I congratulate the Finance Minister, Tengku Razaleigh, and the other Cabinet Ministers for their great parliamentary performance or non-performance during the winding up for the 1984 Budget debate in the last two weeks, for they have completely belittled the dignity and purpose of the Parliament.
During the Budget debate, I spoke for more than an hour on the $2,500 million Bumiputra Malaysia Finance loans scandal in Hong Kong, for the whole sordid saga highlighted not only the negligence and irresponsibility of BMF directors and officials as well as Bank Bumiputra Directors, I also highlighted the irresponsibility and negligence as well of the various regulatory and supervisory bodies over Bank Bumiputra and BMF, like the Bank Negara, the Ministry of Finance, the Prime Minister’s Department, PNB, the Registry of Companies, the internal and external auditors, and even the entire Cabinet.
Even a few UMNO MPs had the courage to express the concern felt by the 14 million Malaysians about the enormity of the BMF loans scandal, the biggest banking and financial crisis in Malaysia. But there was not a single MCA MP who dared to breathe a word about the BMF, for fear of losing the favour of the UMNO leaders.
But there was not a word of reference in any Minister’s speech during the budget reply. I do not know whether this is because there is still great confusion as to whether the Prime Minister’s Department or the Finance Ministry is really in charge of Bank Bumiputra and with the Prime Minister away on another trip to Japan, there was no Minister who dares to decide!
Be that as it may, I find the Cabinet performance in the budget replies as the most atrocious in Parliamentary history, for by avoiding a subject which has engrossed the attention of every Malaysian, the cabinet has treated Parliament with utter contempt and ridicule.
Only yesterday, the papers reported that the two main Carrian companies, Carrian Investments and Carrian Holdings, are being wound up. This means that the BMF would have to be wound up as well, as the loans of the BMF had given out to Carrian to close to some $2,000 million! This could also lead to the winding up of the parent company, Bank Bumiputra, unless Parliament again injects another $2,000 – $2,500 million to save Bank Bumiputra, in the same way that Parliament had to inject $150 million in 1980 to save Bank Rakyat from bankruptcy.
It is time Parliament reviews its role in the political process, whether it is the highest legislative and deliberative chamber, or it is a mere appendage or a department of the Government of the day.
If it is the highest legislative and deliberative chamber in the land, then the most important national issues should be addressed in this House, and not disregarded as if they don’t exist.
Since the opening of the present budget meeting on October 10, the House had chosen to ignore two grave national crises in the land, the $2,500 million BMF crisis as well as the Constitutional Crisis which resulted from the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill 1983 adopted by both Houses in July and August this year.
As a result, the stocks of Parliament in the eyes of the people had never been lower. For we are showing that we are not only staging a ‘Wayang Kulit’ disregarding the real substance of bills and issues; but also have recently been transported to the ‘cuckoo’s land’, completely cut off from the realities around us.
Ever since October 10, all Barisan MPs are more interested in congregating outside the House to find out the latest development in the two national crises, the Constitutional Crisis and the BMF crisis, resulting in a no quorum last Thursday.
But inside the House, the House and in particular the front benches pretend as if both these crises do not exist. On October 11, I had sought to move an adjournment of the House on a motion of urgent, definite public importance to discuss the Constitutional Crisis, but the Prime Minister in his reply a day earlier said he was not aware of any Constitutional crisis.
Parliament would become completely irrelevant if UMNO Youth, UMNO Wanita, and other organizations address urgent national questions while Parliament is completely indifferent to them.
In the matter of the constitutional crisis, Parliament has as great a responsibility as anybody else to discuss and find ways to overcome the Constitutional crisis, for it is because of the insensitive attitude of the Parliament majority on this question which had sparked off the present crisis.
I would hope that we would not continue to pretend in this House that there is no constitutional crisis. Even the first Malaysian Premier, Tunku Abdul Rahman, had admitted that there is such a crisis. Thus, in the recent issue of his weekly column in Star, he wrote:
“Now a crisis has arisen in which the people, particularly the Malays, are torn between their loyalty to the Rulers and to Umno.
“This has been caused through the recent Constitutional Amendment Act – Clause 12 of the Bill – which provides ‘that any Bill not assented to by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong automatically becomes law after 15 days.’
“This truly was a drastic action and it brought fear to the minds of the Rulers and those who support constitutional monarchy.”
What is most deplorable is that a few UMNO Ministers are going round the country accusing the DAP of opposing the Constitutional Amendment Bill because we do not want the 22 new parliamentary seats to be created. Another UMNO leader even accused the DAP of wanting to break up Malay unity.
The DAP has made its reasons for opposing the 1983 Constitutional Amendment Bill very clear. The Bill is unconstitutional, as it affects the privileges, position, honours or dignities of the Rulers and under Article 38(4) it could not be presented and passed by Parliament without the prior consent of the Conference of Rulers. I had also warned the Government of constitutional crisis which would arise if the Rulers do not sign this Bill on the perfectly constitutional ground that the Bill had not complied with the entrenched Constitutional requirements.
I hope that the UMNO Ministers would not try to distort the entire issue, to get themselves out of the trouble which is completely of their own making. For our part, we in the DAP do not want to see the Constitutional Crisis continue so as to bring to a halt the entire government machinery.
The Tunku has rightly pointed out in his recent article that as under Article 3 of the UMNO Constitution, UMNO members are sworn to uphold the dignity, prestige and position of the Rulers. So how could UMNO Youth in their rally in Petaling Jaya Civics Centre on November 4 support unreservedly the Constitutional Amendment Bill 1983?
With a view to help to resolve the present Constitutional Crisis, I would suggest that the Government withdraws the 1983 Constitutional Amendment Bill as passed by both Houses of Parliament in July and August, and reintroduce a new Constitutional Amendment Bill 1983 with the proposed amendments to Article 66(5) and Article 150 removed, so that the proposed amendments to increase parliamentary constituencies and other amendments could come into force. As for the proposed amendments to Article 66(5) and Article 150, since they directly affect the ‘privileges, position, honours or dignities’ of the Rulers, they should receive the consent of the Rulers Conference before coming to the House.
Finally, to restore Parliament’s credibility which suffered greatly in the past one month because of our totally ignoring these two national crisis, I would propose that the Government should issue Ministerial Statements on both these crisis, and allow time for a parliamentary debate on each of them. Parliament can extend time for night debate specially for these two debates if necessary.
The Standing Orders Committee had invited MPs to submit proposals to review and amend the Standing Orders by November 19. There is a need for a total review of the role of Parliament, whether we are playing the role we have been allotted under the Merdeka Constitution, or whether we are becoming a very inconsequential unit in the political process.
The mentality of some MPS who regard Parliament as a department of some Ministry is indeed shocking, for how can there be true Parliamentary supremacy and the sovereignty of the people with such mentality.
On October 10, when I moved a motion for Parliament to condemn the Soviet Union for downing the South Korean jetliner killing 269 people on board in cold-blood, this motion was rejected on the ground that the Government had already condemned the act, and there was no need for Parliament to pass such a motion.
Such MPs just do not understand the Parliament is separate and higher than the Government, and such a Parliamentary motion would strengthen the Government’s position inside and outside the country.
There is therefore an urgent need to review the Parliamentary role and function, as part of which the Standing Orders would be reviewed. If the Standing Orders are reviewed in order to adjust Parliament to its diminished and even emasculated role, than I think we are doing Parliamentary democracy and the Malaysian people a great disservice.
In any event, I would on behalf of DAP MPs request the Standing Orders committee to extend the deadline of November 19 for proposals, as this is a most hectic period for us, as well as to allow the Standing Orders Committee to consider the proposal to conduct a more wide-ranging review.
I am glad to know from the reply of the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi, that the Anti-Corruption Agency was not running away from an appointment with me on the BMF scandal, and was prepared to meet me.
I would definitely be making an appointment with the ACA to find out what they have been doing on the BMF loans scandal. The whole credibility of the Anti-Corruption Agency has been severely shattered if it could do nothing with a ‘heinous crime’ involving $2,500 million of public funds, giving the people the impression that its scope of operation is only with those who take $25 bribes!
Dr. Mahathir Mohamed had said that the BMF loans scandal is a ‘heinous crime’, but no legal wrong had been committed, only ‘ moral wrongdoing’ causing the country to lose some $2,500 million punishable under the Anti-Corruption Act.
The ACA should investigate such cases, and even if no legal action could be initiated, they should publicly publish their report to advertise the ‘moral wrongdoing’ of public officers to ‘help deter future offenders.’
After 18 months of the last general elections, the government has run out of steam and lost its commitment to a ‘clean, efficient and trustworthy’ government. This is best seen in the current Seremban parliamentary by-election campaign, where the MCA has not put up a single poster or streamer on a ‘clean, efficient, and trustworthy’ government.
This is because there had been so many instances which had blemished the administration’s anti-corruption record. Apart from the BMF scandal, we have cases like the Kok Lanas scandal involving the KSM of the MCA, where 16 hectares of land were bought for $11.5 million. According to the ‘Kok Lanas No Deal committee’ a Deputy Minister is involved in the transaction. What has the ACA done to investigate this scandal in Kota Bharu?
I am most alarmed by the reply by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department to my budget speech cautioning the Government against slogging the oil wells and over-depleting the oil resources just to cover up the shortfall in government revenues, as the government had abandoned Fourth Malaysia Plan production targets to aim for 440,000 barrels per day of production.
This is what he said: “Sebenarnya, simpanan minyak mentah Malaysia didapati bertambah dari setahun ke setahun hasil daripada usaha-usaha mencarigali yang berterusan. Pada masa ini simpanan minyak yang diketahui yang boleh dikeluarkan ialah lebih kurang 2,600 juta tong sahaja.”
The Government seemed to have veered away from the conservation-minded policy to a mentality of ‘unlimited petroleum supplies’.
This is total change of the government philosophy in the management of petroleum resources which prompted the government to announce a National Oil Depletion Policy. Oil and gas resources must be treated as depletetable and non-renewable resources and not as a bonanza to be frittered away. We should conserve our oil and gas resources at a time of low petroleum prices and aim for the highest prices so that the highest returns are obtained, instead of slogging our oil wells at a time of low oil prices to meet revenue demands of the government.
At present, there is too little information about the national oil resources, reserves, management policy and the management of Petronas, for MPs or the Malaysian public to be informed about the most important natural resource in the country.
In 1976, when Petronas was first established, the oil sector contributed $160 million to total exports and $700 million to total Federal revenue. By 1982, oil had contributed $7,600 million to total exports and $4,400 million to total Federal revenue.
With such vast funds in its command, there must be a strict supervision and control of Petronas if what happened in the BMF – the mismanagement and betrayal of trust – is not to happen. I understand that Petronas and its subsidiaries have on their payroll over 4,000 employees while the oil companies like EPMI and Sarawak Shell which carry out the real production of oil do not in total have more employees than Petronas, which does not produce a single cent of oil. There is clearly a great need to review the Petronas management, and I call for the establishment of a Parliamentary Committee to monitor Petronas and to present an annual report to Parliament.
Two weeks ago, in reply to my question, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Dr. James Ongkili, said that Petronas has one of the best safety records for oil rigs in the world, and was awarded the ‘Sword of Honour’ by the British Safety Council on October 19.
Firstly, I understand that the ‘Sword of Honour’ was awarded by the British Safety Council after the answering of a questionnaire by Petronas on safety records, and not as result of any stringent check on safety records. Those in the know also wonder whether the award of ‘sword of Honour’ was more of a political act to re-establish British-Malaysia relations.
Be that as it may, we have no reason to be proud of our safety records of our oil rigs and platforms, for it was only in June this year that a contract worker died of burns on Esso production Malaysia’s Tinggi A oil platform off the Terrenganu coast. The worker, Chee Tah Heng, was working with a blowtorch on the sub-sea deck and did not realise that another worker on an upper deck was manipulating some oil outlets at the time. When some 40 gallons of diesel poured out of the well-head area and gushed to Chee’s working area. Chee was engulfed in a sea of flames.
The Petronas authorities should not disregard the anxieties of the oil-rig workers who fear for their safety. Did this accident show up in the British safety Council questionnaire as answered by Petronas? Or was it not included, as the EPMI do not record the accidents and fatalities of the contract workers in its safety record submitted to Petronas!
There is a great need for Parliamentary scrutiny of Petronas for it has taken several decisions which is highly questionable.
I call on the Government to immediately enact regulations to protect the safety of off-shore workers and off-shore installations as well as to ensure that the instruments and operations conform with the international standards. At present, Petronas had to rely on the words of EPMI and Sarawak Shell as it has no regulations which it could really enforce, nor experts it could use to enforce.
Petronas is still really very much at the mercy of the multi-national oil companies.
For instance, in many countries, before offshore platforms could be put into initial operation, the national oil corporation must issue a certificate of fitness. This is not the case in Malaysia. Petronas also does not check and certify annually the offshore equipments and vessels as is the normal international standard.
I would therefore call on Petronas and the Government not to become complacent because of a ‘Sword of Honour’ from the British Safety Council which probably means nothing at all.
Petronas must come under strict Parliamentary scrutiny because it has made several questionable decisions. For instance, the $165 million Petronas Refinery at Kertih which is probably the most ‘uneconomical’ refinery in this part of the world. Could the Minister responsible inform this House what is the price for refining one barrel of oil in Kertih Refinery, as compared to the other refineries in Malaysia and the refineries in neighbouring countries.
The refinery does not produce petrol or aviation spirit but only some 25% of napther, 25% of kerosene, 30% of diesel; 15% of heavy oil residue and 2% of L.P.G. with a maximum capacity of 30,000 bpd.
Yet it employs 240 workers with some 30 expatriate Caltex staff!
What is even more shocking is the $20 million Refinery Loading Buoy, which was supposed to be positioned 4km from the beach to take 100,000 tons deadweight tankers. But when it was finally installed, it was positioned 2.1 km from the beach in approximately 60 feet of water. Although this involved a saving of some $20 million, this restricts the tanker size to 35,000 tons deadweight and increases the possible accident factor by some 30 times.
There has already been one accident with a tanker on the buoy on 8th June 1983 when the buoy moved from its anchors by some 26 feet, causing damage, endangering the whole sealife there with an oil spillage.
I am told that as presently positioned, if a tanker is loading at the buoy and a wind of 22 knots occurs, the loading operation must stop, and if the wind reaches 35 knots, the ship must be removed from the buoy.
Otherwise, in a matter of 11-12 minutes, the tanker could be thrown onto the beach in an emergency causing oil pollution of the entire sea area. I am told that such a ship could beach much sooner on the sand bars and break up even faster.
Because of the inadequacies of the Buoy, which does not have pipe-lines to take the oil/water slops from the loading tanker, the tankers would be de-ballast and unload their slops at sea causing oil pollution.
At present, fishing, turtles and the beaches in Terrenganu, in particular Tanjong Kalong, near the Outward Bounds School, are already seriously endangered with oil-tar balls strewn on the beaches.
In this connection, I want to ask why the Kertih Refinery was not built at Tanjong Berhala, where the Trengganu Crude Oil Terminal is sited so that the crude oil need not be piped 42km to Kertih, especially as Tanjong Berhala is a natural harbour which would obviate the problem of oil spillage as is now threatened by the Refinery Buoy, and is the supply base for Petronas.
(Speech by Parliament Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang in Dewan Rakyat on the estimates for Prime Minister’s Department on November 9, 1983)