MPs To Support Budget 2021 Only If It’s Beneficial to the People

Amid the political crisis involving Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, the King has encouraged the MPs to support the upcoming Budget 2021.

Citing the welfare of the people, Comptroller of the Royal Household Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said the King stressed that the Budget will be crucial for the government and authorities to continue combating the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, several opposition MPs have widely indicated that they would only back Budget 2021 on November 6th only if it’s beneficial to the rakyat. 

Federal Territories Minister Khalid Abdul Samad together with Wangsa Maju MP Datin Paduka Tan Yee Kew during a press conference on Tapak Uptown Danau Kota. FAIHAN GHANI/The Star.

Shah Alam MP Khalid Abdul Samad said he wants to see a budget that would, among others, prioritize on protecting the people from the coronavirus and give a much-needed boost their livelihoods.

“Of course, I will surely back any motion or bill if it is advantageous to Malaysians, especially in this current situation. I hope priority will be given to the health sector, given this challenging period in tackling this on-going health crisis.

“If you remember in the previous budget, approved by former Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, the sector which received the highest allocation was education, followed by health. So we hope this will be adjusted based on the priorities we see now for the next year.

“We also have to ensure that we have sufficient (financial) injection for the economy and businesses. We do not want everybody to close down (their businesses) because it would be costly to restart all over again. Therefore, the injection of economic packages is also equally important,” the Parti Amanah Negara MP told the New Straits Times.

The Perikatan Nasional (PN) government did not hold a pre-consultative session for Budget 2021 with opposition MPs, but Khalid said that it won’t be a problem as long as main points are discussed; although, this puts the government’s willingness to be open to fresh ideas into question as well.

“If they already have a budget that is prepared and ready to be tabled, they can always engage us immediately thereafter.

“We can always have discussions and form parliamentary committees to sit down and study the details, while the budget itself is being debated.

“We have about two weeks, so we can really do the ‘finger counting’ and reformulate the whole budget, if necessary, in order to achieve something you can have consensus on,” added Khalid.

PERAK 17-08-2017. Deputy Health minister Dr Lee Boon Chye talk to press at the 2018 Neonatal Cardio Respiratory Conference, which was held in the KPJ Ipoh Specialist Hospital today.MALAY MAIL/Farhan Najib

Gopeng MP Lee Boon Chye also added on how he would put a vote for motions and bills that would benefit both the country and the people.

“I think they should have a substantial increase in budget for the Health Ministry, which includes a special allocation to combat Covid-19. I do hope there would be considerable amount for public health.

“We need to prevent Covid-19 transmission, instead of (focusing on) putting out the fire (of infections). Prevention is better and we need to tighten up efforts to reduce the spread of the virus,” said the former deputy health minister.

Lee said that if the opposition was to support the PN government, they should’ve had talks prior to the Budget 2021 being tabled.

“There have been no consultations at all so far. So, it is premature to say whether we can support or otherwise. I believe there is still room to negotiate, as we have about 11 days before the tabling of Budget 2021.

“Certainly, we can work together based on the framework of the PN budget, as it will only come to a vote in about four weeks from now. So there is still ample time to have bipartisan input,” he said.

112 out of 222 Malaysia’s MPs are parliamentarians while 108 are of the opposition.

Will a State of Emergency Be Justified? Dr M Says No

According to former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad, the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government’s call for a possible state of emergency at the moment will not be justifiable.

Citing other countries that have seen worse and more severe Covid-19 positive cases and issues, he said that even those countries have not declared nationawide emergencies but instead just for those areas that are affected.

“None have suspended laws and Parliament as it would if Emergency is declared in Malaysia.

“There are no riots or violence in Malaysia, no breakdown of laws and order to justify an Emergency.

“But there is a need for some changes to be made to the government which seized power through undemocratic means,” he wrote on his blog today.

As positive Covid-19 cases continue its surge in several states, especially in Sabah, social media and even the general public were sent into a frenzy after talks of a state of emergency circled around news agencies.

