Do the unfortunate people under the enhanced movement control order deserve to be heavily penalised, Mustafa K Anuar wonders.
As per Health Director General Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah’s wish on his recent 57th birthday, we owe it to him to stay home in the concerted effort to break the chain of Covid-19 infections in the country.
In other words, social distancing must be strictly adhered to as it is crucial in the fight against this invisible and insidious scourge.
It is understandable that Noor Hisham’s birthday celebration was confined only to his close colleagues who presented him with birthday cakes after the daily media briefing at his office.
We trust that those attending the celebration exercised social distancing, as is often reminded by the authorities with a promise of heavy penalties for violators.
Noor Hisham strikes us as one who is a stickler for discipline and rules, which explains why his former Methodist Boys’ School classmates preferred to not spring on him a birthday surprise as he would have had a tough time making sure the excited crowd practised physical distancing.
Instead, Noor Hisham’s former classmates and school principal sensibly chose to make a five-minute video to send happy birthday wishes to the man who is leading the country in the battle against the pandemic.
This also suggests that his former classmates know Noor Hisham well enough to not assume he would nonchalantly abuse his position to accommodate them for a birthday bash at a time when staying home is the right thing to do. Besides, as the one at the forefront of this drawn-out fight, he will have to lead by example so that the integrity of the movement control order stays intact.
Almost 15,000 ordinary people, including migrant workers, have so far been arrested in the first two phases of the movement control order.
While it is crucial to impress upon the general public the importance of social distancing, the blanket application of such a ruling has become a moot point. This is because the impact of this pandemic is felt unequally by the rich and the powerful on the one hand, and the poor and the marginalised on the other. This is, of course, not to suggest that the recalcitrant ought to be excused for having brazenly breached the movement control order.
A question arises when, for instance, starvation in the household drives individuals to get out of the house to seek food for survival even though it is in clear violation of the movement control order.
On the other hand, the rich would have stacked foodstuff in their fridge to ensure their survival in the comfort of their lovely homes without having to risk breaking the order.
Here the plight of residents in Selayang, which has been been placed under an enhanced movement control order, further illustrates the concern.
Batu MP P Prabakaran said the enhanced movement control order meant that the residents of the high-density Seri Murni apartments, who apparently were caught unaware by the new directive, could not leave their homes to stock up food or seek medical help.
And some residents of these congested apartments, where social distancing can be a luxury, were waiting for food aid from the Social Welfare Department that has not yet arrived. They may succumb to illness and other problems if food aid is delayed.
Prabakaran said some of the residents are odd-job workers, some are daily wage earners, and a few are small business owners in the bottom 40% of society.
It is feared that desperation may lead a few to venture out of their homes to seek much-needed salvation, only to court the wrath of the authorities as a result.
Do these unfortunate people deserve to be heavily penalised – although they would frustrate the birthday wish of Noor Hisham?