The person who has called Chan’s bluff is none other than the Sarawak Infrastructure Development and Communications Minister Datuk Wong Soon Koh, as proven from his speeches in the Sarawak State Assembly in the past three years.
The Hansards of the Sarawak State Assembly recorded Wong’s speeches
on the new Miri Port in Kuala Baram in the past three years, as follows:
“The major event for the Miri Port Authority this year is the completion and the operation of the new port at Kuala Baram. The new port complex at Kuala Baram was completed on 30th June, 1998 with the exception of the watch tower and the multi-purpose hall which are expected to be completed by the end of this month. The total cost is RM169 million. The authority commenced its operation at the new complex on 27th July 1998.” - 16.11.1998.
“Tuan Speaker, I would like to mention that the construction of Phase I and Phase II of the new Port Complex at Kuala Baram was fully completed on 31st December, 1998 and operations began in July 1998.” - 17.5.1999.
“I am sure the Honourable Members of this House are aware that the navigational channel of the Kuala Baram Port is too shallow for any ship beyond 1,000 ton.” - 15.5.2000.
How can Chan have the temerity to publicly claim that the new Miri Port in Kuala Baram has not been completed in order to justify the state government’s silence to my demand for full and satisfactory explanation as to why it had squandered RM350 million to build the “biggest white elephant” in the country when Chan knows that this is a lie?
There is no way Chan can deny that the port was virtually abandoned on its completion as the new port is not deep enough for most vessels to navigate and grasses are now growing on the roads of the port.
Although the new Miri Port in Kuala Baram has been “operational” for close to three years since July 1998, the Sarawak state government dared not invite the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to officially declare it open because of its gross under-utilisation (I am told only one to two per cent of capacity being utilised) and now very dilapidated and abandoned state.
Chan should publicly apologise on behalf of himself as well as the Sarawak state government for being caught red-handed for telling a lie to evade accountability for squandering colossal sums of public funds to build the biggest “white elephant” in the country which is of no utility whatsoever.
Let Chan clarify whether it is true that the Sarawak state government has decided on a cure which is worse than the disease, to spend some RM500 million to dredge 10 km of the Baram River from the port to the river mouth and six milesof channel between the river mouth and the sea - a dredging which would have to be repeated annual because of the serious siltation of the Baram River - in order to make the RM350 million port usable.
I find it astonishing that there had been a maze of conflicting figures about the cost of the new Miri Port in Kuala Baram. Wong Soon Koh mentioned the figure of RM169 million in the Sarawak State Assembly in November 1998, but the Sarawak government website on the Miri Port Authority mentioned the figure of RM287 million - while there are those who estimate the cost to be RM350 million or even higher.
The Auditor-General should explain why his office had never once in the past seven years of audit of the Sarawak state government accounts cautioned against the building of the “biggest white elephant” in the country - the new Miri port in Kuala Baram - or a RM10 salary cut should be proposed against him in Parliament for gross negligence if the Auditor-General is unable to give a satisfactory explanation.