By Jailani Hasan
LABUAN: It was a routine daily outing for the cat, but on this night in the middle of June there was something different about it.
Right across its well-trodden path was a barricade of barbed wire. It stopped in its tracks, appearing to wonder whether it would be safe to venture further.
The cat was not alone. Bernama Labuan photographer Abdull Muqtadir Halim was also “on the prowl” that night and took a shot of the other night prowler.
Eight localities in Labuan are under a total lockdown from June 15 to 28 due to a rise in the number of Covid-19 infections. As of June 24, Labuan had 7,507 cases of Covid-19.
“I decided that this was the best chance for me, as a photographer, to take pictures of what the people may not be able to see due to the need to remain indoors during the lockdown. There are no words to describe what the pictures can tell,” Abdull Muqtadir told this writer.
With workplaces shut, public transportation at a standstill and the people staying home, Labuan looked deserted.
Maybe not altogether. Abdull Muqtadir spotted someone outside a closed supermarket, apparently calling for transport to take her home, along with a bag of rice.
Earlier, in the evening, as the setting sun made the sky glow in a variety of colours, the barbed wire seemed to “emerge” as a menacing feature of the closed road and landscape.
For eight nights in a row from June 15, Abdull Muqtadir, armed with his trusty camera and the necessary permit, rode his motorcycle through different parts of Labuan.
“I saw the clouds, the birds, the stray animals. There were hardly any humans. There was an eerie quiet. Life seemed to have become motionless. There was beauty. There was peace,” he said.
Nevertheless, he said, the Labuan Nucleus Hospital was full of life. There were doctors and nurses in their now-familiar personal protective equipment (PPE), and there were the patients.
One day, at a Covid-19 quarantine and treatment centre, he photographed patients, both the elderly and children, spending their periods of isolation.
“I was able to capture the loneliness,” he said, adding that it was lonely, too, at the cemeteries where those who died of Covid-19 were buried.
“It was most tragic. There were no flowers, no relatives and no goodbyes for the dead,” he said. – Bernama