Yesterday a spine-chilling figure emerged in the Malaysian media, but it by no means made headlines. Doctors revealed that 80% of the so-called brought in dead (about a hundred are arriving in hospitals every week) die without having even been diagnosed with Covid or their sickness brought to the attention of the authorities.
What better signal that, after a year and a half, the authorities in Malaysia are not on top of the Covid crisis and that furthermore the statistics are not telling anything near the magnitude of the real level of infection? Officially, figures have been spiking around twenty thousand a day but doctors have told Sarawak Report the indicators suggest the real figure is at least three times higher.
Meanwhile, unfurling headlines have inevitably covered immediate and arresting political developments. For example, texts produced by Sarawak DAP showing how their MPs are being tempted to defect Jho Low style, citing the touted millions being offered to defect not as ‘cup-cakes’ but as ‘RM30 Durian’, CASH! Other headlines include the sliding avalanche of defections from PN of UMNO place-men and the DPM’s bogus attempts to ‘prove’ otherwise as his boss hides from Parliament.
Back to the daily experience of death and disease for ordinary Malaysians. Ministers have been lecturing people not to believe the evidence of their own eyes or experiences when it comes to disastrous scenes at vaccination centres. Yet the system has imploded into apparent chaos.
The government who last week prevented fully vaccinated MPs from walking into their own place of work on grounds of Covid (but actually to frustrate a No Confidence vote) has belatedly rushed into a mass vaccination drive to placate furious taxpayers who have funded the billions spend months ago on jabs.
The consequences have been truly mind boggling. Video has been emerging of the queues of unvaccinated folk crushed together in unmanaged lines stretching endlessly as thousands have waited patiently in the street, pressed against one another for hours to get their ‘life-saving vaccinations’.
How many are in fact catching the virus in the process is not certain – a couple of weeks ago one such centre was closed after over 200 staff tested positive themselves. What is obvious is that the conditions could not be more perfect for spreading the virus and no effort appears to have been made whatsoever to ensure safety and social distancing for these endangered people, who have nonetheless spent months in ‘lockdown’ on alleged safety grounds (or was it to keep them from protesting?).
Reports are already rife on social media with people messaging friends about those they know of who went to be vaccinated and came back with Covid. After all, a vaccination takes two weeks to work – two weeks too late.
Watching the astonishing scenes of thousands of unguided people seeking to line themselves up to be vaccinated one can not but wonder what happened to the scores of police who were detailed on Monday to prevent MPs from undertaking their own socially distanced march? Could not they have been used to introduce proper spacing and safer conditions?
Presumably they were all otherwise engaged in the intensive harassment of the several of those MPs who have now been called in for questioning on suspicion of breaking distancing laws and the like or of the many activists who are being face with days of interrogation over voicing protests on social media.
This is the nature of the dysfunctional management of the crisis of the century by the present government of Malaysia, whose lame duck PM announced a couple of days ago that whilst he may have lost his majority this would not be the time to change government because of the crisis!
Meanwhile, from Sarawak another spine-chilling statistic has emerged. A quarter of those now hospitalised with Covid 19 in that state, as doctors have told the media, had already been “fully vaccinated”.
This is not a normal statistic for other countries, where only a vanishing percentage of those who catch Covid end up in a serious condition if they have been vaccinated. It means that Malaysia’s vaccination effort, which has cost the taxpayer billions of ringgit under secretive arrangements that for months a suspended Parliament was prevented from scrutinising, has failed. Why?
It has been a constant concern and refrain of Sarawak Report that the heavy reliance on Sinovac by Malaysia’s procurement teams was a worrying decision. The data on Sinovac is inadequate compared to what has been presented by market leaders and what is available has shown that with a just 50.4% effectiveness rate against the original virus (compared to over 95% for other vaccines) it is a poor option compared to Pfizer and other drugs.
Sinovac’s performance against the Delta variant appears even worse.
Yet, Malaysia nonetheless engaged in vast purchases of this particular brand, paying almost top dollar for a drug few other advanced economies were looking at. So, why was Malaysia paying Pfizer prices for a market loser? More to the point, why was it that the bulk of this Sinovac was then shipped to places like Sarawak for the vulnerable interior communities whereas government officials, medics and the like were being offered Pfizer?
The consequences of this selective distribution appears to be that certain communities are selectively failing to be protected, vaccinated or not. These are the same communities who have found themselves at the bottom of the pecking order economically and in every other way after decades of poor governance by an alliance of BN/GPS and their present successor in this PN government.
