Job prospects look grim? No worries, start a farm!

Most of us I have been talking with during this Movement Control Order (MCO) seem to have learnt a precious life lesson through this enforced stay-home experience: We don’t need much to live comfortably — and happily!

We managed on the essentials: food, water and electricity, and, the Internet, of course! The Internet is now an essential in the new norm. We didn’t entertain, shop or travel. So, our costs came down. We could live simply on the basics and it was enough!

With family members now all living under one roof, I’m sure there was much bonding time and I am sure some fighting time, too! When we live close with one another, friction is inevitable. It’s a sign that love is hitting the walls we put up in self-defence. Hopefully, it succeeds in breaking down those walls and rebuilding better and closer ties with one another. It can be trying but those who cut through always come out with better relationships.

Trying times, unfortunately, can also produce casualties. You may have heard of how staying cooped up with one another drove spouses, partners, siblings and relatives out of their minds! Life is, indeed, hard.

But, many have found living under the MCO a pleasant experience. When the March holidays began, my niece took her family to her parents’ home in Seremban to spend the holidays there. As soon as they arrived, however, the announcement came about the MCO and the weeklong holidays extended to three months and they are still there and enjoying every minute of it!

Her brother’s family lives nearby and every day they bring their two under four-years-old kids to the grandparents’ home. My niece’s youngest boy is six and the three kids have been having a whale of a time playing and eating home-cooked meals together!

My brother’s house has a huge back garden and in the evenings the whole family is out playing badminton, volley ball or football or running from one end to the other. My nephew says, “We have Olympics here in the evenings!”

Sometimes, the young ones will join the adults gardening, growing vegetables and flowers. They now have a vegetable plot and a flowering garden! Young and old love the time they spend together and doing things together.  The grandparents are old and sit back, letting their grown-up children oversee all the activities and enjoying having their family around.

It’s a very domestic, placid and bucolic life but a happy one. I live here in Subang Jaya but they keep in touch through video calls and so I don’t miss out on all the fun!

So, folks, if the future looks bleak and you know you are going to lose your job and stressed out about how to support your family and/or yourself, maybe consider the option of going back to your kampung or to the country and start a farm.

Rent or buy — if you can afford it — a plot of land. Build a simple home that can accommodate all who are dependent on you and grow rice, corn, tapioca and vegetables. Rear some chicken, goats and a couple of cows. You won’t die but will survive and you can feed your entire family. With whatever extra you have you can sell and who knows a growing business venture will start out of your self-reliance and determination to earn an honest living, honestly.

The government needs to make some allowance to allow people to go back home to start all over again.

The other option is to look for a viable business to generate income. Explore possibilities. Don’t sit on your bottom and wring your hands or stretch them out to the government for handouts. The government may not have enough and may be going broke like all the nations impoverished by the corona virus pandemic. You’ll be disappointed if you depend on them.

Strike out on your own and you’ll learn the skills of self-reliance. The countryside is an attractive alternative! Good luck!

 

 

It’s up to the MPs now, and Selamat Hari Raya!

In the past three months, we witnessed how Malay politics brought down a rightfully elected government and installed a government by appointment without the stamp of legitimacy by the Dewan Rakyat. I don’t have any issue with Malay politics, but, my predominant concern is that leaders, no matter what their politics, must always operate within the ambit of the constitution.

I have stressed this point in my recent posts and that is the only point I want to make concerning the current state of politics. I have made this point so often that I think I may be sounding like a broken record. Should there be more flouting of the constitution in the future by the PN government, my point will be the same: Please uphold and follow the constitution.

So, not to bore my readers any further, I have decided that I will make no further comment on current politics. I think my readers are smart enough to understand the stand I have taken and I don’t think I need to belabour the point.

Besides, after the May 18 Dewan Rakyat meeting, I believe it is now apparent to the MPs that the PN government is on a trajectory that could threaten our parliamentary democratic system of government if it continues not to test its majority at the Dewan Rakyat through a vote of no confidence.

