by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary- General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Thursday, May 9, 1991:
Royal Commission of Inquiry members must be independent and courageous who dare to expose the entire scandal of negligence of various government departments in allowing an unlicensed fireworks factory to operate for 17 years.
Malaysians welcome the annoucement by the Deputy Prime Minister, Ghafar Baba, on the Cabinet decision to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Sungai Buloh fireworks factory explosion, causing 100 dead or injured.
Malaysians are concerned however firstly, whether the terms of reference of the Royal Commission of Inquiry would be free and wide-ranging; and secondly, whether the Royal Commission of Inquiry members would be independent and courageous enough to get to the bottom of the entire scandal of the shocking negligence of various governement departments in allowing an unlicensed fireworks factory to operate in a residential area for 17 years.
Malaysians will be disappointed if they have reason to believe that the Royal Commission of Inquiry is not going to get to the bottom of the Sungai Buloh fireworks factory explosion disaster, but a mere cover-up both from its restricted terms of reference as well as from the members appointed to sit on the Royal Commission.
For this reason, the Royal Commission of Inquiry members must not only be people of calibre, integrity and good character, they must be independent and courageous people who dare to expose the long-standing negligence and irresponsibility on numerous government departments which had allowed an unlicensed dangerous industry in a residential area to operate for 17 years; and even to expose the role of powerful and influential people, including top political leaders, who might be involved.
Seven areas of investigation for the Royal Commission of Inquiry.
The Royal Commission of Inquiry should investigate into at least the following seven areas:
Firstly, the specific cause of The Bright Sparklers Sdn. Bhd. fireworks factory explosion on Tuesday causing 100 dead or injured, and destruction of numerous houses in Sungei Buloh new village making the new villagers homeless.
Secondly, the responsibility of the Home Ministry, in particular the Police, in allowing dangerous explosives to be tested and manufactured illegally for 17 years, including public testing at Sungai Buloh new village, although there had been several previous mishaps causing loss of lives, when these actions are in violation of the Explosives Act 1957.
Thirdly, the responsibility of the Labour Ministry, and in particular the Factories and Machinery Department, in allowing a dangerous factory to operate for 17 years in utter disregard of the safety and welfare of the workers – when there had been repeated industrial accidents in the factory. How many times had the Factories and Machinery officers visited and inspected the fireworks factory in Sungai Buloh in the last 17 years?
Fourthly, the responsibility of the Ministry of Local Government and Housing, and in particular the Fire Services Department, in allowing such a dangerous industry to continue operate after repeated fires and deaths in the past. Factory workers like Mohd Yusuf Yahya and Safiah Talib have said that there had been three previous such fires in 1979, 1982 and 1985. Is the Fire Department unaware of these previous fires – and if not, why had not taken the necessary follow-up measures to ensure safety for the workers and the new villagers?
Fifthly, the responsibility of the Ministry of Science and Environment, and in particular the Department of Environment, in failing to protect the environment, to the extent that some parts of the Sungai Buloh new village look like a war-torn Iraqi zone after United States carpet air-bombing. Why had the Ministry failed to take action when the Sungai Buloh new villagers had repeatedly protested in public against the siting of such a dangerous industry in their midst?
Sixthly, the responsibility of the Selangor State Government, and in particular the Petaling District Office, in allowing the unlicensed fireworks factory to operate for 17 years despite previous fires causing at least four deaths.
Seventhly, whether powerful political leaders had been involved, whether openly or covertly, to allow the fireworks factory to operate illegally for 17 years without regulation, intervention or superevision from the multitude of Ministries and government department which have a responsibility in the matter and in defiance of a multitude of laws of the land.
The Royal Commission of Inquiry members must therefore be independent and courageous people who would not fear to expose the negligence and role of various Ministries and government departments in their Sungai Buloh fireworks factory explosion disaster, including powerful political leaders and even Ministers, Mentri Besar or State Exco members if they are or had been involved in any way in allowing the fireworks factory to operate illegally for 17 years.
Such Royal Commission of Inquiry must not only make public their report and recommendations, it should conduct its entire proceedings and investigations in public.
Government help for the victims of the disaster cannot wait until findings of the Commission.
Ghafar Baba said yesterday that the government would consider long-term assistance for the victims of the disaster based on the recommendations of the Royal Commission.
The victims of the man-made fireworks disaster, the families of the dead, the injured and those whose home had been destroyed, cannot wait until the recommendations of the Royal Commission of Inquiry which can take years.
The Federal Government and the Selangor State Government have a responsibility to provide both immediate and long-term assistance to the victims of the disaster. Such aid has nothing to do with the work and recommendations of the Royal Commission.
As immediate initial aid, DAP calls on the Selangor State Government to give $10,000 to each victims or surviving family; and the Federal Government to give $50,000 to each such victim or surviving family.