Edwin Dundang told a press conference in Miri on Saturday that the MPA is planning to file a lawsuit against me for my criticism of the port by publicly labelling it a white elephant as the MPA had consulted its legal advisers on the issue and may file the lawsuit soon.
Edwin alleged that I had caused irreparable damage to the port's reputation and caused it to suffer huge losses in business.
He said: "MPA has consulted lawyers on this issue so that legal action can be taken against him.
"A similar action is also considered against a local newspaper here for publishing an unsigned statement which contained similar accusations against the port.
"MPA views Lim's statement with serious concern as it is misleading, inaccurate and malicious.
"The statement also appeared on the Internet and he had repeated his claims over and over again. They are baseless lies and unsustained exaggerations. We have to correct these and tell the public the true situation''.
It would appear that it is now my fault that the new Miri Port at Kuala Baram has suffered “such huge losses in business” as to become the biggest “white elephant” in the country.
I would like Edwin to enlighten Sarawakians and Malaysians as to what “huge losses in business” the Miri Port Authority suffered in the last two weeks since I publicly raises queries as to its being the biggest “white elephant” in the country when there is hardly any business in the new Miri port since it started operations in July 1998!
May be the MPA thinks that a “white elephant” suit filed by its “white elephant” lawyers against me will be the new Miri port’s biggest business since its completion in July 1998, but Edwin and the Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister, Tan Sri Dr. George Chan will be sorely mistaken if they think that they could snuff out public concerns and stifle public discussion on the Miri port “white elephant” project by threatening or evening instituting such a law suit.
The Miri Port in Kuala Baram is not the only project which I had described as a "white elephant". Other projects which I had described as "white elephants" include the new Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC), the Putrajaya but the Miri Port in Kuala Baram takes the cake as the biggest "white elephant" in the country in terms of capacity underutilisation, as it was virtually abandoned on its completion in July 1998.
It would appear that Sarawak not only has the biggest "white elephant" in the country, the state has "white elephant" lawyers who are yet to be found in the rest of Malaysia.
I await the "white elephant" suit by "white elephant" lawyers over the biggest "white elephant" in the country - Miri port in Kuala Baram. However, the threat to initiate "white elephant" legal proceedings can be no excuse or refuge for the MPA or George Chan to evade public accountability from giving full and satisfactory reasons for building a RM350 million port which was virtually abandoned on its completion.
Edwin said the total cost of the project was RM250mil and not RM350mil.
He said: "The port project is not completed yet. We still need to dredge and deepen the (Baram) river. That is why we have yet to reach our targetted business.
"Not enough tonnages is generated yet but we have seen an increase in business from shipping companies as compared to before.''
It is significant that when questioned by reporters, Edwin said he cannot release the MPA's financial report nor disclose how much was to be spent on the dredging and deepening of the river.
He declined to reveal how much will be needed to maintain and dredge the river in the port's vicinity.
First, let us deal with the cost of the new port. George Chan said on Friday that I must get the facts right, saying that the construction of the port itself stood at about RM149 million and the additional cost was incurred due to the excessive soil treatment exercise at the site, given the nature of the ground.
He told Bernama: “This brought the total cost to about RM240 million and not RM350 million as claimed by the Opposition.”
Can Chan state where anyone can go to “get the facts right” when even in Sarawak State Assembly had never been told about the true costs of the new Miri port? The only time the Sarawak State Assembly was told about the cost of the new Miri port was on 16th November 1998 when the Sarawak Infrastructure Development and Communications Minister Datuk Wong Soon Koh said that “the total cost” of the new port was RM169 million which commenced its operation on 27th July 1998.
There are two questions about the costs of the new Miri port:
1. When did “total cost” of the new Miri port jumped from
RM169 million to RM240 million and was the additional RM71 million expenditure
ever approved by the Sarawak state assembly, and if not, who gave
the authority for such illegal additional expenditures.
2. Why the official Port Miri Authority website which was posted before November 1987 quoted the cost of RM287 million for the new Miri port? The URL for the MPA is: http://www.sarawak.gov.my/sarawak_online/mpa/.
3. Is RM240 million the final “total cost” for the new Miri port, or will this balloon to RM500 million or more in the attempt to “overcome siltation problem that prevents larger vessels from using the new Miri Port”?
When George Chan said on Friday that the Sarawak government is studying two to three options offered by Canadian consultants to overcome the siltation problem at the Baram River estuary and to create a permanent navigational channel for bigger vessels (which should have been considered when building the new Miri Port and not after its completion), wasn’t he talking about additional expenditures running into hundreds of millions of ringgit in order to make the new Miri port usable?
Edwin echoed George Chan’s line and said that the new Miri port project “is not completed yet” as “We still need to dredge and deepen the (Baram) river”.
Isn’t Edwin again talking about dredging projects costing hundreds of million of ringgit, which would be a recurrent cost because of the serious siltation problem of the Baram River - resulting in the total cost of the new Miri port exceeding even RM1 billion by the end of the Third Outline Perspective Plan in 2010?
I hope to hear from Edwin Dundang within 48 hours or I would most reluctantly have to ask for an appointment with the Anti-Corruption Agency.