MORE than ever now, Malaysia needs a government of national unity in order to overcome the coronavirus crisis, said experts, as fighting heats up again between the country’s two major political blocs.
Public health experts and a prominent economist said a national unity government will be able to draw from the best brains in the country and forge a much-needed all-society effort to fight the pandemic.
It will also heal the trust deficit between large parts of society towards the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government, which came to power by overthrowing the democratically-elected Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition.
“This is exactly what is needed in this moment in time, so that we put aside our political differences and deal with the major challenge at hand by drawing on the competence that is out there,” said economist Prof Jomo Kwame Sundaram.
“We have competence in Malaysia and we need to draw on that competence,” said Jomo, who is senior advisor to the Khazanah Research Institute (KRI).
“We have many ways we can reorganise government and we can do that on the basis of a greater degree of openness. We need to change our modes of doing things,” he said at a webinar titled Covid 19 vs Malaysia: The new normal and the path to recovery.
The webinar was organised by the Malaysian Health Diplomacy Foundation.
Jomo’s call comes as the virus has infected 6,656 people in the country as of May 10.
It also comes as the PN government faces its latest test of legitimacy in the May 18 one-day parliamentary sitting.
Ever since it took over federal power in a bloodless coup on February 24, PN’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has had to face allegations that he does not command the support of a majority of MPs in Dewan Rakyat.
All eyes are now on whether the Dewan Rakyat will allow a no-confidence motion against the prime minister to be tabled by Langkawi MP and former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Echoing this call, health systems specialist Dr Khor Swee Kheng said Malaysia must remain in a steady state of vigilance to fight the virus as it will take up to three years before a vaccine is found.
“A government of national unity is one way to reorganise government. Our ranks are a little too thin and we need all hands on deck,” said Khor.
“It will be an ‘x’ number of years in this steady state and it is imperative that we get as many technocrats and professionals in decision making positions as possible.
“While political parties remain indispensable I would love to see more economists, doctors, public health experts to come into the fray.”
Senior consultant paediatrician Dr Amar Singh HSS said the trust deficit between the government and a significant portion of society is hampering efforts to forge a wide-scale campaign to break coronavirus infections and help those most impacted by the pandemic.
“When you look at the Covid-19 fund, people are questioning how it’s going to be used. So one way to fix this deficit is to absorb everyone, all MPs into the process of fighting the virus,” said Amar, who once headed the Paediatric Department of Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun, Ipoh.
“We need to drop our differences and pettiness and put aside our bigotry if we want to survive this.”
THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT