Saving Sarawak

I see several Sarawak-related pages claiming that no one, including the mainstream media, cares or has given coverage to the flood situation in Sarawak.

Comparing the response both the government and non-governmental organisations gave to the floods on Kelantan and Pahang to the ones now in Sarawak, the Sarawak-related pages say that there is very little that is being done by the Federal Government.

Government Assistance

All Federal Government agencies in Sarawak have been put on flood watch standby as early as December 2017. This includes, but not limited to, the Army 1st Division, the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM), and the Fire and Rescue Services Department (FRSD).

The FRSD has been evacuating people from flooded areas, and in one particular instance, evacuated Suriah Bakar, 35, of Kampung Parong, Kota Marudu, who was in labour.

Prime Minister Najib Razak himself is constantly monitoring the flood situation in Sarawak and has promised to ensure that relief reaches all flood victims.

As at noon today (Thursday 8 Feb 2018), only five areas in three divisions in Sarawak have recorded water level above the Alert level. They are in the Miri, Bintulu and Kapit districts.

Only the Bintulu-Belaga road in Bintulu, and Long Jegan and Long Panai in Miri have water levels that are above the Danger level, while Ng Merurung in Kapit and Kuala Binyo in Bintulu have water levels that are above the Alert level.

The areas that are affected by the floods are Samarahan. Sarikei, Sibu, Serian, Bintulu, Mukah and Limbang.

Malaya-Biased Media?

While the Borneo Post has been actively updating the flood situations in Sarawak, Sarawakians complain that the Peninsular-based media, especially the electronic media, have not been giving ample coverage.

This is absolutely not true. Just yesterday I pointed to a Sarawakian friend URLs of mainstream media reports on the flood situations there, including the ones by NST, Berita Harian and Utusan Malaysia.

BERNAMA and RTM have been airing the plight of Sarawak flood victims. Even the station most hated by the Opposition, TV3, has been consistently reporting on the flood situations in Sarawak, covering flood relief centers as well as the latest evacuation operation this morning by the Civil Defence Force (APM) involving a woman in labour at Klinik Entabai, in Julau, Sarikei.

Social Media and Floods Fever

As far as social media is concerned, there is very little that the ordinary Semenanjung folks can do. While we can start collection centers here, sending stuff over there would not be economical at all.

Whilst there have been many flooding in the Peninsular, I made myself available for three – the Johor floods of 2006-2007, the Pahang floods of 2013, and the Kelantan floods of 2014. Those were the flood disasters that Peninsular people got together and helped government agencies to provide assistance to flood victims.

In Johor, I provided assistance between Parit Botak and Rengit. In Pahang, I assisted Her Highness the Tengku Puan Pahang in the Kuantan and Pekan areas. In Kelantan, my former classmates and I brought supplies from Putrajaya to the hospitals in Gua Musang, Kuala Krai and Jeli.

In Johor back in 2006-2007, two waves of floods hit the state. In the first wave, 90,000 people were evacuated. Just when they thought it was safe to return home, a second wave struck and caused 109,831 people to evacuate.

In 2013 Pahang, 40,819 people were evacuated.

In 2014 Kelantan, more than 170,000 had to be evacuated. The scale of destruction that I saw with my own eyes in Gua Musang, Manek Urai and Kuala Krai was just beyond comprehension. Even Kuala Muda in the aftermath of the 2004 Tsunami did not look as bad. Yes, I was there too in 2004 with a Malaysia Airlines aircraft captain friend (he now flies for Air Asia).

I took the above photo at Kampung Bukit Tebuk near Chiku while on the way from Kuala Krai to Gua Musang on 31 December 2014 because I saw this man at the Manek Urai relief center queuing for food for his family earlier in the morning. At this point he had walked 14 kilometres to get home.

Pulau Pinang in November 2017 saw 71,294 people evacuated. This was when Lim Guan Eng was seen crying for help…literally.

In comparison, the total number of evacuees in Sarawak as of last night was 4,859 people. It is a number that is still very manageable by the state government and its NGOs.

I have not seen any NGO in Sarawak running a donation campaign to collect cash and kind for flood victims there. If there is such a fund I am sure people in Malaya (a term fondly used by Sarawakians for Peninsular people which isn’t a nice term) would be glad to chip in. After all, I have relatives in Samarahan, Kuching, Miri, and friends working on the Pan Borneo Highway project that are affected by the floods.