However, an official statement from Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is yet to  be released while the whole nation ponders on the wating game.

Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah said in an announcement on Friday that he will consult the Malay Rulers based on the recommendations made to him by Muhyiddin.

Dr Mahathir also joined other opposition leaders as all were convinced that the declaration of an emergency would be a blatant move by Putrajaya to avoid facing the Dewan Rakyat.

He added that the state of emergency would not bring any benefit Malaysia in any way, even regarding the Covid-19 outbreak as the government and people are already carrying out their daily lives with the conditional movement control order (CMCO) in place.

“He has a huge Cabinet that has contributed nothing to the well-being of the people and the country.

“Faced with the possibility of being overthrown, the Prime Minister wants the powers under a state of Emergency.

“The only benefit would accrue to the Prime Minister, as Parliament would be paralysed. He would claim that it is the wish of the Palace.”

Other than that, the stock market would also take a visible plummet if the state of emergency does in fact come into effect.

“If Emergency is declared then the market will collapse completely. The investors have no faith in the Prime Minister being able to manage the economy.

“He messed up the Covid-19 situation by trying to grab the government of Sabah. The present spike is entirely due to the Sabah election.

“So, the government has been changed. What good has it brought to Sabah?” he said

Navy Officer Dies after Car Crash Involving a Driver on Drugs and Without a License

A recent video that is trending around social media involves a car accident that has left Malaysians in shock.

In the video, a white Myvi is seen crashing horrendously into a white Honda at an intersection, resulting in the Honda landing upside down while the Myvi flipped mid-air due to the huge impact.

Recorded by another car’s dashcam, the incident happened when the two cars that got hit – the white Honda and a Proton Iswara were waiting at a traffic light in Jalan Kota Tinggi, Johor Bahru.

The driver of the Myvi was speeding on a mild downhill slope after a rainy day before losing control of her car and crashing into the two vehicles; the 23-year-old then came out with injuries to her head and neck. 

Unfortunately for the driver of the white Accord, who was a 31-year-old officer of the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN), he was killed instantly upon impact and leaves behind his wife and 3 young kids.

It took a team of nine to remove the driver’s body from the driver’s seat as the Honda was damaged so badly.

The team also had to use special equipment to extricate the deceased, according to Fire and Rescue Station (BBP) Larkin Operations Commander Senior Fire Officer II Nordatul Badrol Abd Rahman.

“The 31-year-old victim was trapped in the driver’s side and we used special equipment to remove him. The body was then handed over to the police for further action,” Nordatul Badrol said.

Further investigations into the accident revealed that the driver of the white Myvi did not have a valid driver’s license and had an expired road tax; to make the matter that much worrying, she also tested positive for drugs. The case will be investigated under Section 15(1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952.

According to the Johor Bahru Selatan District Police Chief Assistant Commissioner Mohd Padzli, the driver was under the influence of drugs during the incident and will also be investigated under Section 41 (1) of the Road Transport Act 1987.

The third victim, which is the driver of the Proton Iswara managed to escape with only mild injuries.

Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Petri Dish

What was once an idea has turned into a reality, as the idea of growing meat without the killing of any animals is being developed in laboratories around the world.

Lab grown meat, or commonly known as cultured meat, comes from being produced in an animal cell’s vitro cell culture, instead of from animals that are slaughtered for their meat. Similar to regenerative medicine, cultured meat uses many of the same tissue engineering techniques.

If widely adopted by the public, lab-grown meat could eliminate the cruel and unethical killings of animals that are raised for food. On top of that, the environmental costs of meat production could be reduced as the resources could be put towards generating and sustaining the cultured cells.

Companies such as Mosa Meat, Memphis Meats, Aleph Farms and BlueNalu are identified by IDTechEX to be leading the cultured meat revolution. 

