Malaysia’s floods expose depth of government’s inability to handle climate change

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language
  • Torrential rains in the east coast led to a record death toll of at least 54, the displacement of some 120,000 people and losses of US$1.5 billion
  • Analysts say the lack of a crisis management system, political incompetency, partisanship and issues such as illegal logging show Malaysia is far from ready to address the effects of climate change

For decades, Peninsular Malaysia’s east coast has had more than its fair share of floods during the November to February monsoon season.

But as the country now counts the cost of the latest flooding – described by officials as a “once-in-a-century” disaster – victims, observers and climate activists say no other recent natural disaster has exposed just how unprepared it is in tackling climate change.

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

Some degree of damage was expected from the flooding, but a record death toll of at least 54, as well as the displacement of over 120,000 people and losses worth over 6.5 billion ringgit (US$1.5 billion) could have been minimised if the initial official response had not been botched, according to experts.

Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team.

Global Tech News Daily

Malaysia’s floods expose depth of government’s inability to handle climate change
© Provided by South China Morning Post An aerial photo shows the floods in Alor Gajah town. Photo: Bernama/dpa

For days after the torrential downpour began on December 16, scores of civilian rescuers waded through ankle- to knee-deep water across the state of Selangor – one of the hardest-hit regions – to rescue stranded victims and deliver aid, as the response from emergency services lagged.

Global Tech News Daily

While seven out of the country’s 13 states became submerged, it was the damage in Selangor – an opposition-controlled state and the country’s most industrialised region – that contributed to the outsize devastation.

Alongside the delayed reaction, a blame game between the government and opposition, and factors such as long-unresolved illegal logging compounded the damage, political analysts say. These observers warn that the disaster has left them with no illusions about the country’s fraught state of governance.

Turmoil has become a byword in Malaysian politics in recent years, with the country witnessing the ousting of three prime ministers since 2018.

“The problems are lack of planning, competency, as well as institutional protocols and coordination,” said Bridget Welsh, a long-time Malaysian politics observer. “Politicians see crises through their own personal lens, with partisanship, elitism and interests part of this.”

Malaysia’s floods expose depth of government’s inability to handle climate change
© Provided by South China Morning Post Excavators remove books destroyed by floods at warehouse of a book shop in Shah Alam, Malaysia. Photo: Reuters

Awash with problems

For many Malaysians, the dysfunction surrounding the flood response lay in the events that transpired on December 18, two days after a tropical depression made landfall in eastern Peninsular Malaysia. By the evening of that day, it had been raining non-stop in Kuala Lumpur and the surrounding Klang Valley for almost 36 hours.

While the meteorological service issued warnings about the unusual downpour, the schedule of officials including Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob suggested all was well.

As water levels rose in the heavily populated commercial hub, two of the key political parties in Ismail Sabri’s ruling alliance, including his own United Malays National Organisation (Umno), proceeded with earlier scheduled in-person annual meetings.

Malaysia seeks US$3 million from UN climate fund amid deadly floods

On social media, residents angrily retweeted a video showing a fireworks display at the venue of one of these meetings.

By late evening, there was still no public statement from the prime minister’s office.

When he finally held a televised press conference at around midnight, the 62-year-old leader offered details the public already knew – that the army and rescue agencies were fanning out to deal with the situation – and urged flood victims to “stay calm”.

On the ground, victims who spoke to This Week in Asia in the days after the flood recounted feeling fear as water seeped, and then gushed, into their homes that night.

Some were stranded in their cars on highways.

Malaysia’s floods expose depth of government’s inability to handle climate change
© Provided by South China Morning Post A man rides his motorcycle through floodwaters in Batu Berendam, Malacca. Photo: AFP

Like Welsh, Hafidzi Razali of the BowerGroupAsia political consultancy noted that the crux of the impaired response had to do with the country’s hyper-partisan political climate.

While disaster management is largely devolved to the state administrations, efforts by the Selangor government led by the opposition Pakatan Harapan alliance were hampered as the chief minister, Amirudin Shari, was initially not included in a critical committee tasked with coordinating post-flood aid.

This week, Ismail Sabri took to parliament to fight back against claims that he was central to the delayed response in Selangor.

Weather warnings by the meteorological department were “ignored by certain quarters”, the prime minister said in a thinly-veiled reference to Amiruddin’s administration.

“There were weaknesses in the state and district-level disaster management committees, and I was forced to intervene, he said.

Malaysia seeks US$3 million from UN climate fund amid deadly floods

Hafidzi said such one-upmanship was at the heart of what went wrong in December.

“A more coherent federal-state action plan in dealing with climate change and natural disasters could have avoided the casualties and damages which took place,” he said.

