Response to the National Recovery Plan: Question of Trust and what we can do about it

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Bangi and Assistant Political Education Director for the Democratic Action Party (DAP) on the 16th of June, 2021

A Question of Trust and what we can do about it

After the speech yesterday by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announcing the 4 phases of the National Recovery Plan (Appendix 1 below), several questions were raised in a few whatsapp groups that I am in. They include the following:
1) What about businesses which cannot survive beyond August such as gyms, cinemas and restaurants, just to name a few? Will there be assistance for them in the months of July and August?
2) Can we be confident that if the number of cases drops below 2000 that it won’t increase again once some economic sectors are allowed to re-open? What is the government doing differently during MCO 3.0 (other than vaccination) that will help prevent MCO 4.0 from happening?
3) Why is parliament NOT considered as essential especially since all of the MPs and many of their staff and also the civil servants who have to attend parliament have already gotten their COVID19 vaccine shots (at least the first dose)?
4) Where are the detailed plans from each ministry to allow the sectors under their jurisdiction to open up and to operate safely during each of the 4 phases outlined below?
5) While waiting for schools to re-open in September, what is the plan of the government to ensure that those school children who do not have access to devices that will allow them to learn online are taken care of?

Of course, I could have come up with a much longer list to complement the 10 points put forward by Industries Unite but the point of this post is not to merely criticize the lack of details provided in the National Recovery Plan outlined yesterday. The point of this post is to explain the CONSEQUENCES of the breakdown in the trust of the people in this PN government and how we can proceed after recognizing and understanding this breakdown of trust.

Let me illustrate what I mean by using a few examples.

First Example: Under the FMCO, the approval for operations for the various sectors is supposed to come from individual ministries. But the letter of approval for individual businesses to continue to operate is issued by MITI under the CIMS 3.0 system. So when a gang of robbers used a MITI issued letter for a security company to continue to operate to cross state lines and proceeded to carry out a robbery in Melaka, the headlines blamed MITI for issuing the letter when the approval must have come from the Home Ministry! Similarly, MITI is supposed to issue approval letters for essential manufacturing sectors to continue their operations (E&E and Food Manufacturing, for example) but when the workers at these factories get COVID19 because of their cramped accommodation quarters (which is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Human Resources), MITI gets blamed as well. Of course, MITI is not helped by the fact that its Minister, Azmin Ali, is one of the most unpopular politicians in the country at the moment (and probably in the foreseeable future as well).

Second Example: Under the FMCO, we are allowed to exercise (jogging, walking) alone with proper physical distancing in our respective housing areas. As a Member of Parliament, I am also allowed to cross district and state lines for the purpose of work. I often run at the open area outside the Bukit Jalil Stadium which is located less than 2km from where I live and I have been exercising here since the start of the FMCO. At the same time, I have also come here recently to look at the operations of the recently opened mass vaccination center at the Axiata Arena which is in the Bukit Jalil Sport Complex. I will also sometimes run in certain areas in Kuala Lumpur, not just for the purpose of exercise but also to check to see if my fellow runners are following the FMCO SOPs and not congregating in groups before and after their runs. But because there is such a low public opinion of politicians at the moment, I also receive criticism on social media for running outside my housing area whereas I am in fact, doing my job as an MP (and getting some exercise at the same time). I do not blame the public because of the double standards shown by some Ministers and also celebrities during this period.

Third example: My local councillors and their assistants as well as my volunteers under Unit Tindak Bangi have been helping me conduct vaccine registration exercises, sanitization of factories and other places with COVID19 positive cases and doing traffic management and crowd control for the recently concluded mass testing exercises in Selangor. They are regularly exposed to COVID19 positive people. But I am worried that if I submit their names of the local district health officer (Pengawai Kesihatan Daerah), I will be labelled as an MP that promotes “queue cutting for my own staff even though I consider them to be frontliners in their own right in the fight against this pandemic. Again, I do not blame the public because there have been other instances where politicians have done this for their family members and other staff who are NOT frontliners in the fight against COVID19. Thankfully, the PKD officer in my area is very understanding and recognizes the contribution of these frontliners.

The three examples above show the level of public distrust against this government and politicians. This kind of mistrust has also filtered into the community where in some instances, people will report on one another because of minor breaches against existing SOPs. This is very worrying especially from a societal cohesion standpoint. We do not want to reach a stage of mistrust where neighbour would turn against neighbour because there is lack of food in the supermarkets or because they are fighting over who would get vaccinated first. So, what can we do as a society in response to the Prime Minister’s National Recovery Plan?

Instead of incessant criticism (which is likely to fall on deaf ears for many of the Ministers) and complaining, I suggested the following action steps in a whatsapp message:

For each sector which has yet to be opened / will need some time to open / may be bankrupt by the time they are allowed to open, please do the following:

1) Propose as detailed an SOP as possible to allow for a safe and secure way of opening with limited capacity and then growing that capacity as the # of cases reduces. (I believe, for example, that cinemas already have a very strict SOP which actually can be implemented even now, to allow for limited seating capacity and ample social distancing)
2) Propose ideas for your company and your sector to be part and parcel of the national vaccination program so that you can play a part in increasing the % of vaccination. For example, offer incentives or discounts for people who have been vaccinated for your services.
3) Propose methods and means to ensure some sort of revenue stream for your company / sector which requires changes / flexibility in govt regulations to cover for the time before your sector is allowed to open fully. For example, I just visited a hotel / resort yesterday which is planning to convert itself temporarily into a PPV as well as a COVID quarantine center in order to cover some of its operating costs.

I also said I am available on a pro-bono basis to share more views and to give consultation on the above 3 points. This is what I think I can and should do as an elected representative with sufficient exposure to different sectors of the economy given my past experience as the Deputy Minister of MITI, as a former Boston Consulting Group consultant, as a former academic at a private university in Malaysia and as a Member of Parliament for the past 8 years.

If you want to take up my offer above, please email me at [email protected] and I promise I will respond to you personally within 48 hours of your email, if not sooner.