Monday, September 5, 2011

Winner of The 2011 Stupidest Malaysian Award

Members of Bakti listen to Azeez’s explanation about the humanitarian aid mission to Somalia after the mission’s launch at Seri Perdana on August 25, 2011. Image credit:

I just read this article in UK’s Guardian that appeared on Saturday. The international president of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Dr Unni Karunakara, returned from Somalia last week and said that, even though there was chronic malnutrition and drought across east Africa, hardly any agencies were able to work inside war-torn Somalia, where the picture was "profoundly distressing". He condemned other organisations and the media for "glossing over" the reality in order to convince people that simply giving money for food was the answer.

According to Karunakara, agencies have been able to provide medical and nutritional care for tens of thousands in camps in Kenya and Ethiopia, which have been receiving huge numbers of refugees from Somalia. But trying to access those in the "epicentre" of the disaster (i.e. Somalia) has been slow and difficult. "We may have to live with the reality that we may never be able to reach the communities most in need of help," he had said.

I am evaluating the above remarks in the context of Malaysia’s Putera 1 Malaysia Club organizing a so-called humanitarian mission to Somalia in a manner that can only be described as reckless and irresponsible. NGOs like MSF have been on the ground all this while and so they are familiar with the situation in that country. Why should Abdul Azeez Rahim (an Umno supreme council member), all of a sudden made this foray to Somalia and even using government resources at that if it is not a publicity stunt? Karunakara himself admitted: "MSF has been working in Somalia for 20 years, and we know that if we are struggling then others will not be able to work at all. The reality on the ground is that there are serious difficulties that affect our abilities to respond to need."

Let’s not kid ourselves! One aid mission by even well-intentioned Malaysians (I am trying not to be cynical here!) will not do anything for the starving Somalis. Chronic malnutrition, said Karunakara, is not new in east Africa and needs long-term action. "The Somali people have been living in a country at war, with no government, for 20 years, with several long periods of hardship, of famine and drought. This harvest failure is just what has tipped them over the edge this time, a catastrophe made worse," he said. This also explains why there are few charities working in Somalia! And so I find it very hard not to believe that Abdul Azeez Rahim is doing this to gain publicity for himself and for UMNO!?!

Now that a Bernama TV cameraman, Noramfaizul Mohd Nor had been shot dead – Malaysians should not dismiss this as just an accident or as reports put it, “a stray bullet killed him”! Somalia is a war-torn country, for heaven’s sake! The Somali government exists in name only and they just assumed “full” control of Mogadishu sometime in early August of this year – and for the first time since civil war broke out in 1991! Truth be told, the al Shabaab fighters weren’t defeated, they merely made a strategic retreat from Mogadishu after four years of battling government forces and foreign peacekeepers! They still control huge chunks of southern and central Somalia.

So the foolish Abdul Azeez Rahim and a motley group of naive Malaysians rushed in like bumbling fools without training and without bulletproof vests and trusting an ineffective and beleaguered government – who in turn, depended on African Union peacekeepers to hold onto the seat of government – to protect Malaysians! I would like to nominate Abdul Azeez Rahim for this year’s Stupidest Malaysian award!

Before we go off to exotic countries to offer our assistance, why don't we try to be “humane” first with the refugees already in this country? Aren’t we hypocrites?

1 comment:

Frankie said...

Well written. And yes I agree that Azeez is 1Malaysia's 2011 Stupidest winner. This Azeez shares his award with the UMNO Supreme council for approving his stupid, reckless and doomed "humanitarian" publicity stunt. The remaining naive members of Azeez stupid venture should count themselves lucky they did not return in coffins or body bags.