of daily new cases was 39 cases per day.


On Day 60 it was 22.
On Day 70 it was 15.
On Day 80 it went up to 37. And on 10 June 2020 we allowed interstate travel.


On Day 90 it was 11 cases.
On Day 100 it was 6 cases.
On Day 110 it was 5 cases.
On Day 120 it was 3 cases. We were winning the war. Or so we thought.


On Day 130 (26 July 2020) we allowed the Tourism industry to reopen. The 10-day average daily new cases was at 13. The Sabah State Assembly was dissolved on 29 July 2020.


On Day 140 it was at 21.
On Day 150 it was 26.
On Day 160 it went down to 11.
On Day 170 it was still at 11. Unofficial campaigning in Sabah was in full swing. 8 days later (12 September 2020) the Benteng Cluster was identiified.


Day 180 it was at 31. 8 days later on 22 September 2020, MOH announces three clusters in Sabah and one in Kedah (Benteng, Sungai, Pulau and Selamat).


On Day 190 (24 September 2020), it is already at 71 cases per day. 777 people were under treatment. 3 days later (27 September 2020), the number of cases under treatment was 950: an average of 58 new patients per day in three days. In September 2020 till yesterday, we’ve had 7 deaths bringing the total to 134 deaths.


The Ministry of Health for some reason has not quarantined those returning from Sabah at quarantine centers; instead, relying on Malaysians who are lazy enough to turn on their signal indicator before changing lanes on the roads to be disciplined enough to perform home self-quarantine.


On Day 113 (9 July 2020) we had only 63 people nationwide being treated for COVID-19. Yesterday, 80 days later on Day 193, we were treating 950. I shudder what the numbers will be like in the next two weeks following the conclusion of the Sabah State Election.

Numbed Nought

Old Pals

We have all heard it before from the same person: “I have the numbers to become the next Prime Minister.”  It was first uttered in April 2008, then again just before the Pakatan Harapan administration fell, and again yesterday.  It has, thus far, come to a nought.

It may have come as a shocker for many.  The KLCI fell 0.7 percent and closed nine points lower on Wednesday after the announcement was made.  To be fair, the KLCI has been on bearish for almost a month now. It was at 1578.55 points on August 24th and is at 1496.48 points on September 23rd.

Other than that, Anwar’s claim has been met with scepticism.  “We will have to wait to see if this is another episode of making claims that cannot be substantiated,” said Dr Mahathir over Zoom at Nutanix ASEAN CIO Virtual Summit about his former deputy who is famous for making repeated unsubstantiated claims of having support for the premiership.  Many others think that it is just Anwar’s way to ensure that the voters in Sabah’s state elections will jump on the Pakatan Plus band wagon and support ‘the winning team.’

Numbed by Anwar’s occasional antics, I hardly find his announcement believable, let alone a shocker.  However, a statement that followed and made by another politician got the ‘WTF’ reaction from me.  Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, whose court case against him is far more solid than the one against Najib Razak, announced that UMNO and BN cannot stop any of its Members of Parliament wanting to support Anwar to form a government with Pakatan Plus.  As a matter of fact, Ahmad Zahid said that he ‘respects’ the decision made by the UMNO MPs wanting to jump to the other side.

For a few hours there was silence on the part of Zahid’s supporters.  And then came the spin – the statement is a ploy by Zahid to pressure Muhyiddin’s ‘greedy’ PPBM into asking for a dissolution of Parliament and the calling of a general election.  In other words, according to his supporters, Zahid is extorting Muhyiddin for a general election to be called.

For the life of me, I find that the lamest excuse that I have ever heard in wanting to dissolve a Parliament.  In order to try get a general election going, all it needs for UMNO to do is to leave the PN government, or maybe Zahid has never read and understood the Federal Constitution.  Once the sitting Prime Minister has lost the confidence of the majority of the members of the Lower House, he shall tender the resignation of himself and that of his cabinet, or advice the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to dissolve Parliament.  That is all it takes.  No extortion needed, and UMNO does not have to be in an administration that DAP is member of.  It is a bizarre statement coming from Zahid, the President of UMNO.