I also believe we can trust our elected officials to fight on our behalf. Anwar Ibrahim is now the Opposition Leader and former prime minister, Tun Mahathir Muhamad, is in his corner. I’m sure many MPs realise the significance of a no-confidence vote now and how important it is to respect the mandate of the people. I’m sure we will see them standing up for the constitution and we will be rooting for them. It’s up to you, now, MPs!

That doesn’ mean I won’t write on politics at all. If some new developments take place and they warrant comment in the public debate, I’ll write on it.

Meanwhile, I’ll move on to other things. Folks, Hari Raya is on Sunday. Enjoy the break and the occasion though muted it might be due to the Movement Control Order. Nevertheless, it is a reason to enjoy!

Selamat Hari Raya!

 

 

PM of just a 100?

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has done it again — abandoned the requirements of the constitution and interpreted the Dewan Rakyat session in a logic only he understands!

According to media reports, he sent a note to the Dewan Rakyat Speaker saying that he is the “ketua majlis” (head of the council) and in that capacity said only the Agong’s address will be heard on the first session of Parliament under his leadership on May 18 because of Covid-19. In other words, there will be no debates and other matters that are followed according to the Standing Orders when a Dewan Rakyat session is convened.

“Head of council”? Where in the Federal Constitution does it say that a PM is a “ketua majlis”? The Dewan Rakyat is not a council and has no head except for the Speaker. But the PM is now ‘ketua majlis”?! Covid-19 is well under control in Malaysia and is an excuse rather than a legitimate reason.

Who’s advising the PM on constitutional matters? The Prihatin Nasional (PN) government by every day is sounding more and more like Umno under Najib Razak and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Is the PM aware that he will be embarrassing the Agong by inviting him to an improper session of his so-called council, which constitutionally isn’t a Dewan Rakyat session, and, therefore, can be challenged in court? He is willing to do this?

I guess it shouldn’t surprise anyone that he is resorting to non-constitutional means to hang on to power, Umno style. It’s apparent that the only reason why he is doing this is to protect his 70-member Cabinet and a few others who put him in power, all of whom don’t add up to even a 100. He is willing to sacrifice or compromise the democratic rights of more than 32 million people to protect about 100 people.

Muhyiddin is prime minister to these 100 but he is not prime minister to the rest. We didn’t elect him and he knows he doesn’t have a leg to stand on if he were to follow the constitution. Hence all these politicking and unconstitutional ways of doing things.

Look at the Malacca state assembly. Did they follow the standing orders when the PN assemblymen convened a state assembly without the opposition to elect their own Speaker? Now, in Kedah, the PN assemblymen want to remove Mukhriz Mahathir as Menteri Besar (state chief minister). Well, just call for a vote of no confidence in the state assembly. That’s the constitutional way of conducting state assembly business. There’s no need for statutory declarations and rushing to see the Sultan. Follow the constitution and call for a vote of no confidence. If PN wins it, Mukhriz will be ousted.

So, why don’t they do it? They are afraid they will lose? If you don’t have the confidence of the majority in the assembly, why seek to topple the current government? PN politicians are so greedy for power?

The PN government is an illegitimate government. Therefore, whatever it does will be illegitimate and can be challenged in court until it wins a vote of no confidence. That’s common sense. Anyone can see that. So, if they want to continue with their illegitimate business, it is their choice.

I’m glad that the Opposition MPs are not taking the open, brazen and shameless flouting of the constitution lying down. Mukhriz is insisting that Kedah state assemblymen follow the standing orders. MPs are speaking up about the absurdity of a one-day Dewan Rakyat sitting where there will be no debate. A lawyer has said that the validity of the one-day May 18 Dewan Rakyat sitting without debates can be challenged in court. Two other lawyers have filed a legal action to declare that the May 18 session is unconstitutional.

More people need to speak up against the unconstitutional conduct of the PN government which is tantamount to lawlessness. We should not condone any public official acting without regard to the rule of law.

