2019: Looking Back

PETALING JAYA: From a new King to the first Orang Asli MP, the past year has seen plenty of memorable stories. We take a look at the 25 biggest news stories of the year.

1. Smoking ban on eateries

The health ministry imposed a smoking ban at eateries on Jan 1, with fines of up to RM10,000 or three years’ jail for patrons as well as owners of premises who fail to implement the rule. The ruling will be fully enforced beginning Jan 1, 2020.

2. A new Agong

The Sultan of Pahang, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah was crowned the 16th Yang di-Pertuan Agong after Sultan Muhammad V abdicated. It was the first time an Agong ever gave up the throne.

3. Johor river pollution

Nearly 6,000 people including students at Pasir Gudang, Johor, were affected by the chemicals polluting Sungai Kim Kim which forced the temporary closure of 111 schools.

4. First Orang Asli MP

Barisan Nasional’s Ramli Mohd Nor became the country’s first Orang Asli MP after he won the Cameron Highlands by-election. The Semai former senior police officer was sworn in on March 12.

5. Malaysia withdraws from Rome Statute

Malaysia withdrew from ratifying the contentious Rome Statute, after the move came under criticism from various quarters, including the Johor palace. Critics of the treaty said signing it would violate the Federal Constitution as it would affect the monarch, Malay rights and the sanctity of Islam in the country.

6. Hamid Bador is new IGP

Abdul Hamid Bador was appointed Inspector-General of Police (IGP) replacing Mohamad Fuzi Harun. Hamid, a former deputy head of the Special Branch, went on early retirement in 2015 after speaking out against the previous government’s alleged involvement in certain scandals but returned to the force after the 14th General Election.

7. Badminton, squash legends retire

Malaysia’s badminton champion Lee Chong Wei announced his retirement after competing for 19 years in the sport and battling cancer. The same month, Malaysia’s squash queen Nicol David announced her retirement. She remains the sport’s longest reigning world number one, holding the spot from 2006 to 2015.

8. Orang Asli mystery deaths

A mysterious illness, later confirmed to be measles resulted in the deaths of 16 Orang Asli villagers from Kampung Kuala Koh, Gua Musang. Between June 3 and June 9, 178 cases of measles were reported, including 147 in Kelantan, 23 in Terengganu and eight in Pahang.

9. Latheefa named new MACC chief

Lawyer Latheefa Koya was appointed Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner replacing Mohd Shukri Abdull. Her appointment raised some eyebrows as she was also a member of PKR, although she clarified she had resigned promptly after being informed of her appointment.

10. Gay sex clips

Viral clips showing two men in homosexual activities stunned the nation as one of them resembled Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali. Later, former PKR member Muhammad Haziq Abdul Aziz uploaded a video on Facebook naming himself and Azmin in the clips. Azmin has denied the claim and a police probe has been left hanging.

11. Rape charge against Perak exco

DAP’s Tronoh assemblyman Paul Yong was arrested by police and later released on bail after his maid lodged a police report against him, accusing him of raping her. Yong denied the accusation and after taking a short leave of absence, returned to work as a Perak state executive council member.

12. Riled up over Khat and Jawi

The education ministry’s decision to include khat, a form of Malay-Arabic calligraphy, as part of the Bahasa Melayu syllabus for schools, drew opposition from education groups, particularly Dong Zong. The Cabinet subsequently renamed the topic Jawi and allowed teachers to decide whether to teach it but Dong Zong maintains its stance against introducing it in vernacular schools.

13. Missing Irish teen found dead

Irish teenager Nora Anne Quoirin went missing at a resort in Negeri Sembilan while on holiday with her family. The 15-year-old was found dead on the tenth day of searching. An autopsy revealed she died due to gastrointestinal bleeding after going without food for days.

14. Lynas licence renewed

The government agreed to renew Lynas Corp’s licence to operate its rare earths plant in Gebeng, Kuantan for six months subject to conditions. Lynas said it would comply, but a number of Pakatan Harapan MPs and activists spoke out against the licence renewal.

15. Umno-PAS ceasefire

Thousands of Umno and PAS supporters thronged the Putra World Trade Center as the country’s two parties signed a historic charter of political cooperation, marking the coming together of the two largest Malay-Muslim parties after decades of conflict.

16. Final offer for Kampung Baru land

The government offered Kampung Baru landowners RM850 per square foot to buy their land as part of its efforts to redevelop the Malay enclave. This was met with protests by the residents, saying the price was too low. Later, the government revised its price to RM1,000 per square foot including RM150 in shares.

17. Utusan’s final page

Utusan Malaysia and its sister daily Kosmo! ceased operations leaving 862 employees without a job. Utusan, which was founded in 1939, was the country’s oldest Malay language daily. A month later, Media Prima Bhd which owns TV3, New Straits Times, Berita Harian and Harian Metro among others confirmed that it will be retrenching staff.

18. Malay Dignity Congress

The Malay Dignity Congress co-organised by four public universities was attended by politicians from both sides of the divide including Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang. Mahathir dismissed criticisms that the congress was racist, saying there were no attacks on the Chinese and Indian communities.

19. Wildlife extinction and deaths

The Sumatran rhino officially went extinct in Malaysia, with the death of Iman, after the animal lost its battle with cancer. Meanwhile, four pygmy elephant deaths were recorded in Sabah over a span of five weeks, including one which was found riddled with bullets.

20. Kashmir and palm oil

An influential Indian trade organisation called on its members to boycott Malaysian palm oil after New Delhi protested against Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s remarks on the Kashmir conflict.

21. Chin Peng returns, but in ashes

Former Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) members revealed they had brought back the ashes of the group’s leader Chin Peng and scattered them in Perak, sparking outrage and a police investigation. Both the previous and present administrations had barred the return of Ching Peng’s ashes.

22. Terrorists in DAP?

Two DAP assemblymen from Melaka and Negeri Sembilan were among seven people arrested for alleged involvement with the now-defunct group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). They have been accused of supporting and fundraising for LTTE.

23. Pharmaniaga ‘monopoly’ ends

Pharmaniaga’s long-term concession to supply drug and medical supplies to hospitals under the health ministry, regarded by some as a virtual monopoly, ended on Nov 30. The company will be contracted to continue procuring drugs and medical supplies for the next 25 months as the ministry finds another concessionaire.

24. Another probe on Anwar

PKR president Anwar Ibrahim was accused of sexual assault by former aide Muhammed Yusoff Rawther. The Port Dickson MP has denied the allegations. Anwar was convicted of sodomy in 2014 but received a royal pardon in 2018 after the general election.

25. First polio case after almost 30 years

A three-month-old Malaysian infant from Tuaran, Sabah, was diagnosed with polio, the first case reported in the country in nearly three decades. Malaysia was declared polio-free in 2000, after reporting its last known case of the disease in 1992.