Call on the government to engage the best minds in Malaysia to work in unity and solidarity, under the motto of “Act Fast and Do Whatever It Takes”, to save Malaysia and Malaysians from the Covid-19 Pandemic

Three weeks ago, I called on the Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to immediately adopt a new government motto “Act Fast and Do Whatever It Takes” to save people’s lives, jobs and livelihoods in the unprecedented invisible war against the Covid-19 outbreak.

I asked the government to show seriousness, competence and urgency to deal with the economic catastrophe of the Covid-19 pandemic and also suggested that the government give top priority to ensure that any form of aid to the health and medical sectors must be made without limits instead of seeing government health workers turning garbage bags into protective suits because of shortage of supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE).

However, the announcement that all government MPs will be given posts in government-linked companies (GLCs) is not in the spirit of “Act Fast and Do Whatever It Takes” but a betrayal of the public trust to save Malaysians from the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is very opposite of “Act Fast and Do Whatever It Takes” spirit to save people’s lives, jobs and livelihoods as it is a dishonourable and even dishonest example of the “Give Jobs to the Boys” motto during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Malaysians are making great sacrifices in the national lockdown of their economic pursuits for at least six weeks under the movement control order (MCO) but government MPs seem only interested in posts and positions in GLCs!

For this reason, I fully endorse the criticism of the PKR President, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim yesterday deeming it criminal for Perikatan Nasional backbenchers, regardless of merit or qualification, to be assured positions in GLCs at a time when many are struggling financially due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

We are paying a very heavy price in the second wave of the Covid-19 outbreak in Malaysia, which has claimed 82 lives and recorded some 5,000 Covid-19 confirmed cases from 22 cases in mid-February, as well as the catastrophic movement control order (MCO) from March 18 which froze economic and social activities in the country to break the chain of transmission of Covid-19 virus.

This is the time for all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion, region or politics, to “Act Fast and Do Whatever It Takes” to save Malaysian lives, jobs and livelihoods, and not to “Act Fast and Do Whatever It Takes” to feather one’s nest in disregard of the national interest.

It is most shocking that four weeks after the MCO, the Health Director General, Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah is making a public appeal for the sustainable supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers instead of being reduced to reliance on imports and providing a breakdown of when the various personal protective equipment (PPE) items would run out.

This is not a reflection of a government’s “seriousness, competence and urgency” to tackle the unprecedented Covid-19 crisis, for such a grave problem should already have been addressed as we are in the twelfth week since the first Covid-19 case in Malaysia on January 24!

Isn’t there a commander-in-chief to ensure that such a grave problem as the sustainable supply of PPE is addressed and resolved?

Numerous recent instances of confusion galore in the higher reaches of government during the Covid-19 crisis such as allowing barber shops and hairstyling salons to operate and its U-turn, the continued use of outdated figures on the red, orange, yellow and green zones on Covid-19 infections in the country or even the crash of the MITI website, show that the best minds in the country are not being engaged in the invisible war against Covid-19 – not to the mention the farces over “warm water”, Menteri, Doraemon, tik-tok and “abused housewife” incidents.

Malaysia is in unchartered territory for the post-Covid-19 scenario is a terrain which humanity had never traversed, but Malaysia and the world must now grapple with these unprecedented challenges.

Are we in Malaysia ready for an exit strategy from the Covid-19 pandemic?

We cannot impose a lockdown of the country for 18 months – which is the time-span when an effective vaccine against Covid-19 is developed and widely available.

We have to strike a balance between saving lives and saving the economy, for many lives will be lost when the economy is devastated beyond repair - which is why we have to live with the Covid-19 virus at least for 18 months.

Can the Malaysian government lead Malaysians to accept the new norms in a post-Covid-19 era, where social distancing is a must for all economic, political and social activities?

Are we in a position to follow what is happening in other countries in the world, whether China, South Korea, Singapore, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Spain, France, UK and the United States and learn from their success and failures?

This is why there must be robust and ongoing debate on the exit strategy for Malaysia and why Pakatan Harapan is calling for a special session of Parliament specifically on the Covid-19 pandemic.

Spain and Austria have today allowed partial returns to work but Britain, France and India extended lockdowns to rein in the new coronavirus while the United States, where the death toll exceeded 25,000, debated how to reopen its economy.

Spain is after the United States, the second country in the world with the most number of confirmed Covid-19 cases – 172,541 cases – and with 18,056 Covid-19 deaths, the third country with the most number of Covid-19 deaths after United States and Italy. In the last 24 hours, there was an increase of 3,961 Covid-19 confirmed cases and 499 deaths.

Austria, with 14,226 cases and 384 deaths is the top 17th country in the world with the most number of Covid-19 confirmed cases and the top 16th country in the world with the most number of Covid-19 deaths.

The World Health Organisation has warned that restrictions should be lifted slowly to avoid a resurgence of the virus.

WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said appropriate measures should be in place before lockdowns are lifted, including "significant" capacity for tracking infections and contacts of those infected.

Malaysia must be commended for sliding in both its international rankings, from the top 17th nation for Covid-19 confirmed cases and the top 33rd country for Covid-19 deaths when the MCO was imposed on 18th March to the top 36th country for Covid-19 cases and top 41st country for Covid-19 deaths four weeks after the MCO – a measure of the success and effectiveness of the MCO.

In the face of an unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic, which has infected two million people in over 210 countries and territories, and killed over 120,000 people, threatening to bring many countries to their knees, this is the time for Malaysia to engage the best minds in the country, regardless of race, religion, region, politics or personal interest, to “Act Fast and Do Whatever It Takes” to save Malaysia and Malaysians by working in unity and solidarity to win the multiple wars – public health, economic, information – of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri