Formula for school maintenance allocation distribution, says Radzi

November 25th, 2020
KUALA LUMPUR: The school maintenance allocation under Budget 2021 will be distributed according to a formula based on the number of schools as well as the category such as government school or government-aided school.

Senior Education Minister Dr Radzi Jidin said the formula is to ensure more a comprehensive distribution of the RM620 million allocation specially for maintenance of schools under the Ministry of Education (MOE) nationwide.

“During an engagement session with the Finance Ministry, MOE has sought to be given the responsibility to determine the distribution of maintenance allocation for schools and educational institutions under MOE.

“This is to ensure the distribution is carried out more comprehensively by taking into consideration the number and type of school,” he said when winding up the debate on the 2021 Supply Bill at Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

He said to date, there are 10,223 schools under MOE comprising 8,293 government schools and 1,930 government-aided schools.

The types of schools for the two categories cover Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK); Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (SMK); Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina (SJKC); Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Tamil (SJKT); Missionary Schools; Conforming Schools (Sekolah Menengah Jenis Kebangsaan); and Government-Aided Religious School (Sekolah Agama Bantuan Kerajaan).

In this regard, Radzi said under the formula, the ceiling allocation for the types of schools are RM477.48 million for SK and SMK government schools including residential school and vocational colleges while government-aided SK and SMK schools get RM1.2 million.

“Government and government-aided SJKC are allocated RM74.07 million; government and government aided SJKT, RM29.98 million; as well as government and government-assisted missionary schools RM20.94 million,” he said.

“Apart from that, government and government-assisted Conforming Schools will receive RM4.11 million and government-aided religious schools RM12.23 million,” he said.

Meanwhile, when replying to an interjection by Teo Nie Ching (PH-Kulai) on the reopening of kindergartens in Johor and Melaka after the Conditional Movement Control Order had been lifted, Radzi said the matter is being studied.

“Kindergartens should still be closed, that is why I have to check the information given by the Honourable Member from Kulai, he said.

by Bernama.

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NST Leader: 1,884 questions

November 25th, 2020
Medical officers conducting Covid-19 screening at Top Glove workers dormitories in Taman Dayang Maju. -NSTP/ASWADI ALIAS.Medical officers conducting Covid-19 screening at Top Glove workers dormitories in Taman Dayang Maju. -NSTP/ASWADI ALIAS.

Malaysia is entering a new pandemic phase, with four-digit case numbers being recorded for weeks.

Monday’s Covid-19 cases at 1,884 were the highest since the disease was first detected here. Are we responding rightly? Yes and no. What is the right approach? It depends.

But one issue is common to all nations around the world: how to strike the right balance between lives and livelihoods. An old Malay adage, made famous today by the Indonesian song Simalakama, expresses the agony of the choice best: ditelan mati emak, diluah mati bapak (loosely translated, “swallow it and you kill your mother, spit it out and you kill your father”). We do not envy the people who lead Malaysia’s fight against Covid-19. It may appear at times to be a thankless job. But that is a Leader for another time.

For now, let’s start with Wuhan, China, where it all began in the dying month of last year. There was much mystery when a few fell ill after having contracted the virus, later named as SARS-CoV-2. When the infections grew and the number of deaths surged, China sent Wuhan into a lockdown. Commute and commerce were curbed. Containment of Covid-19 was the aim.

The usually holier-than-thou West denounced the measure as a harsh move, saying it was like killing a fly with a hammer. When in March the virus swept across more than 100 countries across the globe, including Malaysia, it was the West’s turn to resort to the hammer of lockdown to flatten the coronavirus curve.

As they say in America, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. As we near a year of the disease, Covid-19 remains shrouded in mystery. As we learn more about SARS-CoV-2, we seem to have a better handle on it.

Still, the Covid-19 carnage is very much around. No country, including China, is out of the woods. With vaccines yet to arrive, it is more of hygiene and social protocols than lockdowns now. It is here that we, at personal and business levels, are failing those who are putting up a tough fight against the pandemic.

