Politicians who tried to jump on the bandwagon have been criticised on social media with users lashing out at them for not doing their part and instead trying to muscle in on the efforts by the people.
When the going gets tough, Malaysians can depend on each other. That’s certainly the message of the #benderaputih initiative on social media that has been going viral since this morning, with thousands of Malaysians pledging to do as much as they possibly can to help those in dire straits.
As of 3pm, #benderaputih had garnered more than 16,000 tweets and counting. Although it isn’t clear who started the initiative, netizens have called it a movement by Malaysians for Malaysians.
Twitter user @elle_kj said in her tweet: “Aku bukan orang senang (I don’t have it easy), but I know how hard it is bila kau tiada apapa (when you don’t have anything). Please reach out if you need helps (sic), we are willing to help.”
The movement suggests that those who need assistance fly a white flag or cloth outside their homes, which would let those who are able to help know which households could be facing extreme difficulties.
The initiative arose amid growing reports of Malaysians being pushed to the breaking point by the ongoing pandemic.
User @calistalieya said; “Another day, come on #Malaysian. Let’s unite and care for each other.
“Start with our mental health, it’s okay not to be okay. Let’s raise our white flags, and we will help one another.”
Another user @crawlernightt said: “This bendera putih campaign is so beautiful. Love to see how everyone is willing to help each other in times like this.
“After all, we (the society) only have each others back to rely on. May this campaign ease the burden of those in need. Let’s help each other out.”
Meanwhile, Local Government and Housing Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin and Amanah appear to be among those who have hitched a ride on the campaign.
In a tweet posted by her social media administrator today, Zuraida said those who need aid don’t have to beg or be ashamed but can just raise a white flag.
“I am together with the #benderaputih campaign to identify those who need help,” she said, adding another hashtag #actionbeyondpolitics.
A WhatsApp message from bureau chief Mohd Sany Hamzan said each area should have at least 10 white flags. He confirmed the message as authentic when contacted today.
Both Zuraida and Amanah’s plans to join the white flag campaign have since been panned on social media.
For the minister, notable critics included Pakatan Harapan politicians such as Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh.
“A Sheraton Move power grabber doesn’t know how to do their job. Based in Putrajaya but asks people to wave a white flag? Nonsense,” Yeoh said.
DAP’s Syahredzan Johan tweeted that ministers should not appropriate initiatives by the public.
“Ministers have power, are in the cabinet. Use those powers so the people don’t have to wave white flags,” he added.
In a live Facebook discussion with “Tamat Darurat” (end emergency) committee chairman Khalid Samad this morning, Amanah National Youth chief Shazni Munir Ithnin said the campaign is to highlight Putrajaya’s failures and also to help needy Malaysians.
“It is a clear sign that the government has failed us all. When (Prime Minister) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced the emergency, he promised that cases will drop, and the economy will be back to normal.
“However, after six months, we see no improvement. Economy is weak, cases continue to increase each day. The people have had enough.
“They have taken it upon themselves to help those in need. If we see a white flag, stop and ask how we can help. The suffering is real and we the people must put an end to this,” said Shazni.
He urged the government not to blame the opposition for the white flag campaign.
Meanwhile, DAP Socialist Youth chief Howard Lee said the government MPs have been busy playing politics instead of working to end the pandemic.
“Instead of convening the parliament, government MPs, ministers and deputy ministers are busy politicking. Instead of discussing the pandemic at the parliament, they chose to close parliament.
Currently, Malaysia is still in Phase One of Movement Control under the National Recovery Plan (NRP) and has been under total lockdown since June 1, with only essential economic and services sectors were allowed to operate.
Phase One, scheduled to end yesterday, has been extended as the number of Covid-19 cases in the country has not dipped below the threshold value of 4,000 required to move to the next phase.
Muhyiddin announced a RM150 billion Pemulih aid package yesterday, which offers more cash handouts as well as more withdrawals from the Employees Provident Fund, and a six-month moratorium on loans.
There is also more assistance for small and medium enterprises, and an expanded wage subsidy programme.
However, business and SME groups have said the only real solution is to allow more economic sectors to operate, which they say can be done under stricter standard operating procedure and by ramping up vaccinations against Covid-19.
The ongoing lockdown has been in place nationwide since June 1 and was to have expired yesterday.
It has been extended indefinitely until key indicators are met, according to Muhyiddin’s national recovery plan. Then, he said he will loosen restrictions. Daily Covid-19 cases have to drop to below 4,000 on average, and 10% of the population must be vaccinated, and more ICU beds must be available.
In the past week, Covid-19 cases have been trending at over 5,000 daily while only 6.5% of the population has been vaccinated.