I have witnessed this in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, the UK, Europe and the US!’
MALAYSIAN ASEAN/APEC LEAD CONSUMERIST DR JACOB GEORGE ASKS – SAFETY SECURITY AND SCHOOLS – HAVE WE FAILED TO PROVIDE LEADERSHIP?
I am a lawyer by profession!
I am involved in international crisis management strategies and as a keynote speaker who has participated in hundreds of national and international media events, in conferences and other meets in my tenure as the Founder/President of the Consumers Association of Subang & Shah Alam Selangor (CASSA) and lead Consumerist/Adviser in the ASEAN/APEC Sector, a crisis management consultant.
I am known for my integrity, hard work, no nonsense approach, developed a worldwide reputation in advocacy, human rights, for integrity, accountability, ethics in crisis management, planning and training by helping global brands, communities, NGOs, and governments prevent and manage a wide range of issues and crises.
And in all those events I was truly ashamed when questions were asked of controversies in my country or of failures, shortcomings, idiocy, incompetence, lack of integrity, or in upholding universal principals of good governance, on both minor and major public policy initiatives!
Why go so far – let’s address MH370 again!
You want the truth, answers, closure but did you get it?
Let me put it simply, if one is incompetent in one’s office on domestic tragedies and wrongs, or cover ups, the result at worst, is a slap on the wrist – how do you expect the same individuals to fulfill the aspirations of what is right and wrong, in the international arena?
For example why the eerie silence at the new killing fields and an illegal war in Yemen overshadowed by the Syrian conflict?
These political shenanigans love to be in the media limelight but do not realize by their mannerism, body language, and response they have just confirmed their incompetence!
That is the reality!
To show how large and deep the swamp is or the reservoir of stupidity, inaction, lack of apathy and incompetence, let me use as example, the tragedy of deaths in our Malaysian religious schools and the response from stakeholders who are expected in law and convention to act, but have they?
The list of tragedies I enclose herein is a litany of the outbreak of a disease called incompetence, inaction and lack of accountability!
If these statistics did not result in a comprehensive investigation and guidelines and protocols put through, under an oversight task force, I wonder what is.
And it is absolute madness, plain unadulterated lunacy for anyone to say that the federal government has no powers of oversight vis a vis safety, security and internal security of citizens!
Now let us look at the frequency of the incidents of these outrageous events!
• Jan 13: A tahfiz student sustained injuries in a fire at the hostel of Pondok Nurul Iman in Kampung Tanjung Batu, Nenasi in Pekan, Pahang.
• Jan 16: The An-Nuur Islamic Education Centre, better known as Pondok an-Nuur in Pantai Sepat, Kuantan, Pahang that housed 113 students was razed to the ground.
• Feb 7: A total of 73 female religious school students in Maran, Pahang were left with just the clothes on their backs when a fire destroyed their hostel. This was the second incident after the first in 2006, which also razed the students’ hostel.
• Feb 28: Pondok Al-Baghdadi in Tumpat, Kelantan that accommodated 100 students 15 and 30 years old, was destroyed in a fire. No casualties were reported.
• April 17: Ten residential buildings of Pondok Seri Permai in Pasir Puteh, Kelantan were destroyed in a fire, incurring losses estimated at RM161,000.
• April 30: Thirty students of Mahaad Tahfiz Al-Quran Al-Ismailiyah Mukim Lalang, Banggol Chicha, Pasir Mas, Kelantan saw their hostel reduced to ashes in a blaze.
• July 3: The store room of the Al-Islah residential religious school in Teluk Intan, Perak, which accomodated 68 students, was destroyed in a fire.
• July 4: The Addiniah Al-Latifiah residential religious school in Pengkalan Hulu, Perak, which had 66 students, was destroyed in a fire.
• July 30: Two hostel blocks of Maahad Tahfiz Al-Barakah in Sepang, Selangor which housed 100 male students were razed in a fire.
• Sept 14: A total of 22 students and two teachers were killed in a fire at the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah in the federal capital at 5.15am.
• Jan 18: The two-storey building which housed 30 students of the Al-Redzuan residential religious school in Kampung Dato Ahmad Razali, Dengkil, Selangor was razed in a fire.
• March 7: A total of 60 students of Darul Itqan Al-Muhammadi residential religious school in Kampung Batu 40, Sabak Bernam, Selangor lost their hostel to a fire.
• March 3: The hostel of Maahad Tahfiz at-Tijarah at Jalan Bukit Idaman 8, Bukit Idaman in Selayang, Selangor was among the premises destroyed in a fire.
• May 11: Madrasah Tahfiz Al-Quran Raudhatul Ulum, Bagan Selat, in Butterworth, Penang was destroyed in a fire. No casualties were reported.
• June 18: The hostel of Madrasah Diniah Bakriah Pondok Pasir Tumboh, which housed more than 50 students was razed in a fire. No casualties were reported.
• Sept 22: Maahad Tahfiz Daril Naim in Pangkal Kala, Melor, Kota Bharu in Kelantan was razed in a fire. According to the Kelantan Fire and Rescue Department, this was its second fire-related incident. The first was on July 2016.
• May 6: The premises that housed the essential items of the students of Ribat Assyafie residential school in Taman Murni Perdana, Dungun, Terengganu was destroyed in a fire.
