(Petaling Jaya, Sunday): The call by the Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik to make the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) rat-free is a most welcome change from his previous negative attitude of trying to sweep KLIA problems under the carpet.
When the problem of rats running around in broad daylight at the RM9 billion KLIA was first reported three days ago, Liong Sik’s first reaction was to ask the mass media not to "make a mountain out of a molehill" which would damage the image of KLIA, not realising that it is the such a negative attitude to sweep problems under the carpet which is the biggest threat to national and international confidence about government competence and expertise.
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!
Liong Sik said yesterday that a pest control company which was appointed to exterminate rats at KLIA had caught 291 rodents in the past five days and the company estimated that there are still about 600 rats in the airport!
The question is how the thousand odd rats had found their way to the KLIA and why ensuring a rat-free KLIA had not been top on the agenda before the opening of KLIA? Who had bungled here? Most important of all, when would KLIA become rat-free?
It is no use Liong Sik talking about KLIA being a hi-tech yet passenger-friendly airport when some 600 rats are running all over the airport!
Liong Sik should explain how many flights have been delayed by rats at the KLIA. The New Straits Times had 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.
Liong Sik should change the government policy up to now of sweeping KLIA problems under the carpet, claiming every time that he visits KLIA that "smiling passengers" are happy with the KLIA.
Either KLIA users are unexceptionally polite when they meet the Transport Minister, or Liong Sik is being allowed only to meet "smiling" passengers!
There are still many problems at the KLIA. I admit that many of these can be described as "teething problems" but it is wrong to regard all of them as "teething problems". The baggage-handling system, reputed to be the most sophisticated and fastest in the world, is still a horror to passengers.
Two days ago, passengers on the flight from New Delhi waited for six hours to wait for their luggage when the flight rom New Delhi to the KLIA had taken only five hours!
Liong Sik should also be frank and forthcoming and 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.