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LETTER | Investigations on flood relief volunteers a waste of social resources

LETTER | The recent floods in Malaysia has again painfully reminded us of the incapability of the government in crisis response and management. Even the military forces have to risk themselves by launching aid movements without receiving any orders from their top brass. 

When the noble ministers finally arrived, all they did was just wave at the victims and take posed photos of themselves engaging with the victims or doing some cleaning work.

In this circumstance, the role of non-governmental organisations (NGO) becomes super important in delivering aid and carrying out the relief work. 

The victims could save themselves by staying on the rooftops, but they need others to help them reach relief centres that will provide them with food and other essential daily supplies. 

When the government and other related agencies fail to do so, NGOs will be the ones that the victims could rely on as they possess the resources needed.

However, the government has decided to order these kind and generous individuals and groups to channel their aids through the so-called “official channels” but not directly to the victims. It is known that the “official channels” here refer to the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) or other relevant government-linked companies (GLC).

In simpler terms, the disaster management strategy designed by the government is to have these government agencies as the mediator and aggregator of all resources from all pathways before being delivered to the victims, which they claim can ease the recording processes of the government.

To be fair, this strategy does ease the government’s recording processes as the government can get hold of all the aids from various NGOs or individuals from all over the country. 

It also centralises the efforts of flood relief as all the aid is aggregated at one point for the victims to redeem. This way, the flow of the aid could be smoother. 

All that the NGOs needed to do is just to pass their resources to the government agencies and all that the government needed to do is just to distribute these resources fairly to each affected area, depending on the degree of seriousness.

 The responsibilities and tasks are clear cut and could minimise confusion.

However, there are problems here too. The Malaysian government agencies have a very bad track record in becoming the mediator of financial or material aids. 

An endless bureaucracy that slows down the whole process and corruption allegations that send the aids nowhere is very common in Malaysian government agencies. 

When their credibility is already in dispute, how would you expect them to be reliable in such hard times?

Therefore, handing in the aids from NGOs to victims directly seems to be the better way, but the government does not think so. 

Six flood relief volunteers from Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda) was questioned and investigated by Johor police for allegedly delivering the aids to the victims directly without going through official channels. 

They are investigated under Section 188 of the Penal Code that punishes people who disobey orders from public servants. Although Johor acting police chief Khaw Kok Chin said the police investigated this case out of responsibility, that is, the police should investigate every report lodged. 

In my opinion, the police should practice professional judgement before they start any investigation. Firstly, it is totally right for Muda to deliver aids to the flood victims. 

No matter for what purpose, they are practising their social responsibility as a political party, that is, helping and serving the people to solve their problems. Since when did this kind and generous act become a possible violation of the law?

Second, under Section 188 of the Penal Code, it is clearly stated that violation happens and is punishable when the act of disobedience produces or is likely to produce harm. How is channelling the aids directly to the victims going to produce harm?

Isn’t the possible bureaucracy and corruption when there are government agencies as the mediators causing more harm than direct aid delivering?

By having these considerations in mind, it is total a waste of time and social resources by investigating the flood relief volunteers who delivered the aid to the victims directly. 

The police should have been more flexible and make careful judgements before opening a new file. Not not blindly dive into investigations whenever there are reports lodged. 

The police need to be more mindful of this matter to better coordinate their manpower and focus on those important big crimes or issues surrounding the country.

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

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