The hashtag #BenderaPutih is viral on social media
The hashtag can be translated to 'White Flag', which is commonly associated with defeat, surrender, truce, or desire to parley.
However, the hashtag and the act of raising a white flag is a far cry from admitting defeat in the current Malaysian social context.
Instead, it is about coming together, pleading with those who are affected by the lockdown not to take extreme measures to cope, and a call for Malaysians to offer help to anyone with a no-questions-asked attitude.
To get you up to speed, here are four things you need to know about the movement that is widely considered an initiative started by the rakyat, for the rakyat:
1. Who started #BenderaPutih?
SAYS managed to speak to the person who made the poster that is believed to have started the #BenderaPutih movement.
In a brief message to this SAYS writer on a social media platform, they said they do not wish to take any credit for the movement.
"If you want to make any story or news, just write it's from the rakyat. It's organic from rakyat [who are suffering]," they said.
"Started by one of the random comments [on Facebook], we came out with one poster to encourage the awareness."
"Rakyat now are sick and suffering [from] the pandemic, but they don't know where else they can get help."
They shared that they had a friend who died by suicide a few years ago when he faced financial problems and did not seek help from them.
Seeing that the rakyat is currently facing the same problem, they and their friends felt a sense of responsibility to ensure what they collectively went through will not happen to other people.
Thus, they started the campaign with a clear message: "Kalau susah, jangan pendam seorang diri. Kongsi dengan orang terdekat. Semoga beban dapat dipikul bersama (If it's difficult, don't bear it alone. Share with people nearby. Hopefully, the burden can be borne together)."
2. What is the objective of the movement?
According to the widely circulated poster, it calls the rakyat to:
- Raise a white flag outside their homes if they require aid, such as food and daily needs
- Not take action that will harm yourself and your loved ones
- Avoid stress
- Not need to plead and feel embarrassed
- Just put up a white cloth, and hopefully, someone will come to your aid
After the poster went viral, it inspired many other posters that share a similar objective and maxim.
Some posters see the white flag movement as a symbol of solidarity for the struggling rakyat. Among them, one poster has a political undertone to its message, saying #BenderaPutih is a movement that:
- Shows the government has failed to manage the country
- Invigorates the spirit of #rakyatjagarakyat (the people take care of the people)
- Calls for the people to help individuals and families around them
- Acts as a symbol of solidarity for the rakyat affected by the Movement Control Order (MCO)
- Upholds the empathy of the Majlis Raja Raja Melayu during this time
3. What caused the movement to resonate with the rakyat?
While there are a magnitude of possibilities that may attribute to the reason why the movement continues to trend on Twitter with 45,000 retweets today, 30 June, it is believed the movement stemmed from the frustration following the announcement of the extension of the MCO on Sunday, 27 June.
This time, MCO — dubbed as full MCO or full lockdown — is extended without a definite end date.
Instead, it will only be removed until the threshold value of daily COVID-19 cases goes below 4,000.
As of Tuesday, people in Malaysia have gone through a total of 468 days of various versions of MCO that first began on 18 March 2020. Over 32% — or 152 days — are under strict lockdown rules.
On social media, the rakyat highlighted various pressing issues — such as the increase of unemployment, deterioration of mental health, inability to provide for their family, and loss of close ones to COVID-19 — in light of the movement.
4. What can you do to participate in the movement?
The movement is straightforward. Those who are financially capable should lend a helping hand to households that raise a white flag outside their homes.
However, by helping, some netizens were confused about what they should provide to needy families.
In a viral Twitter thread with over 12,500 likes and 8,000 retweets, one netizen asked what else they can provide other than rice, eggs, and bread.
Lembah Pantai member of Parliament (MP) Fahmi Fadzil joined the conversation and suggested cooking oil, sugar, and sardine cans.
Others looked at non-government organisations (NGOs) and kitchen packages sold online as inspiration for what to give.
Meanwhile, some netizens said it is best to knock on the doors of houses that put up a white flag and ask them what they need.
Since it is a people's movement, netizens said the aid provided should be personalised to meet the families' specific needs.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced that MCO 3.0 will only end once daily COVID-19 cases goes below 4,000:
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