By The Ipoh Echo Team
Lessons in the Time of MCO
In this article, we reflect on an extraordinary time in history. A time when we face our fears on our mortality; a time when we show our care for our loved ones and humanity in general, not by proximity but through distance; a time of home confinement; of washing hands, not in hitherto cursory manner but for a full duration of singing 2 “Happy Birthday” ditties; a time of social distancing, wearing masks, carrying sanitiser, and washing hands again.
As these health admonitions ring in our ears, and living with these conditions while coping with loneliness, fear of the future and fears around money, what learnings have emerged from the multiple phases of the movement control order (MCO)? An even more vital question is, will the precious lessons last? Everybody has a story to tell and thus, Ipoh Echo spoke to Perakeans from all walks of life to share their thoughts and encouraging words.
What Will Your New Normal Look Like? – Part 2
Stalwarts of Ipoh
Dato’ Lim Si Boon, the chairman of Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MICCI) Perak Branch, states that it has been a tumultuous time for the business community due to the change in both federal and state government and COVID-19. “This perfect storm for business is disruptive and deadly,” he laments.
The business chambers FMM, REHDA, Perak Chinese Chamber, Malay Chamber, Indian Chamber and the International Chambers met and subsequently engaged the Menteri Besar over a video conference. They provided input to the federal and state government for the support and stimulus packages. Even now, they are clarifying with both the state and federal government about the SOPs.
According to Dato’ Lim, members that were part of the global supply chain also clamored to ensure minimal disruption whilst keeping employees safe.
“The business community has never faced such disruption. The business chambers are providing as much support as they can to help businesses restart, adapt to new needs and pick up the pieces.
“Whilst the Perak businesses, government and population have come together as a community, more understanding is needed to adapt to the new reality.”
Tan Seow Heng, the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) Perak chairman, spoke on how FMM Perak has adapted despite its activities being drastically affected: “The seminars, training programmes, meetings and dialogues which are the primary ways FMM interacts with its members, have now come to a halt and likewise our engagements with the state government. For FMM Perak, we are engaging the digital platform to reach out to our members. During the MCO our main means of communication were mobile phones, WhatsApp and zoom and Skype meetings.”
Expressing his appreciation for the medical profession, Royal Malaysia Police and the various enforcement agencies who have been the front liners as unsung heroes, Tan equally lauds the caring NGOs who go the extra mile to feed the poor and homeless despite the many challenges faced in reaching out to them.
He made the most of the free time during the MCO by taking care of three grandkids, online shopping and sharing household chores. “Practicing good personal hygiene, social distancing and maintaining good personal health are top priorities,” he added.
“One thing for sure is it will never be the same for most of us. In the immediate to the long term, the pandemic will certainly have an impact on the way we live as an individual, community and conducting our daily businesses,” he noted.
Specialist Orthopaedic Consultant Dato’ Dr Ramanathan Ramiah, also CEO of Yayasan Ipoh, observes, “Never have we invested so much care in personal hygiene or realized that the air we breathe can kill. Even so, we are unknowingly blessed with incarceration and family bonding when it seems like we have lost touch with reality and nature, relearning to share with other living creations rather than scaling up the money graph. Many good souls have sacrificed life for us; maybe to a better place.”
He feels that at least now, people should wake-up to be kinder, loving, sharing and feel equal; dropping arrogance, tyranny or power.
“The Earth is still healing from our devastation. Let’s sanctify life and live on.”
Dato’ Nolee Ashilin binti Dato’ Mohamed Radzi, Executive Councillor for Housing, Local Government, Public Transport and Tourism (Acting Executive Councillor for Communications and Multimedia) advised, “We have to prioritise personal hygiene as urged by the Ministry of Health especially after the MCO is lifted. We have to stay disciplined. Regarding the tourism industry, we must adhere to the standard operating procedure (SOP) in order to revive the sector.”
“My utmost gratitude to the frontliners especially the Ministry of Health in containing the pandemic. Plus, the federal government for their effort in ensuring that no one gets left behind amidst the crisis,” she expressed.
Kulasegaran, former Human Resources Minister stated, “Pandemic is something we have read about but never experienced. With the current lockdown in our country and elsewhere, only then many realised how serious it is. Although the movement control order (MCO) has been relaxed, many are of the view that it has been done rather hastily. Whatever the outcome, we all have to live in a new normal of life. Adjustments and sacrifices are required in these new norms which are here to stay for a long time to come.”
Dr Abdul Aziz Bari, former Perak Exco and Perak DAP Deputy Chairman opined, “I look from a constitutional perspective. Foremost, why did the PM announce the lifting of movement restrictions without consulting the states via the MBs and Chief Ministers? It is being done arbitrarily. The public is still unsure whether the restrictions should be relaxed that soon. Bottom line, the PM has made a mess and he is not admitting fault. This has the effect of undoing the good work done by the Director-General of the Health Ministry, Dato’ Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah and his officers.”
“The economy is getting from bad to worse. And why is the Economic Minister, Azmin, doing the bad cop job? He wants to sue the state governments. What for? Where is the PM? Honestly, we are in a real mess and getting out of it will be an exercise in futility,” he pointed out.
Howard Lee Chuan How, former Perak Exco and Perak DAP Youth Chief termed the obvious economic recession we will undergo as “the Great Debilitation”, similar to the Great Depression of the last century.
According to him, Malaysia and other economies have been debilitated by their own versions of lockdowns to the point of paralysis. “They have been brought to a standstill by this pandemic of unknown lethality and consequences. Much of the world’s economy relies on humans carrying out social activities. And when that is denied or reduced, the economy asphyxiated. Like the human body, if it is denied oxygen for a certain period of time, the damage becomes irreversible,” he explained.
“For the best part of the last half century, Ipoh has managed to thrive during good times, and escape economic oblivion during bad times by having a strong culture and history of services. Leisure, retail, food, beverage, hospitality have been the lifeline of Ipoh’s resilience. All these are predicated on social contact and interactions. The movement control order (MCO) is being premised on minimising this interaction. This means cutting off the lifeline of the city. Economically, socially and politically, we are at the edge of a precipice blind-folded; knowing that a fall is iminent. The question is, what are we going to fall into? The government seems to be acting as only the government knows best, whilst ignoring the cries for help from the masses,” he continued.
“I have said earlier it is not social distancing that we need to break the Covid-19 chain, but physical distancing. We now need social connection more than ever. Technology enables this whilst physically distant. It’s time that the people unite behind social, economic and political forces that are sensitive to the new norms. Start engaging with neighbours, colleagues, friends and family, and aim to solve one common problem from each conversation,” Howard suggested.
“The future of Ipoh depends on an ‘all of society’ approach for us all to overcome – with or without the government. The great debilitation we are in requires the greatest rehabilitation plan. We all have a part to play,” he concluded.
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