It is a familiar story. A lack of accountability. The inability to learn from other people’s mistakes. A lack of coordination. A failure of the so-called experts to plan properly, with safety in mind.
The tragedy which occurred at the Sukpa Complex, in Indera Mahkota, on Sunday, 25 September could have been avoided.
When a go-kart driver lost control of his vehicle and ploughed into the crowd, two people, 39-year-old Izwan Isa, and his four-year-old daughter, Nor Zulaikha, died. Izwan’s wife, 38-yearw-old Siti Suhaiza Seman, and their seven-year-old son, Muhammad Izz Daniel, were critically injured.
The video footage shows the flimsy barrier which had been erected for the race, and the closeness of the spectators to the vehicles.
The plastic barriers, known as “jersey” barriers, should have been filled with water, so that in the event of contact with a moving vehicle, the energy from the impact would be absorbed by the water filled barrier.
The distance separating the spectators from the track, where the go-karts zoomed past at high speed, was a mere 5 feet.
The organisers, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) and Tourism Pahang, failed to provide adequate safety, for the ‘Educational Innovation of Motorsports & Automotive Race’.
Will heads roll? Will anyone be accountable for the lapse of safety awareness? Or will we see another tut-tutting exercise, in which the people who should have known better claim that it was not their fault, nor anyone else’s fault? It was the will of God.
The accident reminds us of similar tragedy, which occurred at the “Million Youths Rally”, in Putrajaya, in 2012. In that drag car race, a driver lost control of his vehicle, and slammed into the crowd.
It was alleged that the rally was hastily organised, to counter the success of the Bersih 3.0 rally in Kuala Lumpur. Safety precautions were inadequate and seventeen people were injured, four seriously.
During the “Million Youths Rally” the crowd spilled over into Putrajaya, attracted by the free food and money inducements that were allegedly offered.
The erstwhile Youth and Sports Minister, Ahmad Shabery Cheek warned critics not to politicise the incident, and he refused to acknowledge that the officials had not prepared as safety plan.
Absolving himself, and the authorities, of all responsibility is terrible, but more shocking, was Shabery warning critics that to blame the authorities would be un-Islamic.
In the Million Youths Rally of 2012, the chairman of the Automobile Association of Malaysia (AAM), issued a statement to say that “… that motorsports, in all forms and disciplines, are dangerous and that rules and safety regulations exist in the interest of safeguarding the safety of all parties, particularly those of spectators and competitors, and to prevent and minimize the occurrences of untoward incidents.”
Despite this statement, safety violations continue to be made in Malaysia. Some people expressed dissatisfaction over safety for the three-day City Grand Prix event, in August last year, and said that even the police were concerned.
In the Indera Mahkota race, last week, the organisers said that the Motorsports Association of Malaysia (MAM) had sanctioned the race. The UTM vice-chancellor, Prof Dr Wahid Omar, claimed that the MAM had approved their application and sent them a safety certificate.
The AAM refutes the claim by the vice-chancellor, and said that a few months earlier, they had rejected the application from the organisers, to hold the race, because of safety issues.
A defiant Dr Wahid told The Star, “It has been confirmed that MAM is the authorised body to issue a permit, and we had got their go-ahead to organise the event. The safety aspects and the race are monitored by MAM.”
He said that UTM and the Higher Education Ministry would run its own investigation whilst the Higher Education Ministry would also form a special committee, comprising event organisers, and ministry officials to discover the cause of the crash.
This is what our officials and ministers do best. They form committee after committee to investigate accidents. When will we ever learn? So is the AAM or the MAM the regulatory body?
When will ministers enforce the measures suggested by the detailed investigations of previous accidents? Will they punish the people who were irresponsible or will the victims continue to be given the run-around?
How many more lives must be lost, before we start to take safety seriously?