Be prepared to face any disaster
By Azlan Othman

His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office called on the nation to be constantly vigilant and prepared at all time in facing any likelihood of disasters.

In delivering his sabda at the first meeting of the National Disaster Council yesterday at the Fire and Rescue Department at the old airport, His Royal Highness, who is also the Chairman of the meeting, said of late we have heard of and seen numerous tragedies occurring in a number of countries which have resulted in the loss of human lives, injuries, the spread of infectious diseases which are difficult to contain, and disasters causing damage to property and the environment.

"Even though our nation has been spared from such disasters, it is our responsibility and duty to be constantly vigilant by taking the necessary steps to be ready and prepared at all time in facing any likelihood that may disrupt or threaten the safety and prosperity of the citizens and residents of this country.

"The time taken to act to save human lives and properties is very critical. For that reason, we must always be ready with well organised and coordinated capabilities and preparations that will enable us to act swiftly and effectively," said the Crown Prince.

Among the issues discussed during the meeting included possibilities of setting up a humanitarian fund for Lebanon, latest developments on bird flu situation in the region and its related disaster scenario, the proposal to engage the private sector and NGOs (besides the government agencies) in coordinating any disasters.

His Royal Highness also said the recent move by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam to consent to pass an order -- Disaster Management Order 2006 -- provides for the establishment of the National Disaster Council with the main task of developing a strategic policy framework in responding to and managing disasters.

"The objective of establishing the Council is to ensure steadfast readiness in coordinating actions at all levels that involves the roles of all government ministries. This is in line with our top national agenda to maintain peace and prosperity of the citizens and residents of this country."

HRH also recalled His Majesty's New Year 2006 titah in which the monarch reminded us that "peace and prosperity is the most valuable gift to a nation; without peace and prosperity, life will be meaningless. For that reason, efforts to maintain peace and prosperity must be placed on top of our agenda.

"The success of our task will be measured by the effectiveness of our leadership, and the roles of officers representing the respective ministries and agencies involved in responding to critical eventualities."

Following the two-hour meeting, HRH hoped that officers entrusted with tasks would understand their respective roles, and call for immediate preparatory steps to be implemented by the National Disaster Management Centre (which was activated on Aug. 1, 2006). Ministries and agencies must also constantly render rapid and effective cooperation at any time so required.

"I must emphasise that the government of His Majesty is clearly devoting considerable attention through the provisions under the National Disaster Order 2006, that requires the council to submit a written report on disaster management in the country before His Majesty as soon as possible after the end of each calendar year," said the Crown Prince

The first meeting was attended by Cabinet Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Attorney-General and senior government officers.

HRH was also briefed on the National Disaster Order 2006 and on the National Disaster Management Centre, before he toured the Centre located nearby.

Earlier, in his welcoming remark, Minister of Home Affairs, Pehin Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Adanan, who is also the Permanent Deputy Chairman of the National Disaster Council, said the activation of the National Disaster Management Centre is aimed at making early preparations including placing senior officers from Fire and Rescue Department temporarily and act as a Secretariat to initiate the National Disaster Council.

The Centre's early action includes collecting information from relevant government agencies in providing a Standard Operating Procedure, which will be discussed in detail with relevant agencies in allowing the Centre to operate in stages.

Other early actions include identifying equipment and facilities needed including C4i (Command Control Communication Computer and Information) formats and Disaster Command Centre, renovating the building as the National Disaster Management Centre, identifying specialised and expert manpower from agencies like Police and Health and place them temporarily at the Centre and to allocate a budget. - Borneo Bulletin (25th August 2006)