Nor do I see throngs of 4X4 vehicles (which happens to be in abundance in Sarawak) carrying relief items to affected areas like it was done in the Peninsular.

How can anyone start anything if the Sarawakians themselves don’t do anything for fellow Sarawakians? I promise not to ask how many Sarawakians actually donated to flood victims and relief missions in Kelantan, Pulau Pinang, Johor and Pahang. To where should we Malayans send our donations to?

So, the feverish pace you saw in the Peninsular was because of the magnitude of the floods and the destruction they caused. The absence of any social media hype by socmed practitioners in Sarawak on the flood situation says all that.

I am not saying that the flood situation in Sarawak is not bad. Any flood is bad. But it doesn’t do justice when people sit and complain about it on social media expecting to be spoon fed. Just start something instead of whining. There are many here on this side of the South China Sea who would want to help.

The Final Curtain?

Another former Minister has spoken out at Najib Razak’s apparent use of Anwar Ibrahim to attack his opponents. Former Minister, Sanusi Junid, has hinted that if Najib does not step down now, UMNO and BN will suffer.

Anwar, who has been in TV3’s bad books, and who also issued a general ban on broadcast journalists from that station to cover any of his or PKR’s events, has been given full attention by the station to lambast Najib’s opponents within UMNO.

Najib, who took over the helm of both UMNO and BN from a weak predecessor, is seen by the public as a weaker Prime Minister. That the BN fared as bad as or worse than GE12 in the last general elections says a lot about his leadership. While he does try to have a hands-on approach on many things which is good, his policies and decisions made seem to lack any prior thoughts, begging the public to ask if it is really Najib’s consultants who do the thinking while Najib just read the scripts and smile or frown as directed.

I, for one, don’t give much thought on the political squabbles. I am more concerned with those who incessantly try to run down the country; but this latest tiff between Najib and his critiques started off with the 1MDB fiasco, and it seems that someone has unearthed the leadership’s Pandora Box.

Who after Najib is none of my concern. Whoever commands majority support of UMNO with the blessing of the component parties in BN should be able to lead. However, the UMNO tradition (budaya) of never to shine before your leader does ought to be done away with. I was told that during the recent floods, although the Deputy Prime Minister was in town while many including the Prime Minister were away shopping or golfing abroad, the former did not act swiftly until instructed to do so. How true this is, I don’t know but if so, it truly is damaging that you cannot decide as a Deputy Prime Minister on behalf of the Prime Minister who was away golfing. “Mana boleh! Ini budaya UMNO!” said the person to my father when asked why did the Deputy Prime Minister not act since the Prime Minister was on holiday abroad.

Najib could easily have called for an impromptu press conference to announce that the DPM was to head the disaster management team while he had to golf with Obama to discuss pressing matters. There was a whole army of foreign press there that he could have used to convey the message to worried Malaysians, but he did not. Was he waiting for his consultants to come up with a script and a set of more acceptable wardrobe?

It was equally bad that (I’m very sure it was his consultants who prepared this line) Najib made only the home and business insurance issue as THE reason for not declaring an emergency in the flood-stricken states. There was a bunch of other stronger reasons that could have been used, but maybe his consultants thought it was best to use the insurance issue as that was more personal for flood victims. Well, it backfired. Miserably! Adding insult to injury, the disaster-relief operation was like a dumbstruck Medusa. Every agency was doing its own thing with no clear command and control until much later. Given that the head of the National Security Council is an administrator rather than a field man, and has had no experience managing disasters, with the Prime Minister being abroad, things did not move as they should have.

Anyway, I have digressed from the issue of Najib’s quarrel with his detractors. But I think Najib’s continuous display of dishing out half-baked policies and display of desperately holding on to the Premiership simply means that he is no Tun Razak, who was brilliant in character and leadership that even political dinosaurs like Lim Kit Siang misses him, and Dyana Samad remembers Tun Razak’s superb leadership although she was still swimming inside her father’s balls when the Tun died.

UMNO needs to evolve and revamp itself in order to stay relevant in the next general elections. But first, it needs a serious change in leadership.