The rain has gone

When disaster strikes – and the last two weeks are not easily forgotten – all kinds of theories pop up. When we talk about typhoons, one particular assertion keeps resurfacing without ever being elucidated. I’m talking about the oft repeated ‘claim’ that particular private interests, especially those associated with the casino industry, would be behind, or in some way help to explain the decisions of the authorities concerning the timing of hoisting of typhoon signals.
Contrariwise, some might claim that the arguments habitually invoked are not especially cogent. Against the supposed advantages accruing to the casino industry one could line up no less plausible disadvantages, and they are extensible to other activities. Of course, they must be dealt with, if such pressure exists. But even assuming it is true unless someone steps forward saying “I did it,” or an intrepid journalist finds a local ‘Deep Throat’, a final verdict on the matter is unlikely, to say the least. Regardless, in many ways, it is a sideshow. I believe the excessive focus on that topic is misplaced and distracts us from the issues that matter.
The prevention or avoidance of undue pressures from private interests on the services that our security depends upon, if and when they exist, can be achieved only by clear and transparent plans and procedures. Before being a matter for the criminal police, it is a question of proper administrative practice. It is there that our effort should be concentrated, and that is our best defence against improper influences or any actions that endanger all for the benefit of the few.
We have legislation on civil protection; we have procedures and duties assigned to various public services. We must start by identifying accurately what and why things went wrong, as the mechanisms we presumed would come to the rescue failed so spectacularly.
There is a command hierarchy; there is a structure that involves more than two dozen public services and private companies. It is critical to evaluate how they did perform before, during and after the event. How were risks assessed and monitored in the hours before the storm? When were the various services alerted and what instructions did they receive? How well equipped and trained were they for that type of emergency?
These are the kind of questions we would do well to keep in focus. Only then can we be more confident that the next time we need them – God forbid – the human and material costs are minimised.