Sarawak state government should explain why  it has the biggest ‘white elephant’ project in Malaysia -  RM350 million Miri port in Baram

Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Miri International Airport, Tuesday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said in Tenom, Sabah on Saturday that  major projects designed to enhance Malaysians’ well-being are not wasteful and as such the government would continue implementing them despite “accusations hurled by detractors”.

He cited the Bakun hydro-electric project as an example attesting to the government’s willingness to spend huge sums to “provide comfort not only to the people of Sabah and Sarawak but also of neighbouring countries”.

The people of Miri and Sarawak are hoping that the revived RM9 billion Bakun hydroelectric dam project would not end up like the RM350 million Miri port in Baram, which has become a laughing stock and a great embarrassment as the new port could not be used after completion as it is not deep enough for most vessels to navigate.

This is why the Mahathir was never invited to officially open the new Miri port in Baram as it was as good as abandoned on its completion, and it could not even generate enough money to meet the interest payments for the project costs amounting to millions of ringgit every year.

The Sarawak state government should explain why it has the biggest “white elephant” project in Malaysia,  the RM350 million Miri port in Baram, which is as good as wasting RM175 for person, whether  adult or child in Sarawak which has a population of two million people.

Instead of building the RM350 million “white elephant” of a port in Baram, the government would do better good by just giving everyone in Sarawak RM175!

I am told that that the road between Bintulu and Niah has  probably the most number of potholes for any comparative stretch of road in the country, making motoring on it a nightmarish hell . Money will definitely be better spent – and for only a minuscule amount –  to repair the Bintulu-Niah road than wasting money on the Miri port in Baram.

Having wasted RM350 million to build a new but useless Miri Port in Baram, the Sarawak state authorities are now considering another mega-project to salvage their development folly.

Rather than dredge the five million tonnes of silt that is deposited in the Baram River annually, the Sarawak authorities are considering constructing a navigation canal between the Miri Port and the South China Sea!

The argument is that the port in Kuala Baram, close to Brunei’s western border with Sarawak, is faced with serious siltation problems from the Baram River and the cost of cutting the canal through swamp land is considered by “experts” to be less than that incurred from annually dredging the channel.

The Sarawak state government should explain why for such a mega-project like the RM350 million Miri port in Baram, no proper feasibility was done to ensure that it is not wrongly sited as to make it an immediate  “white elephant”, which now requires another mega project to salvage it – which is like throwing good money after bad money!

There are actually now two “white elephants” in Miri, as the Miri port “white elephant” has spawned the multi-million ringgit 1,938-hectares Baram industrial estate “white elephant” – both of which are to  make Miri a resort city by 2005.

Last week, at the 82nd meeting of Mentris Besar and Chief Ministers at the Prime Minister’s Office at Putrajaya, Mahathir discussed measures to raise the efficiency of the government financial machinery.

What is there to talk about the “efficiency of the government financial machinery” when the government could commit such development follies like the Miri Port at Baram, which was hailed as “Gate Way of the Future” and “Gateway to Northern Sarawak” but it has now become “Gateway to Nowhere”!

What the Federal and Sarawak state government should consider carefully is whether there should be another mega project involving another colossal expenditure of public funds to salvage the Miri Port at Baram, or whether the new Baram port should be written off as a complete loss without any more ado!


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman