‘They steal so much that they can’t give us free masks’ - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Saturday, March 21, 2020
Butcher with face mask
Malaysiakini : COMMENT | ‘Just the other day, I was out getting food after being stuck in my room…’“Around
the world, governments talk about unity in a collective effort to
tackle perhaps our greatest challenge since the Second World War. Here,
in Malaysia, Muhyiddin played politics at his first coronavirus meeting
when he excluded leaders of Harapan-led states. This is not leadership.”- Mariam Mokhtar, Malaysiakini columnist
| It all started innocently enough with a trip to the post office. With
the movement control order (MCO) in place, I was settling down to
finally watch ‘Smiley's People’ online. Truth be told, with the backdoor
government in place and the Covid-19 stalking Malaysians, I was not in
the mood for politics.
My interactions with the police and medical
services personnel who have been operating in my area have been
cordial. They have been doing an extremely good job in dispersing crowds
and advising people to stay at home. In fact, just the other day,
I was out getting food after being stuck in my room the whole day, I
was approached by a group of police personnel and medical officials.
They got this old sailor a chair and placed me in a comfortable unused
area so I could sit for a bit while waiting for my takeaway meal.
I have nothing but derision for political operatives, my anecdotal
experience with the state security personnel has been pleasant and they
have been professional - looking out to help senior citizens and
advising people to stay at home. Compliance has been generally rational
where I live.
Anyway, a newfound friend of mine dragged me away
from my laptop. He was a retired trader who was living off his meagre
savings. He was only a few years younger than me but he insisted on
calling me “Pakcik”. He needed to pay his bills and wanted me to
accompany him to the post office. He suffers from a mild physical
disability and while he is mobile, he is worried that he would cause an
inconvenience to strangers and prefers it if a friend lends a hand. I
enjoyed interacting with him because our conversations in Malay were
always peppered with his observations and musings on contemporary city
life viewed through the lens of his Terengganu Weltanschauung.
must always pay our bills on time, Pakcik,” he said. This virus should
not be an excuse to be lazy in our payments, he continued, as we slowly
drove to the nearby post office. I asked him why his kids were not doing
this and he said his two boys had completed their technical studies and
were working in Singapore and Vietnam. They send back money so at least
he and his wife could pay their bills on time. He was strictly
observing the MCO, going so far as to tell all his friends not to go to
prayers but to stay at home and pray.
When we arrived at the post
office, we were told that we could only go in if we had mask. Since
neither of us had mask, we could not go in. My friend went ballistic.
Speaking in his Terengganu dialect he said that he and his wife had
finished the face masks they had. Since they were not hoarding because
they wanted other people to have access to face masks, he now did not
I diffused the situation, and these two seniors went to
every pharmacy and even clinics around the area looking for face masks.
Everywhere, it was out of stock. Here we are supposed to be fighting a
war and there were many citizens who did not have access to face masks.
What were we supposed to do? We went back to the post office and
my friend started shouting at the personnel outside who refused to let
us in. He bellowed, “They steal so much money and they cannot even give
us free face masks?”
Just when I thought the situation was going
to get worse, a young Chinese kid with blonde hair, came and gave us a
couple of face masks. When we wanted to pay him, he merely shook his
head and walked back to his motorcycle. Apparently, members of my family
had the same experience and were lucky enough to have the same outcome -
where a good Malaysian came to their rescue.
‘It’s about corruption’
friend dropped me back at my place. It was a short drive but long on
political polemics. They have stolen so much and they cannot even now
stop their politicking, my friends exclaimed. When my friend calmed
down, he said that this was not really about face masks. I know, I said.
This is about corruption.
The corruption of the system and our
souls, he said. “People are more interested in praying than seeing that
the religious authorities help the rakyat.” This is the time when our
religious leaders should be handing out face masks and hand sanitisers,
and giving people proper information, he said in his stark Terengganu
accent. “We have the money, Pakcik. See, they stole so much so of
course, there is money,” he added. It sounds so simple when my friend
puts it that way.
Former domestic trade and consumer affairs
minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail has expressed his opposition to the
price hike of face masks, articulating that the deal that the former
legitimate government came up with is better than what this backdoor
government has come up with.
From a Malaysiakinireport
- "They (face mask producers) asked for the government to make it
easier for them to get workers and also asked for permission to operate
in three shifts without bureaucratic interference as well as to be given
tax exemptions (for imports of material) from the Customs Department,"
said Saifuddin. Apparently, the producers did not ask for a price hike.
me be very blunt. The incident I described was not really about
bureaucracy or anything like that. The post office was just looking
after its workers and people should be wearing face masks. The problem
here, as my friend and I discussed, is that instead of making these
essential items part of the war effort, this backdoor government is
condoning a price hike and in essence, encouraging hoarding.
the government should be doing, instead of making backdoor political
moves against its rival, is leading the war effort. Religious places
should be distributing free face masks and sanitisers to its congregants
(or for that matter, to everyone) instead of spreading toxic
Honestly, when the Prime Minister’s Office allegedly
pulls the allocation for parliamentarian Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman,
and add to this the “accident” of leaving out opposition states from a
high-level meeting to coordinate action against the pandemic, can anyone
really have faith in this government?
I’m be back in my bunker,
but I’ll just say this. I don’t think this is a war. This is an
occupation and the virus is winning because we have a leadership which
is hampering the resistance.