Take Monday’s 1,884 cases. Of these, 1,067 cases were from 28 Top Glove factories in Klang. Earlier, up to Monday, the Health Ministry screened 5,794 of its workers, of whom 1,889 tested positive. There is something terribly wrong there. Whither hygiene and social protocols, at dorms and factories? Worryingly, construction sites and workers’ camps, too, are also turning in scary numbers. They have been for awhile.

A lethal combination of irresponsibility and apathy is at work here. Businesses cannot place its workers in dorms in numbers that do not allow any meaningful physical distancing. What they do not realise is that not only are they making the workers sick but also the businesses. Shutdown, even if for a short period, will come at a cost to the businesses, money which would be well spent on habitable dorms for workers.

We cannot fight Covid-19 if businesses continue to flout standard operating procedures. From what we can tell, the government is trying hard not to impose a nationwide Movement Control Order again.

There are 1,884 reasons for the government to do so. Everyone must help. Given the geometric leap Covid-19 makes, all it takes is one errant person to cancel all the work done to tame the disease. And he will have hell to pay.

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A note of caution while we await the virus vaccine

November 25th, 2020
A Russian medical worker displays a trial vaccine against COVID-19 in a post-registration phase of the test at outpatient hospital number 68 in Moscow, Russia, September 17.  -EPA picA Russian medical worker displays a trial vaccine against COVID-19 in a post-registration phase of the test at outpatient hospital number 68 in Moscow, Russia, September 17. -EPA pic

A vaccine is generally made from a suspension of weakened, killed, or fragmented microorganisms. It is administered to prevent infectious diseases from spreading by conferring active immunity against a specific harmful agent.

Upon stimulation by the vaccine, antibody-producing cells (B cells or lymphocytes) are ready to attack the agent on its entry into the body. If the vaccine is made up of antibodies (or lymphocytes) readily obtained from an animal or human donor, passive immunity is conferred instead.

This was how the first vaccine was introduced in 1795 when Dr Edward Jenner used the cowpox virus to confer protection against smallpox in humans. The former, though similar, is less dangerous compared with smallpox to confer immunity, thus providing protection against the latter. In 1881, Louis Pasteur used a preparation described as an attenuated or weakened type of vaccine.

It consisted of microorganisms that have lost the ability to cause serious illnesses but retained the ability to stimulate immunity against diseases such as measles, mumps and tuberculosis. A widespread and intensive search for new vaccines then followed, not just against bacteria and viruses, but also against venoms and other toxins. The rest is history.

However, there are still challenges in developing a vaccine that is sufficiently “effective” to ward off infection but not causing the individual to suffer from adverse side-effects. Some insist that vaccines are linked to health conditions, like autism and speech disorders. Such claims have been largely discredited but to no avail.

Now, the race is on in the development of vaccines against Covid-19. So far, at least four types of vaccines have been announced. All are purportedly about 90 per cent “effective”. The benefits of effective vaccines are best illustrated by the eradication of smallpox, as well as cases of polio that have rapidly declined by almost 100 per cent.

Less so includes vaccines developed against mumps, measles, cholera, tuberculosis, influenza, yellow fever, Hepatitis A and B. The impressive range speaks volumes of the relevancy and usefulness of vaccines.

According to the World Health Organisation, vaccination is one of the most successful health interventions, saving as many as three million lives every year. A further 1.5 million deaths a year could be avoided with improved global coverage.

Over a longer-term, when a sufficient number of people are immune to a disease, as a result of widespread vaccination, a phenomenon called “herd immunity” can be achieved. This implies that “if there is random mixing of individuals within the population, then the pathogen cannot be spread throughout it”.

Herd immunity acts by breaking the transmission of infection or by lessening the chances of susceptible individuals coming into contact with a diseased person. It protects individuals who are not immune to the disease. Herd immunity is said to play a crucial role in the eradication of smallpox. It is vital in preventing the spread of polio and measles.

There are barriers to a complete vaccination of an entire population. Some people are against vaccines, but their numbers are not significant. The other barriers are issues linked to cost, conflict, distribution and discrimination. However, they do not hamper the speed with which research and innovation have been capitalised to respond to the pandemic.

