DAP calls for two-prong diesel shortage crisis public inquiry– (i) why the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry had allowed billion-ringgit diesel subsidy abuses to go on for whole of last year without taking effective preventive action; and (ii)why the ministry had failed repeatedly to come out with an efficient and smart action plan to eradicate rampant abuses of diesel subsidy without victimizing bona fide dealers and users
by Lim Kit Siang
(Ipoh, Tuesday): DAP calls on the Cabinet tomorrow to establish a public inquiry to conduct a two-prong investigate into the protracted diesel shortage crisis , viz:
“Heavy artillery” had come out firing in the past few days at the culprits responsible for the protracted diesel shortage crisis, with the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi condemning their action with his public reaction: "What is sickening is that we offered to the people low prices but what did they do? They smuggle and make profits" while the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Mustapha Mohamed labelled as “saboteurs” of the national economy those misappropriating the diesel subsidy.
Mustapha had earlier announced that the government’s fuel subsidy will be reduced by RM1 billion this year, and that this reduction would be mainly for diesel, “from the steps already taken” by the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry to eradicate the rampant abuses of subsidized diesel by industrial users and smuggling.
The rampant abuses of the subsidized diesel by industrial users and smuggling are believed to be the main contributory factors for the increase in diesel subsidy from RM775.4 million or 3.72 billion litres in 2003 to RM1.7 billion or 4.52 billion litres last year. This raises the most disturbing question whether the Minister for Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, Datuk Shafie Apdal, and his officials had slept on their jobs for the whole of last year when the country was drained and swindled of about RM1 billion by the diesel subsidy cheats.
In the last 12 months, a total of 369 petrol stations and petroleum wholesalers were issued compound notices for selling subsidized diesel to industrial users and 4.8 million litres of contraband seized.
If the bulk of last year’s increase in volume of subsidized diesel, i.e. 800 million litres, was the result of rampant abuses of subsidized diesel, the confiscation of 4.8 million litres is a mere drop in the ocean, constituting only half a per cent, which does not reflect well on the competence, effectiveness and efficiency whether of the Minister concerned or his officials.
What percentage of the increase of 800 million litres of subsidized diesel last year was the result of abuses of the diesel subsidy, and out of this, what percentage was constituted by smuggling and industrial usage misappropriation respectively? It has been reported that Malaysian diesel had been smuggled to Thailand, Philippines and Myanmar. What are their respective figures?
The Petroleum Dealers’ Association of Malaysia President, Alang Zari Ishak has alleged that Sabah and Sarawak are the “hot spots” for illegal sales of subsidized diesel, accounting for 70 per cent of such transactions in the country – with most of the fuel delivered to logging areas or smuggled to the Philippines. Can Shafie confirm Alang Zari’s claim?
It is a matter of further public concern that the Minister for Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs and his officials seem to have been repeatedly out-smarted by the “economic saboteurs” responsible for the rampant abuses of subsidized diesel, when the Ministry’s diesel supply-control measures such as the diesel quota for petrol stations had to be modified at least four times in the past month, without being able to eradicate the abuses while causing grave public hardships and inconvenience, victimizing the bona fide dealers and users and crippling the transportation industry, in particular lorries, express buses and school buses.
The urgent task of the Cabinet is to bring back the diesel supply to normal immediately, as the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs is forfeiting all public support to eradicate rampant abuses of subsidized diesel by “economic saboteurs” whether industrial users or smuggling because of the ham-fisted and badly-conceived diesel supply-control measures.
It is obvious that the whole campaign against rampant abuses of subsidized diesel suffered from one fundamental strategic flaw – to give top priority to protect the interests of the legitimate users and honest dealers so that they do not become the even bigger victims in the operation!
The month-long diesel shortage crisis, and the avoidable hardships and inconveniences caused to the public and the transportation industry, overspilling to adversely affect the small and medium manufacturing industries, should be a classic lesson for all Ministers and the public service as to how a campaign against abuses should not be conducted although its starting point is right and deserves public support.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman