PRIME Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, or Abah, is setting a rather poor example for all Malaysians – just hours after an address to Malaysians asking them to be grateful that a full lockdown has not been imposed, he was in Indonesia for an official state visit.
What is the urgency for such an official visit at this stage? Couldn’t it wait, or could not a video conference have been arranged between the two leaders? Abah, why could you not have stayed at home, like you advise your wards to do over and over again, and set a good example?
Instead, at a time when we ordinary folk face police checks – often inconvenient and causing needless delays even when there are no traffic jams even when we go to work – and can’t dream of crossing districts, let alone states, you jump on a plane and gallivant off to Jakarta across national borders.
Whatever can be that important, or is that reason also classified under the Official Secrets Act so that no one knows the real reasons? Or is the real reason so trivial that you should have stayed at home instead?
Oh, we know that you will have important discussions with President Jokowi and all that and that you will have a small entourage and a state banquet. Now, how small is that entourage – 10, 20, 50? I presume the entourage will be part of that banquet too.
And there is a prayer session, at which it is probably right to presume that most, if not all of the entourage, will be included at a mosque. Within the palace grounds, we are told, but tell me: despite all these elaborate arrangements, wouldn’t it still make it rather difficult to be socially distanced?
Would it not mean the likelihood of either you or your entourage getting Covid-19 is significantly increased? Or is there something we don’t know?
Let’s pedal back a bit now. The plane that is taking you there, Abah, it must be the prime ministerial plane, right? So there will be a crew flying it – pilots and engineers and stewards and stewardesses. Refreshments will have to be taken in and served.
And your entire entourage – at least 20 I would say – they would be on the plane too right. And if anyone of the crew or the entourage, god forbid, have Covid-19 then in the two hours or so that you are confined in a plane, the entire load will be compromised, right?
Ok, let’s assume that does not happen. You all land in Indonesia without Covid-19 exposure. And then you have all these conferences – face–to–face no less – why go there and have remote conferences? You could have done that from Malaysia. And on top of the meetings, you have meals and state banquets and prayers.
What if just one of you caught Covid-19 in Indonesia – there’s a decent, or should I say indecent chance of getting it there – with all those opportunities for close contact? If Jokowi, in a gesture of friendship, hugged you, surely you are not going to push him away, are you? And that applies to each and every one of your entourage.
And once even one of them has been infected – you won’t even know for a few days – there is a good chance it gets passed on in the confined, rarefied atmosphere of the plane when it returns to Malaysia. And is anyone, including you, going to quarantine themselves when they return? That minister who went to Turkey did not and got away with next to nothing.
Now tell me, given those risks, Abah, isn’t that a rather careless, indulgent thing to be doing at a time when you are advising your children to stay and stay safe at home during these times of Covid-19?
Does it not show beyond a shadow of any doubt what the public has long known – there is one rule for the public and one for politicians? You, Abah, are blatantly putting many people in danger, including yourself, a vulnerable person, by a needless reckless visit to Indonesia when standard operating procedures for Covid-19 are going to be very difficult to implement.
Surely you should set a better example for your flock, or don’t you really care?
Before I finish, some comments on other measures that your administration is taking. Here’s what you said in your speech broadcast yesterday before you left for Singapore: “…the latest data showed 59% of cases occurred at the workplace, followed by detention centres (19%), residential areas (14%), houses of worship (5%), and imported cases and high-risk groups (2% each).”
My questions are which are these workplaces, what factories are mainly responsible? Why? What about construction sites? Why have not many people been brought to account here when hundreds if not thousands are routinely arrested and fined for things like not wearing masks and being too close to each other? Are we to believe that they are not in close proximity in factories and construction sites?
And then the inevitable question – why are owners of factories and developers who are responsible for construction sites not held to account? Again, one rule for the ordinary man and another for the fat cats. Obviously, it’s here that efforts should be concentrated, but it’s not. Can you tell us why, Abah?
And there is the ridiculous lifting of restrictions against night markets but the simultaneous announcement that reunion dinners can only be held amongst those who live together even if family members live in the same district.
Have you been to a night market, Abah, or do you and your ministers send someone to get your makan-makan? There is no way to control numbers because there are several places that you go in and out. Often the crowd moves shoulder-to-shoulder, local and foreigner, illegal and legal immigrant, factory and construction worker, clerk and teacher. It’s the great leveller, simply no control at all, now everyone can mingle!
But at the same time, you put a stop to reunion dinners – obviously, they can’t be reunion dinners if they all live together all the time. At least allow them to have it if they are in the same district.
Really Abah, you and your ministers and administrators have got a long, long way to go before you can restore the public’s confidence in your handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. How many more people will have to die and get infected before you get your act together?
It is a mark of your insensitivity towards the general public and your callousness, Abah, that you schedule a trip to Indonesia when Malaysia is undergoing its worst chapter of the pandemic so far with record numbers of deaths and infections. What kind of example is that? – The Vibes, February 5, 2021
P Gunasegaram says only politicians can make good things bad. He is editorial consultant at The Vibes and executive director of advocacy group Sekhar Institute.