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By Subramaniam Muthaly

MALAYSIA is now facing one of the worst crises since Independence. The Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting economic fallout is unlike any we have ever seen. Renowned scientists worldwide are only starting to understand this coronavirus and its quick-mutating strains. Around the world, economies are battered from lockdowns and travel restrictions.

In the face of such unprecedented challenges, I cannot fathom how our politicians have the time to play power games when the people are languishing from loss of jobs, significant reduction in incomes, not to mention the health costs, including deaths due to Covid-19.

Over the weekend, the Umno general assembly has passed a resolution for the party to withdraw its support for Perikatan Nasional by the next general election, if not sooner. Has the party, especially its party president Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi lost its marbles?

Imagine if at the height of a battle, several platoon leaders come up to a general threatening to lay down arms, or worse, fight for the enemy. That’s the path Zahid and his cohorts are heading now.

We are on the verge of winning this war against the coronavirus, with the National Immunisation Plan picking up pace and the daily new infection figures slowly dipping by the day. Why undermine all the progress we have made, just because certain leaders have an insatiable lust for power, or desire to stay out of jail?

The Cabinet needs all hands on deck, not a handful ordered to abandon ship as we navigate the choppy waters. Does Zahid not realise that some of the most important Cabinet portfolios in dealing with Covid-19 come from Umno?

They include party vice-president Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who’s also the Senior Defence Minister, and s tasked with co-ordinating the non-health matters related with the pandemic, like SOP compliance. The Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba is from Umno, as is Khairy Jamaluddin, the co-ordinating Minister for the Covid-19 vaccination plan.

Imagine the ensuing chaos if these Ministers were to quit the Cabinet, whether directed by the Umno leadership or by their own volition. Even the uncertainty over the timing of their impending departures have created much anxiety, what more when it actually happens.

Imagine the steep learning curve the replacement ministers have to face just to ensure our recovery plans are not thrown off track. Even the most able of Ministers will likely trip over policies and their execution given how dire the situation is.

Can we afford unnecessary slip-ups when lives and livelihoods are involved? Isn’t continuity preferred over abrupt leadership changes, at least until after the pandemic is under control?

It didn’t help that opposition leaders like Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Lim Kit Siang have accused PM Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin of “begging” Umno Ministers to stay in his Cabinet. Are they saying the PM should sabotage his own government by unraveling all the hard work put in to turn the tide in combating the pandemic?

Are they, including Zahid, too distracted by their power games? There’s a time to play politics and there’s a time to have all hands on the deck. Now is the time for the latter.

Subramaniam Muthaly

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