Tomorrow’s a big day, the government informs us its decision on the Movement Control Order (MCO) — as we approach the home stretch of Phase III, ending April 28.
Perhaps unchanged — another MCO — but it seems unlikely though, or a softer version of it with clear intentions for stage by stage relaxations. That’s inevitable, the easing of restrictions. The pace of it which is being deliberated.
Malaysia must make haste to post-MCO if it wishes to provide for itself.
The restrictions were ideal to fight Covid-19. However, they’re not tenable in the medium run, and certainly not in the long run. An exit strategy is imperative.
While a doctor is heartened when a patient convalesces, he’s thrilled when the patient’s back at work so that he can live and fulfil potential.
We can’t lose sight of the ultimate goal and instead be bogged down in a pursuit to save all regardless of the societal costs.
Here’s where we are.
The Health Ministry’s summary the past few days: Malaysia has coped well, but a relapse is one major mistake away. One stupid error to be paid by the rakyat. All hands on deck is the rallying cry, in view of this.
That the weakest link in the chain undoes all the good work immediately.
That’s where Anwar Ibrahim, the presumptive leader of the opposition becomes necessary for the cause.
If the objective requires all to assist, why exclude the new Opposition?
The Raya holidays will be upon us in four weeks, and this government wants people to stay home and not travel to hometowns. In 28 days, the Singapore circuit breaker remains in place and Malaysia’s overall numbers — infection, recovery and death — to be positive, so much so some may infer Covid-19 is done. Which means, the temptation to drive home sans an enforced MCO may be overwhelming.
Could that be the major mistake, feared by health officials, and force the dreaded second and third wave? Previous role models, Singapore and South Korea face fresh scrutiny and China’s in alert as Harbin City enters a lockdown.
The virus doesn’t take a break, so we can’t too.
It won’t be enough for the prime minister to beseech the rakyat to adhere. All influencers, those capable of swaying average Malaysians of all hue and type need to contribute. That’s all religious leaders, political bosses and social activists stepping up for the country. To cover all the weak links, missing none.
Remember, two months ago, a political stalemate was sorted by interpretation in a pandemonium — both self-inflicted and engineered. The politicians are bitterly divided, but that matters less as opposed to their supporters in the millions continue to be at odds. They’re liable to express their dissent, not dissimilar to protests underway in the United States fuelled by partisanship.
The virus doesn’t discriminate, so we can’t discriminate leaders if they can affect the outcome.
Broaching the divide
To see Anwar stand next to PM Muhyiddin Yassin and jointly ask Malaysians to stay home, even for Raya. To exhibit that, in the national efforts to keep our population healthy, politicians can set aside their partisanship.
Is that not what is meant by the #kitajagakita (We take care of each other)?
I say Anwar, but he’s the tip of the partisan iceberg.
He represents the other half of political Malaysia, Pakatan Harapan. It means the governments of Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Penang. It means Lim Guan Eng, Mohamad Sabu and the hundreds of regional leaders all over Malaysia serving the parties now in the opposition ranks.
Doesn’t Bernama, the state news agency under the Ministry of Communication and Multimedia say that daily? With #KitaTeguhKitaMenang (We’ll win if we stick together).
If victory is determined by a collective effort, like a war effort, then standing together is compulsory.
‘The New Abnormal’
Days are not complete unless the clever retort “we live in the new normal” is heard, thanks to Covid-19. Life as we know it won’t return for the months to come, till a working vaccine sits in pharmacies.
So, perhaps both the government and opposition working together does not fall far from this new normal.
Yet, the olive branch to the opposition is not the opportunity to revisit the demand for a lengthier parliamentary sitting or the off chance to table a vote of confidence.
Nor to form a unity government.
It’s about camaraderie, a choice to choose peace when a common enemy threatens to decimate your way of life.
Peace was not selected when the Batu MP P. Prabakaran was questioned by police for appearing uninvited at a government meeting in his constituency.
If the government insists we are in a new normal, then it has to take the lead in showing the way.
For example, in the last 12 years, Pakatan controls the vast majority of support in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, and kept increasing support from election to election.
This is also the epicentre of Covid-19.
Selangor Mansion, Kerinchi, Sungai Lui, Cheras and Kota Damansara are mentioned repeatedly. They also fall in constituencies held by Pakatan.
I’ve not heard the minister say that MP Fahmi Fadzil has been forthcoming in Lembah Pantai or MP Tan Kok Wai being co-operative in Cheras.
The Federal Territory Minister Annuar Musa and his deputy Edmund Santhara Kumar are from Kota Baru and Segamat, they can do more in Kuala Lumpur with the assistance of the Pakatan MPs, and their teams’ knowledge of the ground.
And there’s the little matter of the 51 seats — out of 56 — Pakatan won in Selangor. Putrajaya may be controlled by Perikatan Nasional (PN), but it’s encircled by Pakatan.
Immediate responses, sharing of information and local knowledge are critical, and PN and Pakatan have to collaborate without recriminations.
Together with the various government departments to get outcomes.
Or at least to distribute the information to all the troops — parties or the civil service — that they do not need to sabotage each other to serve their intended bosses.
That for the time being, their boss is the Malaysian people.
First battle, war rages on
The World Bank withdraws previous limited optimism for Malaysia as oil prices plummet, and SMEs ready to raise their white flags. One-off payments will likely wear off as the economic realities start to bite.
The end of MCO means only the conclusion of a battle in the long war with Covid-19.
Further battles are ahead.
There are question marks about border control, air travel, tourism, events management and permission, education and religious practices.
Can we afford 15 rounds of pointing of errors from both sides, when success is only possible with collective effort?
Or could the sides agree to set aside the pettiness, work out the details and reach for solutions?
No one wants either Malaysia Airlines or AirAsia to collapse. The hospitality industry is our bread and butter and we want to fill them up again; hotels, resorts, buses and bars. Schools can’t rely on home-based learnings and let the millions of rural or poor kids slide away from knowledge.
They are massive, these challenges.
While the reboot continues, Pakatan has to restrain itself.
It has to demarcate what’s a national effort to kickstart the economy and a poor move by PN which they can manipulate to stress out the coalition, and edge it to implode.
This is gladiatorial politics still, but demarcation of what is up for discussion and not must occur.
The opposition can tell the difference if it’s pulled into the meetings and sessions where Covid-19 programmes, responses and management are briefed.
The government loses a bit of shine by sharing the stage with Pakatan, but that’s what working together for the nation constitutes.
The people are comprehensively at the end of their tether with government saying we can do more by staying put at home.
True as it may be, perhaps if the government reciprocates by displaying its own reaching out beyond the usual, by pooling all of Malaysia’s forces to defeat Covid-19, it revitalises the people.
To know we all are willing to sacrifice to get past this difficult period. To stick it out together.
I’m sure PM Muhyiddin knows where to find Anwar.
*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.