INVESTIGATIVE journalism has revealed the sordid tale of why launch owners could not care less about plying the rivers with unfit vessels that are almost always overloaded with passengers. That the maritime court has now some 35 launch accident cases pending hearing goes to show the lack of interest in bringing those to book responsible for such maritime disasters. Indeed, going by what has been published in this newspaper, we are shocked to learn that almost invariably; all Maritime Court verdicts drag for years in appeals filed by the accused with higher courts in the country.
Putting things in perspective, we find that there have been no less than 390 launch accidents over the last 25 years costing some 3,700 lives; and nearly 500 people remain listed as missing. While these are official statistics, unofficial figures put the number of casualties as high as 5,500. Whatever may be the casualty figure, what has become obvious is that the court in charge of handling such accidents is ill-equipped to carry out its function as there are few marine experts to assess the nature of accident or damage of a maritime incident such as Pinak-6.
What we would like to know is precisely why a single maritime court, lacking in manpower, is expected to look after such incidences of accident that have become a regular feature in the country? No sector can be allowed to wilfully break the law, no matter how powerful its benefactors and it is high time authorities take heed of public interest before private sector profits.