Visit to Turkey, playing chicken with Covid-19?
By Hafidz Baharom
It was brought to light yesterday that a lawmaker and minister decided to go on an official visit to Turkey, came back and went straight into parliament, ignoring the Covid-19 standard operating procedure of a quarantine.
At a time when Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri is being shown live daily saying no one is above the law, not even state authorities wanting to limit health tourism due to the rising number of positive coronavirus cases, this leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
But more to the point, how is it that he is not wearing a mandatory quarantine band after returning overseas and being told to stay in a quarantine centre?
Ministers should know by now that just getting such a post and even going on official visits does not mean they are above the law. I would have thought the lesson to be clear when the Deputy Minister of Health himself had to pay the fine for violating the Movement Control Order (MCO) and had a group lunch.
Or even when our Foreign Minister decided to vape in parliament because he didn’t want to take a smoke break. Yes, vaping is safe to partake inside the residential house, but it is still barred inside the House of Parliament.
As I was listening in to the parliament debate while this topic was being discussed, some government MPs tried to butt in by saying it was alright because it was an “official visit”. Are you kidding me?
No, an “official visit” is not a reason for SOP exemption at a time of pandemics.
Some have defended the minister by saying he did not test positive. Yet again, this is another breach of the Ministry of Health’s SOP because you get tested, and then quarantined for 14 days before being tested again and released. How did this minister manage to bypass this?
The problem here is the example set by the minister being let off screams double standards and hypocrisy, especially when you have people suffering out there in quarantine and breaching it just so that they can apply for the Bantuan Sara Hidup (BSH) payments.
But more the problem, the minister is setting an example that might trigger the entire quarantined population to reconsider their need to remain indoors and avoid interacting with the general public. And we all know, just one positive case – which is 80 percent without any symptoms – can spread yet another cluster.
So imagine what this minister’s supporters will do if they are led by example.
This government came in during a time of crisis, and the way the prime minister handled the crisis is what has been keeping him popular among the general public – or at least, popular enough to maintain power in his Perikatan/Muafakat Nasional alliance.
It survived one deputy minister going on a jaunt for lunch during the MCO, a minister saying that women should keep their husbands happy by sounding like Doraemon, another minister boasting of talking to “500 countries”.
Does this government really want to deal with yet another fallout due to a minister wanting to attend parliament without getting quarantined after coming back from Turkey?
Does this government truly want to play chicken with a pandemic triggering virus for the sake of maintaining an alliance of power?
At the same time, if Parliament can take a 10-minute break before voting for a supplementary bill, it better take a break now to sanitise the building. Furthermore, it should also quarantine any member’s of the ministry staff who was involved with that trip.
On top of that, all those seated or had close contact with the minister needs to be tested and quarantined for public safety.
The fact that ministers are flouting this general order set by the Director-General of Health, goes to show that some are already turning a blind eye towards the pandemic, and spitting in the face of Tan Sri Noorhisham Abdullah’s efforts to get this pandemic under control.
And let’s face it – 60 percent of this government’s current popularity and support, is only due to him.