But Zahid, and his ill-read supporter should also remember this:  Parliament can continue for five years from the date of its first meeting till its next dissolution, and in the meantime, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong can appoint another member of Parliament whom, in His Majesty’s judgment, has the confidence of the majority of the House’s members. So, Zahid can threaten Muhyiddin but the Yang di-Pertuan Agong can still refuse to dissolve Parliament. That would be a double whammy for UMNO.  And looking at how fluid things are, not one party would dare to go through a general election now until forced to in 2023.  So, is UMNO ready to be partners with PKR, DAP and Amanah?  I strongly doubt it.

UMNO’s No.2, Mohamad Hasan, said that UMNO is still part of the PN administration and shall continue to support it. “Any change in its stance must be decided by the party,” he said when commenting on the issue.  Other UMNO MPs such as Nazri Aziz, Shahidan Kassim and Khairy Jamaluddin have all rubbished the claims.

A word of advice for UMNO.  Winning seven by-elections does not mean that the whole country is now rooting for you.  In a general election, the game is played differently.  Majority of the urban voters are still against you.  Sabah has not exactly accepted you.  Sarawak still cannot trust your Muafakat Nasional partner, PAS. The nation only accepts Muhyiddin and his multi-party band of senior ministers.  Not even the rest of Muhyiddin’s cabinet has the trust of the people. With Zahid trying to play big brother, the wounds of the last general election will bleed again, and people will remember the greedy UMNO that they brought down two years ago.  You are now part of a government without having to wait another three years to go through an election – so be thankful.

As for Zahid, he should learn to behave more like a statesman than a numbnut.  He often speaks before his brain could process the outcome.  A party president is the person who sets the path on which the members in his party should follow.  If he, as UMNO’s President, cannot control his MPs to form an administration with PKR and possibly DAP as he says, he has no business staying on as the party president claiming that he is looking after the interests of the Bumiputeras.  Or is there a deal that he has made with Anwar for a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card?  If that is true, then shame on him.

MMEA’s Baptism of Fire

The two Vietnamese fishing vessels that had attacked the MMEA’s patrol craft

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) recently experienced its baptism of fire literally when one of its patrol craft came under attack from Vietnamese fishermen on board two fishing vessels. Early today, an Indonesian smuggler was shot dead in a scuffle with an MMEA personnel.

Incident with the Vietnamese fishermen

The incident involving the Vietnamese fishermen occured some 81 nautical miles from Tok Bali, Kelantan, inside the Malaysian Maritime Zone. This is equivalent to the distance where most of our offshore drilling platforms are located – 150 kilometers from the mouth of the Tok Bali river.. It also means that the Vietnamese fishing vessels were most definitely far from their own waters. They are known to have gone as far south as the Indonesian Natuna islands and have recently rammed several boats from the Indonesian Department of Fisheries to avoid being detained.

Not only that, towards the end of April of last year, two Vietnamese Coast Guard vessels rammed an Indonesian navy vessel in order to stop the latter from detaining several Vietnamese fishing vessels.

In the previous Sunday’s incident, they waited for the seven-men crew of the ‘Penyelamat 7’ to come close to their vessel before ramming their boat, throwing objects including iron blocks, wrenches, sharpened iron rods, cooking gas tank and others at the boat and crew. They have also prepared diesel bombs in several barrels on board their vessel which they threw at the boat with the intention of destroying it and its crew. In defence, the crew fired several warning shots to deter the crew of the fishing vessel from intentionally hindering the enforcement from boarding and inspecting. Still, they did not stop. The consequence, unfortunately, is in the form of a dead Vietnamese fisherman.

Incident with Indonesian smugglers

Near Tanjung Sedili early today, the MMEA foiled an attempt to smuggle exotic birds, the White-Rumped Shama and the Magpie Robin, by Indonesian smugglers using two fibreglass speedboats. The MMEA managed to stop the first boat and detained three Indonesian men aged between 40 to 62 and discovered about 90 cages filled with the birds mentioned.

A second boat arrived unaware that the first boat had been detained. An MMEA personnel jumped on board in an attempt to stop it. The boatman accelerated away in a dangerous manner where he tried to ram the MMEA patrol boat. A struggle ensued between the boatman and the enforcement officer where the former had tried to seize the latter’s weapon. Warning shots were fired by the other enforcement officers but this too was ignored, and a decision was made to use reasonable force to stop the smugglers from harming the enforcement officer on board their boat. A shot was fired and one of the smugglers was hit, and later pronounced dead on arrival at the Tanjung Sedili Medical Centre.

