Thursday, October 29, 2009

1Malaysia camp tragedy, a cause for concern

Mistakes of past a lesson for future

The tragedy that struck the 1 Malaysia camp in Kuala Dipang, Kampar was indeed very regrettable. It led to the death of an 11 year old girl with two 2 others still missing. It is dreadful to imagine the agony of the parents especially those anxiously awaiting the fate of their missing children. We are told that these 1 Malaysia camps are for a noble purpose, to foster unity and interaction among primary school children of all races, through activities such as traditional cooking, cultural training and games.

However are these camps the best and only means of fostering racial unity? Do we need to take young primary school children into remote areas for such a purpose? Are the teachers adequately trained and equipped to handle emergencies in such areas like this tragedy? What was the need for these children to cross a river 30meters wide and 1.5 meters deep on a suspension bridge at 10.30pm at night? Shouldn’t young children of their age be in bed by that time? Why weren’t they provided with life jackets when crossing the river? How was that 30 to 50 children were allowed to get onto the bridge at the same time?

Another series of questions concern the quality and safety of the bridge itself.The bridge collapsed after one of the metal pillars supporting it got ripped off the ground by the weight of the children. We are told it was newly built but was it built to specifications? If so why did the metal pillar and its concrete block foundation got ripped off the ground in the incident? Obviously the size of the base concrete block did not match the metal pillars which held the cables.

Why was a suspension bridge chosen instead of the traditional wooden or concrete one over a river as wide, deep and hazardous as the Kampar River that is known for extreme water sports? We are also told that the bridge was given free. It is hard to believe that today one would give something free without some rewards in other forms.

These are some of the disturbing questions that must be addressed by the authorities, police and if necessary the MACC with some urgency and impartiality. A detailed and independent probe must be conducted to get to the truth so as to prevent such tragedies in the future. There is the general perception among ordinary people that corruption and cronyism may the underlying cause in this all previous tragedies.

Tragedies from human error are inevitable but we must learn from such incidences and take steps to prevent the repeat of such fatal mistakes. It looks like we never seem to learn from past our mistakes but keep repeating them over and over again. Each time such a tragedy occurs there is so much hoo-ha in the media, committees are set up to investigate but no concrete results come out of all that, only to be struck by another disaster at a later time and at a different place.

We hope this tragedy in Kampar will open the eyes of the authorities to place the welfare of the people above everything else. They should temporarily suspend all unity camps for children and get the experts to check the safety of all the facilities in them. It is also timely to review in a truly professional manner the needs for such camps to promote unity among the children of various races. It is time to seriously look into better, safer and more effective ways of doing that than by bringing the children of various races to a remote camp for a few days with all the attendant risks.

Children of all ethnicity are essentially color blind to start with; it is the adults, as leaders, parents and teachers, who sow the seeds of racism in them by their own examples for whatever reasons. Unless they get rid of racial and religious bias in them and stop reminding them of their ethnic differences, there is no way our children can be united by all the unity camps that we may hold.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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