Spirit of Malaysian solidarity put to the test

S Thayaparan

Modified 18 Mar 2020, 2:23 pm

"This is the defining global health crisis of our time 'which will test' the amazing spirit of human solidarity."

- Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general

COMMENT | The Covid-19 pandemic and the latest movement control order should be a time when Malaysians come together instead of engaging in petty partisan bickering. Instead, social media is awash with negative spiels about the state’s reaction to the pandemic.

The rakyat, meanwhile, has to give this new government the benefit of the doubt. Ordinarily, this would be difficult, especially since the way that this government was formed and the underlying ideology behind it.

The recent meeting where five pro-Pakatan Harapan state governments were excluded from a Perikatan Nasional (PN) government meeting of how to coordinate enforcement of the movement control order is an example of how not to handle a pandemic and is indicative of why a certain section of Malaysia is distrustful of this present government.

In typical Malaysian fashion, a segment of the polity, as well as the political apparatus, have been racialising this pandemic and the government’s response to it. This is not the time to indulge in such posturing but instead, find ways in which the rakyat can contribute productively to flattening the curve and assisting the state in coming to grips with this pandemic.

While some argue that Malaysia is not doing enough, some are arguing about the efficacy of the methods taken so far. While Europe is going into a partial shutdown and the US is bracing for further more intrusive – in daily life – methods of containing the virus, Malaysia’s “game plan” is not as extreme. This should not be dismissed as ineffective.

Keep in mind that this is also a test run for further stringent methods that could come into play depending on how this pandemic develops. I would hope the government and the public use this opportunity as a means to develop trust by asking and transparently answering questions in case more extreme measures need to be considered. How PN is going to develop trust when it behaves in a partisan manner is the big question and most probably going to exacerbate the situation...

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