If a national contest for the “biggest white elephant” in Malaysia is  held, there  is no doubt that the new Miri Port will emerge as the undisputed “champion”

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday):
Despite all his bluster and rhetoric in the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly on Monday, Sarawak Minister for Infrastructure Development and Communications Datuk Wong Soon Koh had only confirmed what I had seen with my own eyes that morning - that the new Miri Port at Kuala Baram is the biggest “white elephant” in the country.  This is no small feat - in a land  of so many  “white elephants”.

I had two impressions when I first arrived at the  grandiose complex of the Miri Port on Monday morning, firstly, a feeling  of disuse, dilapidation and decay although the new port started operations only in August 1998 because of the  lack of proper maintenance of a complex which is greatly underutilised; and secondly, the eerie silence  and emptiness of the huge port complex, with hardly any people around and even less port  activities.

The premier “white elephant” status of the Miri Port was illustrated by at least four incidents during my visit:

I will respond to Wong’s Sarawak State Assembly speech tomorrow but for today, I want to thank him for confirming, though unintentionally and inadvertently, that the new Miri Port is the biggest “white elephant” in the country.

Wong claimed that the new Miri Port cost RM250 million but he could not explain why before November 1997,  the Miri Port Authority  itself claimed on its website that the new port cost RM287 million.

Wong said that the port handled a total of 161,678 metric tonnes of cargo last year when the new Miri Port was designed and built for a cargo capacity of 3.5 million metric tonnes per annum - which comes to 4.6 per cent utilisation of its capacity.

It is quite remarkable that as Minister for Infrastructure Development and Communications, Wong could be proud of spending RM250 million (using his own figure) on a new port which is only being used 4.6 per cent of its capacity.

If this is not a “white elephant”, then I do not know what is a “white elephant”.

A contest for the “biggest white elephant” country should be organised so that the people in the country would have an opportunity to judge which “misdevelopment” project in the country is the “biggest white elephant” of them all - although I am convinced that the new Miri Port can find no challenger as far as this appellation is concerned.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman