How can Malaysia convince Olympic Council of Asia officials about Malaysia’s commitment to transparency and successfully bid for 2006  Asian Games  when the government is not prepared to release API readings despite reaching "unhealty" levels?

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Monday): Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein, has said that Kuala Lumpur will adopt an open  concept to divulge all related information to host the 2006 Asian Games when the five-man Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) Evaluation Committee is in Malaysia for a two-day inspection on Kuala Lumpur's bid  to host the 2006 Games

Hishammuddin, who is a joint-chairman of the Kuala Lumpur 2006 Bid Committee,  gave an assurance that  Kuala Lumpur will not hold back or provide false information required by the five-member OCA Evaluation Committee as Malaysia will not jeopardise its credibility as an international sporting host by providing false details.

Hishammudin should ponder as to how  Malaysia can convince  the Olympic Council of Asia officials about Malaysia’s commitment to transparency and successfuly bid for 2006 Asian Games  when the government is not prepared to release Air Pollutant Index (API) readings at the expense of the health and welfare of Malaysians because of the mistaken notion of not driving away foreign tourists!

Motorists  travelling on the North-South Expressway yesterday  between Petaling Jaya and Ipoh can testify to the severity of the haze problem despite the claim by the Minister for Environment, Science and Technology, Datuk Law Hieng Ding that the haze in the west coast of peninsula  is "temporary", "not reached a level to worry about"  and  "no cause for alarm".

This is most shocking as Law  had admitted that three stations  yesterday reported Air Pollutant Index readings at  the "unhealthy" level, although  the Department of Environment (DOE) director-general, Rosnani Ibrahim contradicted him in stating  four stations reporting "unhealthy" API levels.

As API readings are categorised into 0-50 (healthy), 51-100 (moderate), 101-200 (unhealthy), 201-300 (very unhealthy) and 301-500 (hazardous), Law should explain when Malaysians should begin to worry about the haze  - is it when the API readings reached "very unhealthy" or "hazardous" levels.

By claiming that the  API reading which categorised the 101-200 level  as "unhealthy" was "no cause for alarm", Law is making  a total mockery of the API reading and jeopardising the health of the people and the young generation in his attempt to play down the severity of the haze problem.

In Penang, the state education department has suspended all outdoor school activities beginning today. Will Law consider this an unwarranted  "panicky" over-reaction as the haze had "not reached a level to worry about" and "was no cause for alarm"?

It is one of Law’s blot as Minister for Environment  for being a party to the decision to put the API readings  in a cloak of secrecy under the Official Secret Act.

Law should immediately make amends and take immediate action to release regular API readings at least twice a day to give greater priority  to the health of Malaysians, particularly of  the young generation than to the tourism industry for fear that the API figures would drive away tourists.

Law should realise that in this era of information technology, it is sheer folly for the government to pretend that it could  mislead foreign tourists into believing that there is pure and clean air in the country although API readings showed otherwise.

Law should get the support of Hishammuddin if he needs more Cabinet votes to honour the right to information of Malaysians by making API readings public again.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman