Always follow the jab with a hook, how to floor bureaucratic indifference

May 27 — The rakyat prevailed. Did we?

Today, the government’s public transportation manager Prasarana is a chairman lighter and the Covid-19 Immunisation Taskforce issued an apology 10 hours after its online system flaked.

Are these signs rakyat power is on the rise. Stand up, speak up to power and action will follow?

Unfortunately, it’s a mixed bag even if the game is in the people’s hands.

Here’s the brief.

Two trains crashed on May 24 and chairman Tajuddin Abdul Rahman laughed at reporters at a belated press conference a day later. He was relieved of his duties the next day by the finance minister following a social media outroar.

One million AstraZeneca vaccination slots opened amid chaotic scenes of website and app failure. The purpose-built body issued a statement disguised as an apology 10 hours later. Both the taskforce and Minister Khairy Jamaluddin have been muted otherwise online.

So, can we all stop staring and move on?

No. Not at all. There’s more to be done.

I absolutely love modern Malaysia’s army of online dissenters. Always disruptive and borderline negative, but the pros outweigh the cons.

If given a choice of a pliant society or an impossible one, if those two extreme options were the only options available, it’s a no-brainer. After decades of obedience, it is high time to shake up the show.

The very contentions highlighted are unresolved.

Tajuddin has left the building

Congratulations have been passed to the ministry of finance for issuing a sack-letter on a public holiday. It’s depressing to note our expectations of action are so low that we applaud the ministry for doing the bare minimum.

People should ask themselves if they were not relentless with over 100k angry Tajuddin tweets, would his termination transpire?

And will this distract from the tragedy with 47 seriously injured? Prasarana can distance itself from its former chairman but it does not bring to justice those responsible for the crash. Will it be buried by prolonged investigations with no meaningful outcome?

The Transport Ministry has assigned a task force. Will action dissipate as time passes and the injured return home from the hospital?

A general view during peak hour at the Pasar Seni LRT station May 25, 2021. ― Picture by Hari Anggara
A general view during peak hour at the Pasar Seni LRT station May 25, 2021. ― Picture by Hari Anggara

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The Kelana Jaya line has been on for 20 years without a major accident is not the basis to downplay the crash but to highlight that older trains and tracks offer new maintenance and safety challenges. More with age.

And the family adds the third LRT and second MRT lines soon. Rail safety becomes more, not less, critical.

Sorry for the inconvenience is not a theme park registration system, it is the path to life-saving vaccines.

This is why for days prior to the launch it dominated conversations in WhatsApp, competing evenly with the train crash news. Both are matters of life and death.

Since a national MCO is in motion, many Malaysians do not physically see their loved ones. But because of that love, they spent hours to convince family and friends to sign up despite grave personal concerns. Through the phone, WhatsApp and virtual conferences.

Favours were asked, threats made to get more vaccinated.

Yet reality disappointed.

The whole process delayed from a noon kick-off, and quickly descended into mass confusion within minutes of starting as buttons did not respond for many. It did for others and the quota was filled within the hour.

Mistakes happen even with the best preparations but the radio silence from both the minister and his taskforce for hours after left many anxious.

At this critical juncture where information could assuage the hurt, none was forthcoming.

And late evening, a statement was released, the immunisation taskforce apologised for the inconvenience.

Underwhelming does not cover it.

Now confronted by high vaccine hesitancy, a noticeable number of no-shows at vaccine centres and fears of long waits stretching to years, the people needed its government to step up its communication game and not go into hiding.

Every decision and step by the immunisation task force determines how much longer the virus reigns over us. As stated above, it’s not a badly run theme park we can skip till they fix the bugs. It is our salvation, therefore the tone they set is as important as the actions taken.

Trust, not time, should be the currency they seek. There will be further hiccups and goodwill must be accrued as it will be used to get a national vaccination complete.

The people can accept an imperfect programme as long as it is a sincere programme, and sincerity is underpinned by honesty and trust.

How to write the apology better? By saying how disappointed the task force is with itself, and not instead expound its track-record as a response.

Hold them to it, don’t be pleased easy

Prasarana is an old problem with new dimensions, and VaksinCovid a new tool to overcome a pandemic inside our shores.

Our society’s recent successes to exact action from authority by confronting it is not reason to cease.

Prasarana gets a new chairman, and he’s going to be careful. Let’s make him and the officers even more careful.

Yesterday’s errors do not immobilise VaksinCovid but to reduce the whole matter as a tech glitch weakens the task force's credibility. It’s a sign of strength not weakness to own up to a problem and admit without qualifications.

While they correct their posture, we should remain vigilant and on VaksinCovid’s case. We have to keep them honest.

No free passes, keep them to their promises. For our own sake.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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