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The government should call for international help to cope with the rising flood waters if they do not improve in their rescue work
by Lim Guan Eng
(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): Malaysians and the Chinese community celebrated a very bleak, gloomy and wet Winter Solstice Festival this year, where heavy flooding was compounded by the complete breakdown in crisis management in dealing with the floods in Malaysia. The breakdown in crisis management of widespread flooding in Johor, Negeri Sembilan and Melaka; including not informing the public that water will be released from dams; highlights the failure of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's promise to improve the government delivery system.
With 6 lives lost, more than 60,000 people evacuated from their homes and billions of ringgit in losses, the damage could have been reduced and loss of lives avoided if the government had followed basic rescue and salvage procedures principally,
In Melaka I have witnessed such disorganized and complete disarray where residents are more effective in saving themselves. The rescue staff wants to help but do not know what to do. They are even more frustrated that their engines are not working or that no food or drinks is given to them throughout the day. The rescue staff should not be blamed but the leaders of National Disaster Council must bear full responsibility for the ineptitude, indifferent attitude, irresponsibility and incompetence that resulted in the effect of the flood damage being worse than expected.
Such lack of leadership has allowed irresponsible and opportunistic without any conscience or moral scruples to profit from the hardships to the stranded flood victims. In Segamat there have been reports of a stranded victim Teo Sook Ching, 61, dying because the rescue services not able to get there for 24 hours or even rescue staff helpless to watch. We are receiving reports of stranded people in Segamat who are being refused to get into the rescue boats because they don't have any cash on them and are even asked to pay RM150 and RM300 to take them to the Dewan or community centres or schools
We have also received complaints of flood aid not being disbursed fairly to all flood victims and also government departments being rude to victims. Worse of all is the decision by authorities in Johor and Melaka to release water from the dams without first informing those living downstream.
This has resulted in the peculiar situation of flood water rising to as high as 5 feet even though there is no heavy rainfall. Melaka Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam admitted that water was released from the Gadek water treatment plant and the Durian Tunggal pumphouse. Whatever the merits of preferring Taman Malim, Krubong, Taman Merdeka Jaya, Taman Thamby Chik Karim and now Melaka city to be flooded to save Gadek from flooding, the main point is why were those living downstream not informed that water from being released.
Such irresponsibility is not only playing with people's lives but also gambling with their property will have a devastating effect on Melaka's economy as the areas flooded are the principal industrial area in Melaka. As medium and light industry is located in the flooded areas, all machines are damaged by flood waters and this will have a serious negative impact on Melaka's economy. Why did the government not inform earlier that water will be released and is the government going to fully compensate businesses for their losses for their failure to inform them that water will be released from the dam? Many owners wonder whether they can afford to pay year end bonuses to their employees, especially when they are not covered by insurance.
Clearly BN governments in Johor and Melaka is a symbol for bad and irresponsible governance where there is no planning and crisis management to reduce losses from flooding. The people should realize that the poor response to the flood crisis is symptomatic of the rot within the BN government that does not care for the welfare of the people. Many Malaysians feel powerless against the flood water because it is too late to expect any assistance to reduce their losses.
The government should admit their inability to cope and call for international help to cope with the rising flood waters if they do not improve in their rescue work when the flood situation worsens to avoid further losses of lives and damage to property.