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04/06/2021
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Total lockdown: our style

By Mohsin Abdullah

Thank God for search engines. Ever since its invention and became a feature in our lives, it’s so easy to, well, search.

I Google the word “total” and instantly found its definition. It says as an adjective, “total” is 1) comprising the whole number of amount and 2) complete, absolute. If I may add – full.

Putting this article into context, let’s take the second definition.

I then Google the word “lockdown” and it came up with several definitions. One put lockdown as ” a state of isolation or restricted access instituted as security measure”. Another has it as “an emergency situation in and which people are not allowed to freely enter, leave or move around in a building or area because of danger”.

Lockdown is also defined as “a period of time in which people are not allowed to leave their homes or travel freely because of a dangerous disease”.

OK, put the two words together we’ll have “total lockdown”. And based on the definitions we know what “total lockdown” means and what is to be put in place. Or how it ought to be like.

No detailed explanation needed. Further explanation would be an insult to you readers. And that’s the last thing I want to do.

What we have now is what the government calls a “full closure of the social and economic sectors”. In other words, a “total lockdown”.

Let’s take a relook on how the lockdown announcement was reported by the media.

I’ll quote The Edge. The financial paper reported, “Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin today (May 28) announced the first phase of a full closure of the social and economic sectors for 14 days beginning Tuesday June 1.

“The total lockdown was decided after a special session of the National Security Council (MKN) on COVID-19 management today (May 28).

“The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in a statement said that throughout the period, all sectors are not allowed to operate except the essential services and economic sectors.”

The report went on into other details which I will not be repeating here except the last two paragraphs which said, “All Malaysians are advised to remain disciplined and always adhere to SOPs in order for us to break the COVID-19 chain.

“It is best to just stay at home in order for us to flatten the COVID-19 infection curve, the PMO said.”

I appreciate the government’s aim to balance the health and economic impact on the people. No easy feat. Mammoth task actually. 

What we are seeing now are relatively quiet scenes here and there, especially in Kuala Lumpur, but not deserted though as expected. Some people need to go to work and are allowed to do so. Hence there people in trains, buses etc.

On the first day of the lockdown, traffic jams were reported in several areas prompting former PM Datuk Seri Najib Razak to post on Facebook to say this is the only full lockdown when the roads are full of cars.

He was being sarcastic, naturally.

In fact his sarcasm, sharp and biting, can be seen and heard almost daily on social media. The jab is on the government. But admittedly, say, most times he does have his points.

Anyway, of late we are hearing of questions being raised on the 95,000 companies (the figure obtained at the time of writing) approved by MITI. And many are asking just what MITI’s definition of essential services is.

But at the same time, the ministry’s COVID-19 Intelligent Management System 3.0 continues to receive complaints from disgruntled applicants who want to resume their essential services.

And there many other issues which many of us know all too well.

Whatever the situation might be, there is now an online petition calling for Datuk Seri Azmin Ali’s resignation.

He is, as we know, the International Trade and Industry and senior minister at that, in the Muhyiddin administration.

We are hearing also of a so-called “rift” between Azmin and Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, also a senior minister but in charge of security.

I will not comment on that as I am not privy to any information on this. But I must say that at times the two seem to not be on the same page as far as making public statements is concerned. They seem to be contradicting each other, especially on the do’s and don’ts in lockdowns.

And when Ismail Sabri recently uploaded on Facebook an image of himself exiting his office with the caption: “Saya dah tutup pintu depan tapi…“, or “I have closed the front door but…”, it set tongues wagging. The caption is accompanied by a teary faced emoji.

Speculation is rife about his future in Muhyiddin’s cabinet. Some are guessing who had opened the back door when he had closed the front. Just who was Ismail referring to?

However, he later clarified saying, “I closed the door because I wanted to go home.”

Let’s leave it there. For now.

Back to the total lockdown issue. I am not questioning whether the government is right or wrong in implementing the total lockdown the way it is being enforced. Not for this article anyway.

I am merely questioning whether total lockdown is the right name to use. I mean, is it right to call it “total lockdown” given the nature of the lockdown itself?

To Tun Mahathir Mohamad, it should be called a “partial lockdown”. 

Surely the government has its team of linguists and advisers capable of coming up with the precise term and suggest it to the government. A term which fits into the narrative.

Or perhaps the government might want to heed Mahathir’s suggestion? But then Muhyiddin and Co have stopped listening to him a long time ago!

(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist and now a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)

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