What used to be not less than a five-year time frame to come up with a reliable and effective product, and involving hundreds of thousands involved in trials and testing, this time took less than a year. But the path as a universal solution is neither simple nor cheap. Organisations like Wellcome Trust, a renowned British charity, said that it would cost up to US$500 million and take more than 10 years to develop a vaccine.

Moreover, vaccine developments are often marked by a high failure rate between animal studies and product registration. Still, what took place is nothing short of “incredibly good news” — to quote United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson. That is not to say that there are no more questions that beg to be answered. Time will tell. So, do not let down your guard down just yet!

By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak.

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Face masks that hide lax oral hygiene

November 25th, 2020
Face masks cannot prevent bad breath or tooth decay.  -BERNAMA picFace masks cannot prevent bad breath or tooth decay. -BERNAMA pic

LETTER: The year 2020 is supposed to be a visionary one for all Malaysians as the country’s development and civilisation are expected to surge forward by leaps and bounds.

However, most of us are forced to be homebound as a result of the Conditional Movement Control Order to help break the chain of Covid-19 infections. While schools and universities are closed, work from home has become the norm for many.

Pay cuts, retrenchments and businesses that are downsizing or even folding up have impacted people’s livelihoods. All these sufferings coupled with political turmoil and tensions are only adding salt to the wound.

As a result, life seems to hit numerous bumps and crawls. In combating the pandemic, a series of standard operating procedures (SOP) have been introduced and enforced by the government, such as physical distancing, travel restrictions, curbs on goodwill visits or social gathering, heightened personal hygiene and mandatory wearing of face masks in public places.

These “new norms” are strictly to be adhered to by everyone. As a dentist, I wish to highlight one of the new norms that is taken lightly by the public which, in a way, shows their ignorance. Complying with the current SOP, most citizens are hiding beneath the face masks most of the time.

A daily routine survey showed that in most cases, people generally freshen themselves up in the morning — brushing their teeth before leaving for offices, schools, markets or even meeting up with others. Why is this routinely done? A simple answer is to avoid bad breath when dealing with others.

However, the mandatory wearing of face masks in public has made many people take the easy way out when stepping out of their homes. They don’t see the need to brush their teeth since they believe face masks are capable of preventing bad breath or foul smell of tooth decay.

Hence, they compromise on oral hygiene and some even fail to wear their dentures. These attitudes alarm dental healthcare providers.

Decades of effort to bring down the DMFT index (the index that records the number of decayed, missing and filled teeth due to dental caries in permanent dentition) and programmes to improve the oral health awareness and hygiene among the population will be in vain if the perception of the need for oral hygiene care by the public is not changed.

It will be an irony to see our visionary year 2020 going in the reverse mode despite efforts to increase the level of awareness and education. Maintaining oral hygiene comprises prevention of tooth decay and sustaining healthy gums.

When the gums are healthy, one will have a more robust set of teeth for eating and talking. In addition to that, the person will be able to keep his or her breath fresh to socialise with others at ease and with increased confidence.

The change of perception in oral hygiene habits among the public is still our postulation. Hence, a further research has been warranted to study the real situation. This is being jointly carried out now by Universiti Malaya and Universiti Teknologi Mara.


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Embracing online teaching during the pandemic

November 25th, 2020
All academic activities must be carried out via remote format until the end of this year. -NSTP/Muhd Asyraf SawalAll academic activities must be carried out via remote format until the end of this year. -NSTP/Muhd Asyraf Sawal

KUALA LUMPUR: The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the education landscape of the country, accelerating the digitisation of higher education.

Remote learning has become the new norm, with new, more flexible teaching and learning processes, and this must continue even after the pandemic, to ensure that meaningful learning is achieved in the best possible way.

In May, a proposal from the Higher Education Ministry (MOHE) to carry out academic activities in a remote format until the end of the year was approved by the Special Meeting of Ministers on the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) of the National Security Council (MKN).

Following the stabilisation of the initial Covid-19 outbreak, Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Dr Noraini Ahmad announced on July 8 that higher education institutions would be reopened entirely in October.

The reopening of these institutions would have meant returning to the face-to-face teaching and learning (T&L) style.

