KUALA LUMPUR: Klang member of parliament Charles Santiago wants “heads to roll at the Environment and Water Ministry” for its “flat-footed response” during the country’s flood crisis last month.

Severe action, he said, was crucial because the ministry failed to prepare mitigation plans despite receiving early warnings that the tail-end of Typhoon Rai would hit the country.

“According to an article written in the third week of December, the ministry reportedly knew in the first week of December that parts of Malaysia, including Selangor, will receive the tail-end of Typhoon Rai.

“An advance warning would have enabled the federal and state governments to bring in reinforcements from other states to Selangor.

“However, what we saw in the third week of December was a catastrophe that unfolded in front of all Malaysians without a state-initiated response. This is very shameful.

“The government was completely flat-footed and poorly coordinated during the early and mid-stages of the crisis.

“The Social Welfare Department was nowhere to be seen when they should have been participating in rescue missions and food aid distribution.

“So, heads must roll at the highest-level of the ministry. Otherwise, we will never learn,” he said, during a webinar organised by the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) on Monday.

Santiago also urged the government to manifest greater political will to improve the country’s drainage and irrigation systems, especially in cities and coastal areas, such as Klang.

“Local authorities should also immediately carry out drain-cleaning exercises at their respective areas. I will push for this to be done in Klang soon,” he said.

He also called on the government impose more stringent timber policies to reduce the rate of deforestation.

“In Pahang, for example, the floodwater drifted sawn timbers to people’s doorsteps and on their rooftops. Given what we have seen, why can’t the government limit or even terminate timber contracts altogether?

“If such measures are not taken, then what happened on Dec 17 and Dec 18 last year will become an annual affair.

“Environment must become the centrepiece of planning in both public and private sectors as well as in households,” he said.

Santiago said, the government must treat floods as part of “national life” rather than as a one-off event that either occurs once in several years or only hits certain parts of the country.

He also suggested the government to enhance social protection to assist flood victims, as done in many countries.

Retrieved from News Straits Times

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