Friday, June 5

The lessons of the days of MCO  

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AS I write this, we have just passed the one month mark of our days under the MCO (Movement Control Order), which officially started on March 18. It is scheduled to end on April 28, but will be subject to the Minister of Health’s further extension if present health issues continue to prevail.

For us here in Sarawak, it is not the first time that such restricted movement action has been taken. In June 1965, as part of the Operation Hammer security situation, the Goodsir Resettlement Plan saw three controlled villages set up between Mile 15 and 24 along the Kuching-Serian road — they were Siburan, Tapah, and Beratok.

This had involved the isolation of 8,000 villagers, mostly Hakkas, in a 600-acre 80-sq-mile area of fenced up secure villages, on a dusk to dawn curfew for 15 years, until it was officially lifted in March 1980. All human movement in and out of these areas were under strict security watch. Farmers could only go out to tend to their farms and any other reasons for traveling outside the perimeters as well as all visitors coming in had to go through security checks and have approved permits.

In Sibu, as a counter measure against the prevailing communist insurgency then, the Rascom command was set up on and off 24-hour curfews between March 1971 and October 1973. These were often total lockdowns or scheduled curfews, usually between late evening and early morning, to prevent the locals from supplying food and medical aid to the CTs (communist terrorists).

Those who lived through both these periods of early nationhood would be able to understand and appreciate the trials and the sacrifices, as well as the hardships and inconveniences faced then.

Both were national threats by an ideology — communism — and propagated by a small group of insurgents, who were playing hide and seek with our militia and security personnel. Most of the time they did not purposely harm or kill civilians, although a number of such cases had also occurred. In a sense, they were not invisible nor were they purposeful threats to our life and limb.

Today’s case is a world of difference.

We are today faced with a hidden invisible enemy, which can infect us anytime, anywhere, anyhow, and anyplace that we are present. This enemy has no ideology, no conscience, and doesn’t care for race, colour, creed, religion, sex, or age. Its only aim in its lifecycle is to propagate itself. It is Covid-19 and there is presently no vaccine or cure for it. It invades your lungs, makes a mess of your immune system, and will kill you if not detected and treated in time.

Yet so many of us do not take this life-threat seriously.

In this past month or so, I have observed with a great sense of disbelief, annoyance, and most of all a lack of understanding of why people do what they do under such serious and life-threatening circumstances!

What do the authorities want us all to do?

Simply stay at home, wash your hands regularly, practise social distancing, and wear a face mask if outside. Unless you need essential goods like food supplies or medical attention, or are involved in any of the named essential services, you’re supposed to simply take a holiday and chill out at home!

Yet so many and so often I see, hear, and read of those who simply defy these simple orders, and continue to go about their usual routine without a care in the world for others around them. Not realising that they themselves are all walking time-bombs and potential virus spreaders and carriers or intermediaries.

If you need to go out to buy takeaway food, provisions from the grocer, or attend to a medical appointment, fair enough just go straight there, don’t dilly dally, do it, and go straight back home. You should also do it on your own, without anyone else accompanying you; unless you cannot drive or need physical assistance.

I just don’t get it. I cannot understand the mentality of all these people who are out there — just to be outside. It seems that even the RM1,000 fines are not strong enough deterrents as many have been caught and fined. It also seems that time in the lock-up hasn’t put the fear or the stigma of being imprisoned into them. Both young and old, if the photos and news reports are to be believed, from everywhere throughout Malaysia, from the cities and in the countryside as well.

Which part of life-threatening don’t they understand?

Unless or until someone in their family, or someone they know personally contracts the virus and is either hospitalised or dies?

Maybe not even then.

Some may even suggest that these people who are still defying the stay home orders are either lacking in their formal education or do not possess a prevalent sense of benevolence towards the community and society at large. Some may say they are simply defiant rebels and those who would simply protest or go against anything establishment.

Why do people disobey orders and instructions?

To start with, during the earlier stage of MCO, the authorities were not clear enough nor tough enough to spell out the exact instructions of MCO, perhaps they themselves were uncertain how to go about it. But by now everything is clearer, although there have been so many U-turns after proposed guidelines were either shot down, withdrawn, or cancelled. So in that case, the blame cannot be entirely be on the citizenry.

But now that everything is clearer and there are daily updates and information being spread faster and more efficiently, it is hoped that everyone understands fully the requirements and the repercussions of not abiding by them.

As law abiding citizens, we must all render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s – I must also admit that I for one feel that now is not the time to politicise the many policies and debates that have been prevalent since the Feb 24 fiasco, which had seen a ‘backdoor’ government come into power. That is best left to be continued after we have tackled Covid-19, which should presently be uppermost in our minds and our collective efforts to fight against and be one people in unity to counter its deadly menace to society. If we fail, there will not be much left of our community as we presently know it.

We should all unite together as one to fight this one common enemy and ensure our ultimate victory over it. Amen.

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