However, in September, MOHE called for all Malaysian Higher Learning Institutions (HLIs) to postpone students’ on-campus registration considering the rapid increase in the number of Covid-19 cases.

The directive urged all Malaysian universities to introduce online registrations for new and returning students for Semester 1 2020/2021 session and to carry out the complete online T&L process until the situation improves.

Due to the risk of Covid-19, it is crucial to replace face-to-face classes and laboratory studies with online classes. Malaysian universities need to continue identifying the best methods to resume T&L while protecting their teachers, employees, and students from the Covid-19 virus.

These HLIs also need to resort to all measures in ensuring that the students’ learning process are not disrupted due to Internet problems, particularly students in the B40 group and those who remain in remote areas.

More flexible T&L techniques have resulted from the pandemic. The use of synchronous and asynchronous teaching modes and online assignment submissions have become a norm in university teaching today.

Due to the risk of Covid-19, face-to-face classes have been replaced with online classes.Due to the risk of Covid-19, face-to-face classes have been replaced with online classes.

Synchronous learning via ‘live sessions’ is recorded and made available to students who could not join the session in real-time. This is followed by shorter engagement sessions like chat rooms and online meetings.

On the contrary, the asynchronous mode allows the students to view the recorded sessions, lecture notes, or online discussion boards in their own time. Additionally, educators also use social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Telegram, and WeChat to engage students with Internet connection difficulties.

The pandemic has had a significant impact on the country’s educational landscape. Shift 9 of the Malaysia Education Blueprint of Higher Education 2015-2025 outlines the globalised online learning (GOL) movement.

Conventional approaches are no longer a likely alternative, and remote learning has become a new norm. More online learning modules, namely Micro-Credentials, Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs), MOOC Credit Transfer, Open Online Resources (OER), and OpenCourseWare, are being developed via online platforms.

Dr Aini Andria Shirin AnuarudinDr Aini Andria Shirin Anuarudin

Digitisation of higher education must continue after the pandemic. The provision of an institution’s digital infrastructure needs to be strengthened to increase access to education, enhance teaching and learning quality, and respond to students’ needs. HLIs also need to improve their digital content, create alternative assessments suitable for online learning, and revive their digital learning strategies.

The global online learning environment involves a holistic and sustainable system that needs a paradigm shift from educators and students, namely their use of digital technology and the development of e-content.

They must adapt to this new norm and familiarise themselves with the online methodology to move beyond their comfort zone.

To ease the shift, MoHE, in collaboration with universities, various organisations and Malaysia’s telecommunication giants — Celcom, Digi, Telekom Malaysia and Maxis, have recently launched ‘Data Plan and Device Packages for Higher Education Students.’ This is one of the many initiatives by MOHE to facilitate the online teaching and learning process.

Online teaching may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but embracing change at a time such as this has certainly brought a positive impact in the HLIs’ landscape. This latest trend is likely to inspire educators to explore more online platforms for them to engage in more online classes and activities.

Assoc. Prof. Dr Marlia PutehAssoc. Prof. Dr Marlia Puteh

There is no right or wrong answer to which remote teaching activity, online platform, or conferencing tool is best. Still, educators need to be flexible in improvising their teaching and ensuring that meaningful learning is achieved in the best possible way.

The pandemic has triggered a lot of creative teaching and learning, and we need to leverage that even after the pandemic has ended.

Dr Marlia Puteh is an Associate Professor at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and Dr Aini Andria Shirin Anuarudin is a senior lecturer at Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM). Both are guest writers for MoHE.

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Covid-19: Record high of 2,188 new cases reported Tuesday (Nov 24), four more deaths (updated)

November 24th, 2020

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia recorded 2,188 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday (Nov 24), beating the daily record of 1,882 set on Monday (Nov 23).

There were also four new Covid-19 fatalities, taking the country’s death toll to 341.

Another 1,673 patients were discharged, meaning 44,153 have recovered from Covid-19 in the country.

Active cases have gone up to 14,353.

Cumulatively, Malaysia’s Covid-19 cases have reached 58,847.

Currently, 112 people are being treated at intensive care units, with 49 of them requiring ventilator support.

