By A Very Frustrated Malaysian

“I think if we go to the ground, we will probably find the kitchens of homes to be full (with supplies).” -- Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--Day after day, we drown under a flood of bad news. Nearly a million Malaysians have been infected with COVID-19, over 120,000 active cases are officially acknowledged along with over 7,000 deaths. How many have died from a lack of resources is unknown as the health authorities seem to refuse to release data or even admit this is happening.

Neglect, lack of resources and an inability to provide for the health care needs are the result of a system that was already under-funded even before the pandemic began. It is a wonder how things have not already collapsed. Perhaps only the strength of our frontliners is keeping things together. but for how long?

Unemployment, stress and never ending anxiety caused by various movement control orders has also taken a different kind of toll, the rate of suicides is unprecedented with an estimated 2 to 4 taking their lives a day, a testament to our lack of attention to mental health management and the crushing pressure faced by many.

But an even more pressing long term problem has developed. Over 750,000 are officially acknowledged to have lost their jobs. Of course this  only represents those in fixed employment. It is known that many in the informal sector have been “wiped out” and depend on aid to survive.

Our B40 has swelled into a B60, with many hundreds of thousands more joining the ranks of the poor and hardcore poor. But instead of granting immediate aid, the government seems more intent on getting people to use their own pension funds. Even those who are employed queue at soup kitchens.

The pandemic has caused many to be without basic necessities, supplies of staples such as rice, ikan bilis and even eggs run low. While the Perikatan Nasional government has been attempting to distribute food aid, the quote by Muhyiddin sums up the vast gulf between ordinary folk and those who claim to rule over them.

When the rakyat came together to help those raising white flags, that same Muhyiddin asked them to raise blue (PN) flags instead, while others said it was wrong to ask for help from their fellow Malaysians.

At this critical juncture in our country’s history, we must draw on lessons from the past to understand what’s in store for the future: hunger, anger and despair are some of the most potent motivators for widespread civil unrest or worse.

With some people near the point of starvation, and others feeling helpless and frustrated over the state of the countries and politicians from both ruling blocs seemingly more interested in struggling for power instead of struggling for the rakyat, how many more vulnerable people will fall through the cracks?

Will we finally see people desperate enough to consume the corpses of those who die at home, with their families too afraid or desperate to report their deaths? Will we see even more gruesome things that only other countries have seen during times of war and disaster?

Let us hope it does not come to that. But even if it did, would those in power care?

*The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of INS.