MATTA Calls for Concrete Measures Minus the Rhetoric in Managing Disasters

KUALA LUMPUR, 2 February 2017: Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) President Datuk Hj Hamzah Rahmat is saddened with the recent boat tragedy, and regrets the unnecessary and untimely comments made by various quarters that aggravated the situation instead of alleviating it.

Hamzah said “The proper step to take is for the main government agency in charge to conduct a thorough investigation. The Marine Department of Malaysia, in collaboration with Sabah Ports and Harbour Department, has set up a special taskforce to investigate the tragedy involving the capsized catamaran off Pulau Mengalum”.

“Until details of the investigation is made known, all possible reasons remain speculative, which would hurt the victims and their families even more. Our focus should be on search and rescue of the remaining victims and prevent such incidences from recurring. Kota Kinabalu City Hall had dismantled part of the jetty used by the ill-fated catamaran. It was built by Malaysian Fisheries Development Board without City Hall’s approval.”

“Anyone painting tour operators with a broad brush would be missing the forest for the trees. Tour operators essentially package a range of services provided by others, such as airline, train, bus, cruise, boat, hotel, restaurant and theme park operators. They are required to attend the Travel and Tours Enhancement Course in order to renew their company licence with the Ministry of Tourism and Culture. The module for ‘Safety and Security of Tourists’ covers hazard identification, risk control and assessment. They are aware a trip up a mountain is riskier than travelling on an expressway, but this does not mean they should recommend tourists to avoid Genting or Cameron Highland. Likewise, they should not be held accountable should a plane crashed or a train derailed.”

“In any case, safety experts should be proactive and bring to the attention of relevant agencies to act before disaster strikes. It is all too easy to comment after the fact, which will be too late and of no help. For example, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye claimed that accidents and fatalities are frequent in the tourism and hospitality industry. If it was indeed a fact, NIOSH should have worked closely with the Tourism and Culture Ministry and industry players roped in to address the matter. Perhaps it was a non-issue as it did not take place”

“In any case, it will serve our nation’s interest if more leaders learn how to manage disasters better. Apart from preventive and tracking measures, quick response by search and rescue teams and mobilizing human resources, there should also be a central unit to coordinate and disseminate news on a regular basis by a professional spokesman, trained in communication and public relations.”

“It is bad enough when a tragedy occurs, but will get worse if there is no damage control. It can be a harrowing experience for families of victims running from one hospital to another in search of their loved ones. A central coordinating unit will also facilitate the media to report the event correctly as it unfolds, without having to seek comments which may be inaccurate.”

“Unless there is something important and urgent that can bring immediate help to the situation, it is better to put forward proposals at an appropriate time. Making untimely comments now is akin to adding fuel to the fire. It will also backfire on those trying to exploit the situation. We ought to be more professional in managing disasters”, concluded Hamzah.