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UMNO’s Somalia medical mission: genuine or publicity stunt?

>> 03 September 2011

By BLACKHAWK

By the time this article is published, the body of 39-year-old Noramfaizul Mohd Nor, Bernama’s late cameraman, who had apparently followed UMNO Putra club’s humanitarian mission to Somalia would have arrived in Malaysia. It is tragic, that apart from the hundreds of lives lost during the Raya period on Malaysian roads due to the balik kampong mayhem, Faizul should meet his death in war torn Mogadishu, Somalia. 

Was this just an accident? Could it have been avoided? Did UMNO rush to Somalia to genuinely help Somalians? Or did UMNO throw caution to the wind and rush callously on the eve of Raya to Somalia just for a publicity stunt? If it was for a publicity stunt, then Faizul would have died in vain and this wouldn’t have been the first time when our personnel, both medical and non-medical would have risked not only their lives but more importantly the people around them who may be completely oblivious to the dangers of this sort of missions.

In 2003, Mercy Malaysia similarly put medical personnel at risk. Its two doctors , Dr. Jamilah and Baba Deni were lucky to get away alive although both were shot in Baghdad. Not so lucky were their Syrian driver and the Iraqi medical personnel who were accompanying them. Both lost their lives in the shooting. Malaysians may mean well, but extending aid to war torn and disaster areas carries immense risks and requires specific training. Its not a boy scout outing. Apart from the safety aspect, questions have arose as to how these trips are being financed and who actually audits these ventures.

When the 2004 tsunami flattened Acheh, Malaysians were one of the first to reach Acheh. But they were hopelessly ill-equipped for the task ahead. In direct contrast, Singapore and Australia sent in their army and naval outfits to attend to the distribution of aid. Humanitarian aid carried out by trained forces tend to be more orderly, organized, triaged and focused to help. Malaysians out to help nuclear-disastered Sendai, Japan following this year’s tsunami were not even allowed to leave Subang for Japan by Japanese authorities, as the Japanese politely refused knowing well they could not guarantee the safety of their own people let alone foreign volunteers untrained in handling nuclear fall-outs.

From the images shown on local TV, the UMNO Putra Team appeared to be untrained personnel doing their rounds on unfriendly and sometimes hostile terrain. How would giving adhoc cholera/typhoid vaccinations and holding impromptu outpatient clinics at refugee camps help civilians there in the long-term? And why would you want to do a job you are not trained to handle especially on terrain you are not familiar with and unfriendly at that too. Shouldn’t it have been a job for our army boys. We are in peace time anyway and this would have been a good mission to keep them on their toes. There is no imminent danger of our submarines sinking as they apparently cannot dive, or our air force jets with no engines crashing and there are certainly no communists to look out for who may be waiting to create another Bukit Kepong situation. 

A brief look at the Army’s hospitals’ websites indicate that almost all their hospitals have hardly any patients, which will then beg the question. What do our army docs and medics do with so much free time on their hands? Shouldn’t they have gone instead of the UMNO club. Unless of course the help UMNO went to deliver was a sideshow, the main menu being publicity for UMNO or its leaders judging from the daily reporting in the MSM and TV images during prime time. Is this GE 13 election campaigning using the Somalians misery and our journalists lives to brain wash kampong folk out in Jengka and Baling?

UMNO must now be ready to answer some difficult questions. The Mission arrived in Somalia on 30th August at one of the world’ most dangerous destinations and to a country that is home to pirates that can put to shame even the mightiest of navies in the Indian Ocean, including the US Navy. Apparently it was timed to provide Hari Raya aid and according to a statement issued by its chief, Datuk Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim to even have Hari Raya prayers there! If the Health Ministry was involved and had sent some of their personnel, Liow Tiong Lai better have some answers ready? With our own Malaysians getting literally war conditions treatment in many of our government hospitals, it would be interesting to listen to Liow’s excuses, in his own Tung Shin way. 

Aid was supposed to be distributed to five areas, with Mogadishu being the first stop. Others included Badbadur, about 25km from Mogadishu, where about 250,000 people are taking refuge, Al Shabeb in Merka where 300,000 people are affected by the famine and in the Balet Veni camps which house 100,000 people. Both areas are located 100km from Mogadishu. Even the Operations chief Lt-Col Zahani Zainal Abdin had warned saying it would be risky to even fly into Mogadishu at night. In total there were a total of 55 volunteers and members of the media who formed part of the mission to cover a radius of almost 200 km in a country where there was no law except for a 9000 strong UN backed force – the only law in a country of 10 million. 

Make no mistake, in this country even 12 year olds carry AK-47s. UMNO club members had no business being in this country and in their pursuit of cheap publicity endangering the lives of other civilians both Malaysians and Somalians. Any mission that carries with it civilians and journalists are a handicap to any military personnel exposing even the most well-trained military commando to being nothing more then a sitting duck. Al- Fatihah to Noramfaizul Mohd Nor’s family.
(http://blog.limkitsiang.com)

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