It was a tragic accident. That was the clear picture from eyewitnesses of what had happened that fateful New Year’s Day at the Triso ferry point near Sebuyau.
It took place on a bright afternoon, not in the dark, and witnessed by many. Those on board the ferry, including its captain Kurmi Denan, saw with their own eyes the sequence of events leading to the tragedy.
All of us were greatly shocked and deeply saddened by the tragedy which we would surely lament should never have happened.
But accidents do happen, perhaps rarely in such a tragic manner in Sarawak with the loss of nine lives, most of them children. Our heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims.
I also viewed the video of the gallant efforts of witnesses who tried to save those trapped in the vehicle and the lifeless bodies of the victims.
It was a flashback for me of the tragedy at the scenic Blue Lake (Tasik Biru) in Bau when a school bus loaded with children plunged into the lake four decades ago, killing scores of them.
I was at the scene that afternoon on June 7, 1979 and I can still vividly recall to this day the sight of incomprehensible remorse and sorrow of the many bodies of children still in their school uniform lying by the lakeside after they were taken out of the water.
In the incident, a trainee teacher and 29 students from SMK Lake drowned. The Tasik Biru tragedy stood out as the most sombre and darkest hour I’ve had in my life as a journalist, the Highland Towers collapse of Dec 11, 1993 in Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, coming in a close second.
The Triso ferry tragedy was an accident and I don’t think it is right for anyone to embark on the blame game and start pointing fingers at anyone or any party.
We all understand what an “accident” is. For the purpose of my argument, the dictionary defines an accident as (1) “an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury” and (2) “an event that happens by chance or that is without apparent or deliberate cause”.
The key words/term to note are unfortunate, unexpected, unintentional and without deliberate cause. Hence, the Triso incident was a tragic accident; don’t blame anyone because no outside parties were involved. Accidents, including tragic ones, do happen and we have to accept it, no matter how difficult it might be.
On social media, the blame game has been fast and furious. On that very afternoon of the tragedy, when it wasn’t clear yet what actually happened, many had already started pointing fingers. I don’t think that is a mature act, to begin with.
As always, politicians from both sides jumped on the bandwagon in their attempts to score political points out of a tragedy.
To the politicians concerned, let me say this — your action partaking in the blame game only exposes your immaturity and stupidity; you will never get my vote with such behaviour, that I can assure you.
The opposition blamed the government for its neglect of the rural areas, including not constructing better roads and building bridges. The government side zeroed in on Pakatan Harapan’s cancellation of the bridge project across the Batang Lupar during its 22 months in power. This is what I meant by the silly and unnecessary blame game — singing the same old tune.
What I would really want to hear from politicians, if they really care for those who perished and the family members left behind, is what plans of action they have in mind to attend to the families’ immediate needs and their dependents in the long term.
That is the right and sensible thing to do instead of throwing punches at each other. I hope I will no longer hear of similar blame games among politicians in the aftermath of tragedies in future.
In Malaya, there are super highways with bridges over many rivers and valleys and tunnels cutting into hills and mountains and yet, over 7,000 motorists are killed every year in road mishaps. Who do we blame for such accidents — the modern infrastructures we are fortunate to be blessed with?
The last time I took a ferry in Sarawak was years ago at the Durin ferry point in Sibu on my way to Sarikei. This was before the Durin Bridge was constructed.
I can still remember the SOPs in place then and I think they must be strictly followed today. All passengers must disembark except the driver. Passengers are to board the ferry first before vehicles. The same procedures are followed upon disembarkation.
Ferry staff have to advise drivers on the limited capacity for each trip. Vehicles must not be allowed onto the ramp while waiting for the next trip.
It is clear this SOP was not adhered to at the Triso ferry point on Jan 1. Why?
That is my only query from the incident. We must learn a lesson from Triso, a very sad and painful one at that.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.