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So many things have happened in Malaysia in such a short time, which is why we’re here to unpack everything just for you. 

The protest on Saturday as well as the march by opposition members of parliament this morning have one thing in common – they want Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to resign. 

It’s a message that has echoed in and around Malaysia for over a year now, ever since the surprise exit of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad in February 2020, largely because some people in his camp had realigned their political allegiances that ended up accommodating Mahathir’s enemies, aka some people from the major political party UMNO. 

Muhyiddin stepped up in March and has been governing the country with not only a razor-thin majority in parliament but also with very little support from most of the people – not surprising since nobody voted for Muhyiddin as leader in 2018. He practically became a leader by entering the back door – a popular analogy used by locals.  

And for over a year through the pandemic, the man hasn’t proved himself as a competent leader either, leading to months of pent-up frustrations from the people that eventually spilled to the streets in recent days.

Here are just some of the frustrations that Malaysians, or the rakyat, face, leading to calls for Muhyiddin’s resignation:

CONFUSING LOCKDOWN RULES

To put it nicely, nobody really knows the COVID-19 protocols anymore. Selangor was under enhanced movement control order, which only allows one person per household to leave for essential trips. But ever since the EMCO was lifted, everyone seems confused about what we can and cannot do. 

In theory, we’re supposed to be back on the more lenient MCO rules, which still prohibits large gatherings. But now, it seems like we’re not in any category. We were simply instructed to travel in pairs while out shopping for necessities, but the flip-flopping of vague and inconsistently enforced rules frustrated many, and some have even given up trying to keep up with protocols. 

Muhyiddin himself doesn’t even bother holding his regular COVID-19 press conferences anymore, and even issued a brief statement on May 28 when announcing a total lockdown.

ECONOMY, MENTAL HEALTH IN SHAMBLES

How’s business doing in Malaysia? It doesn’t look too good. For starters, the World Bank has cut Malaysia’s GDP growth to 4.5%. 

The essential sector is the only one operating in the country, but what’s defined as essential is anybody’s guess. The construction sector was deemed essential just last week. 

So how will the rakyat feed their families? The government’s financial handouts have not been enough, leading to ground-up initiatives like the White Flag campaign. The suicide rate has also hit record highs, with financial difficulties among one of the issues victims experienced.  

“All responsible parties, especially the community, should play an important role in curbing suicides,” said Criminal Investigation Department Director Abd Jalil Hassan earlier this year. “Individuals with financial problems, health issues, stress, depression, family problems, and other issues should be given assistance and support by family and close friends.”

A total of 468 suicides were recorded from January to May.

WHERE ARE THE LAPTOPS?

So many children are losing access to education because of COVID-19 lockdowns. But hey, Muhyiddin’s finance ministry says it will look after the students. Give them laptops, they say, 150,000 of them. Other than the 1,000 that were delivered in April, nobody has seen the rest of them. 

Popular youth politician Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman has accused Muhyiddin’s government of giving him and other opposition MPs the runaround when queried on the matter. Those students, who mostly came from lower-income families, were supposed to receive their laptops for online learning in February. 

“The finance ministry will say the matter is under the education ministry, then the education ministry will say that it’s under the finance ministry. It’s not hard. It’s just 150,000 laptops, but even that is hard for them to coordinate,” Syed Saddiq said.

DOUBLE STANDARDS 

A chicken rice businessman was fined RM10,000 (around US$2,000) for not enforcing COVID-19 protocols on disgraced leader Najib Razak, while another hawker was fined RM50,000 for allegedly violating the business curfew. But when it comes to politicians gathering for a durian party? Nothing really happens. 

Up until today, nothing has been said about whether Parliament Deputy Speaker Mohd Rashid Hasnon was ever taken to task for attending a durian feast in June while the rest of Malaysia stayed home and refrained from group gatherings. Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin was also at the event that was filmed in a viral video. The police have not mentioned any action against her either. 

SILENCING HEALTHCARE WORKERS DRY ON SUPPLY

Malaysian doctors working round-the-clock and dealing with lack of beds have not been able to express their woes over the crisis due to a gag order. 

From having to set up makeshift wards at operating theatres to deploying untrained medical workers, the grievances don’t seem to end. Oxygen tanks are also running out while workers make do with limited people on the ground. It’s a physical and mental struggle, and they can’t even talk about it. 

The Klang General Hospital was one of the many in Malaysia that have had patients sleeping in waiting areas and the ambulance service road. That was until Muhyiddin arrived at the hospital with fanfare.

“We cannot wait untuk kita orang (for us) [to] submit a proposal, present dekat meeting bajet untuk (present the proposal at the budget meeting to) get more oxygen tanks, we need it now!” one of them said anonymously in a video that compiled interviews with various frontline workers. 

To date, Malaysia has recorded more than one million COVID-19 infections and over 9,000 deaths.

DOCTORS INEQUALITY

Tired, angry, and exasperated, contract doctors battling COVID-19 have had enough of being treated unfairly simply because they are caught in a limbo between being a student and a full-fledged doctor. 

It is very difficult for contract doctors to become full-time medical specialists within 10 years of training especially if they don’t pay their exams and are not gazetted by the government. Eventually, many end up doing the same tasks as a full-time doctor while being excluded from employee benefits and rights. 

Muhyiddin’s attempt to appease those junior doctors wasn’t enough. I guess it looks like Malaysia is on track to having fewer medical specialists in the future.

REVOKING EMERGENCY ORDINANCES WITHOUT ROYAL APPROVAL

Piling on Muhyiddin’s bad rep is his government’s decision to revoke emergency ordinances without debating them in parliament and without royal assent. 

The move angered the king himself, prompting a statement from the royal palace. But Muhyiddin’s government has insisted on acting in accordance with the law.  

The latest boo-boo makes Muhyiddin look like he was no longer in the king’s good books, and made good fodder for the opposition, who cited Muhyiddin’s “violation” of the constitution as one of the reasons for him to step down.

Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah imposed the emergency on the advice of Muhyiddin, who said that he needed it to curb the spread of COVID-19. But critics have slammed the move and accused the premier of trying to cling to power amid a slim majority.

Other stories:

Malaysia’s anti-Muhyiddin politicians take to the streets

#Lawan video captures Malaysians’ frustration over Muhyiddin, COVID-19

This article, 7 reasons why Malaysians want PM Muhyiddin, OUT!, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia’s leading alternative media company.

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