By Deborah Chow

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--A recent video released by Projek Bangsa Malaysia about the plight of front-liners in Malaysia highlighted the heart-breaking condition of a nation ravaged by the pandemic and riddled by the failures of the government.

In the video, front-liners likened Malaysia to the situation in India now and Italy in 2020, saying that the Covid-19 death numbers released by the Ministry of Health are lower than the actual numbers. A houseman can be heard crying as they share an experience of having to oversee 4 to 5 wards in a night, hoping that they don’t end up “killing” any patients because they are unable to attend to all patients at the same time. Another medical front-liner spoke about being told off by higher ups for taking the initiative to raise funds for hospital resources. Despite being under-staffed and under-resourced, our hospitals continue to fight the good fight.

Outside hospitals, Malaysians have raised black flags in protest and white flags to ask for assistance. In the news, stories of a mother and her daughter eating leaves along the roadside, suicides, and Ramly burger stall owners being slapped with hefty fines add to the suffering. The people have coined the term “#KerajaanGagal” to vent their disappointment at the failures of the current government. This government, made up of backdoor politicians and frogs, falls back on defensive arguments against criticisms of its failure to fulfil the people’s mandate, instead of leading the battle against Covid-19.

Throughout the pandemic, one thing has been clear - Malaysians are truly their brothers’ keepers. As the nation despairs and the economy slides downhill, little beacons of light shine in the darkness. Hawkers, themselves struggling to keep their businesses afloat, set up tables offering free food with signs like “Kalau lapar/perlu, sila ambil” (If you are hungry, or if you need this, please take it). A petrol station in Kampung Subang places shelves stacked with Gardenia bread, eggs, milk, and instant noodles outside their mart for people to help themselves. Yoga teachers run online classes, donating all proceeds to single mothers. Bakers run bake sales for special needs children. The list goes on.

The help we Malaysians offer each other does not stop at food, clothing, money and shelter. Mental health advocates provide free information on mental health tools online. The Malaysian Mental Health Association offers support at RM50 per session, and many individuals such as Datin Dian Lee and Noelle Lim run mindfulness sessions for all.

There is no wait-and see in this crisis. Malaysians are acting fast and acting now. Any further waiting will cost lives. Malaysians know this and many selfless Malaysians have banded together to send aid and rescue to those in need. Organisations like Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM), Kuching Food Aid, Refuge for the Refugees, and many more have continuously worked hard to feed, clothe, and provide assistance to both Malaysians and non-Malaysians.

A creative way of fundraising has been set up by Projek Bangsa Malaysia, a collective of Malaysians who believe in helping their fellow men and building an inclusive Malaysia. They are organising a concert with a star-studded line up called “Derma Kilat Rakyat” with the aim of raising RM3 million. This online benefit concert will take place on July 17, 11am.  Malaysian celebrities such as Bront Palarae, Douglas Lim, and Altimet are among a long list of popular entertainers in the event’s line-up, who will be dedicating their time to raise money for Malaysians in need. The donations will be distributed to Malaysian NGOs actively assisting Malaysians in need.

As we face this dark hour as a nation, and as we hold each other up, may we always remember the spirit that keeps us, Bangsa Malaysia, together - our love for each other, and our love for this country. The saying goes that the darkest hour is just before dawn. While we hope for this promised dawn, let us continue to help each other, even in the smallest of ways, because as Bangsa Malaysia, Kita Jaga Kita.