Two-day special sitting of Parliament in third week of January should be extended by two days to debate two burning issues: the tsunami toll in the nation’s worst natural disaster and the oppressive 10% North-South Expressway (NSE) toll hike


Media Conference Statement
when visiting Ooi Boon Kim’s  family in   Bukit Mertajam  who lost six family members  on Sunday’s tsunami disaster at the Pasir Panjang Beach, Penang  
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Wednesday): Twenty-four hours ago, when the total death toll in the 11-nation arc of destruction ravaged by the monstrous  tsunami unleashed by Sumatra’s 9.0-magnitude megaquake  was edging towards 25,000, I estimated that it was likely to be doubled soon. 

It is no pleasure to be proved right, for the  total death toll from the apocalyptic destruction caused by the 10-metre 30-foot-high tsunamis or walls of water, travelling at 500 mph, is now edging towards 60,000, with the warning from the European Union that the overall death toll could surpass 100,000. 

With Indonesia’s Aceh province accounting for half of those killed, or 27,174, while in Sri Lanka 18,700 were confirmed dead, the monstrous tsunami is replete with horror stories like:

  • In Aceh, which was struck at point-blank range by the earthquake and then battered by a tsunami, about 1,000 people lay where they were killed when the deadly  waves  struck as they watched a sports event.  Almost all  of the 80 journalists from Aceh’s only daily newspaper – Serambi Indonesia – are feared dead.
  • In Sri Lanka, some 1,700 people  were killed when their train, the “Queen of the Sea”, was swept off the track by the raging tsunami from Colombo to the southern city of Galle, making it the world’s worst rail accident.
  • On some of India's Andaman and Nicobar islands, located almost atop the epicentre of Sunday's earthquake, rescuers found only a third of inhabitants still alive. A hundred air force officers and their families vanished from one island base.
  • North of Phuket, Thailand, 770 bodies were found in and near shattered beach hotels at Khao Lak beach.

While the tsunami catastrophe has still to fully unfold its full horrors, another catastrophe is already stalking the land, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) warning that communicable diseases associated with a lack of clean water and sanitation  in the aftermath of the tsunami disaster could kill as many people as the tsunamis  and earthquake have. 

Malaysia should take initiatives in the international arena to address this global threat for two reasons: 

  • Firstly, because Malaysia is itself a victim nation, with official estimates of the death toll due to Sunday’s tsunami in Malaysia risen to  65, 183 people injured with  12 persons  still missing while the fate of some 160 Malaysians in the other tsunami-afflicted nations like Phuket, India and Sri Lanka   still unknown; and
  • Secondly, Malaysia’s international responsibility as the “triple” Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organisation of Islamic Nations (OIC) and ASEAN after the Vientiane ASEAN Summit.

The two-day special sitting of Parliament to debate the 2004 Constitution Amendment Bill  in the  third week of January should be extended by two days to debate the worst natural disaster in the nation’s history, which has forced the cancellation of the Spanish holidays of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, both with regard to  Malaysia’s preparedness to cope with  natural disasters and the  lessons that  should be learnt by the South and South-east Asian countries from  the worst tsunami disaster in recorded history.

Sunday’s  tsunamis were the deadliest since the ones that struck the Portuguese capital of Lisbon in 1755, killing an estimated 60,000 people, and those unleashed by the eruption of  volcano Krakatoa, located at the opposite side of Sumatra, killing an estimated 36,000 in 1883.

Unite States  officials who detected the Sumatra megaquake on Sunday had tried frantically to sound an alarm of the killer tsunami waves, but failed because there is no warning system in the Indian Ocean, as there is in the Pacific Ocean.

It has been reported in the international media  that at a meeting of the United Nations’ Inter-Governmental Oceanographic Commission in June, specialists concluded that the “Indian Ocean has a significant threat from both local and distant tsunamis” and should have a warning network.   No action was agreed upon as officials in Malaysia, Thailand, India and other countries perceived tsunamis as “a Pacific problem” and had “never shown the initiative to do anything”.

Malaysia should actively pursue the  issue of  creating a tsunami warning system at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Kobe, Japan from Jan. 18-22.

The special Parliament sitting should be extended by two days, as apart from the issue of the tsunami disaster, Parliament should also address at the first available opportunity the burdensome 10% North-South Expressway (NSE) toll hike, especially considering the unanimous expression of opposition to the unfair toll increase by all MPs from both sides of the political divide in the Parliament meeting on Dec. 14, 2004.


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman