Energy and Natural Resources Minister Takiyuddin Hassan is wrong in saying that a Royal Commission of Inquiry is not needed to determine the cause of the devastating floods in Baling recently.
The floods have claimed three lives and will undoubtedly result in severe economic loss to residents in the area, with neighbouring Penang also suffering water shortages as a result.
Takiyuddin’s justification for not having a RCI is premised on purported investigations being already carried out by the relevant departments such as the forestry department in Kedah.
It is, however, important to note that there have been allegations of a cover up by the State Government in relation to what caused the floods, particularly as to whether a 52-acre forest plantation upstream from Kupang which was heavily affected, had contributed to the floods.
Takiyuddin confirmed that the said plantation was given its permit in 2019 and ventured further to claim that the flooding was a natural disaster, despite local departments not having completed their investigations yet.
Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor was also quick to deny any responsibility as he claimed a musang king durian plantation in Gunung Inas in the area had been allowed to carry out farming activities, not by his administration but by the previous one, as speculation mounts as to whether the said farm caused the floods.
Most recently, former Kedah Menteri Besar Mukhriz Mahathir also denied that his administration was responsible, saying that the clearing of the forest reserves to make way for the said durian plantation was done by the PAS-led government in Kedah between 2008 and 2013, which was also done in Kelantan.
In light of the severity of the floods and conflicting versions by the leaders mentioned above, there must be transparency in the investigations as to the cause of the floods as such an incident cannot be allowed to happen again.
Those responsible must be held accountable and a RCI would be the best forum for the matter to be thoroughly investigated as the commissioners have the power to receive all the evidence and examine all persons pertaining to the matter by summoning such persons to appear before them to give evidence.
As such, the findings of the state departments investigating the matter now will be subject to scrutiny which will allay fears of a cover up. Other experts may also be summoned to shed light on the matter.
Moreover, section 3(1)(c) of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1950 allows for the enquiry to be held in public which ought to be done in this case, given the conflicting versions above.
The Rakyat, particularly the people of Kedah, have a right to know what caused this disaster and the government should be magnanimous enough to advise the Yang di Pertuan Agong to convene a RCI urgently for the sake of transparency.
Dated this 8th of July, 2022.
MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
CHAIRMAN NATIONAL LEGAL BUREAU
DEMOCRATIC ACTION PARTY