NAME it what you want – the Covid-19 exit strategy plan or economic recovery plan – but newly renamed Prime Minister Tan Sri Mahiaddin Yassin’s plot is to needlessly prolong the emergency.
A government that ignored the rise of Covid-19 infections as they climb upwards to over 9,000 per day now promises that Phase 2 of the full movement control order (FMCO) will start only when the average number falls below 4,000 cases per day. This is when there will be relaxation from the current Phase 1 FMCO.
This is clear admission that the government ignored the seriousness of the earlier rise of infections, waiting to implement an FMCO only after new daily cases went to over double the 4,000 to over 8,000, despite repeated warnings by the health director-general (DG) that hospital facilities are stretched to the limit.
In fact, many of Mahiaddin’s ministers had said an FMCO will not be imposed and, instead, standard operating procedures (SOPs) will be strengthened and tightened so the economy will not be affected and the people’s income not adversely impacted.
On Hari Raya, May 13, the seven-day average of Covid-19 cases was already above 4,307. By May 24, it reached 6,292, and on May 29, it hit a daily average of 7,631, while touching a daily record of 9,020. Only after was there an FMCO.
If this backdoor government had taken measures to keep SOPs firm and did not relax conditions, such as inter-district travel, opening Ramadan bazaars and removing the 50% capacity limit for restaurants, the figures could have been kept down earlier, and a full lockdown may not even be necessary.
And if only the government had taken heed of repeated warnings by the health DG that the increase in number posed a serious threat to hospitals’ capacity in handling Covid-19, and had tightened SOPs and imposed partial lockdowns earlier, the FMCO will not have been necessary.
Given Mahiaddin’s vested interest in needlessly prolonging the declaration of emergency so that he can avoid any parliamentary motion to dismiss him and his administration, one is entitled to question whether this is plain government incompetence or deliberate.
Let’s look at the phases in Mahiaddin’s plan:
– Phase 1: FMCO, as it is now.
– Phase 2: Average cases fall below 4,000; 10% of the population have received two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine (the current figure is 4.4%); a total of 80% of workers allowed at workplaces.
– Phase 3 – Average cases fall below 2,000; 40% of the population have received two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine; 80% of economic activity; expected to be achieved in August, but Parliament, strangely, opens in September or October.
– Phase 4 (final) – Average cases fall below 500; near-normality achieved; health systems safe; 60% of the population vaccinated; expected to be achieved by October.
What Mahiaddin fails to mention in his address last night is why the emergency is being needlessly prolonged when the whole nation is waiting to hear an explanation, and why he should continue as prime minister; is it because it buys him time to come up with a new deal to stay in power?
Fact of the matter is that Parliament can not only convene, but can do so physically and the proceedings live-streamed as before since 100% of MPs and associated staff have already been vaccinated.
With a 100% vaccination rate among MPs, we can safely put them all in one room in the same way the whole of Malaysia can pretty much return to normal if all of us have been vaccinated. In fact, Parliament can be opened tomorrow; there is no reason to wait.
Mahiaddin said in his speech yesterday: “It is my sincere hope that this National Recovery Plan will guide us cautiously but progressively towards reclaiming our much treasured freedom, while doing all we can to protect the lives and livelihoods of Malaysians.”
But there is no issue over reclaiming our much treasured freedom – Parliament can operate and the needless emergency rescinded. It’s only Mahiaddin who is preventing that – simply recommend that to the king. But we all know why he won’t do that.
He also said: “I am cautiously optimistic that with proper planning, execution and support from all Malaysians, we can emerge victorious and stronger from this crisis.”
As far as Covid-19 is concerned, Mahiaddin has all the support he wants and needs from Malaysians.
It is him and his government that have been sorely lacking in both planning and execution – holding elections in Sabah last September, lifting SOPs too soon, low testing rates that effectively kept numbers down, being late with the lockdown, and being inexplicably slow with the vaccine roll-out.
Any self-respecting government with such a litany of shortcomings during Covid-19 would have resigned a long time ago. Instead, it hangs by a thread, come hell or high water, to a tenuous position achieved by highly dubious dealings and defended by conspiracy and connivance.
When will it all end? – The Vibes, June 16, 2021
P. Gunasegaram says this government is not only distracted from dealing with Covid-19, but has serious unresolved conflicts. He is executive director of research and advocacy organisation Sekhar Institute and editorial consultant at The Vibes