Sabah quake: Barisan Nasional files emergency motion on disaster in Parliament

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Parliament is expected to debate an emergency motion on the Sabah earthquake on Tuesday.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim confirmed that Barisan Nasional had submitted the motion to debate on the disaster for the Speaker's approval.

He said the debate would give the government the opportunity to explain the allegations that search and rescue (SAR) officials had slacked in their duties to retrieve the stranded climbers on Mount Kinabalu after Friday's 6.0-magnitude earthquake.

"I will answer all the allegations if the motion is debated. For now, all I wish to say is that the criticisms aimed at the SAR teams are unfair and unwarranted.

"They are qualified and ready and were at the scene as fast as possible to recover bodies and climbers," he told reporters at his office in Parliament.

Shahidan was responding to pictures and postings on social media allegedly showing SAR workers performing their duties inefficiently and taking breaks while climbers were still stranded.

"The delay is because of lower oxygen levels at high altitudes, which make breathing difficult," he added.

Shahidan also defended Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's absence in Sabah saying he had made arrangements to return quickly from his official trip to Saudi Arabia.

"The Deputy Prime Minister (Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin) was here, I too am here as the minister in charge of disaster relief. I was here from day one.

"So why must people write bad things about Najib everyday? If you don't (criticise him) for a day, you are not able to sleep?"

He said the most important aspect of the disaster was the search and rescue efforts, and not the Prime Minister's presence there.

Najib is expected to return from Saudi Arabia on Tuesday and go to straight to Sabah.