Anwar chides cabinet over lack of plan to fight Covid-19

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Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim has taken the Perikatan Nasional government to task for not having a clear plan to contain the Covid-19 pandemic after imposing a movement-control order (MCO).

The Pakatan Harapan president explained – based on a revelation by the EU-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Eurocham) that PN might announce a full shutdown after February 4, which it subsequently denied – that many businesses are in a state of panic.

“Speaking on behalf of thousands of business owners who have voiced their frustrations to me during the last few months, I ask the question that for a government comprising 72 ministers operating in an emergency state.

Olivia Harris/Reuters

“What the hell is going on that prevents this group of people from accomplishing the basic, minimum number of tasks expected to contain the pandemic?” Anwar questioned in a lengthy statement today.

The Port Dickson MP added that the possible lockdown will cripple most businesses if Putrajaya does not provide adequate cushioning to soften the economic impact.

“If another strict MCO is proposed without substantial financial support to struggling businesses and families, I predict many companies will close down.

“This is the time for the government to dig deeper into its pocket and help the corporations, and thus indirectly help contain the pandemic,” Anwar said.

Among the biggest reasons for the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic were the foreign workers’ dormitories, which Anwar said, the government must immediately address if it plans on keeping the economy running.

“We have seen countless reports about MCO violations taking place in dormitories. Why are companies allowed to remain in violation of MCO SOP without penalty?

“The government has had ample time to mobilise resources to monitor and enforce SOP and yet we do not see this happening.

“Unlike Singapore, which moved to implement mass testing in its migrant workforce population, Malaysia continues to drag its feet on this fundamental and largely achievable step,” he said.

The PKR president said among the measures which the PN government could take include more wage subsidies and mass testing for foreign workers which can be subsidised by the government.

“The wage subsidy scheme must be increased and better implemented. Tax grants must be offered to corporations in upgrading better workers’ quarters. Mass testing must be implemented and paid, or at least partially subsidised, by the government,” Anwar said.

The former finance minister also slammed current Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz for misleading the public on claiming that the MCO will not affect investor confidence.

“Investor confidence stems from consistency and sound execution of good public policy as well as adherence to the rule of law. This government’s handling of the MCO, especially since the outbreak after the Sabah election, has been utterly disorganised and inconsistent.

“Without evidence to the contrary, we can assume that investors will reach the same conclusion that we and many Malaysians already have – the government has no plan and cannot function under the current complex and chaotic situation,” he said.

Anwar who made a claim last September that Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s government had lost support and that he had a “strong, formidable and convincing” majority, said PN was hiding behind the emergency to delay parliamentary proceedings.

“Last year the PN government dodged and delayed Parliament multiple times to avoid facing the possibility of a challenge to its non-existent majority. In doing so the people of Malaysia suffered in the form of delayed and diminished economic stimulus and support.

“This year the PN government wishes to avoid Parliament again, hiding behind an unnecessary emergency declaration. The result will inevitably be the needless and prolonged suffering of the Malaysian people,” he said.

The veteran politician once again urged the government to revoke the emergency rule and allow Dewan Rakyat to sit again to discuss the pandemic at length and avoid any unilateral decisions.

“I once again reiterate the need for an emergency session of Parliament, with the consent of the Agong, to discuss these issues and ensure that the policies which the government enacts going forward are reasonable, rational and in the direct interest of the people of Malaysia and not just a few who are desperate to cling to power,” Anwar said. – TMI