In a statement, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the majority of the country’s cases came from the Teratai cluster, which reported 1,511 new infections.

The Teratai cluster is linked to factory workers of several Top Glove factories in Selangor.

“As infrared before, several medical and public health assistance teams have been mobilised to the affected areas to conduct prevention and control activities, including a large scale Covid-19 screening process, ” said Dr Noor Hisham.

In total, Selangor has 1,623 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday.

Sabah, meanwhile, has continued to show a reduction in its daily cases, recording 232 new infections.

Other states that recorded new local Covid-19 cases are Perak (112 cases), Kuala Lumpur (90), Negri Sembilan (73), Johor (19), Penang (15), Kedah (14), Kelantan (six), Melaka (two), Labuan (one) and Sarawak (one).

Pahang, Terengganu, Putrajaya and Perlis have zero new cases.

All cases were local transmissions, as there were no new import cases.

On the four new deaths, Dr Noor Hisham said three cases were in Sabah, while one was in Penang.

The death in Penang involved an 84-year-old man, who has a history of high blood pressure and chronic lung disease.

The other cases involved a 41-year-old woman and a 74-year-old man who were treated at the Lahad Datu Hospital, as well as a 45-year-old non-Malaysian man at the Tawau Hospital.


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November 24th, 2020

GLOBALLY, the pandemic has brought chaos, and this is all the more apparent in the construction sector.

Just last week, the Government ordered at least two construction sites to be closed after hundreds of workers came down with Covid-19, following the discovery of the Damanlela cluster at one site in Pusat Bandar Damansara, Kuala Lumpur.

Testing found more than 1,300 of them infected, sounding an alarm for industry authorities.

Whatever the case, MMC Gamuda – the builder of the country’s critical transport infrastructure, the Putrajaya MRT Line (formerly known as the Sungai Buloh-Serdang-Putrajaya Line) – is taking no chances with the highly contagious disease.

Early in March, when the first movement control order was implemented, its senior management had already set up a Covid-19 task force to protect its businesses.

MMC Gamuda set up a bespoke laboratory with state-of-the-art PCR testing equipment, and has doctors and lab specialists onboard who have undergone up to date training provided by WHO.

MMC Gamuda set up a bespoke laboratory with state-of-the-art PCR testing equipment, and has doctors and lab specialists onboard who have undergone up to date training provided by WHO.

“At the Group level, we have an in-house Covid-19 task force that establishes policies to guide the workforce and cascade these directives to all business units, ” said Sirajunnisa Mohamed Farook, MMC Gamuda’s head of Safety, Health and Environment (SHE).

‘’Our crisis management plan was set in motion not only to meet government requirements, but also to maintain business resilience in the long run, to increase our ability to recover rapidly should a Covid-19 case occur, and to provide the highest level of protection to our workforce.”

This all-encompassing strategy is an unprecedented undertaking, requiring significant enhancements above the prescribed base requirements.

As turnkey contractor for the MRT project and underground works package contractor, MMC Gamuda has close to 15,000 workers under its watch in various worksites over the 50km-long MRT alignment.

With a strong demonstration of its efforts to combat Covid-19, MMC Gamuda was one of the earliest construction companies allowed to resume work during MCO.

‘We do not wait for someone to tell us when we have a problem. We proactively identify potential problems and address them first before the authorities or others flag them, ’ said Sirajunnisa.We do not wait for someone to tell us when we have a problem. We proactively identify potential problems and address them first before the authorities or others flag them, ’ said Sirajunnisa.

“We started off with doing baseline polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests on our workforce across all levels, even managing directors, ” explained Sirajunnisa on their modus operandi.

“The baseline PCR test was then followed by the introduction of a scheduled rapid antibody finger-prick RTK test every 10 days, as we felt it necessary to provide continued assurance to our workforce and stakeholders.

‘’The RTK tests at that time in March were deemed the most reliable next to the PCR test, widely accepted as the gold standard, ’’ said Sirajunnisa.

