Dennis Ignatius: The worst government ever!

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It is the spirit of ordinary citizens that keeps this country going. 

If there’s one thing that recent heavy flooding in parts of the country has brought home, it is that we are now straddled with the worst government we’ve ever had. The way the government responded to the crisis exposed what many have suspected for some time now – the Ismail Sabri cabinet is not just horribly bloated; it is thoroughly incompetent as well.

With each change of government, we seem to get a government that is even worse than the one before. It is not surprising though because the same incompetent ministers are frequently recycled. They give themselves high marks for performance, but it doesn’t take much to expose them for the bungling, blundering, and bumbling lot they are.

They have simply no clue how to govern leave alone lead. They don’t even know what their responsibilities are and what is expected of them in times of crisis. If they are not too busy passing the buck to someone else, they are trying to get as much publicity for doing as little as possible. For them, it’s all about politics; the welfare of the people is of little importance.  No wonder most Malaysians are so disgusted with them.

The civil service – one of the largest and most expensive in the region – too has much explaining to do. We spend so much money on all sorts of agencies which are supposed to respond to crisis situations, but they are so poorly led that they run around like headless chickens when they are needed most.

While the magnitude of the storms that lashed the country might have taken the government by surprise, the failure to manage the simple things – keeping floodgates and water pumps functional, clearing clogged drains, protecting our forests from logging and land clearing, keeping emergency response teams prepared and their equipment well-oiled, timely weather alerts, etc. – have made the situation far worse. It is a sign of the slow degradation of the basic functions of government.

Reuters

Thankfully, the people didn’t wait for the government. Malaysians of all ethnicities and religious backgrounds responded by reaching out to those in need. NGOs and religious groups too rose to the occasion in splendid form providing urgently needed food and shelter. A few dedicated members of parliament and state assemblymen rolled up their sleeves and got to work as well. The speed and scope of the response by these groups couldn’t have been more starkly different from that of the government. It is a reminder that it is the spirit of ordinary citizens that keeps this country going.

It is not the first time we have witnessed such an appalling lack of leadership in the face of a crisis. Remember the chaos and confusion that descended upon the nation when the Covid pandemic first struck? Conflicting rules and regulations, non-existent coordination, people caught in a lockdown without food and medical attention, etc. Very quickly, the whole country descended into disarray. We were still trying to recover from that colossal failure of government when the floods came.

Thanks to a series of corrupt, incompetent, and pathetic leaders, our once proud nation has now been reduced to the sick man of Southeast Asia. People have grown so angry with and distrustful of the government that they have even taken to Twitter to plead with both local and international donors to channel assistance through NGOs and other private organizations rather than through the government. People fear, not unreasonably, that any assistance channelled through government agencies will simply be purloined. It is a stunning and shameful indictment of the government. And a sad commentary on the state of affairs in Malaysia today. – Dennis Ignatius