Sunday, December 26, 2021

Anger rises as flood waters recede

Anger rises as flood waters recede

Spirits were down, hearts were broken and the pain among Malaysians was palpable during the recent floods.

It was not just the victims stranded on rooftops in the cold wet night who were dejected. Many others were reeling from the setback we experienced as a nation in what was probably the worst floods in 50 years.

There has been anger too. People of all races are united in their rage as they witness the failures that the floods have laid bare.

It took just a few days before Malaysians began to realise the mind-boggling extent of the damage. The lack of help or its late arrival from agencies that were supposed to have been there was unbelievable. But the reasons were quite clear.

While many worked hard to clear the mess and misery on the ground, the politicians stood out like sore thumbs, rushing for publicity before public service, even resorting to some stupid actions.

Less than three months ago, the prime minister launched the National Preparedness Week with demonstrations by the various units trained to carry out rescue work in emergencies.

It was grand, it was impressive. But when the crunch came, it fell flat. We appear to be good only at demonstrations.

Ismail Sabri Yaakob may have given himself and his team a 90% score on their 100th day in office, but for most victims, especially those in the Klang Valley, the government had scored a big, fat zero.

The politicians offered excuses, but the people were not buying any of them. They were seething and that anger has not abated.

This can be seen in the viral, angry messages and memes coming from the young and old and from all walks of life.

A young Malay man thanked the government for uniting the various communities through its failures, providing an opportunity for the people to help each other and realise that this nation is for all.

He ended his clip by using foul language and screaming. As much as one may question the way he released his frustrations, his action was representative of the pent-up anger among many.

Ministers, VIPs and leaders were not spared. The people were simply disgusted at seeing photos of politicians washing houses and mopping and distributing aid with large photographs of themselves plastered on boxes.

It was disgusting because they were using taxpayers’ money to capitalise on the people’s misery. They were shamelessly taking pictures of themselves flashing victory signs while posing in front of their own faces on the aid boxes.

The people were not impressed. Instead, they felt the delay in the arrival of aid was because these politicians needed a day or two to print their pictures and paste them on the aid boxes.

Among the most ridiculous was youth and sports minister Ahmad Faizal Azumu. He actually had an official ceremony to launch a volunteer group, inviting the media for a photo op.

It was a low trick, one that earned the wrath of Najib Razak, who chided the minister for doing this at a time when people were waiting on rooftops for help. Worse, Faizal’s social media team stole photographs of people cleaning up their homes and claimed credit.

Then there was a preacher who blamed the floods in Shah Alam on a beer factory there. No one could bear this stupidity. Many, including Muslims, pointed out there were frequent floods in Kelantan and Terengganu, too. No beer factories there.

As if these were not enough, there were those who questioned the help they got. As volunteers battled chest high waters to provide food for stranded flood victims, some asked if the food was halal.

This too provoked a barrage of angry comments. After all, almost all Malaysians know about halal rules.

One clip, though, came as a balm. A young woman wearing a telekung told Malaysians to move beyond this kind of bigotry.

In a clip that has gone viral, she said: “Some Muslims refuse to take food from Indians and Chinese volunteers. I want to tell you all that these volunteers have braved flood waters and used boats to distribute food while they themselves had not eaten.

“They not only cooked but had also sourced for donations to feed you all. And is this what you do? Please respect these people and appreciate them and not be disrespectful towards them.”

Thank you. It’s people like you and many others who surfaced during the floods who have given us hope that racism and religious bigotry can be defeated. I really want to think that you represent a good section of the young Malaysians who can steer the nation away from the pit that our politicians have led us into.

The huge number of Malaysians who transcended racial and religious barriers spending their own money and time is simply too large to list here. But Malaysians will know who you are. Your efforts have shown we are all Malaysians, not a divided nation as the politicians will make us out to be.

Although we pray in different ways, we are all God’s children. If only we can learn that lesson from this calamity, the death of dozens and the millions in losses may not be in vain.

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