Over 1,100 lockdown arrests as Malaysian coronavirus cases top 2,600 – dpa international

Food delivery motorcycles are about the most commonly-seen traffic in Kuala Lumpur during the virus lockdown (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia has arrested at least 1,100 people for violating a lockdown aimed at curbing a recent spike in coronavirus cases to 2,626, the highest reported national total in Southeast Asia. During a Monday press conference streamed via Facebook, Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said that 828 people were detained on Sunday for breaching movement restrictions imposed on March 18. Police had earlier announced over 300 arrests for alleged violations such as jogging and playing football. One suspect, a 61-year-old cardiologist, told police that running should be permitted for health reasons. A video of the encounter went viral on Malaysian social media last week ahad of the accused pleading not guilty in court on Monday. Giving notice of further restrictions aimed at halting the spread of Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus pandemic that has killed almost 35,000 worldwide, Ismail said Malaysia’s shops will reduce operating hours from Wednesday “All supermarkets or any premises selling essential items shall observe the new operation hours, which is from 8am to 8pm,” the minister said. 

Malaysia extends virus lockdown to mid-April as deaths hit 19 – dpa international

Lockdown as seen Iinside a Kuala Lumpur shopping mall on March 25 2020 (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia will extend restrictions aimed at stemming rising numbers of new coronavirus cases until mid-April, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Wednesday. “The trend [of new infections] is expected to continue for a while before new cases begin to subside,” Muhyiddin said in a televised lunchtime address, announcing that curbs on travel and business imposed a week ago will be extended to April 14. “The public must be mentally and physically prepared to stay at home for a reasonably longer period of time,” the prime minister warned. Malaysia’s Health Ministry announced later on Wednesday that 19 people have died in the country after contracting Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, in the pandemic that has killed over 19,000 worldwide.

Malaysia urged not to arrest migrants who take Covid-19 test – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Concerns are growing that as Malaysia’s coronavirus death toll rises, migrant workers who have risked potential exposure are not being tested due to fear of arrest. The Malaysian government has stated that that undocumented migrants and refugees will not be detained if they come forward to be screened for Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus. However the pledges have been criticized as belated and insufficient by organizations that assist some of Malaysia’s estimated 3 million migrant or expatriate workers. Gurdial Singh Nijar, president of Hakam, the National Human Rights Society, said on Tuesday that the government should issue public directives to police and immigration officials, to further reassure migrants, who might otherwise fear “harassment or adverse consequences.”

Malaysia to impose lockdown after coronavirus case numbers swell – dpa international

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KUALA LUMPUR — Responding to a surge in coronavirus cases over the past week, the Malaysian Government has ordered sweeping travel restrictions, ordered most business except for shops to close, and banned foreigners from entering the country until the end of the month. In a 10pm address to the nation, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said that the lockdown, which includes closing mosques across the Muslim-majority country, would apply from March 18-31, during which Malaysians will not be permitted to travel abroad. “The current situation of the outbreak requires drastic action to be taken to recover the situation as soon as possible,” Muhyiddin warned, adding that essential government services and banks will remain open. Malaysia reported 125 new cases of coronavirus on Monday evening, taking the country’s total to 553, 338 of which have been traced to an Islamic ceremony held in Kuala Lumpur’s outskirts in late February that was attended by an estimated 15-16,000 people and which spawned cases among worshippers from Brunei, Cambodia and Singapore. 

Malaysia’s coronavirus cases nearly double as Singapore adds new travel curbs – dpa interntional

Sign on a doorway at Kuala Lumpur pharmacy (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR —  Malaysia’s Health Ministry declared a near-doubling of its confirmed cases of coronavirus, recording a jump of 190 positive diagnoses for a region-high total of 428 as of Sunday evening. The ministry stated that “most of the new cases” are linked to an Islamic ceremony held in Kuala Lumpur’s outskirts in late February that was attended by an estimated 15,000 people. Cases linked to the event first emerged in Brunei last week and then in Singapore, which as of Saturday night had reported 212 cases of coronavirus. The three countries’ health ministries have appealed for people who attended the event to come forward for testing and to provide information about contacts and travel. Sunday’s surge in coronavirus cases in Malaysia was by far the biggest daily increase seen across the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) since the outbreak began.

