Friday, March 15, 2013

Information on Lahad Datu crisis too little, too late

The Spanker agrees with this article written by Mergawati Zulfakar, which appeared in The Star on Thursday, March 14, 2013:

The initial vacuum in the flow of official information on the standoff with Sulu gunmen in Lahad Datu has given rise to questions about the level of coordination among related government agencies.

All this happened while the media was still struggling to get more information on the standoff in Lahad Datu.

It all started on Feb 13 when Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told the media that a group of men in army fatigues had landed in Lahad Datu and that the Defence Forces chief will issue a statement.

The media went into a frenzy looking for an official confirmation, which eventually came that evening from the Inspector-General of Police.

Granted, many details about the incursion could not be released as it could jeopardize operations by the security forces. But coordination among the government agencies whose cooperation the media requires could, and should, have been better.

With little information trickling in, one could be forgiven for asking who was actually in charge.

“It is like everybody is not sure what to do and who should take responsibility to disseminate information,” said an official familiar with government dealings.

It was only in the third week of the standoff, after our men were mercilessly killed by the intruders, that information started coming in.

Finally, there was some semblance of coordination among the agencies. The media was given a daily briefing on the latest situation on the ground.

It appeared as if Manila had the upper hand when it came to dealing with the media. There seems to be a coordinated response from the president right down to the ministers and the palace spokesman.

Over in Kuala Lumpur, the initial vacuum in the flow of adequate information on the developing situation during the first two weeks gave rise to questions about the level of coordination among the related government agencies.

All this only opened the door to criticisms of a media blackout, which is not true but could have been avoided if the media had been kept in the loop.

Kudos to the police and military for their joint efforts to keep the media updated on the situation in Sabah. However, a post-mortem must be conducted on what went wrong once the crisis in Lahad Datu is resolved.

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