Call on Abdullah to exercise his powers as Acting Prime Minister to put the RM1.02 billion PORR project on hold until the fullest public consultation and review, including a new social, cultural and environmental  impact assessment report

Speech 2
- Penang DAP “PORR” Dinner 
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang,  Friday): With the announcement  on Tuesday of  the 16-month power transition plan, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is set to be the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia when the powers and office of Prime Minister is fully transferred by Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to Abdullah after the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) Summit in Kuala Lumpur on October 24 and 25, 2003. 

What is significant about the power transition plan is that Abdullah will for the first  time, as well as every time Mahathir is overseas and on leave in the next 16 months,  assume the office and powers of Acting Prime Minister since his appointment as Deputy Prime Minister in April 1999. 

The fact that Mahathir had never appointed Abdullah as Acting Prime Minister in the past 30 months is the strongest proof that after the sacking of Anwar Ibrahim as his heir-designate in September 1998, Mahathir had never seriously groomed a successor as the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia. 

As Acting Prime Minister probably for most of the next 16 months as Mahathir will be away from the country most of the time on his overseas trips including a two-month leave, Abdullah has heavy responsibilities and he must live up to public expectations. 

Being an Acting Prime Minister is different from continuing as Deputy Prime Minister, for as Acting Prime Minister, Abdullah  must take all the responsibilities and make all the decisions belonging to the Prime Minister, without referring or waiting for the return of  Mahathir to the country. 

As one of his early decisions as Acting Prime Minister, I call on Abdullah to   put the RM1.02 billion Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR) project on hold until the fullest public consultation and review, including a new social, cultural and environmental  impact assessment report. 

Yesterday in Parliament, replying to  the adjournment speech of the DAP MP for Tanjong, Chow Kon Yew, the Works Ministers, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu said that the PORR concessionaire, Peninsular Metro-Works Sdn. Bhd has been asked to carry out a social, cultural and environmental impact assessment before the implementation of the PORR project. 

He also said that the Penang State Government and the concession company would be putting up for public exhibition for ten days the  latest proposals from the technical review of PORR, and that public feedback would be considered by the government before the implementation of PORR project is finalized. 

This brings me to the second issue I want to highlight tonight – especially in view of the public complaints by Barisan Nasional elected representatives that they know next to nothing about PORR, and have  to depend on Chow’s statements and revelations to learn about the various aspects of PORR. 

This is a most disgraceful state of affairs. It is no use  MCA and Gerakan leaders in Penang going around  claiming that PORR is a burden unfairly imposed on the Penang State Governemnt, Penang MCA and Penang Gerakan by the Federal Government and UMNO, when they should be taking a strong stand to ask for a review of the PORR project, not only with regard to the alignment and toll questions, but also the re-bidding and a comprehensive transport masterplan to resolve the traffic congestion nightmare on the Penang Island. 

I call on Abdullah to support the proposition that the PORR project must receive the approval of the Penang State Assembly before it could be implemented, and furthermore, that there should be a re-bidding of the PORR concession. 

Samy Vellu had publicly rejected the DAP call for a “re-bidding”  of PORR on the ground that “those fellows will only ask for more money”.  I presume he must be referring to the present concessionaire, Peninsular Metro-Works Sdn. Bhd., although he did not name it. 

I do not believe however that Samy Vellu is right that if there is re-bidding of the PORR privatization, Peninsular Metro-Works Sdn. Bhd. would be able to “ask for more money”, for it would not be a replay of the original bid five years ago when nobody knew that the PORR concessionaire would be given the unprecedented bounties of 30-yeadr toll concession, 31 ha of prime State land and 202 ha of reclaimed land off Gurney Drive – estimated to worth some RM5 billion! 

Samy Vellu had said that the “public cost” of the PORR project had been cut down to RM740 million as a result of “RM150 million federal allocation, RM200 million in prime state land and the right to reclaim 200 ha for mixed development project to the concessionaire”.  

As Acting Prime Minister, Abdullah should be able to ask the Federal Government to bear responsibility for this RM740 million “public cost” so that PORR would be toll-free, taking into account Penang’s contribution to the Federal revenue which must be unmatched by any other state. 

What is intriguing about Samy Vellu’s reply to Chow was his claim that political considerations had nothing to do with the award of the PORR concession to Peninsular Metro-Works Sdn. Bhd and his disclosure of the  equity ownership of the PORR concessionaire, constituting 55% equity stake by Nadi Senandung Sdn. Bhd., 35% by Kumpulan Pinang Sdn. Bhd and 10% by Setegap Bhd. 

As Chow has revealed, Nadi Senandung Sdn. Bhd. is a company with  RM100 paid-up capital without track record in road-building, but a company with absolutely nothing to show – no business, no account and no record whatsoever. 

Furthermore, the equity structuring of Peninsular Metro-Works Sdn. Bhd. as revealed by Samy Vellu yesterday  is completely different from the records of the Registry of Companies as had been searched by Chow. 

In January this year, the equity  of Peninsular Metro-Works Sdn. Bhd. were held as follows: 

Abdul Rahman Abbas                               1                     

Abdul Rhim bin Saila                                 1

Kumpulan Pinang Sdn. Bhd            10,000

Setegap Bhd.                                    12,750

Favourite Force Sdn Bhd                11,000

ACUVEST Sdn. Bhd.                       12,748

Sayang Pilihan Sdn. Bhd.                  3,500

As of 9th February, 2002 there had been changes in the equity ownership of Peninsular Metro-Works in the records of the Registry of Companies,  as follows: 

Nadi Senandung Sdn.                     27,250

Kumpulang Pinang Sdn. Bhd.        10,000

Setegap Bhd.                                   12,750

The numerous swift chop and change of the equity ownership of the PORR concessionaire bears the mark of a crony company – and it is scandalous that the Penang State governance had deteriorated to a stage where  the Penang Chief Minister had lost the ability to do what is right according to the international best practices of good urban governance and public  integrity because of the involvement of a Penang  UMNO division leader in the PORR concessionaire. 

As it is public knowledge that the Penang Yang di Pertua Negeri, Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas had disposed of his one equity share in Peninsular Metro-Works Sdn. Bhd after his appointment as head of state, the Penang people are entitled to know for how much he sold his one share in Peninsular Metro-Works Sdn. Bhd. – whether it was worth RM1 or millions or even tens of  millions of ringgit like some one golden or “diamond” share worth all the other shares in the equity structure.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman