KUALA LUMPUR: What the country needs as it faces a health crisis and political instability is for all political parties to come together and establish an interim government that will be trusted by the people, says Johari Ghani.
The former second finance minister said the task of the interim government should be solely to handle the Covid-19 pandemic and end the health crisis.
“This interim government shall be given a specific time frame and ample time to solely focus on addressing the pandemic, including managing the vaccination programme transparently.”
Johari said the way out of the current morass was for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to appoint an interim government which could be trusted by the people and the majority of political parties.
He told FMT that someone with leadership qualities who had experience in managing a crisis should be appointed to head this interim government.
“Such a person should also not have any political baggage or self interest and should have no intention of getting actively involved in the next general election.”
Johari’s statement comes in the wake of mounting frustration among the people over the government’s handling of the pandemic and related affairs. The public is fed-up with the indecisiveness, flip-flops in SOPs, confusing directives and statements, double-standards in implementation of SOPs, and the slow progress of the vaccination programme.
It also comes a day before Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah is set to meet his fellow Malay Rulers to try to chart a way out of the health crisis, political instability and economic agony facing the nation.
Johari also outlined several suggestions on handling the pandemic and the related economic woes.
Saying the proposed interim government must ensure nobody was left without food on the table, Johari urged for coordination between MPs, state assemblymen, the welfare department and local authorities to identify those who fell through the cracks. Cash assistance, he said, must be disbursed as soon as possible.
“The immunisation programme must be geared 100% towards benefitting the public so that lives and livelihoods can be saved, and saved fast,” Johari emphasised.
No one, the Barisan Nasional leader said, should benefit economically from it. Johari added that everything should be transparent right from the purchase and approval of vaccines, its distribution and allocation to the appointment of private hospitals and general practitioners.
“This has to be done quickly. The World Health Organization (WHO) should be our benchmark in anything we decide under this emergency situation. If we are transparent, the world will come to support us with vaccine supplies,” he added.
Johari suggested that the proposed interim government invest quickly on expanding intensive care units at hospitals and purchase needed equipment on a massive scale.
In addition, temporary centres should be identified in every parliamentary constituency to help people who are Covid-19 positive and who need breathing support.
He said the interim government should also explore available generic medicines that could be used as alternative options to treat people who were down with the disease but not critical, while waiting to be vaccinated.
These, he said, included Chloroquine, Hydroxychloroquine, and Lopinavir-Ritonavir which had already been approved and registered under the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency.
“The ministry of health must also be open to other alternatives being used by other countries or that have been approved by international bodies such as the WHO.”
Johari said relying only on vaccines as our exit strategy could be dangerous due to production and logistics issues, new Covid-19 virus variants that keep popping up and the limited time efficacy of the vaccines.
He noted that the United Kingdom, after vaccinating almost 50% of its population, had successfully reduced its daily positive cases but that the recent Delta variant had pushed up the cases higher. This has resulted in the UK government postponing the lifting of restrictions.
On the economy, Johari said businesses could continue to operate provided they undertook mass testing of their employees.
The proposed interim government, he said, should force employers to do mass testing on a weekly basis and those found positive should be made to quarantine themselves at home. Employers who fail to do this should not be given permits to open for business.
To encourage employers to do mass testing, he suggested that double tax deduction be given on the cost of the testing. Johari said the federal, state and local governments could subsidise testing for small and medium enterprises.
The former minister also said the Election Commission (EC) should start planning how to organise a general election within the next 18 months. As the pandemic will likely stay longer than anticipated, the method of organising the election has to be different.
He said the EC should therefore study how other countries had held their elections while managing to keep Covid-19 cases as low as possible.
CLICK HERE FOR OUR LIVE UPDATE OF THE COVID-19 SITUATION IN MALAYSIA