Welsh noted that Ismail Sabri’s ruling Umno party had a track record of “punishing opposition states” and such a policy had hurt “the country and its people”.

“Stronger institutions addressing disasters, established protocols, better working relationships with state governments are essential,” she said.

Like in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the United States in 2005, part of the national hand-wringing following the floods has involved assessing the competence – or lack thereof – in Malaysia’s main disaster management agency.

“Taxpayers’ money was wasted on an agency that is not equipped to manage disaster relief. This is a failure of public policy,” said political scientist Tunku Mohar Mokhtar of the International Islamic University Malaysia.

Malaysia’s floods expose depth of government’s inability to handle climate change
© Provided by South China Morning Post An aerial view of submerged oil palm trunks in floodwaters. Photo: Bernama/dpa

‘Not sexy enough’?

Climate activists say there is no better time for a full review of the country’s climate change mitigation plan. In their crosshairs is the Environment and Water Minister Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man.

The minister, a member of an ultraconservative Islamist party in the ruling coalition, has in the past drawn flak for suggestions that Malaysia was not particularly vulnerable to climate change.

Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar from the environmental group Klima Action Malaysia said it was essential that there was thorough assessment of the effect urban development and logging activities had had on exacerbating the floods.

“There is this disconnect, or incoherence, of policy in Malaysia. On one hand, we want to develop as much and as fast as we can, but at the same time, as some enjoy the fruits of the development, it causes others to suffer,” she said.

In Malaysia’s Johor, mines and palm oil plantations are replacing forests

The issue of illegal logging – and the possibility at least some of such activities may have connection with companies owned by royalty – has been intensely discussed on social media.

The country’s royal households, whose male heads take turns to be the country’s constitutional monarch, have vast business interests.

In the aftermath of December’s floods, some social media posts suggested illegal logging had continued in the state of Pahang despite a moratorium, as those behind these activities had the backing of Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah – the state’s ruler and the country’s current king. Sultan Abdullah has not publicly commented on the matter.

On Thursday, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim urged the government to impose a blanket national moratorium on all logging activities – including approved contracts – until an environmental study was conducted.

Only when a flood happens will this issue be played up Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman

The Pakatan Harapan chief suggested logging companies should also be made culpable for the multibillion-dollar losses incurred following the disaster.

“Don’t let them say that they’ve paid their taxes. They did not pay taxes to destroy people’s houses or to cause floods,” he said.

Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, leader of the youth-centric Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda), also speaking in parliament like Anwar, lambasted the country’s older generation leaders for failing to prioritise climate change as it was “not sexy enough” in the local context.

“Only when a flood happens will this issue be played up. After a month, everything becomes quiet again,” the 29-year-old politician said. “There are no discussions, and when budget applications are made, they are ignored.”

Silver lining

Incidentally, several flood victims who spoke to This Week in Asia said it was in Muda that they witnessed a silver lining arising from the floods.

At the height of the flood crisis, the party raised more than 2 million ringgit and galvanised hundreds of volunteers to rescue stranded people and deliver aid – at times using kayaks, loaned four-wheel vehicles and lorries.

“They came, and really helped. I did not see anyone taking any photos while they were here, unlike some other groups,” said a flood victim who gave her name as Sofia. Her house – near a major river in Selangor – was completely submerged by the floodwaters.

The party’s inception has been controversial, with officials for months dragging their feet in endorsing the registration of the party. In turn, the group launched and won a legal suit against the government.

Its activism meanwhile has attracted the attention of authorities, with the police probing several volunteers for allegedly failing to obtain “prior approval” before providing aid to victims in the state of Johor.

Malaysia’s getting hotter. Can its leaders rise to the climate challenge?

Others lauded non-partisan initiatives such as the food bank programme by a Sikh temple in Selangor, Gurdwara Sahib Petaling Jaya. The temple for weeks fed tens of thousands of flood victims, with the help of volunteers across ethnic groups.

The likes of James Chin, a veteran Malaysia watcher and critic of Umno, are unmoved by the acts of mutual help – saying instead that in the aftermath of the floods, there was little to be optimistic about given how officialdom’s incompetence had been laid bare.

He suggested the bureaucracy bore as much responsibility for the botched early response in Selangor as the political leaders.

“No lessons will be learned … politicians realise that if they demand accountability from the civil servants, the public will demand the same from them,” he argued. “The system protect people who are incompetent.”

Researcher Serina, who studies the intersection of the country’s politics and environment, said there was no reason to be completely disillusioned given the way ordinary Malaysians responded to the crisis.

“This is the beauty of Malaysia – where there is a gap in governance, the people will rise to help each other,” she said.

