Public enemy No 1

The recent Batang Kali tragedy, to the chagrin of many Malaysians, brought unimaginable emotional anguish to the affected families and could not have been predicted before

PRESIDENT Nixon, speaking at a White House press conference in June 1971, had once declared in the face of the dangerous scourge of drug abuse that swept across the US that the contraband was “public enemy No 1”, proceeding to call for an “all-out offensive” in order to defeat the enemy.

This militant incitement to war was seen as absolutely necessary in the eyes of the American leadership as thousands of Americans were left disenfranchised — no more harm to innocent lives could be afforded — strict retaliation was needed, serving as recompense for the people.

Years later, the Nixon administration would be faulted with the failure of the war against drugs and the continued loss of American lives. An offensive strategy would prove to be futile against the assailant’s unpredictable and destructive tactics. With the displacement of thousands of lives on the East Coast, the government ought to declare flooding public enemy No 1, proceeding to call for an all-out defensive to protect vulnerable Malaysians from unpredictable torrential monsoon rains and destructive flooding — the long-term reputation of the nations’ leadership is at risk of being tarnished and having regret torment its conscience.

The Malaysian government has recently, recognising the urgency of the issue, formulated defensive strategies to offset the ruination of entire districts ravaged by immense flooding.

Policies that merely amount to the temporary plastering of damaged wounds with a band-aid only for them to be ripped off by the same, reoccurring issue are not at all viable. The prime minister’s (PM) efforts to commission a task force, under the purview of the deputy PM, therefore will be instrumental in developing both short-term and long-term solutions that are efficacious. Offensive strategies, such as the development of anti-flooding infrastructure, while absolutely necessary will require a lot of time to be completely integrated.

It is in light of this that the government has resorted to deterrent strategies such as the compartmentalisation of its financial resources to ensure that targeted areas receive the aid necessary to immediately recuperate after suffering heavy tolls.

The government’s valiant efforts to militarise relief forces across the country to beleaguered areas have proved to yield significant fruit in spite of the continuous restraints faced by rescue teams brought about by heavy downpours. The combined reality of a great many areas susceptible to disaster and the unpredictable nature of the monsoon rains threatens the lives of many more Malaysians. The recent Batang Kali tragedy, to the chagrin of many Malaysians, brought unimaginable emotional anguish to the affected families and could not have been predicted before.

The government’s hard-lined stance of “no Malaysian left behind” therefore must encapsulate efforts, with the cooperation of Nadma, to conduct a nationwide investigation as to hotspots vulnerable to flooding in order to develop strategically placed relief centres. This ensures that there exists greater connectivity — allowing the process of immediate evacuation to be more efficient and accommodating of more people. The administration cannot afford to err as further reckoning brought about by flooding in the future will limit progress of the nation’s defensive struggles, inadvertently overwhelming the nation’s capacity to tackle it.

Across the nation, many Malaysians are ensnared by feelings of strong fatigue and crippling anxiety over repeated and never-before-seen flooding. The government’s pledge to prioritise flooding efforts will be crucial in alleviating the duress the people have had to endure. The government faces an unprecedented multidimensional crisis— having to shield Malaysians from both the disastrous effects of rising prices and natural disasters. Malaysia has been embroiled in many battles before with enemies ranging from Covid-19 to political havoc. If there’s an immediate takeaway from the flood situation, it’s that we must swiftly abandon all politicking and realise just how much attention we ought to direct to those suffering — it ought to remind us who or what the real enemy is — which in turn unites us all.

The apocalyptic scenery of downtrodden families and destroyed homes are still to many an image fastened to their memory. It was a tragedy that brought many Malaysians to their very knees. Let us do whatever we can as Malaysians, however little, to be sources of strength that others can take refuge in. By putting our differences aside, we can restore happiness to saddened people in the hope that their spirits will be uplifted.

Leading them to experience great joy and relief as they gradually smile and return to their feet yet again in spite of the setbacks they have faced. Just as we have done so during many of Malaysia’s dark days, let us present a united front and tackle this issue with the might of all our combined strength bringing the country’s new public enemy to its knees.

Pravin Periasamy