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All it takes to lose a war

The government owes no apology in declaring an emergency to lock down politicians jostling for power.

Abdar Rahman Koya
3 minute read

In any war, there will be hundreds, if not thousands, of people in need of medical attention every day due to injuries from enemy assaults. Deaths are also reported every day, with hospitals crowded and government machinery pushed to the brink.

In a war, rhetoric in domestic politics is replaced with calls to unite against the enemy. Very little occurs on the domestic political front because a strong government is needed to protect the nation and its people.

Such is the war in which we are involved at the moment. The only difference which makes this war even more challenging is that the enemy is invisible, and the weapons employed against it are our only defence, even if they could backfire.

If the Covid-19 pandemic is a war, then the behaviour of some of our politicians is unacceptable and unbecoming of what is expected at a time of great crisis.

It’s been about a week since the emergency declaration was announced. But far from scenes of panic buying and a show of police and military force on the streets, life has continued as normal – indeed, more “normal” than the first time the movement control order was implemented (without an emergency) in March last year.

At that time, entire malls and shopping districts were shut down, as were schools, factories and businesses in a mirror of scenes around the world which saw tens of thousands out of a job and the creation of new poverty clusters.

The government has so far been apologetic in giving its reasons for the Covid-19 emergency. Let us be clear: it is designed to lock down politicians jostling for power and to put a freeze on rhetoric that would divert attention from saving lives and livelihoods to saving the political future of those with decades of obsession with power.

A war like Covid-19, with daily casualties and injuries akin to any conventional war with missiles and bombs, requires citizens to heed their general.

In our case, the general in whom we have placed our trust for so long, and whom we agree has the tenacity needed to continue this fight, is Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

With the emergency, he is answerable to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, as the commander-in-chief.

We don’t go questioning the general, or for that matter, the powers of the commander-in-chief. In any country at a state of war, whether a posterboy for democracy such as the US or powerful dictatorships such as China and North Korea, that would be tantamount to treason.

Here, the strategy of some politicians, some very senior who have tasted power at the top, has been to criticise and mock each time an announcement is made by the war-time government.

They talk of getting experts into the battle, an insult not only to Noor Hisham but also to the thousands of frontliners who have been fighting to save lives with what few sticks and stones they have.

The truth is, in this war, as with any other war, political affiliation is irrelevant. Whether you are in the opposition-controlled Selangor and Penang, or in Johor and Pahang, the situation is the same.

The only things we have seen so far from politicians who could have used their influence to help the commander-in-chief have been distractions, and plenty of them.

These are exactly the kind of distractions that the emergency is designed to stop. Even so, one would need to pinch oneself to believe that we are actually in a state of emergency.

We hear daily statements, whether in the form of joint statements or remarks picked up from Facebook Live, by legal and medical “experts” questioning the constitutionality of the emergency ordinance.

What’s the alternative? Will our invisible enemy hold back its weapons each time we go to Parliament? God forbid that this is our strategy if a very visible neighbour decides to attack us one day!

Replacing the prime minister will not solve the problem, nor will the crowd of distractions.

No one in their right mind would think of occupying that post in these worst of times. What they should be doing is to put their money where their mouth is and truly display patriotism by forgetting for once, just once, about their political ambitions.

Will these politicians take up the challenge?

We need more allies, not more enemies. Ask those who have won wars, including a virulently anti-communist British gentleman who embraced Russia to fight a common enemy, and won.

After all, it was he who said, “The only thing worse than having allies is not having them.”