Muhyiddin resignation: Some Malaysians weary of politicking, hope for improved COVID-19 response
KUALA LUMPUR: The resignation of Mr Muhyiddin Yassin as Malaysian prime minister this week has plunged the country into political uncertainty, with ordinary Malaysians weary of politicking and concerned that this would be an unnecessary distraction as COVID-19 rages.
Those interviewed by CNA also claimed that the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government had underperformed in handling the pandemic.
Mr Muhyiddin, 74, who stepped down on Monday (Aug 16), is currently Malaysia’s shortest-serving prime minister at just over 17 months.
Throughout his tenure, he faced leadership challenges not just from the opposition parties, but also from an ally within his ruling coalition, United Malays National Organisation, which repeatedly threatened to withdraw its support.
Ultimately, Mr Muhyiddin ran out of options after his razor-slim parliamentary majority was overturned, while his proposal for bipartisan cooperation ahead of a confidence motion was rejected.
The continuous politicking happened as Malaysia reported record-breaking COVID-19 cases and deaths. The broader uncertainty hamstrung the PN government’s pandemic management efforts.
On Tuesday, party leaders met with the king while the process to identify a new prime minister got underway. Lawmakers have asked to submit a declaration letter to state an individual they support to be the next prime minister by 4pm on Wednesday.
This will be the second change in government within two years, since Pakatan Harapan (PH) unseated the long-time Barisan Nasional government in May 2018, only to be replaced by the PN government in March last year.
Looking ahead, those interviewed, including people who have lost their loved ones or their livelihoods, said they were hoping for an effective administration that would focus wholeheartedly on managing the pandemic and improve people’s welfare.
“IT WAS LIKE WATCHING A CIRCUS”
Some Malaysians watched with concern as the political situation unravelled.
Mr Yusri Abu Basar, 53, who works in the financial sector, said that watching the politicking over the past few weeks felt like a “bad joke”.
“It’s such a shame Malaysian politics have come down to this level. Watching the whole process was like watching a circus,” he added.
He said he was not surprised at Mr Muhyiddin’s resignation.
“I was not at all surprised, in fact I was somewhat expecting his resignation, considering his persona.”
“I mean, he didn’t chase after the job initially, he didn’t act like a know-it-all, he got a lot of people to help him manage the COVID-19 situation,” Mr Yusri said.
Mr Muhyiddin’s resignation during a pandemic was unnecessary political drama, Mr Chin V Ming, 36, who also works in the financial sector, added.
“It’s really unnecessary during a pandemic, our COVID-19 management is already messy as it is, and the only bright spot so far has been the vaccination rate improving.”
As for the selection of a new prime minister, Mr Chin said he was rather disinterested in the process, as none of those touted as frontrunners was his preferred choice.
“They’ve been in politics for so long, and I would say they’re somewhat out of touch with us ordinary voters.
“Anyway, who would be an ideal candidate for prime minister? It will likely end with a power struggle while trying to appear functional amid the pandemic and economic turmoil ” he added.
Mr Simon Chong, a 30-year-old interior designer from Sabah, stated that he was “numb” to the politicking.
“I just take the drama as each news article or statement comes. I don’t think too much until things really get done and we see results.”
“The politics were an unnecessary distraction from our pandemic management, but what's done is done. So at this point, I really just hope those in power buck up for the betterment of Malaysia,” he said.
As of Tuesday, Malaysia logged 19,631 new cases, bringing the country’s total to 1.44 million cases. The country also reported 293 new deaths, bringing the death toll to 13,077.
HOPE FOR IMPROVED COVID-19 RESPONSE
Ms Annitha Tamilvanan, 40, who lost her brother to COVID-19, is among those who felt that the PN government had underperformed in terms of handling COVID-19.
Her 32-year-old brother was supposed to get married in June next year, as he expected the caseload to have eased by then.
“Instead, he laid in the hospital’s emergency department on a makeshift bed for a long time. I know the doctors did their best to help, but it was too late and we lost him,” she said.
She said that the policies to curb COVID-19 could have been improved.
“Had they put just a little more thought and really focused on how they wanted to bring down case numbers, maybe do a proper lockdown or something, so many people who lost their lives or suffered from the infection could have been saved,” she said.
Ms Tamilvanan also hoped the next prime minister would put the people’s interests ahead of money and politics.
Homemaker Tan Sook Teng, 51, also felt that the PN government had mismanaged the pandemic.
“When my husband tested positive (for COVID-19) and was asked to stay home to complete his quarantine, I asked the officers if that was wise because he had diabetes. They assured me it was fine because he was a Category Two patient (with light symptoms),” she said.
She said that not long after her late husband began his home quarantine, his health deteriorated suddenly. They were unable to get him admitted immediately due to a shortage of beds.
By the time he was admitted, his condition was too serious and he passed away after two days in the hospital, she recounted.
Mdm Tan hoped that the next prime minister would emphasise the people’s welfare. “I think the people are just sick and tired of all these politics. Enough is enough and it’s time to help the people now. They have suffered so much.”
Mr Mohammad Syazwan Zamir, 31 also said that PN’s management of the pandemic was subpar, especially when it came to economic assistance.
He was a manager in a large company. “I was doing really well, and when things are going well, you make larger commitments,” he recounted.
This all came crashing down last year, he said. He was let go by his company after it struggled for 10 months due to lockdowns in one form or another in the Klang Valley.
“My company had to deal with losing its staff, moving to smaller premises … because we weren’t getting enough financial aid from the government. Our multiple appeals (for more assistance) were not approved,” Mr Mohammad Syazwan said.
To make ends meet, he said, he now sells food out of his car, and does basic data entry work.
He felt that those in power had prioritised securing their positions and interests before the welfare of ordinary Malaysians. Mr Muhammad Syazwan said this had resulted not only in the loss of livelihoods, but actual lives.
“I want to be hopeful that the next PM will be selfless and people-centric,” he said.
Looking ahead, Mr Yusri hoped that a new government could be formed quickly, and the situation configuration would at least hold until the COVID-19 situation improved.
“Then once it is safer to hold a general election, maybe we’ll be able to hold one and settle the political situation.”
“I also hope whoever comes in next will work on improving and helping our economy recover, and in the process, do something to help those who have lost their jobs and livelihoods.”