Malaysia’s anti-corruption chief quits in the wake of change of government – dpa international

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak arriving at Kuala Lumpur High Court on February 10 2020 for one of his ongoing corruption trials (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission head Latheefa Koya resigned on Friday morning but denied her decision was due to a change in government in favour of a party tainted by graft scandals. “Speculation that pressure was brought upon me is baseless,” Latheefa said, adding that she had “a cordial discussion” with new Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on March 2. Latheefa testified this week at a corruption trial involving former prime minister Najib Razak, who is accused of stealing over 700 million dollars of public money. Najib’s United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) is the largest party backing Muhyddin and will likely be part of his cabinet after almost two years in opposition.

Malaysia’s new prime minister seeks wider support, denies treachery – dpa international

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KUALA LUMPUR — In his first speech since being sworn in as prime minister on Sunday, Muhyiddin Yassin appealed to Malaysians for a chance to govern and rejected accusations that he was a traitor who had turned on his former party colleague Mahathir Mohamad. “Give me some time to outline a path under this new administration which I will explain to the people as soon as possible,” Muhyiddin said, speaking live on national television on Monday night. “I urge you to support me to undertake this huge responsibility entrusted on me.” Muhyiddin said that he did not want to be prime minister but stepped forward as a power vacuum emerged in the wake of 94-year-old Mahathir’s abrupt resignation a week ago. “What kinds of options I have? Support Dr Mahathir, who did not have the majority support or accept the PM post?” Muhyiddin asked.

Malaysia gets new prime minister but political stand-off continues – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Muhyiddin Yassin was sworn in as Malaysia’s prime minister in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday morning in a ceremony boycotted by Mahathir Mohamad, the previous prime minister, who claims he has a majority of lawmakers endorsing his return as premier after he quit less than a week ago. Muhyiddin’s appointment was announced by the country’s king on Saturday afternoon. Though the monarchy is largely ceremonial, the king can name a prime minister who he thinks is “likely” to command a majority in parliament, which in practice usually reflects election results. In turn, Mahathir and the Pakatan Harapan/Alliance of Hope coalition that made up the previous government published a list of 114 parliamentarians who they said backed Mahathir, two more than the number needed for a majority. Mahathir on Sunday described the the appointment of Muhyiddin as “strange” and said the king refused to entertain his claim of majority support.

Malaysia’s Mahathir claims enough support to re-form government, challenging appointment of Muhyiddin – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Interim Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said late on Saturday that he has parliamentary support sufficient to enable him to continue as premier, contradicting a statement by King Abdullah that rival Muhyiddin Yassin “was the MP who is likely to secure the majority support.” In the latest twist to a frenetic week of intrigue and alliance-shifting, Mahathir published a list of 114 parliamentarians he said support him continuing in the job, two more than the majority needed to form a government.  Muhyiddin is scheduled to be sworn in as Malaysia’s next prime minister at 10:30 am (0230 GMT) on Sunday, but Mahathir said he hopes the king “will accept my letter (with the 114 names) and explanation.”

Mahathir sidelined in struggle for Malaysian premiership as king turns to former party colleague – dpa international

Muhyiddin Yassin seen giving a speech at an anti-government rally in Kuala Lumpur in November 2016 (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — In the latest twist to what has been a week-long struggle for political control of Malaysia, the country’s largely ceremonial monarchy on Saturday nominated Muhyiddin Yassin as the next prime minister. In a statement issued by the palace, King Abdullah said that Muhyiddin, the president of interim prime minister Mahathir Mohamad’s Bersatu party, will be sworn in as prime minister on Sunday as he likely commands the most support of any candidate. Malaysia’s constitution stipulates that the king may nominate a prime minister if he deems any candidate “likely to command the confidence of the majority of the MPs,” which in practice usually means the leader of the winning side in parliamentary elections. The announcement came after Mahathir, 94, who resigned on Monday, threw his name into the fray again on Saturday morning.