Sarawak MP Kelvin Yii: Is This the Right Time for a Mass New Year’s Eve Gathering?

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An Opposition parliamentarian today defended government officials attached to the State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) after a state minister rebuked them for being overzealous in their treatment of a celebrity who was placed in mandatory quarantine on arrival from peninsula Malaysia two days ago.

DAP’s Bandar Kuching Member of Parliament Dr Kelvin Yii said state Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah should also apologise to the civil servants for calling them names when they were merely doing their job.

“For me, it is an insult to all the hardworking frontliners out there who on a daily basis put their lives at risk just so that we are cared for and protected from the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said when responding to Karim reportedly labelling the officials as “smartasses” for trying to place singer Dayang Nurfaizah under quarantine at Kuching International Airport (KIA) on arrival from Kuala Lumpur, a Covid-19 red zone.

During a press conference yesterday, Karim offered his apologies to the Kuala Lumpur-based Sarawakian entertainer for “the inconvenience” inflicted on her by some officials.

According to Karim, Dayang was given the exemption from being quarantined for Covid-19 as she would be in Sarawak for only 72 hours.

She was swabbed for Covid-19 in Kuala Lumpur on December 25 and again when she arrived here two days ago.

Dayang is among the artistes invited to perform at the state government-organised mass gathering to mark the New Year at the Sarawak Indoor Stadium tomorrow night.

Dr Yii said the exemption accorded to the artiste raises a few questions on why there seem to be double standards in the treatment of normal folks entering the state and some VVIPs.

“Is a New Year party now considered an essential service that warrants such special exemptions and treatment?

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“On top of that, these exemptions were granted to people coming from Covid-19 red zones where numbers in the Klang Valley continue to climb,” he asked.

He said the main issue is not the artiste who merely received an invitation to perform nor is the civil servants who were just trying to do their job, but rather the person or ministry who thinks it is a good idea to organise an indoor New Year countdown party in the middle of a pandemic and give an exemption to a person travelling from a red zone.

He asked what message is the state government trying to send to the people about the importance of following all necessary precautions, including avoiding crowded areas, risking the possibility of an outbreak.

He said Senior Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob had mentioned that there would be no mass gathering for the New Year for the whole nation.

“How is then Sarawak exempted?” Dr Yii asked, urging the state government to consider postponing their planned New Year’s Eve celebration, which 1,000 people are expected to attend tomorrow.

He asked if such a big event is necessary when the state is facing the threat of Covid-19 pandemic. – MMO