I’m an actor. I love to act. That’s my job. I’ll leave the politicking to others.  

– Jimmy Smits, American actor

I had a long coffee discussion with a friend yesterday morning.

Don’t get me wrong, though. We weren’t sitting on the same table but were chatting on Messenger and close to a thousand kilometres apart.

My friend was saying Malaysia is one lucky country, and he puts it to the political maturity and wisdom of Malaysians in general.

He said Umno and BN had had more than half a century of power and the signs were that Umno was fast abusing it.

He said that power stranglehold over the Malaysian psyche need to be broken, meaning Malaysians must see beyond the goodies – BR1M and the like.

He had a lot to say…

The opportunity for change presented itself when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and the DAP’s Lims, Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng, formed the most unlikely partnership, branding themselves Pakatan Harapan (Hope Coalition).

They came bearing promises, and of course Malaysians hold them to these.

“Give PH a chance. If we fail, vote us out.”

PH failed, and miserably. The economy didn’t improve, and while national debt increased, assets were lost in dubious sale transfers.

There were only U-turns – 22 months of U-turns! Even as the Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak drifted further away from federalism.

On March 1, the PH government ceased to exist when Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin took his oath of office as Malaysia’s eighth prime minister.

The PH people cried: Back door government! Call it what you want, but the Perikatan Nasional (National Unity) government came when Covid-19 was gripping the world and its predecessor PH was showing all its ineptness.

Then deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Wan Azizah insisted Chinese tourists could still come to Malaysia while her tourism minister Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi spoke of writing a directive to owners of tourist sites to throw their doors wide open to the tourists he described as “healthy”.

“You see, orang yang dah masuk dalam negara ini orang yang sihat sebagai pelancong (people already inside our country are healthy tourists)…Don’t stop, please don’t stop the tourists…it’s totally wrong…kita nak halang orang sihat nak melawat negara kita (we stopping healthy people from visiting our country)…How could you say that it is a matter of precaution, you know, so that it wouldn’t (be) getting worst. Dia orang dah cek …dia orang sihat (They have been checked…they are healthy people). Orang sihat (healthy people), I don’t think they (are) spreading disease all around.”

Pitifully, that was more foolishness than confidence.

Earlier, the PH No. 1 leader Dr Mahathir, tongue-in-cheek, had set the tone of his government’s policy: “Kita nak simpan (kuarantin pelancong China) di mana? Nak bubuh dalam kandang lembu? (diikuti dengan gelak ketawa hahaha di latarbelakang). (Where would we keep those quarantined Chinese tourists? Throw them into the cow pen? – followed by laughter in the background)

“(Buat apa nak sekat?), barang-barang itu bukannya demam (gelak ketawa hahaha di latarbelakang).”  (Why restrict when goods aren’t sick with the virus? – more laughter followed)

Jangan halang mereka. Kita akan periksa mereka (pelancong), dengan memeriksa (mereka) ia akan membolehkan kita mengesan (sebarang tanda virus itu) pada peringkat awal.” (Don’t stop them. We’ll check them (tourists), by checking (them) will enable us to detect whatever virus symptoms at an early stage)

Malaysia could be in a worst situation now had the PH government not been replaced.

By contrast, hardly a week after he formed his Cabinet, Muhyiddin put his movement control order (MCO) in place. And on the fifth day of MCO, the military were deployed to help the police enforce it.

As expected, the opposition had a lot to be unhappy with. Of course, behind their unhappiness is their unceremonious fall from power. Now they are back in their old familiar role, speaking like the opposition they have always been is second to nature.

They, more than anybody else, stayed glued to the TV hoping for a slip (more often than not, perceived slips) on the part of the PN ministers.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba was criticised for telling Malaysians to drink hot water more as prevention against infection.

When Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah advised those who had been in close contact with Covid-19 positive cases to go to the nearest hospital for check, DAP’s Chong Cheing Jen questioned his understanding of the MoH SOP, all because his party members were told by SGH staff to go for self-quarantine at home instead of being made to undergo health screening. 

And then you have this group of retired soldiers who said the Defence Minister had no right to mobilise the army.

Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had this to say in reply: “Saya bekas perdana menteri, bekas menteri pertahanan dan pernah menjadi pengerusi Majlis Keselamatan Negara (MKN). Dan saya sahkan Menteri Pertahan kerajaan PN yang menjalankan tugas bagi pihak PM8, cabinet kerajaan PN dan MKN di bawah kerajaan PN memang ada hak dan kuasa untuk mengarahkan angkatan tentera.”

(As former prime minister and former defence minister, and one time chairman of the National Security Council, I affirm that the Defence Minister of the PN government, working on behalf of PM8, the PN Cabinet and the MKN, has the right and authority to direct the armed forces)

The former prime minister went on to warn: “Dalam situasi kritikal seperti ini, jangan cuba mengeruhkan keadaan pula.”

(In a critical situation such as now, don’t try to create confusion)

The MCO is in order. The police and the army continue to do a great job as more Malaysians realise the need to stay at home to help break the Covid-19 chain.

This is no time for politics and politicking.

If he were skeptical about the seriousness of the situation in February, now under self-quarantine, Dr Mahathir can certainly appreciate what Muhyiddin’s government is doing to contain the virus: “And so here I am, home, quarantined. I had been talking to people to be serious about this pandemic. I have even done a video clip. Now I must be serious and accept being quarantined.”

Further, he observed: “What is happening in Malaysia is happening to the rest of the world also. Industries may have to stop or at least reduce production. Exports and imports would be affected. Economies would go into recession worldwide. Even the richest countries would suffer.

“Truly, we all are faced with a terrible catastrophe.”

The burden of that catastrophe is on Muhyiddin’s shoulders.

Perhaps, just perhaps, for once Dr Mahathir is happy he is not prime minister.