COME on, we can do better than this because the present SOP for the Chinese New Year is plain ridiculous. No wonder it’s been met with a barrage of criticism.
The rule to reduce the reunion dinners to just family members in the same household may have good intentions, but it’s totally misplaced.
It just doesn’t make sense because it’s not a reunion dinner at all.
Reunion means an instance of two or more people coming together after a period of not having seen each other.
If it’s confined to family members in the same house, then it’s just a daily family meal. Nothing more than that.
So, if my parents live in another part of the neighbourhood, we can’t go to their home for a reunion dinner and vice-versa. That’s the whirlwind of confusion created by the SOP.
Following the letter of the law, your parents who live 500 metres away won’t be able to lor sang with you, unless one of you risks being fined.
The announcement of the ban on interstate travel simply meant that “balik kampung” for the traditional reunion was as good as over. Most of us have come to terms with that and accepted reality.
We understand well that if the travel ban was lifted or compromised, it would have a horrible consequence because other Malaysians would also join the exodus to travel home, and Covid-19 numbers will definitely churn another wave.
The leeway given during the Christmas period is a lesson we must learn from because the number of people infected with the virus has been sickening. It’s terrible that we let our guard down in December.
But Malaysians celebrating the CNY can’t be blamed if they’re upset with the SOP because we seem to have unexplained relaxation of rules.
They include allowing car wash centres and night markets to operate. Yes, we need our haircut, but honestly, we can wash our own cars. However, we’re content we can do our marketing in the morning markets or at the supermarkets, which are open the whole day.
And then there’s the flip-flop. First, the authorities said restaurants could do take-away until 8pm, but following an uproar, it was extended to 10pm.
This alludes to little afterthought to the whole process and its impact.
Perhaps, those involved in this exercise are tired because they would likely be the same set of people who’ve been doing this since the MCO began in March last year.
MCA secretary-general Datuk Chong Sin Woon and other community leaders have rightly urged the National Security Council (NSC) to review and amend the SOP by considering the traditional customs of the Chinese community.
The Chinese community isn’t asking for interstate travel and inter-district bans to be lifted, nor are they asking for temples to be open for all. No special treatment is being requisitioned nor is it wanted, but the community wants to see common sense be applied.
The last thing we want to do is pass the virus to our loved ones, especially our aged parents and grandparents.
But let’s apply the SOP intelligently. A more practical ruling would be to limit the number of family members at a gathering, including reunion dinners.
During the Hari Raya in May, admittedly already during the conditional movement control order (CMCO), visits were allowed on the first day of the festival on condition SOP was observed, which included limiting visitors to 20 people, practicing social distancing and maintaining hygiene.
Interstate travel was banned to stop people from travelling home. Mosques, surau and graveyards, which most Muslims throng on the first day of Syawal, also became off-limits.
In November, there was also no “balik kampung” travel for those under CMCO or enhanced MCO, but those celebrating the festival could attend special prayers, with strict SOP in place.
We must all play our part in fighting the pandemic with no exceptions, especially the politicians, who seem to get away each time they’re seen flouting SOP.
The community, like everyone else, is just fed up with bad enforcement, even unfair ones, and hope that the NSC will re-examine the SOP for the CNY.
We hope to hear some good news tomorrow (Monday), even if it includes some revisions to the SOP.