ON Friday, Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob was forced to delete his tweet after receiving backlash over his comments towards opposition MPs Hannah Yeoh and Fahmi Fadzil.The debacle started after many Malaysians, including those from the opposition, took Ismail to task over his announcement last week regarding forced Covid-19 testing for apartment and condominiums.During his press conference, the Minister of Defence made it clear that the management of such buildings would be given free-reign to screen residents and visitors alike, despite there being no directive by the federal government for compulsory testing.Malaysians took issue with the announcement due to the many foreseeable problems that would arise with forced testing, the cost being one of it.Since this is not a directive from the government, residents will not be allowed to get tested in government hospitals for such purposes.“How would B40 residents who can’t afford tests return home?” PKR’s Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil posted on Twitter.Fahmi is right. These tests could run up to RM500 in certain private healthcare facilities. How would those in the B40 category pay for a test right now? Some are struggling to even buy groceries and pay rent.Additionally, how often could management ask you to take a Covid-19 test?Air travel officials have deemed a Covid-19 test valid for only 3 days. An individual may have tested negative a month ago, but who’s to say that they have not contracted the disease last week? Would management have the right to request a Covid-19 test every two weeks?After objections from various factions, Ismail then took to twitter to clarify that management had the right to deny foreigners entry into their property but Malaysians would not be subjected to the same ruling.However, that would make little sense.With as high as 5,700 cases a day, Covid-19 has already surpassed the foreign cluster and is now knee-deep in the local community.Therefore, mandatory testing would be ineffective if screening is done based on nationalityDAP’s Hannah Yeoh put it perfectly. “Covid-19 doesn’t discriminate between owners and tenants, Malaysians and foreigners, voters and ministers. Don’t make announcements such as this that would burden a lot of tenants,” tweeted Hannah.This latest blunder by Perikatan Nasional (PN) is consistent with how the federal government has been handling the pandemic since day one. There is so much confusion around the SOP that Malaysians can barely keep up.Instead of addressing the very real concerns surrounding the issue, Ismail decided to turn his guns on Hannah Yeoh and Fahmi Fadzil.“For them, the cost borne by foreigners for Covid-19 tests is of more value than the lives of Malaysians.Ismail went on to accuse Hannah and Fahmi of being advocates for foreigners and not caring about the lives of Malaysians.“Maybe they are elected representatives for foreigners and not Malaysians.” he tweeted.The truth is that Ismail most likely went down the xenophobic route in an effort to protect himself against the backlash from Malaysians.Perhaps he even believed that he would score brownie points with netizens by pushing the focus on foreigners.However, much to his chagrin, he did not get the support he was expecting. Twitterverse lashed out at Ismail, shocked at the insensitivity being displayed by the PN minister.Twitter user, Azrul Mohd Khalib said “Just because they are warga asing doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want to them. Kindness and compassion will get us through this, not cruelty and injustice”.Lyana Rashid, a Malaysian who is currently working in New Zealand also shared her views. “I am not yet a permanent resident in New Zealand, so technically I am a pekerja asing, imagine if Jacinda Arden said the same thing. Just so you know, everyone is treated equally in NZ and all swab tests are free” she tweeted.Twitter user Fara Nabiha believes that Ismail Sabri should resign over the incident. “What’s wrong with advocating for fair treatment of foreign workers? His statement isn’t just discriminatory but inhumane. He must resign.” she tweeted.Ismail Sabri may have deleted his tweet, but the damage has already been done.He has inadvertently exposed the sad fact that PN has not learned anything from their past mistakes. There is a severe lack of foresight at the highest level of government, which is, unfortunately, not getting any better.It seems that Malaysians will have to continue struggling through this pandemic, burdened further by PN’s inconsistent and nonsensical SOPs. – January 31, 2021.*Jai Naeer reads The Malaysian Insight. * This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.
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