Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has called for a special session of Parliament on Jan20 as an extension of the fourth session of the 14th Parliament to discuss long-term flood management and flood aid following the recent floods that took the lives of 54 people, the highest flood death toll so far.
I’m puzzled as to why Parliament must be called to discuss a natural disaster that is now over and which the people suffered through alone without government help. For two days when floodwaters filled up homes in Taman Sri Muda, Shah Alam, Selangor and residents found refuge on their roofs, their plaintive cry was, “No one came!” For two days they had no help and no food. The government was nowhere to be seen. Now the Sabri government wants to discuss this debacle of government failure in Parliament?
The Sabri government probably thinks that a parliamentary session on the flood issue may make them look good, conveying the message to their voters that they are doing something about solving the problem. Well and good, except for the fact that the incumbent government probably won’t last long enough for it to put into place a comprehensive flood mitigation plan in the country.
Could an underlying motive be to expose the Pakatan Harapan (PH)-controlled state government in Selangor, which ultimately must also assume responsibility for failing to provide a swift rescue response in the flooded areas and immediate aid?
If Sabri has thought through the decision to have a special parliamentary session on the flooding fiasco, he would realize that it would also expose the federal government’s paralysis in taking control and implementing a swift disaster response. MPs are going to expose each other’s failures and what good would come out of that?
The Selangor state government would likely be most exposed because the state government is best positioned to provide immediate aid to the people in the face of a disaster. It might be an attempt by the Umno-led government to make the opposition look bad.
But, it can be preempted! The Selangor state government must quickly shift into damage control mode. The first thing to do is to face the people. They may resort to throwing brickbats at it. Take it like a man. After all, the state government is at fault.
Honestly tell the people where the mistakes were. But, more importantly, show them your dead seriousness in identifying the problems and in finding solutions so that when a natural disaster happens, its effects will be manageable.
Don’t be like the Perikatan Nasional (PN) and Sabri governments who keep silent in the face of a crisis and appear only to feel important giving aid after the disaster and using it for photo opportunities, and driving around in black convoys!
Beat them to the game! Not by bribing and giving aid — the latter is necessary in the face of a disaster — and political out-manoeuvering but through good, responsible government. The Selangor state leadership has a number of good people. Selangor Mentri Besar Amirudin Shari should sit down with them and discuss a practical and viable comprehensive statewide river management plan to mitigate the effects of floods and prevent water cuts.
A task force should be set up to identify the problems in river and rain management and suggest solutions, which must be enforced strictly. From the data gathered, a water consultant may need to be hired to develop a statewide river and rain management plan and the setting up of a swift first responder network to provide immediate rescue in the face of a disaster.
Once the planning is complete, hold a press conference and tell the people that mistakes have been identified, and list out the immediate practical steps the state government is undertaking to address the issue. Show them proof of the early steps taken and tell them of the long-term plan.
The people may still be angry but they will take note of the state government’s hard work and effort to prevent a repeat of the Dec 22-23, 2021 flood fiasco, and may be appeased. The state government may still win their support.
But, all this work must be done and the press conference held before the parliamentary session on Jan 20. PH MPs will be in a stronger position to counter the criticisms of government MPs who, because of the Selangor state government’s practical efforts at water and rain management, may lose the grounds to mount an attack on PH MPs.
The Selangor state government must act fast, if it wants to win back support from the people.