Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin often refers to himself as “Abah (an affectionate Malay word meaning “father”) when addressing the nation on the Covid-19 situation, but some think he may have gone too far today.

Many commentators online responded poorly when Muhyiddin jokingly threatened to “use the cane” if people won’t comply with government guidelines to curb the spread of the disease.

Some also used the hashtag #MuhyiddinOut to voice their dissatisfaction on Twitter by calling for Muhyiddin’s resignation. As of writing, the hashtag is “trending” on the microblogging platform.

“We are not here to find fault, but an apology for launching the coup would at least soothe public sentiments, aside from an apology for his ministers who flouted the standard operating procedures (SOPs).

“A one-year-old child was reported dead from Covid-19, the youngest to die from the outbreak in this country. And yet the PM saw fit to joke about ‘abah’s rotan’; when he, in fact, should have been cracking the whip on VIPs like minister Khairuddin Aman Razali who failed to adhere to SOPs.

“The alarming rise in cases needs more than threats of a rotan. We need solutions. Muhyiddin’s speech failed to show leadership, which is sorely lacking at such a critical moment for the nation,” he said on Facebook and on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Twitter user @AnuNushi said Muhyiddin’s rotan remark was a distraction.

“The main fact is he didn’t take any responsibility for his gang of campaigning politicians contributing to this new spike in Covid-19 cases. (His speech was a) blame game from the start and a total waste of 30 minutes of our time!” she said.

Netizen @faizalhamssin also criticised that the joke was in poor taste.

“Come on, prime minister’s speechwriter. A one-year-old baby just died of Covid-19. Case count reached an all-time high today.

“People are angry, anxious, afraid. So much uncertainty over the future. This isn’t the time for your Abah joke. It’s getting old,” he said.

Coventry University communications lecturer Niki Cheong, meanwhile, said there may be more to Muhyiddin’s rotan joke.

“The rotan reference is an ugly reminder that physical abuse of children is still very much part of Malaysian culture. But also, metaphorically, perpetuates the chilling effect that has been sanctioned against Malaysians for decades.

“Just because it sounds like a joke doesn’t mean it is one,” he said on Twitter.

Earlier today, Muhyiddin made a televised address to the nation as Malaysia’s Covid-19 situation deteriorated to its worst-ever level.

The address took place just after Health Ministry director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah announced 691 new cases and four deaths today, while active cases reach a new high of 2,936 cases.

Among the deaths reported today include a one-year-old girl who was brought to Semporna Hospital’s emergency department on Oct 1 and died yesterday as her condition worsened.

In his speech, Muhyiddin assured there is no double-standard in enforcing SOP and joked about whipping out the cane if people do not comply.

“What is sorely needed now is for all of us to abide with the SOPs and instructions issued by the government.

“Frontliners from various agencies will be remobilised to public places to ensure compliance.

“If there are those who break the law, compounds and other punishments will be imposed without regard for rank and stature. Forgive me if ‘Abah’ starts using the cane (rotan)!” he said.

‘Daddy’ to cane Covid-19 offenders now? Start with your own ministers, Opposition reps tell PM

KUALA LUMPUR — Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s attempt to assure the public that his government does not practise double standards over those who flout Covid-19 quarantine drew brickbats, as critics pointed to his ministers who are still not punished for the offence.

Opposition MPs immediately took to social media to lambast the prime minister after he delivered a speech on live television, where he told the public that he now as an “abah”, or “daddy” will be sterner and would not spare the rod.

“‘Abah’ wants to cane the people. Why don’t he start with his own ministers? The people are okay, you are the stubborn ones,” said PKR’s Johor Baru MP Akmal Nasir.

Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities, Datuk Mohd Khairuddin bin Aman Razali was recently caught in a media storm for failing to stay at home upon returning from a trip to Turkey. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities, Datuk Mohd Khairuddin bin Aman Razali was recently caught in a media storm for failing to stay at home upon returning from a trip to Turkey. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

At-Takiri refers the self-styled post-fix used by Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities, Datuk Mohd Khairuddin bin Aman Razali, who was recently caught in a media storm for failing to stay at home upon returning from a trip to Turkey.

He was subsequently fined RM1,000 but only after strong public pressure. The PAS leader was initially defiant and had refused to apologise.

“No double standards, even after your Cabinet member tested positive? So are you going to cane them as well?” posted PKR’s Xavier Jeyakumar.

DAP’s Iskandar Puteri MP Lim Kit Siang also suggested Muhyiddin’s denial of such double standards would have been more convincing if his government had taken action against its own ministers for failing to self-isolate.

“Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s assurance in his Facebook live address that there would be ‘no double standards’ over Covid-19 SOP would be convincing if he had explained what has happened to the long-standing breach of quarantine SOP by… Khairuddin Aman Razali,” Lim said in a statement issued this evening.

“Malaysians are still waiting for the prime minister to show leadership and example in Khairuddin’s case. How long must Malaysians wait?”

Similarly, Lim’s fellow lawmaker Kluang MP Wong Shu Qi also took aim at Khairuddin.

“You said you wanted to cane? Where is Khairuddin who didn’t quarantine? Your dad is waiting for you,” she posted.

Her colleague in PKR, Tanjong Malim MP Chang Lih Kang, remarked similarly: “Daddy wants to use the cane? Well use it on your Cabinet members first. Even the minister who clearly violated the SOP after returning from Turkey has yet to be charged!”

Others like Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim sounded more annoyed, questioning how Muhyiddin could still joke when the economy and lives have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Stupid joke! People are sick, there was a baby that died, the people are worried, the economy in critical state. You still make fatherly jokes??!!,” Sim said.

“I feel sorry for the parents of the baby who passed away today. Bad parenting jest in the face of hurting parents,” added Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh.

A one-year-old female infant became the youngest death from Covid-19 in Malaysia, among the four new deaths recorded today.

Public anger against the Muhyiddin administration has mounted in recent weeks after politicians from his ruling coalition tested positive for Covid-19 upon returning from the Sabah campaign trail.

Among them was Religious Affairs Minister Datuk Zulkifli Mohamad, who discovered he was positive only after he had made several official visits around the country, sparking fears that he may have infected many more.

But Muhyiddin said seven other ministers and six deputy ministers are currently quarantined at home after Datuk Zulkifli Mohamad tested positive tested positive yesterday, in a seeming bid to assuage critics.