More Articles from SCMP

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

Copyright (c) 2022. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

News Related

OTHER NEWS

New York Rangers get another comeback win to force Game 7 vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

PITTSBURGH — How many times can the New York Rangers dig themselves into a hole and climb back out? At least one more, as of Friday night. The Blueshirts came ... Read more »

Wilson, balanced Aces cruise to 96-73 victory over Dream

COLLEGE PARK, Ga. (AP) — A’ja Wilson scored 15 points, Kelsey Plum had 14 points and 11 assists and the Las Vegas Aces rolled to a 96-73 victory over the ... Read more »

EXPLAINER: Why frustration lingers in Okinawa 50 years later

The Associated PressFILE – U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Mike Anglen of Turner, Ore., center, stands atop a cliff as Sgt. Bryan Wallace of Pikin, Ill., waits for his turn before ... Read more »

Astros beat Nationals 6-1 for 11th straight victory

WASHINGTON (AP) — Jose Altuve homered on the first pitch of the game, Yordan Alvarez and Yuli Gurriel also went deep and the Houston Astros extended their winning streak to ... Read more »

Kreider scores late, Rangers edge Pens 5-3 to force Game 7

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Chris Kreider’s long slap shot bounced over Louis Domingue and into the net with 1:28 left and the New York Rangers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-3 on ... Read more »

Astros push winning streak to 11, roll past Nationals 6-1

WASHINGTON (AP) — Jose Altuve homered on the first pitch of the game, and Yordan Alvarez and Yuli Gurriel also went deep to help the Houston Astros extend their winning ... Read more »

Moustakas, Drury power Reds to 8-2 victory over Pirates

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Mike Moustakas homered twice and Brandon Drury drove in four runs to break out of a slump and lead the resurgent Cincinnati Reds to an 8-2 victory ... Read more »

Peterson's bases-loaded walk lifts Brewers over Marlins 2-1

MIAMI (AP) — Jace Peterson walked against Anthony Bender with the bases loaded in the ninth inning and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Miami Marlins 2-1 Friday night. After starters ... Read more »

Padres: No cancer found during manager Bob Melvin's prostate surgery

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The San Diego Padres say no cancer was found when manager Bob Melvin had prostate surgery on Wednesday. Melvin, 60, was recovering at home Friday after ... Read more »

Ogunbowale, Gray help Wings rally past Mystics, 94-86

WASHINGTON (AP) — Arike Ogunbowale scored 27 points, Allisha Gray had 21 and the Dallas Wings overcame a 15-point second-quarter deficit to beat the Washington Mystics 94-86 on Friday night. ... Read more »

Resigning North Dakota senator led lawmakers in travel costs

The Associated PressFILE – North Dakota Sen. Ray Holmberg listens during a joint House and Senate Appropriations Committee meeting at the Capitol in Bismarck, N.D., on Jan. 7, 2009. Holmberg, ... Read more »

Residents in picturesque California county hit with gas prices topping $7 a gallon

A California county known for its spectacular mountains and proximity to Yosemite National Park has been paying the nation’s highest gas prices. Read more »

Boudreau to return as coach of Canucks next season

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Bruce Boudreau will return as coach of the Vancouver Canucks next season after helping to turn the struggling NHL club around as a midyear replacement. ... Read more »

New Zealand leader Jacinda Ardern tests positive for COVID

On Location: May 13, 2022 Catch up on the developing stories making headlines.The Associated Press WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has tested positive for COVID-19 ... Read more »

Today in History for May 14th

Highlights of this day in history: Colonists go ashore in Virginia to set up Jamestown; Lewis and Clark begin to explore Louisiana Territory; Israel founded; Skylab launched; Movie producer George ... Read more »

Twitter CEO expects Elon Musk acquisition to close, addresses spending cuts

Musk is awaiting details supporting calculations that spam, fake accounts represent less than 5% of Twitter's users Read more »

Padres: No cancer found during Bob Melvin's prostate surgery

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The San Diego Padres say no cancer was found when manager Bob Melvin had prostate surgery on Wednesday. Melvin, 60, was recovering at home Friday after ... Read more »

Renovated NYC museum shows indigenous perspectives

The American Museum of Natural History in New York City recently finished a major renovation of its exhibition on the native peoples of the northwest coast of North America. Curators ... Read more »

Police release 911 calls in Gilgo Beach case

A woman who disappeared in a beach community on New York’s Long Island more than a decade ago, sparking an investigation into a possible serial killer, said “there’s somebody after ... Read more »

