Call for a Political Parties, NGOs and Civil Society Summit in Malaysia  to create the conditions to achieve greater national and international unity and justice to ameliorate the grimmest start for a New Year in living memory


2005 New Year Message
by Lim Kit Siang

(Ipoh, Friday): Malaysia and the world will be ushering the new year of 2005  in the grimmest circumstances in living memory.  

In Malaysia, New Year or countdown celebrations have been cancelled while Thailand has  declared a three-day national mourning for victims of the Sumatra 9.0-magnitude megaquake and the worst tsunamis in recorded history – all when  the global death toll were touching 80,000, with   the death score for  Indonesia 45,000, Sri Lanka 22,000, India 12,000, Thailand 1,600, Malaysia 65 and  Maldives 55. 

These already horrific statistics took a quantum leap in the past 24 hours when the global death toll shot up to 123,214, with Indonesia reporting 79,940, Sri Lanka 27,268, India 13,230 and  Thailand 4,351. 

But what boggles the mind are reports about the devastation in some parts of Aceh, Sumatra  – the region closest to the epicentre of the earthquake that spawned the killer tsunamis – where as many as one in every four citizens was dead. 

Some parts of Aceh have been described “like a nuclear blast has leveled the area”.   Long stretches of land along the island’s northern edge are still submerged. Entire communities – Meulaboh, Calang and Meureudu – have been swept away, and what remains is covered in mud and water.  Between Meulaboh and Chalang, no villages are left. Calong, a town of 13,000 has “vaporized”. 

Indonesian Ambassador to Malaysia, Prince Rusdihardjo  has made the horrendous forecast that Indonesia could end up with a total toll  as high as  400,000 people from the double whammy of the earthquake and tsunamis, which struck within half an hour in Aceh. 

If Rusdihardjo is unfortunately proved right, we are looking at the terrible possibility of a global toll from the earthquake-tsunamis in the region of half a million people, which will make it as one of the greatest disasters in human history. 

With five million tsunami victims  desperately in need of clean water and food, and World Health Organisation (WHO) worried that the ensuing epidemic could claim a toll as many as killed by the earthquake-tsunamis,  humanity is faced with a tragedy of unprecedented magnitude. 

In Malaysia, although we are fortunate in experiencing only the tail-end of the monstrous tsunamis, 66 people had been confirmed dead, scores missing with property damage exceeding RM100 million.

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, is right that this is the time to work together to help the victims of Sunday’s tsunami and not to point fingers.  Malaysians, regardless of race, creed or political affiliation must come together to help the tsunami victims, not only in Malaysia, but in the other stricken countries particularly Aceh and Sri Lanka. 

 We must however not fall victim to the denial syndrome into believing that the tsunami disaster  is fated or “an act of God” -  that it is unavoidable that at least  66 people in Malaysia had to die, with scores still missing and  property damages exceeding RM100 million.  

This is why I have this morning sent an urgent fax to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, which the the Prime Minister’s Office has confirmed receipt,  on four aspects of the tsunami disaster, viz: 

  • A public inquiry to find the answer to the heart-rending question by tsunami victim from Bukit Mertajam Ooi Boon Kim, who lost six family members at Pasir Panjang Beach near Pulau Betong, Penang  and all bereaved families, relatives and friends of the 66 tsunami fatalities in Penang, Perak, Kedah, Perlis and Selangor, as well as by ordinary Malaysians, on the  horrendous failure in  our national warning system to deal with disasters, viz: “why the   government authorities had failed to issue any warning of danger although they had more than  three hours of lead-time before the killer waves unleashed by the 9.0 magnitude Sumatra mega-earthquake hit the northern coasts of Malaysia?”.
  • Seeking approval of the Prime Minister for the disbursement of  RM6 million from annual  development allocations of  12 DAP MPs’  for tsunami victims, RM3 million, RM2 million and RM1 million respectively for Malaysia, Aceh and Sri Lanka. 
  • Two-day extension of the two-day special sitting of Parliament on January 18 – 19 to allow MPs to be able to have an urgent debate on the humanitarian catastrophe caused by the Sumatra earthquake-tsunamis and the role that should be played by Malaysia, as Chair of Non-Aligned Movement and Organisation of Islamic Conference, to mobilize international opinion, resources and resolution for more effective tsunami early-warning systems.
  • Establishment of an all-party Parliamentary Select Committee on Reduction of Disasters.

Domestically, the new year is also starting on a bleak note, particularly with the unfair and unreasonable 10% hike in the North-South Expressway toll, and the failure so far in the translation from word to deed the pledges by Abdullah when he became the fifth Prime Minister and repeated  in the 2004 general election to head an incorruptible, clean, accountable, transparent, efficient and people-oriented government prepared to hear the “truth” from the people.

There are no signs that the  “political spring” which Malaysians are expecting Abdullah to introduce is around the corner, or is ever likely to materialise.

The enormity of the Asian tsunami disaster, however, should deliver a sobering lesson to all Malaysian leaders of the need and wisdom to unite for the common good of the people, nation and the international community.  For this reason, I call on Abdullah to take the initiative to convene a  Political Parties, NGOs and Civil Society Summit in Malaysia in the new year   to create the conditions to achieve greater national and international unity and justice to ameliorate the grimmest start for a New Year in living memory. 


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