Pakatan MPs press Putrajaya for info on food security, travel ban during Covid-19 shutdown

Saifuddin and Loke pointed out in a joint online press conference that yesterday's announcement left Malaysians confused over matters such as food availability and their movement during the two-week period. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Saifuddin and Loke pointed out in a joint online press conference that yesterday's announcement left Malaysians confused over matters such as food availability and their movement during the two-week period. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, March 17 — Pakatan Harapan (PH) lawmakers have called upon the Perikatan Nasional (PN) administration to clarify matters and provide a “frequently asked questions” (FAQ) list over the restriction of movement order announced yesterday.

The coalition’s secretariat consisting of PKR’s Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution, DAP’s Anthony Loke and Amanah’s Khalid Samad pointed out in a joint online press conference that the announcement left Malaysians confused over matters such as food availability and their movement during the two-week period starting tomorrow.

“We welcome the prime minister’s guarantee over the food supply but at the same time, PH would like to raise a few questions regarding the food guarantee.

“The food supply guarantee was made without any explanation on the mechanism on how we can ensure that our food will be enough,” said Saifuddin, who was formerly domestic trade and consumer affairs minister.

He pointed out that Malaysia does not produce enough food for its population and had to import RM51 billion worth of food items including meat, fish, onions and assorted vegetables last year.

He explained that the most of the country’s food imports come from China and Europe.

With the Covid-19 pandemic hitting the world, Saifuddin wanted to know how Malaysia planned on importing food from countries that have become hotspots for Covid-19 such as China.

“Yesterday the government said grocery stores, wet markets, supermarkets and sundry shops are allowed to remain open. However, the public is asking about restaurant premises — where workers usually buy their daily meals.

“These are the places that the public head to for lunch or after working hours. This also requires a clearer explanation from the government,” said Saifuddin.

The Kulim-Bandar Baharu lawmaker also advised the current PN administration to carry on with a project that he initiated previously with the Finance Ministry on face mask supply to government front-liners.

Prior to the collapse of the PH administration, Saifuddin met local face masks manufacturers to supply seven million three-ply face masks to the Immigration Department, healthcare workers, airport personnel and other high risks premises.

The Finance Ministry had approved a budget of RM5 million for the seven million units and all the current government needs to do is continue on the final legs of the project.

Former transport minister Loke pressed Putrajaya to quickly explain the matter of Malaysians who work in Singapore but stay in Johor.

“It is estimated that 300,000 Malaysians commute to Singapore everyday for work. Has the government discussed shutting down our borders with the Singaporean government? Because it was clear from the Singaporean trade minister’s reaction — the Malaysian government didn’t discuss with them on the logistics of this matter.

“If our workers are not allowed back home, will Singapore prepare temporary accommodations for them to stay for the next 14 days? If they can’t go to work, will their employers in Singapore guarantee their job safety?

“This affects hundreds of thousands of Malaysians not just in the south but also in the north, those who commute to do business in Thailand. I hope the prime minister will clarify this immediately, in the next two to three hours because the travel ban comes into force at midnight tonight,” Loke said.

The Immigration Department clarified separately that international commuting is not allowed during this period.

Touching on the travel ban, the former transport minister also wondered if the restriction only applies at an international level.

He wanted to know whether Malaysians are still allowed to fly to Sabah and Sarawak or to balik kampung while the limited movement order is in place.

At the same time, Loke also questioned Putrajaya on how it will assist the domestic airlines to rise above these turbulent times.

“If I’m still the transport minister, I would ask all airlines in the country to meet me and ask what form of assistance package that the government can give them. This would include lowering the cost of landing rights and any other costs they require, including soft loans.

“We can’t allow the airlines to go bankrupt because it will give a very bad implication to the country, not just because their employees lose their jobs but we must ensure that we still have connectivity to other countries when things recover,” said Loke.

The now Opposition lawmaker also asked Putrajaya on whether or not all international flights will be grounded and how this will impact MAS’ routes and priority to receive landing slots at other international airports — particularly Heathrow.

If the flights are grounded, Loke wanted to know how the PN administration plans on assisting MAS as grounded flights will definitely cause them to bleed.


 

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