LETTER | Whole Covid narrative leaves a sour taste in the mouth

Dharm Navaratnam


LETTER | Today's announcement on the proclamation of state of emergency was rather unexpected. How did we even get here? It also brings up some interesting questions, primarily about timing and the sincerity and honesty of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and, by association, his whole government.

According to the press release issued by Istana Negara, the prime minister met with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong yesterday (Jan 11) at 5.30pm and the meeting lasted for 45 minutes.

But hang on, wasn't the PM on TV at 6pm? Yes, it could have been pre-recorded but the fact of the matter is that the broadcast was touted as being a siaran langsung (live telecast). That, at least, is what the graphic posted on the PM's very own Facebook account touted. Or does the PM have a different understanding of live telecast?

So, was the rakyat lied to? Why come out with an MCO declaration while you are requesting for a state of emergency to be declared and pretend that it is a live telecast? Was this all a charade on the part of the government? It just doesn't seem right.

The prime minister's speech this morning explained the reasoning behind the emergency declaration. However, it reeked of contradiction. Case in point is where Muhyiddin stated that the reasoning to not allow elections during this time of the pandemic was in line with his duty to protect the people.

However, none of this was taken into account during the Sabah election and it seems to be the case that the Sabah election was one of the causes for the spike in Covid cases, especially when things were seemingly under control. This was further exacerbated when the government neglected to enforce quarantine on those returning from Sabah and could even justify their reasons for not doing so.

Muhyiddin went on to advise politicians to put aside their differences and stand in solidarity with the rakyat. Is this not what politicians are supposed to do, anyway? Was it not political leverage, the hunger for power and disregard for the people's mandate that saw the present government take control in the first place?

Even the handling of the pandemic in recent months seems to be rather ill-thought off and lacking cognisance. Surely, the opening up of interstate travel while numbers were spiking was an ill-thought-out affair. And here we are now, justifying the reason for needing a state of emergency.

This is what I mean by contradiction and perhaps even hypocrisy.

The prime minister then went on to talk about the commitment of the government to ensure that economic activities would carry on subject to SOPs. But where are the SOPs? We were told on Friday (Jan 8) to expect an announcement on the following Monday of the government's plans to arrest the Covid pandemic.

True enough, the MCO was announced on Monday for six states and that only five essential economic sectors would be allowed to operate - manufacturing; construction; service; trade and distribution; and plantations and commodities. What exactly falls under services?

We were told that the Ministry of International Trade and Industry would detail out the different services that are classified under essential economic sectors. What? Could this not be made available during or immediately after the MCO announcement?

You had the whole weekend to prepare the SOPs. It's not as if it is something new either as we have been going through different forms of SOPs the whole year. Do the relevant ministries and departments not work in concert? Or is it simply a case of the right hand not knowing what the left is doing? Or perhaps it is just sheer incompetence?

Has anyone considered how companies are supposed to plan and operate without the SOPs being issued? For that matter, there are so many questions that the public is still being kept in the dark about.

For example, will public transport still be available? What about Laundromats and barbers, or plumbing and home electrical services, just to name a few.

Supermarkets and food outlets for takeaway are to be allowed to operate. What about retail though? Banks will operate but what about EPF? If someone has an appointment at EPF, will they still be allowed to go? What about hospital appointments? What exactly can and cannot be done? So many questions and there do not seem to be many answers forthcoming.

It has been almost a year since the first MCO and we have gone through so many variations of it. Surely, the government would be better equipped to handle this in a more detailed and timely fashion. Surely it should have learnt from the mistakes of the past and put in plans to avoid repeating the same mistakes.

There doesn't seem to be much clarity or cohesiveness in the way decisions are being made and we seem to keep going round and round in circles. We are told each time that the MCO, CMCO, RMCO, or whatever acronym, seem to be working but here we are now in a state of emergency. With Parliament not sitting and no elections can be held until the emergency is lifted, the present goverment is assured of staying in power. Even when its majority is in question.

One also needs to seriously consider the timing of the state of emergency. Why televise a declaration of an MCO when you are at that exact moment in audience with the Agong? Why not let the MCO take its course first instead of declaring a state of emergency the very next day?

It seems that our politicians are merely self-serving and are more interested in their own well- being rather than looking after the needs of the rakyat. One can only hope this is not true. Sadly, though, the way things are being handled does not lead to much confidence but just leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.