Malaysian government defends flood response amid criticism

December 27, 2014 – In Malaysia, pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government over its response to the floods affecting large swathes of the country. With hundreds of thousands of people evacuating the flood waters, politicians from both sides of the political divide have begun to point fingers.

At the ruling party UMNO headquarters, donations have begun to trickle in after a nationwide campaign was launched last Thursday by Women’s Chief Shahrizat Abdul Jalil.

“We accept everything and anything including cash,” said Ms Shahrizat. “At first, we did not want to include cash but some people say ‘can we give you cash?’ so, we have opened an account.”

The UMNO headquarters has been turned into a temporary collection centre for donations. Blankets, clothing, food and drinking water are some of essentials in dire need. They will be sent to the military that will then distribute them to flood-hit victims.

Over 100,000 people are currently seeking shelter at evacuation centres across peninsular Malaysia, hard hit by one of its worst floods in decades. Many, who were stranded by rising flood waters, expressed their frustration on social media, complaining about the lack of help from the federal government.

“It’s not fair to say that a lot of ministers are away, this season a lot of us going on our leave and we did not anticipate would be the floods worse than many years ago,” said Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor in response. “It’s not our doing – this is because of the weather.”

Ms Shahrizat also attempted to dismiss the deluge of criticism against the government, claiming that the opposition is leveraging political capital from the devastating floods.

“It’s terrible, the way people are politicising the floods,” she said. “My question would be what the opposition is doing in their states. We don’t see them there. If we didn’t have a heart we will not be doing all of this for the people in the opposition states.”

But with the flood situation looking set to worsen, more states across the peninsula have been affected, including Prime Minister Najib’s home state of Pahang and the southern state of Johor with the west central states of Selangor and Negeri Sembilan also being put on high alert.