Not even two weeks ago, they were full of themselves, patting each other on the back as their leader – and full-time local food taster and salesperson – gave them almost full marks for their pathetic performances and non-performances over the past 100 days.
Nobody believed this Malaysian galloping gourmet, of course, aside from his delusional and expensive ministers. But they couldn’t care less and carried on celebrating.
It certainly was a long-drawn syiok sendiri orgy in Putrajaya that made the rest of us cringe and grit our teeth in anger. It was, after all, largely our tax money that was being wasted on this self-congratulatory party.
Now, just over a week later, disaster has struck many parts of Malaysia, the most widely reported being in the cradle of Malaysia’s economic life, the Klang Valley.
It started innocently enough. On Friday, 17 December evening, the rains started, first with a slow drizzle, but building up rapidly and incessantly as the night wore on.
By Saturday morning, roads and highways had become impassible and the rising flood waters had invaded homes, rudely awakening their occupants, who scrambled for refuge elsewhere, some of them moving upstairs and even on to their rooftops, others to community centres, such as surau (small local mosques). Some who tried to escape but couldn’t move on the flooded highways stayed overnight in their cars.
The images that were viral on social media were of devastation, despair, fear and utter confusion. Emergency evacuation centres were set up, some perhaps for the first time in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.
The scenes were like those annual scenes of despair and destruction among long-suffering Malaysians living on the East Coast. But, no, this was highly developed Selangor and KL.
One thing was missing in most of these images though: the political leaders.
The image that went most viral shewed the PM winding down the window of his sparkling black Toyota Vellfire to address the shouts and screams of a makcik (elderly woman) who apparently told him he was heading in the wrong way and that the evacuees were in a community hall in the opposite direction. All to no avail, of course, as his driver quickly drove him away from the riff-raff.
Oh, another image making the rounds depicted the ongoing silliness of the village idiot – I mean, the youth minister – officiating a grand (and truly pointless and wasteful) launching ceremony of his team of youth volunteers who were apparently going out to save the people.
We’ll ignore the minister who turun padang (went down to the ground) in her high heels and the picture-perfect photo shoots of dignitaries getting their ankles wet. Too contrived, too pathetic.
In their place, better scenes showed MPs helping to distribute food and evacuate flood victims. These elected representatives truly got their feet wet or even dirtied themselves in the mud. Hannah Yeoh, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman and Ong Kia Ming can take a bow.
Even more heartwarming were the stories of civil society groups once again rushing in to help those in need as the disaster unfolded. They swung into action even as the country’s ‘leadership’ snored through the night and who, when they got up, refused to discuss the crisis in Parliament on a technicality brought up by probably the most ‘insightful and humane’ Speaker this country has ever had.
Again, it has been a case of kita jaga kita (we’ve got each other’s back). The images of folks in 4×4 vehicles heading to the Klang Valley with attached boats, volunteering to help those in need are testament to that.
Government, on the other hand – and not for the first time, has virtually been uncaring and impotent.
These citizen groups and even individuals didn’t see the need to send a b***** notice to anyone, let alone any Speaker of any House, before coming in to help. They did not wait for the disastrous National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) or the dozy PM to realise the severity of the situation before taking action.
As the flood waters recede in most places and we count the cost of yet another disaster in Malaysia – a physical disaster as well as a disaster in planning and leadership – the excuses are coming in thick and fast, and the finger pointing has started.
Indeed, we now read media reports that Nadma refused to let the Armed Forces move in to lead relief efforts because for them this was “not a state of emergency”.
As the evacuated numbers increase and the death toll rises, perhaps these agencies and their political masters may wake up, although it is unlikely that they will apologise to all Malaysians, especially those who have had to bear the brunt of the floods and these useless politicians.
Apologies are not their style, evidently. For them, a bodoh-sombong (ignorant but arrogant) mentality is what works best.
And this will continue as we face more disasters and debacles; unless we say enough is enough, demand accountability now, and truly punish them in the coming general election.
Co-editor, Aliran newsletter
21 December 2021