Surrender on defeat: Help!
Published on: Sunday, July 18, 2021
By: Kan Yaw Chong
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Powerful image of desperation – raising the white flag in the heart of Kuala Lumpur in front of the iconic Twin Towers.
IN war, soldiers raise the white flag. Meaning, “we surrender, concede defeat, please don’t kill us”. 

There’s no war in Malaysia. But we saw white flags hoisted across Malaysia of late, meaning hunger hurts, loss of job, no money hurts, we are desperate, we surrender, don’t kill us, help, please help – begging without uttering a word! 

So, here is the irony. The Government had been very speechy on the billions in stimulus packages. 

Yet, it hasn’t quelled much of the unsaid hidden sorrows from defeated livelihood  which have now surfaced via the language of white flags from a people being pushed to the breaking point by indefinite shutdown of the economy since the first lockdown of 18 March 2020, with no victory in sight over the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Dumping divisive politics to 

help the desperate

The white flag signals dire straits.

The beauty is the flag pin points who the really desperate are and whose dire needs towards whom basic food can be sharply directed by the alliance of NGOs like BenderaPutih Initiative rather than being wasted on the haves.    

If the Government had been inadequate, we discover there is actually a strong under-current of kind ordinary, unknown Malaysians who pity the desperate and just do what they can for the defeated.     

A great mood change for us. It’s not about cops slapping hefty fines on Malaysians for SOP violations.   

It’s about good-hearted, empathetic ordinary Malaysians out there who dumped divisive power politics, unshackled their ethnic and religious backgrounds that had fractured the nation in a united drive to lift the plights of the immense suffering, insecurity, anxiety and fear among the unsung folks.

One interesting video apparently caught the attention of thousands came from a group named BenderaPutih Initiative.

At the directive of Daily Express Editor-in-Chief, James Sarda, here is a transcript of six key drivers behind a citizen’s basic food aid programme, who relate their field experience what the desperation feels like on the ground.       

A glimpse of the reality on 

the ground

Suet Beng: I mean we don’t think about it, but let’s say imagine, you have to go to someone to ask for food right, isn’t it very humbling experience already?  So yeah, in the past few months we have seen a glimpse of the reality that many of us, our friends, our neighbours are struggling to get by day by day, many of us are left without a job, some left with little or no food for days or some even have to give up their homes.

Unidentified narrator: “I reached out to few NGOs in both West and East Malaysia to share further the reality of what’s happening around us and how you and I can help those who need it most.

3am call for food, 6 months 

without a job!

Suet Beng: (Seated in driver’s seat) So my car is full of groceries – rice, oil,  Maggie noodles and then the vegetables are all in the back (of car)… ha-ha. Okay, so my name is Beng, I am running a soup kitchen with my husband, started the kitchen to provide cooked meals, but now for the MCO period, we are running like food bank as well.

Mohd Syazwan: Since we opened up our campaign – a food relief programme, we have received more than 700 close to 8oo requests over three days. I’ll get text messages, at 12 o’ clock at night, even 3am in the morning needing food.

Suet Beng: It’s been bad for MCO, it’s been very bad. We hear people six months without a job, four months without a job. 

Not a normal kind of poverty 

Annie Haziqah: You never can imagine the amount of messages we get every single day. You know when it comes to mental health, at this point of time, it’s not normal kind of poverty that we are dealing with, these people who never ever asked for help previously would now be desperate to ask for help. So we cannot expect them to know what to do. 

Same story all over 

Mohd Syazwan: It’s always the same case – loss of income, loss of job, husband is no longer working and I have three kids, my daughter doesn’t have milk, for example, B40, M40 categories (level of poverty). It’s all jumbled up, it does not make sense any more. You know I had this Pakcik calling up, he is all alone, 82-years-old living in Petaling Jaya, he lives on just powdered milo, 10kgs of that per month he said, just on powdered milo.

Suet Beng: The toughest is actually when people ask for milk for their babies, that’s the hardest. 

Unidentified narrator: Over in East Malaysia, volunteers are trying to reach those in the rural areas and islands where food banks may not be as easily accessible.      

Shen-Tel Lee (Sarawak): Some aid missions may take 24 hours to complete. We are going out to like Bintangor, we are helping rural areas in Mukah, Bintulu, Miri and Sibu as well. These families don’t have access to internet, these kids haven’t been in school, they don’t have refrigeration, they don’t have stable electricity, a lot of them don’t even have access to clean water.

Reaching out, feeding 

thousands and yet…

Khairul Jamain: Imagine in the rural areas that don’t have many economic opportunities. Even before the MCO, they have been living on the border of poverty. So imagine during the MCO period, on land we would use lorries, 200 packs, 300 packs and we will send resources by boat to the islands. It’s challenging actually because first, it depends on the weather conditions, and the rise of tide of the sea. If the tide is low, we won’t be able to reach the island so we have to get down and carry all the rice and everything to reach the island. 

Unidentified narrator: Together, these NGOs feed thousands weekly and yet aid is still never enough. Any help from those who are able could mean keeping family afloat. So what can we do for the people around us?

Annie Haziqah: Every family who comes to us and asks for help we will provide basics like these. You can also pack your own food aid for others. Any canned food is like a dream, like a 5kg bag of rice, eggs, cooking oil, milk, sugar, salt, dry biscuits and soya sauce, stock cubes are also another great one, joy items, tooth pastes and tooth brushes and sanitary pads.

Shel-Tel Lee: A lot of women are sacrificing sanitary pads in order to buy food for their family.

Unidentified narrator: Just make sure that everything is unopened, not expired and in good condition.

Just helping with basics

Shen –Tel Lee:
We are just helping with the basics which are just easing that one burden of food, then maybe whatever they earned, they could help with other things like petrol to be able to go to work, you’ve got medical issues as well,

Annie Haziqah: We can’t expect them to know how to reach out. We must reach out to them I wanted to put dignity, I don’t want people to come begging at me. That’s not right.  For me, basic necessities are not for you to beg. 

Khairul Jamain: It’s not that they don’t want modernisation, we have not given the chance actually 

Plea to Malaysians – be kinder  

Suet Beng:
I would just say to the Malaysians to be a bit kinder. They are people like us. The things that bother them are the same things that bother us, they are not an emotionless class of people.

Khairul Jamain: Do not look at them as though they are different but regard them as the same as us because they have feelings and emotions too.

BenderaPutih Initiative is a coalition of 17 interesting organisations.

The BenderaPutih Initiative 

They are: The Assembly Soup Kitchen; The Lost Food Project; Happy Bank Crew; Kuching Food Aid; Impactive Malaysia; Cheka Movement Malaysia; Kembara Kitchen; Kechara Soap Kitchen; Yayasan Food Bank Malaysia; Women’s Aid Organisation; Pertiwi; MYMAHU; Hunger Hurts MY; We Listen MY; Refugees for Refugees; PlusVibes.


soldiers of unidentified country raising the white flag in surrender.

Plea for salary – want to eat. 

Malaysians raising the white flag across the country in an unsaid language to beg desperately for help.

What BenderaPutih Initiative is handing out – basic necessities. 

Poverty of a different kind now.


Cut off island.

Suet Beng’s soup kitchen. 

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