Formation of the MMEA

The men of the MMEA were just doing their job under but not limited to Section 7(2)(b) and Section 7(2)(d) of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency Act, 2004 which allows them to board any vessel with the purpose of inspecting and searching, and investigate any offence that is being committed, or about to be committed, or has been committed. The 19 Vietnamese fishermen as well as the Indonesian smugglers that have been detained are now being investigated especially under Sections 307 and/or 186 of the Penal Code for the attempt to murder and for obstructing public servants from carrying out their duties.

The formation of the MMEA was mooted in 1999 and tabling of the MMEA bill was made in Parliament in 2004. Prior to its formation, the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) was managed in a sectoral manner by 11 government agencies and departments, involving 5,000 personnel and more than 400 vessels of all types. A singular and dedicated approach was required, leaning towards the roles of a coast guard, as both an enforcement agency as well as combatant in times of war – in other words, it is a paramilitary body. It in not any different than the Royal Malaysian Police’s General Operations Force (PGA). But unlike the police, the MMEA has the power to investigate and prosecute.

The MMEA acquired hand-me-down assets from the various marine departments and agencies, some of which are already in their 60s. Although procurements of new vessels have been made, the bulk of vessels patrolling our waters are more than 30 years old. Not only that, the numbers are not sufficient to cover the operations. Larger but older vessels need regular maintenance for them to be able to operate continually. Hence, smaller boats that are not meant for long-distance patrols and have no on-station endurance have to be employed.

In Dire Need of Newer and Suitable Assets

It was probably based on this knowledge that the fishing vessels involved in the recent incident were armed with improvised weapons meant to cause the destruction of these smaller patrol boats. Imagine what would have happened to the brave crew of the 20-meter Penyelamat 7 had their boat sunk that day. Desperate to not lose their livelihood if caught, these fishermen would do anything at all to avoid arrest. In April 1993, a Royal Malaysian Navy personnel whom had boarded a fishing vessel off Pulau Kapas in Terengganu was kidnapped, possibly after being overpowered, and was never found. I was made to understand that this almost happened to the men of the MMEA.

We need to understand that these fishing vessels work in packs of several vessels per pack. The MMEA would have to spread itself really thin to follow these packs. When a boarding party has successfully boarded a vessel, the MMEA patrol boat will then go after the other boat. Now imagine this: each fishing vessel is crewed by about ten men. Each Penyelamat-class boat has a crew of about eight. How many MMEA personnel can be put on each fishing vessel safely if they are not to be overpowered, and if there are three or four fishing vessels in a pack? In the case of the Penyelamat 7, it would have taken two hours and 40 minutes for another fast MMEA boat travelling at a speed of 30 knots to get to their location. In those two hours and 40 minutes, they would have to rely on sheer guts and luck to stay safe while facing 40 desperate and determined men.

Therefore, it is imperative that the government equip the MMEA with more purpose-built assets which are newer, larger and faster, to replace the current older ones as well as boats that are not built for long-range patrols. As its name suggests, the Penyelamat 7 was built for search-and-rescue operations, not enforcement. The MMEA would also be needing mobile floating bases – perhaps converted merchant vessels that can house extra crew, the Special Task and Rescue (STAR) team with a helicopter and fast Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boats to act as a logistics ship for the MMEA patrol vessels as well as back ups for its patrol vessels. This way, patrol vessels will have a longer range and patrol endurance to intercept the packs.

Faster and capable patrol boats also need to be acquired for anti-piracy and anti-smuggling operations especially in the Johor waters and the Strait of Melaka.

The Vietnamese fishing fleets are known to be accompanied by a ‘mothership’ so that they can fish far from their waters, while the Indonesia smugglers and pirates are only a short hop away, able to carry out hit-and-run raids quickly if left unchecked. It is about time the government becomes serious about the matter and better equip the MMEA as any paramilitary force should be equipped.

COVID-19: When the Government Goofed

MCO Day 141 (5 August 2021):


We started MCO with a 10-day average of 146 cases per day, followed by 159 cases per day 10 days later, and peaked at 170 cases per day 10 days following that. The number of those being treated peaked at 2,596 on 5 April 2020. The highest number of daily new cases was 235 on 26 March 2020 (MCO +9).