 

Well done, Mr Speaker

The fact that Dewan Rakyat Speaker Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof has accepted former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s request for a motion of no confidence against his successor Muhyiddin Yassin clearly shows he is upholding the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.

Ariff recognises that in a parliamentary democracy — which is the form of government we practise — MPs have the right to move a motion of no confidence against a sitting prime minister — in this case, one who wrenched power from a rightfully elected government and refused to seek legitimacy from the Dewan Rakyat, and, in doing so, abandoned the practices of parliamentary democracy.

In accepting Tun’s proposal for a motion of no confidence against Muhyiddin, Ariff made a decision according to the provisions and spirit of the constitution. Tun had requested two proposals, one was the motion of no confidence against Muhyiddin on the basis that the latter does not command the confidence of the majority of the Dewan Rakyat and the other was to retain the Speaker in his current capacity until Parliament dissolved. Ariff accepted the former but dismissed the latter saying it was not in line with Standing Order 27.

He made the decisions based on the constitution. That is what the people want of our leaders: to follow the constitution. We don’t want leaders who seize power by political means and who do not comply with the constitution. We can’t have leaders who follow one law for themselves and another for others. We want leaders who will uphold the constitution and not circumvent it.

In this case, Ariff set a good example in complying with the expectations and spirit of the constitution.

I wish I could say the same of de facto Parliament and Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan. He said only government matters will take priority during the one-day May 18 sitting. I wonder if he is aware of how our parliamentary democracy works? Somebody should tell him it is the Speaker who has complete authority over Dewan Rakyat proceedings and there is no authority above him during the sessions. If he doesn’t know this, he should start studying the Westminister-style of the parliamentary system we follow in Malaysia and until he becomes knowledgeable on the subject he should say nothing more on it.

It is nor surprising that Takiyuddin doesn’t seem to know because he is a PAS member and PAS couldn’t care less about parliamentary democracy because they want– at all costs — to establish a syariah-compliant government and a parliamentary democracy is an obstacle to their objective. They would find a monarchy more suited to their feudal concepts of law and government.

When the motion of no confidence is introduced in the Dewan Rakyat, we can except PAS’ 18 MPs to vote against it. But all the remaining 204 MPs minus one (Muhyiddin) should vote for a vote of no confidence in Muhyiddin. Their vote will not be a vote against Muhyiddin’s government but a vote for the continuing practice of parliamentary democracy — that Parliament is the supreme lawmaking institution in Malaysia.

Malay leaders need to demonstrate that they are committed to and will stand by the constitution. It’s time they stopped using politics to seize power and legitimize it even when they go against the grain of the constitution. Non-Malays want a Malay leadership that complies with the constitution as the hope of non-Malays is in the constitution — not in political power.

So, all true-blue Malaysian MPs, Malay or not must fully back Tun’s motion of no confidence in Muhyiddin and cast their vote in favour of parliamentary democracy and vote out Muhyiddin and his government which shows no sign of following parliamentary democracy. Do this for Malaysia.

People, tell the govt to follow the constitution

Now that the government has eased some of the restrictions under the Movement Control Order (MCO), I hope more and more Malaysians will start calling on the government to convene a proper session of the Dewan Rakyat on May 18.

It should be a normal session where MPs will be free to ask questions and debate bills and call for a no-confidence vote. The current Prihatin Nasional (PN) government should not have dictated that only a one-day session of Dewan Rakyat is held on May 18 with limitations.

If it were a legitimate government and called for such a short session to fulfil constitutional requirements, that could be understood. As it is, it is illegitimate and needs to face a no-confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat as is expected of our parliamentary democracy to ensure legitimacy.

This government doesn’t seem to indicate any commitment to upholding our parliamentary democracy. So, the people need to raise a hue and cry to tell the current leadership that they expect the leaders to comply with the constitution.

It’s apparent that the PN leadership is dragging its feet about holding a proper session of the Dewan Rakyat for the real fear of losing a no-confidence vote. Well, that is the price they have to pay for seizing power through politicking and without complying with the requirements of a parliamentary democracy.

