Malaysia Dateline

Muhyiddin’s leadership put to the test with Covid-19

In times of crisis, we often turn towards our leaders for answers. For Malaysians, however, it may not be so easy.

Oftentimes the newly appointed PM,Tan Sri Muhyiddin appears to have bitten off more than he could chew.

The giddy sense of excitement from being made the most powerful man in politics seems to have worn out fast. All that is left is the grim reality of having to actually lead the country through a global health pandemic.

Covid-19 has disrupted modern society and the way we function on a scale that most of us have never witnessed before. Unfortunately, is seems likely that a lot more devastation and death is on the horizon for the entire world.

It would be wildly unfair to expect Perikatan Nasional to respond perfectly, but it makes one thing clear: Every single step that is taken by the government during this time is one that concerns life and death.

While the prime minister has made some commendable decisions like swiftly enforcing a lockdown or the recently introduced stimulus aid, the entirety of his leadership abilities is overshadowed by what seems to be weak communication and lack of pre-emptive planning around his actions.

Perhaps one of the best examples would be the hastily imposed travel restrictions.

Malaysians were initially informed that inter-state travel was allowed but permission was needed from the police, then it was quickly rescinded when police were overwhelmed by the large crowds gathered at police station. Those that worked in Singapore but travelled from Johor Bahru daily also faced a conundrum, stay home and forego pay or leave to Singapore without any no certainty of accommodation.

Both these actions caused massive gatherings of frantic travelers, which is the worst possible scenario given how crucial social distancing is at this time. One can only guess how this may have sped up the rate of infections.

In this short span of time, we’ve also seen Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba became a national laughing stock when he advised Malaysians to drink warm water to “flush”down the virus and Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff having to delete her twitter after outcry over her perceived careless comments on Covid-19.

There is no more time for communication muck-ups or foolish comments by our government officials.

We need intelligent and courageous leaders who are willing to take unprecedented steps to deal with such an unprecedented situation. We need a strong stimulus plan that actually takes into consideration all major ways this pandemic can play out.

For example, what is our next course of action if infection is still on the rise by mid April when the lockdown is supposed to be over?

Will we be prepared for the possible new wave of infections when borders are re-opened?

What will happen to the 2.4 million individuals who will lose their jobs due to this pandemic as predicted by the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER)?

Will PM Muhyiddin guide us through these rocky times? Or will the country plunge into further economic despair due to lack of foresight? Only time will tell.