National Floods-Relief and Rehabilitation

National Floods-Relief and Rehabilitation

The greatest and most urgent task today is the relief and rehabilitation of hundreds of thousands of flood victims throughout the country.

Although the government has set up a Flood Relief and Rehabilitation Committee under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak, we still do not know how the government proposes to help and rehabilitate the hundreds and thousands of flood victims.

This is a matter of the greatest urgency. Those victims who have lost their houses, entire personal belongings and means of livelihood, cannot wait for weeks while the National Flood Relief and Rehabilitation Committee take their time to meet, minute and decide on what to do about the hunger, privation and cold of hundreds of thousands of Malaysians.

An immediate plan must be executed to alleviate the suffering of the flood victims.

All those who have lost their entire belongings and livelihood must be immediately assisted materially and financially to stand on their own feet again.

The government anti-flood, relief and rehabilitation machinery is far from satisfactory, and showed that the government is unused to crisis and incapable of handling a big national crisis.

In a national crisis like the present flood calamity, the governemnt should stop playing party politics, and should invite all opposition parties and public organisations and members of the public to work together to help the people through the disaster.

But just as what happened on May 13 in 1969, the government preferred to go it alone, and opposition efforts to help the people through the crisis are resented.

In Malacca town, for instance, this was my experience. During the first three days of the worst floods, my colleagues and in the DAP visited the flood areas and the various relief centres. We got three boats to go round the badly hit areas to help the flood victims, but we were virtually regarded by the authorities as trespassers.

When I contacted the District Control Centre, for instance, is a poor organisation is shown by the fact that when I rang up later to inform them that at two schools in Bajang Behrang, Malacca-the Catholic High School and Notre Dame Girl School-where about 500 people had taken shelter, the government had not visited them or given them food, clothing, medicine for 48 hours since they first moved in, I was told that the District Control Centre “was not aware of the existence of the two centres.”

Other DAP MPs and State Assemblymen in other states have reported the same unco-operative attitude in their respective areas.

This is the time to stop playing party politics. This is a national disaster, requiring a national effort to tackle it.

We propose that the Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak, should invite all Opposition leaders to sit in the National Flood Relief and Rehabilitation Committee to help in the relief and rehabilitation of flood victims, and to invite all opposition MPs and State Assemblymen sit in all state and district organisations.

The damage to the country and the people in this national calamity will run into millions of dollars. The government should not use this occasion to addto the misery and suffering of the people.

It was announced yesterday that the squatters in the Kuala Lumpur Municipality will not be allowed to go back to their old places. There is no firm provision for alternative accommodation to alternative means of livelihood. This will only add to the suffering of the flood victims in all eth squatter settlements. It is clear that this decision was taken without consideration of the human price. This is an inhuman and cruel decision, and is tantamount to human ‘robbery during a fire.’

We call on the government committee on rehabilitation of the Federal Capital to rescind this decision until there is an overall and comprehensive plan to resettle and rehabilite the flood victims in the squatter areas.

Apart from relief and rehabilitation, it is vital that concrete steps should now be taken to prevent a recurrence of flood calamities in Malaysia.

Although it is not possible to prevent monsoon rains from causing floods, it is surely possible to prevent the floods of such destructive scale and intensity.

A nation-wide commission of inquiry into the 1971 national floods is necessary to determine why the floods were allowed to take such a great and costly toll of human lives and suffering and property.

I am sure that one of the causes is the years of neglect of the authorities.

Let us learn from the 1971 flood calamity. But we cal learn only if the commission of inquiry is set up to reveal our shortcomings of the past years, our neglect and incompetence, and not to hide the truth from the public. It is essential, therefore, that such a commission of inquiry should not be a purely government commission but include opposition leaders.