The big lie that rank and status do not matter in this pandemic - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Wednesday, October 07, 2020
Malaysiakini : "Covid-19 does not recognise ranks or status, it can infect anyone. The SOPs set by the authorities must be abided by all." - Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin
COMMENT | "Abah's" joke about using the "rotan" on those ignoring the Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) does not seem to have gone down well with a certain section of the voting public. This, of course, is to be expected. The reality is that many people who support the various political power structures that make up the Perikatan Nasional government got the joke.
The vast majority are comfortable with a paternalistic attitude and the politically incorrect humour that comes with it as long as a certain level of economic comfort and political stability is maintained through a system of entitlements that forms the basis of Malaysian politics. There is this canard that political types propagate that Covid-19 does not recognise rank or status. While the virus may not make such distinctions, such distinctions matter when it comes to overcoming the health and economic consequences of getting this virus.
The fact is that rank and status is the main reason why we have a resurgence of this virus because of the recently concluded Sabah elections. The reasons for the polls and the way that SOPs were disregarded makes a mockery of Abah's statement that there were no double standards when it comes to enforcement and regulations. When you have rank and status, the rules governing the halting of the spread of the virus does not apply to you, and this privilege is extended to the rank and file which put not only their lives in danger but also their communities.
The same rules, of course, do not apply to the average joe rakyat. Beyond that, the idea of quarantining for two weeks and not being able to earn an income is a question that the people who do not have that rank or status, which immunises them from the economic consequences of this virus, face every time the virus rears its ugly visage aided by irresponsible people. Think about it this way. The virus infects a dumb politician because he or she goes on the campaign trail and the state ignores SOPs violation. An average joe becomes part of the politician's cluster and then has to figure out how he or she is going to go through the quarantine process or the infection process. Meanwhile, the paid political operative gets to quarantine in the comfort that his or her rank and status provides.
Mind you this is not a criticism against the front liners who have been doing a fantastic job. One of the bright spots of this pandemic is that for the most part, race or religion has not been a factor in average Malaysians getting access to healthcare. Indeed, the irresponsible way in which these politicians behave endanger the welfare of front liners. This just goes to show you how political operatives use front liners when it suits their propagandistic needs but treat them like trash when they need to secure power no matter the cost.
Boo Su-Lyn, editor online magazine CodeBlue, did a wonderful piece on how politicians – from both sides – operated around and bulldozed SOPS during the recently concluded Sabah elections. She wrote: "No action was publicly taken against politicians or campaign volunteers who did not follow health SOPs in the Sabah election, despite the Defence Ministry regularly publishing statistics of arrests against people for patronising pubs or nightclubs, or for not socially distancing or wearing face masks.
"The Ministry of Health (MOH) only mandated testing at airports for Sabah arrivals from Sept 27, a day after Sabahans went to the polls, even though health authorities already noticed Covid-19 cases with Sabah travel history popping up in other parts of the country since a week prior on Sept 20." The lead up to the elections, as well as the aftermath, demonstrated how not to contain a pandemic. Airports were crowded and testing areas besieged. There were long waits in crowded spaces, and of course, a political apparatus which breathed a sigh of relief that it won the election but then got down to the infighting over the chief minister post.
In a situation like this, does anyone really think that political operatives were thinking of the Covid-19 virus? Of course not. Their rank and status meant that they had other things to think about, but more importantly, they would not be subjected to the same kind of consequences for breaking SOPs because the state was too busy cracking down on the average joe rakyat Boo, if you recall, was questioned by the state because she had the temerity – as a journalist covering health issues – to expose the findings of a government report on the Sultanah Aminah Hospital fire in 2016 that killed six patients. I wrote:
"What the independent inquiry exposed was systemic dysfunction in the various parties that were supposed to ensure public health and safety, but more importantly, the findings finally explained why six people had to die because the system failed them." PN's religious czar Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri (photo, above) apologised – for exactly what I can't really tell – but this idea that political and religious operatives who knew that we are still in the midst of a pandemic but carrying on as business as usual, is the kind of Trumpian move that will eventually bring this country to its knees.
Keep in mind that the health apparatus in this country said that there would be another lockdown if the figures were in triple digits. "If it reaches three digits, we have no choice but to reintroduce the MCO (to curb the spread of the pandemic), and we will see. "I understand that if the MCO is enforced again, it will make things difficult for all parties, including those of us who want to work and so on but this measure must be taken," Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Ismail Sabri Yaakob said in July.
Now, of course, because of the political games played by people with rank and status, Abah is singing another tune. Now there will be no lockdown but targeted lockdowns which in many ways would still affect the business ecosystem around the country. Of course, there are good economic reasons for not locking down but as other countries have demonstrated a second lockdown is inevitable if complacency sets in, or worse, the political apparatus is irresponsible.
So all political operatives who most probably started this new wave of the virus are telling us that rank and status does not matter. Well, the fact is that it does matter. The cold hard truth is that if you have rank and status, you get away with behaviour that will get the average joe rakyat thrown in jail.
Even worse, you will get people supporting such behaviour in the name of political, racial or religious solidarity.