KUALA LUMPUR: The movement control order (MCO) may be a good move, but the plan and implementation have not been well thought out and poorly executed, says former deputy Health director-general Prof Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman.
The people were not well prepared and did not seem to understand what the order entailed and how it was going to help control the Covid-19 spread, he said.
"After the Prime Minister's announcement, there was no follow-up forum or announcement to explain in detail what MCO means, and how it is going to be implemented," he added.
Following the announcement, a great number of Malaysians in various states started travelling back to their hometowns, some gathering in crowds at bus terminals and some at police stations to apply for inter-state travel permits.
This resulted in concerns that this might worsen the spread.
Dr Lokman said it appeared that key government departments that were supposed to execute the order were not ready to implement it, such as the police and the army.
"By right, immediately after the PM's announcement, the army should have moved in," he said.
He said some could argue that this would create panic, but the government could explain and calm the people down.
"Now, we have created panic anyway, and with people escaping in the thousands from Klang Valley, where most of the cases are, it only helped to spread the disease further," he said.
Dr Lokman also said that other government agencies too did not seem to understand the significance of the order and had issued guidelines that were against the principle of the order.
The Higher Education Ministry, for example, in a circular released late Tuesday evening (March 17) gave the option for students to stay put in their hostels or "balik kampung" (return home), and some even closed down hostels and forced students to go back home.
"How could all these happened if the National Security Council knows exactly what it has to do?” he asked.
He lambasted the council for the lack of leadership and authority as the plans were poorly prepared and resulted in an utterly confused government machinery.
“I think the council must take responsibility (for the failure).
“With the Inspector-General of Police backtracking from his order for MCO, it just shows that the council failed to anticipate all possibilities and failed to plan to respond to such possibilities.
Dr Lokman said the country’s leadership failed to learn from the experiences of other countries.
“We may have missed the golden opportunity to stop Covid-19," he said.