Two pieces of news hit me today. They are the prime minister's New Year address, the other the follow up visit by Human Resources Minister Fong Chan Onn to the tragedy site where Dr Liew Boon-Horng was killed by a falling concrete mould.
There are a few points I wish to make.
In his address, the PM emphasised the need to be prepared and ready to respond to crisis. The actions such as setting up of early disaster detection mechanisms such as tsunami warning system are laudable steps which I fully support. However, besides natural crises, the nation has been frequently plagued with man-made crises. Instead of concentrating on responding to crises, we should pay some attention to preventing crises.
We have heard that the authorities have issued seven warnings to the construction firm where the falling two-tonne concrete mould killed Dr Liew. That pronouncement seems to be an attempt to absolve the authorities by telling us "we have done our job". Well sir, you have not!
I would expect after three warnings or less, action should be taken and not more warnings given. It is time we asked what did the authority or authorities do other than issuing warnings and what did the involved parties do when they received the warnings. Maybe they know warnings are all they are going to get and they well know how to "handle" them.
In 2005, we faced a crisis of dengue fever outbreak. One asks what we did about construction sites that became mosquito breeding grounds.
Where I stay, an old lady comes to sweep the road of fallen leaves. She faithfully sweeps them alright. Except she sweeps them into the nearest drains! The Majlis Bandaran will probably say "we have done our job. We provided the sweeper" Again, you have not. Doing the job includes seeing the result. I wonder how often the Majlis Bandaran officers ever inspected the drains in the past years.
Mosquito breeding construction sites, clogged drains are where the dengue crisis originates. I don't know how well we responded to the dengue crisis other than cutting down publicity. What I do know is we are doing miserably little or nothing to prevent the crisis.
Don't blame the old lady sweeper. Don't blame the construction firms. They would not have done those things if the officers and agencies do their job.
I once said this to a subordinate manager who complained to me that one of his men is not doing his job. I said, "If he is not doing his job, you tell him and make him do it. If after you tell him, he still doesn't do his job, you sack him. If you fail to make him do his job and you don't sack him, then I'll sack you." Maybe I should have added, if I don't sack you, I should sack myself
The PM's statement was headlined as "PM asks people to help govt resolve national problems". My question is "Can we?" "How?" As ordinary citizens one of the most common and direct ways to "help" is to point out causes of problems and offer solutions. But if we do this, we either get deaf ears, denials, excuses or worst of all go to lock-ups, who dare to "help"?
The PM talked about projects. I just came across a set of comparisons amongst three Asean countries including Malaysia on the red tapes involved in making investment and we came out bottom. Of course, we can celebrate and take pride that Malaysia is one of the three selected. The others were not even considered. Never mind, if we don't get the investments.
Our PM and the government probably are fully aware and has ready justifications and explanations (excuses?) to this. I will fully accept these justifications and explanations if at the end of the day we get the investments over the other two countries.
I hope we don't use the ultimate justification - "if you don't like it you can get out."
The PM used the phrase "God willing" several times in the English translation of his address as carried by Bernama . I venture to opine God is ever willing. The question is whether the PM and his jumbo cabinet and indeed the whole government machineries is willing.