By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Thursday, 6th August 1987:
UMNO Youth has become a ‘pressure-defusing group’ to help Antah Biwater in the controversy in the displacement of local engineers and professionals and DAP is disappointed by UMNO Youth’s defence of Antah Biwater
In the controversy over the displacement of Malaysian engineers and professionals by the Antah Biwater Joint Venture project for $1.4 billion contract for 174 rural water supply schemes, UMNO Youth appears to be playing the unique role of a ‘pressure-defusing group’.
After meeting the Antah Biwater management yesterday, the Acting UMNO Youth leader, Datuk Seri Mohamed Najib Abdul Razak, came to the defence of Antah Biwater and refuted allegations that Antah Biwater was employing professionals who could have been employed.
Datuk Seri Najib said there were only 16 expatriates in Antah Biwater instead of 35 as alleged by the Malaysian Association of Engineers (MAE) President, Gurmit Singh.
It is noteworthy that a different figure of the British expatriates in Antah Biwater has been given by the Deputy Works Minister, Osu Haji Sukam, yesterday. Osu Sukam said at this time, Antah Biwater has employed only 233 expatriates.
It would appear that UMNO Youth and its Acting leader, Datuk Najib, has not been given the true facts. According to my information, Antah Biwater had employed over 30 British expatriates by early July, with 16 of them at the Antah Biwater Head Office in Kuala Lumpur.
The fluctuations in the figure of British expatriates in Antah Biwater at any one time is probably caused by the company resorting to the device of short-term work permits, renewable from time to time, instead of applying for long-term work permits for all the British expatriates.
The question Antah Biwater must answer is how many such short-term work permits had been issued, with each renewal regarded as issue of a new work permit.
When I raised this issue in Parliament on July 8, 1987, the Works Minister, Datuk Samy Vellu said that in the preliminary engineering design stage of the $1.4 billion privatization contract for 174 fural water supply schemes, a total of some 350 engineers, could be required, out of which the government has agreed to the engagement of 30 to 40 British engineers.
This means that the ratio of the British expatriates to total engineers is roughly ten per cent. Whether we use Najib’s figure of 16 expatriates or Osu Sukam’s figure of 23 expatriates, the ratio of British expatriates to total work force is clearly many times in excess of this 10% figure.
The foreign ratio in the total work force in the Antah Biwater Joint Venture is important, as one of the terms of the contract which was signed by the Works Minister, Datuk Samy Vellu, on behalf of the Malaysian Government on 24th March 1986, was that “the ratio of Malaysian citizens who shall be employed shall reflect the racial ratio of the citizens of this country”, which could only be varied with the written consent of the Government. It would be inconceivable if the ratio for Malaysian employees in Antah Biwater is strictly monitored, while the ratio between Malaysians and British expatriates at any one time is given a ‘free for all’.
It would appear that UMNO Youth, instead of upholding the right of Malaysians to employment in the Antah Biwater to employ British expatriates.
As Clause 36(4)(a) of the Government’s privatization contract to Antah Biwater made it very clear that priority in employment should be given to Malaysians unless there are no suitable Malaysians available, I call on Antah Biwater to make public the full list of its expatriates, giving particular of their qualifications which are not available locally, as well the remuneration they are getting, to demonstrate whether they are being paid five or six times the Malaysians average.
I also call on the Immigration Department to tell Malaysians how many work permits had been issued to British expatriates to work in Antah Bwater, treating each renewal as a fresh application for a work permit.
MCA Ministers have again failed to defend the constitutional rights of Malaysian Chinese in the Johore Bahru Seafood Carnival signboard incident, which demonstrates that MCA Ministers are only good in cheap publicity but useless in Cabinet of State Exco.
The Johore Bahru Seafood Carnival signboard incident, where the constitutional rights of the Chinese language as guaranteed in Article 152 of the Constitution and the dignity and honour of the Malaysian Chinese, had been trampled upon and flouted, had again demonstrated the importance and hypocrisy of MCA Ministers and leaders.
What is the use of the MCA Deputy President and Labour Minister, Datuk Lee Kim Sai, expressing concern and calling for a report on the incident from Jimmy Low, the MCA Exco Member in Johore, which contributes not one dot to the restoration of the constitutional position of the Chinese language in the Johore Bahru Seafood Carnival, or to safeguard the honour and dignity of the Chinese community?
In fact, what is there for Jimmy Low to report to the MCA headquarters, when all the facts are in the newspaper. This is just a delaying tactics by Lee Kim Sai and the MCA Ministers, who are hoping that as the Chinese community is famous for its ‘five-minute heat’ over any issue, would enable the MCA Ministers to forget about the issue after the Chinese community had itself lost interest in the issue.
This is most despicable political conduct on the part of the MCA Ministers and leaders. On such an important issue affecting the constitutional rights of the Chinese language, culture and community, the MCA Ministers could not find the time to go down to Johore Bahru to intervene with the Johore MENTRI Beasar and State Government. MCA Ministers can fly all over the country on the taxpayers’ expense, which they fully exploited during the MCA party elections, neglecting their government and parliamentary duties.
I do not see why MCA Ministers could not fly to Johore Bahru as they could do so free of charge (especially as Datuk Ling Liong Sik’s constituency is in Johore), when I could drive all the way down to Johore Bahru at my own expense, when my parliamentary constituency is in Penang.
MCA Ministers and leaders dare not raise this issue in yesterday’s Cabinet, dare not sack Jimmy Low for dishonouring the Chinese community by agreeing to the erosion of the constitutional position of the Chinese language, are not to go down to Johore Bahru to declare the MCA position! All they dare to do is to issue a statement expressing their concern at the incident for Chinese language newspaper to please Chinese readers, but which would not be read or known by the Johore Mentri Basar, UMNO or the entire Malaysian nation. This shows that MCA Ministers are only good at cheap publicity, but are utterly useless and impotent in Cabinet, State Executive Council and in government!