Nobody will buy this excuse, says Santiago of JKM’s role in flood disaster

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Klang MP Charles Santiago has dismissed the welfare department’s (JKM) insistence that its role in disasters is limited to temporary relief centres.

The department has come under fire for not providing food to those stranded in their homes in the worst floods to hit Selangor in decades.

“Nobody will buy this excuse,” Santiago told FMT.

“Basically, I think they should not be using laziness or incompetence as an excuse to say ‘This is not our work’.

“We are in a crisis now. These are taxpayers who are trapped inside their homes. We have to reach out to them,” added the DAP lawmaker who has been the Klang MP since 2008.

Santiago said it was short-sighted for JKM to only focus on assisting people in temporary relief centres as that only made up a “very small group”.

One of the worst flood-affected districts in Selangor, Klang had the highest number of flood victims placed in the state’s temporary relief centres with 18,858, out of the state’s total of 32,044, as of 10am yesterday.

Faced with criticism that it was not helping those who had been trapped in their homes, the women, family and community development ministry, which oversees JKM, yesterday said the department’s role was defined by a directive from the National Security Council (MKN).

According to that directive, MKN had mandated that JKM’s role during disasters is to provide and maintain temporary relief centres for disaster victims. It is also responsible for providing food aid, clothing and other basic necessities, as well as compiling a list of victims for the purpose of rehabilitation, guidance and advice or counselling.

“If that is the case, then the minister should advise the council to change the directive,” said Santiago.

“That’s the role of the minister, not to make excuses.”

Noting that thousands had been trapped in their homes and were forced to seek shelter in suraus, Santiago said he knew of a surau which was not a temporary relief centre but was hosting about 1,000 flood victims.

“That’s even more than some of the temporary relief centres,” he said.

He said he also raised JKM’s lack of responsiveness in distributing food and drinks at temporary relief centres and other critical areas with Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob at a meeting in Parliament yesterday.

His office had distributed at least 7,000 to 8,000 meals in Klang over the last three days, during which it also provided clothes, pampers, groceries, buns and fruits to flood victims.

However, as he told Ismail, without JKM’s “strong support”, it would be “impossible” to properly meet the needs of all the victims in Klang. – FMT