Is the Instant Mee Scandal becoming a PAC Scandal?

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary- General and MP for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, when declaring open the Selangor Federal Territory DAP Political Course held at DAP PJ premises in Damansara Utama on Saturday, Sept. 26 at 2.30 p.m.

Is the Instant Mee Scandal becoming a PAC Scandal?

After yesterday’s Public Accounts Committee meeting, the PAC Chairman, Datuk Lee Boon Peng, made the shocking announcement that the PAC had abandoned its inquiries into the Instant Mee Scandal, and had instead, passed the buck back to the Ministry of Defence by directing it to set up a board of inquiry into it.

On Sept. 9, the PAC met for the first time on the Instant Mee Scandal, and Datuk Lee told the press after the meeting that the PAC spent four hours and 15 minutes on the matter without reaching a satisfactory conclusion. The PAC again met on the Instant Mee Scandal the next day on Sept. 10. After the meeting, Datuk Lee announced that a third date had been fixed for the Instant Mee Scandal on Sept. 25, and that the PAC had summoned to appear before is the NBI officer who investigated into the Defence Ministry’s Instant Mee Scandal, as the PAC wanted to know whether the NBI was going to prosecute anyone.

Datuk Lee told the press that the Ministry of Defence had report the Instance Mee Scandal to the NBI, which carried out investigations in 19789, but the PAC did not know the stage of the NBI investigations.

It is no exaggeration to say that never in the history of PAC in Malaysia had so much national attention been rivted on yesterday’s PAC meeting, to await the outcome of the PAC’s meeting of the Instant Mee Scandal. Instead of firm and effective PAC action against those responsible for the Instead Mee Scandal, the PAC had now taken part in the ;passing the buck’ game of kicking the ball back to the Ministry of Defence, who are the least qualified to investigate into this matter in the present circumstances.

What is even more mysterious is what has happened to the NBI investigations? Has the NBI too abandoned its investigations into the Instant Mee Scandal, and also agreed, through the NBI officer at the PAC meeting, to kick the ball back to the Ministry of Defence for an internal inquiry?

The Instant Mee Scandal, which has so tarnished the Defence Ministry, is now threatening to blow up to become a PAC Scandal!

The Instant Mee Scandal, where the government incurred over $962,000 losses because of the inflated prices quoted for instant mee for the armed forces in Sabah and Sarawak, where a packet of instant mee was quoted at $3.90 and $4.90 when the average contract price in Peninsular Malaysia was 14 cents a packet, is in fact a very small item in the Auditor-General’s Report on the 1977 Federal Government Accounts.

The item on instant mee scandal is only a 5-lime paragraph in a Report running into 278 paragraphs, with some paragraphs five times the length of the instant-mee paragraph. The Auditor-General’s 1977 Federal Government Accounts Report refer to unexplained differences of $663 million between the Accountant-General’s books and the departmental records; payments totaling $51.9 million not supported by payment vouchers or other acceptable evidence to substantiate expenditure; loans given out which exceed the authorised provision by $55.5 million; and the payment of $1.07 million where no provisions were made in the estimates, apart from a long list of other financial irregularities, improprieties and malpractices.

If the PAC, after spending three days, could not made any headway in the Instant Mee Scandal, despite the calling of Mindef chiefs and the NBI itself, then clearly the PAC should itself close shop, and the PAX Chairman, resign without any further ado.

How can the PAC deal with the other multi-million dollar items when one Instant Mee Scandal items is sufficient to frustrate the PAC, Forcing it to surrender the issue back to the Ministry of Defence. This is a gross abdication of its responsibility.

Datuk Lee Boon Peng must answer two questions to satisfy the Malaysian public:

1. If the PAC is finally to pass the buck back to the Mindef for a departmental inquiry, why not do it right from the beginning, instead of spending three precious days on it?

2. Yesterday, Datuk Lee said that the PAC had obtained the information it wanted about the instant mee scandal. If this is case, why the need for a Mindef departmental inquiry?

Datuk Lee should also explain the whole rationale of the PAC directing departments and Ministries holding a departmental inquiry. Is this the new the Auditor-General’s Reports about financial irregularities, improprieties and malpractices in government is to direct the various departments to set up boards of inquiry.

It is most sad that at a time when there is a new consciousness and awareness of the importance of holding government departments and Ministries to strict financial account for the spending of every cent of taxpayers’ money, the PAC Chairman is showing himself to be such an ineffective and impotent personality.

If the new awareness and consciousness of the importance of strict government accountability to the public for spending taxpayers’ money is not to fizzle out, then the PAC must play its role as an independent, powerful, fearless and vigorous custodian of public money, The PAC can only play this role with an imaginative and courageous PAC Chairman.

The PAC and the PAC Chairman must not wilt and withdraw from an investigation because ‘bag names’ may be involved in the various scandals of financial irregularities and malpractices, like the ‘Instant Mee’ Scandal. The PAC should never cover-up for any of scandal by anyone regardless of his position, rank, status.

Datuk Lee Boon Peng owes the Malaysian public a full, complete and frank explanation for the way he had guided the PAC examination of the INstant Mee Scandal, which has ended as a PAC fiasco.

Is this why Datuk Lee had not responded to my suggestion two weeks ago in Ipoh that the PAC proceedings should be open to the public and the press? There is no good reason whatsoever for excluding the press as the entire verbatim proceedings of the PAC are eventually presented to Dewan Rakyat and become a public document.

Why is Datuk Hishamuddin Yahya still Majuternak Chairman?

The new broom of the Mahathir-Musa leadership for a clean, efficient, smooth administration seems to begin to run out of steam. Ministers have not come forward to set an example of accepting full responsibility for their departmental actions. Nor have the Chairmen of Statutory Boards and government agencies show that they are aware of the principle of responsibility.

