Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin now looks set to put off any vote of confidence in Parliament until next month. | Photo Credit: Bernama/Straits Times

Aug 2: Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin postpones parliament sitting indefinitely, citing “COVID-19 risks” while opposition MPs maintain that they will still show up on Monday, 700 Cubans were arrested following almost three weeks of anti-government demonstrations, Tunisian President Kais Saied goes on firing spree, sacking the Prime Minister, senior officials, and suspending parliament.

North America:

  • The first, full congressional inquiry into the United States (US) Capital riot began last week. The incident is being investigated by a committee of the House of Representatives to ascertain who “participated”, “financed” and “orchestrated” it. In the first public hearing on Tuesday (July 27), it was made clear that former President Donald Trump’s actions during the incident would be zeroed in on. The committee may use its subpoena power to bring forward witnesses such as Trump administration aides to facilitate the investigation. 
  • The US Justice Department ordered the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to hand over former President Donald Trump’s tax returns to Congress, on Friday (July 30). The move was a blow to Mr Trump, as it came after a long legal battle to prevent his tax records from being released, in what he called a “witch hunt”. He is the only US president since 1976 to have not disclosed his tax returns. 
  • COVID-19 restrictions will be tightened in the US “in all probability”, according to President Joe Biden on Friday (July 30) due to the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant. Almost 200,000 cases were reported on Friday (July 30), the highest daily record since February. The Biden administration is working to boost vaccination rates across the country as around 97 per cent of those hospitalised in the country were unvaccinated. 
  • The Dixie Fire in California burned almost 975 square kilometres of land and was 24 per cent contained, according to authorities on Friday (July 30). The blaze is considered part of a grim cycle of wildfires in northern California since 2018. Wildfires are currently burning in areas of the US West and British Columbia, prompting thousands of residents to evacuate affected areas. As of Friday (July 30) the United States National Interagency Fire Centre reported 83 fires burning across 13 states.
  • The US resumed the fast-track deportation of Central American migrant families who crossed the US-Mexican border on Friday (July 30). However, many passengers were unable to board the “expedited removal” flights due to testing positive for Covid-19, and are required to serve a quarantine period in the country before returning. The number of migrants entering the Southern border had increased sharply this year amid the pandemic. 

South America:

  • Nearly 700 Cubans were arrested as of Thursday (July 29), following the most widespread protests since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution. Locals took to the streets early in July in anti-government demonstrations to voice against food and medicine shortages in the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic and US sanctions. Many of those arrested were quickly convicted of “instigating unrest”.
  • Martine Moïse, the widow of the late Haitian President Jovenel Moïse said she suspected that “oligarchs” were behind his assassination at the beginning of the month. She urged those responsible to be caught, warning that the same thing would happen to future presidents, otherwise. Police have arrested 27 people in connection to the assassination as of Saturday (July 31), including three police officers. A warrant had also been issued for the arrest of former Supreme Court judge Wendelle Coq-Thelot for her alleged link to the murder. 
  • Rights group Amnesty International called on Thursday (July 29), for the Mexican government to suspend the use of all surveillance spyware until strict regulations are in place to ensure the protection of human rights. 15,000 of 50,000 phone numbers that were found to be surveilled using the Israeli Pegasus software were that of Mexicans. Among those targeted were politicians, journalists, activists, judges and doctors. President Lopez Obrador responded by vowing to make the contracts with the Israeli tech firm selling the software, NSO Group, public.
  • Protests erupted against Peruvian President Pedro Castillo’s decision to appoint Guido Bellido as prime minister on Saturday (July 31). Demonstrators labelled Bellido a “terrorist” due to his sympathising with the Shining Path, a Maoist rebel group that killed thousands of Peruvians in the 1980s and 90s. The demonstrations come days after President Castillo was sworn into office on Wednesday (July 28). The former teachers’ union leader had won over his right-wing rival with a margin of about 44,000 votes.
  • Ecuador revoked the citizenship of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Monday (July 26), due to reasons such as the “multiple inconsistencies” and “possible alteration of documents” in the supporting letter for his naturalisation in the country. Assange sought asylum in Ecuador in 2012 to avoid extradition to the US, where he could be imprisoned for up to 175 years for publicly leaking thousands of US government classified documents from 2010 to 2011. He remains imprisoned in London’s Belmarsh prison. 

