Wednesday, May 26, 2021

A week of government omnishambles

COMMENT | Throughout this week, there were rumours abound about a "total lockdown" to be implemented either in Selangor, or throughout the country.

This was due to the rise in the Covid-19 daily figures, which over the past few days have remained above 6,000. There was a lot of uncertainties, which gave rise to conjectures and speculation.

People knew people who heard that there was to be a "total movement control order (MCO)". Yet for a few days, nothing official was announced while rumours ran rampant.

The country was then told on Thursday that the National Security Council (NSC) would hold a meeting on the possibility of the so-called total lockdown. This was met with a barrage of criticism from netizens, who could not understand why the NSC would only be meeting the next day when the situation was already dire for the whole week.

Finally, after the much-hyped, much-anticipated meeting took place, a statement was issued by the prime minister to say that the government had agreed to "tighten" the implementation of MCO 3.0 by putting in place additional restrictions on the economic and social sectors.

However, the statement (which was distributed via PDF online), did not provide details of these tighter restrictions, and so the people were told to wait for them during the press conference of Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob

So again, the rakyat had to wait with bated breath for details of these tighter restrictions. On Saturday, in a 15 minutes speech, the senior minister informed people of these tighter restrictions, including 80 percent of government staff and 40 percent of private sector are to work from home.

Apart from that, businesses are to close by 8pm, including eateries. Public transport will operate with reduced capacity and frequency. Just like the last time, we were again told to wait for the International Trade and Industry Ministry to issue further standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Ismail's announcement was met with another round of criticisms. The bulk of the brickbats came on the decision to limit the operating hours of eateries.

Many pointed out that a similar decision was made during the second MCO in January, which the government had to later allow the extension of food outlets to operate until 10pm. Despite this, the government has made the same illogical decision again.

Indeed, there is no science or data for this decision. Already dine-ins are not allowed, so there should be no issue of people hanging around in crowds for long periods. However, by restricting operations to 8pm there will be a mad rush during dinner time for food deliveries to be made, and eateries would not be able to cope.

It also means that supermarkets will be crowded during peak times, as people only finish work at 6 or 7pm. It gives them just one hour to get food and buy groceries.

Even the decision on public transport seems illogical. Logic would dictate that if the capacity is reduced, frequency should at least be maintained if not increased. Instead, the Transport Ministry has decreased the capacity as well as the frequency.

It is as if these SOPs were made by people who are not in touch with realities on the ground. This begs the question, are these policymakers so disconnected from the people?

The omnishambles over the past week is, unfortunately, just another week in Malaysia’s confused measures to the worsening pandemic. Already, more than 2,000 people have died of Covid-19 over the past year and yet we are saddled by a government that simply does not know how to deal with the pandemic.

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


  1. pm bodo. lapi masih 61% sapot. jgn risau, asalkan orang kito.

    1. Supported by a katak-ised 犬养mfer in continuing its don't-spook-the-melayu-sensitivities fart!