By Wong Chen

In this article, I would like to touch on three topics; (a) the endemic phase that started in April, (b) the controversial and tragic basikal lajak case, and (c) the Rohingya depot breakout incident.

As most of you will know, we have entered into the endemic phase of Covid-19 since 1st April 2022. Many previous Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted. At the public health level, the rate of hospitalisation is currently manageable and we are relatively safer than a few months ago. Of course, we are still encouraged to wear mask, social distance and sanitise often.

Business and commercial activities are steadily increasing.   On the flip side, we are also witnessing the return of the dreaded traffic jams! Overall most things, including how we socialise are also slowly returning to norm.

Of late, my officers and I have been re-engaging communities with more events. My officers, interns and I, still do twice weekly self tests (on Mondays and Thursdays) as precautionary measures, since we will be interacting with more people than the norm. From now and going forward, you will be able to meet my officers and I in person, on a more regular basis.

Now let me address the controversial and extremely tragic basikal lajak case. Within 24 hours after the guilty verdict on Sam Ke Ting was passed, many Subang residents sent me messages seeking my views. In a whatsapp chat group, I immediately expressed my views which can be summarised as “don’t politicise and racialise this case, and let the court process take place”.

Whatever feelings and racial biases that we may have, we must remain rational and let the court process take its course. Sure enough, within a week of the guilty verdict, Sam was finally granted bail, pending a final appeal later. Since that bail ruling, Sam too has issued a public statement which is in line with my earlier stance; she pleaded to the public not to racialise the matter and she also urge all to respect the courts’ decisions.

For a period of a few days after the initial guilty verdict, there were moments that this tragic accident could have escalated to divide our nation on racial lines. The heat was up, in particular, when political parties started commenting and getting involved in the case. Luckily cooler heads prevailed and we are blessed and lucky to have avoided an ugly and dangerous scenario.

However, we should take this episode as a warning that we, as a nation, have to work much harder to develop more mutual respect and love for all, irrespective of race. Mere tolerance of other races is not enough. We need to foster a deeper understanding of a truly Malaysian identity.

The last issue I want to touch on in this article relates to the Rohingya refugee breakout from the Sungai Bakap detention depot. This incident has received wide international attention and risks further damaging the reputation of our nation. Noting that recent allegations of abuses of undocumented workers by Malaysian companies have had negative impact on our exports and trade, this most recent refugee incident, will likely add on the negative image that our multiracial and upper middle income nation is increasingly becoming more xenophobic and uncaring.

We need to reverse this situation quickly and decisively before this image becomes ingrained and permanently damages our economy and international standing.

This breakout does not appear to be a planned incident with any external help, as these refugees, including young children were reported to be merely walking barefoot without any food or water, and without any clear final destination. To me, it appears that all they wanted to do was to get as far away from the Sungai Bakap detention centre as they possibly could. This was clearly an act of extreme desperation and not a malicious riot. So the onus should be on the government to be transparent and accountable on what was really going on in the Sungai Bakap depot, including all other temporary immigration detention depots too.

This breakout should be viewed, not as a one off human tragedy but as a serious policy wake-up call incident for the government to do much more to help refugees seeking asylum in Malaysia. To that end, the government has to answer as to why since August 2019, it has stopped the UNHCR from having full access to refugees seeking asylum in Malaysia. More importantly, it is also long overdue that we have to develop and implement better policies and administrative provisions to process legitimate applications for asylum. We have to look at the bigger picture and understand that in this day and age where ESG (environmental, social and governance) criteria are important, what actions we take next as a nation, will have an impact on our economy and international standing.

On the basikal lajak case and the Rohingya breakout, both tragic and very challenging incidents, we are actually presented with opportunities to take the right actions so to better our nation. As the holy Ramadhan comes to an end, may all Malaysians, of all races and religions, be reminded to always be compassionate, do good and be fair to all.

On that last note, I want to wish all my constituents, “Selamat Hari Raya, Maaf Zahir dan Batin”.