Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob recently declared 3 December as the annual “Malaysia Batik Day”.
He said the government hoped this latest declaration would encourage everyone, including the private sector and the nation’s multiracial society, to wear Malaysian batik.
Claiming the move was in line with the “Malaysia family” concept, the PM reiterated that people of all races could showcase their unity by wearing beautiful local batik.
If this call is not a misplaced priority, tell me what is.
Many are buckling under an unprecedented climate of fear and pain. And we need to wear batik attire to showcase our unity?
The pandemic is not over. Fears are mounting about new Covid variants. New cases are located here too. Despite trumpeting a vaccination rate of over 90%, daily Covid cases hover around 4,000.
We are approaching runaway inflation. The prices of vegetables and basic food items such as bread have rocketed. Even nasi lemak prices have soared while the quantity keeps reducing. And nobody is talking about fuel prices, which are creeping upwards.
Against this backdrop of so much untold public suffering, do we need to be told we must now wear batik attire to work so that we can shore up our unity?
Anyway, who is going shopping these days given the spiralling cost of living? Who wants to go shopping to pick one or two batik outfits amid the fear of Delta and Omicron?
Mind you, batik clothes may not come cheap either – although this is of zero consequence to most MPs, who enjoy increased wages, allowances and a host of perks.
Perhaps all the PM’s paid advisers should have instead told Ismail Sabri that it would have made more sense if he focused on the people’s pressing needs instead.
It would have made even more sense to launch a month-long food-science education programme on how to rely on local garden herbs to help boost our immune system. Putting in place a national mechanism that would make it possible for the people to have cheap, easy access to local herbs and vegetables would have been more relevant and timely.
Getting media support and mobilising food science and nutrition experts to boost public knowledge of immune systems and how herbs and local vegetables can be most useful would have been be the right thing to do.
Ismail Sabri could also have scored more brownie points if he had effectively tackled the inflationary crisis, which is a national crisis.
He could have announced the setting up of a high-powered taskforce to stop any ugly profiteering along the food chain. This taskforce could have come up with measures to ease the distress of farmers and consumers while eliminating any unnecessary profiteering middlemen.
If there is a need to use the military to transport farm produce and set up special markets to ensure that prices are kept in check, please do so. After all, is this not a time of national crisis?
We have a huge civil service headcount. What is so difficult in mobilising excess staff during these times of a slower working pace to do national service by helping the military to bring the national food chain under control?
Wearing batik is the last of our needs and especially so after the past two years of the pandemic and accompanying economic and financial challenges.