The best example of course is Majuternak, where the NBI had been called in to investigate suspicions of corrupt practice, the Auditor- General’s Office called in to conduct a special audit of Majuternak accounts after Majuternak cheques totaling some $1.5 million bounced.

But through it all, the Chairman of Majuternak, Datuk Hishamuddin Yahya, was not to be seen or heard. How can Datuk Hishamuddin continue as Majuternak Chairman when the NBI and the Auditor-General’s Office have been summoned to go through his organization? Even if Datuk Hishamuddin is innocent of any wrongdoing, the least he must do is to resign to allow an unhampered and impeded investigations into the MAJUTERNAK affairs by both the NBI and the Auditor-General’s Office.

(Lim Kit Siang)

Democratic Action Party

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary- General and MP for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, at the Damansara DAP Branch Dinner to celebrate the Party’s 15th Anniversary, held at Jalan Klang Lama, Kuala Lumpur, on Saturday, Sept. 26 at 9 p.m.

Datuk Wee Boon Peng’s proposal: No need for duplication

Datuk Wee Boon Ping said in Sibu early this week that he would make efforts to get the MCA, Gerakan and DAP to a round –table conference to discuss the formation of a united front to safeguard the interests of Malaysian Chinese.

There are already presently efforts in this direction, and there is no need for any duplication of such efforts. If the present efforts fail, then I do not see how other efforts could succeed. In fact, if the present efforts currently taking place fail, the DAP is no more interested in any other efforts for we would want to concentrate our energies and resources to awaken the people, and in particular the Malaysian Chinese, to their political challenges in the 1980s.

The DAP has many times stated publicly our preparedness to participate in a round-table conference with the MCA, Gerakan, Tung Chung and Chiau Chung, to achieve meaningful common action programme where the legitimate constitutional, political, economic, educational, social and cultural rights of the Malaysian Chinese could be protected, and promoted in Cabinet, Parliament, State Executive Councils and State Assemblies.

We have stated our reservations about the ability of the MCA and the Gerakan to agree to any meaningful common action programme, which reservations have been strengthened by the complete indifference shown by the national MCA leaders to encourage Malaysian Chinese to register as voters, and their interest in only having a Second Deputy Prime Minister from the MCA.

The MCA does not seem to realize that without political legitimacy- when MCA Ministers and leaders have to depend on UMNO’s Malay votes to win- it can have a Second Deputy Prime Minister without even the power of a Deputy UMNO Minister. What is the use of this?

2. Call on the new NBI Director0General, Datuk Abdul Aziz Ahmad, to explain why the NBI is taking three long years to investigate a simple matter as the Instant Mee Scandal.

When opening the new $3 million NBI Headquarters in Persiaran Duta early this week, the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Abdullah Abdul Rahman, said that NBI would investigate and prosecute anybody involved in corrupt poll in the country as to how many people believe his statement, he would realize how cut off from the real life of the people he has become. Unless, of course, he is just pretending that he does not know the dept of disillusionment of the people with the NBI’s performance.

Datuk Abdullah surely could think of a long list of political and government leaders who should be in jail for corrupt practices, but who are strutting around showing off their ill-gotten gains.

I hope that the NBI, with a new director-general, would be able to create a new image and impression on the people. Unfortunately, the NBI’s reputation has suffered a great blow in the last few week because of its shocking performance over the Instant Mee Scandal, as revealed by the Auditor-General’s Report on the 1977 Federal Government Accounts and the proceedings of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee.

According to the Auditor-General’s Report, the government incurred over $962,000 losses because of the inflated prices quoted for instant mee for the armed forces in Sabah and Sarawak, where a packet of instant mee was quoted at $3.90 and $4.90 when the average contract price in Peninsular Malaysia was 14 cents a packet.

According to the PAC Chairman, Datuk Lee Boon Peng, the ‘Instant Mee’ Scandal was reported to the NBI which started investigations in 1978. After the PAC meeting on Friday, Datuk Lee said the NBI’s investigations into the ‘Instant Mee’ Scandal is still continuing.

Surely, this is not the type of performance, efficiency and vigour which an investigative agency entrusted with the responsibility of fighting corruption is likely to inspire confidence in the public. Furthermore, it would appear that only NBI Sarawak is involved in investigating the Instant Mee Scandal, and not the NBI Sabah, although both states are effected. Is there some sort of immunity as far as Sabah is concerned? The PAC did not call, and the NBI did not volunteer, any NBI officer from Sabah investigating the ‘Instant Mee’ Scandal.

I call on the new Director-General of NBI, Datuk Abdul Aziz Ahmad, to get to the bottom of the ‘Instant Mee’ Scandal to find up why the NBI is taking three long years to deal with a simple matter like this.

I propose making an appointment with the new Director-General of NBI to find out exactly what are the problems being faced by the NBI where it could be bogged down for years in a simple case like ‘Instant Mee’ which had already been examined by the Auditor-General’s Department. Is it because powerful individuals are involved?

Unless the NBI can, without fear or favour, proceed without the need for political ‘green-light’ against the corrupt in highly-placed political places, the NBI is unlikely to secure high public regard. I am aware that for the NBI to do this, the political leadership must take a political decision to give the NBI complete liberty of action, which it had never done up till now.

This is why the DAP wants a thorough-going national discussion about the problem of corruption in Malaysia. In the October meeting of Parliament, I have submitted a question to the Prime Minister asking him whether the government would establish a Royal Commission of Inquiry to study the problem of corruption and recommend measured to combat it as corruption in public life has become the most rampant since Merdeka 24 years ago.

A Royal Commission of Inquiry into Corruption in Malaysia will be the right step to take if the government is sincere in wanting to root out corruption in the country.