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Sunday, March 29, 2020

Even in times of crisis, criticisms matter

Malaysiakini

It was recently reported that the Ministry of Health is preparing for a "third wave" of Covid-19 cases. Health Ministry director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has described this potential third wave as a "tsunami".
According to him, he received information that a particular ministry had approved 8,000 of its staff to go on leave overseas for the school holidays, which began on March 14, 2020.
This would mean that throughout the movement control order (MCO) that started on March 18, 2020, there is the possibility that a significant number of Malaysians would be overseas and they would be returning to Malaysia.
I asked this very same question on Twitter a few days ago. And while many who responded were similarly concerned, there were a few who berated me for purportedly "politicising" the issue.
“Do not politicise this crisis! What has happened, give solutions, do not blame anyone.”
The phrase "stop politicising the crisis" has been bandied about ever since the MCO was announced. While it is true that this is not the time for partisan politics, the phrase "stop politicising" has become a mantra to silence those who question the actions of the government in dealing with this crisis.
In the case of the 8,000 ministry staff, it would be fair to ask why their leave was not revoked before the school holidays. The leave would have been approved earlier but it could still be revoked, especially since the World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 a pandemic on March 12, 2020.
We could also argue that the government could have decided to impose the MCO earlier than March 16, 2020, when it was clear that the number of positive cases was on the rise since March 13 and 14, 2020.
These questions are valid in light of the fact that significant resources would need to be channelled if there is indeed a third wave "tsunami", not to mention the possibility that the MCO would be extended further.
Similarly, the government has recently announced that NGOs would not be allowed to provide aid directly to those in need and must do so through the nearest Welfare Department office. Many have again questioned this and asked the government to reconsider, since there is every possibility that the Welfare Department offices would not be able to cope with the influx of aid, among other issues.
In times of crisis, there is certainly more leeway given to the government. But that does not mean that it is allowed to do as it pleases, without scrutiny or criticism. The government is not perfect. Scrutiny and criticisms, if done the right way, can improve how it operates.
As responsible citizens, we must continue to voice out to ensure that whatever measures and decisions made by the government would be truly beneficial to the people.
This is not to score political points or to oppose for the sake of opposing, but to ensure that the country can pull through in these trying times.

SYAHREDZAN JOHAN is a civil liberties lawyer and political secretary to Iskandar Puteri MP Lim Kit Siang. - Mkini

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