Victims of the recent floods that wreaked havoc on various parts of the country, particularly the Klang Valley, were obviously appreciative of the various kinds of assistance that were offered to them in their hour of need.
Ordinary Malaysians and civil society organisations were exemplary in their relentless efforts to give a helping hand to fellow human beings who needed immediate assistance that could make a significant difference between life and death.
As if not to be outdone, certain ministers and other ruling politicians also came to the fore to offer ‘help’ only to incur brickbats from social media users and flood victims. For one thing, their seeming lack of understanding about the urgency of the situation sparked anguish, despair and even anger among the desperate.
Social media users were not amused when they saw a certain minister hold a function to officially launch his rescue squad that was meant to help the flood victims. Such fanfare was obviously a luxury of money and time we could have done without.
In the meantime, there were people bracing themselves to the elements on rooftops for days on end or enduring injuries before the ministers’ or government’s help reached them. A few lost their lives in the interim.
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Assistance from certain politicians came late to the needy because, apparently, their photos and logos, which were meant to scream out loud for the aid recipients’ attention, were not yet ready to be plastered on the aid boxes.
The hastiness of an ambulance carrying a seriously ill person and whose path should not be obstructed by any other vehicle or object should remind us all of the urgency.
But not only was certain politicians’ sense of urgency called into question, their sincerity in offering help to traumatised victims became suspect, especially to social media users, when the politicians seemed to be more concerned about or interested in having photo opportunities.
Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rina Harun, in particular, got the full brunt of social media users’ anger and ridicule after she ‘posed’ with a water jet, supposedly cleaning a school that was used as a flood relief centre. The area that Rina cleaned looked clean, although, in her defence, the Welfare Department later claimed she used the water jet to remove lizard and bird droppings. It dropped the jaws of many people.
Her antics subsequently prompted a group of youths to mimic her in a Tik Tok presentation by using a water jet, with one cleaning a drain while consciously smiling in front of others posing as camera crew.
If you think that her gaffe would be a useful warning to other ministers to avoid doing things that would reinforce suspicion of their sincerity and irk people at the same time, then you are sadly mistaken.
That is why people, particularly social media users, were irritated by no less than Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who apparently posed in front of press cameras with a shovel to scoop up and toss some dirt only once after which the shovel was handed over to someone wearing a Fire Department uniform.
It left a bad taste in the mouth when the actions of certain politicians were perceived as attempts at reaping publicity at the expense of flood victims.
In contrast, the deeds of the common people in reaching out to the flood victims were an embodiment of deep concern, sincerity and humility.
For instance, without fanfare, an individual reportedly rushed to Taman Sri Muda with his 4×4 truck carrying an electric generator to help the flood victims recharge their mobile phones for free so they could connect with their loved ones and seek much-needed help.
Humanity knows no bounds. Migrant workers from Indonesia, Bangladesh and Myanmar have shown Malaysians, many of whom often frown upon them, that urgency is essential when saving lives. They risked their lives to rescue some Malaysians.
It was also heartwarming to see people from various ethnic and religious backgrounds offering help to clean muddied houses of worship in a spirit that could only be described as being Malaysian without the race-and-religion mantra.
Hence, it is not difficult to fathom why some social media users were cynically suggesting that ministers, who were already holidaying overseas while the flood victims were suffering, need not come back even after the prime minister demanded that they return pronto.
It may sound clichéd to say that help should come from the heart. But it appears that such a reminder is urgently needed these days. – The Malaysian Insight