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Post-Covid-19 strategies to usher in a new Malaysia

Drawing by Wong Soak Koon

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Sharing the wealth and opportunities of the nation irrespective of ethnicity, religion, and class will be the panacea, writes JD Lovrenciear.

Some cynics may scoff at this suggestion to start planning for implementation of strategies in a post-Covid 19 phase, which will come our way, for sure.

But if Malaysia wants to make a difference, here are some strategies that need to be communicated in a transparent and accountable fashion to all people.

Repairing the political frontier

The political framework needs serious repair. The Pakatan Nasional government has not been embraced across the populace.

There is only one way forward for healing in this area – and that is mending all bridges across the divide. Being transparent. Not being obsessed with consolidating power working to gain the admiration and endorsement of all the people.

It requires strategies that will go down well among the people regardless of which party they belong to, what ethnic group they are from, which religion they profess or even which socioeconomic strata they belong to.

The buck stops right in the lap of the current prime minister. There are no two ways about this.

Healing the social landscape

On the social frontier, the country seriously needs a new mantra to heal the land.

For far too long, certain quarters have divided the people to consolidate power by singing the “I am Malay first” melody or the drumbeat of “Islam is under threat”.

We have seen race and religion turn into a double-edged sword in the battle to win votes.

This must end if we are to be better prepared to face another crisis of similar magnitude or anything worse.

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We should learn from how Malaysians – regardless of their social, religious or political leanings – have risen to the challenge to the coronavirus paralysis.

One such example (though there could be many more edifying examples) is the case of the Buddhist Foundation (Tzu Chi), which came up with improvised face shields and supplied them to our frontline healthcare warriors.

People did not wait for the government to innovate and resolve the dilemma. In fact. the government was stuck in trying to figure out the proper pricing of essential supplies and overcome a ‘systems issue’ that prevent distribution of such supplies to front liners, who had to risk their lives using plastic wraps.

All of us have the onerous task of promoting not just tolerance but also understanding and acceptance.

Crime seems to have plunged during the movement control order, perhaps because of the strong police and later, military presence.

So we need to go back to policing our streets. The government needs to commit to new budgets and dramatically improve its personnel.

Peaceful, crime-free living boosts the people’s sense of loyalty, patriotism and determination to fight challenges to their collective wellbeing.

Reorienting the economy

Economic restructuring is a forgone conclusion.

As the country reels in its present the quagmire, which will extend during to post-Covid-19 crisis period, the one thing that can lift all of us out of the doldrums is the people’s will and the opportunities that have to be created at any cost.

However difficult it may be, we need to do the following to revive the economy for the people’s sake.

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First, our food production needs a revamp. That has to be our number one priority nationwide.

If anything, Covid-19 has taught us that returning to society what rightfully belongs to all of humanity is non-negotiable.

If we want to unleash the potential of the people of this nation, we need a values-based, ethically anchored business framework that encompasses manufacturing, trading, agriculture, farming, fishing – the whole works. Otherwise, we will remain a failed nation for a long, long time in the post Covid-19 period.

Second, we have to reduce our heavy dependence on low-income migrant workers. No arguments about this, please, ministers, trade associations and oligarchs.

Third, we have to regularise the status of the undocumented migrant workers in our midst.

Fourth, business owners must think of humanity first; not justify profits and profiteering. It is crucial to reorient this culture if we are to quickly become a resilient nation.

Five, meritocracy with an equal measure of compassionate policies is the only option we have to restructure our economic failures.

Otherwise, we will live only to witness another episode in the future where the people will have to fend for themselves (as was the case with the announcement that people could withdraw their Employees Provident Fund retirement savings to help pull them through the current crisis). [Editor’s note: The government has just announced a raft of financial assistance measures for the people.]

Ecological conversion

Finally, the environment needs a more rooted, viable, philosophical approach.

From waste management to crimes against nature, we need a conversion of minds, hearts and attitudes.

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Already, some parts of the world under lockdown have witnessed nature receiving a much-needed respite. Silence has returned to its rightful place on this planet, earth, giving nature a chance to breath and live in harmony with all life forms.

It is time for Malaysia to think. If we are a pious nation of believers and followers of Islam and other faiths and traditions, then this is the grace granted upon us to be accountable and decisive and to act to save our nation, to be a beacon of hope for the world.

If we are not able to address these thoughts now, then we do not deserve another opportunity to make promises. And no one can blame anyone for future failures. We have to take collective responsibility, all the way. We sink or swim together.

We need systems. We need a concerted, national philosophical outlook. We need to take charge of our building blocks. Building a cartel of millionaires and a handful of billionaires is the biggest liability for any nation.

Sharing the wealth and opportunities of the nation irrespective of race, religion, qualifications, heritage, social strata and power will be a panacea for Malaysia.

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