Editorial Notes

Prioritise fighting virus in Malaysia over political power struggle: Sin Chew Daily

The paper says that politicians must put aside their political agendas and not to exploit the pandemic as a tool for their power-grabbing games.

Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia's opposition leader, center, and other opposition lawmakers hold up a banner at Merdeka Square after marching toward the parliament building in Kuala Lumpur to demand Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's resignation in Kuala Lump
Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia's opposition leader, center, and other opposition lawmakers hold up a banner at Merdeka Square after marching toward the parliament building in Kuala Lumpur to demand Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's resignation in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Monday, Aug 2, 2021. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

KUALA LUMPUR (SIN CHEW DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - When daily new infection numbers have hovered above 10,000 for 21 days in a row, when the average daily mortality in July stood at 124, and when the mortality rate is inching towards 1.0 per cent from 0.6 per cent, the five-day "special parliamentary sitting" beginning July 26 has not only failed to seek effective solutions to contain the pandemic, but has even been deferred and abruptly ended on the pretext the August House has been infiltrated by the coronavirus.

Everyone can see very clearly that the parliamentary sitting drowned in noise has been reduced to a political battlefield for lawmakers on both sides of the divide.

At the same time, it also foretells that there is no way to extinguish the fire of political war before the next general election.

In the eyes of the politicians, power struggle is way more important than battling the virus. We may have to accept the cruel reality that it is far more difficult to get these people to lay down their arms than to seriously fight the pandemic.

By right deputy prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob and health minister Adham Baba should be held responsible for the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government's failure to contain the spread of the virus.

Nonetheless, this is actually not the right time to hold them responsible during such a crucial moment.

As former DPM Musa Hitam has said, parliament is not a place to demand accountability but a platform for elected reps to find solutions to address our Covid-19 problems. Our common enemy now is the invisible virus, not people embracing different political ideologies.

The government should not be the only party that is responsible for the country's lackluster performance in the battle against the virus; the opposition also have their part to play.

Over the past 500 plus days, have the opposition come up with any systematic policy to tackle the virus? Or have they taken the initiative to make any comprehensive proposal on the national recovery plan?

Even if the parliament was suspended, the opposition should have attempted to write to His Majesty Yang di-Pertuan Agong or the prime minister to forward their proposals instead of waiting for the parliament to reconvene before they could start their work.

When approached by Sin Chew Daily, many local Chinese community leaders have unanimously urged the politicians to stop their squabbles and concentrate on fighting the virus and prioritise the rakyat's (people's) interest.

Politicians must put aside their political agendas and not to exploit the pandemic as a tool for their power-grabbing games. Their priority should be to tackle the pandemic and flatten the infection curve.

The voices of local Chinese associations, Chinese businesses and Chinese educational bodies should be good enough to represent some 22.4 per cent of Malaysians of Chinese descent, as well as 35 per cent of Chinese Malaysian businesses.

Their proposal for politicians to put aside their differences and work together in a professional anti-virus team has been a very positive and unbiased one.

Do bear in mind that if the pandemic goes out of hand, coupled with political instability, the country's economy as well as the rakyat will be the ones to take the brunt.

Currently Malaysia is stuck in a dilemma of both runaway political situation and pandemic, and such a dual challenge is too large for the country's economic fundamentals to withstand.

Firstly, the country's GDP projection for 2021 has been revised downward from 6.5 per cent to 4 per cent with a negative outlook and possible more downward revisions before the end of the year.

Secondly, the whole country has been in a state of full or partial lockdown for much of this year. Due to protracted periods of lockdowns, many local businesses have already closed down.

Although the bans may be lifted in October if the situation improves, many companies may not last until then and may have to wind up earlier, sparking a new wave of job losses.

Thirdly, a government's success in containing the pandemic and political stability are factors most foreign investors will evaluate before deciding their next investment destinations.

If we don't meet these two important criteria, we can't expect foreign investors to put their money here, and this will remarkably impact the country's medium to long-term economic development.

As such, politicians must listen to the voices of the local Chinese community and lay down their arms and fight the virus together in unity by putting the rakyat first.

  • Sin Chew Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media organisations.