Investigating 28 Deaths


Sometimes it simply does not make any sense – perhaps it was not meant to be so.

(It has to be one of the worst bus accident in the country and made worse by the fact that most who died are foreign tourists. Image source: http://huanqiu.com)

Early this year, the Coroner’s Court investigating the death of Teoh Beng Hock returned an open verdict. There was outcry on this decision from the general public and politicians from both side of the divide. The Cabinet despite earlier not agreeing on a Royal Commission is looking into setting up a Royal Commission but whether a RC would finally find the cause of Teoh Beng Hock is yet to be determined.

How we want to investigate the death of one person in proper when we are screwing up the investigations of the death 28 people?

Read this first:-

Universiti Putra Malaysia vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Radin Umar Radin Sohadi will head an independent inquiry board investigating the high-decked bus crash in Cameron Highlands on Dec 20 last year which left 28 passengers dead. In a statement yesterday, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha said the Cabinet had agreed on the appointment of Prof Radin, who has a PhD in traffic safety engineering and a Master’s in transport and traffic engineering (Source)

It’s great to know that we are getting the best to head the investigations – certainly the next of kin of the 28 who died in the tragedy has every right to know exactly what had happened. And by getting the right people to head the investigating team means no stones would be left unturned in discovering the cause.

Was the tragedy due to malfunction of the bus brakes, illegal modifications of bus structure, recklessness of the driver or the condition of the road itself? Perhaps the independent inquiry board would also come up with the right recommendations and suggestions – not that we have not heard recommendations and suggestions after major incidents. One thing for sure, the independent inquiry board investigation is going to take considerable time, money and resources.

But hold on to your horses there! What about this piece of reporting?

An accident involving a high-decked bus that crashed on its way down from Cameron Highlands last month is due to human error and not caused by an oil spill on the road as speculated earlier. State Infrastructure Committee chairman Datuk Ramly Zahari said police investigations showed human error was the reason for the crash which killed 28 people. He said although the accident was caused by human error, the state government would improve the physical condition of the road at the accident site. (Source)

In case you missed it, let me highlight what I think is the deep screw to the investigations proper – “human error was the reason for the crash which killed 28 people”.

This means one of two things:-

1. If the police already investigated and already found the cause of the accident – that it is due to human error (and not the road condition), then why we are wasting time appointing an independent inquiry board? Don’t you think it is kind of redundant? Assuming we go ahead and appoint the independent inquiry board and they end up coming to the same conclusion, so why appoint them anyway in the first place?

2. If the independent inquiry board is the rightful entity appointed by the Government to get to the cause of the accident, is the State and the police is jumping the gun with their analysis? What if the outcome of the independent inquiry board turns out to be something else? Then we will end up having 2 entities with 2 different conclusions for the same accident – that would be interesting. Shouldn’t the State and the police submit their findings to the independent inquiry board once they have started their investigations and let them decide on the final conclusion as to what caused the tragedy?

The concern is that if we can’t even agree on who is going to formally investigate a tragedy that took the life of 28 innocent people in seconds, wonder how we are going to investigate the death of one man proper? Would it be a case of too many cook spoils the soup?

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Snippets – 22 December 2010


(27 people died but what caused the accident is yet to be confirmed, at least by the right people but already fingers being pointed at the driver and the bus whilst the bodies of the dead Thai tourists being sent home. Image source: http://www.salon.com/)

Driver, Bus Blamed

At least, this is what the police are saying BEFORE the official investigation by MIROS is completed.

Police believe that the express bus crash at Km15 of the Cameron Highlands-Simpang Pulai road yesterday in which 27 people were killed, mostly Thai tourists, was due to driver factor and technical problems of the bus.

Perak police deputy chief Datuk Zakaria Yusof who said this, also denied that the accident could have been caused by the road’s oily patches.

And then, after making a rather “jumping the gun” statement, Zakaria Yusof says this to cover his back:-

“However, it is up to the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros), Puspakom and Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB) to determine the cause of the accident,” he told a press conference, here, today.

(Source)

What he meant by that? It is up to MIROS (now changed to independent board) to determine the cause but I am saying that it is due to the bus and the driver? MIROS already mentioned that investigations will take about 2 weeks to complete and yet, Zakaria, did not see the wisdom to wait for the investigations to be completed and jump into his own conclusions based on initial observations.

If this been said by a lay man, it would have been understandable (after all, we have seen accidents happened due to reckless drivers and defective buses and why should this be any different) but Zakaria is not a lay person – he is the deputy police chief for the state of Perak and what he says matters. It may even influence on the outcome of the official investigations.

(Uthaya after release from ISA detention was a force to reckon with. As a human rights lawyer, he was in thick of action when a number of temples was demolished in Selangor and organized the unprecedented Hindraf rally in the city. Image source: TheNutGraph)

Separate Indian Channel

Uthayakumar and Hindraf before the last general election were doing just fine – despite having 4 of the main leaders under ISA, Hindraf remained as a pressure group to both BN and PR. Hindraf sided with PR during the last general election and contributed to the tsunami that shook BN upside down.

However, things have changed a lot since then especially when you read things like this:-

THE government needs to have a separate television channel for the Indian community like the Vasantham channel in Singapore

Human Rights Party secretary-general P. Uthayakumar as making the call in reference to Bernama TV decision not to air Tamil news on Friday which left many Indians unhappy and dissatisfied.

He said Indian labourers, especially those who earned about an average of RM600 a month, could not subscribe for Astro to watch Indian programmes as it was too costly.

(Source)

Should HRP concentrate on getting a separate Indian TV channel that may only provide entertainment or should concentrate on getting those laborers (with average RM600 per month) on ways to improve their life and get them up above the level of poverty and low income? Which is more important for these laborers and their children?

Long time ago, when I visited my uncle who was staying in a FELDA settlement and worked hard in his own plantation, I noticed that they did not have TV (they were not that rich at that time) but that did not stop them from having access to information and entertainment. They had newspaper and radio in place of local TV or satellite TV. They had less time to watch TV but had plenty to watch over their children’s education and work.

At times, what is needed by these lowly paid laborers is not a TV channel for entertainment but rather a way out from the confines of poverty and hardship.

(The 2nd MCLM candidate is better than a couple PR politicians and several dozen BN politicians and share with ideals with his father, the late M.G.G. Pillai. Image source: http://alhaj.wordpress.com)

MCLM’s 2nd Candidate

If you have been following up Malaysia Today, you know about the “Third Force” and there is some positive development with the Third Force:-

The Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM) has named human rights lawyer Sreekant Pillai as the second person from its movement to contest in the next general election.

Sreekant said he had chosen to be independent because “the current government has nothing more it can offer to the people and the existing parties are not doing what the rakyat wants”. Sreekant is the son of the late veteran journalist M.G.G. Pillai.

(Source)

I know Sreekant Pillai personally and I dare say that if there is one candidate that worth our votes in the next general election, he would be the one. Although one would see the Third Force as a potential cause of hung Parliament and question the composition of candidates of MCLM todate (2 candidates and both are lawyers), I think it is pertinent to see what we have now. Quality of politicians that we voted in to Parliament in the last election has been todate…shameful.

No doubt the arrogance and reckless mismanagement of the country have toned down after there is stronger presence of the opposition in the Parliament, these politicians still need to be reminded that at end of the day, it is the interest of the people that matters the most (especially after certain politicians have sold off the voters trust to jump political party).

MCLM may provide that gap and enforcement of getting the right people for the job.