The numbers went down to 37 cases per day 4 days before the commencement of the current RMCO (PKPP). 36 days after the RMCO came into effect, the number of cases per day on a 10-day average dropped to 3. The number of those being treated was 1,551. Everyone was happy.


56 days after the RMCO came into effect, the average number of daily new cases on a 10-day average has increased to 21. 8 people have died since. The number of those being treated went down to 63 on 9 July 2020. It is now at 196.


Things became too relaxed too soon. The government goofed when it trusted people who cannot even signal before changing lanes or turn into an exit, to do self-quarantine at home.


Now, Kedah police say they cannot fully enforce the lockdown of those areas affected by the Sivagangga cluster because of the existence of ‘jalan tikus’.

Re-Think The Conditional MCO, Please

A stretch of vehichles queue for inspection at a police roadblock ereted to combat the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak at Jalan Kuala Kangsar, Ipoh – RONNIE CHIN/The Star

Locking down a country is an expensive exercise, no doubt.  After 45 days and almost RM63 billion loss made, the government has decided to loosen the Movement Control Order (MCO) a bit to kickstart the economy.

The announcement of a Conditional MCO (C-MCO) by the Prime Minister was made as part of his Labour Day speech.  Most sectors of the economy will be allowed to operate again on Monday 4 May 2020, except those that involve services where physical contact cannot be avoided, or where crowd control is virtually impossible.  Restaurants are allowed to operate as long as they meet requirements such as checking the body temperature of customers, prepare a registry for customers to leave their contact details in case contact tracing is required, maintaining a 2-meter distance between tables, and place lines on the floor for customers to queue before paying their bill.

Offices, too, should produce their own Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and prepare physical health risk mitigation measures such as providing body temperature checks, separating cubicles, common area and items cleaning procedures, flexible working times so that workers do not all come to the office at the same time, and so on.

For those who are health-conscious, they can now resume jogging, or riding their bicycle, play tennis, badminton or even golf – as long as social distancing is maintained and not done in a large group.

Some say it is high time that the government returns the responsibility of not spreading the virus back to the public.  After all, it is not like the virus is going to go away in such a short time.  It will take another two years before the war against COVID-19 can be won.  Therefore, we should learn to live with it.  Just follow the recommendations: maintain your social distance and wash your hands thoroughly more frequently.

The only problem is rules and regulations to Malaysians are like bicycles are to fish.  They just don’t care.  Almost immediately after the announcement was made, traffic on the road increased, parents took their children out to do groceries, some are already without face masks.  Wet markets no longer see social distancing.  Videos and photos of the Batu Berendam Wholesale Market, the Sumayyah Market in Tumpat, and the Taman Maluri Wet Market showed that it was free for all again.  That night and even last night, cars were back on the roads while motorcycles raced through the wee hours of the morning. And to top that all off, a policeman was killed by a speeding Toyota Hilux driven by a drunk driver!

I understand that it is costing the government in the region of RM2.4 billion for every day that the economy is under a lockdown.  I understand the need to kickstart the economy so that money could be made and jobs could be saved.  But pray tell, how does playing tennis or going jogging help kickstart the economy?

The announcement of the implementation of the Conditional MCO was made on a Friday, such wrong timing, because the implementation starts the following Monday.  There is not enough time for companies to have SOPs and physical health risk mitigation steps in place.  I do not know why is there a rush to get things done but this is just like that stupid decision to allow barbers and hairdressers to operate – a decision that was rescinded the following day.

The government should have given time between Monday 4 May to Friday 8 May for these measures to be in place first and announce the first day of work as Monday 11 May instead.

It is also good that restaurants are allowed to open, but dining-in is really not necessary.  Most restaurants have remained open since the start of the MCO to allow operators to deliver food to customers or for them to do self-pickup.  Yes, sales must have been a lot less than normal then, but how many tables and chairs can a restaurant have with social distancing being a prerequisite?  The whole idea of an MCO is to reduce exposure to the Coronavirus.  People will be going back to work and will definitely need to eat.  Therefore, I think it would be wiser to maintain restaurant operations for takeaways and deliveries as the volume of sales will go up anyway.  That would help reduce the exposure to the Coronavirus.

According to Dr Phillippa Lally, a Senior Research Fellow at the University College’s Behavioural Science and Health department, it takes more than two months before a new behaviour becomes automatic – 66 days to be exact.  What it means is that it takes 66 days for this new habit of wearing face mask, washing of hands for more than 20 seconds, social distancing and so on would take 66 days before it becomes a habit.

