‘Brain fog’ during the pandemic


HERE’S a question for those days when there’s nothing to watch on TV: what exactly goes on inside a politician’s head? When you read about some mind-boggling pronouncements made by some politicians in power, can you help but wonder what resides inside their craniums to make them come up with these things?

In mid-August heavy rain caused a landslide and flash floods in the Gunung Jerai and Yan area in Kedah that resulted in homes being destroyed and six lives being lost. Speculation mounted as to what could have caused this devastation, especially when there have been photographs of alleged logging in parts of the mountain. This in a state where there has already been reported logging activities near water catchment areas, with video scenes of hills stripped bare and piles of logs waiting to be mounted on lorries to be transported elsewhere.

Despite all this, you’d think that the minister in charge of the environment would order an investigation into what happened in Gunung Jerai. Instead, he takes a personal look, sees felled trees with roots intact and concludes from his own miniscule experience in environmental science, that rather than any greedy human, God was at fault. The same God who gave us this beautiful forest to enjoy decided one day to wash it all the way down the hill and take some bodies along with it. I can’t wait for the next pronouncement, that the six people who died must have committed some terrible sin, like dress up in women’s clothes perhaps, and therefore were punished by drowning in flood waters.

See, you can’t sue anyone for neglect when they were never, God forbid, responsible for it.

Then there’s the one who decided that Malaysian women are not worth protecting, that they don’t have the right to confer their citizenship to their children who happened to have been born abroad. Apparently, such citizenship cannot be “arbitrarily” given to anyone who asks. Especially if they happen to be females who had the gall to marry a foreigner. Of course, Malaysian males who marry foreign women and had children all over the world don’t even have to think about whether their offspring can have Malaysian citizenship or not. They can get them automatically!

What kind of brain thinks that giving citizenship to the foreign-born children of Malaysian women should be arbitrary, while automatically giving to those of Malaysian men, is in any way just? The Constitution apparently says so, if you read it literally. But as High Court judge Akhtar Tahir ruled, Article 4(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution together with the Second Schedule, Part II, Section 1(b), pertaining to citizenship rights, must be read in harmony with Article 8(2), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender.

It’s the sort of brain that essentially thinks of women as inferior to men, that resents women for having chosen foreigners over locals to marry. In this way, the law is set up to punish women who made these choices. To ensure their children have Malaysian citizenship, women have to travel back to Malaysia before their seventh month of pregnancy because airlines won’t let them fly otherwise. Not only does this incur expenses, it means an enforced separation from their husbands for at least two months. The realities of this for many such women highlight the fallacy of one myth: not all women marry rich foreigners.

Are women’s votes valued at only half that of a man’s? Women understand an insult when they see one, whether they have children born abroad or not. Faced with the possibility of losing the female vote, the government is now trying to cover its tracks by saying that the reason that they appealed the ruling is because they need time to amend the Constitution. If the intention is good, why not take the direct route instead of creating anguish among the women affected and conflict with your own colleagues? Wouldn’t so much time and angst have been avoided just by saying ‘OK, let’s amend the Constitution’ ?

If there’s a pattern to the workings of this particular mind, it’s an inherent dislike for foreigners of any sort. At the bottom of the heap are refugees and undocumented workers. Only such a mind can decide in the midst of a lockdown to go after poor migrant workers who may have become undocumented because the pandemic has caused them to lose their jobs. At a time when we need to get every human in our territory vaccinated so that everybody is safe, this brain thinks of the best way to sow distrust, causing foreign workers and refugees to hide. Since this order also comes from someone so powerful, is it any wonder that the workers who do risk showing up at vaccination centres get such disrespectful treatment? It’s already been made clear that there are two types of humans in our country: those to be tolerated because they’re citizens and those that can be shouted at because they’re not.

On the other end of the scale is the new policy of insisting that the foreigners be made to keep RM1mil in their bank accounts if they want to live here under the MM2H programme. Many of them are retirees living on pensions and some have been here for years and have bought property here. Being here means they bring foreign currency into our local economies. Why shoot ourselves in the foot with this arbitrary policy? What sort of thought process does something like this undergo? Apart from a dislike of people who aren’t Malaysians, that is.

These are just some of the recent mind-blowing pronouncements that we have been subjected to. We already have this pandemic to deal with, and all its attendant impacts. Do we really need our intelligence insulted almost every day? Aren’t there really important things to deal with rather than hounding sexual minorities and passing religiously conservative laws?

Talking of which, it’s painfully obvious that those basking in their new agreement with the government didn’t have these new amendments to the Syariah laws in their sights. Nor have they said much about it. That’s what you get when you don’t have diverse negotiators.

Marina Mahathir is also examining her brain to see whether she’s being infected by the thought processes she’s being subjected to in the media every day. So far she’s remained stubbornly consistent.

The views expressed here are solely her own.

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