No royal inquiry into east coast floods, says Najib

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KUALA LUMPUR (Mar 16): The major floods that wiped out livelihoods and displaced around 200,000 people at its height in the east coast states in the peninsula last December will not be subject to any royal commission of inquiry, the prime minister said today.

Instead, the government will focus on enhancing the competency of agencies involved in disaster relief and also an early warning system.

Answering a question in Parliament today, Datuk Seri Najib Razak also said that there would not be a royal commission on inquiry into the December floods.

Putrajaya would instead look at ways to improve the response to such disasters, by increasing assets such as boats and helicopters to facilitate relief efforts.

Najib said the government would also look into placing competent officers at the district and state levels to coordinate disaster relief.

When asked by Datuk  Johari Abdul (PKR-Sungai Petani) on the reasons Putrajaya did not declare an emergency during the floods in December last year, which would have resulted in better mobilisation of security forces such as the armed forces, Najib said that this was because they wanted it to be the joint responsibility of the federal and state governments.

"It cannot be the sole responsibility of the federal government.

"We also looked into implications of insurance claims in deciding not to declare an emergency," he told the Dewan Rakyat.

He was then asked by Dr Mohd Hatta Ramli (Pas-Kuala Krai) on standard operating procedure (SOP) that needed improvement, including contingency plans to move the flood-affected.

He also asked if there were plans to build canals to facilitate better flow.  

To this, Najib said the floods were unexpected, something that happened "once in 100 years".

He added that while there was SOP in place for floods, but the scale of December's disaster could not have been anticipated by anyone.

In January, RM1 billion was the initial estimate given as the cost to repair government infrastructure in the states affected. Kelantan was the worst hit.

Najib said that there would be no discrimination in helping states deal with such disasters, including Kelantan.

"We also hope that the state government would be wiser when approving areas for projects such as mining.

"This recent flood was more of a mud flood that anything else, so the state government needs to take a long-term view on this."