SUNGAI PETANI: The Government has cancelled all celebrations to usher in the New Year in view of the tsunami tragedy and has called on all parties, including the private sector, to instead hold prayers for the welfare of those affected.
Describing the tragedy as the worst ever encountered by the country, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said: “We are going through hard times now, with hundreds of people affected by the disaster. I have directed the state governments to cancel all functions planned for the New Year.
The Prime Minister said that this was “not the time for us to be happy ushering in the New Year.”
“We need to pray to God to give the victims strength to endure the hardship they are going through now,” he said when addressing relief workers and officers after a briefing on the impact of the tsunami in Kedah at the police operations centre in Kota Kuala Muda.
Abdullah said he wanted all mosques to focus on prayers for those affected by the tidal waves at their sermons tomorrow.
“We pray that the affected victims gather courage to accept the tragedy and find ways to go through the ordeal with the support from all quarters,” he said.
“This should be our prayers during New Year’s Eve. Non-Muslims can also conduct similar prayers,” he said.
In Petaling Jaya, MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting has asked the party and Chinese community organisations to heed Abdullah’s call.
“I fully support the Prime Minister’s call and urge all MCA levels and Chinese community groups to do likewise,” he said.
Ong also called on all non-Muslim religious organisations such as Buddhist and Taoist associations to hold special prayers for the victims.
“Let us all pray for the safety of the people and country, and for such a disaster to not happen again,” he said.
He had asked the party’s religious bureau chief Datuk Fu Ah Kiow to immediately contact the various groups to urge them to hold such prayers as one of the programmes to usher in the New Year.
City Hall has called off its countdown celebrations at Dataran Merdeka. A spokesman said there would not be any activities including fireworks displays.
TV3 and its subsidiary 8TV also cancelled two major concerts. The stations had originally planned to carry live telecasts of the AmBank Group Gemilang 2005 at Dataran Merdeka and Countdown@KLCC.
TV3 chief executive officer Datuk Farid Ridzuan told a press conference that the celebrations were now no longer appropriate. Both stations would instead be sending their staff to offer assistance in the affected areas of Kedah, Perlis and Penang.
They would also be providing textbooks and uniforms for children going back to school. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister also announced that the Government had decided to pay an additional RM2,000 to families whose houses were partially damaged and RM5,000 for those whose homes were destroyed in the tragedy.
He said the Government would also compensate RM1,000 to those whose boats were partially damaged and RM3,000 to owners whose boats were destroyed.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had announced on Tuesday that the Government would give RM1,000 each to those families who had lost their loved ones and RM200 each to those who had sustained injuries.
Abdullah also commended the local newspapers for launching various relief funds to help the victims, saying the concern shown by Malaysians was praiseworthy