Mustafa K Anuar discusses the antics that some cabinet ministers have indulged in as they hog the media limelight during this pandemic.
Social media is abuzz with news about certain antics of a few federal ministers that relate to the marauding coronavirus, resulting in many concerned Malaysians throwing brickbats at them.
In particular, Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin drew much public attention and caused an uproar when she was seen nonchalantly donning a personal protective equipment (PPE) suit.
This occurred recently when she was inspecting sanitisation works conducted by her ministry personnel at the Al-Falah Mosque at Kampung Sungai Ramal Dalam in Kajang and at the Jalan Othman public market in Petaling Jaya.
The public cleansing constitutes part of the sanitisation works that began on 30 March in six areas identified as red zones, namely Lembah Pantai, Petaling, Hulu Langat, Seremban, Johor Baru and Kluang.
- Sign up for Aliran's free daily email updates or weekly newsletters or both
- Make a one-off donation to Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara, CIMB a/c 8004240948
- Make a pledge or schedule an auto donation to Aliran every month or every quarter
- Become an Aliran member
What also raised eyebrows was the word “Menteri” (minister) inscribed on the protective cap on her forehead, as if to physically differentiate herself from the rest of the disinfection team – and for the general public to take note of such ministerial distinction.
For many netizens, the bone of contention was the fact that on this occasion, she wore the expensive PPE suit, which is precious protective gear at a time when some medical workers reportedly had to make do with plastic bin bags as protective covers for themselves because of a shortage of PPE. In other words, her wearing of the PPE suit was a sheer waste of a prized item.
Some critics rightly insisted that there wasn’t really a need for her to “officiate” something as mundane as sanitising public areas, especially under present circumstances.
Zuraida could very well have given instruction to her disinfecting team via social messaging applications such as Whatsapp or a phone call from home, as prescribed by her own government.
Incidentally, the disinfection operations itself drew criticisms from experts. For instance, former deputy health director-general Lokman Hakim Sulaiman was baffled that road surfaces were sprayed indiscriminately, instead of focusing on frequent touch-points, such as door knobs and escalator railings, to combat the coronavirus menace.
Not to be outdone, Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa was also seen recently on the ground, face masked nonetheless, inspecting sanitising operations in the area around the Sri Petaling mosque.
Indeed, staying home is an important government directive to adhere to by all Malaysians in an effort to contain the scourge.
However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the homebound should be regarded as a captive audience so that their intelligence can be insulted as a result.
In a move that can be read as the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry’s advice to women, particularly wives and mothers working from home, it tells them to dress appropriately and not to nag their husbands so as to bring about a harmonious home relationship during the movement control order period.
Dumbstruck, social media users, particularly feminist groups, predictably took minister Rina Harun to task for emphasising things that were considered nonsensical and sexist.
If we were to go the whole hog, the husbands may want to consider dressing up to the nines, all in the name of family harmony.
Critics rightly pointed out that the ministry should instead pay attention to domestic violence that may erupt at a time when everyone is expected to be homebound and nerves can get frayed easily, especially in crowded flats and households where the question of food on the table pops up regularly.
Furthermore, the responsibility of creating a harmonious environment at home should fall on the shoulders of all in the family, especially parents.
Let us hope that the lethal microbes would not reveal anything more about our ministers than we could possibly cope with.