The heading of a Malaysiakini report yesterday, “Heli lands at Padang Ipoh ‘without clearance’ to pick up food for KL customer”, and its contents reflect the many ills that have afflicted our nation as a whole and in particular, its fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
It also reflects the serious disconnect between the haves and have nots; the rich and the poor; the affluent and impoverished; and the moneyed and the moneyless.
But what transpired in Ipoh yesterday does not justify nor validate the broad divide between the two.
It appeared to be a case of “do it and be damned” and face the consequences later. How else would you describe the audacity of landing a helicopter (without permission) on one of the last remaining hallowed turfs and greenery in Ipoh?
It would have certainly been permissible in an emergency or when it is a matter of life and death. But it is an unequivocal “no” when it comes to satisfying the hunger pangs and cravings of a few.
To dismiss it as a spur of the moment would be a fallacy. What can be gleaned from news reports was that the operation was planned, prepared and executed to the T.
The food was pre-ordered and pre-paid – the restaurant was told to prepare 36 packets of rice, chicken, salted egg and beef. And it was then delivered to the door of the helicopter.
It was not just a case of one rich (and perhaps famous) satisfying the cravings for his or her favourite meal. Neither was it a case of thrift and paying little for good and tasty food.
On the contrary, it was extravagance – forking out RM10,000 in transport charges (to charter the helicopter) to pick up packets of food from Ipoh and deliver them to a designated drop point.
It was not just a case of displaying opulence. Neither was it lunch for a high-powered meeting of the board of directors and aides.
It was arrogance personified and defiance of laws, rules and regulations. It was showing scant regard for procedures that are in place to restrict the movement of people and stop the spread of Covid-19.
It cannot be said that it was a dare or a game of “catch me if you can”. The success of the operation must have prompted the organiser to pump fists in the air and thump the chest to be able to pull off an audacious task and in the process taunt authority.
There is no funny side to this and no one will find it amusing. The Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) said the helicopter was only cleared for landing at the Sultan Azlan Shah Airport. Was it then a diversion of the flight plan which was submitted before take-off?
Perak police chief Mior Faridalatrash Wahid was quoted by Utusan Malaysia as saying the helicopter landed between 9.55am and 10.15am and that it did not have permission to land on Padang Ipoh.
Let them eat cake
We are not pontificating on how those endowed with an enormous amount of wealth should spend their money and neither are we specifying how they should flaunt their wealth.
But with the country ravaged by a pandemic that has caused more than 7,000 deaths and total Covid-19 cases nearing the million mark, it would be a gross understatement to state it was wrong timing.
At a time when white flags are being raised by the poor and needy, such a show of extravagance cannot even be seen as a futile and fruitless effort to lend credence to the prime minister’s claim that the “kitchens are full of supplies”.
But sarcasm aside, this whole shindig has left a bitter taste in the mouths of most Malaysians. At a time when even a kilo of rice is beyond many, such a display of supposed height of enrichment and total abuse of wealth can be nauseating.
When one is fined RM5,000 for going to buy groceries from Taman Tun Dr Ismail in Kuala Lumpur, across the road to Kampung Kayu Ara in Petaling Jaya – a distance of 4km – what else can be said of an hour’s helicopter ride to Perak to pick up packed meals?
The transgressions by VVIPs including ministers have been pooh-poohed with paltry fines, but what is an RM2,000 fine to one whose superior food delivery service by air cost five times more than that?
R NADESWARAN is a veteran journalist who writes on bread and butter issues.
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