At all cost, our leaders must know that they have to uphold the constitution of the country and be totally committed to the parliamentary democracy we practise. When they don’t, the people must raise an uproar so that the leaders conform.

So, Malaysians, don’t let the PN government get away with their illegitimate acts. Protest and insist that the current government face a full proper session of the Dewan Rakyat.

 

 

It may be time for lawmakers to go back to their books

What is most worrying about the current crop of national leaders is their willingness to play politics to the extent of compromising the law and getting away with it in the name of race, religion and country.

Politicking, it appears, is the predominant means of securing power. Rule of law and strict adherence to the processes, norms and conventions of parliamentary democracy which this country practises sometimes are obscured by desperate politicking.

Take the former chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Datuk Noraini Ahmad’s now famous (or infamous) conclusion that about RM19.4 billion of GST funds was “unlawfully diverted” by the Najib Razak administration for the “good of the country” but it wasn’t “robbery” in rebuttal to former Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng’s description of the missing funds as “robbery”.

Without having to split hairs over the definition of “robbery”, the obvious conclusion is that if it was “unlawfully” moved, then it is wrong — it went against the law and the lawbreaker must face the law, not wiggle his way out of it.

The tendency to politick is a way of thinking that has been bred by Umno over six decades of rule. If Umno politicians find power slipping out of their hands, they politick and look for backing from a higher authority like a superpower like the US or China or a rich nation like Saudi Arabia or the royals to stay in power. But, they do not rely on democratic practices.

If you want to get your leader out, whip up enough support to hold party polls and vote him out. Or build up your team and support until the next general elections and vote him and his coalition out. All the politicking that is done will be carried out within the ambit of the law and democratic practices. The constitution provides the boundaries we can go up to and not beyond. When politicians go beyond the law, the Dewan Rakyat is duty-bound to call them out.

Failing to fall back primarily on the rules, norms and conventions of our parliamentary democracy is the reason why we have reached this state where an illegitimate government continues to govern without the stamp of approval of the Dewan Rakyat.

Until the current Prihatin Nasional government wins a confidence vote from the Dewan Rakyat, it has no constitutional authority to claim to be a prime minister or government of the people or to introduce policies and bills in Parliament. It must legitimize itself first, and then it receives the mandate of the people to govern. Isn’t that how the law works?

Perhaps, Umno-bred politicians are not aware of the demands and expectations of the constitution and the parliamentary style of government Malaysia practices. Now is the time to study the law and the constitution so that they learn how to follow their tenets.

Perhaps, the Dewan Rakyat can get constitutional experts like Shad Saleem Faruqi, who is a law professor with Universiti Malaya and currently holding the Tunku Abdul Rahman Chair as Professor of Constitutional Law, to conduct sessions with lawmakers as to what they can and can’t do under the law.

It would help in creating a political culture where adherence to the law and the constitution becomes the predominant overriding context in which public office and debate are conducted.

The people deserve lawmakers who strictly follow the law and the parliamentary democracy we practise.

Muhyiddin’s new political normal; the Dewan Rakyat must act

When Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced the extension of the Movement Control Order (MCO) from April 14 to April 28, he called on the people to adapt to the “new normal”. He said restrictions may be enforced for a longer period and urged the people to practise the new normals of avoiding mass gatherings and crowded places and looking after one’s personal hygiene.

It was good advice because the restrictions may continue as covid-19 is not going to disappear any time now. Until it runs its course and new cases stop or a cure is found, people have to keep practising the new social norms of frequently washing hands, maintaining social distances, wearing masks and avoiding large crowds even as we carry on with life.

However, the prime minister made no mention of what the new normal will be in government. What is apparent in his short tenure so far of less than two months is that he has sidestepped democratic processes. Is that going to be a new normal in his form of government?

He had three clear opportunities to show that he respects, honours and upholds the democratic conventions Malaysia practices as a parliamentary democracy but in all three cases, he chose NOT to follow them.

