Since 18 March 2020, Malaysia has been under Movement Control Order (MCO). We’ve been staying home for over 3 months, religiously washing our hands, donning face masks in public, carrying and using hand sanitizer, avoiding large gatherings, and trying to keep a distance of 1 meter from people around us. We have become familiar with an often bandied term, “new normal”. What is this “new normal”?
At the end of February last year, we had a sudden change of government that literally sneaked in by the back door, displacing our legitimately elected government. Admittedly, our duly elected government faced problems being the government we expected it to be. It made some changes but dithered on some of the key changes the Pakatan Harapan promised in its election manifesto. The cost of living rose again due to the 1MDB financial scandal and other financial mismanagement and underhanded deals that had drained the country’s coffers. Citizens showed patience and tolerance in view of these hitches. We were prepared to give the new PH government a chance to straighten things out. We had also learned that we could change the administration if they proved unsatisfactory to most of the electorate. So, if we wanted a change at the next elections, we, the electorate, would have effected it through the ballot box.
Yet, without our consent or knowledge this back door government sneaked in, thinking they knew better than the electorate, not giving us a chance to make a fair judgment of our elected government at the end of its first 5 year term. Is this the ‘new normal’?
The new Perikatan Nasional (PN), as they style themselves, comprising 1 party that hopped to join those we threw out in GE14, began a ‘buying’ spree of MPs and party members from the PH political block. Is this habit of ‘buying’ the loyalty of ‘hoppers’ the new normal that they want us to adopt and believe in?
This hastily thrown together administration, didn’t make a better showing than our legitimately elected one, but made a laughably outrageous start with the PM’s One-man-show supported by an advisory council, instead of a Cabinet, made up of PH ‘hoppers’ and the same ‘rejected’ BN leaders relegated to the Opposition before this back door coup, for about 2 weeks.
Then came the MCO , dubbed the “lock down” in March, styled after the Italian full lock down at the time when Italy was clocking up one of the highest Covid 19 infection and death rates after China. Was that appropriate or was it a panic or guilt reaction of a “mandate-less” government? Yet, citizens again exercised patience and gave the “sneak-in government and hoppers” the benefit of the doubt. Since then, the Rakyat have shown an admirable tolerance of the unfolding shenanigans engaged in by this back door government.
The MCO was harsh in its restrictions on all resident within Malaysia’s borders but was also used to sharpen the agenda of the back door administration under Perikatan Nasional(PN) and its duplicate coalition Muafakat Nasional(MN), the difference between them is hard to make out.
As all who have resided in this country for long enough may realise, the PN agenda = BN agenda based on ethnicity and religion. Covid 19 seemed to present the opportunity to divert the Rakyat’s focus from their back door status to blaming the foreign workers, refugees and undocumented migrants for the spread of the corona virus. The resulting xenophobic environment incited by certain ultra right wing groups on social media was encouraged by administrative silence and inaction regarding verbal abuse, racist attacks and discriminatory actions against these particularly vulnerable communities. To make things worse, lock down measures imposed on areas with high migrant populations were cruelly severe. Immigration authorities aided the xenophobia by launching raids to arrest and detain undocumented migrants, including refugees, asylum seekers and foreign workers in places under EMCO (Enhanced Movement Control Orders) classified as ‘corona virus clusters’.
Then came the crack down on our constitutional right to freedom of expression on the excuse of curbing “fake news”. Several netizens, a local internet news provider, NGO activists, and an international news documentary broadcaster and an interviewee have all been hauled in by Bukit Aman PDRM HQ under the Sedition Act and Multi-media and Communications Act (among other laws). Is this necessary? Or is it breaking a peanut with a sledge hammer?
Is the costs entailed in such drastic action justifiable and worth it? The cost in police time and judicial time, paid with taxpayers funds. Or is it just a waste of time and money, simply to create a sensation that we don’t need when we are occupied with breaking the Covid 19 chain? All the government needed to do was to use its RIGHT OF REPLY to straighten things out and peacefully explain the situation to the public minus the cost to the national purse.
So, is this the “NEW NORMAL”, apart from having to observe protection measures affecting our daily lives, so we don’t get fined or detained for breaching changing SOPs? These are also frequently unclear with the practice of double standards by authorities. The current situation looks much more like an “ABNORMAL” rather than a “new normal”. Welcome to the era of Covid19, the suppression of free expression, our constitutional and human rights !
The above paragraphs were written last year, since then management of the pandemic has become more heavy handed and chaotic due to the ambiguity of government directives that are unequally enforced. Double standards abound i.e. a lenient standard for those government ministers and elites and a more restrictive and tricky one for the rest of the population. How does one work this out? In conclusion, the “new normal” is nothing but chaos, arbitrary penalization of ordinary folk without real justification and more dosh for some crony coffers. Can it get any worse? Our fate is in the hands of the Almighty!