Malaysia Chronicle

Umno using floods as fodder to discredit Bersatu, observers say

Political observers say Umno is distancing itself from Bersatu ministers’ handling of one of the worst floods in the history of the country.

UMNO is using the floods as fodder to put Bersatu in a bad light ahead of a possible general election next year, political observers said.

They said although both parties are in the government, Umno is distancing itself from Bersatu and its ministers’ handling of one of the worst floods in the history of the country.

The flooding in several states has caused massive destruction and killed 48 people.

Cybertroopers are blaming Bersatu ministers for their failure to effectively handle the flood situation.

Umno leaders, including deputy president Mohamad Hasan and vice president Mohamed Khaled Nordin, have criticised the government led by fellow party mate Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

The prime minister is said to support continuing political cooperation with Bersatu.

Khaled said Ismail’s cabinet needs a reshuffle, after government agencies received public flak following rescue and relief effort delays.

Mohamad, meanwhile, called Parliament’s refusal to debate the disaster “unparliamentary”.

Political analysts said this criticism, whether by cybertroopers or Umno leaders, is a strategic move aimed at painting a picture of an inept Bersatu.

The ministers in question have also addressed the situation poorly and, as a result, “shot themselves in the foot”, they added.

Bersatu ministers lack experience and sensitivity when dealing with crises, according to Prof Ahmad Martadha Mohamed of Universiti Utara Malaysia.

He said these ministers can think of only posing for photos to be uploaded online in an attempt to prove they have been on the ground, instead of coming up with ways to help flood victims.

“They lack experience in handling such situations. They can think of only making visits (to the affected areas) when a lot more can be done.

“For instance, Rina Mohd Harun can come up with ideas specifically aimed at helping women affected by the floods,” he said, referring to the women, family and community development minister.

Martadha said Rina should not be bothered about “cleaning bird and lizard droppings in a drain”, and instead distribute aid to single mothers and unemployed women affected by the disaster.

Rina has been flayed following a viral video of her using a water jet to clean an already clean surface and a small, not-flooded drain at a temporary relief centre.

The Social Welfare Department has defended her, saying that she had been cleaning bird and lizard droppings – a move that has resulted in more scorn.

Rina has also been shown wearing high heels to a shelter, which she said happened as she had time to only change her clothes, not her shoes after attending another event.

A meme making the rounds on social media showed Rina and fellow Bersatu ministers as “failures” who have “sabotaged” the prime minister and Umno in their handling of the floods.

The cabinet members are Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin, Special Functions Minister Abdul Latiff Ahmad and Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, who is unelected and unaffiliated to any political party.

Latiff makes the list thanks to his statement that the National Disaster Management Agency, which he oversees, has only a coordination role, as well as a mere 50 employees at the federal level and none at the state level.

Therefore, he added, disaster management is the job of state governments.

Martadha said Umno and its cybertroopers are feeding off public anger and using it to their advantage.

Bersatu ministers may have been trying to show they are helping, but they did it in an insensitive and wrong way, he added.

“Umno, as their political enemy, is waiting for them to make mistakes to show that the latter’s party is incapable. This is despite them being in the same government.”

Bersatu’s Ahmad Faizal Azumu, who is youth and sports minister, has also been criticised for his ministry’s post-flood volunteer squad launch, with people saying he should have forgone the ceremony and started work immediately.

Faizal has also been outed as one of the ministers who flew abroad when the floods struck. He was visiting his family in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates.

He told Utusan TV he returned home as soon as he learnt about the floods, after spending only 12 hours in the Middle Eastern country.

Umno is sending a signal it has got no hand in the disastrous handling of the devastating disaster, said Associate Prof Azmi Hassan of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.

“Umno wants to create a perception all weaknesses came from Bersatu, not from Umno.

“Bersatu ministers are an easy target for them (Umno leaders) now. And Bersatu is also giving Umno so many chances to attack it.”

Umno Youth chief Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki has urged Ismail to allow flood-affected folk to dip into their Employees Provident Fund savings, saying that the prime minister should not listen to contrary advice from the finance minister.

Tengku Zafrul is also said to be pro-Bersatu, as he was appointed finance minister by party president Muhyiddin Yassin when the latter was head of government.

Ilham Centre executive director Hisommudin Bakar agreed that Umno is attempting to further erode Bersatu’s image.

However, he said, it is unbecoming of Umno to attack its rival as both are in the government, adding that Umno is politicising the plight of flood victims for its own gain.

“Umno should blame itself as it is also part of the government.”

Although they formed the government together via the “Sheraton move” last year, Umno and Bersatu have been at loggerheads over the former’s opinion that Bersatu is overbearing despite being the smaller party in the administration.   TMI

It’s going to get worse and we need to act, says professor

GEORGE TOWN: Dry and wet seasonal changes along with rising sea levels are believed to be the reasons behind the frequent flooding in the country, but to curb these incidents, intervention and action by the authorities have to take place fast, says an expert.

Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies (Cemacs) director Prof Datuk Dr Aileen Tan said atmospheric and sea atmospheric changes were affecting the weather in Malaysia and globally.

“This is why we have floods more easily compared to before. But this is partly due to development, enforcement and management issues as well.

“There must be proper mitigation put in place, including monitoring and management by local authorities and communities, to prepare ahead for such incidents.

“Over the years, we have had so many instances of flooding, but now, stakeholders have executed better drainage plans,” she said when contacted.

With the exception of the recent major floods in the Klang Valley, Prof Tan said there should already be good mitigation in place in most parts of the country that frequently experience floods.

“For the recent floods in Selangor, it is exceptional as the weather change was abrupt.

“But in many other places, there should already be human intervention, especially after all the lessons we learnt over the years.

“We cannot always attribute floods to climate change and not do anything to curb them,” she said, adding that this was especially important for flood-prone places.

Prof Tan said with such instances over the years, “we should have already been able to anticipate, plan for mitigation and execute it properly”.

She points out that with climate change happening globally, flooding is going to be more and more severe in the coming years.

“We need our development to be in balance with the environment.

“It is more crucial for us to maintain an environmental balance, but currently, there is still a gap in converting scientific findings into appropriate, workable plans and policymakers need to take action,” she said.

Prof Tan said in Malaysia, scientists had researched and shared many findings over the years that now need to be converted into action.

Referring to communities near coastal areas, she said floods were going to become severe in the years to come.

“If we do not take action and have good mitigation strategies in place, we will be in trouble,” she said. ANN



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