Lack­adaisi­cal at­ti­tude of Malaysians a bane of au­thor­i­ties

New Straits Times - - Opinion - harizm@nst.com.my The writer is staff cor­re­spon­dent for the NST Shah Alam bureau

FEB 6: A cou­ple and their two sons, aged be­tween 17 and 58, killed in a house fire in USJ 2, Subang Jaya;

Feb 14: Two girls aged 7 and 10, and their fam­ily’s 29-year-old maid killed in another house blaze in Ke­pong; and,

Feb 18: Eight chil­dren be­tween 8 and 16 years old killed when a car ploughed into them while cy­cling along the Mid­dle Ring Road in Johor Baru, Johor.

In just a span of 12 days, 15 lives were lost in three sep­a­rate tragedies, leav­ing their fam­i­lies to mourn their loss. These are mem­o­ries too painful to for­get. The abrupt pass­ing of loved ones just does that. I, too, had lost a dear un­cle in a hit-and-run ac­ci­dent, and sev­eral friends in road tragedies.

As a Mus­lim, I be­lieve that our lives, and when and how we go are in God’s hands. But, with all due re­spect to those who per­ished and their fam­i­lies, those who share the sen­ti­ment that these in­ci­dents are rather fated, as well as au­thor­i­ties in­ves­ti­gat­ing the cases, the hu­man fac­tor be­hind these in­ci­dents should be a les­son for us all.

The lack­adaisi­cal at­ti­tude of Malaysians to­wards safety is some­thing that has been a bane of au­thor­i­ties, who have cam­paigned re­lent­lessly to cre­ate aware­ness so that the pub­lic will take pre­cau­tions for the sake of their safety and se­cu­rity. While I was cov­er­ing the Feb 14 tragedy, the Fed­eral Fire and Res­cue De­part­ment as­sis­tant di­rec­tor-gen­eral (In­ves­ti­ga­tion Divi­sion) Ed­win Galan Teruki had, with­out di­rectly dis­clos­ing their early find­ings into the fires, ad­vised the pub­lic on elec­tri­cal ap­pli­ance safety and the cru­cial need for home own­ers to have smoke de­tec­tors and fire ex­tin­guish­ers.

“A cheap one would suf­fice,” he said, re­fer­ring to the smoke alarm, which was an as­pect, he said, many Malaysians over­looked when it came to home safety. But, hav­ing all this said by a fire in­ves­ti­ga­tor, how many of us would ac­tu­ally take heed and buy them?

A 3kg pow­der-type fire ex­tin­guisher, the last time I checked, costs around RM150, while a ba­sic smoke de­tec­tor costs only RM20. I con­sider this cheap, com­pared to how much our lives and valu­ables are worth in the event of a fire.

Most Malaysians have this at­ti­tude where they be­lieve that such a tragedy would never hap­pen to them, un­til it does. Be they fire, road crashes, snatch thefts and so on, many take safety and se­cu­rity mea­sures for granted.

Dur­ing my years in this news­pa­per’s crime desk, I had come across many cases where vic­tims of crime and mishaps had in­ci­dents be­fall them due to their own ig­no­rance.

Ex­am­ples of this at­ti­tude are easy to spot. We see them ev­ery day — from not wear­ing seat belts and crash hel­mets, tex­ting while driv­ing, driv­ing in a dan­ger­ous man­ner, leav­ing elec­tri­cal ap­pli­ances switched on at all times, car­ry­ing valu­ables while walk­ing close to the road and leav­ing

ar­eas dirty and just right for Aedes mos­qui­toes to hap­pily breed around our houses. The same goes in the “mos­quito bi­cy­cle” tragedy.

While po­lice have cleared the fe­male car driver of al­le­ga­tions that she was on the phone or driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence when her car ploughed into the vic­tims, eight lives had been lost none­the­less. There should not be any ex­cuse for this. If the road there was dark, one should not speed in such con­di­tions. Par­ents and the com­mu­nity must also play their roles to en­sure that our chil­dren are safe. There must be co­or­di­nated ef­forts to steer our younger gen­er­a­tion to­wards a healthy lifestyle and ac­tiv­i­ties, and, while we’re at it, un­der­take these ac­tiv­i­ties safely.

We must re­turn to the old prac­tice of be­ing con­cerned about each other.

The busy­body or jaga tepi kain

orang stigma, is some­thing that we can do with when it comes to safety and se­cu­rity. The Malaysian com­mu­nity must look out for each other. If not us, who?

Hav­ing said this, while we be­lieve that what is fated by God is bound to hap­pen no mat­ter what, we must not for­get that God also wants us to take care of our­selves.

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