As the floods, expected to the worst in nation’s history since 1971, are already “worse than expected” according to Muhyiddin, Najib must rush back to chair an special meeting of Cabinet within 24 hours to pave the way for declaration of a state of emergency
I commend the Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin for finally starting to visit the flood-hit states starting with Kelantan this morning to oversee the Federal Government’s flood-relief operations in what could be the worst floods in recent history.
I also fully support his call for deployment of more air, sea and land assets and the stockpiling of one-week food supply instead of only for four days in every evacuation centre.
The authorities had warned those on the east coast to brace themselves for the worst floods in recent history as a result of a powerful combination of king tides and strong winds, and the communities in the coastal areas and along river mouths had even been warned to ready themselves for immediate grab-and-go evacuations.
But it is clear that the ravages caused by the floods, with the total number of flood victims in six states exceeding 100,000 had been even worse than what the National Security Council (NSC) had envisaged.
This is the only interpretation of Muhyiddin’s statement at the flood relief centre in Pengkalan Chepa, Kota Bahru, this morning when he said that the floods was worse than anticipated – as if seeking excuses for the many weaknesses in the flood-relief operations so far.
This could only mean that although the Federal Government had expected the floods this year to be worst in recent history, it had not anticipated that the floods could be so bad – which is as good as admitting that the NSC was caught with its pants down.
With such a background, with the worsening flood situation with flood victims exceeding 100,000 in six states, and worse to come, the Cabinet should hold a special meeting within the next 24 hours to declare a state of emergency to concentrate all federal and state resources to handle the latest natural disaster in the country.
Muhyiddin had said that there is no need to declare a state of emergency over the nation’s worst floods as a state of emergency could only be declared if a critical situation occurred, such as when the electricity and water supply were completely cut off or when the number of flood victims reached hundreds of thousands of people.
The majority of Malaysians find these conditions for the declaration of a state of emergency over a natural disaster unacceptable and even obtuse.
Surely Muhyiddin, the Cabinet and the NSC are not expecting for fatalities to pile up to tens or hundreds accompanying the number of flood victims reaching the scale of hundreds of thousands before a state of emergency as a result of a flood disaster is declared!
A quick search on the Internet will show that other countries do not wait for hundreds of thousands of flood refugees before declaring a state of emergency.
- Aljazeera reported that on 28 November last month, the United Nations declared a state of emergency in the Gaza Strip after two days of heavy rains and flooding in the war-battered enclave, as “hundreds of residents in the flooded areas around Sheikh Radwan storm water lagoon have evacuated their homes”.
- On Christmas Eve, Jakarta Post reported that Bandung regency declared a state of emergency after hundreds of thousands of hectares of paddy fields were flooded in Central Java, West Java and Aceh. “The state of emergency effective as of Tuesday will last seven days or until Dec. 29, and could be extended depending on the situation.” At least 17,000 houses in Dayeuhkolot and Baleendah in Bandung Regency had been flooded and more than 6,000 people vacated their homes as a result of the flooding caused by the overflowing Citarum River. Hundreds of homes and thousands of hectares of farmland in Central Java have also been affected although no one has vacated their home yet.
- On Dec. 9, CBS News reported that the east coast of Vancouver Island, the City of Courtenay, declared a state of emergency because of flooding caused by a powerful subtropical storm – walloped with 200 mm of rain in a 36-hour period.
- On December 16, the Bay Area in San Francisco in Northern California declared a state of emergency because of massive flooding caused by heavy storms.
I don’t think all these four cases of serious flooding in Gaza, Indonesia, Vancouver and San Francisco would have declared states of emergency to centralise flood-relief operations if they have rules requiring hundreds of thousands of flood victims before an emergency could be declared.
There is an urgent need for the immediate review of such outmoded, archaic and obsolete rules for the declaration of states of emergency arising from a natural disaster, which is why there should be an emergency meeting of the Cabinet meeting in the next 24 hours.
Another reason for the special Cabinet meeting is the announcement by Minister for International Trade and Industry and UMNO Kelantan Chairman, Datuk Seri Mustapha Mohamed that a report on the worsening flood conditions in Kelantan will be submitted to the Cabinet.
It will be ridiculous for the Cabinet to wait until next Wednesday on Dec. 31 to deliberate on the report, when the nation’s worst flood in recent history needs urgent measures to be taken on a 24/7 basis, and not on a leisurely week-by-week basis.
Furthermore, it is not just the flood situation in Kelantan, but also in all the other states badly ravaged by floods, like Terengganu, Pahang, Perak, Perlis and states like Kedah and Johor which are expecting to be hit badly in the next few days, where contingency measures should also be taken.
At the special Cabinet meeting within 24 hours, UMNO Ministers should be assigned to visit and take charge of the flood-relief operations in the flood-hit states to show the commitment and concern of the Federal Government in tackling the natural disaster, which is quite absent today.
Leaving Kelantan for instance in the sole charge of Datuk Mustapha Mohamad, who is a Kelantan MP, will only reinforce an image of Federal Government indifference and even neglect.
I would urge the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak to rush back from his vacation in Hawaii to chair the special Cabinet meeting within 24 hours, as he could still come back in time as taxpayers have provided him with an executive jet, and the flying time from Hawaii to Malaysia is 14 hours.
As the floods, expected to be the worst in recent history since 1971, have already proved to be “even worse than anticipated”, according to Muhyiddin, there is no reason for Najib to tarry any further in Hawaii but to rush back to take personal charge of the flood-relief operations.