Failure to listen cost a life

by Mergawati Zulfakar
The Star
September 6, 2011

There was sound advice from an advance team that the Somalia aid mission should be put on hold. However, it is said that the advice was not heeded. Now, a family, friends and colleagues mourn a wasteful loss.

JUST three days before the Putera 1Malaysia Club Malaysian volunteers left for Somalia on Aug 28, a seven-member reconnaissance team comprising government officials, a high-ranking military officer and media members arrived in Mogadishu.

Their objective was to check the security situation and secure the safety of Malaysians from the Soma­lis for the humanitarian mission.

Media members were also included as they were supposed to give feedback how best their colleagues could do their job when they arrive in Somalia.

The recce team’s verdict?

It was a risky trip.

Recommendations were also made that if the humanitarian mission wanted to go, it should leave after Hari Raya to make sure all the preparations were in place.

When the team reported back to Putrajaya, the order was to stay put and wait for the team that was coming from Malaysia just a few days before Ramadan ends.

The team in Somalia met their local contacts and went up to the highest level to make all the arrangements, despite the known risks.

Another recommendation made by the recce team was for mission leader Datuk Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim to concentrate their work and set up a clinic at one selected camp for the refugees.

Unfortunately, this too was ignored. The mission decided to move from one place to another, inadvertently increasing the danger for the members who were travelling.

One of the reporters who followed the mission, TV3’s Shaharil Kadir who was interviewed on Buletin Utama Sunday night was spot on when he said preparation was important.

“But the notice that was given to us was too short. This mission is in a war zone, so certainly a longer period of time must be given for preparation and there must be standard operating procedures,” Shaharil said.

A journalist who went for the trip was asked by an officer why he was not wearing a safety vest.

His reply: “I asked for one from the company but the company said to just go ahead.”

According to an international news agency journalist, his company provides training for reporters assigned to war zones.

“It is an intensive three-day course conducted by former commandos. It provides a long list of do’s and don’ts, but basically they teach you first aid and how to recognise danger signs.

“To be honest, the course is a way for the employer to be able to say that they had equipped the staffer with adequate training.

“But, in reality, even the crash course can never provide you with the tools to survive a war zone.

“Most of it is common sense that one picks up from experience.

“The basic rule is that no story is worth it if there is even the slightest risk.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Zahid Hamidi pointed out that there were journalists who had received military training and questioned why they were not assigned.

“We have media members who went for Territorial Army training, they should have been part of the media team.”

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said this was not the time to blame anybody for BernamaTV cameraman Noramfaizul Mohd Nor’s death.

But in this case, the team was told of the risks right from the start and yet did not heed it.

Somewhere along the route from Kuala Lumpur to Mogadishu, orders were issued for the mission to continue.

An official gave a grim potential scenario saying had no government officers gone along for the trip, more coffins could have been brought home on Sunday.

Surely there must be a stop to missions like this. Advice from professionals must be taken seriously. A proper assessment must be done before any such trip.

A report prepared by the Foreign Ministry recommended that SOP for missions organised by the Govern­ment or non-governmental organisations must be in place.

This is not the first such report to give such a recommendation since Malaysia has been doing humanitarian work in places like Pakistan, New Zealand and Japan.

There is an urgent need to relook and review all humanitarian relief efforts from Malaysia in future.

Those going must know the risks that they are getting into.

I grieve over the death of Noram­faizul as a loss of a comrade.

This is surely an incident that could have been avoided.

  1. #1 by cskok8 on Tuesday, 6 September 2011 - 12:42 pm

    So the truth is out. It was a mission for publicity to coincide with Hari Raya. But is it organised by an NGO or is it an UMNO project? Otherwise how did the RMAF get involved? It is no easy task flying a C-130 all the way to Somalia. That would have involved at least 2 stop-overs which would mean that they would have to carry additional air-crew. And to get clearance for military aircraft to land and overfly foreign countries would have needed involvement of Wisma Putra. So whose project is this????

  2. #2 by asia on Tuesday, 6 September 2011 - 12:59 pm

    The name of the club already political related.

    What else need to explain?

  3. #3 by raven77 on Tuesday, 6 September 2011 - 1:43 pm

    Incredible….UMNO Youth was reckless…its like going to war and you telling your soldiers, dont worry they wont know you are carrying water pistols…

    And these guys are running the country….no wonder Malaysia is gone…

  4. #4 by sheriff singh on Tuesday, 6 September 2011 - 1:45 pm

    UMNO is in a bad shape now. It badly need some ‘hero’ stories to boost its flagging image.

    So this ‘humanitarian aid’ show must go on no matter what, especially after 7 recces.

    Now it has to face the consequences of its badly-thought-out and executed excursion.

    They must have thought they were going for a picnic.

  5. #5 by limkamput on Tuesday, 6 September 2011 - 2:11 pm

    We are such a caring and compassionate country. We can’t wait to help!

  6. #6 by seah_thomas on Tuesday, 6 September 2011 - 2:44 pm

    Whatever is really the truth, l now wonder if Mergawati Zulfakar would get into ‘hot soup’ very soon !!,…………. for spilling the beans
    All the best to you, Mergawati
    Good luck

  7. #7 by k1980 on Tuesday, 6 September 2011 - 3:16 pm

    I have a better idea. umno has sent parachuters over the north pole. This time, umno should send parachuters over the pirate boats off somalia. These parachuters would greatly entertain the great somali pirates, who would then have the rare chance of using them for target practice.

  8. #8 by undertaker888 on Tuesday, 6 September 2011 - 3:47 pm

    Umno is just good at sending their troops/tv men to counter bersih rally, peaceful march, vigil walk…etc.

    but to Somalia? Forget it la umno sombong. Sana punya orang semua ada ak47 dan rpg tahu? Otak udang. Buli rakyat Malaysia cukuplah. Jangan nak jadi pandai pandai.

  9. #9 by cemerlang on Tuesday, 6 September 2011 - 4:58 pm

    Sebelum berangkat ke war ravaged countries.
    Peralatan diperlukan adalah:
    1. Bullet proof helmet to protect your brain
    2. Bullet vest to protect your heart and your lungs
    3. A machine gun to protect yourself
    4. A knife to protect yourself
    5. A international roaming handphone to say your last goodbye or to send your last goodbye via sms
    6. Lots of solid cash in case those warriors let you keep your life but steal all your money
    7. A whole lot of good PR to keep your life which means learning what they like; food and all that in case you are imprisoned and you are thinking of escaping with the aim to live
    8. A bullet proof vehicle ( see that jeep is not bullet proof and that is why he was killed )
    9. Buy an insurance of course
    10. Videotape yourself before you leave and say this is what you want to do and therefore blame no one

  10. #10 by boh-liao on Tuesday, 6 September 2011 - 6:37 pm

    It’s not reckless, it’s just usual UmnoB mentality, cannot die 1, no injury 1, everything can b staged n bot 1, where got problem 1, UmnoB can walk on H20 1 mah
    Next mission FLOM, I-bra-him, n KJ will go lah, show off 2 rakyat mah

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