The point in history at which we stand is full of promise and danger. The world will either move forward toward unity and widely shared prosperity — or it will move apart.  

– FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, USA’S 32ND PRESIDENT 

Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno, a Latin phrase meaning ‘One for all, all for one’. It is apparently the unofficial motto of Switzerland.

However, this phrase was made famous by Alexandre Dumas in his well-known novel, The Three Musketeers. The core meaning of ‘One for all, all for one’ is solidarity or teamwork.  

It is now 21 days into the movement control order (MCO). I am sure many are asking, when will the Covid-19 infections and unfortunate resulting deaths come to an end.

No one has been spared. Everyone has been affected in one way or another. Some more than others. 

Each and everyone one of us has a critical role to play to make sure that this insidious enemy, invisible to the naked eye must be defeated. But are we?

The MCO has been tightened gradually via regulations and enforcement every few days since it began on March 18. The constant increase in regulations and enforcement has been necessary due to the fact that some people were not taking the matter seriously. We have all seen the videos on social media of people still going of as a family shopping in the markets and initially treating the MCO as a public holiday.

Fortunately, the latest reports indicate a reduction in the numbers defying the MCO. Most likely this is due to the deterrent effect of recent arrests, fast convictions and jail sentences by the courts. There have even been calls for police to use ‘rotans’ as an immediate form of punishment. While I am sure it will have an impact, if introduced, must be used judiciously.  

Initially, many took the Covid-19 infectious disease as nothing to do with them. It was not of concern to them. But once the number of positive cases stated rising here and the death rate started increasing (12 in Sarawak at the time of writing), the seriousness of the infection finally sank into the minds of most people.

In fact, there are more comments on social media now calling for total lockdown. This is indeed a sign of how worried some people are getting. If the infection rate soars and if some people don’t cooperate and stay home, why not. 

Perhaps there should be a practice run on this. A day should be selected very soon and a total lockdown carried out for one day. This could beneficial in several ways. Firstly, to emphasis upon the general population the severe impact of a total lockdown if they don’t cooperate and secondly to allow the authorities to test and build capacity towards a longer-term lockdown if necessary.

There has also been much speculation on whether the Ramadan and Gawai bazaars will proceed if the MCO is lifted. Considering the speed with which covid-19 has spread throughout the world, there was much public apprehension when some politicians indicated that the matters were being mulled over. 

I mean, what is it that some decision-makers don’t understand. Is it not better that we all survive this year and celebrate all our various festivals together next year? 

I am happy to mention here that one month ago I posted in the Miri Indian Association committee WhatsApp group that the Indian New Year High Tea celebration on April 18 in a hotel would not be held due to concerns about Covid-19. This was fully supported by all. Subsequently, we all also agreed not to hold our Diwali celebrations later this year. Normally the Diwali celebrations draw a crowd of 600 to 800. I would like to see all the Indian community members, our many friends and supporters from all the various communities at the two celebrations next year. It was an easy decision to make.

I am sure all Sarawakians breathed a sigh of relief when Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg announced three days ago that all the Ramadan and Gawai festive bazaars will not be allowed to operate. Indeed, a common sense and life-saving decision.

In this time of crisis, all of us are important decision-makers. Before taking any action or neglecting to take action, ask yourself one question, are you putting people’s lives at risk? There is only one guiding principle here and that is to ‘save lives’. 

This guiding principle must be applied by politicians, civil servants, employers, employees and individuals. We must act based on ‘one for all, all for one’. This cannot be an option and is the one and only action that needs to be taken at all levels of our society.

So when will this crisis end? Well, it is up to each and every one of us when this Covid-19 enemy is defeated. 

Even once we overcome Covid-19, in the aftermath, there will still many social and economic storms we will have to weather in Sarawak. Only a ‘one for all, all for one spirit’ will get us through these tough times. Perhaps this should become the motto worldwide.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.