Covid-19 shutdown: Kampung folks complain less, say this is what needs to be done

Soo Wern Jun
A general view of the entrance into Kampung Lee Kong Chian which was formerly known as Kampung Lee Rubber in Kuala Lumpur March 21, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, March 22 — For some older Malaysians, the current movement control order (MCO) in effect nationwide brings back memories of at least two times in the country’s history when movement was restricted.

Lim Poo Yong, a friendly 81-year-old woman, however, said the stay-at-home order this time round is the one that scares her the most. 

“During the Japanese Occupation in 1941, I was only two years old. I can’t remember much of what happened then.

“The May 13 racial riot which happened in 1969 was really scary but I think this disease that is spreading so fast is something so much more serious compared to the past incidents.

“This virus kills. It’s like a plague, tell me who isn’t scared of a plague?” the Kampung Lee Kong Chian (formerly known as Kampung Lee Rubber) resident told Malay Mail.

L ife moves at a slower pace here and the people seem less resentful of the restrictions in place.

Kampung Lee Kong Chian resident Lim Poo Yong, 81, says the movement control order is necessary. Picture taken in Kuala Lumpur March 21, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara

Lim’s grandson Wong Si Wei said his grandmother is still very energetic. “If it wasn’t for the MCO, she would be at the neighbour’s chatting away.

“Is she worried about this entire stay-at-home situation? Not at all, she’s used to it.”

Wong added, “No, I’m not worried. This is what needs to be done to prevent the disease from spreading to more people.”

The 25-year-old Wong, on the other hand, is worried the economy will not be able to ride out the storm if there is still no improvement after 14 days.

Why does he feel this way? Wong is a financial analyst.

“As you have read, the share market crashed so badly. And now we can’t go out, fewer people are spending which means less is being contributed to the economy.

“Should the market be suspended temporarily like what China did) no... I don’t think by suspending the market it will help improve the situation, it’s just avoiding the problem,” he said.

Moving away from the discussion about the economy, Wong explained why he was not as alarmed about the virus.

“We are quite isolated from the city centre... it is actually very inconvenient if you stay at home because everything is quite far away.

“I am not enjoying this MCO, I still prefer to work in the office,” he said.

Just another slow day at Kampung Lee Kong Chian in Kuala Lumpur March 21, 2020. -— Picture by Hari Anggara

Kampung Lee Kong Chian, located at the fringe of Kuala Lumpur, is more than 70 years old and was established during the heydays of the tin mining and rubber industries in Malaya. 

Lee was known as South-east Asia’s Rubber and Pineapple King during the 1950s. A well-known philanthropist, he was the founder of Lee Foundation which supports various educational, healthcare and disaster relief efforts.

The village does not get many visitors and the people here prefer it that way. 

“This privacy in a way assures us that we are not at risk of contracting the virus if we all abide by the MCO.

“We hardly go out unless it’s for work. Even for groceries, on normal days, we get them delivered to us,” a villager said. 

Kampung Baru Ayer Panas, on the other hand, is the opposite. The bustling village is known for its morning market and home-based eateries.

The morning we visited, the whole place looked deserted. Even the road running through the village which is used by motorists as a shortcut during morning rush hour was quiet.

A coffeeshop owner, who did not want to be named, said the quietness due to the MCO reminds her of the peace they used to enjoy in the 80s.

“It used to be very peaceful here, no traffic congestion and definitely not as many high-rise condominiums as you see today.

“We used to find it very convenient to move about... be it for meals or just to pop by the sundry shop.

“Because of the overdevelopment that has happened over the years, we no longer feel safe, always watching out for theft and possible crime,” she added.

A general view of a coffeeshop in Kampung Ayer Panas which has been in operation since 1939, in Kuala Lumpur March 21, 2020. ¬— Picture by Hari Anggara

Kampung Baru Ayer Panas is one of the many Chinese new villages in Malaysia set up during the Emergency (1948-1960) by the British to cut the communist insurgents off from their Chinese supporters.

The coffeeshop owner said despite the MCO, it was business as usual in the village.

“I came here in 1984 to take over this coffeeshop from my in-laws, and this is the first time we are experiencing this sort of situation.

“But there is nothing to worry about, I think, because the order was announced to help reduce the spread of the virus,” she said.

She added that this should have been done from the very beginning, when the outbreak was first detected in Malaysia.

“Then maybe we wouldn’t have so many Malaysians exposed to the virus compared to today,” she said.

The MCO was announced on Monday to start from March 18 to 31, a 14-day period that is equivalent to the lifespan of the Covid-19 and its ability to infect a healthy body.

Although a few days have passed since the MCO started, there are still some stubborn Malaysians who are seen lingering on the streets, congregating at parks and even attending kenduris.

A Kampung Baru villager said it could be because the generation today has not experienced anything like this compared to those who witnessed the May 13 racial riot.

“The government should have deployed armed forces on the first day and then it would create a more intense atmosphere, and to show that the government means business,” said a villager who only wanted to be known as Ikbal.

The 60-something man said those who have gone through that period would take the MCO seriously.

He also added that although things are different today, one thing he learned living through May 13 is not to take things for granted.

“We learned how to always be prepared for a rainy day, because back then there were times that you couldn’t go out at all. Now you can still drive out to buy food.

“We learned to survive on just bread. But today, some are unsure whether they can last the two weeks of the MCO,” he said.

Last week, Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said if the nation does not abide by the MCO set by the ministry, a third wave of a Covid-19 outbreak could occur in the country.

That, he warned, may result in the extension of the MCO as a continuing effort to tackle the virus. 

One thing’s for sure, if that happens it will be older folks like Lim and Ikbal who will adapt easier and complain less.

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