Orders are out for the Armed Forces (I presume the Army) to get out to undertake flood relief operations in states affected by floods that is raging Southern Peninsular. This may be the largest floods ever to hit the affected states since the big floods in early 70’s. I suppose the Air Force role here is logistic support as well as to perform evacuation tasks.
I remembered back in late 1969 when my battalion had just returned to Kluang, Johore from a year’s tour of duty in Tawau, and upon arriving Kluang Railway Station, we were ordered to be deployed into various areas affected by floods in Batu Pahat, Parit Sulung and areas in and around Kluang itself.
Having just arrived Kluang, we were caught with a task that we were not familiar with. And to make matters worse, we were ill equipped for the task. The battalion had six assault boats and the OBM’s were unreliable. I remembered having to be deployed to Parit Sulong with just a Land Rover vehicle, and without the support of any assault boats. Now what could I do with just one Land Rover? There is no way that I could assist with the evacuation plans (if there was any), and neither could I help in providing the affected people with the supply of food.
I remembered too that there was no comprehensive and coordinated effort by other agencies (government or otherwise) then to assist flood relief operations. We were virtually operating on our own reporting my activities to the Battalion Headquarters. I suppose the situation now is no different from the experiences that I had in the late 60’s and early 70’s with regards to flood relief operations, in terms of the army’s readiness to deal effectively with flood relief operations.
It must be well understood that the army is never equipped for flood relief operations, and neither should that operations be the responsibility of the army. The assault boats/OBM’s held by infantry battalions is insufficient for any effective and meaningful flood relief operations. I think this deficiency is a well known fact to all army commanders, and if the civilians are hoping that the army is the most appropriate agency to support flood relief operations, then I would say that such hopes may prove wrong.
Flood relief operation requires the participation of a number of civilian agencies, and it is best controlled and coordinated by the civilian; in this instant and rightly so by the National Security Council (NSC) at the national level, with subordinate councils at state and district level. The Armed Forces role is merely in support of the operations.
Now, if the government fully recognizes that the Armed Forces can play a significant, effective and meaningful role in support of flood relief operations, then the Armed Forces and in particular the army, must be better equipped than it is today. Unfortunately, this is not well understood by many, and the assumption that the ‘army can do all’ is a misnomer.
If I may be permitted to suggest what would the additional equipments needed by the army to play a more effective role in flood relief operations, I would say that they would need lots of hand held short range radio sets (walkie talkie), life jackets, light assault boats and inflatable rubber boats. These additional equipments (though not conclusive) need not be kept by the army, but by a dedicated agency that is centrally located and under the purview of the respective security councils.
With the many incidences of floods that the country had experience, I believe there is an increasing and continuous need to better plan to effectively deal with future floods relief operations, and including the handling of natural disasters. And in this regards, I believe the Armed Forces will continue to play a significant role in support of its civilian counterpart and the nation, when assistance is needed.
CRUSADE AGAINST CORRUPTION