Firstly, when the Agong chose him as the 8th Prime Minister, there was a time span of about a day before he was sworn in. In that time span, the previous prime minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, was able to get a minimum of 112 MPs to back him as PM but the king by then had stopped all communication with him. (Tun said the palace had no communication with him.)

The whole country saw Tun had 112 signatures, which means Muhyiddin couldn’t have had a majority out of the 222 MPs, and, surely, Muhyiddin knew it too. If he respected the democratic practices that this country follows, as prime minister-designate, he would have realised he had lost majority support and declined the position in the democratic tradition. The fact that he didn’t do the obvious, that alone immediately disqualifies him as prime minister because it is the prime minister — not the king (as constitutional law experts repeatedly have said in the past) — who upholds the democratic processes of this country and advises the king accordingly, who concurs with the mandate of the people.

That’s the Westminister-style parliamentary democracy we follow but with that one decision NOT to decline Muhyiddin dismissed the democratic processes and chose to become prime minister by appointment.

If, in upholding democratic traditions, he then faced the Dewan Rakyat to test if he had the majority and won a vote of confidence, he would have received the respect and support of the people. But, he failed to test his appointment in the Dewan Rakyat and continues to lead an illegitimate government. Is that another new normal we are expected to adapt to?

Secondly, when covid-19 was declared a pandemic, he should have developed a plan of action and presented it to the Dewan Rakyat for approval. Again, he failed to follow democratic practices.

Thirdly, when he introduced the RM250 billion (later upgraded to RM260 billion) economic stimulus package, he should have presented it to Parliament as is customarily practiced by parliamentary democracies, for approval before announcing it. Again, he failed to follow democratic conventions.

How can a prime minister of a democracy fail to uphold democratic procedures and continue in that position? For failing to abide by the democratic practices by which he was elected to Parliament in the first place, he must be censured by his peers — at the Dewan Rakyat. The people should not be forced to adapt to a government where an unelected prime minister governs as if it were the new normal.

The May 18 Dewan Rakyat session is crucial as the people need to know if the MPs they elected will fight to establish parliamentary democracy as the supreme rule of law in this nation.

What the Dewan Rakyat must do

The issue isn’t to topple Muhyiddin’s Prihatin Nasional (PN) government by a vote of no confidence. The issue is to affirm the democratic processes and hold a prime minister who strayed from those principles to become accountable to the people again. The Dewan Rakyat must be seen upholding the democratic process and fighting for the mandate of the people to be respected by all, especially the prime minister.

A vote of confidence/no confidence must be called by the MPs because it is the democratic process. Whether PN wins or loses is of secondary importance. Both sides will lobby to get majority support and will be prepared for either outcome: win or lose.

Should PN fail to win a no confidence vote,  the Dewan Rakyat must make it clear as to who has their majority support. The support can’t be split between a few names. The MPs must be clear their support is only for one name.

Fully aware of the sentiments against the previous prime minister, I wish there is another name I can mention here. But, in the current circumstances, I believe Tun Mahathir needs to be brought back to helm an interim unity government to steer this nation through the uncharted territory that is before us. He is the only one who can command the respect of both sides, ensure that democracy is practised, prevent corruption and fairly distribute increasingly dwindling national resources for the benefit of the nation.

The current inexperienced PN government may be out of its depth dealing with a deteriorating economy and a restless people facing salary cuts and layoffs and a pandemic. If the way it distributed the RM260 billion economic stimulus package is anything to go by, it is apparent that the priority of the PN government is to throw money at its political base which is mainly in the B40 group, in the style of the former prime minister, Najib Razak.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has declared that the world economy has contracted by 3% and that developing nations will be hardest hit. Malaysia, too, will be hamstrung by a contracting economy. Economists, according to media reports, predict the Malaysian economy will contract by 2.5% to 4%.

Faced with a grim immediate economic future, can the PN government be trusted to make the right decisions or submit to political expediency which is the trademark of this government?

