Cabinet should divert tsunami aid received from foreign countries to Aceh and Sri Lanka as well as expand military mission for humanitarian aid to Aceh ten-fold


Media Conference Statement
at the launching of the Ipoh Timur “Donate relief aid to Asian tsunami victims” at  Kampong Simee Market
by Lim Kit Siang

(Ipoh, Monday): The Cabinet meeting tomorrow should focus on the Asian tsunamis catastrophe which had claimed 68 lives in Malaysia and some 150,000 globally, although final count of the “first wave of death” could be between 200,000 to 400,000. 

Even before the “first wave of death” could finally work itself out, the world is confronted with the grim prospect of a  “second wave of death” from  widespread epidemics of diseases such as cholera, pneumonia and malaria  from lack of drinking water and good sanitation  which could kill  as many people as  by Sunday’s magnitude-9 mega-earthquake and the worst tsunamis in recorded history in its arc of destruction and death across nearly 4,000 miles in  12 countries  and six time zones.   

A Wisma Putra statement yesterday said that Malaysia had received up to RM4.6 million from South Korea and China as well as Japanese companies and organizations – South Korea contributed US$50,000 (RM190,000), China RM80,000, a Japanese business federation two million yen (RM732,000) and AEON Co. Ltd. (owners of Jaya Jusco) 10 million yen (RM3.66 million).  The Brunei government has pledged to contribute BN$100,000 (RM232,800) while Tunisia planned to send two C130 aircraft to ferry humanitarian aid to Penang. 

Malaysia should thank all these foreign countries and organizations for the donations and support for the Malaysian tsunami victims. However,  like India, Malaysia should have the capability and resources to look after all the needs of the Malaysian tsunami victims, and for this reason, the Cabinet should divert the foreign donations and aid it has received to the more stricken countries in dire need of relief like Aceh and Sri Lanka. 

A second decision the Cabinet should take tomorrow is to expand by ten-fold the military mission to render humanitarian assistance to Aceh, which is the ground zero of the Asian tsunamis, with parts of Banda Aceh appeared to have been levelled and several villages completely destroyed as if by a nuclear holocaust.

The United Nations has warned that it would take weeks to reach many survivors in the isolated areas – by which time they would all be dead. 

At present, Malaysia has sent an CN235 aircraft and Nuri helicopters to Medan with 40 Royal Malaysian Air Force officers and personnel deployed to help Indonesia in the transport of supplies and ailing people between Medan and Aceh. 

This is grossly inadequate when millions are in dire and desperate need of immediate relief just to survive. Mercy Malaysia deserves credit for being the first foreign aid organization to reach Aceh, but the scale of urgent and immediate aid needed is unimaginable. 

The immediate problem is not just funds or emergency supplies but the race against time and  the logistical  nightmare and bottlenecks of getting the basic foodstuffs, drinking water, clothings and medical supplies to the millions of homeless and destitute tsunami victims in the disaster zones before they succumb and die. The Cabinet should rise to the occasion and decide on a  ten-fold increase of the present Malaysian military mission to deploy personnel, trucks, ships, helicopters and aircrafts, including infrastructures like field hospitals. 

I have proposed that the 85,000 national service trainees should be given the option, in lieu of national service training, of going to Aceh to do humanitarian work to provide the army of relief workers urgently needed to get relief supplies to the starving and dying tsunami victims.  The ten-fold expansion of military personnel, trucks, ships, helicopters and aircrafts would also provide the basic conditions to ferry and protect the thousands or tens of thousands of national service trainees who wish to volunteer on a humanitarian mission to Aceh.  It is because of the lack of the Malaysian military support and infrastructure that I am not suggesting a similar voluntary humanitarian  mission  to Sri Lanka for the national service trainees . 

The director-general of the National Service Training Department, Kamarudin Mohamad Baria is quoted by Utusan Malaysia today as saying that the government is considering mobilizing the national service trainees to help the people in the north of peninsula Malaysia affected by the tsunamis, as taking part in gotong-royongs to clean the affected beaches. 

This is a commendable proposal, but it should be expanded in scope to allow national service trainees to volunteer for humanitarian work in Aceh, in the context of an  infrastructure back-up by a massive military humanitarian mission. 

The third aspect of the Asian tsunami catastrophe the Cabinet should focus on is the International tsunami summit convened by Indonesia in Jakarta on Thursday, with invitations sent out to 17 countries and representatives from the European Union, the United Nations, the World Bank, the World Health Organisation and other agencies. 

The Prime Ministers of Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Singapore, as well as the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, are attending the tsunami summit.  The Cabinet tomorrow should decide that the Prime Minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi should attend the tsunami summit not only to represent Malaysia, but also the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) to make concrete proposals on the Asian tsunami catastrophe and its equally catastrophic aftermath with an estimated five million survivors threatened by food and water shortages and water-borne diseases such as cholera. 

Other tsunami issues which the Cabinet tomorrow should decide are: 

  • A public inquiry to find the answer to the heart-rending question by Bukit Mertajam tsunami victim Ooi Boon Kim who lost six of his family members and all bereaved families, relatives and friends of the tsunami fatalities in Penang, Perak, Kedah, Perlis and Selangor, as well as by ordinary Malaysians  viz: “why the   government authorities had failed to issue any warning of danger although they had more than  four  hours of lead-time before the killer waves unleashed by the 9.0 magnitude Sumatra mega-earthquake hit the northern coasts of Malaysia?”.
  • 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; and
  • Establishment of an all-party Parliamentary Select Committee on Reduction of Disasters.


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