If the pandemic affects us all, then it is only proper that the rules governing the fight against this scourge should be applicable to all, Mustafa K Anuar.
Parliamentarians, particularly those in the opposition, have good reason to be concerned and even alarmed when Keningau MP Jeffrey Kitingan recently turned up in the Dewan Rakyat before his mandatory 14-day quarantine period was up.
This is a serious matter as Kitingan’s physical presence could have exposed the MPs and others in the Parliament building to the risk of infection.
After all, isn’t health safety the official justification for limiting attendance in the current session to 80 MPs?
There was a kerfuffle in the Dewan Rakyat the last time an MP showed up fresh off the plane from Turkey.
That is why these MPs insisted on a probe into the latest rule infringement, especially after being told that a Lembah Pantai health officer had signed the medical clearance on behalf of the Ministry of Health for Kitingan to leave quarantine early.
It is curious, though, that Kitingan chose to keep quiet at the time instead of making the much-needed clarification during his brief appearance in Parliament.
Lest we forget, the general rule was that travellers from Sabah would have to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival in the peninsula as a measure to stem any possible spread of infection into this part of the country. Additionally, Parliament also imposed the 14-day quarantine on Sabah MPs coming to the peninsula. Hence, the intense curiosity this case provoked.
Equally important for these MPs and also concerned Malaysians is whether we were seeing yet again double standards being practised in enforcing the movement control order’s standard operating procedures: One rule for ordinary folk, another for the ruling elite – even though the virus doesn’t discriminate.
Scepticism and anger also heightened among social media users when they got to know that the Ministry of Health had just changed the rule for travellers from Sabah.
Now all they need to do is to take a swab test and be screened for fever and other symptoms three days before departure. If found negative for Covid-19, they are considered safe to fly into the peninsula.
It is hoped this new ruling would not, consequently, see a replay of what happened after the standard operating procedure was relaxed on the heels of the Sabah state election last September. The infection rate, as we all know, went north.
God forbid, but if there were to be another virus outbreak, yet another lockdown would mean economic hardship that ordinary people can do without. If that were to happen, thousands more would probably be robbed of their jobs, small businesses shuttered and poverty clusters multiplied.
As it is, the latest statistics indicates that 95,995 Malaysians have been retrenched between January and 13 November this year. Presumably, this is of deep concern to the ruling politicians.
Equally noteworthy is the allegation by the opposition and other quarters, that the standard operating procedure had been adjusted only to ensure that government MP Kitingan and Kinabatangan MP Bung Moktar Radin would be able to attend the parliamentary session to cast their vote during the supply bill debate.
If this is true, it would be very disturbing. The less charitable would consider this a self-serving design at the expense of the people’s welfare and a blatant abuse of power.
If we’re agreeable to the premise that the pandemic affects us all, then it is only proper that the rules governing our fight against this scourge should be applicable equally to all of us Malaysians.