Is it prepared to trim its oversized Cabinet of 70 ministers and deputies? Is it prepared to cut Cabinet salaries? Is it prepared to make the tough decisions of trimming the civil service? If it does the above, it risks losing support and what happens next may be another Sheraton move to seize power for survival. To avoid such an eventuality, the PN government may resort to channelling funds from Petronas, Khazanah, EPF and the government-linked companies (GLC) to bail itself out. Unfortunately, the reserves of these would also be depleting. How much money can they spare to bail out the government?

There might have been a monetary reason in making PAS president Hadi Awang the Special Envoy to the Middle East — in the hope funds can be obtained from these nations to help out the PN government. Again, unfortunately, these nations’ gross domestic product (GDP) have also declined as a result of the covid-19 pandemic. How much help can they give?

To make matters worse, the first thing Hadi did as Special Envoy was to send a letter to Muslim leaders disparaging Pakatan Harapan leaders, his fellow Muslims and Malaysians. Clearly, he was operating out of his depth.

Yet, due to tightening funds, if Umno and Bersatu start squabbling over who gets whatever little is available, the only party that will emerge stable enough through the turmoil will be PAS because they don’t have much problems living with less. The situation will play right into Hadi’s hand, as there is nothing now to stop Hadi — as the next most senior person in government — to be appointed prime minister. And, that will be the end of democracy in this nation.

The above, no doubt, is a depressing picture of the immediate future but the potential of it happening exists in the PN government.

But, all of the above can be averted if Dewan Rakyat votes to uphold the democratic processes.

My own personal feeling is that things will not go well with the PN government unless it wins a no-confidence vote.

The Tun factor

The best government to lead Malaysia through the economic and political uncertainties of the future is a unity government led by Tun Dr Mahathir.

Perhaps, PH leader and Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Anwar Ibrahim needs to consider this option. He needs to talk with Tun and other MPs on how best to achieve this. It must be a well-thought-of plan that can be executed quickly and efficiently with the support of the majority of the MPs in the event Muhyiddin fails a no-confidence vote.

This time, if Tun is given the mandate to lead a unity government, he must be given overwhelming support, perhaps of more than a 2/3 majority so that it is clear that the Dewan Rakyat wants no other leader. There should be no undermining of his position but unstinting support backed by a smaller Cabinet filled with good leaders picked up from all the parties.

Tun’s leadership is needed to ride out the hard economic and political times ahead. I believe, at this point in time, he is the best choice to lead Malaysia until the next general election. I also believe that should he come back as prime minister for this short period, the Najib factor will be neutralised for good and there will be political stability. By the end of Tun’s term, Malaysia’s economic decline will be arrested and institutions would be finetuned so that the problems of the past do not repeat.

Then, from the 15th general elections onwards, Malay-led political coalitions can present their respective teams to the people and it’s up to the people to choose their representatives. Democracy will continue — vibrantly!

Life must go on

Tomorrow’s Good Friday. Christians all over the world, however, will not be going to church. Church will come to them online. Churches will either live stream Good Friday services or upload pre-recorded services.

So, there’s no excuse not “attending” a Good Friday or Easter Sunday service. They are available to you at your fingertips! Churches are doing the responsible thing in not having live services. They are adapting to the restrictions placed as a result of covid-19 by using technology to make sure their congregations can continue with the practices of their faith.

Life must go on with or without covid-19. Just as religious practices are continued albeit with some adjustments with the help of IT, other aspects of life need to carry on, especially if the Movement Control Order (MCO) is extended.

Repairs need to be attended to, household items and personal products need to be replenished, hair needs to be done, hobbies need to be developed, online studies will carry on and items for class projects need to be bought, hospital appointments need to be met, vehicles need to be maintained.

As we adjust to the MCO, we can’t hold off on living. We have to go on living because we have no idea for how long we need to have the MCO. We could have held our breath and confined ourselves indoors for a short while but if the MCO is extended, some flexibility needs to be offered to the public so that they can carry on with life under the MCO. But, such flexibilities must be strictly and efficiently managed.

