I received a call from a friend asking for help last Saturday morning. The friend, who used to be in direct-sales business, asked me whether I knew any horse grass egg dealer, as she needed to make a little money for Chinese New Year.
I could feel her anxiety at the other end of the line.
Two months ago, my Malay neighbour had already started waking up early morning each day to cook nasi lemak and some kuih to sell to his children's colleagues and neighbours because the business of his several physical shops was no longer able to sustain his family.
Recent news of the kind-hearted Petaling Jaya OCPD Asst Comm Nik Ezanee Mohd Faisal letting go a mother, who was forced to steal food from a supermarket, has also drawn my attention. He believed the woman had committed the crime because of financial difficulties. He even personally sent her rice, eggs and antipyretic stickers, and advised her to seek help from the authorities instead of stealing.
These little stories are but just the tip of the iceberg, although they testify just how many Malaysians are struggling to stay alive.
In the meantime, the situation on the frontline in our war against the coronavirus is anything but promising.
On Jan 23, Sin Chew Daily carried a Facebook post by Dr Tan Peng Ji. He opened our eyes to the miserable reality of things on the frontline. He said many people did not see what frontliners had seen, and that we must not take things too lightly.
Now take a look at our politicians who are supposed to put serving the people as their top priority. They keep playing politics even if the virus is right at our doorstep. At first, they tried to bring down the Perikatan Nasional government by withdrawing their support for the ruling coalition in a bid to force an earlier election. When this failed, they tried to put pressure on the King by way of a jointly-signed declaration to seek the latter's consent to resume parliamentary sittings.
I still remember after the Pakatan Harapan government was toppled on Feb 23 last year and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was appointed Prime Minister on March 1, the Cabinet was put up only on March 9. We didn't have a government during those two weeks at a time the virus was already in our midst but we failed to stop the Masjid Sri Petaling tabligh gathering that subsequently developed into a massive infection cluster.
Given this painful experience, taking down the incumbent administration at this moment will only sink the already suffering economy and rakyat deeper into a pit of despair. The utmost priority for politicians across the divide right now is work hand-in-hand to defeat the virus, helping the public and local businesses by harnessing their platforms and resources in their respective constituencies.
From what we understand, the King has consented to the Emergency Ordinance not just to "keep the backdoor government intact" as many tend to believe. His Majesty has seen how serious things have become. And we know that when His Majesty was making this decision, the flood victims on the east coast were there waiting for help. And when His Majesty rushed to the east coast, some of the Umno MPs were still threatening to withdraw their support for the government, adopting the motion not to work with Bersatu come the next general election, at Umno divisions nationwide.
As His Majesty saw all this, had to promptly approve the issuance of an emergency decree. To him, nothing comes more important than political stability, helping the flood victims and fighting the virus. Unfortunately, our selfish politicians would not stop playing politics.
By right, we Malaysians deserve a much better living by virtue of our enviable natural resources and the absence of any major disasters. The people living in this country are friendly, caring and very inclusive. Unfortunately, the resources which should have been made available to the rakyat have been hijacked and robbed by greedy politicians in these last few decades. For their own interest, some have exploited racial and religious issues at the expense of the poor.
The Barisan Nasional, Pakatan and Perikatan administrations have all been walking down the same old path over the years, fighting among themselves for superiority and sacrificing the interest of the people in doing so. They keep spawning hatred and protruding their differences. The same old issues that have been exploited for decades are being reused over and again. Mutual understanding and acceptance have become so unreachable. We have been so engrossed in the disputes that we fail to appreciate the beauty and strength of one another as well as this nation of ours.
This is the sorrow of this country and the ill destiny we are forced to share. When can we be delivered out of this quagmire in which we will not see any promising future?
Malaysians have grown completely disenchanted by politics. We are more worried about how to go on living. Do you know that we are all suffering? Perhaps those in power should be a little more down-to-earth and feel for the people's plight.
In recent days we have seen that more and more friends and relatives around us test positive for the coronavirus with no signs of the pandemic letting up at all. Many are beginning to worry about an imminent "complete lockdown".
The authorities have been issuing quite contradictory statements these past two days, probably to gauge how the people react before they come up with a final decision.
Right now the government is torn between saving the economy and breaking the chain of infection.
The recently unveiled Permai aid package is the fifth stimulus package announced by the Perikatan government since the onset of the coronavirus outbreak in this country. While this may offer momentary relief to the people struggling to stay afloat, it is hardly any help to the local companies, in particular SMEs.
Many of these companies have already emptied much of their savings during the last "lockdown", and another one is poised to rip them apart for sure. More companies are expected to wind up, and many will go out of work. Many social problems will ensue following this.
In addition, in some families children are forced to share a single computer for online learning with a pathetically slow connection - the old network connection issue that straddled several administrations from Barisan to Pakatan and now Perikatan with no solution in sight.
Malaysians have been plagued by a host of many other problems. And even as we try hard to stay alive, our politicians don't seem to stop their fighting in order to help the nation sail past this crisis. They keep creating troubles and chaos in a bid to force an early election that will cost the nation dearly.
Is this what they do to show their appreciation for the selfless sacrifices of our healthcare frontliners?
Now that we have come this far, why don't we just be a little more patient and wait until after the virus is put under control before we call an election to square things off?
What these politicians do not seem to know is that journalists too are also frontliners in this war against the virus. One by one they have fallen to the virus just because they want to bring the latest updates to the readers. For the past year or so, many economic sectors have fallen victim to the pandemic. Few have the means to advertise in newspapers to expand their businesses, and that's why we in the media business are also suffering.
To be fair, we all want stability during such a trying time. Everyone needs some form of assistance or other.
For the past one year, Sin Chew Daily has seen its advertisement revenue, our main source of income, drastically slashed, but we are still committed to delivering the latest and most reliable news and information to our readers from the frontline.
To cut down on expenses, we are no longer able to continue carrying free congratulatory messages of political parties and local Chinese associations in the news format during the festive season beginning this year and have to switch to the "news info" advertising format instead.
That said, the support that we have received from the Tan Sris, Datuks, political parties, business associations and clan associations has been overwhelming beyond our expectation. I would like to take this opportunity to express our heartiest gratitude to these people on behalf of Sin Chew Daily for choosing us as a tool of communication with the Malaysian Chinese community and as a driver of national unity.
In our "Kita" column on January 17, we published the story of a Malay Muslim doctor taking part in charity.
This weekly column was started in 2018 to carry heart-warming stories happening around us in hope of promoting greater inter-community understanding among our readers so that we learn to appreciate instead of criticising our differences. This is the social obligation Sin Chew Daily needs to shoulder in our multicultural society at this moment, as we sow the seeds of racial harmony and love among our readers.
During the interview, this doctor said,"While travelling we will only see the beautiful side of a place, but when we work as volunteers, we will discover that many in this place have to grapple with the burning issues of poverty and lack of medical facilities.
"When we understand that many around us are still suffering, we will come to realize how fortunate we actually are.
"Malaysia is not a perfect country, but there is this beautiful side behind these imperfections."
As such, no matter how chaotic our politics is and no matter how rotten our politicians are, never ever give up on this country. We'll make it one day provided we stay united and do our part dutifully.
This is what we all understand, but sadly, not our politicians.
Kuik Cheng Kang, Sin Chew Daily