Monday, June 02, 2008

A rowing we won't go

Rank amateurs. Incredible. 5 young man died and it is nobody's fault. In the case of Mat Selamat's escape from detention, 8 people were found to be culpable and disciplinary action instituted, even on a person who had been absolved of blame in the escape. In the case of the death of 5 dragon-boaters, part of the ill-fated dragon-boat race team that took part in the race in Cambodia last year, 'no one was to blame', said the inquiry panel set up to investigate the circumstances and reasons for this tragedy. Granted it is very important that the lessons learnt in this tragedy should go towards preventing similar tragedies from happening in the future, it still begs the question: who is/are to blame? To some of the families who lost a son, there must be a feeling that somebody or some people are shirking their responsibilities.

To its credit, the Board of Inquiry (BOI) does not seem to have hidden anything. It even pointed out that "the team manager and captain...responsible for making crucial decisions on safety instead...(left it) to a vote". Clearly, in matters of safety, a democracy just will not do. Imagine a teacher leading 40 students out on a field trip making decisions by taking a vote - that's what really happened here. It's an abdication of leadership and responsibility. How can nobody be blamed? Granted we do not want to promote a blame culture, but people must be held accountable, beginning from the very top.

What is disingenuous in the finding is the hint that the Cambodian organisers, their paddles and their boats are to blame. If you want to participate in competitions overseas, you cannot insist that the paddles must measure a certain dimension and that all of them should be uniform. In the same way, you cannot insist that the Tonlap River be as calm as the Kallang River, or that the boat must be as wide and flat as those used in Singapore. Every team, including the 8 other teams from Asean, use the same equipment and row in the same river and encounter the same currents. If the Singapore dragon-boat team can only row in calm 'placid' waters, then they should be nowhere near international competitions.

It is symptomatic of Singaporeans, when they travel overseas, that they insist on the kind of efficiency and cleanliness that they are used to and expect in Singapore. No, you have to adapt to different conditions and be prepared for the unexpected, even the worst, when you are in countries that have less developed infrastructure and systems. Ban Singaporeans from joining competitions that do no conform to the guidelines set by the International governing bodies? Well, that proves one thing, doesn't it? That Singaporeans can't hack it. They can't manage, and they don't know how to prepare for the most challenging races. It just goes to perpetuate the perception that Singapore dragon-boaters are soft, easy pushovers - kiddy rowers, actually.

Why don't we just forget the sport and channel our energies elsewhere? That will really help to prevent similar incidents from happening ever again.

Image source: Author: Ray Forester

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

So who do you think shd be blamed? I would say the SDBA and the National Sport council.