Sad memories, unfinished business

A rescue team at the site of the Father's Organic Farm campsite in Batang Kali brings out a body found in the rubble on December 24. – Malaysia Civil Defence Department pic, January 1, 2023.

Commentary by Mustafa K. Anuar

THE federal government has rightfully decided not to have the usual large-scale celebration of New Year’s Eve at Dataran Merdeka, in sympathy and solidarity with victims of the recent floods that had their lives taken, properties destroyed, livelihoods adversely affected and caused other hardships.

It would be jarring and unconscionable of the Anwar Ibrahim administration had it chosen to do otherwise, which is as bad an act as politicians jetting off to a foreign land for a holiday, while leaving flood victims to fend for themselves.

Similarly, there is no reason to celebrate the coming of the new year for the loved ones of those who perished in the ghastly Batang Kali landslide that occurred on December 16.

Some 31 people died while 61 were rescued after the calamity, thanks entirely to the tireless efforts of the search and rescue team consisting of 250 members from the police, army, Fire and Rescue Department, Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team and civil defence force. 

This tragedy should raise a red flag for the federal and state governments, developers and other stakeholders that climate change and the type of development that is being pursued must be seriously reviewed in the new year. Our environment can no longer be taken for granted.

Still, there would be individuals and groups of people who would chill out in restaurants, ushering in the new year with the hope that it would bring good tidings.

Of course, we would not cherish the thought of certain individuals possibly meeting up at some hotel to, God forbid, plan a grisly scheme that could spark political uncertainty anew.

The new year is also a painful reminder for those whose loved ones have been forcefully taken away from them. It is especially excruciating for them not to have closure when the victims’ whereabouts and existence could not be determined.

In particular, for Indira Gandhi who pines for her abducted daughter Prasana Diksa, and the families of missing Pastor Raymond Koh, Amri Che Mat, Pastor Joshua Hilmy and wife Ruth Hilmy who yearn for their homecoming. The new year might possibly unfold into another year of being an emotional roller-coaster ride and sadness. This is a case of unfinished business.

The new year also signals the unresolved issue of contract doctors in our public healthcare system, who do not have much to celebrate about. It is disturbing that this problem could eventually lead to a brain drain, which we as a nation can ill-afford.

Life remains a struggle for many, especially those who have been badly affected by the high cost of living, unemployment and an economy that is likely to face more challenges in the months to come.

For those who have joined the ranks of the enlarged community of B40 people, putting food on the table is a continuous battle. This is why it is vital for the unity government to focus on and intensify efforts to improve the living standards of the underbelly of our society.

Fear, suspicion and even hate have overwhelmed many Malaysians of diverse backgrounds, as a result of politicians using politics of race and religion particularly in the last general election. 

It is hoped that more endeavours are made to help narrow, if not close, the interethnic gulf.

More efforts should also be made to arrest the scourge of society, the endemic corruption that has robbed the nation blind. 

But not all is gloom and doom. The fact that former political rivals Pakatan Harapan, Barisan Nasional and the Bornean coalitions of Gabungan Parti Sarawak and Gabungan Rakyat Sabah were able to cobble together to form a unity government after the last general election is worthy of note and appreciation. 

We hope the political pact would last long enough to dedicate itself towards improving the wellbeing of the ordinary people and the nation. 

Despite the many challenges, we hope the country will be steered to a better place in the years to come.

Wishing you a Happy New Year, nonetheless. – January 1, 2023.

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