Asia Pacific:

  • Malaysia announced the end of emergency laws on Tuesday (July 27) to much confusion. Earlier in the year, an emergency was declared to curb the rising number of daily COVID-19 infections. The daily cases had hovered around 3,000 but had since shot up to more than 17,000 cases on Monday (July 26). On Sunday (July 25), just a day before, United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) moved to “vote to repeal the emergency”. Such a vote would test the grip Perikatan Nasional (PN), the ruling majority, has on their coalition.
  • On Saturday (July 31), Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin postponed the initial parliament sitting scheduled for Monday (Aug 2) indefinitely because of “COVID-19 risks”. 11 people had tested positive for COVID-19, taking up 0.9 per cent of people present in the house. He had been facing increasing calls to resign and received an unprecedented admonishment from the king, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah. Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) maintained on Sunday (Aug 1) that they will still attend parliament on Monday (Aug 2).
  • A Hong Kong man is the first to be convicted under a Beijing-enforced law on Friday (July 30). Sentenced to six and a half years for secession and eight years for terrorism, the total sentence was reduced to a concurrent nine years. Tong Ying-kit had ridden his motorcycle into a line of policemen with a flag that read “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times”, injuring three of them on July 1, 2021. This verdict looks to set a precedent for future cases of use of the same slogan.
  • Indonesia is set on Thursday (July 29) to be the location of an electric vehicle (EV) battery factory run by Hyundai Motor Group and LG Energy Solution. Under the memorandum of understanding, the companies will invest a total of US$1.1 billion (S$1.48 billion) to build a factory in Karawang, with both companies holding 50 per cent ownership. Construction will start in the fourth quarter and finish in 2023, with mass production starting in 2024. Indonesia is one of the world’s largest producers of Nickel, an important material in EV batteries.
  • China launched an official six-month campaign to crack down on its technology industry on Monday (July 26). This comes after months of harsh action from government bodies on various technology giants. They seek to address the “tough problems” of the internet industry like disturbing market order, infringing users’ rights, threatening data security and unauthorised internet connections. Tencent looks to be the latest casualty as they halted sign-ups in China for the first time since 2011 on Tuesday (July 27). 
  • Myanmar’s army chief Min Aung Hlaing declares the end of the emergency to be in August 2023, in an address to the nation. He also pledged to hold multi-party elections and to cooperate with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) envoys. It has been six months since the army overthrew the civilian government and took over.

Europe:

  • Petrol bombs were thrown onto the Cuban embassy in Paris, France, with no casualties on Tuesday (July 27). An investigation is underway. The foreign ministers of 21 other countries condemned the crackdown on civil liberties and mass arrests in Cuba and called for the restoration of Internet access on Monday (July 26).
  • The Vatican began the trial of 10 people accused of fraud on Monday (July 26). Central to the case is cardinal Angelo Becciu, who is charged with spending US$412 million (S$557 million) of church money to buy a property in Chelsea, London. He has also allegedly channelled money to his brothers in his native Sardinia. The nine other defendants are accused of crimes from extortion to embezzlement. This is seen to be a high profile case as Becciu is the most senior official to be tried in history.
  • Heatwaves in Southeast Europe are set to be the worst in decades as wildfires broke out in western Greece on Saturday (July 31). 56 wildfires and counting were started, with most of them put out at an early stage. Temperatures reached 40 degrees celsius in parts of Greece and are expected to extend to next week. This is one of the most severe heat waves recorded in the country since the 1980s.
  • Luxembourg slapped a US$886.6 million (S$1.2 billion) fine on Amazon on Saturday (July 31), citing noncompliance with European Union (EU) laws. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules by the EU require that companies in the EU get their customer’s consent for using personal data. They are not the first company to have been hit with a fine but are the first to be hit with such a large fine.
  • The EU grew out of recession on Friday (July 31) as their economies grew by 2 per cent in their second quarter. However, the numbers are still down 3 per cent from their pre-pandemic levels. Unemployment also dropped by 400,000, however, it remains to be one million higher than the low it reached in early 2020.

