Protect, empower, unite and inspire the people

The people have suffered too much. It is time to be empowered and inspired

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Sketch by Wong Soak Koon

As the pandemic continues, online delivery services have snowballed in an essential service.

Foreign media have reported on how these workers are increasingly being exposed to extreme work-related conditions leading to strain, as seen in South Korea.

Protect the workers

Here in Malaysia online delivery services are seen both as a bonus and an escape vault.

It is a bonus for those with capital, owning and managing the huge warehouses and delivery services as more and more Malaysians avoid shopping at public places.

But the delivery staff in motorbikes, cars and vans rushing to meet delivery deadlines and quota are certainly not doing this tedious work for fun. Braving the heat and rain, the risks are inherent. Those working inside warehouses have to put up with the long hours.

Taking up these jobs was a means for these young men and women to make up for lost or reduced income during the pandemic.

The government has a duty of care to put in place quick measures to protect these delivery workers. 

Leaving it to online service owners is not the answer, as certain employers will exploit these workers to reap huge profits. 

We have to ensure that the delivery personnel have reasonable working conditions including proper health and social security coverage and safer, well-maintained vehicles for their work.

Interim measures should be introduced to protect their interests until long-term protection is put in place.

Empower, don’t muzzle

A news portal recently carried a report about a Chinese vernacular school in Kuala Kangsar.

Many ethnic Malay pupils were enrolled in that school. When the journalists approached the principal to get more information on this phenomenon of ordinary kampung folk sending their children to a Chinese vernacular school instead of a nearby Malay-medium national school, they could not get the exact enrolment figures.

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The reason? The school head declined to comment, saying the Education Department had directed them not to talk to the media.

This is what we call ‘ketinggalan zaman’. A government that keeps muzzling its employees is like an ostrich that buries its head in the sand out of sheer fear.

In this age of a rapidly advancing media technology, where every citizen has the freedom, power and choice to communicate anywhere and anytime, such gag orders are reminiscent of dark-age politics.

Ironically, and as proven repeatedly, despite the gag order that prevented the principal sharing basic information, it did not need rocket science for the journalists to still get the story out.

What our politicians fail to understand is that when an authority declines comment or refuses to give information, the media have other means of getting the story out that could be even more damaging for the government.

In this particular report, it was parents of the Malay pupils who revealed the truth. 

Don’t blame the media. They are only fulfilling their duty to channel the facts to the people, who have right to know the truth.

It is time our politicians went back to school to learn, appreciate and value how the media world operates and to understand the advantages of not gagging civil servants.

It has no place in the networked society of the 21st Century.

Heal and unite the people

Pope Francis’ historic visit to Iraq comes at a time when the world faces extreme religious schism and divisions in many places.

The papal visit and dialogue with the senior official for Islam there should set the direction for other leaders around the world too.

As the Shia Muslim cleric and the pope met in the spirit of interfaith harmony and understanding, we in Malaysia cannot just look the other way. Our leaders need to seize on this climate of hope to forge Islamic and Christian understanding here as well. 

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In a country where religion has been politicised to the hilt over decades, we need to strengthen our interfaith acceptance and understanding, taking the cue from this historic dialogue between the representatives of Christianity and Islam.

The pope’s historic visit to Iraq is not only symbolic but also a clarion call to all nations divided along religious differences and sectarian schism.

Iraq which was the birthplace of Abraham, upon whose lineage was given to humanity the three Abrahamic world religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Today, we witness Christians and Shia Muslims embracing each other in the name of humanity.

Let’s pray and hope interfaith cooperation, acceptance and support for each other’s religion will also grow in Malaysia.

In a country where even the use of the word Allah has been disputed amid fears of proselytising, Malaysian leaders and politicians should recognise the progressive steps taken by religious leaders like Pope Francis and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

We are a small nation of just over 30 million inhabitants. We too can walk the path of peace, progress and interfaith respect as the pope and Ayatollah al-Sistani have done. 

For multi-religious Malaysia to become a fully developed nation with progressive social, political and economic achievements, it must embrace quickly the 21st Century’s awakening of humanity.

Inspire the people

Meanwhile, the lockdowns have left deep scares of bankruptcies, lost jobs, pay cuts and a host of social and emotional pains along with the financial setbacks.

In addition, since the political coup of February 2020, Malaysians have not been spared an overload of political speculation, allegations, gossip and a host of greedy, cunning manoeuvres. 

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The assurance of “saving the nation” is hardly felt at the grassroots level, while politicians desperately plot and counter each cunning move to stay in power.

Meanwhile, the people (including millions of migrant workers) languish, frustrated and confused by the waves of decisions, announcements and actions taken by various government agencies.

All these have taken a toll on the minds and hearts of the people. Heading for the polls at this time will probably result in heavy blows to political parties and their kingpins who harbour ambitions of power, control and profit from vested interests.

It is time therefore to inspire an unfairly battered nation. Leaders, especially those in government, must rise to the occasion. They need to inspire us with concrete policies, plans and their implementation to benefit the people – not by ethnic or religious affiliation but across the board.

Inspire us not by increasing the penalties that are now easily concocted with an emergency ordinance in place.

Inspire us by returning democratic Malaysia to its position as enshrined in the Federal Constitution – by giving us back our Parliament in session.

Inspire us by nailing the many financial fraud cases still unresolved.

Inspire us by bringing to full closure the despicable murder of Altantuya, public speculation over which is still swirling.

Inspire us with decisive policies and affirmative action that will be a progressive example for the region.

Talk to us – not preach to us. Inspire us – not admonish us endlessly.

An inspired people is the only reliable currency of peace, progress and development.

The people have suffered too much at the hands of politicians. It is time to demand our right to be inspired.

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