The hashtag #benderaputih, which means white flag, started trending in Malaysia early last week, as part of a people’s campaign to bring attention to the fact that many Malaysians are going hungry and are in need of help, as many sink into deeper economic hardship due to the pandemic.
— JUICE Malaysia (@JuiceMy) June 29, 2021
They are also a sign of the widespread dissatisfaction with how the administration of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has handled the crisis.
From the beginning of June, Malaysia has been under complete lockdown, and the government says it will remain this way until the daily number of Covid infections are under 4,000.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin has just announced a 150 billion ringgit (S$48.5 billion) stimulus package specifically aimed at lower and middle income families, and the households on the lowest economic rung will be getting 1,300 ringgit (S$421).
However, despite the urgent need for financial help, the first part of the package will not be given out until next month.
The rise in suicides in Malaysia may be a further sign of the desperation people feel, with police reporting that in the first half of 2021, 468 had committed suicide. This number is significantly higher than 2019, when 609 people took their own lives, and in 2020, when 631 committed suicide.
Suicide rates are increasing exponentially. We have a crisis that needs to be addressed immediately. However, we have a failed governance who loves to makan durian, give out exorbitant fines, giving half assed handouts and curi idea Rakyat.#benderaputih #KerajaanPembunuh pic.twitter.com/TMOJfe9bIq
— TAM (@theaftermeal_) June 29, 2021
It took us countless of suicides to start #BenderaPutih
I’m sorry we’re late. I’m sorry it took so many lives for us to realize the government never gives a shit about us. #KerajaaanGagal
The rakyats have heard your pleas. Reach out to us. We are here for you.
— Kael 🇲🇾🇵🇸🏴 (@KaelSansSouci) June 29, 2021
One worker involved in the white flag campaign as saying that some pregnant mothers have only been eating one meal daily.
The Prime Minister and his administration have also come under fire since Members of Parliament who are part of the ruling alliance have had more access than opposition figures to funds that would help residents, and the perception has been that those in the government are more interested in staying in power than in helping people who are in need.
SCMP quotes MP Kelvin Yii of Pakatan Harapan as saying that “people are actually already suffering and dying,” and so the aid to come next month will give minimal help.
He warned of a “sense of hopelessness” experienced those in poorer households.
“They say they don’t know what to do next as they are not allowed to work,” the MP said.
In a letter to the editor of Free Malaysia Today, one Malaysian wrote that the White Flag Campaign should be seen as “an indictment of the government of the day for its failure to provide assistance and support to the most vulnerable members of our community.”
“We must remember that it is our political leaders’ preoccupation with wresting power from one another, failure to plan ahead and to manage the Covid-19 outbreak, lack of empathy, and culture of impunity that got us to where we are now,” they added.
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