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With coronavirus, our soul has been bared

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Integrity and genuine spirituality will tell us that we have been a nation that has thrived on profiteering, greed and selfishness, writes JD Lovrenciear.

Covid-19 is paralysing the world like never before. 

Anxiety, fear, difficulties are prevalent as nations grapple as best as they can in the face of the onslaught of this pandemic. 

Meanwhile, this calamity is also exposing the absence of ethics. Media have alleged that the US president has been telling lies to the citizens. 

In Malaysia the government is under attack by netizens and civil society leaders over its hiking of face mask prices. What was sold for 20 sen a piece had gone up to 80 sen and then approved to be sold at RM2 each.

Not only that, while millions of masks are being procured from China, we heard that after their distribution to frontline healthcare and security workers, the balance would be retailed to the general public.

Stung by the backlash, the government now says it will distribute the face masks for free.  

Meanwhile, going viral on social media was a video of a politician giving sound stay-home advice to the public while frolicking in his swimming pool (see video above). Gosh, what kind of leadership has this country been bestowed with?

It is no surprise why we see unethical business conduct in this nation. From profiteering in these challenging times to exploitation of labour – you name it, we have it all across the country.

The stubborn few

Perhaps it is not far-fetched to say that because of unethical conduct from the government and politicians, we even have difficulty in getting people to stay at home despite putting up road blocks all over the country. 

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The police and the armed forces are sweating it out in the sweltering heat and sudden rain, manning these road blocks and patrolling the nation. They are even exposing themselves to undue stress and risk getting infected.

Healthcare providers are responding to the call of duty to save lives and provide prompt medical attention and care.

All these patriotic folk are serving our nation to the best of their ability, yet some Malaysians are stubbornly failing them.

The police are pleading. Army personnel are pleading. The medical and healthcare fraternity are pleading. Religious leaders are pleading. The PM too pleaded. Even the Yang di-Pertuan Agong took to social media to advise people to stay home.

If people continue not to heed these pleas for no valid reason, they do not deserve any understanding from the 90% of the people who want the nation to recover fast. They should be penalised.  

Why should law-abiding, caring, understanding folk have to tolerate this tiny minority who are endangering all of us? In a time of a global pandemic, the duty to protect and save the nation supersedes the right to free movement. 

Why are people still crowding wet markets and grocers?

And so, the Malaysian authorities are struggling to ensure that we reach an early plateau in the fight against Covid-19. From “carrot” to “stick” is the government’s repeated warning.  

Let us have the humility and courage to address the underlying problem.

Why are people not able to stay home, especially in cities? They need fresh food supplies. And so you continue to see crowds in the supermarkets and wet markets.

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Malaysians are not partying at the beach or crowding entertainment outlets and pubs. We need vegetables, poultry and fish to feed our families. How much canned food can a family consume, seven days at a stretch?

Our markets have operated for decades without proper infrastructure, unlike in Australia. So it is difficult to buy produce from the market while maintaining social distancing.

Sending personnel with loud hailers and officers hollering marching orders at places where people buy food would be foolish.

This is where the government has failed miserably. Why couldn’t the authorities quickly mobilise a door-to-door wet market delivery service? There are many housing areas that have this service as a routine.

The government could have pooled these traders, the transport ministry, local councils, the police and the army to quickly mobilise a fresh food delivery system. They could have enlisted the help of middlemen, who most unfortunately still monopolise and control our farm-to-table food chain.

This would have ensured that every village and residential area gets its supplies over a four-day interval or at least weekly, without the people having to run to wet markets and supermarkets for their essentials, pushing the risk of contagion even higher.

Face the facts squarely if you care for the people. Admit that the government did not think outside the box. Instead, its reaction was like telling the people it brings us relief: we can now withdraw our compulsory savings to tide over this difficult phase!

Integrity and religiosity (or spirituality) will tell us we have been a nation that has thrived on profiteering and greed. And with Covid-19, our soul has been exposed. Yes, the truth hurts.

READ MORE:  Power, fear and greed: The Crucible still resonates today

How many can afford to stock up RM300-RM500 worth of food supplies for a family of three or four to last them three or four weeks?

How much vegetables, fish and poultry can a family stock up really without seeing it rot?

And what social distancing can we really enforce in wet markets other than limiting the entry of people into the markets?

In short, we lack a practical system to enable social distancing. We do not have the capacity to set into motion alternative mechanisms that can address and meet people’s survival needs during times of emergency.

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