“Since then we have seen the introduction of the RTK-Antigen (RTK-Ag) test, considered a ‘silver standard’, which was integrated into our testing regime and entails taking a nasopharyngeal swab in a similar fashion to PCR.”

To-date 160,000 routine RTK-Antibody tests have been conducted, covering personnel from administrators, construction staff, general workers, security guards, all the way to senior level management.

To ensure everyone is accounted for, each staff member has a unique QR code that stores the information of the worker’s testing records for validation.

If a worker shows symptoms or is suspected of having been in close contact with a Covid-19 person, he will be placed under quarantine in one of the rooms here while awaiting test results before the Health Ministry takes over the case. – AZHAR MAHFOF/The StarIf a worker shows symptoms or is suspected of having been in close contact with a Covid-19 person, he will be placed under quarantine in one of the rooms here while awaiting test results before the Health Ministry takes over the case. – AZHAR MAHFOF/The Star

Not satisfied with just the “silver standard”, MMC Gamuda embarked on an ambitious undertaking usually reserved for government institutions – having its own PCR testing facility.

With state-of-the-art PCR equipment, a bespoke laboratory, doctors and lab specialists onboard, MMC Gamuda is determined to provide the highest level of health protection for its employees.

‘’We do not intend to wait for someone to tell us when we have a problem. Ignorance is not an excuse in the current Covid-19 climate. We proactively identify potential problems and address them first before the authorities or others flag them, ” said Sirajunnisa, adding that this is the only way to ensure business continuity.

The in-house PCR lab was just unveiled, heralding the large-scale migration from RTK to PCR tests for all of the group’s 20,000 personnel.

With a workforce of this size and a fortnightly PCR test cycle, it is a mammoth challenge, but one passionately embraced by the builder.

Elsewhere, MMC Gamuda’s responsibility extends to four centralised labour quarters (CLQ), housing almost 6,000 workers throughout Klang Valley.

To prevent the possible spread of Covid-19, the Group acted fast to tighten the perimeters of its CLQs with controlled access and segregation.

Not only are workers from different shifts segregated, but efforts are put in to ensure that those with the same skillsets or specialisation are not put together in the same place to mitigate against having the entire team falling sick or placed under quarantine all at once.

“We not only have to stop Covid-19 from entering our facilities, but also make sure it does not spread in the event it does. We have to be extremely strategic throughout and not take any chances, ” said Sirajunnisa.

To manage the risk of Covid-19 transmission, MMC Gamuda implements strict measures at its worksites as well as workers’ quarters.To manage the risk of Covid-19 transmission, MMC Gamuda implements strict measures at its worksites as well as workers’ quarters.

MMC Gamuda recently completed brand-new quarters at a new site in Sungai Buloh, Selangor, constructed over a record two and a half months to segregate its workforce, that is now touted as a model “Covid resilient” worker accommodation.

To minimise the need for movements, there is a sundry shop, barber and clinic set up there, while laundry services have always been free.

“The workers are not allowed to go out after their shift or wander around freely, ” said Sirajunnisa, adding that these heightened controls are, in fact, well received by the CLQ residents as they made them feel safe.

Compared to many other foreign workers who are unable to go to work, yet not permitted to travel home, due to either being quarantined or having their work sites shut down, MMC Gamuda workers appreciate that they can still go to work – a sentiment shown by the workers during a visit to the Cochrane CLQ recently.

To ensure no one falls between the cracks, every single staff member associated with MMC Gamuda must make daily online self-declarations on their health.

Those who fail to comply will be automatically flagged by the system so that supervisors will be alerted to initiate investigations.

“Anyone who reports or shows any acute respiratory illness symptoms will be cared for immediately.

“We have a full emergency Covid-19 medical team and equipment, and our medics have undergone up to date training provided by WHO, ” said Sirajunnisa, who added that the staggered routine screening of workers will enable them to maintain constant watch on the situation.

“As a responsible employer and industry leader, we are sparing no means in the era of Covid-19 to facilitate essential activities for construction.”


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Ismail Sabri: 131 people fined for not wearing face masks

November 24th, 2020

PETALING JAYA: Despite nine months of “new normal”, there are still those who remain indifferent to following standard operating procedures (SOP) to curb the spread of Covid-19, says Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

The Senior Minister (Security) said police arrested 329 people on Monday (Nov 23) for breaking SOPs such as wearing a mask and maintaining physical distancing.

