Ivanpal Grewal


Ivanpal Grewal

Lawyer & political activist.



IT’S a bit late into the new year for my first column, but still not too late for me to convey my best wishes for 2015.

2014 was a trying year for Malaysian and Malaysians. It was a year fraught with tragedies from the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370 and the the shooting down of MAS’ MH17 and the crash of Air Asia Indonesia’s QZ 8501. Families ushered in the new year without their familiar loved ones. I pray they find the strength to cope with the hardships and heartbreak they face.

The floods that have hit the east-coast and parts of Perak and Johor have caused much destruction of property and loss of life. The ferociousness of Mother Nature can sometimes never be assuaged and I have witnessed the effects of the floods first hand.

As I partook in flood relief efforts, from delivering supplies and monitoring the rescue efforts, I was indeed aghast by the sheer level of destruction. Even though the loss of life was minimal but the economic, social and emotional impact of the floods were enormous. As the government tabulates the financial cost of the destruction, the amount is expected to breach the RM 1 billion mark.

However, the events involving MH 370, MH 17, QZ 8501 and the floods also exhibited our capacity for compassion and understanding. Overnight, bonds were built and renewed and we came together as a nation and a people. We saw ourselves as one and we mourned with grace even though our hearts were completely broken.

It is always in adversity that the human spirit is most resilient and that resilience gave us the strength to overcome. And we as a nation, together we are coming to terms with the loss of lives in the air incidents and the worst floods to inundate us in many years.

I was also moved by the initiatives taken by individuals who had no prior experience in disaster relief. Good friends of mine Danni Rais and James Tan together with their friends in the non-governmental organisations (NGO) Small Changes and Organisation for National Reconciliation (ONE) organised a donation campaign and also collected food, drinking water and clothes for the victims of the floods.

Danni and his team of everyday Malaysians, like you and me, worked through the night to ensure the supplies reached those affected by the floods. They staked out at the TUDM Air Base in Subang to ensure the supplies we loaded on the sorties. They are now working on a cleanup effort and it is my pleasure to join them.

My former colleague, Ng Yeen Seen and her sister Ng Cheah Wern put together a project called #OpsHarapan that mobilized a large number of doctors and nurses to provide healthcare and medical attention to flood victims in Kelantan. All of them were volunteers and organized themselves without any help from the authorities.

It is indeed my honour that I was able to play a small part in assisting these organisations but the credit is entirely theirs and their compassion and empathy inspired me to do more.

These are examples of the triumph of the human spirit and the power of one. I try everyday, sometimes with great difficulty, to live by the mantra of Gandhi: “be the change you want to see in the world.”

The efforts of Danni, James, Yeen Seen and Cheah Wern gives me hope and it should give all of us hope that the better angels of our nature reside amongst us and we must join them as they seek to do some good because it is the right thing to do.

The millions in donations in cash and kind also is also testament to our caring nature and within hours of the news breaking that the floods were worst than expected, Malaysians were there to help and assist in the best way we can.

However, the goodwill and compassion generated must now be entrenched and institutionalised. The tragedies that have befallen us in 2014 blurred our ethnic lines and reminded us that we are all Malaysians. We must now build on this goodwill and forge ahead as a one people and gain as much strength as we possibly can from this adversity.

I am certain together, if we put our mind to it, we can be the change we want to see in the world.

Originally published on The Star on Wednesday January 21, 2015 MYT 1:31:00 PM

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