Call on Abdullah as Leader of the House to recall Dewan Rakyat for a two-day meeting in last week of May to complete outstanding business interrupted by the RM85 million “leaking” Parliament scandal- after Senate meeting and after the Dewan Rakyat ceiling has been repaired
Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament, Tuesday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, as Leader of the House, should recall the Dewan Rakyat for a two-day meeting in the last week of May to complete outstanding business interrupted by the RM85 million “leaking” Parliament scandal last Thursday – after the Dewan Negara had completed its 12-day meeting on May 19 and after the Dewan Rakyat ceiling has been repaired.
The two-day reassembly of MPs will enable the outstanding parliamentary business which would have been transacted last Thurday if the Dewan Rakyat had not been prematurely, ignominiously and unceremoniously cut short because of the “leaking” Dewan Rakyat chamber – three government bills, six Treasury motions and motion on Myanmar - as well as allow a full debate and accounting as to why after a RM85 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 and disgraceful end!
Public Works Department director-general Tan Sri Zaini Omar was reported in the Utusan Malaysia yesterday as saying that the repair work for the RM85 million Parliament “leak” would be completed within two weeks.
Last Friday, Zaini said it would have cost only RM60 to seal the hole between the ceiling and a smoke extractor which caused the leak, and that the repair for the damaged ceiling was estimated at RM5,000. Yesterday, he said zinc sheets instead of pvc canvas would be used for the repair and that it would cost RM30,000 instead of the earlier estimate of RM5,000.
In his statement from Punjab on Friday, Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, said PWD must take full responsibility for the “leak” and mentioned that apart from the RM5,000 repair, there is the additional RM100,000 cost for modification of the smoke spill fan.
The RM5,000, and now RM30,000, repair would be borne by the contractor but who would bear the cost of the RM100,000 fan modification?
As both Samy Vellu and Zaini have accepted full responsibility of the JKR for the leak, why is the contractor Pembinaan Anggerik Sdn. Bhd footing the bill for the repair. Who is really at fault – JKR or the contractor? Is the contractor being unusually generous to bear the repair cost when it is not responsible or is there something which Parliament and the public are not aware of?
Berita Minggu on Sunday carried the headline “Siling bocor kerana kontraktor cuai: Ramli”. Who is right about the party responsible for the Parliament “leak” – Samy Vellu and Zaini or the Parliament Speaker, Tan Sri Ramli Ngah? Samy Vellu and Zaini have never said that the contractor was negligent. Or are both JKR and contractor equally and doubly negligent in the RM85 million “leaking” Parliament scandal?
Zaini has admitted that the Parliament leak was an “catastrophic oversight” of PWD but Ramli said it did not cause much damage.
The confusing and contradictory statements together with different estimates of costs of repair and damage for the Parliament “leak” do not inspire public confidence that there are the highest standards, whether good governance, public service excellence or public service delivery system despite the call by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in the past 18 months for high-quality public service and an end to the “First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality” disease.
The damage to Malaysia’s national reputation in the international arena cannot be computed solely in ringgit and sen or it would be in tens of millions of ringgit. The actual monetary damage is not small as apart from the RM30,000 repair, RM100,000 for fan modification, the damage to the electrical and audio-video systems (with Parliament House subject to frequent power breakdowns) and the new set of Dewan Rakyat furniture and furnishings, there are two other costs:
I am surprised that the Parliament Speaker has disputed my figure of RM80 million as the cost for the Parliament renovation, a figure which I had first mentioned during the debate on the Royal Address on May 20 last year, where I said:
“One question all press asked me was how I felt returning to Parliament after five years’ absence.
“Firstly, I found Parliament transformed physically, after a renovation which clearly exceeded the original parliamentary approval of RM50 million and could end as high as RM80 million – giving it a very glitzy appearance. The question is whether the upgrading of what was already a ‘First World Parliament Building’ will be accompanied by transformation into a First World Parliament in mind-set, culture, practices and performance.”
Nobody had disputed this figure of RM80 million as cost of Parliament renovation in the past one year, until by Ramli in the Sunday papers.
Is Ramli right, or has he been wrongly advised? I have here the text of the 36-page speech prepared by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Nazri Aziz, for the winding-up of the debate for May 31/1st June 2004, but which he did not fully deliver because of time constraints, and in page 16, he replied to my observations on the Parliament renovation, viz:
“Yang Berhormat Ipoh Timur mempersoalkan berapakah perbelanjaan sebenar pengubahsuaian bangunan Parlimen. Dimaklumkan bahawa setakat ini sejumlah RM57 juta dibelanjakan dalam projek pengubahsuaian ini dari jumlah peruntukan keselurhan sebanyak RM85 juta.”
I have in fact given a lower figure in mentioning RM80 million when it should be RM85 million for Parliament renovation, making it even more inexcusable that there should be “leaks” and constant power blackouts to disrupt parliamentary proceedings after the renovation, which is now in its final stages.
The House Committee which is meeting on Friday should conduct a full inquiry, not only into the causes of the parliamentary “leak”, but why there is so much confusion on the cost of the Parliament renovation, as well as submitting a full report to Parliament on a detailed breakdown of the renovation, certifying and auditing as to whether they had been properly spent and accounted for.
The House Committee meeting on Friday is historic, but in a most unflattering manner, as it had never met for the past 15 years, completely irrelevant and redundant, neglecting its important responsibilities to look after the facilities and services available to MPs so that they could effectively perform their parliamentary duties and the Malaysian Parliament can become a First-World Parliament.
The House Committee should not be meeting on Friday just to discuss the RM85 million “leaking” Parliament House scandal, but should set down an agenda and work programme to make up for two decades of failure to play a leading role in parliamentary reform and modernization to make the Malaysian Parliament a First-World Parliament.
There are at least six areas it should give priority:
Firstly, Support the establishment of Select Committees, so that every Ministry is shadowed by a parliamentary Select Committee, apart from having specialist Select Committees such as on national integrity, human rights, national competitiveness, marginalization of the Indian community, etc. to raise the quality of parliamentary performance and debate.
Secondly, turn the Parliament research and information library into a world-class centre.
Thirdly, ensure that MPs have proper secretarial and research support to be effective parliamentarians. During the debate on the Members of Parliament Remuneration (Amendment) Bill last week, I listed the following allocations for the Barisan Nasional MP for Batu in the previous Parliament just for the year 2002 from the RM500,000 annual allocation for Barisan Nasional MPs:
I do not know whether other Barisan Nasional MPs are given such support allocations amounting to some RM140,000 for one year alone , but DAP and other Opposition MPs are denied such parliamentary support. The House Committee should ensure that every MP, whether Barisan Nasional or Opposition, gets such research and secretarial support.
Fourthly, in keeping with the National Integrity Plan and the objective to promote a new culture of zero tolerance for corruption, the House Committee should take the initiative to propose a Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament.
Fifthly, the House Committee should conduct an inquiry into how MPs can use new technology to organize their parliamentary work and communicate with their constituents.
Sixthly, the House Committee should draw up a programme to ensure that MPs set the leading examples of “life-long learning” culture.
In the House of Commons in the United Kingdom, there are four domestic parliamentary committees apart from the House of Commons Commission, to ensure that MPs can effectively perform their duties, viz. Finance and Services Committee, Administration Committee, Information Committee and Catering Committee, which meet round the year.
The House Committee in the Malaysian Parliament should perform the work of all these four committees until more specialized House sub-committees are set up. There are a lot of things for the House Committee to do if the Malaysian Parliament is to become a First-World Parliament, especially after it had slept for the past two decades.
Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman