The minister should heed the people’s concerns instead of making life miserable for those who have to travel two in a car, P Ramakrishnan writes.
People are wondering what happened to the health minister? He should be out in front, providing information, cajoling citizens to stay indoors, appealing for their cooperation to fight this deadly coronavirus. No sooner had the warm water that he recommended as treatment for the virus cooled down than he disappeared from the news and TV screens – thankfully!
Instead, the so-called Senior Minister, who is the Defence Minister, Ismail Sabri Yaakob, has been in the news almost daily, talking about the movement control order, telling people about social distancing, ordering them to stay indoors, etc.
His latest declaration, which came into effect yesterday: “Only one person would be allowed to travel in a car effective 1 April.
“But as mentioned earlier, when using a personal car, you are allowed to purchase groceries and whatnot but it will be limited to one person per car,” he told a press conference in Putrajaya.
While it is appreciated that stringent measures are necessary to contain this virus, we must not forsake our common sense. We must be ever ready to foresee certain problems and difficulties arising from the implementation of this policy.
If he had – and he should have – followed the sensible comments made by citizens after reading the report about allowing only one person in each car in Malaysiakini (30 March 2020), he would have realised that genuine concerns had to be addressed. It is such feedback that actually helps the policy to be sensible and caring.
But up to now, the minister has not responded. Doesn’t he have a responsibility to be accountable to the people? He has remained like the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand: hearing nothing.
For his benefit, let me briefly list the points raised by the citizens below:
- I can’t drive and I need my husband to drive me around. I’m the one who does the groceries and pays for them because I can’t trust my husband to do it. So now how?
- My wife works in the hospital. Her colleague sends her to work while I go and pick her up after work. I rather pick her up than let her take public transport. What now?
- My wife and I work together. Do we have to go in separate cars?
- My wife works in a hospital and does not drive. I go and pick her up after work. How now?
- What about parents with disabled or mentally challenged children? How to leave them alone at home? What about taking a family member to hospital for their appointment? What about caregivers driving a sick or injured family member to clinic or hospital? Or do the infirm have to drive or walk to see their doctors?
- In Germany, a gathering of up to two persons is allowed
- … at least allow another family member in the car to help buy groceries while the driver is waiting in the car. That will speed up the buying process and get home fast
- During such time need to save costs and carpool with a neighbour or ferry a family member to help with carrying some items
- Two in a car is much more sensible. Some staff of mine do not drive, depending on their husbands to ferry them. How?
- If bosses are allowed to be driven around, then what is wrong in having a wife being driven by her husband?
- My wife does not drive. Both of us are in our 70s. What if she falls sick and I have to drive her to the clinic/hospital? How to show proof when there is no appointment card or hospital recommendation if the wife happens to fall sick in the house?
- Mr Minister has no idea that supermarkets have suspended their grocery online capability since the start of MCO [movement control order], leaving the Rakyat no choice but to leave home to buy groceries in person. Mr Minister, please advise the Rakyat exactly which major supermarket chains are providing online shopping services
- Note that it applies to privately owned cars. So company bosses/VIPs with drivers are exempted! … double standards and not based on health grounds. You mean to say husband and wife pose more health risks to each other compared to a boss and his driver?
- Better if two adults (no children) are allowed to move about. Maybe can perform multiple tasks faster, less time spent outside
- The problem is very real. My wife is an OKU [person with disabilites] and she is a dialysis patient. I have to take her to the hospital for dialysis three times a week. So with your ruling, how? Please clarify immediately. One person per car – you will create the inconvenience of finding parking [space] and car congestion
- Does this government think things through?
- Please think … Please gather feedback
From the above comments, it is absolutely clear a rethink of the policy is necessary. There has to be leeway out of necessity. The minister must resolve these practical problems to make lives easier and better during these difficult times. Will he?
Another compelling problem, a shortage of food, needs his immediate attention. “Cash is king” for those who have the means to buy whatever they wish or want. They are in a position to go on a buying binge, thus denying and depriving those with little means to buy anything. There is no restriction on how much they can buy.
I can’t help thinking that this laissez-faire policy is helping the rich and well-to-do citizens to the detriment of the poor. Driving to the supermarket, buying online (if possible), the uncontrolled volume of purchases, space in the boot to load all their merchandise, etc are the privileges of the rich. They will get by.
But what about the poor and their lot? What thought has been spared for them? Even a simple necessity like bread is not available from shops and supermarkets. This item is swept clean by the rich. Another item: eggs – they are hard to come by, according to published reports.
Why can’t we limit the volume of purchases? After fruitlessly foraging for bread, I came across a stall. Only three loaves were left. I took two, but the stall-keeper gently told me, “Sorry, uncle, only one loaf per person.”
Two things struck me. First, I had selfishly wanted to buy two loaves when it would take me at least another three days before I would start consuming the second one. I didn’t need the second loaf immediately. I felt ashamed of myself.
The other thing that struck me was how caring the stall-keeper was for the needs of the other customers. He could have allowed earlier buyers – two others were before me as I was alighting from my car – to take all the five loaves that were remaining at that time, if not for his caring attitude. He could have easily got rid of the loaves quickly by not imposing any restrictions. But he cared.
I thanked him for limiting the purchases so that others would also have a chance to buy.
This is what the minister should be paying attention to. Instead, he is making life miserable for those of us who find it necessary to travel two in a car.
Let’s hear from him whether the points raised by the readers are justified and what he is going to do about this rule. We await his response.