Tag Archives: covid-19

Some very important questions to address first

Prime Minister-designate Ismail Sabri Yaacob announced yesterday that the Covid-19 pandemic management will now be officially known as the Special Committee on Pandemic Management and will include representatives from Opposition parties. A day earlier he said that the Special Covid-19 Aid (BKC) for the hardcore poor, B40 and M40 groups will be channelled to recipients from September 6-11.

These are carry-over programmes set up by his predecessor Muhyiddin Yassin and Ismail may just be announcing their continuation. The question, however, is whether he can make these decisions as prime minister when he is yet to be be sworn in?

It is unusual — and never done in any country — when Cabinet ministers were sworn in before the prime minister was sworn in. How can the prime minister carry out official business without being sworn in? How can a prime minister function legitimately as the prime minister without passing a confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat and proving his majority?

The reason given was that Ismail is under quarantine and couldn’t be sworn in with the Cabinet. The reason why he is yet to pass a confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat is yet to be given. He doesn’t need to be physically present in the Dewan Rakyat for a confidence vote. There is such a thing as Zoom conferencing!

The procedure of first appointing a prime minister by the Agong and then swearing him/her in and having him/her face a confidence vote in Parliament are constitutional requirements. Until these requirements are met, the prime minister and his/her Cabinet will remain an unconstitutional government.

Until the prime minister is sworn in and his majority proven in the Dewan Rakyat, the caretaker prime minister continues. This is the procedure to install a new government when a previous government falls mid-term from a lack of majority or when a prime minister and his/her Cabinet resigns.

It is extremely disappointing that Umno and Perikatan Nasional (PN) MPs don’t seem to realise the importance and significance of following constitutional requirements and procedures to prove their majority and thus ensure the legitimacy of their government.

The Agong followed the constitution in appointing the prime minister. It is now up to the appointed prime minister to follow the constitution by facing a confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat. Until he passes a confidence vote, he remains an unconstitutional prime minister.

Ismail may be following in Muhyiddin’s footsteps and in doing so, like Muhyiddin, he may be operating outside of the constitution.

I am puzzled why the Opposition is not calling out Ismail with regard to the confidence vote. They are unusually quiet. Instead, I am astonished that Opposition parties are willing to negotiate with an unconstitutional prime minister for reforms. If their “silence” is a “ceasefire” in exchange for perks, it is unconstitutional and must be exposed.

Soon after Ismail was appointed, Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders met with him to discuss the possibilities of introducing reforms such as equal allocations for all MPs, input from opposition parties to participate in the National Recovery Plan, introducing an anti-hopping law, increased participation of Opposition parties in select committees and raising the position of the Opposition Leader to the level of a senior minister.

Such reforms are no doubt good for the nation, but they must be instituted constitutionally by a constitutional government and the first people to demand for constitutional adherence should be opposition MPs. Instead, we have opposition parties making deals with an unconstitutional government.

Please put the cart before the horse or bullock! Make sure the government is constitutional first before making deals for perks for the Opposition!

Making deals is part and parcel of politics but deals that are made to enhance the position of MPs or ministers with no benefit to the people are just plain corrupt practices. Buying MPs over which was evident in Muhyiddin’s time was simply aimed at propping up an illegitimate government. Muhyiddin’s example must not be followed!

In the current political scenario, any deal with an unconstitutional government is corruption. Deals that are made with a rightful government without contravening the constitution and which will benefit the people and not MPs will, of course, be morally acceptable.

For example, a clear current issue regarding facing a confidence vote is the fact that it is not spelt out in the constitution. Weak politicians without the mandate of the people and who want to set up a backdoor government will use this omission to sneakily form a government without a confidence vote and claim it is constitutional.

Strong leaders who understand that a confidence vote is the democratic right of MPs to cast a vote on behalf of their voters to support or reject an appointed prime minister may, instead, rally the majority of MPs to agree to a procedure to elect the PM through a confidence vote and present it to the Speaker or the Agong for endorsement. In exchange for the support of the Opposition MPs, the appointed PM may agree to a reform that would strengthen the Opposition and hence the parliamentary system.

Such a deal is ennobling because it rallies bipartisan help to plug a technical gap in the constitution in the election of a PM during mid-term. Once the PM is elected and his government becomes constitutionally legitimate, a law or amendment can be passed that clearly states the need for a confidence or no-confidence vote in installing a mid-term prime minister.

Such “deals” are commendable because they solve problems and result in consequences that directly strengthen the constitutional rights of citizens.

For all intents and purposes, Ismail’s leadership and Cabinet are a continuation of Muhyiddin’s PN coalition. The country is where it is today because of the latter’s leadership. The economy is in the dumps and the covid-19 pandemic continues to spread unabated beyond the Klang Valley. Vaccination arrests the spread but between now and vaccination the virus keeps spreading because only 48.3% of the population is fully vaccinated according to the Our World in Data website.

Our figures are telling. As of yesterday, we have a total of 1.79 million covid-19 cases, and a total of 17,191 deaths. Could these figures have been much less if we had a better government?

