1 year on, fumbling govt still can’t handle pandemic: Anwar

Opposition head takes leadership to task for creating chaos, confusion and its failed vaccine roll-out

KUALA LUMPUR : After a year, the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government is still grappling at straws to contain the Covid-19 pandemic and ensure a successful vaccination roll-out.

In a scathing indictment of the government’s handling of the worst medical emergency in history and its crippling economic consequences, opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said that the people are suffering from the incompetence of this administration.

Anwar said despite declaring an emergency, the government has failed to protect the people –  the reason why the emergency was declared in the first place.

Among others, he criticised the failed delivery of 75,000 daily injections nationwide.

Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim says despite declaring an emergency, the government has failed to protect the people – the reason why the emergency was declared in the first place. – The Vibes file pic

The PKR president and Port Dickson MP said that the country currently averages 25,000 jabs per day since the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme began in March.

He said this means that roughly one million people have received vaccinations as opposed to five million, had the government lived up to its target.

“But what we are now witnessing is a number that is far smaller that has not reached the projections,” he said in a speech live-streamed on Facebook this evening.

“I am raising this question because, when the announcements (on vaccination) were made, everyone clapped their hands. But we (the opposition) have asked where the vaccines are coming from, their quantities and the costs, but there were no answers.”

Anwar singled out Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin over the latter’s announcement made on January 27, when he said that the government aimed to immunise 75,000 people a day across 600 vaccination sites.

Depending on the supply, Khairy had said the number could increase to 150,000 shots a day, which could complete the vaccination of 27 million people, or 80% of the population, as early as December.

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim says the government should explain the basis of coming up with the target of vaccinating 75,000 people a day, which it has fallen short of. – The Vibes file pic, May 11, 2021
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim says the government should explain the basis of coming up with the target of vaccinating 75,000 people a day, which it has fallen short of. – The Vibes file pic

Anwar said the government should explain the basis of coming up with the target.

“Hasn’t it already been a year with Covid-19 and we still do not know how many vaccines have been received?

“These are among the matters we need to raise to gain answers, although I know the tendency of this government to not answer anything.”

On the government’s recently launched Hotspot Identification for Dynamic Engagement (HIDE) system, Anwar said the programme is deeply flawed.

He said although it sounds fresh, attractive and great, enacted with the collaboration of the National Security Council and Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry, the programme has major weaknesses.

Anwar said the system ensured “chaos” last Sunday, with the sudden closure of premises barely a day after it was launched.

“This is because it (HIDE) does not tell (us much). When we use information technology, big data and artificial intelligence, it cannot be hidden in a black box because the modelling and projections used and the methodologies must be available,” he said.

“If it was introduced without transparency, the acceptance of the rakyat (and) public legitimacy would be disputed.”

He added that steps could have been taken to assure the public that the system does not necessarily involve personal data, as personal details can be omitted for the information needed by investigative task forces or researchers.

PH committee unheeded

Anwar, who is also Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman, then panned government ministries and agencies involved for failing to help provide vital information to the PH Covid-19 Committee, which had engaged the likes of John Hopkins University, University of Oxford, Google and Facebook.

He said the committee is still awaiting a response to its request for a meeting with government leaders.
 
On the latest movement control order (MCO), Anwar said curbing the pandemic is not merely about the use of power but exercising that power sensibly.

“The ones who are being battered are the small (income) groups, but the big factories have good operations, although there are still infections there,” he said.

Anwar also questioned the government on why it could not set specific SOPs for the lower-income groups, in the same way it does factory operators.

He said after a year, it is time for the leadership to pull up its socks.  

“Last year, it could say it was new, that it needed to learn or was unprepared. But now, there is no excuse.

“Where has there been a civilised nation that makes decisions that keep changing by the hour? Today, it’s HIDE, tomorrow it’s targeted MCO, and later in the evening, it’s MCO for the whole country.

“What has happened to the leadership of the country? Where is the prime minister in a time when the people are worried? Where is the voice of the prime minister? Where is the coordination? Why are there no meetings between ministries?” he said, asking what was the point of a bloated cabinet with 70 ministers.

“When this happens and there is no responsible leadership with no transparency, the people are burdened.”

By A AZIM IDRIS – THE VIBES

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