Call for  a full public account of the causes and  magnitude of the monumental chaos and mess at the KLIA and the measures taken to ensure no recurrence to restore national and international confidence in the KLIA not only as an airport for the next century but also as an airport for the present


Media  Statement
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Petaling Jaya, Friday): Today is the fourth day of operations of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, which is still reeling from the catastrophic chaos and mess since its first day of opening on Tuesday, 30th June 1998.

Malaysians got another shock when they opened the newspapers today to  read headlines like  "It is not our fault, says TAMS contractor" (New Straits Times), "TAMS did not crash, says operator" (Star) and  "Consortium denies TAMS causing problems"  (Sun).

This is because the Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik and the Malaysia Airports Berhad had pinpointed the breakdown of  TAMS (Total Airport Management Systems) as the primary  cause of the KLIA chaos and mess since the first day of operations of the KLIA, when planes were kept in a holding pattern circling KLIA for up to an hour before being allowed to land, passengers were locked in the aircraft for up to three hours because of breakdown of the aerobridge and aircraft bay allocation systems, delays of up to five hours to wait for the luggage, queues of up to 30 minutes just to buy a ticket for a taxi and queues of over two hours to get a taxi!

Malaysians are now totally baffled by the claim by TAMS operator Sapura Tomen Harris (STH) Consortium that TAMS did not break down on the first day of the airport’s commercial operations.

The STH managing director Shukor Karim said it was "absolutely untrue" that TAMS had broken down, asserting that all the TAMS sub-systems have been rigorously tested and were working perfectly on June 30.

He said KLIA’s management system comprised both TAMS and non-TAMS sub-systems, which were designed, developed and installed by other operators.

He said: "We are only responsible for 19 sub-systems. All I can say is that so far TAMS has been delivered to KLIA Berhad as contracted and is working as designed for its intended use.

"The other sub-systems are interfaced to TAMS and the individual operators are responsible for the integrity of data supplied to us".

He said that the Baggage Handling System and  Passenger Check-in Processing System, which were mainly blamed for the operational breakdown, were not part of the TAMS network.

If what Shukor Karim says is true that the KLIA mess and chaos since its opening was not because of the breakdown of TAMS, how come the Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik and the Malaysia Airports Bhd which is responsible for the operations of the KLIA do not know about it and were blaming the TAMS breakdown as the primary cause for the disgraceful debut of Malaysia’s airport for the next century?

The New Straits Times, for instance, in its front-page headline story on Wednesday, July 1, 1998 under the heading "First-day disarray at KLIA" reported of a "system breakdown" at KLIA, that complications were apparent from about 6.30 a.m. when passengers arriving for their flights found themselves stuck in long queues at the check-in counters, that apart from the breakdown of the passenger check-in processing system (PCPS), there were problems also with baggage handling, ticketing and gate allocations.

The NST report said:
 

The Star of the same day reported that the Prime Minister’s departure  to Langkawi on board MH1432 at 7.25 a.m. on Tuesday "was the only flight to take off on time as a major glitch in the Total Airport Management System (TAMS) caused flight delays, baggage being lost or misplaced and passengers missing flights".

The Sun of the same date reported that a total of 47 flights were scheduled to arrive at or depart from KLIA between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. on the first day of operations on Tuesday, but several flights were delayed due to technical problems.

It reported:
 

Yesterday, Thursday July 2, 1998, The Sun under the headline "Ling admits drawbacks in trial runs" reported:
 

The report later stated:
 

The report went on:
 

The New Straits Times of July 2, 1998 reported a statement from Malaysia Airports (Sepang) Sdn. Bhd saying that "there had been improvements in passenger flow and baggage handling at the airport today and that the Total Management System was stabilising".
 
The Star of July 2, 1998  reported:
 

Suddenly, Malaysians are told that the Transport Minister and the Malaysia Airports Bhd. were wrong as the TAMS did not break down on the first day of operations.

Something must be very wrong with the entire management and operations of KLIA when the Transport Minister and the MAB did not know for two days that  TAMS did not break down at all.

However, it is not really clear whether the claim by Sapura-Tomen-Harris Consortium that TAMS did not break down and that they are only responsible for 19 sub-systems bears scrutiny.

This is because the Sapura-Tomen-Harris claim yesterday is contradictory to earlier reports and boasts about TAMS before the opening of the KLIA.  For instance,  the Business Times of 27th January 1998 reported Liong Sik’s "satisfaction" with the results of the baggage-handling system and the  TAMS tests.

He said there was a 98.7 per cent success rate in the tests for the baggage-handling system adding: "The baggage handling system test was carried out very well smoothly. The 1.3 per cent failure rate is considered normal. Under normal circumstances, a one or two per cent failure rate is forgiveable, depending on the kind of failures".

The Business Times  of 18th February 1998 reported on the results of KLIA’s "most extensive testing to date, involving its entire airport management systems".

It reported the Malaysia Airports Bhd terminal manager Hamid Awang as giving an assurance that "the airport will not be opened until the authorities are satisfied that the operations run smoothly and in tip-top condition".

The report reported Umar Bustamam, the head of  Total Airport Management System as saying that  "all 29 systems are currently at the site acceptance test stage".

The New Straits Times of 18th March 1998 under the heading "TAMS not to blame for delay in KLIA launch" quoted the KLIA Bhd. general manager (construction) Nazarudin Nordin as denying that TAMS caused the second delay in the opening of the KLIA.

The report said:
 

The Business Times of 31st March 1998 under the headline "Advanced integrated trials at KLIA will start in May: Ling"  reported on Liong Sik’s announcement of advanced integrated trials in May to "test the integration of the Total Airport Management System, including baggage handling, passenger check-ins and flight information display systems, among other things".

The report said:
 

It reported:
 

The Business Times of 17th June 1998 under the headline "Testing RM700 m Tams before opening of KLIA" reported Umar Bustamam as saying that Mlaysia Airport Bhd officials were working feverishly around the clock to ensure the RM700 million Total Airport Management System installed at the KLIA would be ready for the June 27 opening.

The report said:
 

Extracts from press clippings of previous reports on TAMS raise many important questions:
 

The confused and conflicting statements made by the Transport Minister, MAB and Sapura-Tomen-Harris about TAMS, as to whether it had crashed or not, do not inspire confidence of Malaysians and international travellers that we have a team of airport management experts who really know their job.

The Cabinet should direct that a full account of the monumental chaos and mess at the KLIA from the first day of the operations on Tuesday, the causes, the magnitude of the chaos and mess, what actions had been taken to ensure that there would be no recurrence, should be made public immediately to restore national and international confidence in the KLIA not only as an airport for the next century, but also as an airport for the present.

(3/7/98)


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong