Is Malaysia Ready For A Bigger Magnitude Of Disaster?

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Dec 24 2006
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It’s Christmas Eve and most people (including me of course) are getting ready for the celebration in less than 24 hours. Allow me to take a break from the usual blog on the stocks, option and financial matters as I think the current crisis which hit some parts of the not so-lucky Malaysia should be given coverage (I have not forgotten the Tsunami which killed hundreds of thousands of life in 2004).

Malaysia’s worst floods in 37 years have displaced nearly 100,000 people amid food shortages, looting and criticism of the government’s handling of the crisis. Eight people, all in the worst-hit state of Johor, have now died in the floods, which the government described as the worst since 1969.

Malaysian weathermen warned the floods, which hit the southern states, could spread to the central and northeastern parts of the country if the unusually heavy monsoon rains persisted.

Looting happened in the towns of Kota Tinggi and Segamat of Johor and reportedly has spread to the states of Malacca, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang. There were also cases of rescuers demanding money (the going rate was between 50 and 100 ringgit – $14 and $28) from flood victims before rescuing them.

Flood victim Abu Rashid Maidin said he had to pay a boatman who came around with a boat to rescue his family who had been stranded for two days. “I told the boatman that my family needed help and my wallet was missing. The boatman even told me that he was giving me a discount as others were willing to pay more,” he said. He had to borrow the money from his neighbor to pay for the 10-minute ride.

Housewife Sandy Lim, 42, claimed that soldiers had asked her neighbor to pay RM 4,000 to rescue her two-year-old granddaughter who was trapped along with her babysitter in the attic of a single-storey house in Kampung Abdullah. “How is she to raise RM 4,000 when all the banks are closed?” asked Lim.

Flood victims also complained of lack of food, clothing, blankets and water at many of the relief shelters.

Opposition leaders criticized the government’s handling of the crisis, saying relief operations were in complete disarray.

Deputy Prime Ministrer Najib, who is also National Disaster Management and Relief Committee chairman, said so far, assistance had been given in the form of food and equipment when victims were evacuated to relief centers. Earlier Najib said Malaysia does not need international help as the country can manage the situation on its’ own.

But with the multiple stories and incidents of victims being left on the roof of their houses for days without help and uniformed government officers demanding money for evacuation, was it the pride that prompted Najib to refuse to ask for help from other countries? Is it true the National Disaster team is in disarray as claimed by opposition? Why only a handful of rescue boats were sent to help out victims?

When there’re major disaster erupts in other countries such as Indonesia and Philippine or elsewhere, Malaysia was acting in lighting speed in declaring to the world Malaysia is ready to send rescue team. There were numerous frontline with ministers sending off rescue teams who are so proud with their assignment holding Malaysia flag as if it was getting ready for the Oscar Academy award. Could it be more “glamour” to help others internationally but not so within Malaysia itself?

Could these lives be saved if the National Disaster Management has a proper procedure in execution? Why the military resources are not being used in full-swing (Najib himself is the Defence Minister)? Why does Malaysia need to setup some sort of funds every-time a disaster occurs? Doesn’t the government have a ready fund for such disaster?

I‘m not against charity or funds to help out victims but there’re too many cases where the money contributed by public didn’t reach the victims directly – for sure there’re money disappeared somewhere, somehow. It was even discussed at Dewan Rakyat on funds misused for the 2004 tsunami and reported in the media. If you wish to donate, I would strongly advice to do so directly to hte victims themselves.

In time of disaster, politicians should set aside any agendas and pride but instead mo
ve ALL the machineries or resources available (inclusive from external) to save lives as nothing is more previous than the life of a human being regardless of races and ethnics. Nevertheless the question remains – is Malaysia government ready for a bigger nation-wide disaster in future?

# TIP: Get yourselves a list of DO(s) and DON’T(s) in preparation for such disaster or even bigger magnitude of crisis should it happen in future.

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