Between the devil and the deep blue sea

THE political situation in this country during the past week has started to boil again. But one thing remains unchanged - we are still struggling to stay alive under the weight of the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic.

Even as there seems to be no end to our viral misery, our politicians continue to enjoy life sitting in their luxurious yachts playing their political tricks.

Meanwhile, a whole lot more people are fighting against the storm in their modest sampans, some with only a single wooden oar or even with their only piece of plank swept away by the overpowering waves. They can only pray that they manage to get to dry land safely.

When most people are on life support, a new round of power struggle is just brewing.

Human folly lies with the reality many have failed to see the importance of constructing a community of shared destiny for all mankind.

We are fighting a war against an unseen enemy that will plunge us into the depths of misery if we happen to open the slightest crack anywhere for the virus to gain access into our bodies, our families, companies, government and country.

Because of that, even countries once touted as among the top performers in the battle against the virus such as Taiwan, and the United Kingdom, which were said to be on track to recovery, are now struggling to outwit and defeat the virus.

Few countries on this planet would dare to claim complete victory over the virus, and I guess we have to learn to adapt to life alongside the virus.

While even the virus knows how to mutate to survive, humans still don't know how to, or are simply reluctant to, change, for we have been constantly restrained by our inborn greed, jealousy, arrogance, selfishness and a host of other human weaknesses.

In the face of the ravaging virus, many continue to ignore the health protocols, organising parties and gatherings as if the freedom to assemble is much more important than staying alive.

No government will be able to deliver us out of the current doldrums if we still have a bunch of selfish and ignorant daredevils walking in our midst. In a similar manner, in the absence of a stable and highly efficient government, never-ending power struggles will only drag the pandemic on much longer.

Many factories will close down as a consequence of protracted lockdowns while many are rushed to the financial ICUs or have their precious lives snapped by the virus in no time.

According to a recent joint statement by five major retail associations, some 20% to 30% of shopping malls in the country have been wound up under various phases of MCOs over the past 16 months, sending over 300,000 (30%) people out of work.

Under the menace of the Delta and Delta+ Covid-19 variants, a tiny crack on our defense system will spawn a massive explosion of new viral cases that is poised to incapacitate any recovery plans or stimulus packages we have introduced or are about to launch.

We are now racing against the virus, and the only potent weapon that is proven efficacious against the virus is the vaccine. Unfortunately, many people have yet to register themselves for vaccination.

As of June 23, only 15,654,020 people have registered, slightly more than half of our targeted number to achieve herd immunity.

The government cannot afford to sit down waiting for those still undecided to come up and register. In the meantime, vaccination for those already registered must be expedited.

I received my first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine under the vaccination program for media practitioners on June 14. The entire process was very systematic and orderly. I will receive my second jab on July 5, adding one more to the total number of people who will have completed their two-dose vaccination by then.

The goal of inoculating 200,000 people a day, originally planned for July, has been achieved ahead of time in the middle of this month, with more than 250,000 doses administered on June 23 alone, thanks to scheduled or even early delivery of the vaccines we have ordered.

Next, we will have more vaccine types to choose from, including China's CanSino which is expected to arrive here in late July, and Johnson & Johnson.

Both these single-dose vaccines have been ordered specifically for the needs of migrant workers, legal or undocumented, as well as people living in remote villages.

Having said that, there are still plenty of people who registered themselves in February but have still not seen their appointments on MySejahtera till today.

These people are eager to find out what else keeps them waiting so long besides the need to first inoculate medical frontliners, senior citizens and the ever-expanding frontline communities.

To encourage people to register for vaccination, perhaps the government should consider harnessing the connections and influences of NGOs such as local Chinese associations to help promote the vaccination drive.

Meanwhile, we are also counting down to the day when people can just receive their jabs walking in the vaccination centers without prior appointments.

We only can afford to engage in the power struggle game once we have reached our vaccination goal, or when the virus is no more a serious threat to our health.

The statements issued by His Majesty Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Malay Rulers after their June 16 meeting have been interpreted in very different ways by ruling and opposition parties, as they are all set to start a new round of power struggles.

Many are of the view that the prime minister is trying to buy time in response to pressure from His Majesty and the Rulers to get him to reconvene the parliament as soon as possible. Many believe it is almost time for the PM to call it a day.

As a matter of fact, there is still another person whose views are of tremendous importance whether the parliament should reconvene now - Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

Being a non-politician, Dr Noor Hisham can freely assess the situation based on the severity of the pandemic, and I believe many are keen to know whether he supported or objected to the reconvening of Parliament when he had an audience with His Majesty lately.

During this emergency period of intensifying pandemic, the Health DG's views deserve some serious consideration by all.

Indeed the PM is under tremendous pressure, and he will be in for huge trouble if he mishandles things. What we can see is that Umno and PKR are already trying to take him down soonest.

Nevertheless, this whole political fight will not cease even after the Muhyiddin administration is toppled, simply because there isn't a party or coalition that can put up a veritably strong and stable government.

Moreover, it is absolutely not the right time now to fight for more power as the country is still badly bruised by the virus and economic downturn.

While Malaysians from all ethnic backgrounds as well as small businesses are still drifting helplessly in the rough seas of pandemic, it is utterly beyond reasoning that the privileged few are still engrossed with their power-grabbing designs inside their extravagant yachts.

All Malaysians will have a hefty price to pay if we allow the pandemic and bad politics to force us to the edge of the cliff.



Sin Chew Daily

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