The important contribution to the nation by fallen workers must not escape our collective memory and gratitude., remarked Mustafa K. Anuar.
Jaringan Melayu Malaysia president Azwanddin Hamzah Ariffin Abu Bakar was arrested by police recently for allegedly threatening to attack a police station if no action was taken over the death of firefighter Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim.
At the rally where he made the alleged threat, Azwanddin was also said to have used offensive language against National Unity and Social Wellbeing Minister P Waytha Moorthy, who was accused of causing ethnic tension in the country. In a society where some segments are pregnant with ethnic hatred, it is difficult to discount that such an accusation had racist undertones.
Adib died in the line of duty after he and his colleagues rushed to the Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Subang, Selangor, to douse burning cars and try and save other damaged property.
Like Azwanddin, right-thinking Malaysians would demand that those responsible for Adib’s death be brought to justice. This insistence is in recognition of Adibs commitment to serve the needs of society, irrespective of ethnicity, religion and class.
But unlike Azwanddin, right-minded Malaysians would not want to remember and honour the fallen officer of the Fire and Rescue Department by using, as the former did, inflammatory language that could ignite further ethnic unease and disunity.
This is because Azwanddin’s misguided bravado contradicts Ádib’s noble work – putting out fires and rescuing those in distress – which constitutes a part of nation-building in the wider sense of the term.
Adib’s sacrifice – like the six firefighters who drowned while searching for a teenager in a mining pond in Puchong – will be trivialised by those who are out to exploit the death of those who serve in the rescue services.
Similarly, the significance of another firefighter’s death from a fatal snake bite in Bentong, Pahang last March would be easily eclipsed by those whose battle-cry was informed by ethnic considerations.
People, particularly those who participated in the Klang rally, should realise that there are indeed noble ways of honouring Adib. Hijacking his death to advance political agendas is not a good way and is degrading to the deceased.
Neither is calling for the dismissal of Waytha Moorthy – who, incidentally, was not involved in Adib’s death – the right way. If anything, it is barking up the wrong tree and diversionary.
Instead, honouring Adib as proposed by DAP’s supremo Lim Kit Siang, ie by having an annual award in Adib’s name, is a good example of a constructive suggestion. Individuals who work tirelessly for the advancement of professionalism and integrity in this country deserve such an award.
Other unsung nation builders deserve our appreciation as well. For instance, construction workers who sweat it out in the scorching sun and climb scaffolding at their peril deserve a special mention.
The nine workers who perished at the construction site in Bukit Kukus, Penang, are a case in point. The fact that many of these dead construction workers are foreign nationals should does not make their lives any less valuable than those of our own people. As it is, not many Malaysians lamented the death of these workers when news of the tragedy broke out.
Apart from compensation that should be offered to their next of kin, their deaths would be in vain if safety regulations are not reviewed and further tightened. Stringent rules should be put in place to ensure that employers are made accountable for the safety of their workers irrespective of nationality or ethnicity.
What matters most is that the lives and welfare of workers who help build this nation should be protected by law.
The important contribution of these fallen workers to the nation must not escape our collective memory and gratitude. And they must be remembered in an honourable manner.