If this flood disaster has taught us anything, it’s rejecting self-serving politicians

Malaysia was hit by devastating floods two weeks ago that inundated several parts of Selangor, including Kuala Langat and Taman Sri Muda in Shah Alam. Waters reached rooftops, and in some instances, submerged houses completely.

Residents were left stranded on their roofs without food and water for hours, some for days, without help from the authorities.

Excuses as to why aid took so long to reach the victims flowed hard and fast, ad nauseum. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob actually said that one reason why help from the relevant agencies was slow to reach the victims was because road signs were submerged!

In this day of remote sensing technology, drones and satellites, this inane excuse has to be the greatest joke ever told.

No one thought to look for survivors huddled on balconies and on the rooftops? It speaks volumes about leadership quality. Or lack thereof.

Not only did the floods paralyse physical connectivity and movement, it also crippled the mental capacity and critical-thinking abilities of the ministers, who were at a loss as to how to respond to the disaster.

Worse still, the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) was petrified into inaction, with the minister in charge initially disavowing any responsibility for its impotence.

Instead of focusing on the plight of the victims, those in charge appeared to be focused more on shoring up their political positions.

So focused were they on their ‘priorities’ that they neglected to deal with the matter at hand – the safety and wellbeing of the flood victims.

It is mind-boggling that this huge, bloated Cabinet of 70 ministers and deputy ministers, as well as several advisers, could not come up with a cohesive, effective plan to tackle the crisis.

It has long been obvious that these politicians do not have the qualifications for ministerial duties, but the flood debacle that reduced them to ineffective, blundering bureaucrats, confirmed the long-held suspicion that they are simply incapable of discharging their responsibilities.

This catastrophe has shown that the people cannot count on their elected representatives to serve them, simply because the politicians are only concerned about themselves.

This disaster has also shown that it is the rakyat who will help their brethren when faced with adversity. Politicians only drop in after the floodwaters have receded, only for that perfect “money shot”, or photo op, in time for the 8pm news.

It is truly obscenely pathetic and hypocritical; and rubs salt to an already festering wound.

The uncaring and irresponsible actions of several ministers were evident when news leaked that some of them had gone on holidays abroad, during this flood-prone monsoon season at the end of every year.

To mitigate the damage, the prime minister instructed his ministers already abroad to return home and help with relief efforts. It’s a sad case of “too little, too late”, and the gesture did nothing to assuage the mounting anger of a discontented populace.

The same thing happened in 2014, when then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak played golf with then United States President Barack Obama in Hawaii, just as the East Coast states were lashed by torrential rain. Large parts of Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, and Johor were flooded, and 21 people lost their lives.

The inability of the government to effectively respond to the floods is symptomatic of the dismal lack of leadership.

This is compounded by the fact that the government is composed of ministers who are appointed – not based on merit – but as a matter of political expediency.

The prime minister, who enjoys a razor-thin majority, has to appease the various factions within his administration with plump positions, grandiose honorifics, and fat pay cheques.

Failure to do so, and he could easily find support for his government disappearing, quicker than the receding floodwaters.

In addition, Ismail Sabri is also preoccupied with efforts to become Umno president, and to continue to hold on as prime minister.

This disaster confirms the pathetic lack of direction of this administration to meet economic and environmental challenges head-on. As a result, the people no longer trust the government and politicians.

This mistrust is so pervasive that Malaysians have mounted an online campaign, calling on the people not to contribute to the government-initiated flood relief fund.

Unfortunately, the people will still vote for these politicians in the next election, especially when they play the racial and religious cards, and shower them with gifts and promises.

It is hoped that this disaster will be the catalyst for us to finally reject race- and religious-based politics, and vote in a government that prioritises the peoples’ agenda.

After all, if we can all come together as one in a time of crisis, surely, we can do the same, when Malaysia is facing the biggest existential crisis it has ever known – the unbridled greed of politicians.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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