More shops need to reopen so that bored people can buy stuff to take home and enjoy for a change. Some sectors may need to reopen and people reemployed so that they earn incomes and the economy doesn’t grind to a halt. More thought needs to be given to how much flexibility can be managed without giving openings for the spread of covid-19.

Perhaps specific hours must be given for such businesses to stay open. At the same time, the current practices of wearing masks, sanitizing hands and trolley carts and maintaining social distances are strictly maintained.

Some flexibility must be allowed, otherwise we will go mad confined indoors! I try to spend at least 15 minutes every day out in the open on my porch every day but I am the only one who is out! There isn’t anyone to even shout across the front gates! If you are living alone, do find someone to chat with even if it means shouting over your porch to your neighbours! And, use the phone to call and chat with people.

I’m grateful to family members and friends who call me often to see if I am ok. I’ve started doing the same calling friends and relatives and chatting over the phone. It helps a great deal to maintain one’s sanity!

Can this govt take care of the people in the long haul?

Singapore premier Lee Hsien Loong made a statement in an interview with CNN last Sunday that will be well for all to take note of. He said that it would take years for the covid-19 pandemic to take its course as it goes around the world.

This is the likely scenario for the whole world in the immediate future: we have to live with covid-19 for a long time. Are we prepared for it? Is this government able to steer this nation through the challenges that are ahead of us due to the pandemic?

The future is grim. As nations go into lockdown mode, the world economy is collapsing and individual nations will go down with it. Malaysia will not be exempted. In fact, we will be badly affected since we are a trading nation dependent on exports of oil and palm oil, the price of both have dropped drastically.

We are going to have limited resources, which means there will be intense competition for these and desperate people will fight for these resources tooth and nail, abandoning principles.

We got a taste of it through the way the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government usurped the mandate of the people and established itself as the government. We got another taste of it in the way the Movement Control Order (MCO) was introduced — without comprehensive solid planning but in an ad hoc manner, resulting in initial chaos. After much criticisms, they corrected themselves. They brought in the defence forces. The police went quiet as the Defence Minister began calling the shots. Isn’t this the job of the Home Minister? Why has not the Prime Minister intervened and call on the right people to do their jobs?

Then, the announcement of the RM250 billion economic stimulus package. Under this package, RM128 billion has been allocated for the people’s  welfare, RM100 billion for business and SMEs and RM2 billion to strengthen the economy. In contrast, the Health Ministry gets RM1 billion to fight covid-19. (An earlier RM20 billion package by the previous government will also be used.)

More than 50% of the package will go to the people in the form of cash aids amounting to about RM3400 per person in addition to the salaries of the recipients. Pensioners and civil servants of Grade 56 will get a one-off payment of RM500. All this money to people who are already paid monthly salaries?

What about help to those who don’t have jobs or who have lost their jobs on account of the MCO? The construction workers, drivers, the security guards, the hawkers, the part-timers, the homeless, and, yes, the illegals. Again after criticisms, help was diverted to them. But, I still haven’t heard of any help to the poor estate Indian worker who has to stay home by the Prime Minister of “all Malaysians”!

Was this a package to give easy money to Malay voters to keep this so-called Malay-majority government in power? If so, it clearly shows that “Cash is King” is back! It aims to appease Malay voters but is it good for the nation, throwing scarce resources to people who really don’t need it when it could have been used for stimulating the economy or keeping it going through the current tough times that will definitely stretch into the immediate future?

RM100 million was set aside for businesses for loans which companies are not going to use because businesses are not operating! Businesses will want to cut costs not take on more loan commitments.

Resources are going to decrease even further as the economy spirals downwards. In the face of limited funds, we need a strong leadership which will fight for the people, so that in the tough times ahead, we know our interests are not going to be overruled by others with vested interests. We need a strong leadership that abides by the constitution and stands up to vested interests when there’s a conflict between vested interests and people’s interest. In short, we need a government elected by the people so that the mandate of the people is prevented from being manipulated for self-serving ends.

