Call on Abdullah to rectify the wrong signal he has sent out by his nonchalant and phlegmatic response to the RM80 million “leaking” Parliament House scandal to make clear his commitment for a “First World Infrastructure, First World Mentality” and the maintenance of best international practices in all fields
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Monday): I find the lack of shock or outrage by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi even more disturbing than the scandal and shame of the RM80 million “leaking” Parliament House in the Dewan Rakyat during a rainstorm, forcing the premature and ignominous end of the parliamentary meeting last Thursday.
All that Abdullah has said on the RM80 million “leaking” Parliament scandal was “If there is a leak, it has to be repaired”, when asked by reporters after opening Wharf 14 at Northport, Port Klang on Friday.
Abdullah’s nonchalant and phlegmatic response, completely without any sense of shock or outrage, or any interest about accountability for the RM80 million “leaking” Parliament House scandal making the Malaysian Parliament and nation the international laughing-stock, is sending out a very wrong signal - that Malaysian standards and culture have fallen so low that such scandals involving national prestige projects and monuments which would have been unthinkable in the past 48 years is now no more unexpected and no cause for surprise!
In fact, the RM80 million “leaking” Parliament House scandal on Thursday completely undermined the Prime Minister’s Workers’ Day Message on Saturday, calling on all workers to strive for excellence in both their professional and personal lives, as well as this year’s Workers Day theme Excellent Workers lead to an Outstanding Nation to create a highly skilled workforce to face new challenges in this era of a borderless world.
What “excellence” are we talking about when after a RM80 million renovation of Parliament House, the Dewan Rakyat ceiling can spring a leak, drenching the chamber, disrupting power supply for the whole Parliament House and bringing parliamentary proceedings to an abrupt end?
Because of the prolonged slowdown and even negative growth of the construction sector, government leaders have been calling on Malaysia builders to venture overseas to compete for international construction projects. How can Malaysian contractors and builders expect to be competitive internationally, when the RM80 million “leaking” Parliament House scandal is advertising to the whole world about the low construction standards and the lack of an excellence culture in the country?
Equally disturbing, the RM80 million “leaking” Parliament scandal also undermines Abdullah’s clarion call for the elimination of the “First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality” Malaysian malaise – that instead of making progress to conquer this disease, there has been further deterioration in international best practices, to the extent that what was completely unthinkable in the past 48 years is now becoming to be accepted as commonplace.
I call on Abdullah to rectify the wrong signal he has sent out by his nonchalant and phlegmatic response to the RM80 million “leaking” Parliament House scandal to make clear his commitment for a “First World Infrastructure, First World Mentality” and the maintenance of best international practices in all fields.
It is this wrong signal from Abdullah that has seen contradictory explanations and self-serving excuses for the RM80 million “leaking” Parliament House scandal – from the initial admission by the Public Works Department director-general Tan Sri Zaini Omar that it was an “catastrophic oversight”, with the PWD accepting full blame for the leaking ceiling in the Dewan Rakyat, to the statement by the Parliament Speaker, Tan Sri Ramli Ngah, playing down the severity of the scandal, claiming that it did not cause much damage and blaming the contractor instead.
Damage are of two kinds – monetary and non-monetary, with the latter even more important because of the damage to the international reputation of Parliament and Malaysia, which cannot be computed solely in ringgit and sen.
As for monetary damage, it is not a small sum either. Last Friday, Works Minister Datuk Seri Samy Vellu said from Punjab that while the repair work might cost RM5,000, the modification required to the smoke extractor system was estimated at RM100,000. This has not taken into account the damage to the electrical and audio-video systems, with Parliament House subject to frequent power breakdowns, or the new set of Dewan Rakyat furniture and furnishings.
There is another cost - last Thursday’s parliamentary sitting, which proved to be a futile one, as the various bills and treasury motions, as well as the private member’s motion on Myanmar, could not be passed. The cost of a parliamentary sitting a day is easily in the region of RM250,000, taking into account the meeting, hotel and travelling entitlements of the 219 MPs.
Furthermore, millions of ringgit of tax would be lost as the Excise Amendment Bill could not be passed. Finance Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Hilmi Yahya said the forced adjournment of the Dewan Rakyat meant that the excise duty could not be collected.
Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman