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Abdullah should start the new year with a decisive “ first-world mentality” action by establishing an independent inquiry into the current massive floods on the weaknesses of disaster management, preparedness, prevention and mitigation to avert future losses of lives and properties
(Parliament, Friday) : The second anniversary of the devastating Asian tsunami in December 2004 which killed 227,000 people in 14 countries has proved to be a particularly grim one for Malaysia, highlighting grave weaknesses in our natural disaster management, preparedness, prevention and mitigation strategy – with the completely unexpected massive floods in Johore and Malacca with the heavy toll in lives and destruction of property.
What is particularly galling and unacceptable not only to the flood victims but to all right-thinking Malaysians is the denial complex of Cabinet Ministers in claiming that “early warning systems in place here for natural disasters are adequate to alert people immediately of any emergencies or danger, and of the need for evacuation” – which is as good as putting the blame on the flood victims for their losses and even deaths.
The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz denied that people affected by the current floods in several states, including Johor, were warned too late.
He said: “The metrological department and other relevant departments have been monitoring the rain, wind, clouds and the water levels at rivers since Dec 13 and the people in the affected areas were informed on Dec 15 and 16 of the coming flood and told to evacuate.
“The rivers too have sensors (which are triggered) once the water level rises. We knew this in advance.”
If Nazri is right that there was “adequate early warning systems” for the unexpected massive floods in Johore and Malacca, then the government must be held fully responsible for the avoidable massive losses and the collective and prolonged absence of Ministers as well as the MPs, State Assembly representatives and local councilors in the affected flood areas were the height of irresponsibility which is most reprehensible and totally unpardonable.
Nazri’s deplorable comment was compounded by the smug and false claim of Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil that her the ministry is never ill-prepared to face any flood.
Everybody knew that the national and state authorities were caught completely off-guard and were unprepared by the massive floods – so, why is the Nazri and Shahrizat claiming that there were adequate early warning systems?
The question is why the authorities were caught off-guard despite the availability of sophisticated early-warning systems about the massive floods in the south of the country.
The statement by Nazri on Tuesday that the government will draw up a new policy on natural disasters to reduce the dangers arising from them in accordance with the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 to mainstream disaster risk reduction into development policies, planning and implementation begs the question why this had not been done in the past two yeas.
The Ninth Malaysia Plan should have incorporated the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 on a multi-hazard approach to disaster risk management as it was adopted at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction held Hyogo, Kobe, Japan from January 18-22, 2005 during the darkest days of the Asian tsunami. Two years have already been lost in the decade-long Hyogo Action Framework.
In this connection, Nazri should be reminded of the meaning of an “early warning system”.
On the reduction of disaster risk and promotion of a culture of disaster resilience, the Hyogo Framework for Action called for an “early warning system” which:
Such an “early warning system” for the unexpected massive floods in Johore and Malacca do not exist.
The ravages of the massive floods have seen great acts of selflessness and heroism but also deplorable incidents of heartlessness, greed, negligence and irresponsibility.
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi should start the new year with a decisive “ first-world mentality” action by establishing an independent inquiry into the current massive floods on the weaknesses of disaster management, preparedness, prevention and mitigation to avert future losses of lives and properties.
The primary objective of the independent inquiry is not so much to point fingers at who is wrong and negligent, but to identify the weaknesses of the whole strategy in disaster management, preparedness, prevention and mitigation as disaster loss is on the rise with grave consequences for the survival, dignity and livelihood of individuals, particularly the poor, and hard-won development gains.
Malaysians, not just the government but all levels of the populace, must be made aware that natural disasters, compounded by reckless human disregard of changing socio-economic-environment conditions caused by unplanned urbanization, development within high-risk zones, under-development, environment degradation, create a future where disasters would increasingly threaten the Malaysian economy, population and sustainable development.
Let an independent inquiry probe into all the macro and micro causes of the ravages of the massive floods to learn all the socio-economic-environmental lessons to prevent future recurrences.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman