by Parliamentary Opposition Leader and DAP Secretary General and Member of Parliament for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, issued on Saturday, 28th November 1981
DAP calls on the Prime Minister, Datuk Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, to institute an impartial public inquiry into the Permatang Tinggi rail-bas disaster which killed 17and injured 31
The DAP is profoundly shocked by the Permatang Tinggi rail-bas crash which killed 17 and injured 31, especially as the disaster is so unnecessary and easily avoidable if the transport authorities had taken the elementary precaution of installing gates at the Permatang Tinggi crossing.
The failure of the transport authorities to install gates at the Permatang Tinggi crossing is tantamount to criminal negligence as it is the direct cause of the death of 17 and injury of 31.
The failure of the transport authorities to install gates at Permatang Tinggi is all the more inexcusable especially as railway crossing accident in various parts of the country should have alerted them to the urgent need for such measures, especially after the Pasir Mas tragedy in Kelantan in 1972 where 12 people were killed and 37 injured.
The then Communication Minister , Tan Sri Sardon Jubir, had announced after the Pasir Mas tragedy that immediate action was being taken to install safety measures at crossings.
Why was this not done? And why didn’t the respective Minister of transport check as to whether the safely measures at the various crossings were taken for the last 10years!
The Permatang Tinggi tragedy is all the more unnecessary as the crossing itself had been the scene of several major accidents, thus, on Nov 1, a car and a train collided at the same crossing, killing an electrician and injuring 6 others.
The transport authorities had clearly been most negligent in their duties to prevent avoidable accidents for the public.
It is no use the transport authorities assuring the public that an inquiry would be held and remedial measures would be taken after a major disaster had taken place. In fact, the public have enough of such empty statements.
With reference to the announcement that the Malayan Railways had set up a board of inquiry, the DAP wants to make it clear that we have absolutely no confidence in such a departmental inquiry. The reaction that I have received from the public also show that they have no confidence in such an inquiry as instances have shown that departmental inquiries have shown that departmental inquires into major disasters have ended up as “cover-ups” without any serious or frank attempt to publicly ascertain the causes, pinpoint the areas of negligence and outline the remedial steps to be taken.
In a parliamentary democracy, the Minister involved and in this case the Transport Minister, Datuk Lee San Choon, must bear the public responsibility for any major disaster or mishap in this Ministry due to the negligence of his officers, unless he could convince the public that he as the Minister had taken all the necessary action within his power.
The time has come for the Malaysian public to demand a higher standard of accountability from our Minister and public authorities.
The inquiry into the Permantang Tinggi disaster must not only be precautionary measures were taken at the Permantang Tinggi crossing, despite its record of accidents, and should in fact encompass the entire problem of safety and accidents at railway crossings throughout the country, and the overall safety performance of the Malayan Railways and the Ministry of Transport since the Pasir Mas disaster in 1972.
The Malayan Railways and indeed the entire Transport Ministry is in the dock for the Permantang Tinggi disaster. It would be most ridiculous for they themselves to conduct the inquiry which cannot but be a white-wash operation.
In line with the new emphasis by the 2M leadership for greater competence and public accountability and more open government, I call on the Prime Minister , Datuk Mahathir Mohammad to institute an impartial public inquiry comprising eminent Malaysians to inquire into the Permantang Tinggi disaster, including the degree of culpability of the Malayan Railways and the Transport Ministry in allowing a situation here such a disaster became unavoidable.