For that reason, during the first three months of military training no recruit or officer cadet are allowed to have visitors or go on outings because new values are being grinded into them.  Once these values have become a new habit, they are allowed some freedom.  These new habits will only become a lifestyle in six months, the time that they are allowed to graduate.  For officer cadets, they spend another six months being turned into officers from mere soldiers.

Even Emeritus Professor Datuk Dr Lam Sai Kit agrees that the Conditional MCO has been introduced too early.  Citing the 95 local transmissions out of 105 new cases on Saturday, the Nipah virus expert said that there are still too many local transmissions for the government to relax the MCO.

The academician who was involved in the discovery of the Nipah virus in 1998 said in a press statement that he does not object to the loosening of MCO, but the relaxation is far too much and too soon.

“With the relaxation of MCO, there is every likelihood of a surge of new clusters and cases. Can we really cope with increased testing and contact tracing?

“Can we empower and engage the community to do their part in preventing the spread of the coronavirus?” he asked.

He expressed concerns that if the country faces a resurgence of cases, the MCO would have to be reinstated and what had been undertaken would be wasted.  Already on Sunday 3 May, we are seeing 122 new cases, with only 52 imported cases while 70 others are local transmissions.  There were two deaths as well.

The government should seriously re-think this Conditional MCO and not bow down to any pressure given by any quarter.  It was doing very well with its way of handling the COVID-19 crisis and citizens sang praises for it, until the PM decided to announce the Conditional MCO.

(This article was first published by The Mole )

RMO Day 26

Graph showing COVID-19 total cases, daily cases, total recovered, daily recovered, and total deaths in Malaysia from 11 March 2020 till 12 April 2020

Every day at 5pm I would listen in to the daily briefing by the DG Health Ministry. Although I applaud the efforts being done by the Ministry, I should caution against any form of optimism. Today, 12 April 2020, is no different. It is the 26th day of the Restricted Movement Order.

In the first graph, the blue line at the top represents total number of cases while the grey line beneath it represents total number of those who have recovered. Optimally, we should see the blue line tapering and flattening, the grey line showing exponential increase whilst decreasing the gap between the two. It is only when the blue line flattens and the grey line crosses it could be breathe a sigh of relief. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened.

Graphs showing daily COVID-19 deaths and recovered cases in Malaysia from 11 March 2020 till 12 April 2020

In the second graphs, you can see that the number of daily deaths is showing a steady increase while those who have recovered daily is going on a downward trend. Our percentage of deaths have increased from 1.58 percent to 1.62 percent of total cases. 

Sure, today we also saw a drop in the number of daily new cases, but we are still getting at least 150 new cases daily. And there still are thousands of results pending, and I am sure a huge number of those with the virus still undetected.

If anyone is optimistic that we are winning the war, that certain sectors of industries ought to be allowed to operate, or that internal borders should be re-opened to allow movements, think again.

This war is far from over.

Brown Will Never Be White

Alec Douglas-Home, Boris Johnson and Muhyiddin Yassin

The UK’s centre-left newspaper The Guardian has made a scathing attack on the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s decision to appoint Muhyiddin Yassin as Malaysia’s 8th Prime Minister.

The attack was made in an editorial and reeks of rancid prejudice by accusing His Majesty of executing a ‘royal coup’ that had helped topple the PH government.

The editorial however failed to explain that it is the constitutional prerogative of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to choose a member of the Dewan Rakyat who in his judgment, commands the confidence of the House, as Prime Minister. And in his judgment at that point of time, it was Muhyiddin who had the most support – the most goal scored before the final whistle was blown.

It was impossible to keep the circus going without dragging the whole nation down both economically as well as security. Tensions were high at that point and public order had to be protected. As sovereign, it is the duty of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to also end the circus to maintain peace and order for the public good. This was the judgment in para 226 Dato’ Dr Zambry v Dato’ Seri Nizar [2009] 5 CLJ 265.

The editorial should also know that Queen Elizabeth II had had two Prime Ministers whose appointments were controversial and did not have the support of the majority of the House of Commons.

The Queen appointed Sir Alec Douglas-Home to succeed Harold Macmillan ,who was ill and resigned in 1963, denying the popular Rab Butler’s chance of becoming the PM. The Queen was accused of colluding with Macmillan to have Douglas-Home appointed without the process of a leadership election.