Right now, that is our No 1 priority. Can we bring the daily cases and deaths down? And the most important question to address urgently and immediately is whether the Ismail Cabinet can arrest the raging pandemic so that deaths are fewer?

A confidence vote will determine if the MPs have confidence in Ismail to arrest the pandemic. Govt and Opposition MPs must put the people first and vote accordingly. If they have no confidence, they must make it clear so that an administration is installed that has the confidence of the majority of the MPs to solve this problem immediately.

It is such a rightfully elected administration that will succeed in controlling the pandemic because it will get the support of the whole nation.

So, a confidence vote needs to be urgently and immediately introduced. Deaths by covid-19 are on the heads of those who delay or will not introduce it.

PN’s deafening silence

Last Friday, retiring Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador exposed his boss, Home Minister Hamzah Zainuddin, as a meddling leader who allegedly attempted to interfere with the management of the police force and to use it for political advantage.

It raised a hue and cry but Hamzah did not respond to the criticisms and brick bats hurled at him. Nor did his boss, Muhyiddin Yassin, who sits in the prime minister’s seat and who, ultimately, is responsible for the performance of his bloated 70-member Cabinet. Why this silence?

Why maintain this heavily guilt-ridden silence for failing to be accountable to the people? Is this supposed to be the style of the PN leadership? Or, simply the indefensible defensive action of weak and insecure people who have been found out but refuse to accept responsibility for their action or inaction?

Hamid’s expose of Hamzah is a serious allegation and should be addressed by Muhyiddin yet nothing is being done to deal with Hamzah. Not only should Hamzah be disciplined but the PN coalition should resign on account of it because it amounts to failure to lead.

Muhyiddin’s so called “leadership” has led to a minister being accused by no less than the top cop himself and it must be acted upon not glossed over with silence. His leadership has led to one rule for ministers and another for the rest, a minister caught sleeping on the job, others who are invisible and, most importantly, the questionable management of the covid-19 pandemic in Malaysia with daily cases rising over 3,000, bringing the cumulative total to 427,927. The daily single-digit death tally went up to 23 on May 6.

Yet, no response from PN head, Muhyiddin. He is not alone in his seeming paralysis. India’s sick are dying without hospital beds and access to oxygen. The death toll there has averaged over 3,600 per day in the last seven days. In the face of such unbearable tragedy Prime Minister Narendra Modi has maintained an inelegant silence.

Citizens are dying but poor and weak leaders keep silent. Good leaders will face the people, accept criticisms and suggestions and improve. If their leadership does not benefit the people, they resign. DAP supremo, Lim Kit Siang, in exasperation, ended his article on the dangerous state of our pandemic (Makaysiakini, May 6) by pointedly saying “Malaysia is suffering at having the worst prime minister and the worst government in its 63-year history!”

Yet, not a word from Muhyiddin. He can’t or won’t handle Hamzah; he can’t or won’t reconvene Parliament. If he does, there’s still hope that a bipartisan effort will help arrest the rapid spread of the pandemic and decline of the economy. He can’t operate without the people’s money and resorts to selling assets; he won’t face the people with the truth. But, he wants to remain in power and refuses the help Parliament can offer. Thick-skinned and conscienceless.

Sworn in by the Agong, he needs to ask himself if he and his Cabinet are making the Agong look good? If the Cabinet has failed the trust of the Agong, it must resign. Whether there is an alternative coalition to take over the government or not is not Muhyiddin’s concern. He must step down and let those who can, take over the government because any government (without PAS and Umno) will be better than this!

The country isn’t looking good and Muhyiddin’s silence, like Modi’s, speaks eloquently of a dismally failing government. It’s an inelegant but deafening silence of its abilities or lack of them.

Better to step down than run the country into the ground!

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!

Stay home and enjoy yourselves!

The only way to beat the covid-19 pandemic is by containment, meaning we shouldn’t get it. The reason is because the human body has no immunity against this virus — according to reports circulating in the media. So folks, let’s beat this illness. Stay home and don’t pass it on!

Stock up your homes with a sufficient supply of food and indoor games like cards. But, don’t panic. Supermarkets and wet markets are open. And there’s always Grab and Food Panda and many other online food stores which deliver food at your doorstep in case of a change or an emergency.

Make sure you wash your hands and clothes with every contact outside of your home. Stay hydrated. Take hot drinks regularly. Keep the throat moist; the hot drinks will wash the virus into your stomach where the gastric juices will destroy it. These are just the basic precautionary steps. By now, most people should know what to do and what not to do when you consider all the info on covid-19 that’s swamping the media!

Outdoor exercises are not allowed. Well, exercise indoor. Google for all sorts of exercises you can do at home. By the end of this containment, we’ll be healthy and fit!

This time closeted at home is also a great opportunity to work at difficult relationships and enjoy being with family.  Enjoy home-cooked meal and bonding times by playing cards or other indoor games. Rest, get enough of sleep.

Keep spirits up! We can come through this!