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Now, back to the root of the problem

  • Think about those who have voted for you, people who yearn for a government that can protect them from the threats and havoc of disasters.

By TAY TIAN YAN
Sin Chew Daily

I agree that this is not the time to exchange accusations or politicize the floods. But I have to say that it is also not the time to evade problems.

If politicians choose to evade problems, thinking that the rakyat are the forgetful lot, and that things will be back to normal very soon and such bad luck will not fall on us again, then the government can still go on its way happily.

But, this is not the way politics should work.

As a matter of fact, there have been traces of gross negligence before and after the monster floods in Penang.

The day after the floods hit, the state government responded but accusing the meteorological department of having made inaccurate forecasts as if the Met were to be blamed for the disaster.

The Met produced evidences that it had indeed issued yellow warning several days before (Nov 1).

Serious floods already struck Penang as early as September this year, with dozens of areas and countless of houses and cars soaked in murky floodwaters, nursing home residents lying on beds isolated by the water and a female motorcyclist washed away by the currents into a drain and drowned.

The CM said it was lucky the floods did not claim any life, and that the motorcyclist's death was purely an "accident".

In October, a landslide at a Tanjung Bungah construction site claimed 11 lives, and the state government insisted that it was "site accident".

Unfortunately the frequent disasters failed to bring more alertness to the state government.

We continue to see denial after denial as if all these have nothing to do with the state government's competency and management, and only the Almighty were to be blamed.

For so many years some of the most sensitive and vulnerable areas in Penang, in particular the island, have experienced increasingly serious floods, including places like Caunter Hall (Jalan P Ramlee) which is, strictly speaking, no more livable.

The problem is, flood mitigation has never been prioritized by the state government. What we hear continually is delayed funds from the federal government.

I cannot deny that this is one of the more important reasons. But the thing is, policy is not dead and we can always do things a different way.

First and foremost, has the state government taken the initiative to talk to the federal government and let it understand the urgent needs of Penang?

Secondly, to serve its own political needs, the DAP leadership has for decades antagonized BN leaders even after the party has taken over the state of Penang. And this will not slacken even if it were to helm Putrajaya one day.

Politically this is a strategy, but the question is: such confrontation will not help improve the relationship with the federal government, but will sacrifice the interest of the people of Penang.

Thirdly, before the flood mitigation initiative could be fully implemented, the state government has continued to issue permits for hill slope projects.

Geographical information systems expert, Penang Forum member Dr Kam Suan Pheng has mentioned in her report that uncontrolled development in Penang has clogged the island's drainage system, significantly expanding potential water-logged areas.

Human-induced factors, along with unusual rainfall and tides will make floods an increasingly common and serious phenomenon in the state.

The state government should not squarely blame the federal government or Heaven. Think about those who have voted for you, people who yearn for a government that can protect them from the threats of, and minimize the damage caused by, natural disasters.

 

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