Such a leadership has not yet emerged since the PN government took over. The actions of the current government are visible to all and we don’t know if the fumbling and bungling will give way to a strong leadership that puts the interests of the people first. So far, there has been no indication of that. Protecting the mandate of the people is primary to encouraging them to move along with the leadership through the hard times ahead. We need a leadership that has won the right of the people to lead them through the tough times ahead. Otherwise, the people are going to suffer needlessly.

In the short time that the PN has taken over the reins of government, only the Health Ministry has done its job well. Under the leadership of its very able director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, the effort to control the pandemic is underway — without the interference of the Cabinet. His daily briefings to the people show he is reassuringly on tops of things.

That, perhaps, is a clear indication that the people can do without the present illegitimate Cabinet unless it legitimates itself first.

Give now to the public, not take

I find it very, very difficult to understand why rich organisations seek contributions from the public. In good times, I can understand it as people have extra cash and would be happy to contribute to a good cause. But during hard times, I would think that organisations would know better than to ask the public to fund their initiatives, no matter how beneficial it is to the public.

Take the Star Foundation’s Star Frontliners Initiative to which the Star Media Group, which owns The Star newspaper, has pledged RM1 million to help provide essential medical supplies to fight the covid-19 pandemic. It’s indeed a very laudable project. Hospitals need testing kits and respirators in the event there is a spike in covid-19 cases. We don’t want a situation as in Italy and Spain where medical health personnel have to make the heart-wrenching decision as to who can use the respirators and who can’t and are left to die because they don’t have sufficient respirators.

I totally support the Star Foundation’s initiative but, surely, it can get funds from sources other than the public? In the current crisis, the people are overwhelmed. Even those who can afford to take care of themselves and their families are stretching the ringgit because they have now more dependents to take care of — more are staying home, more family members and extended family members are out of jobs, house helps and their families are without jobs and they, too, are being helped.

Savings and educational funds are being tapped into. Yet, because we are aware of the gravity of the situation many people will still contribute whatever they can. They know that they may be victims and need such medical equipment and give now, thinking they are eventually helping themselves. All the more reason why rich organisations should not exploit their vulnerability and depend on them for funds.

The fact that rich organisations ask for funds from the public in trying times simply reflects a disconnect with the people on the ground. It shows that they have lost touch with the reality on the ground. That is crass insensitivity.

Not that the public should not be asked to give. Sure, inform them that such a fund exists and is seeking contributions but don’t depend on the people to provide the bulk of the funds. Often, in trying times as everyone wants to help, a number of funds will spring up.

Recently, the Cabinet launched a Covid-19 Fund where the ministers contributed a portion of their salaries. That’s a good gesture but they are asking the public to contribute too. And some will.

Now, there’s the Star Frontliners Initiative. People are expected to give to different funds. How much do they have to give? Isn’t this a time when the government and wealthy organizations give to the public?

The homeless, the poor, the students confined in hostels and the elderly living alone need help and food because their movement and sources of food and essentials have been restricted by the Movement Control Order. Set up initiatives so that vulnerable groups such as these get the essentials they need.

Instead of seeking funds from the public, the government and organisations such as the Star Foundation should jointly form one fund with the sole aim of controlling the covid-19 pandemic. They can get the help of big companies and high net worth individuals to contribute a percentage of their net profits to the fund. With the money they can negotiate with suppliers so that enough covid-19 test kits are distributed to the hospitals and respirators can be delivered at short notice in the event of a shortage.

Right now a number of ad hoc initiatives are being introduced but these will not have the dramatic effect a combined and concerted effort will have on the population.

By these efforts, if we reach a stage of zero new cases and there’s still money or bought equipment in reserve, that can be donated to countries which are struggling with the pandemic. It will elicit a grateful response which may open up new markets for our products in the future.

What we need now is a joint concerted effort to battle the covid-19 pandemic not uncoordinated efforts relying on public largesse. Right now the public needs the government and rich organisations to help it not the other way around!