EMCO woes: Two friends struggle to make ends meet in Sibu Jaya

EMCO woes: Two friends struggle to make ends meet in Sibu Jaya

SIBU: Two long time friends and neighbours, Michael Jingga, 51, and Henry Jalak, 57, who live in Sibu Jaya, a new urban area located about 30km from the city centre, are now facing the most challenging times in their lives since the spread of COVID-19.

Their residence are among the 20 blocks of flats in Sibu Jaya which has now been placed under the Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO) since Feb 12 and the order also covers the Town Villa housing area effective until Feb 25.

“I agree that EMCO is necessary to curb the spread of COVID-19 but it also does not allow us to go out to work and earn a living,” Michael told Bernama when contacted.

The two friends work as grass cutters with a cleaning contractor company here, but they have not been able to work since Jan 26 after both were tested positive for COVID-19 in a screening, after experiencing fever, cough and several other symptoms associated with the disease.

“For a week we were treated at Sibu Hospital and then quarantined again at home until we recovered and when we were ready to go back to work, we were forbidden by our employer to return due to fears there might be a recurrence of COVID-19,” said Michael.

The intention to return to work was further delayed when on Feb 10, the State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) announced the EMCO enforcement in Sibu Jaya following the sharp increase in new COVID-19 cases in the area.

Michael said, as soon as he finished his home quarantine, he went to the bank in Sibu Jaya to take his salary but was surprised to find that his January salary was only RM500, compared to the RM1,000 he should have received.

“I tried to contact my employer several times over the phone to get an explanation regarding the salary cut but there has been no response until today. I think this is not fair because I cannot work due to the illness (COVID-19),” he said in a sad tone.

He is now at a dead end to find another source of income because during EMCO, they are not allowed to leave the house and he also has to pay RM260 monthly for the house they have rented for the past four years.

Henry also suffered a similar fate when his January salary was only RM500 while the promised salary was RM1,000 per month and the pay slip was not provided as a reference.

He said the amount was not enough to cover the expenses of the family’s daily needs, namely that of his wife and three children, one was studying in secondary school.

“The installment payment for the flat occupied by the family is RM300 per month, excluding electricity and water bills,” said Henry.

Michael said to meet food needs, he and Henry planted paddy on a land area of about 0.809 hectares not far from Sibu Jaya for the past three years to cover the cost of buying rice.

“We do not sell the rice but use it for the family. At least we do not have to buy rice supplies for a period of six to seven months. This eases the financial burden a little and (the money) can be used for other purposes,” said Michael.

“We did receive food baskets and other necessities from the government during the EMCO, but for how long do we want to rely on government assistance only? We want to return to work so that we can continue to support our families after this situation ends,” said Michael.