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Floods in Pahang and Terengganu… Najib’s Katrina moment? - Khairil Nizam Khiruddin

December 05, 2013

"Brownie... you've done a heck of a job".

The comment above spoken by President George W. Bush best illustrates how he mishandled the Katrina disaster in 2005.

Despite the city of New Orleans being inundated by floods with more than 1,800 people dead and an estimated US$81 billion (RM261.5 billion) in property loss, Bush made just one flyover, viewing the situation from the comfort of his Air Force One.

And then came the above out-of-touch comment that forever defines the Bush Administration for its incompetence.

The Katrina case shows that natural disaster politics can be unforgiving to insensitive political office bearers. And the Najib administration today is risking doing the same thing.

The PM reportedly made a flyover in Kuantan today without even making time to make checks on the ground. If only he realised how serious the situation is.

The last few days saw heavy rainfall on the Peninsular's East Coast, battering Kemaman and Kuantan areas the most.

More than 20,000 people are displaced as homes were submerged by rising water, many at the roof level.

Electricity and water supply has been cut-off, cellular communication is almost non-existent, heavy rains are damaging roads, creating dangerous potholes and reducing visibility.

For most of Monday and Tuesday, all routes into and out of Kemaman were cut off. Words are simply not enough to describe the severity of the problem.

Despite the extraordinary situation, the government's response has been mostly business-as-usual and tepid.

The apparent disinterest from mainstream news media is mind-boggling thus one wonders if there a directive from some high office somewhere to give more coverage on the goings-on at the Umno General Assembly instead of the unraveling flood crisis in the east coast? So this is Rakyat didahulukan?

For sure, the news media's slow and scant coverage of the floods has resulted in people depending more on unverified information from blogs, Instant Messages and SMSes.

This can be dangerous as in times of crisis, unverified information can lead to panic and making it difficult to make life-saving plans. Not helping is the government information delivery system such as PublicInfoBanjir and PortalMKN, which often crash under burden of heavy usage. The government must immediately increase server and bandwidth capacity to ensure uninterrupted 24/7 access.

The reluctance to announce both Kuantan and Kemaman as localised emergency zone is also beyond comprehension. Declaring emergency will allow the army to go in, relieving some burden off from the public response team that has been working non-stop since Sunday night.

Even the Parliament took light of the problem with that one Barisan Nasional MP from Kinabatangan in particular, making a monkey-mocking statement when the Kuantan MP proposed an emergency motion on the matter.

Isn't it ironic that the Umno General Assembly launched a disaster fund for the Phillipines' Haiyaan typhoon victims while help at our own backyard is still found wanting?

PAS Youth has fully mobilised its Unit Amal assets to assist flood victims. It is also heartening to see volunteerism go full swing as concerned public, university students and flood victims themselves prepare food and provide drinking water to stranded families.

But there is a strong sense of feeling on the ground that the government should do more, and can do more to help.  

For now, the prime minister and his consultants are surely living in the Sri Perdana bubble. For God's sake dear PM, your home state is in crisis! Do something please.

PAS's Unit Amal has activated hotline numbers for Terengganu - 013-9274177, Pahang - 013-9191721, Kelantan - 012-9289859 and Johor - -019-7117181. Donations can be made to Tabung Kemanusiaan Pemuda - Maybank Account No. 564025400100.  - December 5, 2013.

* Khairil Nizam Khirudin is the new PAS Youth vice-chief.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.