Middle East:

  • Tunisian President Kais Saied went on a firing spree as he sacked the prime minister, a few rank officials, and suspended parliament for 30 days on Monday (July 26). Protests had been taking place on and off since the start of the year (Jan 15). The current protest started on Sunday (July 25) and called for the dissolution of parliament. They celebrated the president’s move. A member of parliament has since been arrested on Friday (July 30) and Al Jazeera’s office was raided and closed on Monday (July 26).
  • Qatar will hold elections for the first time in its history after an electoral law was approved by its Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on Thursday (July 29). In October later this year, 30 members representing 30 electoral districts will be elected by the local Qataris into their legislative body, the Shura Council. 15 out of the total 45 seats will be chosen by the Emir himself.
  • The EU is close to ratifying a legal framework on Lebanese officials as political deadlock ploughs on in Lebanon, almost a year after its devastating port explosion on Aug 4, 2020. Still in its discussion phase, the officials will be subjected to an asset freeze and EU travel ban, but the framework will not take effect immediately. On Monday (July 26), ex-premier Najib Mikati became Lebanon’s new prime minister-designate and will form a new government.
  • Four dead as Turkey battles against wildfires for the third day running on Friday (July 30). 17 provinces have been struck by 70 wildfires. As of Friday morning (July 30), 57 of those fires have been put out. Believed to be human-caused, they had been prolonged due to high temperatures and strong winds.
  • Israeli forces and Palestinians clashed in Beita, occupied Palestinian West Bank, as 270 protestors are left injured on Friday (July 30). Amidst this escalating conflict, Israeli forces have killed a 12-year-old Palestinian boy on Wednesday (July 28) who had been sitting in his father’s car, and a 20-year-old on Friday (July 30) who was in a crowd of Palestinians mourning the aforementioned boy’s death. Protests in the village had resulted in approximately 320 Palestinians being wounded earlier in the month (July 9). 
  • Two crew members of an Israeli-owned shipping company were killed in a drone attack on Friday (July 30). The tanker was carrying petroleum and was just outside of the maritime borders of Oman. Israel and the US have stated that Iran is to blame, while Iran has denied any wrongdoing.

Africa:

  • Kenya banned in-person meetings and public gatherings of any kind on Friday (July 30) amid a surge in Covid-19 infections. The stricter measures are hoped to slow the rate of hospitalisations in the nation. Health minister Mutahi Kagwe urged individuals to do their part in obeying restrictions, emphasising the current lack of hospital beds. “If you fall sick today, you will not get a hospital bed,” he said.
  • The United Nations (UN) humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths and US aid head Samantha Power are to hold talks with the Ethiopian government to be granted urgent access in the war-torn Tigray region, which is suffering from the worst famine in 10 years. 170 trucks carrying food and supplies were “stuck” and could not enter the area on Tuesday (July 27). The UN hopes to be able to “scale up” its humanitarian efforts in the country. 
  • A migrant vessel capsized off the coast of Libya on Tuesday (July 27). At least 57 people were killed, taking the regional death toll to nearly 1,000 this year alone. The region has seen an increase in migrants leaving Libya and Tunisia bound for Europe. Almost 18,000 asylum seekers have been returned to Libya in 2021, a figure that is double that of the previous year.
  • Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan launched the country’s public vaccination campaign on Wednesday (July 28), after being inoculated on live television to encourage the public to do the same. Tanzania received over a million doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine donated by the United States through the COVAX scheme and has put in an order to receive more to cope with its third wave of Covid-19 infections. 
  • Four Somalian footballers of the Jubaland Chamber of Commerce and Industry club were killed and another five were wounded, when an explosion went off in their bus on Friday (July 30). Although no group took responsibility for the incident, authorities suspect a bomb was planted in the vehicle. 
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