Watch out! Anger is boiling over Covid-19 double standards

I was supposed to attend the wedding of the daughter of a former neighbour on Oct 18. Now, it looks as if the wedding may not take place.

This is because the groom lives in Klang, which will be placed under the conditional movement control order (CMCO) from Oct 9.

I don’t know how many other weddings and family functions will be disrupted in Klang and three other places – Sandakan, Papar and Tuaran, all in Sabah – which also come under the CMCO on Oct 9.

I don’t know how many lives will be turned topsy-turvy.

The authorities say only two people in each household will be allowed to leave the house to buy groceries or other essential items.

Except for those ferrying food and other essential items, and that too with police approval, no one will be allowed to enter or exit these localities during the CMCO.

Also, all businesses, except for those in the essential services, will have to temporarily shut down. Schools, houses of worship and night markets have to close.

In addition, petrol stations, eateries, grocery stores, sundry shops and pharmacies will only be allowed to open from 6am to 6pm. Morning markets can only operate from 6am to 2pm.

While I laud the authorities for taking these strict precautions to prevent the spread of the disease, I’m puzzled as to the reason for restricting the operation times of shops, markets and petrol stations.

The idea behind the CMCO is to ensure better physical distancing so that the coronavirus cannot find a human host and will die.

Now, if you say grocery stores or supermarkets in these areas can only operate between 6am and 2pm, you are going to have more people gathering at these outlets at any one time.

If you allow for normal operating hours, the number of people at the stores would likely be spread out, as people will not try to rush to get whatever items they need.

Knowing Malaysians, you are going to have an extra large crowd just before 2pm, and that is not going to help in maintaining physical distance between people.

Therefore, I think placing a time limit is counter-productive.

The authorities, especially political leaders, should by now be aware that they are being watched by the public.

Malaysians are noting everything that they do, including whether Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was wearing the pink-coloured Covid-19 wristband.

They are also noting, and making public through social media, instances of double standards when it comes to punishing those who flout the standard operating procedures.

The government needs to take note that public anger against double standards is rising.

People are angry that federal ministers and some other politicians appear immune to action if they don’t comply with the SOPs aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19 but ordinary people are getting the stick.

MCA spokesman Mike Chong Yew Chuan put it well when he said: “If the public is being fined RM1,000 just for slightly pulling down their masks for a moment, yet ministers are getting away with it for obviously flouting the SOPs, are we not ashamed when we make bold claims of ‘No Double Standards’?

“How can we tell the rakyat to follow the SOPs when the politicians themselves do not follow?”

The most glaring case right now involves Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali.

Khairuddin visited Turkey in July but within a few days he was in Parliament, instead of undergoing the 14-day quarantine that anyone travelling to other countries is required to do upon returning.

People are not happy that he was only fined RM1,000 – and that too after some public pressure – as some ordinary citizens have suffered heavier penalties.

On Oct 7, police said the investigation paper on Khairuddin had been referred back to the Attorney-General’s Chambers “for further review”. July to October is a long time.

I find it interesting that former prime minister Najib Razak, who was convicted on seven charges of criminal breach of trust, power abuse and money laundering on July 28, has called on the authorities to charge Khairuddin for “violating” the mandatory quarantine order.

Another minister, Zulkifli Mohamad, who is in charge of Islamic religious affairs and who tested positive after returning from Sabah, was criticised for skipping self-quarantine and travelling to various places on official and personal business.

Muhyiddin himself admitted that the sudden spike in Covid-19 cases was partly due to the holding of the Sabah state election, as several politicians who campaigned there tested positive, and could have spread it to others.

Many people have criticised the government’s handling of the election vis a vis the Covid-19 pandemic, saying more precautions should have been taken.

The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), for instance, said the government was slow to react to the risks posed by those returning to the peninsula from Sabah.

Its president Dr Subramaniam Muniandy said: “The mandatory testing and quarantine for returnees should have been imposed earlier as many Malaysians were already travelling to affected areas in Sabah in the days leading up to the state election.

He said the health ministry had done its part by constantly reminding the public to adhere to SOPs but the warnings went unheeded. “Some of the politicians and people at these political events were seen not observing physical distancing while some had their face masks down as could clearly be seen in footage of the campaign highlights on TV.”

He too noted that while ordinary Malaysians were being caught and fined for flouting the SOPs on a daily basis, “VIPs seem to be getting away scot free”.

There cannot be double standards. People are watching. People are getting frustrated; and angry.

And you can’t blame them. They are worried, even scared. Most have families to take care of, and no one wants to lose a family member to the virus.

Life becomes topsy-turvy in a lockdown: food may be difficult to come by, people lose jobs and incomes, children can’t go to school, the daily routine is shattered, and stress builds up.

No one wants to be placed under the CMCO or targeted enhanced MCO because of the carelessness or tidakapathy of others, especially not of those who call themselves leaders.

 

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT