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While it is a form of a defense mechanism to regard disasters/accidents as fated, it can be self-defeatist, irresponsible, callous and wrong. This culture of readily accepting events as fated might just make people complacent and not wanting to learn what have gone wrong, why such an event has occurred and how do we prevent them in the future.

The only events that we all should deem as fated are those large scale natural disasters such as the recent tsunami-triggered earthquakes in Japan, the great floods in several countries recently and the tornadoes and typhoons in the US, the volcanic eruptions in Indonesia and Iceland, the prolonged droughts in Australia and mammoth bushfires not started by man.

We absolutely should not consider disasters such as plane, bus,car crashes, nuclear facility meltdown, spacecraft explosions, oil spills and collapsed houses due to soil erosion as fated. If we do, we will never find out what causes the accidents and ensure that they do not occur in future. So we undertake the investigations and study all the processes or the chains of events leading to the disaster and recommend measures for future prevention.

And so we discover how the failure of pilots to be conversant of a new plane’s instructions, poor maintenance and faulty materials and miscommunications had led to plane disasters causing hundreds of unnecessary deaths and untold economic losses. We also come to know how a small tile falling off and exposed the wing surface of Challenger on taking off had led the shuttle to its explosion. We have learnt how a Korean supermarket’s collapse was due to human greed of adding more space and weight in a building not structurally appropriate. We also noted how faulty installation works had led to the collapse of the ceiling of a five-star hotel in the US.

I have benefited a lot from watching a National Geographic series on “Seconds from Disasters” where extensive investigations are conducted by experts to find out the causes of disasters around the world. The investigations have obviously made the environment we live in much safer. Implicit in this culture of investigating disasters is that they did not happen due to fate. Negligence,poor workmanship,greed ignorance, physical fatigue and poor communications are among factors causing disasters and deaths.

And so I read with sadness and anger in my heart when disasters in Malaysia are either not investigated or investigated but the results are not made known to the public. My sadness crescendos and anger becomes intense fury when people ascribe these disasters as fated. Fated, my foot!

The deaths of 16 people in the recent collapse of an orphanage in Selangor last week were considered by their relatives as fated. The deaths of three small children at a waterfall were deemed fated and the death of a three-year old girl left in a car was conveniently deemed as fated as well by her (negligent) father. In fact many deaths of those in car and bus crashes (mostly occurring in the wee hours of the mornings) were also thought of as fated. Heck, if someone, not wearing a helmet, dies of severe head injuries in a motorcycle accident, is it also fated? If a bus driver who suffers from sleep fatigue, crashes his bus full of passengers, are we to accept it as fated? If an incompetent doctor operates on a patient and he/she dies on the table, is the death fated?

It is said that God will not help you unless you help yourself. You help yourself by ensuring that disasters due to human errors and negligence are eliminated only then does your God help you.

We must not let man-made or man-induced disasters keep on recurring. That is why we do a post-mortem on these events. We follow safety recommendations and we monitor through risk-management methodology. Sometimes we may have to punish the negligent to send a message to others not to repeat the same mistakes particularly where deaths have taken place.

Accepting disasters as fated will not allow us to learn from our mistakes and will not prevent future disabilities and deaths. It is incumbent upon us to get to the bottom of such disasters. We owe it to the people. “We” here refers to the relevant authorities. You are irresponsible if you do not act.

Prosecute the people who temper with natural hill slopes by putting up buildings not according to by-laws and certified by authorities, prosecute the negligent parent who left a defenseless child alone to die and prosecute those who did not institute proper maintenance of military air-crafts which keep on crashing! You can only undertake these following extensive and independent investigations. But in Malaysia, sad to say, this transparent process is almost non-existent.

Deem your loved one’s death as fated by all means as this will allow you to accept the death and avoid prolonged depression and enable you to move on with your life, but you should not accept the events leading to the death as fated. Fight for the events to be investigated and the result of that investigation to be made public (fat chance in Malaysia!) so that the death of your loved one will not be in vain. Only then are we living in a truly civilized and safe society.


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