“Out of that number, 311 were served with compounds, five were remanded while 13 others were released on bail,” he said in a statement on Tuesday (Nov 24).

He said 131 were stopped for not wearing masks while 59 more did not maintain a physical distance of at least one meter.

Ismail Sabri also said 50 business owners failed to prepare facilities to record customers’ details.

Another 38 people were penalised for crossing state and district boundaries without permission and 51 more were penalised for other offences.

He said authorities also arrested 88 illegal immigrants and five boat skippers under Op Benteng, which is aimed at protecting the country’s borders from being encroached.

In Monday’s (Nov 23) operation, authorities also seized 13 land vehicles and set up 261 roadblocks at locations believed to be used as illegal entry points.

Separately, Ismail Sabri said between July 24 and Nov 23,73,713 people have returned to Malaysia.

He said 10,152 people had undergone mandatory quarantine while 405 were sent to hospital for treatment and 63,156 others were allowed to go home.

Those returning to Malaysia were from 36 countries including the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Singapore, Vietnam, Laos and Brunei.

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Making the RM21 million allocated for domestic violence count

November 24th, 2020
The allocation must be part of a comprehensive and targeted approach to addressing the issue of domestic violence. - NST/file pic. The allocation must be part of a comprehensive and targeted approach to addressing the issue of domestic violence. – NST/file pic.

LETTER: ENGENDER Consultancy and Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) view positively the RM21 million allocation for domestic violence ‘local social support centres,’ as well as the MySTEP allocation for short term social workers and medical officers in Budget 2021.

We thank the National Budget Office of the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development (KPWKM) for engaging in dialogue with civil society and considering input, to improve the lives of domestic violence survivors.

This specific allocation to respond to domestic violence is a welcome step.

Nonetheless, responding to domestic violence requires a holistic approach. To ensure that the aim of the allocation – to improve the lives of domestic violence survivors – is achieved, we further recommend these five steps:

1. Ensure the allocation is implemented well, monitored, and evaluated for impact.

As critical to creating a budget allocation for domestic violence shelters is ensuring that such allocation is properly implemented and monitored, and its impact evaluated. In order to do this, a committee should be created, led by the National Committee on Domestic Violence under KPWKM, and including representatives from government and civil society.

Such a committee could help ensure that the funds are disbursed in a way that maximises the availability and accessibility of domestic violence shelters for survivors. The committee could also conduct monitoring and evaluation to assess the impact of the allocation and distribution to inform future federal and state budget cycles.

2. Ensure domestic violence shelters adhere to good practices and standards (for example as outlined in the Domestic Violence Shelter Standards and Toolkit, created by WAO and KPWKM).

Currently, there is a lack of uniform standards for domestic violence shelters throughout the country. As a result, significant disparities exist in the scope of services provided by shelters and the level of security, among other aspects, and survivors’ experiences vary widely depending on the shelter to which they are referred or the one geographically accessible to them.

To address this issue and remedy disparities, it is critical that the government adopt uniform shelter standards at the federal level. Such standards are outlined in the Domestic Violence Shelter Standards and Toolkit created by WAO and KPWKM.

Adoption of these standards at the federal level – and required adherence by organisations receiving federal funding- could help ensure that key aspects of women’s experiences are consistent and uniform regardless of where they seek shelter.

3. Ensure other essential domestic violence services – like crisis hotlines – are resourced.

Critical to making domestic violence shelters accessible to survivors in need is the availability of complementary resources such as crisis hotlines. Such hotlines are often an entry point for survivors to seek advice and obtain information about what options are available to them – including where they can go in the event they are in imminent danger or are otherwise prepared to leave their abusive home.

Hotlines such as WAO’s 24-7 telephone and SMS/WhatsApp hotline and KPWKM’s Talian Kasih allow survivors to access help any time of day or night, and make immediate assistance available to survivors who may be geographically isolated or who do not have a means of leaving their home and getting to a shelter without assistance.

