Sabah, discarded again

OCTOBER 14 — It was an expected outcome after the election; that after it ended, Sabah's welfare would again be on the backburner.

Putting the state under a semi-lockdown is but a knee jerk, panicked response. The government should have learned from the last movement control order (MCO) lockdown just how to proceed — to ensure supply lines remain intact, that the most vulnerable are taken care of and that the state can trust in the expert handling of the Health Ministry.

What I'm hearing instead from Sabahans is that it is a mess. We have a newly-elected chief minister who was cagey about admitting he had contracted Covid-19 and has left the state rudderless, with pre-existing village community management councils disbanded and thus leaving Sabahans in the lurch.

Without those councils to help provide aid and information for nearby residents, relief efforts are in a disarray.

As I've often mentioned, my state is poor. While here in West Malaysia, I can easily harangue someone on Twitter or call up the Security Council hotline, it's not that simple for rural folk in Sabah.

Smaller hospitals are struggling and ill-equipped to handle a large influx of patients for testing or treatment. Sabah currently has a 58 per cent ventilator capacity, that is not evenly distributed in the state.

I find it strange that SAPP is insisting Sabah doesn't need its own health minister or ministry saying it would overlap with federal jurisdiction.

That pronouncement does not take into account how large Sabah is, not to mention the geographical constraints as well as underdeveloped healthcare system.

It is illogical that Sabah can have its own tourism ministry but not a health ministry, when arguably we need one more than the other.

What is also disheartening is the terrible approach to morale the current government is taking. 

It is not enough to say they are sending over more personnel without acknowledging the current shortage in equipment and it is unacceptable that we are not hearing words of support and encouragement from the supposed caring government.

Instead I am seeing ordinary Malaysians rally online, asking for information on how they can help, if there are funds that need donations or causes they need to amplify.

It is Kita Jaga Kita all over again, while abah is strangely absent when he was everywhere during the Sabah election campaigning.

My friends in NGOs are already wringing their hands, expecting a deluge in aid requests. Many of them received desperate pleas from people in Sabah even after the MCO ended and there is no doubt the new conditional movement control order (CMCO) will leave the struggling poor destitute.

The hotel and tourism industries are practically dead right now, which means that their workers are struggling to find work in an already limited job market. 

I am grateful that though there are Malaysians blaming Sabah and Sabahans for the uptick in Covid numbers, there are more Malaysians who know the real fault lies in poor co-ordination and handling of the Sabah cases.

Like closing the barn door after the horse has bolted, the CMCO is a poor attempt at making up for the laxity in the measures taken in Sabah.

Instead, our health officials acquiesced to the demands of VIPs who wanted to be exempted from quarantine, who publicly refused to wear masks, then attended multiple events after returning from Sabah. 

If it were up to me there would be no more murals dedicated to the so-called heroes of a Covid war we haven't even won. 

Instead I would put up the faces and names of the people who have died thanks to the carelessness and lack of concern from those who were supposed to protect and lead us.

It shouldn't take a pandemic for Malaysians to realise that in the end, we have only each other and it is up to us, not some department or ministry or politician, to be our own heroes.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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