General Writings

Covid-19 & MCO: When Basic Rights Are at Stake

Most people understand the concept of basic needs –  food, home, clean water access – even some may argue that healthcare and education are basic needs in the modern world. The basic needs in the civilization of humanity, as our daily routine today… no longer it is a proposition nor a choice, but rather an obligation to be provided to society in the contemporary world. 

The obligation revolutionizes the basic needs into basic rights, rights to have food, to have proper home or house, rights to have clean water and safe living conditions and in simple terms, rights to live as a decent human being. The obligation will shouldered by the government of the day, of which the authorities not only to enforce their power and rule over its minions but also to be the protector and ensure the well-being of its citizens. This is the task and responsibility of the modern government in a democratic world – unless we aren’t.

The evaluation of such performance by the government of the day commonly arises during elections, or political scenarios, through campaign and propaganda. Hence, judgements can be easily clouded and confused by the mixed messages, the effective marketing and tools of political media. Likewise, citizens today are given the opportunity, during the crisis of the global pandemic of Covid-19 which most countries are affected by, to witness the lockdown, either in full or partially – a classical and direct example of the authority of the government in protecting its citizens. 

The movement control order limits businesses, working patterns, economic functions, healthcare and any aspects that we can think of, channeling the ‘movie’ scenario into the reality of our life. The normalcy of previous life routine one way or another has to be adjusted. The government has to ensure such adjustments and changes in the new normalcy. During the transition process, while society tries to adapt, adjust and survive the pandemic crisis, the government has the responsibility as prescribed in the previous paragraph, to provide and protect its citizens of their basic rights – their basic needs. We know in Malaysia, generally there is food support and supply for the lower income family, but the modus operandi puts the basic needs at risk, jeopardizing the situation and the people who are really in need. Yet, Malaysia in many aspects, political interests always superseded most of the decisions, which put the basic rights to have basic needs at stake.

The question is if everyone needs food support, why then are distributions made through political parties? If everyone needs healthcare items, such as masks and hand-sanitizers, why is the channeling process also through political parties? Aren’t our government ministries and relevant departments, even the army, enough to mobilize proper distributions?

Either the government is not having such capabilities or intentionally allowing such mechanisms to go  out of line. Similarly, during this time of crisis, we are enlightened as a society of the many homeless people in rapid urbanization – as buildings grow taller, humanity grows emptier, we are capable of building a city, but not a home for our own people.

We rather risk the lives of our people, instead of the economy, when certain businesses favors other businesses, especially those that are important to the country’s economy. At the time I wrote this, a sudden announcement was made on Labor Day to open the economy in less than 48 hours, with strict conditions. Such a decision is a sign that at the end, people like you and me must keep working to ensure the country is running. This is the opposite of the democratic spirit, where a country has to work for all of us.

Huge numbers of us are depending on the financial support of the government, to survive the days, weeks and months unemployed or unpaid leave. The daily wages workers, the already unemployed personnel, the struggle of the newbie graduates, will not go down, but will go up higher. This will become a challenge for them; even to feed themselves, to earn a decent living in order to survive the post-pandemic era. Will they even be able to get the basic needs as their basic rights? Or they have to accept that the basics are becoming luxurious?

A country should be able to strategize, plan and manage its wealth, for the benefit of all, not a few. However, the irony is always for the few, for the elites, for the corporates, putting the basic needs of others – to have food, a bowl of rice, a cup of noodles for a day – at stake, even a place to sleep, whether it is a comfort pillow or hard tiles on the streets. If we are daring enough to put the basic needs of others at stake, what else are we willing to sacrifice? 

The damages and long-term effect of the global pandemic crisis of Covid-19 is undeniably horrible, even terrible for us to foresee, but it does not mean to tear the present as a gloss to the future, even though it is uncertain how big the wormhole is, which costs the most marginalized groups of society – the poor, the underprivileged, and those without a voice. 

This is the truth – the dystopian veil of the expected utopian society. If we did not learn our lesson, and take a radical step to change the way our society functions, holding to the social inequalities and political interests over humanity itself; then at the bottom of the utopian trophy, will be the piles of humanity that have been crashed just to accommodate the few.

Humanity (2)
(Jeff Salzman – The Daily Evolver)


Writer Profile 

Rev.Charlly Simon is a Priest and a Senior Lecturer in Laws in IBS College Miri, work as a part-time In-House Counsel for local company in Sibu. A theologian and religion scholar in Wagner Leadership Institute. Currently pursuing postgraduate program with Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, LL.B graduated from University of Hertfordshire, UK and Bachelor and Master of Arts in Practical Ministry from Wagner University, US. Mainly interest on Native Customary Law, Religion and Politics.


* This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of ASASIkini.

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