Malaysiakini
OPINIONS

Protecting vulnerable Malaysians in crisis

Bridget Welsh

Published

COMMENT | With the lockdown extended at least through mid-April, the impact will be devastating for vulnerable families, with serious short- and long-term effects for the economy and the society itself. One positive in the past week has been the ongoing constructive discussion about how Malaysia can get through this unprecedented trying period. This article joins the debate.

My earlier piece highlighted how society can work together and pointed out ways to harness social capital to strengthen ties and build social trust. This was based on the premise that the empowerment of ordinary people can make a difference – as it has repeatedly in Malaysian history – and that rebuilding ties is essential for the human spirit in these uncertain times.

Here I focus on a set of modest ideas for consideration, appreciating that the focus should not be on one side or another of the political divide, but bringing the best that can be brought to a difficult situation.

From the onset, I firmly believe that Malaysia has comparatively taken bold moves to address the crisis, not least of which was the needed extension of the movement control order. The Covid-19 crisis can offer further opportunities to move the country forward, to engage in needed reforms and to learn lessons on how to improve governance. A reform agenda has long been ignored and Malaysia is now, in part, facing the consequence of that neglect. Initiating reforms will not be easy but embracing different practices and policies can offer more protection.

That said, there will inevitably be serious losses, not just to lives, but to businesses and even to some sectors of the economy. On a personal level, we will lose friends and family in this period, and the hardships people will experience will be intense on many levels. The frustration has the potential to boil over along already frayed racialised lines.

Now more than ever, there is a need to look to the lessons from other crises, reach out and to assess the viability of other policies adopted elsewhere for Malaysia. Here are three areas of suggestions, focusing on governance issues that can protect Malaysians...

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