Academy Awards set 2023 Oscars for March 12

The Associated PressFILE – Oscar statue on the red carpet at the Oscars on Sunday, March 27, 2022, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Next year’s Academy Awards will ... Read more »

Actor Fred Ward, of 'Tremors,' 'The Right Stuff' fame, dies

The Associated PressFILE – Fred Ward, a cast member in “30 Minutes or Less,” poses at the premiere of the film in Los Angeles on Aug. 8, 2011. Ward, a ... Read more »

Judge refuses to drop elections suit against Trump, media

NEW YORK — A Colorado judge on Friday denied motions to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed by an election systems worker against former President Donald Trump’s campaign, two of its ... Read more »

Q&A: Becky G unveils every side of herself in latest album

The Associated PressFILE – Becky G appears at the Oscars in Los Angeles on March 27, 2022. Beck G’s latest album is “Esquemas.” (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File) NEW YORK ... Read more »

North Korea reports 21 new deaths as it battles COVID-19 outbreak

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea reports 21 new deaths as it battles COVID-19 outbreak. Read more »

North Korea confirms 21 new deaths as it battles COVID-19

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea says 21 people died and 174,440 people were newly found with fever symptoms on Friday alone as the country scrambles to slow the spread ... Read more »

White Sox place Giolito on COVID list, activate Vaughn

The Chicago White Sox placed ace Lucas Giolito on the COVID-19 injured list and activated outfielder Andrew Vaughn following a rehab assignment with Triple-A Charlotte on Friday. Giolito began experiencing ... Read more »

Traded back and forth, Ford learns to live out of suitcase

NEW YORK (AP) — Mike Ford has learned to travel light — and quickly. Since the start of the season, the 29-year-old first baseman has played for Tacoma, San Francisco ... Read more »

Falcon 9 rocket launches Starlink satellites

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched 53 Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit from California on Friday. (May 13) Read more »

Celtics' Robert Williams remains out for Game 6 vs. Bucks

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Boston forward/center Robert Williams missed his third straight game with an injured left knee as the Celtics tried to keep their season alive Friday night in Game ... Read more »

Padres sign Robinson Canó, plan to use him off the bench

ATLANTA (AP) — The San Diego Padres have signed veteran second baseman Robinson Canó to a major league contract and plan to use him as a left-handed bat off the ... Read more »

WNBA star's Russia detention extended by 1 month

The lawyer for WNBA star Brittney Griner says her pre-trial detention in Russia has been extended by one month. Alexander Boykov told The Associated Press the relatively short extension indicated ... Read more »

Louisiana justices toss COVID-related charges against pastor

Hundreds of thousands of Americans fighting long-haul symptoms from COVID-19 Dr. David Putrino from Mount Sinai Health System and COVID long-hauler Joel Fram discuss the long-term effects of the disease.The ... Read more »

Sandy Hook lawsuits against Alex Jones on track to resume

The Associated PressFILE – This Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, photo shows radio show host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones at Capitol Hill in Washington. The Sandy Hook families’ lawsuits against ... Read more »

Rockies' Bryant closer to return after cortisone shot

DENVER (AP) — Colorado Rockies outfielder Kris Bryant took swings in the cage Friday for the first time since he was sidelined with a sore back nearly three weeks ago ... Read more »

Mariners demote Jarred Kelenic to minors after poor start

NEW YORK (AP) — Rather than make his Citi Field debut against the team that traded him, Jarred Kelenic was demoted to Triple-A Tacoma by the Seattle Mariners on Friday ... Read more »

Biden: ASEAN partnership 'critical' in this moment

Looking to strengthen ties, President Joe Biden welcomes leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to Washington for the first time. “We’re launching a new era in U.S.-ASEAN relations,” ... Read more »

Phil Mickelson will not defend his title at next week's PGA Championship

Phil Mickelson caught lightning in a bottle last year at Kiawah Island, winning a major championship at 50 years of age. The fairways flooded, and the golf world stood and ... Read more »

Tennessee Titans' Malik Willis on Ryan Tannehill's mentorship comments: 'Everything is cool'

The Tennessee Titans didn’t take issue with Ryan Tannehill’s comments about mentoring third-round rookie Malik Willis. Willis and coach Mike Vrabel were asked about Tannehill’s scrutinized remarks following the first ... Read more »

Lawyers plan suit against Lufthansa over Jewish passengers

Lawyers for 26 passengers said Friday they told Lufthansa that they will sue the German airline for refusing to let members of a large group of Orthodox Jewish passengers board ... Read more »

Wild face offseason after yet another early ouster

While the Minnesota Wild were stacking up franchise records and securing the extra home game for the first round, general manager Bill Guerin carefully acknowledged a “great year” for the ... Read more »