Monday, June 24

Be prepared


‘A political tsunami is preferable to one like this’. — Reuters file photo

THE Boy Scouts have got it straight: Be Prepared.

Those people who were swept away by nature’s fury while they were enjoying music on the beach of Banten were, sadly, not prepared.

Although, there is no direct link between the Scout Movement started by Baden-Powell in 1907 and a volcano or a killer wave, yet the Motto refers to a state of readiness in mind and body not only for a boy.

A country, for instance, must be prepared at all times for a natural disaster like a tsunami – or a man-made one such as a war.

Misfortune or ‘Malang tiada berbau’, as the Malay saying goes, can strike when you least expect it. For instance, who would have predicted that a big wave would suddenly rush onshore during a musical concert without warning. The scientists later explained that there had been an underwater landslide caused by an active volcano. In turn, that produced the big wave which in turn caused loss of so many innocent human lives within minutes.

What the tsunami has done to the people and properties in Indonesia cannot be undone. It remains for the rest of us to offer condolences to the bereaved families, and prayers for the souls of the departed. And, if somebody has started a relief fund, donate to it!

Hopefully, there will be no more disaster of the nature and magnitude that causes loss of many precious lives. Our neighbouring country has had more than a fair share of natural disasters this year alone; the latest being the tsunami caused by the Anak Krakatau (child of Krakatau). Mama Krakatau exploded and disappeared on Sunday 26th of August 1883.

The Iban refer to this volcanic eruption as lampong pechah which, according to some accounts, was heard or felt in Sarawak. There must have been a huge wave killing thousands of people.

The Japanese term ‘tsunami’ wasn’t generally used until 2004 when thousands of people in Acheh and on the shores of the Indian Ocean were struck by the killer wave.

Both regions of Malaysia are not directly straddling the Pacific Ring of Fire. But remember, a couple of years ago the people in Ranau in Sabah woke up to a quake that rocked part of Mount Kinabalu. They were not prepared for such a disaster, were they?

People living in this part of the world, prone to natural disasters,  must be in full alert to watch out for signs of danger. Extra precautions and measures are necessary at all times. Being prepared for any eventuality is the best policy.

Does Malaysia have instruments in the sea around us that can detect an early sign of a tsunami? Are we prepared for one?

The people living in the coastal areas should know about such early warning devices so that they are prepared for any eventuality, ready for a quick evacuation to higher ground in case of a tsunami. That is, if an early warning system is in place.

Are we absolutely sure that because we are away from the Ring of Fire, we are perfectly safe from a tsunami? We are not that far away really, and a big wave can travel long distances – does anyone realise that?

Normally, a tsunami is associated with an earthquake, not with a volcanic eruption. But obviously there are exceptions.

The lack of prior warning for the tsunami in the Strait Of Sunda has triggered me to look for a suitable subject for this column. I have chosen today’s topic the state of readiness – with a quiet salute to my Scout Masters and friends, way back in the 1950s.

Political tsunami

On another dimension of being prepared for anything, Malaysians should be prepared for economic and political woes. In the countryside, planters in Sarawak are complaining about poor price of the fresh oil palm fruit bunches; the pepper planters are grumbling about low price for the spice. In the cities, there are too many shopping malls, some business outfits are closing down or relocating but unemployment results. And you know as well as I do what loss of job means to the family who depend on the wage earner for money.

Perhaps, the happiest people in town are the government servants, with their steady monthly income.  When things get tough, civil service wages go up. And so do grocery prices, it’s automatic! Be prepared for adverse comments from the ordinary members of the public. These comments are relatively harmless.

While many of us assume that the Special Cabinet Committee will come up with something concrete relating to power and jurisdiction tussles between the state and federal governments, sceptics think that nothing much should be expected of the SCC. Talk, talk, talk…freedom of speech is allowed.

However, I’m an optimist. Still, the sooner the state and federal governments can sort out their differences, if any, over the distribution of power and jurisdiction with reference to the Malaysia Agreement, 1963, the better it will be for us all.

Both governments should be able to work out equitable solutions or strike a happy medium before the next state election. Otherwise, voters in Sarawak will have to decide who should hold power in the state.

Are we prepared for a political tsunami?  

Many Umno parliamentary legislators have deserted their party, leaving the country without an effective Opposition or an alternative government. A country without a strong and responsible opposition will find itself without the checks and balances which Democracy badly requires for sustaining the system.

Are we prepared for a government without an effective Opposition in Malaysia? Frankly, I, for one, am worried about the trend.

Hey, I almost forgot to wish everybody a Happy New Year – got carried away by the big wave. See you next year – on Tuesday. Say bye-bye to 2018 and welcome 2019.

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