Debate on best way forward

  • Letters
  • Friday, 10 Apr 2020

ON one hand, a new prime minister whose legitimacy has been questioned may not be eager to reopen businesses, or Parliament that would likely come with a reopening of businesses. Politically speaking, the longer he can continue the movement control order (and Parliament’s “recess”), the more his “unusual” ascent to power will fade in the memory of many once-disgruntled Malaysian voters.

On the other hand, a new governing coalition struggling to overcome accusations that it is influenced too much by religiosity and not enough by science will be reluctant to end the MCO and go against the advice of some medical professionals. The opinions of economists, non-GLC businesses and working people be damned.

If there is a better approach, it seems the thought leaders of the Opposition will hear nothing of it. Malaysia’s “progressives” are

often so eager to prove their progressive/liberal/pro-science bona fides that they end up enabling the very things they detest. Agitating for years to rid Malaysia of the Internal Security Act, they have now become the most eager advocates of lockdown policies that keep the entire country indoors for weeks on penalty of arrest.

Observing Malaysia’s progressive champions on Twitter, one can’t help but notice a lot of “Unpopular opinion”-prefaced tweets lauding or advocating further extensions

of the MCO, if not more extreme measures. These opinion tweets are, ironically enough, quite popular indeed among Malaysia’s Opposition tweeting class, but the suggestion that it isn’t provides the pretence of courage.

I’ve heard from several experts on these unprecedented virus-mitigation lockdowns who insist that they cannot end until we achieve a day or several consecutive days of zero new reported infections. Even Taiwan and South Korea, which have been held up as the gold standard in preventing new Covid-19 infections, have not achieved this feat. It is worth noting that Taiwan and South Korea remain open for business, albeit with some enforced social distancing measures. As testing velocity ramps up, can Malaysia really expect to see a day or consecutive days with no new cases anytime soon?

Malaysia needs robust debate about the best way forward. Simply nodding in agreement with experts from a single field will not do.

Callous as it may seem to some, we must weigh the cost of potentially losing more lives against the cost of shattering the livelihoods of millions. Medical professionals are judged by a single criterion: Does this action save lives? But in the planetary struggle against Covid-19, there are equally precious things at stake that must be given at least some consideration.

These include a child’s education, family-owned business and the mental and physical health of those whose living quarters are already difficult to tolerate for but a few hours a day.

If we limit debate on this matter to medical professionals only and silence the rest, how

long might this last while we attempt to achieve what is perhaps unachievable at any cost? For those with the luxury of a high-speed Internet connection, enough space for indoor exercise and the means to read the latest news, have you considered the have-nots among us?


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