Press Statement By Irene Chang:
Sibu people are angry and frustrated over the latest work-related travel permit that is required for their employees to operate their essential service. The policy was obviously hastily put together without much consideration and thought on whether it could be properly implemented in such a short period of time (the policy was implemented on Monday 25 th to take effect on Wednesday 27 th ). Though I appreciate the intention of Sibu SDMC in their effort to contain the raging numbers of positive Covid 19 cases in Sibu, the latest policy has caused employers to amass at the few police stations in Sibu during the last two days and today. There was confusion all round because the guidelines issued last minute by Sibu SDMC was not sufficiently detailed to the applicants and did not coordinate with the resources available to the police on the ground who have to process the applications (no online application). As a result of this, people were made to go in and out of the police station a few times. What made it worse was that different police stations have their own instruction of how the application forms should be filled in and what supporting documents were required. Applicants were totally at the mercy of the officers who were also stressed out from the lack of manpower to carry out the implementation smoothly.
From what I understood from certain persons, the policy was implemented with the purpose of deterring people from opening their businesses and to indirectly force them to stay at home in compliance with the MCO in Sibu. If that were true, Sibu SDMC had suffered a backlash when Sibu employers thronged the few police stations under both rain and shine in order to get the permit. And from my observation, the approval was given as a matter of course to whoever came in to apply for as long as the supporting documents were produced. In most cases, there seemed to have no scrutiny on the most basic requirement, that is whether the applications were made in respect of essential services employment. No fault should lie with the police on this as they themselves were not even properly briefed on what is or is not an essential service that is allowed to operate in this MCO. Sibu SDMC should have provided them with the list, especially in a last-minute policy as this.
And now that the Sibu people has suffered miserably for the last two days, in a lot of cases, the permit given was only till 29 th January when the MCO is supposedly to expire. In the event that the MCO is extended, Sibu SDMC should announce that all these permits should be extended automatically and should be valid for the duration of the MCO. This would avoid another circus at the police stations which had put both police and people at high risk of infections from Covid 19.
Having said this, it is clear that the past two weeks of MCO had not sufficiently contained the spread of the infection among the community in Sibu. The people have suffered from the half-hearted MCO. Businesses have suffered and the rate of infection has not been sufficiently contained. Whatever policies that may still be put in place in the following weeks to come, Sibu SDMC should ensure first that the enforcements on the ground have the ability, resources and manpower to implemented them smoothly. A good policy becomes a bad policy when it cannot be implemented properly for the benefit of the people.