Malaysians rally support for the needy with ‘White Flag’ movement

An online image promoting the White Flag movement in Malaysia. Photo: Hafizol Hakami/Twitter
An online image promoting the White Flag movement in Malaysia. Photo: Hafizol Hakami/Twitter

Malaysians online have come up with a new movement to assist those in need of essentials by urging them to put up a white flag to alert those around them that they require help. 

The white flag movement or “Bendera Putih” gained traction online this morning and comes as Malaysians across the country appear to have reached their breaking points amid the government’s poor handling of the pandemic. 

“Raise a white flag at your home if you need help with food and essentials,” Hafizol Hakami wrote on Twitter last night. “Do not take action that will hurt you and your loved ones.”

“Avoid stress. No need to beg or humiliate (yourselves). Just fly a white flag. Please let there be those who will help,” he added. 

More than 20,000 tweets on the movement were shared online on Tuesday afternoon, some of which also included the #RakyatJagaRakyat hashtag (which translates to “the people take care of the people”).

The white flag movement appeared to be the latest incarnation of the #KitaJagaKita hashtag (“We’ll take care of each other”) spawned at the start of the pandemic and was later abandoned after the government misused it to their own advantage. One minister is already facing backlash for trying to pull a similar stunt today. 

Zuraida Kamaruddin, Minister of Housing and Local Government, jumped on the white flag bandwagon saying that she was endorsing the campaign. 

One of the criticisms levelled against her said: “Y’all don’t realise ke #BenderaPutih, #RakyatJagaRakyat and other tags are born from disappointment towards governing bodies? Pastu gi hijack konon faham rakyat. (After that you hijack it as if you understand the people.) Pui!”

Others called the white flag movement initiative “heart-warming” and timely since the COVID-19 situation was taking a toll on the people’s morale.  

The total lockdown imposed nationwide has now been extended indefinitely as the country continues to report thousands of COVID-19 cases and deaths even after declaring a state of emergency meant to grant the government greater powers to contain the spread of infections.  

But as the lockdown drags on, businesses continue to be affected as well as the income and mental health of many Malaysians. 

The Befrienders KL 24-hour helpline reportedly said that more people were dialing in to complain about jobs and financial difficulties during the lockdown, noting an increase in the number of people reporting suicidal tendencies by 10% as of May. 

Around 120,000 calls were made to the Health Ministry’s Psychosocial Support Helpline from January to June this year, of which nearly 90% were linked to psychosocial issues as a result of loss of jobs or income as well as family and marital problems. 

Since June 1, Malaysia has been in Phase 1 of the National Recovery Plan in which only approved essential services may operate. This was initially meant to last two weeks but has since been extended indefinitely or until daily COVID-19 cases dip below 4,000.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced the latest government aid package dubbed “Pemulih” (recovery), worth RM150 billion (US$36 billion), to assist Malaysians and businesses hurt by measures aimed at containing COVID-19 in the country. 

Under the latest round of financial aids, some Malaysians were allowed to defer their loan repayments under a six-month moratorium or withdraw from their retirement savings until the end of the year. 

Other stories:

Jealous classmate and gang beat up 12-year-old girl in Kelana Jaya

Singaporean family nabbed over weed business in Malaysia

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