Activist: Federal govt must learn from S’wak in containing Covid-19

Peter John Jaban (file photo)

KUCHING, Jan 13: The Federal government should learn from the Sarawak experience in managing and tackling the Covid-19 instead of imposing emergency powers on the people of this State, opined activist Peter John Jaban.

Joining a growing number of concerned citizens who were questioning the declaration of a state of emergency in Malaysia, Peter John noted that those requesting these emergency powers claimed that this was a response to the rising numbers of Covid-19 cases in Malaysia.

“But Sarawakians are questioning the need for such sweeping powers, especially in the context of Sarawak where the State government already has the (Covid-19) numbers well under control and where an election is imminent.

“The reaction on the ground here is that this is about securing political power and nothing more. The pandemic has been in place for 10 months and, so far, the government has had no issues implementing MCO, CMCO or RMCO,” he said in a statement today.

He added that the whole population was ordered to stay at home with schools and businesses closed and inter-state travel suspended, all without need to resort to these emergency powers.

“In fact, they have called out the army, set up roadblocks, taken people into custody and raised thousands of ringgit in fines, all using the existing powers that they have. What more do they want to do that they haven’t been able to do already?

“In fact, they have achieved more wide-ranging measures than at almost any time in the country’s history. Yet, they want more? All politicians love nothing better than to reserve greater powers for themselves. It is we, the people, and our systems of democracy which must prevent them from doing so,” he elaborated.

Peter John also claimed that politicians have openly admitted that this move was for no other reason than to ‘provide political stability’ but it seemed that, in their minds, this translated to a position without challenge or perhaps even the possibility of criticism.

“For most of us, the only response available to criticism is to do a better job. For Malaysian politicians, it seems, the response is to silence the critic and just carry on regardless. They claim that they need this amnesty because of the health crisis.

“Unfortunately, most members of the public believe that the ability to criticise their elected representatives, particularly in a time of crisis, is incredibly important as a means to keep them in check, and parliament is the best means to do so,” he said.

All this, Peter John pointed out, became even more important in the context of Sarawak given that Sarawak State government have given the Federal government an excellent model for how to control Covid-19 and with no emergency powers available to them.

“With just over 1,500 cases and fewer than 20 deaths, it seems that the Sarawak health service is in better shape than the rest of Malaysia, even despite the years of neglect and underfunding by the Federal authorities.

“If Sarawak can manage it, then why can’t the Federal government follow their lead? Perhaps they should be learning from the Sarawak experience instead of imposing their emergency powers on the people of this state.

“After all, where is the emergency in Sarawak? Covid-19 is certainly an extreme difficulty but it is under control, albeit for now, and extra powers are simply unnecessary. The Sarawak State government has proven that they have all the power they need,” he highlighted.

Peter John stressed that politicians who do not face criticism were a threat to civil liberties in the long run and while the country already had a health crisis on its hands, there was no need to add a political one.

As Sarawak is supposed to hold an election in 2021, he said the only likely outcome of emergency powers in the State where Covid-19 is already well controlled is the stifling of the electoral process.

“It is up to the EC (Electoral Commission) and the Health Department to use their existing powers to ensure that the election takes place with the democratic process intact. South Korea has held an election in the midst of the pandemic, for example, and been lauded for their handling of the health crisis – another good example of how to operate as a responsive government,” he added.

Peter John reminded that power is only effective if wielded well and more powers thrown at people who have proven themselves unworthy of those they already have are simply a licence for more problems.

“Our politicians should get on the job in hand. If they do well, then they will win the support of the people. Politics is really that simple,” he concluded. -DayakDaily