When desperation prevails outside Parliament

The parliamentary session on the floods would have been an appropriate occasion for the authorities to be held to account

Many suffered because of the bumbling response - ZUNAR

It appears that our Parliament is “well protected” from the vagaries of the weather, to the point that Dewan Rakyat Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun recently did not see it fit to entertain the requests of certain parliamentarians to discuss a matter they considered of utmost urgency.

This is at a time when desperation, hunger, fear, chaos and confusion reign supreme among the common people, following the recent heavy downpour and floods that have wreaked havoc in many parts of the country.

If this distressful matter that confronts the people is not for urgent deliberation, then we do not know what is.

Azhar’s stern ruling has deprived the MPs of the opportunity to raise important questions relating to these massive floods, which have caused colossal destruction to property, hardship and loss of life – in the midst of the pandemic, to boot.

To be sure, the flood victims are also people facing other challenges, particularly economic hardship and rising prices of essential food items.

The parliamentary session would have been an appropriate occasion for the authorities to be held to account for the measures taken – or not taken – to address this national disaster.

For starters, there were allegations that the government had been slow in responding to the calamity that befell many people, particularly those living in low-lying areas. Some people had to climb to their rooftops to escape the rising waters and spend a night or two there, many without enough food or no food at all. They included senior citizens, young children and people with medical issues – all anxiously waiting for help.

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It did not help that communication links were cut off, leaving their next-of-kin worried sick about the safety of their loved ones in the flooded areas.

So, is this still not an urgent matter to be discussed in Parliament, where the people’s representatives supposedly gather and deliberate matters concerning their respective constituents?

There was also, for example, an allegation on social media that the armed forces wanted to help flood relief efforts in Selangor much sooner, but they were initially denied permission by the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) because it was alleged that Nadma did not consider the floods a state of emergency.

This would be outrageous if it is true, as lives were obviously at stake. The federal government should clarify this claim as some people, particularly the flood victims, may perceive – rightly or otherwise – this as the former unnecessarily playing politics at the expense of the common people, simply because Selangor is ruled by Pakatan Harapan.

If we need reminding, assistance to the victims cannot and should not be selective. Besides, they are part of the larger Malaysian family, a notion that has been preached by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob ever since he took the top job.

It is commendable that civil society groups, certain politicians and good Samaritans have come to the rescue of the victims in the spirit of “we have got each other’s back” (#KitaJagaKita). They are truly Malaysians who care for those who need help, irrespective of their ethnic, religious and political backgrounds.

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The people also needs to know, through their elected representatives, what strategies have been or would be taken to address the flood problems in an effective and well-coordinated way. This may require a bipartisan approach.

There is also a complaint that ministers concerned were not seen physically present on site so that they could better understand the plight of the people. A minister coming with, for example, a boatful of photographers and journalists for a photo shoot is not what the affected people have in mind.

The immense destruction unleashed by the floods should also signal to MPs the need to seriously start a conversation to assess the types of development that the country ought to pursue. This is because certain kinds of development are environmentally destructive and may contribute to ominous climate change.

Surely such serious issues deserve urgent deliberation in Parliament – and not over, say, a sumptuous lunch. – The Malaysian Insight

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