(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): It is most inexcusable for the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) to be opened on Tuesday, 30th June 1998, just to be one week ahead of the new Chek Lap Kok International Airport in Hong Kong in terms of first day of operations, when the KLIA is not ready, without a satisfactory test of the state-of-the-art system installed in KLIA while there had been no test of its capability whatsoever.
The Malaysian Government should send the Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik to the new Hong Kong Airport (which is being officially opened by Chinese President Jiang Zemin today) to see whether it would be a shambles like the KLIA on Tuesday or could be a model of smooth operational efficiency for KLIA.
However, there is a danger that this would be an utter waste of public funds to send the Transport Minister to new Chek Lap Kok International Airport in Hong Kong on Monday as he would not understand anything at all!
This is because Liong Sik appeared completely lost as to the causes of the KLIA being plunged into complete chaos on Tuesday, and although the situation improved slightly yesterday, the disorganisation where passengers were locked in the aircraft for an hour before they could disembark because of aero-bridge problems and wait for up to three hours for their baggage, was still a disgraceful sight.
Liong Sik appeared completely lost and out of his depths when he was questioned by reporters about the chaos at the airport of the next century at the KLIA yesterday.
He was telling reporters that the communications lines linking the Kelana MAS Complex in Kelana Jaya, where the passenger data was maintained, and KLIA, broke down on several occasions.
He said: "Some people misread the whole thing and were doing things which were only supposed to be done in two months’ time. So, we are now doing what we were designed to do.
"Now when everyone does the right thing and doesn’t overdo it, everything will be under control."
I do not think anybody understand the gobbledegook Liong Sik was uttering. It is clear that the Transport Minister himself did not understand the gobbledegook either, as seen by his reply when reporters asked him to explain the problem involving the communication lines. Dr. Ling replied: "It is too technical for me and you to understand. By the time, I explain it, you will get confused and I will get confused."
How frank and touching! But also how frightening! Should Malaysia have such a Transport Minister to be in charge of the RM9 billion KLIA, who seems to be without a clue as to the problems which had reduced what should the a source of national and international pride into another cause for national and international shame?
With such a Transport Minister, who dare not explain what is wrong with the state-of-the-art KLIA system for fear that he will get "confused", it is no wonder that the KLIA is in such a mess. I have no doubt that some other Cabinet Ministers, like Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, would have made a special effort to master the subject and would have no hesitation in explaining what had caused the shambles at the KLIA on Tuesday, with the state-of-the-art RM700 million TAMS which should be the first Total Airport Management System in the world becoming instead Total Airport Mess System.
I am not asking for Liong Sik’s resignation, but asking the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to remove deadwood from his Cabinet like the Transport Minister, so that the Transport Minister, who is not only himself the butt of jokes nationally and internationally, should cease to cause the nation to again and again become the laughing stock of the world.