To grow the meat, a muscle stamp is first taken from the animal followed by the collection of stem cells from the tissue; it is then multiplied to allow to be differentiated into primitive fibers and bulked up to from muscle tissue.

According to Mose Meat, one tissue sample from a cow can produce enough muscle tissue to make 80,000 quarter pounder burgers from McDonalds.

Lab grown meat could easily hit the shelves in the next few years but needs to overcome a number of barriers to be commercially viable.

A burger made from lab-grown meat was presented to journalists in 2013 but the $30,000 patty fell short as it was overly dry due to having too little fat content; expenses for research has since plummeted.

On top of that, lab-grown meat would have to be proved safe to eat before it is to be approved for the market, and organizations are only just beginning to figure out the regulation for that.

Despise pressure from traditional meat producers about how lab-generated products aren’t meat at all and shouldn’t be classified as such, lab-based meat companies are pushing forward in an ethical and environmentally sustainable future.

Covid-19 and Mental Health

From feelings of loneliness, anxiety, negative emotions to panic, fear and depressive states, it is undeniable that the Covid-19 pandemic has numerous impacts to mental health.

As the movement recovery order (MCO) extends until the end of the year, the situation just may worsen as we progress through the year, and with a vaccine not being successfully developed anytime soon, we just may have to prepare for the worst mentally.

On top of the closure of schools and universities, many are bound to be working from home which loosely translates to spending that much more time at home. Students are ripped off their classrooms and schools, hence, spending more time isolated at their room while the working force is spending more time figuring out the whole “work from home” scene instead of actually working from home.

The five common mental health challenges that students face in college are depression, eating disorders, anxiety, addiction and suicide; a pandemic just makes all these that much extreme. 

As a result of social distancing measures, online learning formats has worsened the stressors for many students. Increasing pressure to learn independently, a reduced motivation towards their studies and an abandonment of routines at school have been a result of these measures while the impact is also noticeable in the work from home workforce.

Up to 54% of employees have more distractions at home while 40% find it hard to focus on work at home; these are among the many challenges that arise from working from home.

Establishing a healthy routine while keeping strong boundaries between work life and home is critical to making this whole idea work, hence, some employees take it upon themselves to set up workstations in order to separate work and their kids. 

Working from home reduce stress for certain people but increase stress for others. 

According to a 2018 survey that Mental Health America conducted with FlexJobs, about 71 percent of people would like to work from home to reduce commute-related stress while the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions that 41 percent of remote employees report higher levels of stress compared with just 25 percent of their counterparts who work in the office.

Fortunately, there are various coping mechanisms such as calling a friend, meditation or even a simple walk around the compounds of your house. Other than that, there are a number of helplines and resources available for the public to help cope with working from home. 

As we continue to plummet head first into working and studying from home culture, there are more to learn about it and luckily we are constantly finding new ways to cope with this reality more and more each day.

As Covid-19 Numbers Go Up, Shopping Mall Visitors Go Down

An eerie sight to all, malls across the country have been more empty and had fewer visitors than usual amid news of infected staff and visitors.

A lunchtime surge unlike any other days, NU Sentral was left with many empty shop lots after news of one of its staff being infected came out.

Similar with Sunway Pyramid and KL Gateway Mall, there wasn’t any visible crowds going out for their usual lunch routines and the ones that are hit the hardest by it are the food vendors and shop lot owners.

A food vendor at Nu Sentral, who wanted to be known as Noor Faezahtun, 19, told the New Straits Times that the mall was usually packed with people buying food from 7.30am until lunchtime.

People have seemed to stop going since Monday, when a case was reported there he said.

“Weekdays are usually busy for us, with crowds lining up to buy our nasi lemak from morning till afternoon.”But it’s now very quiet. I think since Monday we’ve seen a drop of 70 to 80 per cent in customers,” she said yesterday.

Izati Ahmad Fauzi, a worker at a clothing and hijab accessory kiosk at the mall, said that even though operation times were to be usual and following the standard operating procedures (SOP), the numbers has seen a significant drop from the start of the week.

