Sanusi, dengue and the arrogance of politicians

Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor was furious when members of the public blamed his administration for the increase in Covid-19 cases in the state.

Claiming that the rise was something his government could not anticipate, Sanusi became defensive and started to compare the number of Covid-19 deaths with the deaths caused by diseases such as dengue, malaria, H1N1, cholera, tuberculosis and other diseases, for which there are no vaccines.

At the end of last month, Kedah recorded a surge in Covid-19 infections, mostly in the Alor Setar prison area. The Tembok cluster, as it is now called, has already caused the death of at least one prisoner. On Oct 7, another 153 cases were reported, mostly in the prison.

Sanusi was hurt when the public said his administration did not know how to do its job. He said: “What can we do? This was already coming our way. It wasn’t like we could see this virus. We did not commit any sin.”

He also said the citizen’s anger was not justified because other people who travelled to Sabah, besides politicians who returned after campaigning in the state, were also infected.

He then said: “Even POTUS (President of the United States) and his wife were infected.”

Sanusi has made a tremendous error of judgement. Like his counterpart in Perak, Ahmad Faizal Azumu, he has attacked the public for criticising the handling of the virus. His argument that President Donald Trump was also infected is infantile as Trump refused to wear a face mask.

Conflicting messages from NSC

In Malaysia, the National Security Council issued many conflicting messages about travel between Sabah and the peninsula.

Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob did not order any quarantine for those returning from Sabah until Sept 27 when a surge in cases was reported and infections erupted throughout Peninsular Malaysia.

A request for returnees to undergo home quarantine might have been suggested, but one wonders if this was ever enforced, especially among politicians. This explains why many ministers were infected, and they in turn, infected others.

Anyone would have anticipated a rise, especially as there were a number of known hotspots in Sabah.

Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Khairuddin Aman Razali who returned from Turkey in July attended a few sessions in Parliament, hosted a number of official functions and did not self-quarantine as required by law.

He risked infecting many but he has not been censured for his actions. He only paid a paltry RM1,000 fine after he was exposed. On the other hand, citizens who committed the same offence were arrested, tried in court, imprisoned and heavily fined.

Khairuddin case set a precedent

Khairuddin, in comparison, was treated with kid gloves. Khairuddin’s case set a precedent, so Sanusi should not be surprised by the public’s reaction against politicians.

The NSC did not impose strict travel conditions between Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah. This was presumably done so that politicians and their aides could travel freely to campaign in Sabah. Ismail Sabri initially said that the situation was under control. This further confused the public.

Most citizens are law-abiding and follow the strict SOP and quarantine guidelines, but as we know, many politicians are too arrogant to follow the advice of the health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

Anyone with access to newspapers and social media would have seen photos of the political campaigns in Sabah, and would have been shocked to see that social distancing was seldom observed.

Incredibly, the spike in cases also prompted the health minister to blame the citizens. Dr Adham Baba claimed that we had been complacent.

Ministers should lead by example, not flout rules

Ministers do not seem to be aware that leaders, especially ministers and senior politicians, should lead by example and not flout the rules.

Sanusi should come down from his ivory tower and understand the people’s concerns. Dengue-related deaths do not close borders or force airlines to stop operations. Covid-19 has affected every nation and closed many borders as well as adversely affected the economy.

If Sanusi were smart, he would understand that the Sabah election was forced on the people.

Why hold an election during these uncertain times? The citizens are right to blame politicians for starting this fiasco and for the surge in Covid-19 cases in the country.


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