Malaysians are known for their sense of unity and that can’t be more obvious than during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Coalescing through the hashtags #KitaJagaKita and #RakyatJagaRakyat before, the nation has provided aid and support through various philanthropic channels. Most notably, HungerHurtsMY and Refuge For The Refugees have been hard at work these past months.
Even JUICE has joined in and itemised several listicles of small businesses to support at the start of the MCO.
But times have gotten tougher and the situation is becoming more dire. It’s not uncommon to read about impoverished families living in difficult conditions during the pandemic due to loss of income which is why the latest hashtag #benderaputih (white flag) has been erected in the media.
Kibarkan bendera putih di rumah anda jika perlukan bantuan makanan dan keperluan lain.
Semoga akan ada yang hadir membantu. pic.twitter.com/gI8i65iU09
— Awan Wafdan ⛅️ (@seketulawan) June 28, 2021
The aim of the hashtag is to spread awareness on the new initiative where those in need can simply place a white flag/cloth near their gate, signalling that they need help.
This is a way to prevent those, who are already going through a tough time, the shame of needing to ask for aid. It’s also an easier way to identify the families in need.
Unlike the first two hashtags, this one comes with a bit of controversy. The white flag is usually interpreted as a sign of defeat or surrender, which sends a negative message to the public. However, rebranding the symbol, it is now used to represent support and solidarity with the nation.
Despite being a positive initiative that some have even described as “heartwarming”, there are people who are trying to tarnish the image of the movement.
Bachok MP and member of Parti Agama Islam (PAS), Nik Abduh Nik Aziz is currently under fire for erecting his own message on his Facebook account.
He wrote, “Raise your hands and pray to God. That is the flag [symbol] of strength and optimism during life’s trials. Don’t show defeat when faced with obstacles and teach the nation to erect white flags. #AllahJagaKita #MalaysiaOptimis.”
As soon as he posted this, he was met with comments disagreeing with his sentiments. During such a sensitive time, where the nation is suffering and dying, the last thing we need to hear from a person in power is ‘Pray the hurt away.’
What started off as the nation’s way of supporting each other quickly turned into a political fiasco once #benderaputih started getting traction amongst political figures.
Admin | Saya bersama dalam kempen #benderaputih ini bagi mengenal pasti mereka yang memerlukan bantuan. Tak perlu merayu, tak perlu malu. Kibar saja bendera.🏳️#KempenBenderaPutih#PEMULIH#ActionBeyondPolitics pic.twitter.com/L3UP1rTYYf
— Zuraida Kamaruddin (@zuraida_my) June 29, 2021
Minister of Housing & Local Government, Zuraida Kamaruddin posted her own flyer for the initiative but was criticised by netizens for hijacking a movement created by the people for the people.
Meanwhile, Malaysiakini reported that Amanah’s mobilisation bureau will be putting up white flags at public places nationwide tomorrow to get the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government to resign.
“We demand the failed federal government to resign and give the mandate to the party which has the people’s mandate,” said bureau chief Mohd Sany Hamzan.
Sany denied that this would distract from the aid campaign. “We’re not putting up flags at homes but at public areas such as the roads, signboards, and pedestrian bridges.
“Those who need aid will put up white flags at their homes,” he said.
According to Twitter users, the reason for the #benderaputih movement was to rectify the wrongs of the people at the top who not only provided minimal assistance to those in need but also helped in the deterioration of the situation altogether.
Many found it tone-deaf for politicians to jump on the bandwagon of a movement to fight against the poor living conditions that they helped contribute to. The tweet below by @InjangNation seems to summarise the majority of netizens’ voices.
“The government and opposition are racing to hijack each of the people’s initiatives that were started because of their own failures to govern the country. Both sides are idiots,” Injang Nation said.
Nevertheless, without detracting from the original message at hand, #benderaputih is picking up steam and aid is pouring from various different avenues.
If you spot a white flag in your area, you know what to do.