Kadir should personally foot the bill for the banquet organized by the Information Ministry to celebrate the Barisan Nasional victory last night as this is a gross misuse of public funds as Parliament had neither budgetted nor authorized the Information Ministry to spend the taxpayers’ hard-earned monies for such blatant partisan political purpose
Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang
(Ipoh, Friday): I am shocked by the following Bernama news report posted online on its website at 12.17 a.m. which reads:
“Ministry Celebrates BN Win
“KUALA LUMPUR, April 29 (Bernama) -- The Information Ministry
Thursday night organised a dinner to celebrate the landslide victory of the
Barisan Nasional (BN) in the 11th general election.
Kadir should personally foot the bill for the banquet organized by the Information Ministry to celebrate the Barisan Nasional victory last night as this is a gross misuse of public funds as Parliament had neither budgetted nor authorized the Information Ministry to spend the taxpayers’ hard-earned monies for such blatant partisan political purpose.
The Information Ministry is the worst culprit of all Ministries for failing to make the important distinction between right and wrong, between government and Barisan Nasional and between national interest and political party interest – but it has never been so blatant as last night as to squander public funds to celebrate a Barisan Nasional election victory celebration.
The Auditor-General should declare his stand whether the Information Ministry is allowed to lavish taxpayers’ money for a Barisan Nasional election victory celebration, and to take immediate steps to demand that Kadir should reimburse the Information Ministry every sen spent on the Barisan Nasional victory celebration at Auditorium Perdana, Angkasapuri, as well as charging Kadir the full cost of the rental of the auditorium for a non-official function.
This is the latest example that Cabinet Ministers have not understood the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi when he said in Temerloh last Saturday that changing the mindset of the people must be a national priority in order to achieve Malaysia’s aspirations to be a fully developed nation.
This change of mindset, however, must start with the Cabinet Ministers, starting with their regaining the ability to distinguish between what is right and wrong, what is public and private (though political party) interests, and what could and could not be spent with public funds!
I call on the Abdullah to make an example of Kadir and to distance himself from the blatant misuse of public funds by the Information Ministry last night in using the budget allocated to the Ministry by Parliament to splash on a banquet to celebrate the Barisan Nasional election victory.
If this is allowed, not only every Ministry, but every government department, agency and bureau would be able to spend money to organize a big bash to celebrate the Barisan Nasional election victory!
Kadir’s extravagance and splurge of public funds at the taxpayers’ expense is an ominous sign that the Abdullah Cabinet is starting on a very wrong footing, despite the pledge by the Prime Minister for a clean, incorruptible, efficient, people-oriented and trustworthy government.
What should be top priority for Kadir as Information Minister is not how to squander public funds but how to restore public confidence in a free, independent and responsible press, as Monday, May 3, 2004 is World Press Freedom Day.
Five years ago, when Abdullah was first appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, there were high hopes that he would accord priority to restore public confidence in various key government institutions by giving the Home Ministry a human face, including loosening up and removing the press controls in the country to usher an era of free, fair and responsible press in Malaysia.
This was why on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day on May 3, 1999, some 600 journalists in Malaysia - which grew to over 1,000 journalists the following World Press Freedom Day 2000 - presented a memorandum to Abdullah calling for the repeal of the Printing Presses and Publications Act and other repressive laws fettering the development of a free and responsible press.
Abdullah had given a solemn undertaking to the Malaysian journalists that he would give their memorandum serious consideration. What is the outcome of such serious consideration after six World Press Freedom Days from 1999 to 2004?
As the new Information Minister, Kadir should represent the government to give an answer to such a question instead of setting the bad example of squandering public funds for a totally unlawful and improper purpose – especially as Malaysia’s latest press freedom international ranking is a dismal 154th out of 193 countries, even worse than Iraq, Russia, Yemen, Bangladesh and Bhutan. This is the 2004 press freedom ranking of the Freedom House which was released two days ago in conjunction with the 2004 World Press Freedom Day.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman & Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor