Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Gov't Transparent In Distributing Tsunami Aid, Says Najib

Excerpt from Bernama

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 17 (Bernama) -- The government has no qualms about providing a detailed report on the donations received from the public for the tsunami victims and the way they were distributed, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Monday.

"I can give an assurance that all contributions will be tabled, how we distribute, how much we give, in a transparent manner, on condition that the donations collected by the DAP too are tabled (in Parliament)," he said when winding up the debate on the emergency motion on the tsunami tragedy at the special session on the Dewan Rakyat, here Monday.

Fong Po Kuan (DAP-Batu Gajah) wanted the government to prepare a report to ensure the donations were received by those who truly deserved them because, according to him, many people feared that the distribution of public contributions for the tragedy on Dec 26 would also fall into the hands of those who were not affected.

When winding up the debate, Najib asked the DAP in jest to hand over the contributions collected by the party to him in his capacity as Chairman of the National Disaster Management and Relief Committee.

On the matter raised by opposition leader Lim Kit Siang (DAP-Ipoh Timur) concerning the government's failure to issue an early warning on the tsunami to the people immediately after the earthquake occurred in the Indian Ocean, he said not all earthquakes would bring about the tidal waves.

"The tsunami can only be detected if we can set up a system of buoys placed under the sea surface to monitor massive water movement," Najib said, adding that none of the affected countries had issued an early warning on the catastrophe.

He said the tragedy was something that was not expected by the country because it was generally perceived that Malaysia was protected from disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and typhoons, because the country had never experienced such phenomena.

"All this while, no one had ever thought of the possibility of the tsunami occurring in this country. In fact, many don't even know what a tsunami is. Now, we are all aware (of the tsunami), the rakyat are aware," he said.

Najib said besides providing an early warning system and disseminating information quickly to the public, the government would also concentrate on educating the public on the matter.

On public contributions for the tsunami victims, he said that as of Jan 14, more than RM53 million had been received by the government, whether through collections by the mass media or contributions made directly to him and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

He thanked members of the public who had generously donated an amount which had never been collected by the government before in such a short time.

The motion, which was tabled by Ahmad Shabery Cheek (BN-Kemaman), was to enable the house to discuss the earthquake and tidal waves which were considered a major catastrophe that had struck Malaysia and 11 Asian and African countries. The house then passed the motion before adjourning the sitting until Tuesday.

At a media conference later, Najib said the government had approved an initial allocation of US$5 million (RM19 million) sought by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovations to set up an early warning system for the country and its operational cost estimated at RM3.5 million a year.

However, he said the government had yet to decide on the type of system to be used as it was now gathering information from countries which had experienced the catastrophe caused by the tsunami.

"There are now numerous conferences at the international level (on the tsunami) including one that will be held in Japan soon and in the United States. We will gather technical information from the countries, which have had much experience in dealing with the tsunami," he said.

Najib said Malaysia might also enter into an agreement to exchange information on the threat of tsunamis with countries that had already set up the early warning system.

-- BERNAMA

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