• May 13: The hostel of Tahfiz Khairul Kalam in Jalan Kebun, Shah Alam, Selangor that had 26 students, was destroyed in a fire.
• July 29: Three students of Raudhatut Tahfiz residential religious school in Km2, Jalan Gunung Jerai in Guar Cempedak, Kedah suffered burns when a fire broke out at their hostel.
• Aug 28: The hostel of Madrasah Tahfiz Al-Zahra in Kampung Ladang, Gelang Patah in Johor Baharu, Johor was razed in fire about 6am.
• Oct 21: A fire destroyed 70% of the Al Ummi religious school in Labuan. There were no casualties.
• Feb 14: Seventeen students of Maahad Tahfiz Muhammadiah, Bukit Rangin in Kuantan, were left without their two-storey school because of a blaze.
• June 15: A student of Maahad Tahfiz Al-Barakah (Mantab), Kampung Masjid, Tikam Batu, near Sungai Petani, Kedah was found burnt to death, and two others injured when a fire destroyed their hostel.
• July 4: A total of 81 students of the Kunak religious school in Sabah lost their belongings when their temporary hostel for male students was destroyed in a blaze.
• Sept 9: The second floor of the Assyifa residential religious school in Kampung Kolam, Kuala Ibai in Terengganu, that housed 25 students, was destroyed in a fire while the students performed Zohor prayers at a nearby surau.
• Jan 25: A hostel for male students at the Sekolah Menengah Agama Nadzah, Bukit Besar in Yan, Kedah was destroyed in a fire believed to have been caused by a short circuit. Fire had also broke out in 1996 and 2005 at the same school.
• Jan 16: The top floor of the two-storey Maahad Qiraat Al-Azhar Amal Aimy Zdalifah at Km3, Jalan Sungai Korok, Sultan Abdul Halim Highway in Alor Setar, Kedah was destroyed in a fire at about 10.50am.
• Jan 22: Sekolah Pondok Lubuk Tapah, Kelantan’s oldest religious and educational centre was destroyed in a fire.
• July 25: An eight-year-old student of a private religious school in Hulu Langat, Selangor was burnt to death in a 1.30am fire.
• Jan 1: A fire which broke out at Sekolah Madrasah Darul Hikmah in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah left damage estimated at about RM200,000. However, no casualties were reported.
• Aug 7: Twelve students of Sekolah Menengah Agama Darul Makmur in Pekan, Pahang, were unable to sit for an examination after their school building was destroyed in a fire.
• Sept 22: A fire destroyed Sekolah Pondok Bandar Hilir in Teloi, Sik, Kedah, However, there were no casualties as the incident occurred during a school holiday.
• Oct 22: A hostel block which housed 96 students of Sekolah Nurul Hidayah Al-Quran Maahad Tahfiz Pasir Puteh, Kelantan was destroyed in a fire.
After the last tragedy barely 24 hrs ago, that took the lives of 22 children, 2 teachers and where 11 are still seeking treatment, I am asking what is next?
Is it business as usual?
A mother has gone on record saying she does not want any of her children to die a martyr.
She wants them to grow up and have full and happy lives, and for them to be able to contribute to society in any way that is fitting for them.
She wants to spend time with them, and enjoy their company and love.
However, it is beyond words, intelligence and a sense of responsibility and accountability to hear Tahfiz Darul Quran Iftifaqiyyah school Principal Muhammad Zahid Mahmud say that we should ‘all assume that the students who perished in the early morning blaze yesterday died as martyrs.’
He said that ‘these children were willing to live separately from their parents and family just so that they could gain an education and better understanding of the religion. And so, god willing, they are all going to heaven.’
The horror and reality that faced firefighters was finding 22 students ranging from the ages seven to 17 dead along with two teachers, their bodies piled up in the corners of the room near the windows.
Legally, the school was operating illegally failing all administrative and local council protocols!
But, ironically to the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government, Minister Noh Omar, who is reported to have stated that no action would be taken against the school because they had already suffered so much with the fire and the deaths.
Are these operators above the law, I ask?
Can you understand that logic and interpretation, from whatever jurisdiction in the global village you come from?
This is a minister speaking!
Initially, before Noh made his statement, my dear friend, Kuala Lumpur, police chief Amar Singh said that the police would open investigations and probe the school for its blatant disregard of the law.
But will the minister’s word trumps his now (Pray Not!) or will public interest now pressure that chargers be initiated under Malaysian Penal Code – Murder (S300), Culpable homicide (S299), or Causing death by negligence (304A)?
Deputy Prime Minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had expressed concern over safety issues involving these schools.
But concern must interpret as action and punishing those behind these fatalities, in the public interest!
There have been enough photo shoots, political statements and media circus!
As for parents being distraught and upset are understandable but they must act to set a standard and example that this does not repeat!
Parents must be more responsible and participate in all matters pertaining to the lives of the children, not just breeding!
You cannot outsource this!
We as parents cannot forget we have a responsibility, a duty of care and if we fail it, in many civilized, progressive jurisdictions we will have action taken on us by the state!
Even for sending your children to a school without first checking if all the necessary safety rules have been complied with.
I take leave of this matter till the next fire incident and its fatalities!
I am just lost for words!