As important as ensuring there are adequate numbers of sufficiently-resourced domestic violence shelters is ensuring that existing crisis hotlines are sufficiently resourced with staff sensitised to the needs of gender-based violence survivors and knowledgeable about available support.

4. Ensure investment for domestic violence response is regular.

Unfortunately, domestic violence is not a sudden or temporary phenomenon, and requires dedicated and ongoing investment by society to address. As such, investment into domestic violence response and infrastructure must be a key component of every annual budget allocation at the federal and state level, and various aspects of the survivor’s experience must be taken into account.

For example, while shelter is critical to survivors during the crisis stage when they first leave the abusive home, survivors often require continued support to get back on their feet and become financially independent. Thus, allocations for low-cost transitional housing for survivors after they leave the shelter, as well as for affordable childcare are also vital for the survivor’s long-term well-being and stability.

The proposed committee to conduct monitoring and evaluation of the RM 21 million allocation could also help assess the other areas of survivors’ needs and make recommendations to the government for future budget cycles.

5. Develop a coordinated domestic violence action plan through the National Committee on Domestic Violence

The allocation must be part of a comprehensive and targeted approach to addressing the issue of domestic violence. Such a coordinated action plan could be created and implemented by the National Committee on Domestic Violence.

This would complement the monitoring and evaluation of the allocation by contributing to an understanding of domestic violence survivors’ needs at various stages, and ensuring that these needs are adequately served through federal and state budget allocations – not only through dedicated allocations for shelters and other crisis support services, but through allocations for the police, welfare officers, and hospitals, all of whom play a critical role in domestic violence response.


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New York City’s first Black mayor dies aged 93

November 24th, 2020
Former New York City Mayor David Dinkins attends a Memorial Service for the long time CBS News Anchor Walter Cronkite at Lincoln Center in New York, USA, September 9. - EPA picFormer New York City Mayor David Dinkins attends a Memorial Service for the long time CBS News Anchor Walter Cronkite at Lincoln Center in New York, USA, September 9. – EPA pic

WASHINGTON: David Dinkins, New York City’s first Black mayor, has died, US media reported late Monday. He was 93.

The Democrat served as leader of the city from 1990 to 1993 after defeating Rudy Giuliani and Edward Koch.

His tenure was marked by racial strife – most notably the Crown Heights riots – and criticism that he was not up to the job.

Dinkins died from natural causes at home, the New York Times reported, less than two months after his wife Joyce also passed away.

A compromise candidate who remains New York’s only Black mayor, he inherited a city marked by racism, poverty and violence.

More than a million New Yorkers were on welfare following the recession, and over 1,000 murders were being reported annually.

Dinkins was elected as a stabilizing force, and famously described New York as a “gorgeous mosaic,” but he struggled to make headway.

Responsible for enlarging the police force to combat crime following the murder of a Utah tourist, he slashed the city’s budgets for education, housing, health, and social services.

But Dinkins also appointed one of the city’s most diverse cabinets – including numerous women, and New York’s first Puerto Rican fire commissioner and an openly gay Black psychiatrist as its mental health commissioner.

He was incapable of controlling his headstrong cabinet, the New York Times said, and he was heavily criticised for the subsequent policy gridlock.

Known for his tailored linen suits and unfailing courtesy, critics often suggested that Dinkins was “too nice” to lead the city.

Born July 10 1927, Dinkins grew up in Trenton, New Jersey, the New York Times reported.

In 1945, he joined the Marines and later attended the historically Black Howard University, where he majored in mathematics.

He married classmate Joyce, and the couple moved back to New York where Dinkins practised as a lawyer after putting himself through Brooklyn Law School, the New York Post reported.

He was appointed City Clerk in 1975 and served for a decade, the NYT said, before winning the mayoralty in 1989.

Dinkins was ousted by Giulini after only a single term in office, but in his concession speech, the Washington Post said that he told the crowd: “My friends, we have made history. Nothing can ever take that away.”

After office, he taught at Columbia University and hosted a local radio programme, the Post added.

He is survived by his children, Donna and David Jr., two grandchildren.

by AFP.

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