It was heart-breaking to see what the flood victims had to endure as they watched their homes being inundated with muddy water.
Many had to be evacuated to shelters and over 40 people lost their lives. Water supply has been restored, and all those affected will now be trying their best to clean up their premises, bury their dead and pick up the pieces of their lives.
But how much can be salvaged after their homes were ravaged by the floods for so long?
So where were the ‘architects’ of “keluarga Malaysia” (Malaysian family) when this was happening?
It was the Malaysian public who came in droves to help those in need. Volunteers, locals, migrant workers, retirees, NGO members and personnel from relief organisations arrived with food, clothes and other essentials.
Everyone pulled together, irrespective of ethnicity or religion, to help wherever they could. The slogan should now be rakyat jaga rakyat (the people’ve got each other’s backs).
But isn’t that what normally happens when disaster hits a country? Politicians watch and some exploit ‘photo opportunities’ while their people struggle and help each other.
There are so many questions, and we would all like to have answers, especially those who have lost family members and almost everything else. Who in the government is going to stand up and admit that he or she or their department was terribly slow in taking action?
What was the weather department doing when the sky opened and rain poured down for two whole days? Did they not know that something like this was a possibility, especially when the Philippines was hit by Super Typhoon Rai, a Category 5 typhoon?
Where were the minsters when the states began to flood? Were many of them on holiday overseas? They must have been working so hard these past months to deserve this long break while their constituents tried desperately to save their families and themselves.
So should we be surprised by the slow response from the government and the Meteorological Department, which did not move fast enough to inform the people.
Ministers who should have been around were not, and those that were, appeared more concerned about posing for the cameras than actually helping those in need.
And so, we saw a government in chaos again, with officials who were incompetent and not proactive in dealing with the tasks given to them. The floods showed up the government’s response to disasters as a total failure. This was plain for all to see.
We saw the same unpreparedness and decision-making during Mahiaddin Yasin’s tenure as Prime Minister. Nothing seems to have changed with the existing government: they are cut from the same cloth!
So, to save face, not that they cared, what could they have done?
The prime minister and his ministers (those that did not go overseas!) should have had the common sense to immediately visit all the affected areas and carry out a survey of every affected family, home and shop to assess what the affected people and communities needed.
They should distribute financial aid, based on the affected families’ needs, which can be determined through an objective survey or assessment. Cut the red tape and carry out this exercise immediately so that the people and their communities are not left high and dry. Don’t let them wait for the green light from some minister or department. There is no time to waste as people’s lives and livelihoods are at stake.
Oh yes, don’t bring your entourage and photographers this time unless they are there to help with the clean-up!
What else can be done to ease the suffering of these families? Based on feedback from a friend who went to help, what is urgently needed are many more volunteers to help clean the affected homes, washing and cleaning detergents, specialists from cleaning services, and high-powered hoses to wash out all the mud and dirt, including that stuck to furniture and bedding.
Over the radio, we hear of large companies and retail outlets have been holding warehouse sales and promotions. Can’t these huge firms look into their inventories? Surely, they have furniture, curtains, blankets, electrical appliances, kitchenware, beds, mattresses, cots and baby necessities that can be donated. Hypermarkets around the country could help by providing school books, bags and clothes for all those children who have lost all theirs. Surely shoe shops can help as well by supplying shoes and slippers for the flood victims.
When the floods came, aggravated by the high tide, drains and other water outlets and sewer systems would have overflowed, churning out rubbish and waste which could lead to other illnesses like cholera and diarrhoea.
Thus doctors, nurses, psychiatrists and other medical personnel with a travelling dispensary should volunteer their services and check on the wellbeing of all those affected by the floods.
This is the time for the Health Department to up their game and check on the health of the flood victims.
So as the Christian community celebrates the Christmas season, hopefully, their celebrations will be tempered with thoughts and aid for the flood victims.
After all, this is the spirit of Christmas, a time of giving and sharing. Peace and goodwill to all men, women and children.
Jem, an Aliran reader, still cares deeply about Sabah, despite having lived in the peninsula for some time