“Usually, about 5pm to 7pm, there would be a lot of people in this area. But since Monday, fewer people are shopping here.

“Even the popular clothing shop near my kiosk looked deserted.”

She added that her customers were usually those working int the area and those transiting between train journeys.

Eric Koh, a shopper said that despite their following of the SOP guidelines, new infections had turned people away nonetheless.

“It is understandable that people are getting more anxious these days. Here, I can see that people maintain physical distancing.

“As long as a vaccine is not available yet, people will continue to exercise caution in public spaces. I think we need a year or two to really get rid of the virus and get things back to normal.”

In the last 10 days, there have been a number of cases involving at least five malls in the Klang Valley.

Conflict in Armenia and Azerbaijan

An ethnic and territorial conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has recently taken a glide for the worst as authorities in the area reported another 26 servicemen being killed in the fighting, bringing the total lost to more than 80 and more than hundreds wounded.

At the heart of the dispute is the 4,400 sq km mountainous region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, the area has been under the control of ethnic Armenians since the ending of a war in 1994. 

Towards the end of Soviet rule in 1988, Azerbaijan and Armenian troops began a war which left the area in the hands of ethnic Armenians when a truce between the two was signed in 1994.

Tens of thousands died; on top of that, many ethnic Azerbaijanis were forced to flee their homes as miles of Azeri territory went under Armenian control.

In reality, the area has become an independent region (de facto). However, this is not recognized by any UN member, including Armenia. Negotiations have failed with coming up with a long-lasting peace solution and the dispute remains one of post-Soviet Europe’s frozen conflicts.

Armenia who has been landlocked also face severe economic issues due to border closures with Turkey and Azerbaijan

As of today, it is estimated that up to one million are displaced from their homes and 30,000 killed because of the war that lasted from 1988 to 1994.

Turkey openly supports Azerbaijan while UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “extremely concerned”, urging both sides to stop fighting. Other countries who are quick to react are France, Iran and the U.S. who have been vocal in their call of ceasefire.

Back in July, deadly clashes between the two has also led to large held demonstrations by the people of Azerbaijan who demanded the government to deploy the army and call for war. It was the largest public gathering in the country for years, with some media reporting an estimated 30,000 people taking part.

The conflict goes on as both sides are yet to come to a resolution to a ceasefire even with organizations attempting to broker an end to the long-time dispute.

North Borneo Dispute Explained

Ever since the inclusion of Sabah and Sarawak with the Malay peninsula to form present day Malaysia in 1963, several suggestions have been used over the years by Filipino politicians to claim that Sabah should be part of modern-day Philippines.

An off and on issue for more than 60 years, a recent Twitter spat involving Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr and Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein resurfaced the controversy between the two countries.

The Philippine Foreign Secretary tweeted in response to a U.S. Embassy in Philippines tweet that referred to Sabah as Sabah, Malaysia. 

The Malaysian Foreign Minister then hit back.

On top of the ongoing and seemingly never-ending dispute, the nation’s second largest state also faces persistent security challenges, such as attacks from Philippine-based militant groups like Abu Sayyaf. 

So, what’s the story behind this longtime dispute?

The sultanate that ruled Sabah’s east areas signed an agreement in 1878 that handled the territory over to the North Borneo Chartered Company (NBCC), a British colonial company that was tasked to exploit the resources in the land.

They make-or-break keyword in the agreement is the term “pajakan”, which then was translated by Spanish linguists in 1878 and by American anthropologists H. Otley Beyer and Harold Conklin in 1946 as lease. The British however, used the interpretation of historian Najeeb Mitry Saleeby in 1908 and William George Maxwell and William Summer Gibson in 1924, which translated “pajak” as grant and cede.

