It was week week 16 of 2020 when I wrote this. In Malaysia we were already 6 weeks under a lockdown. The Malaysian Government called it MCO, Movement Control Order. The Singapore Government called it Circuit Breaker.
What ever it was called, we could not go to work, factories were closed, cafes were shut, and mosques and churches were literally under lock.
President Trump of the USA, after months of denial finally came to his senses, admitting that the USA was under siege. The hard reality was, the whole world was under siege. No country in the world had been spared the spread of this deadly virus. The statistics appeared to be heading towards a situation worst than the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918.
As of now the live statistics showed 37000 deaths in the USA, 15000 in the UK, 20000 in Spain, 18000 in France and 22000 in Italy. China where the pandemic first started, recorded less than 5000 cases which many doubted its accuracy. (1)
Those were chilling numbers indeed. To put into context, those figures might not have reached the World War Two figures of half a million each for the UK and the USA but the world had just been 3 months into this pandemic compared to the six years duration of the Second World War.
As of now, the number of deaths in the USA due to this virus was higher than the lifes lost in the Korean War which recorded 33000 combat deaths and approaching the 58000 combat deaths in the Vietnam war (2)
The whole world was in the midst of a war. If a world war could be defined as a war where no country could be spared, then this was surely one World War.
In 2020 we were in the middle of a WORLD WAR.
I must confess I have been very concerned with the situation in the USA and the United Kingdom. Nadia was in Washington DC having been successful in getting a job with the IMF. Aiman and Safia were still in London, Aiman working with Shell Global, while Safia was still doing her ACCA.
The public health service in those two countries were not in the best of state. The Public health service had already been mutilated after the onslaught by the neo-liberals under the pretext of privatisation. I said, blame it on Thatcher who initiated it.
I had been filled with gratitude that Malaysian Public Health Service had been able to be kept safe, away from the vultures and plunderers of government institutions.
I had been a vocal critic of the introduction of the mySalam insurance scheme introduced by the government of Malaysia in 2019. I saw it as a precursor to the mala-fide intent to privatise Malaysian Health Services. During this period of war on this pandemic, mySalam had been proven to be ineffective.
The amount of premium paid for this insurance was RM2billion for a period of 4 years. Yet the frontliners in public hospitals had their critical allownce cut by the then Minister of Finance, and the allocation on health had not been increased under the excuse of negative money in the Treasury.
By now Malaysians should have the wisdom of hindsight that the 2 billions Ringgit paid to the insurance company, would be better spent on building hospitals and equipping hospitals with needed equipment or upgrading our virology research institutions.
The politicking was just too naïve then. But with partisans influencers and narrators, monopolising the social media backing them up, the public at large had been blinded by partisan politics to think rationally.
Imagine an over reliance on private hospitals as advocated by these neo-liberals disguised as democrats in a pandemic situation we were experiencing now. Unimaginable.
We were aware of the ongoing trade war between Trump and Xi Jin Peng. The headline on the South China Morning Post today was about the 6.5% contraction of the economy of China in the first quarter of 2020, after an unprecedented decades of double digit growth. The political impacts on the population on the street would be enormous.
The trade war between the two countries would surely escalate.
As it was, the hawks in Washington were already starting the narratives that Xi Jin Peng purposely let the virus spread to other countries as a biological weapon to level the economic playing field.
Beware of conspiracy theories but the world did not forget the sad story of Dr Li. Ignored by the authorities in China, Dr Li died a hero after his posting on wechat of his discovery of this peculiar pneumonic fever went viral in Wuhan.
Xi Jin Peng’s failure to alert the WHO of the gravity of the situation and not stopping travels to the rest of the world, to Italy, Spain and Paris was criminal so claimed the anti China Lobby.
The Malaysian government Chinese lobby was also against the shutting down of visitors from China. The renminbi factor and the tourism industry lobby were overly represented in Malaysia then, to the extent that when the first economic stimulus package was announced the focus was primarily on the tourism industry.
In my opinion the World Health Organisation made a blunder too. The big wigs of the WHO, who visited CHINA and telling the world that the pandemic was not that serious was a professional failure of the highest degree, putting the esteemed United Nation organisation into disrepute.
I must share here an observation. If you visit mighty China you could easily be overwhelmed. If you were the guest of the emperor or the guest of the imperium, you could easily be overawed. Unless you were an eagle, soaring high and able to see the big picture any lesser “avian” would become a parrot to the emperor on their return.
He was not the first one. Marco Polo was stuck in China for many years. The banquets, the emperors robe, the finery the size of the great wall, the forbidden city could be intimidating. I had that experience too but on me it was on a much lesser scale.
