Why can’t we question quarantine exemption, asks Umno man

THERE is nothing wrong with questioning the new order exempting ministers returning from aboard from the mandatory 10-day quarantine period, said Umno Supreme Council member Mohd Puad Zarkashi.

“Does asking questions warrant legal action,” he said in a Facebook post in response to a demand by the Prime Minister’s Department for an apology for implying that the order was gazetted to benefit Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin who returned from Jakarta recently.

Puad did not apologise, instead raising more questions about the state of emergency that allows the government to amend laws by executive order.

“What is the purpose of an emergency? Is it to meet the needs and comfort of the ministers?

Yesterday, Puad said the exemption for ministers would cause chaos at the airport when Muhyiddin arrived from Jakarta.

He said this was double standards and that the public deserved an explanation.

The exemption for ministers returning from abroad is under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342) and the gazette was signed by Health Minister Dr Adham Baba, effective from February 9.

Instead of the 10-day quarantine, ministers need only undergo observation for three days.

The prime minister’s office in response to Puad said the exemption was not timed to coincide with Muhyiddin’s return on February 5 from an official visit to Indonesia.

The office demanded a public apology from Puad for smearing the prime minister’s reputation, threatening legal action otherwise.

Yesterday, director-general of health Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said that ministers who want to have their quarantine period shortened to three days must strictly adhere to “travel bubble” conditions under the act. Ministers must also have flown by private jet and not on commercial flights.

Ministers who failed to meet the requirements will have to undergo the compulsory 10-day quarantine.

Today, Adham told Malaysiakini the three-day quarantine for ministers is to facilitate entry for trade and diplomatic matters.

In fierce critique of Tommy Thomas’ memoir, Anwar likens ex-AG’s swipe at civil service to racial stereotyping

Despite his criticism, Anwar defended Thomas’ right to express his views and said that he found the call to ban the latter’s book disturbing. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Despite his criticism, Anwar defended Thomas’ right to express his views and said that he found the call to ban the latter’s book disturbing. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has penned a sharp critique of Tan Sri Tommy Thomas’ memoir that, among others, alludes to the remarks of the former attorney general (AG) to racial stereotyping.

Anwar said Thomas made flawed and “fatal” conclusions about several issues in a memoir that has become the subject of dozens of investigations, including casting “unkind remarks” about the Attorney General’s Chambers that implied its mostly Malay staff as being lazy.

The police have received over 130 complaints, mostly from the Malay community, against reported remarks supposedly contained in Thomas’ recently released memoir, My Story: Justice in the Wilderness.

“At one fell swoop, Thomas has not only insulted the AG’s Chambers but publicly disparaged the entire civil service of the nation,” Anwar, a former senior member of the civil service, said in a lengthy critique on Facebook.

“Such a gross generalisation is unbecoming,” he added.

Anwar was responding to an excerpt in Thomas’ book that had been reported by some news outlets: “public sector lawyers had public service attitudes (and) were civil servants, earning a fixed monthly income”, a statement that seemingly suggested they lacked initiative and are keen only on “awaiting pension upon retirement”.

The former deputy prime minister also suggested Thomas was ill-informed about the problems regarding racism, citing a chapter the former AG had dedicated on the issue in his memoir.

The Opposition leader said Thomas’ inclination to blame racism solely on Malay political leaders was shallow and akin to saying racism only exists among one community, a malady Anwar felt was also inherent in other races.

The Port Dickson MP argued that racism was a systemic, cultural, and political problem that pervades all races, and that Thomas being a lawyer who professed to side justice should have been aware of.

“Appropriate enough of an issue, but unfortunately, and to my great disappointment, this comes off as somewhat one-sided with the preponderance of the blame being levelled on Malay leaders, giving the impression that racism is a malady afflicting only the Malay community,” Anwar wrote.

“Not one word is said about the racism that is inherent among the other communities as well and this is yet another fatal misstep,” he added.

“I am sure Thomas knows that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. But failing to recognise that racism in Malaysia is a systemic cultural and political problem, which has been exacerbated by government policies, his words offer little value to the discussion we all need to be having.”

The police have opened three defamation investigation papers to probe the contents of Thomas’ book, which detractors claimed defamed and insulted various parties.

Bukit Aman CID director Datuk Huzir Mohamed the police had received 134 reports against Thomas to date.

Despite his criticism, Anwar defended Thomas’ right to express his views and said that he found the call to ban the latter’s book disturbing.

“As much as I subscribe to the belief that I am entitled to exercise my right to criticise Thomas’s book, I vehemently oppose any move to ban it,” Anwar wrote.

“I believe that, subject to the laws of slander and libel, criminal defamation, Thomas should be allowed to exercise his constitutional freedom of expression in a manner that would foster the public contestation of ideas.”  MALAY MAIL