Liong Sik should disclose  how much losses had been incurred by the first week of  chaos and mess at the KLIA

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Petaling Jaya, Friday):  Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik should disclose how much losses had been incurred by the first week of chaos and mess at the new Kuala Lumpur International Airport  (KLIA) at Sepang.

The Hong Kong authorities have disclosed that the  cargo problems at  the new Hong Kong International Airport at Chek Lap Kok  will drag on for at least six  more weeks and cost up to HK$20 billion. A Hong Kong  government estimate last night said the annual gross domestic product (GDP) would lose 0.35 per cent this year directly as a result of the chaos.

Malaysians want to know why the Hong Kong authorities can compute the losses from the Hong Kong International Airport chaos in so short a time, and why the Malaysian government is unable to do the same.

All that Liong Sik and his Cabinet colleagues can do is to try to minimise problems when they arise or to blame foreign  media about negative reports about the KLIA.

Yesterday, after a New Straits Times report about rats running around in broad daylight at the RM9 billion KLIA, all that Liong Sik  can say is to ask the mass media not to "make a mountain out of a molehill" which would be a blow to the KLIA's image.

The Minister for Culture, Arts and Tourism, Datuk Sabaruddin Chik has chipped in to ask the Malaysian media to counter all negative reports by Singapore newspapers on the KLIA.

He said: "The Government has no intention of answering every issue raised by the Singapore media because it is the responsibility of the local press to correct any wrong information."

Having rats running around the RM9 billion KLIA is definitely not a small issue, and it does not reflect well on the KLIA  management and administration for such a problem to be dismissed as "making a mountain out of a molehill".

The Malay Mail had reported a businesswoman complaining about " a brownish gray rat the size of a hamster ran across the floor"  while she was having tea at KLIA with a friend from Britain. Although  the rat did not look menacing it  made her friend feel "awful".

A Pakistani visitor Ahmad Khalid, who has been working in Malaysia for the last five months said he had had a similar experience.

"I was with a friend at a candy store in the main terminal. We had just seen off a relative who had gone to Penang," he said when a rat ran across his feet while they were buying sweets.  "We were both horrified and lost our appetite. We decided not to buy the sweets," Ahmad said.

Sabaruddin Cik should explain how  the Malaysian media can  counter all negative reports by Singapore newspapers on the KLIA, when these foreign reports are based on Malaysia media reports?

The best way not to "make a mountain out of a molehill" or to counter negative reports on KLIA is to ensure that there are no basis for such negative reports, as for instance, in ensuring that rats do not run around the KLIA in broad daylight.

I am sure that if there are rats running around the  Singapore International Airport in Changi or the Hong Kong International Airport, it would be  big news in the Malaysian mass media!

The clarification by the KLIA's terminal manager Ariffin in yesterday's News Straits Times is not very reassuring. He said that the rats problem at the KLIA is not serious and that  so far the rats had not been disrupting the airport's operations. He said that among the methods considered to deal with the rats problem is a sonic extermination system which would be placed at all the airport's gates so that the rats do not enter the aircraft.

The New Straits Times reported that there had been at least one incident last week when a flight was delayed for up to 15 hours after rats were discovered on the aircraft. It only departed after a replacement aircraft and  crew were brought in.

Asking the local media not to report the rats problem is not the way to restore the KLIA's image, as the international mass media  cannot be controlled in this fashion.  On the contrary, Malaysia will gain the notoriety of suppressing the "rats story" at the KLIA.    The only solution is to exterminate the rats problem at the KLIA so that the mass media, whether local or foreign, would have no more rat stories to write about.

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