See you at the ‘pasar malam’ for CNY, lawmakers joke after Putrajaya limits reunion dinner to families sharing same house

Among the new SOPs is that the customary reunion dinner can only involve members of the same household. — Picture by Marcus Pheong
Among the new SOPs is that the customary reunion dinner can only involve members of the same household. — Picture by Marcus Pheong

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 5 — Opposition lawmakers have questioned the government’s logic and sensibility in allowing night markets to open again but barring families from gathering even a night for the customary reunion dinner this Chinese New Year.

Mocking the government announcement earlier today on the latest dos-and-don’ts under the movement control order (MCO), several elected representatives suggested jokingly that families could shift their reunion dinners from home to the pasar malam instead, while still complying with Covid-19 regulations.

“Minister, what is the logic? Factories, markets, night markets, hyper markets etc are allowed to open, but family members living within a radius of 10km are not allowed to have reunion dinner. Crazy!” Selangor state executive councillor for investment, industry and commerce, and small and medium enterprises Datuk Teng Chang Kim posted on his Facebook page last night.

“Let’s have our reunion dinner and visit each other at pasar malam!” the Bandar Baru Klang assemblyman added.

State lawmaker for Kampung Tunku Lim Yi Wei pointed out the flaws in the latest list of standard operating procedures released by the Defence Ministry, headed by Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, on its Facebook page.

Among the new SOPs is that the customary reunion dinner can only involve members of the same household.

“If a family reunion dinner is limited to seisi rumah sahaja (same household only), it is… literally a normal family dinner.

“CNY is a cultural celebration not a religious one. We don’t really go to temples during CNY… if we pray, the prayer table is set up in our compound. I believe the Chinese community is willing to follow SOPs but make it make sense. Anyway, see you guys at pasar malam!” she said on her Facebook page.

Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh told Malay Mail that she is concerned some Malaysians may resort to creative ways to dodge the prohibition.

“I am getting worried looking at the responses of creative Malaysians considering meeting at pasar malam, shopping mall or even turning their home into a hair salon,” she said when contacted.

Senior Minister Ismail Sabri announced yesterday that the government is easing up restrictions on economic sectors like pasar malam traders, hair dressers, barbers, and even car wash operators, allowing them to reopen for business starting today after considering their pleas.

Yeoh said there appeared to be “no science” behind the SOPs formulated by the National Security Council (NSC) and put it down to the lack of diversity in the Cabinet.

“When you do not have an inclusive Cabinet, this is exactly what happens. Rules made by similar people with deep pockets, seated on high chairs and completely detached from the reality of regular Malaysians. Malaysians are having a field day trying to figure out all the various SOPs for Chinese New Year,” she said.

The former deputy minister suggested that the government could have considered some leeway for families to celebrate Chinese New Year even under the current MCO.

“At least those who are from the same district should be allowed to visit their families. I wonder if those in the Cabinet have a WhatsApp group or do they even think anything through? It’s always knee jerk reactions and policies which never made sense,” Yeoh said.

Other DAP lawmakers expressed similar views.

“@ismailsabri60 says that CNY reunion dinner is only allowed for those who stay in the same house. Errrr… sane people call that regular dinner, not CNY reunion dinner. At least allow families in the same district/ area to gather for CNY reunion dinner lah (Max 10 to 15 pax),” Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming tweeted.

In his announcement yesterday, Ismail Sabri said the prohibitions were issued after due consideration and taking into account Malaysia’s continued high Covid-19 cases.

“After looking into all aspects, these are the SOPs agreed upon. Firstly, the Chinese New Year celebration is only allowed within the same household.

“Inside the house, with family members from the same household. Regardless whether it is prayers or anything else, it has to only be confined within the same household,” he said.

Malaysia currently has 48,771 active Covid-19 cases nationwide after 4,571 more people were diagnosed with being infected by the coronavirus as at 6pm yesterday.

Of that number, 308 patients are in intensive care and 135 intubated while 17 more people died yesterday, raising the overall death toll to 826, more than a year since the virus was first found in the country.

Sarawak is currently spared Putrajaya’s CNY prohibitions as the MCO does not cover the entire state. Ismail Sabri said the state government will issue its own SOPs for Chinese New Year celebrations there.