The Philippines has long claimed that this agreement constituted a lease, rather than a full cession, of the territory to the NBCC; Malaysia considers this a non-issue as Putrajaya maintains that the formation of the Federation of Malaysia in 1963 was an act of self-determination by Sabah residents.

Natural resources and national security

Sabah and Sarawak generate about 60% of Malaysia’s oil, although, media reports say that they may only see 5% of the revenue under agreements signed in 1975 with Petronas. Former prime minister Mahathir Mohammad promised to raise the number in the Pakatan Harapan coalition’s manifesto last year while Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin, Petronas’ chief executive said that talks were in the happening to work out an acceptable arrangement between parties.

Will it come to a conclusion?

The Trilateral Cooperation Arrangement signed by Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia in 2016 saw their navies working together to clamp down on Islamic militants in the Sulu Sea. In order to ensure its success, former prime minister, Najib Razak and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte agreed to set aside the dispute and analysts suggest the success of the arrangement could provide a path forward to finally put the dispute to rest

Sabah Election Introduces Malaysians To Various Uncommon Names

With the Sabah election happening in a week from today, the public has found something particularly fascinating about the recent release of candidates; not Musa Aman being left out, but more towards the list as a whole as Malaysia was once again introduced to the odd world of names in Sabah.

Those who aren’t from Sabah have often been astonished by the unusual name in a multi-ethnic state, but for individuals like retired Sabah Archives director Datuk Datu Tigabelas Datu Zainal Abidin, it has been something that they have grew to get used to.

“It has been difficult carrying this name. In school, I was teased and it was hard for me to make friends but I’ve learned to live with it,” he said in an interview with The Star.

On the other hand, the unusualness of the candidate’s names makes the candidates themselves easy to keep track off as each has their own unique aura.

Among the 400 candidates, one of the memorable names that has caught netizen’s attention so far is Warisan’s candidate for the Bugaya seat, Datin Manis Muka Mohd Darah.

The Semporna Warisan Wanita Chief’s appellation is certainly evocative: “Manis muka” means “sweet face”, and “Darah” means blood in Malay.

Twitter user Hermy Rahim said: “If the opposition pits me against her, I’m definitely not contesting.”

Manis Muka, who is also the incumbent assemblywoman of Bugaya, is set for a six-cornered battle to defend her seat.

Other than that, voters will also be seeing a lot more such as, Undang Tumpong from Parti Cinta Sabah (PCS), Jainudin Berahim from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Riduan Sampai from Parti Perpaduan Rakyat Sabah (PPRS) at the polls.

The Sabah election is set for September 26th and sees up to 447 candidates, including 56 independents who will eventually fight for a spot in the 73 state assembly seat.

Face Mask or The Coffin?

A simple cloth with two stretchy bands at two ends. It serves as the only barrier that us the public has against keeping the Covid-19 virus out of nose and mouth.

How did one simple object cause such controversy that people around the world are fighting for their “rights” to not wear it?

While many of us follow the public health recommendations from the Ministry of Health (MOH) to limit the spread of this deadly virus, others are bringing up issues regarding individual freedom and other reasons to why they shouldn’t wear face masks in public areas.

Many countries are deeming face masks as mandatory now and there are still protests against it, such as in the United States which has seen 6 millions infections so far. Jakarta on the other hand has taken the fight against anti-face masks folks into their own hands.

In a bid to underline the seriousness needing to wear a face masks in these times, those caught without one will be given an option to pay a fine or to lie down inside a coffin or pay a fine and do community service work.

According to Indonesia’s Liputan 6, several violators had to lie inside the open casket for a minute.

East Jakarta public order agency head, Budhy Novial said that violators are given a fee of what it was like to be in a coffin. 

“With the current Covid-19 pandemic situation, there is a risk of them being laid inside a real coffin.

“However, the open casket idea is still a new concept as we are still experimenting whether this approach can help change the public perception towards wearing their face masks.”

Other districts in Jakarta have also built mini coffin monuments that feature the death rate data to spark awareness about Covid-19.