However, these shocking matters were not what dominated the headlines in Malaysia over the past few days. These were reserved for the daily developments of the present political crisis that is the direct consequence of Mahiaddin’s refusal to accept the country’s verdict that he has failed and should resign.
The prime minister has twisted and turned and avoided all the rules, and the rulings of the Rulers, to save himself from the judgement of MPs. Yesterday, having once again unjustifiably put off Parliament for another month of horse-trading efforts, he had the temerity to announce that whether or not he commands the confidence of MPs, the Rulers, King and people, in his opinion he should remain in office because this crisis is no time to change the government!
Meanwhile, the self-same crisis escalates daily owing to his very refusal to move on and make way.
It for this reason that the headlines are reflecting what this administration cares about rather than what it ought to care about, namely its gravity defying struggle for its own political survival not Covid. Most stupefying yesterday was the senseless harassment of PN’s former UMNO allies after the ROS was bullied into demanding the party should suddenly hold nationwide elections during the pandemic, having earlier accepted the party’s own decision to delay.
The sole purpose of this announcement was, of course, to pressure UMNO into reversing its decision to abandon Mahiaddin’s prime ministership. The staggering insensitivity of such double standards relating once more to people’s safety, at a time when elections have been suspended everywhere else and when Parliament is being held at bay from chucking PN out, all on the excuse of Covid, seems lost on this prime minister and his desperadoes.
The country’s jaw has dropped and UMNO have predictably responded with greater fury rather than contrition. The crisis has stepped up another notch and proper governance and management of the real problems in Malaysia have become further paralysed by the hour.
Meanwhile, the slow unravelling of the PN structures has evidenced just why this government has proven not to be the best option for Malaysia but the very worst one possible. Every resignation that has taken place (as they are now doing so by the hour) has in the process revealed just how Mahiaddin built his alliance of erstwhile enemies through a network of staggering graft and the abuse of patronage.
Simply put, appointments by the PN government have been made not on the basis of securing the right person for the job, but time and again on the basis of buying political support.
Latest examples include the Sabah politician Rahman Dahlan (a former UMNO minister) who has announced his stepping down as the chairman of the local university as a signalling of his political defection!
As other resignations have likewise signalled, scores, nay hundreds of paid positions were plainly handed out by the Mahiaddin administration in the form of publicly funded perks to the main players of the political parties bought in to support his fragmented minority government since the 2020 coup.
In past hours, a Sabah UMNO youth chief has quit the board of Boustead, to which he was appointed in 2020; an UMNO Supreme Council member has resigned from the board of LTAT to which PN had appointed him; an UMNO Vice President has resigned as Chairman of Boustead to which PN had appointed him and the list goes on.
This is aside from the vast Cabinet and 70 fully paid up ministers funded by this usurper PM, along with a score of ‘Special Advisors’ all appointed at full ministerial level with perks and salaries to boot.
Indeed, so blatant has been the practice that all the ongoing resignations have been stated in political terms in that these place-men have stepped down as a signal of their withdrawal of political support from the government.
But why had Malaysia been saddled with such appointees in crucial management positions over major institutions funded by the public purse in the first place?
This is not governance it is clear evidence that the Mahiaddin administration entrenched cronyism and corruption as its means of political control.
A mafia system of governance is not good governance for a time of crisis. In fact, such appointees are clearly the worst possible people to be making daily life and death decisions affecting the immediate wellbeing of the population at any time. Indeed, they have proven the point by leaving their posts for political reasons only.
There is one matter in which those who are now abandoning their posts are therefore entirely correct. Mahiaddin and his putrid corruption have created havoc in Malaysia and escalated a health crisis into a far worse situation owing to the corruption at the heart of each and every decision PN makes.
Appointments have been made to buy support, vaccines have been purchased with a view to lining pockets, vaccines have been distributed according to favouritism and political convenience. Everyone has been on the make from the very top…. and inevitably right on down the line with a scandal so far unique to Malaysia where empty syringes have been placed into people’s arms by alleged ‘tired nurses’.
Contrary to the lame duck claims by Mahiaddin, therefore, the continuance of this grubby regime is the worst possible option for Malaysia going forward.
Every day that the political impasse is allowed to continue with the PN wheeler dealers prioritising their own survival by abusing law enforcement, abusing patronage or openly bribing MPs with stolen public money things are getting worse. They accuse concerned critics of ‘politicking’ yet politicking is all they ever do – it has underpinned every appointment and every decision of the Mahiaddin PN government from the day it was established as an unsupported minority leadership, its legitimacy untested.
Anything would be better than PN. Preferably a unity government with an uncorrupted majority leadership who can prepare the country for elections as soon as safely possible.