DAP calls on Prime Minister, Datuk Hussein Onn, to issue a White Paper on the full story of the $250 million Kuantan Port fiasco

By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Dap Secretary- General and Member of Parliament for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang; on Thursday, 16th August 1979:

DAP calls on Prime Minister, Datuk Hussein Onn, to issue a White Paper on the full story of the $250 million Kuantan Port fiasco.

The Deputy Transport Minister, Encik Ali Shariff, said in yesterday’s papers that the Prime Minister, Datuk Hussein Onn, will visit the Kuantan Port site on Saturday, August 18, and will also attend a closed-door meeting with officials at the operations room.

Encik Ali Shariff said (Straits Times August 15) that the port was exported to be opened for partial operations by early next year. However, a Bernama report today (Star 16th August 1979) quoted the port authority chief in Kuantan, Encik Fadzil Mohamad yusuf, as saying that the Kuantan port would be open to partial operation at the end of the year.

Coming after a long list of announced opening of operations which had again and again to be put off, this latest conflicting version of when the Kuantan Port would be partially opened for operation can only undermine public confidence in the competence and capability of the people in charge of the huge $250 million Kuantan Port project. It also raises the question whether the partial opening of the Port is being rushed, regardless of safety of its use, to head off criticisms about it.

It is now an open secret, both nationally and internationally, that the $250 million Kuantan Port is the latest scandal in Malaysia, which may put the Bank Rakyat scandal – which to date had cost $150 million of public funds to bail out the Bank Rakyat from bankruptcy – in the shade!

$250 million is not a small sum of money, and the Malaysian taxpayers have a right to know the full story of what went wrong in the Kuantan Port project, whether the root cause is because of wrong sitting, bad design, poor supervision or poor quality of materials used, etc.

Often, vast expenditure of public funds on a huge project is not based on economic and technical feasibility, but on political considerations; and if Kuantan Port is the most expensive and disastrous example of public funds being wasted because of political considerations overriding economic or technical considerations, then Malaysian Government must learn from this lesson and cause a review of all other developmental projects to prevent further Kuantan Port scandals recurring. The project that immediately comes to mind in this category is the Third Medical faculty in Kelantan, which appeared to be motivated more by political considerations instead of educational factors.

Be that as it may, the DAP calls on the Prime Minister, Datuk Hussein Onn, to uphold the principle of accountability of government to the people, and to let the people know what exactly has gone wrong in the Kuantan Port project, why $250 million had been committed in such a irresponsible and scandalous fashion.

The Prime Minister’s meeting with port officials in Kuantan on Saturday should not be a closed door one, but should be open to all reporters so that through the newspapers, the public can know for the first time from official sources, what is wrong with the Kuantan Port project. I also call on the Prime Minister, Datuk Hussein Onn, to issue a White Paper on the full story of the $250 million Kuantan Port scandal, for the people of Malaysia are even more concerned than the government to ensure that every dollar is well and properly spent!

In April this year, I wrote to the Public Accounts Committee of Dewan Rakyat suggesting that the PAC should demand an immediate accounting of the mismanagement of the construction of the Kuantan Port, but although it was later reported in the press that the PAC had decided to visit Kuantan Port, nothing has come out of it. It is clear that the PAC has failed in its responsibility to be the watchdog over public expenditure by government departments, when it dared not give investigation of the mismanagement of Kuantan Port immediate priority. This highlights the weakness and ineffectiveness of a PAC, when it is chaired by a member of the ruling party, and in this case by a MCA MP, who is even more frightened of leading with.

2. Major Shake-up of Immigration department urgently needed to make it a service-oriented department and not a nest of red tape, bureaucratism.

In the past week, the Immigration Department has distinguished itself as a department which needs a major shake up to make it a service-oriented department, and not a nest of red tape and bureaucratism.

Speaking at the Staff side delegates’ conference end of last month, the Chief Secretary to the Government, Tan Sri Abdullah bin Ayub, warned erring government servants to mend their ways and provide better service to the public.

The Chief Secretary, Tan Sri Abdullah bin Ayub, should make Immigration Department his first target of a ‘buck up’ campaign, if his warning is to be treated seriously, both by the government servants and the public.

In the last week, the Immigration Department has produced three scandals:

1. That it is currently processing 150,000 applications for permanent resident status – when it is clear that such a back – log is only possible if there is gross inefficiency, incompetence or sheer irresponsibility in the Department, over an extended period of time.

2. The Chaos and administrative mess at the Immigration Department in Kuala Lumpur where ordinary Malaysians had to queue up for the entire day, and sometimes for more than a day, just to apply for international passports. The director general of Immigration, Haji Mohamed Amir Yakub, may be right when he said that because of irresponsible rumors, there had been an unprecedented rush for international passports. But the test of whether a department is service-oriented or a nest of red tape and bureaucratism is its ability to bring administrative order and convenience to the public even in an emergency. The KL Immigration Department has clearly failed in this test!

3. The deafening silence of the Immigration Department as to how some 12,000 largely illegal Indonesian immigrants got into Malaysia over the last few years to work in northern Johore and Southern Pahang, in clearing jungles and feeling trees, many on Felda schemes. The Deputy Labour Minister, Datuk K. Pathmanaban, has confirmed the presence of so large a number of illegal immigrant work-face in Peninsular Malaysia, but how did they come in, unless the Immigration Department closed both eyes, or they are the only in the country completely unaware of the presence of the illegal immigrants from Indonesia ?

The Immigration Department clearly needs a full shake-up. The Malaysian public and the Government cannot tolerate such supercilious government departments, which regard itself as master of the people, rather than servants of the people.