Buckingham Palace made it clear then that the choice for a new PM should come from the Tories alone, a very highly unusual advice, maintaining a process called ‘You Choose, We Send For’. There was no consultation whatsoever with Labour or other political parties.

As a matter of fact Boris Johnson’s government is still without majority support in Parliament!

Therefore, why is it so wrong for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to go by the Federal Constitution, interviewed every single MP, consulted the other Rulers, before making the decision to appoint Muhyiddin? He went by the book to make sure he correctly appoints his Prime Minister who will be heading His Majesty’s government!

Is it because we can never be right if we go by the book because we are not white?

When Wisdom And Maturity Win

His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong

The political crisis started a long way back with one man thinking that the seat of the Prime Minister should be handed to him, while the incumbent felt that he should hold on to it for as long as possible. There was no Malay, Chinese, Indian, Jawi, UEC or Adib involved in the whole fiasco.

When His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong stepped in to solve the crisis, there were as many calls for the Parliament to be dissolved as there were for the incumbent to handover the premiership to his so-called designated successor. I wrote to friends the following:

“The Raja is the landowner. It is the constitutional prerogative of the Raja to choose whom in his judgment should lead the administration of HIS government. Our duty every five years or so is to vote for those whom we think should represent us. That is where our responsibility ends.”

His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong did exactly that – solving the crisis according to what is accorded to him in the Federal Constitution. With the two warring parties claiming the right to the premiership, political parties went back and forth changing their allegiance to each of the party who in turn claimed that he has the most support.

His Majesty went on to call each MP for a private interview trying to see who supports whom. And many got trapped in that simple but virtually meaningless definition of ‘majority support’ thinking that the candidate with the most support should become the Prime Minister. However, there is nothing in the Federal Constitution that gives such provision.

Article 43 (2) (a) of the Federal Constitution states that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall first appoint as Perdana Menteri to preside over the Cabinet a member of the House of Representatives who in his judgment is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the House. In other words, exact number of support for any of the candidate is not a requirement for a decision to be made by His Majesty. The interview is only for him to gauge the level of support each candidate has.

The method used is similar to the ones used in Perak by the late Sultan Azlan Shah, and in Kedah several years later, to determine who can command the confidence of the most of the Dewan to become the respective States’ Menteri Besar. In all three crises, the maturity and wisdom of the Ruler is incumbent (Dr Zambry v Dato’ Seri Nizar [2009]5 CLJ 265) para 232. The method to determine the issue of “majority support” is the prerogative of the Ruler and is non-justiciable (op cit).

It is in my opinion that “majority support” was determined by the total number of MPs from any one bloc. There was the Anwar bloc – MPs who wanted Anwar to become the next PM. Then there was the Mahathir bloc – people who wanted the elder statesman to continue. And we had the Muhyiddin bloc – those who solidly supported Muhyiddin’s candidacy. Both the Anwar and Mahathir bloc had to combine to challenge Muhyiddin’s number of support. But whether they like the other bloc’s candidate that they were forced to accept is questionable. Hence, the one with the most unambiguous support would be Muhyiddin.

No one else has the right to choose a Prime Minister. The right claimed by Anwar Ibrahim to become a Prime Minister, and the so-called promise by Mahathir to hand over the premiership to the former, are against the Federal Constitution. Only the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has that right, as prescribed in Article 40 (2) of the Federal Constitution. Conventions are not laws, and are therefore not legal. It is because of this illegal promise that got us into this trouble last week.

Even after the announcement by Istana Negara on the swearing-in ceremony of Malaysia’s 8th Prime Minister was made, there is still talks of numbers and majority made by the other party. But what is the point of scoring 50 goals after the final whistle was blown? And going back to Article 43 (2)(a) where it is the Constitutional prerogative of the King to choose an MP as the PM whom in his judgment commands the confidence of the member of the House, such SDs carry no weight whatsoever. It was just an attempt to create negative perception about the wisdom of the King.

We are certainly blessed to have a wise King who made full use of his rights in the Constitution and his freedom to consult to settle this chaos. Despite taking precedence above all other persons in the Federation, His Majesty did not forget to consult all the other Rulers. After all, he represents all the Rulers. And he stood his Constitutional ground, gentlemanly, when others did not.