THE series of movement control order since March 18, 2020 resulted in an experience akin to “travelling back in time” for my colleague and I at Star Media Group’s bureau office in Melaka.
During the MCO period, we were kept busy attending to phone calls and residents knocking on our door seeking assistance.
My colleague said the scene at our Jalan Hang Tuah office was similar to what we used to experience several years ago when people would drop by the premises daily to highlight issues or a problem that they wanted resolved.
Our office was open throughout the various phases of MCO as media was deemed an essential service and allowed to operate.
Locals came to us with a host of issues. They ranged from insufficient money to feed their families and inability to pay compounds issued by the authorities for breaching standard operating procedure, to eatery owners wanting us to highlight their plea to the authorities for extension of operating hours.
It has been years since our office had a constant stream of visitors daily.
Our cleaner, whom we call Aunty Ong, had to work doubly hard to sanitise the premises and make sure there was hand sanitiser at the office’s entrance.
Surprisingly, the majority of those who sought assistance from us were aged below 40.
However, not all the problems highlighted were turned into stories.
Some issues deemed not “newsworthy” were directed to the relevant authorities.
Fortunately, Melaka police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Wira Abdul Majid Mohd Ali was very helpful.
Problems related to fines were looked into and DCP Abdul Majid helped to address them.
There was never an occasion when the CPO said he couldn’t help.
He even sent food to some families impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Word spread that The Star bureau office would be able to assist the needy, and this led to more locals coming to ask for help.
The most recent episode was on Nov 25.
The family of a 58-year-old cafe owner in Taman Melaka Raya asked for help after she was suspected of hiring illegal workers.
Her case was referred to DCP Abdul Majid and within an hour, the case was solved after it was established that the foreigners in the cafe were customers and not the eatery’s workers.
In a recorded voice message to DCP Abdul Majid, the woman thanked him for looking into her plight.
Many of those whom he assisted, were surprised by his down-to-earth manner.
Aside from the state police chief, Melaka Chief Minister’s secretaries Datuk MS Mahadevan and Yong Fun Juan also helped resolve issues forwarded to them by The Star.Both assisted the business community to obtain discounts for compounds and provided financial assistance to daily wage workers affected by the pandemic.
The practice of seeking help from the media shows that people are comfortable in approaching us.
But frequently, it is also because they are unaware of other platforms for seeking assistance.
Most of the people here, especially the business community, said they did not know who their councillors were.
Hopefully, the new local councillors — who are expected to be sworn in next month — will make attempts to connect with the grassroots and foster closer working relationships with the media.
Local councillors must be dynamic and creative in disseminating information to the public.
As for enforcing the Covid-19 rules and regulations, it is hoped that the authorities could be more understanding during these tough economic times brought about by the pandemic. Sometimes, some offenders are not aware that they are breaching the Covid-19 standard operating procedure.