Time to set up one-stop disaster national team

JD Lovrenciear


LETTER | The Sungai Kim Kim environmental disaster that took the nation by surprise has exposed a systemic weakness that demands immediate review by Putrajaya.

It is reported that almost a dozen different agencies involving a range of federal and state level deployment of manpower from various ministries tackled the disaster that clearly was harbouring within "panic" perimeters.

When a host of different ministries and state agencies get deployed to a disaster zone, the first stumbling block is the bureaucracy of marching orders and standard operating procedures (SOPs) that differ from task force to task force.

And communication takes a beating, not to mention the frustrations on the ground.

Considering the rate of this maddening dash to cross the finishing line of a developed nation status, the old mechanisms of governance in place may not be best suited to tackle large-scale disasters that will become increasing probabilities of the future.

There is a critical need to revisit all these agencies and ministries that are compartmentalised and operated on different lines of command and rule.

Perhaps it is about time to structure a national body that has all the expertise and power and command capabilities within one roof to be able to transcend federal verses state restrictions and overlaps in times of disasters of mega proportions.

The reported tiff between the Johor royalty and Putrajaya's decisions, for example, shows differences in arguments over power, command and responsibility.

A national unit should have a proper structure and be given priority in budget allocation for training and development and must come with legal powers to enforce standards before, during and in post-disaster periods.

We cannot look at maintaining such a unit from a cost perspective. It has to be seen as an investment strategy.

As the construction, manufacturing and agro-based industries are destined to pick up speed in the race for developed nation status, man-made disasters are imminent.

Further, given the uncertainties of global weather changes, we must also be capable of marshalling the right expertise with complete command and control powers in times of such disasters.

Time and decision-making become paramount considerations.

Having politicians as the first line of rescue is not the answer. Waiting for bureaucratic clearances is equally disastrous.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.