Commentary: The flood was a joke

By Ainina Hasnul

I believe how the flood was handled is a farce. 

Have you seen the satirical commentary film ‘Don’t Look Up’? The film captured the absurdity of authorities’ non-response. There were some parallels between the film and Malaysia’s recent flood management in December last year.

Let me summarise the film in a single line. Two astronomers warn the government and mankind of a planet-killing comet hurtling towards Earth but no one appears to care. Spoiler alert,

1…2…3…

Everyone dies at the end. The Earth was annihilated.

Sounds quite familiar, not the mass extinction part, but the warning and not caring part. 

In October 2019, Dr. Renard Siew, climate change expert from the Centre for Governance and Political Studies (Cent-GPS), stated that climate change will have a significant impact on the monsoon season.

In July 2021, five months before the flood disaster, Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah had alerted the government about the possible flood situation. This was raised in the Parliament to mobilise action for the incoming monsoon season under the National Recovery Plan (NRP). 

And in December 2021, Malaysia received one of the most devastating news. Flooding displaced 30,000 individuals and killed at least 47 people.

The government was heavily chastised for its inadequate and slow response. Similarly, in the film “Don’t Look Up’, the denial over warnings is almost ludicrous. Fortunately, Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri Yaakob admitted the government’s “weaknesses” in flood management ​​on 21 December, according to Bernama. Finally, some accountability. 

Then he went on to say, “…The responsibility is not that of the federal government alone, but also the state governments and the front-liners.”

The first punchline was delivered. To this, I laugh and say “Let the blame game begin”.

With the blame shifted to state governments, Selangor Menteri Besar, Amirudin Shari defended himself by claiming that the flood was unexpected. 

“It is not because we did not prepare but because (the rain we expected) in one month came in one day,” he said before quickly pointing his fingers to Defence Minister, Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein and the National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA), implying he had made several calls to request for the military to assist.

Now, with both the federal and state governments pointing fingers at NADMA, guess what NADMA has to say?

Datuk Abdul Latiff Ahmad, the agency’s chief, stated that the floods were “unforeseeable”. He has also previously indicated that the dealings with state-level natural disasters does not directly involve NADMA. 

Following this, the military, fed up with waiting for a directive from NADMA to assist flood victims, rushed in without approval. Free Malaysia Today reported one of their sources saying, “It came to a point, where we (the Defence Ministry) decided, to hell with NADMA.” Another punchline. The report states that NADMA was initially hesitant to involve the military. 

Fuh, what a narrative and no, I’m not making this up.

Allow me to give you a flood 101 lesson. 

You see, Malaysia has two types of flood: monsoon floods and flash (urban) floods. Climate change, rainfall, clogged drainage, river flooding and urbanisation are all contributing factors. 

It is no longer a secret that our country is undergoing deforestation. We have massive amounts of wood debris and logs visible in river streams. Consequently, we are constantly losing rainwater catchment. 

The association between floods and urbanisation has also been discovered. Pick a forest, clear it, radically restructure it, cover the land surface with roads and buildings, and then overpopulate it. Rain has nowhere to go but into the rivers as it rains. The lack of water storage capacity in urban areas causes stream rise to occur at a quicker rate.

Moreover, it generates a larger density of sediments, which block the drainage system. Oh, not to mention the pre-existing pollution we have collectively caused. What do you suppose would happen if all of this was paired with the poor maintenance of the city’s drains? 

I am certain that the government has access to this information if I do. It appears like everyone got the memo, except the government. Or was it swept under the rug?

According to Bernama, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri stated, “NADMA only coordinates… if it is considered a weakness in coordination, I do not defend anyone in this situation, for me everyone must be held accountable.”

Technically telling us, “It is what it is.” Now, how is that not funny? ***

(This opinion piece is written as part of individual assignment series for Feature Writing class)

One Reply to “Commentary: The flood was a joke”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *