I had said on Saturday that Liong Sik knew that the RM350 million Miri Port in Kuala Baram is such a national disgrace and embarrassment that he dared not even visit it, “as he knows that he would find the gates permanently closed, grasses growing on the roads, storage yards empty and the wharves abandoned”.
The fear to visit the Miri Port is not confined to Liong Sik however as it also applies to George Chan, who was in Miri last Friday to receive and accompany the Transport Minister together with Tan Sri Ting Pek Khiing and the Federation of Sarawak Chinese Chamber of Industry and Commerce president Sim Hock Guan to inspect the new Miri airport extension.
Liong Sik’s visit to Miri and the presence of the accompanying state and national media would be the golden opportunity for George Chan to debunk my claim that the new Miri port in Kuala Baram is the “biggest white elephant” in the country by slotting a special visit to the new Miri port for the country and the world to see it humming with life and activities.
Why didn’t George Chan grab such a golden opportunity to prove to Sarawak, Malaysia and the world that all that I had said about the Miri port, in the words of the Miri Port Authority chairman Edwin Dundang, are “misleading, inaccurate and malicious” and “baseless lies and unsustained exaggerations”?
The answer is very simple - George Chan himself dared not be seen by the media visiting the “biggest white elephant” in the country, with “the gates permanently closed, grasses growing on the roads, storage yards empty and the wharves abandoned” after spending RM350 million and closing the old Miri port!
What type of a RM350 million new Miri Port is it that both the Transport Minister and the Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister dare not visit it in the presence of the media?
When I said that any visitor to the new RM350 million Miri port in Kuala Baram will find its “gates permanently closed, grasses growing on the roads, storage yards empty and the wharves abandoned”, I was not telling “baseless lies and unsustained exaggerations”.
I have here the latest proof, both eye-witness and photographic, of such disgraceful conditions and abandoned state of the new Miri port.
The Miri National Keadilan party adviser, Dr. Teo Yu Keng specially visited the new Miri port in Kuala Baram yesterday where he spent half an hour, and he found the main gate of the new port “locked”, complete silence in the port with a few lorries parked inside, totally non-functioning. Yesterday was a working day and not a weekend. He has also taken several photographs of the new Miri port, one of which appeared in today’s Sin Chew Jit Poh showing the abandoned state of the Miri port with its gates closed!
This is Dr. Teo’s report on the visit to the Miri port in Kuala Baram
which he sent to me this morning, which said:
”On Tuesday morning around 10 a.m. – 11 April 2001, I made a visit to Miri Port which is 30 kilometres from Miri town. I took some pictures there.
“The port is situated far away from Miri town because all the good potential sites and sea-front areas near town have been ‘taken’ by some company for ‘future development purposes’.
“The main gate is locked and the grass in the compound and car park inside is tall. There is no vessel berthed along the port and hardly anybody around, except for one or two cleaner women. The parking lots are empty and no activity at all is seen. There is no loading or unloading.
“According to one small canteen-operator, business is bad. “He brings eight dumplings (pau) a day for sale but is lucky if he can sell three.’ There are two big canteens which are closed because no business. The canteen operator says one week on average only one small wooden boat arrives at this port and it takes only two hours to unload; the rest of the week there is nothing happening here.
“A few months ago a flat-bottomed barge was towed to the port and loaded with plywood from a nearby factory. Then it could not go out to sea because the Baram river mouth was too shallow and so they had to bring the barge back to the port to unload the plywood before it can get out into the sea.
“There are a number of staff quarters but not enough staff wants to stay so far away from town. So some of these are rented out to the public for RM300 per month. Yet there are few takers.
“Right now all the goods arrive to Miri from overseas through Bintulu deep-sea port which is two hours’ drive away. Miri shopkeepers are not complaining, as it is faster and cheaper than collecting goods at Miri port. So the port is absolutely Redundant.”
The new Miri port fiasco has “infected” Parliament yesterday, causing such a national embarrassment that Liong Sik dared not turn up in Parliament to reply in the winding-up of the debate on the OPP3, especially as DAP Member Parliament for Seputeh Teresa Kok had spoken about the Miri ‘port scandal’ in her speech last Thursday and is entitled to a reply.
While it is true that the new Miri port is a Sarawak state issue, the Federal Government and the Transport Minister must answer to Parliament as it has become not only a national but an international scandal, making Malaysia a laughing stock in the world ports and transportation circles and thus seriously undermining Malaysia’s attractions as a top FDI (foreign direct inverstment) centre.
DAP MPs were fully justified yesterday in expressing their dissatisfaction and demanding an explanation as to why Liong Sik had played “truant” in not turning up in Parliament or scheduling someone from his Ministry to reply during the winding-up of the OPP3 debate.
While the Speaker, Tun Mohamad Zahir was right when he said that there was no Standing Order forcing a Minister to reply to a debate in Parliament, he should not have become a defender and apologist for such irresponsible Ministerial conduct in Parliament.
There is also no Standing Order forcing a Minister to regularly
and diligently attend parliamentary meetings to handle questions and
debates affecting his Ministry, but is it the job of the Speaker to become
an apologist for such irresponsible Ministerial “truancy”?
Liong Sik should present a Ministerial statement in Parliament to answer the points raised by Teresa Kok in the debate on the OPP3 about the new Miri port as the” biggest white elephant” in the country, and state what action the Transport Ministry is taking to protect the good name of the country in the international ports and transportation circles so as not to adversely undermine Malaysia competitiveness and attraction as a leading destination for foreign investments.
I had on Monday given the Miri Port Authority Chairman (MPA) Edwin Dundang 48 hours to withdraw and apologise for his baseless criticisms and attacks on me or I will seriously consider lodging a formal report to the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) to initiate investigations into the biggest “white elephant” project in the country.
Edwin Dundang had 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.
With the photographic evidence of the abandoned and dilapidated state of the Miri Port in Kuala Baram, can Edwin explain what are the “huge losses in business” the port had suffered?
I am still waiting for the MPA’s “white elephant” suit to be filed by its “white elephant” lawyers against me, but Edwin and 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 even instituting such a law suit.
In view of the photographic evidence of the abandoned and dilapidated condition of the new port, which is proof that Edwin is wrong in accusing me of “baseless lies and unsustained exaggerations”, I am giving Edwin a further extension of time until the end of the week to reconsider, withdraw and apologise for his baseless attacks on me, failing which I will lodge a formal report with the Anti-Corruption Agency to ask it to initiate investigations into the building of the “biggest white elephant” in the country - the new Miri port in Kuala Baram.