By Lim Sue Goan, Sin Chew Daily
There has been a recent spate of war of words between politicians on both sides of the divide over the claim by health minister Adham Baba that the previous PH government failed to stop the tabligh gathering at Masjid Seri Petaling, resulting in a drastic spike in coronavirus cases.
PH rebuked the accusation by arguing that the police were then under the jurisdiction of home minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who is now the prime minister.
Meanwhile, former PM Najib said then PM Tun Mahathir and his deputy Wan Azizah should be held responsible for the lapse.
The tabligh event took place in KL from February 27 to March 1 during the week the country was in a state of no-government. As such, instead of arguing over who should take responsibility, perhaps the most urgent task now is to unite the people to fight our common enemy, the coronavirus.
Umno has been fiercely defending Adham because he is an Umno member. Their attitude towards ministers from other political parties has been different. For instance, when deputy health minister Datuk Noor Azmi Ghazali from PPBM was found flouting the MCO by having a lunch gathering, Umno vice president Mohamed Khaled Nordin and Sabah Umno chief Bung Moktar Radin lammed him as not leading by example.
On the other hand, deputy rural development minister Abdul Rahman Mohamad from Umno was spared for committing the same mistake.
Malaysians are generally frustrated at our deputy ministers who openly defied the law. While an ordinary citizen will get fined RM1,000 and hauled to the court, th deputy ministers and other senior government officials could walk away without any action taken against them. This is bound to hurt the credibility of the new PN government.
Perhaps some might argue that the deputy minster should be excused for distributing medical supplies and food items to the people, but what about the five voluntary workers in Labis arrested while disinfecting the area at night and the two elderly men in Tampin waiting for their free lunch from a restaurant? They were all fined and did not get the exemption only senior government officials are entitled to.
The political incidents taking place during the MCO show that prime minsiter Muhyiddin Yassin is going to confront a major test, especially after the MCO is lifted.
Firstly, Muhyiddin should handle the two deputy ministers in a fair and just manner. In other countries, any senior government official violating the lockdown rules will lose his job or get demoted, including New Zealand's health minister David Clark who drove his family to a beach 20km from home during the first lockdown weekend.
The two Malaysian deputy ministers are not the only leaders who have ignored the MCO. The other violators include deputy Dewan Rakyat speaker cum Batu Pahat MP Mohd Rashid Hasnon, Terengganu menteri besar Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar, Perak state exco Razman Zakaria, Kelantan state exco Mohamed Fadzli Hassan, Melaka state exco Norhizam Hassan Baktee and Umno Klang division chief Nasaruddin M Zin.
If PN leaders do not set a good example for the rest of the nation, it would be a major embarrassment for Muhyiddin whose position is still shaky.
The non-compliance with MCO rules shows that some of PN's newly minted ministers are of questionable quality. This must be seriously looked into or disciplinary and factional issues may arise within the coalition.
Secondly, even with the coronavirus outbreak, our cabinet ministers continue to display the antiquated mentality. For example, higher education minister Noraini Ahmad has planned to organize a "Tik Tok competition" while not being able to address the urgent issues related to our tertiary students. Her ministry even announced to suspend online teaching during the early days of MCO.
Meanwhile, Adham Baba's "warm water" theory has made him a laughing stock. He even claimed that he claimed that he had a video conference with 500 countries during a Facebook live event with Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
In addition to mediocrity, what we are more worried about is that the antiquated mentality among our government leaders may affect the decisions they make. For example, women and family development minister Rina Mohd Harun suggested that women dress in office attire when working from home during MCO and mimic to voice of Doraemon when talking to their husbands.
Meanwhile, her deputy Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff urged women to endure domestic violence during MCO, prompting Sisters in Islam (SIS) to conclude that Siti Zailah was hinting that all women should forgive their violent husbands.
Thirdly, PN member parties remain unsatisfied with government posts offered to them. For example, Ahmad Zahid wrote to Muhyiddin proposing to appoint four Sabah Umno leaders as government officials, including Kinabatangan MP Bung Moktar who and his wife are facing a RM2.8 million bribery case in court.
Political appointment without taking into consideration the consequences has already gone against Muhyiddin's pledge of integrity and clean governance.
Fortunately we have health DG Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah at the helm of the country's war against the coronavirus, but do our ministers have the capability to tackle the looming economic recession? Where is PN headed to without the binding and guidance of an election manifesto?