In Malaysia, we had the case of a minister who was on the invitation of the government of China to assess the Muslim situation in Xin Jiang.
He was the Religious Affairs Minister. His job description was supposed to be the protection of the interests of the muslims but who seriously believe such a job specification for him. Muslims do not need protection. Those who need protection were the non-Muslims. So instead of calling him the Minister of Muslims Religious Affairs he was in reality the de-facto Minister for Control of Muslims and Protection of non Muslims.
He did just that. After a visit at the invitation of the Chinese Government to acess the Xin Jiang situation, he came back with the report that the CHINA government was doing great stuff. There was no concentration camp but instead there were vocational camps to rehabilitate Muslims vocationally, to make them useful humans, he reported.
He would have to carry that to his grave, the guilt if ever he had any, on the sufferings of hundreds of thousand of Muslims in concentration camps in Xin Jiang.
While the public persona of the Chairman was that of one embracing the universal cultures of the world, the real China was about the Communist Party, the Politburo, the anti Christ, anti god, anti Islam anti free trade, anti democracy communist ideology.
The ideological and religious wars were far from over. It was concurrently unfolding in 2020.
Even Malaysia was not spared. There were attempts to glorify the communist party of Malaysia, of lowly communist cadres the like Mat Indera and Shamasiah Fakeh. The real intent was to glorify Chin Peng along with the many top generals in the wing, the Communist Party of Malaya and the Chinese Communist ideology.
I, a military veteran and Malayan born in Bagan the epicentre of the interregnum would battle any propaganda that say Chin Peng was a Malayan hero. He was not,
No matter how bad trump were or how bad our Malaysian politic were I would not trade democracy with anything less.
While the pandemic was on a dangerous exponential trajectory, the Asian cauldron the South China Sea was simmering. China had just launched its second aircraft carrier, the Shandong, after the commissioning of the already operating Lioning.
I believed China was a serious threat to ASEAN. Its naval ambition was not the same as Yong Li and Cheng He. This was world domination we talk about. This was a country with 1.3 billion population. China had the capacity to flood the world with people, tourists, renminbi, manufactured goods and ideology.
As I wrote this, Chinese Coast Guards were not too far away from the coast of Sarawak. There had been reports of Chinese vessels at 50 km off the coast of Sarawak. China simply had no business in the Spratly, the Nine Dash Lines was the dangerous body language of its global ambitions. ASEAN need to be united to ward off this threat.
Malaysia must not allow another Defence Minister who did not have a clue on geopolitics and the military. I was all for diplomacy to avoid war but to deprive our navy of naval platforms, the airforce and army of military assets and deny the soldiers of sufficient defence budget to me were outright irresponsible. That applied to his deputy and those in the chain of political command.
The pandemic harrowing as it was, perhaps had given the opportunities to countries and its leaders to do a re-set or re boot and review its current operating system.
In the 1700 and 1800 it was tea that unsettled the European powers. The balance of trade was so favouring CHINA that the Europeans retaliated by introducing opium. Immoral it was, no doubt about that.
It was opium money that allowed the rail-roads to be built. In the USA, the Wild West to be developed. It was opium money that set the foundations for the few American oligarchs who later became presidents of the United States.(3)
Now we have super oligarchs who had absolute control of the information we access. We have digital super rich now, the like of Bill Gates who got his fingers in virology.
In the meantime, paradoxical as it sounded, it was reported that it was India who possessed that much needed malarial drugs to combat COVID 19, the unfashionable drug no longer manufactured in malaria free countries.
Even more parodies, the company that manufactured the drug had been owned by one Khoja family, a Muslim owned company, the minority being persecuted by India extreme right Hindu government led by Modi. The Khojas were the people of central Asia Samarkand who fled the country in the thirteen century.(5)
Indeed, it was a time full of parodies.
Whoever cared to sit down, analyse interpret and convince the government to take appropriate measure would be the one who would be able to rise from this madness.
The Javanese call it Jaman Edan, Crazy Era indeed.
With the Covid-19, even oil, the cause of wars in the last 200 years became an irrelevant variable.
With the Covid19, while we remained locked indoor, we need coffee. When the world diplomats started talking to each other they will need cups and carafes of coffee. Coffee diplomacy will be the in thing.
It might look like crazy time but let us remain calm to study patterns and movements of this geopolitical, geo-economic, geo-religious events unfolding, and prepare ourselves, our country and our ASEAN to come out stronger after.
And I was writing this in an attempt to wind down after months of research and volumes of journals and publications on geopolitics, geoEconomics, ideological and religious wars, the last couple of chapters of the book I am writing.
Who would have thought I would live to see all these unfolding. The impacts on the future would be immense.