by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Thursday, 16th May 1991:
DAP proposes that the Special Committee under the Chief Secretary be entrusted with the task of helping to regularise or legalise all illegal factories in the country.
The DAP congratulates High Court judge Datuk Wan Adnan Wan Ismail, USM professor Datuk Dr. Chatar Singh and Mr. Thin Choon Chai on their appointment as members of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Sungai Buloh fireworks factory explosion disaster.
It is the people’s hope that the Royal Commission of Inquiry will leave no stone unturned to get to the bottom of the disaster which had killed 24, injured some 100 and destroyed or damaged 150 houses. Up to now, 59 workers are still missing and unaccounted for.
To ensure that justice is not only done, but seen to be done to the victims of the Sungai Buloh fireworks disaster, the DAP calls on the Royal Commission of Inquiry to conduct its entire proceedings in public and to allow the victims of the disaster to be represented by counsel or other representatives at the Commission of Inquiry.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Ghafar Baba, also announced yesterday the setting up of a special committee to co-ordinate the licensing of those handling dangerous and hazardous materials.
This special committee is headed by the Chief Secretary, Tan Sri Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid and comprises representatives from several ministries, state governments and the security forces.
The DAP proposes that the scope of this special committee should be expanded to entrust it with the task of regularising or legalising all the illegal factories in the country.
This is necessary because some government officials, including one or two state government leaders, are making use of the Sungai Buloh disaster to make rash and reckless warnings about the instant closure of all illegal factories.
There is no doubt that such rash and reckless statements and actions will create untold socio-economic dislocations and disruptions, as the ‘illegal’ small and medium industries make a very great socio-economic contribution to the nation, whether in terms of job creation or economic growth.
The Federal and State government authorities must not lose its order and sense of priorities in addressing this problem.
The immediate problem is not illegal factories, but dangerous and hazardous industries which have to be treated as a special category by itself.
Unless and until the Federal and State government authorities have the manpower and the resources to deal with the problem of dangerous and hazardous industries, legal or illegal, and to get them properly resited, it should not be wasting precious time and resources on other industries which though illegal do not belong to the dangerous and hazardous category.
This should therefore be the first order of priority of the Federal and the State Governments, and the establishment of a special committee under the Chief Secretary to co-ordinate this matter is timely and appropriate.
It is only after this first order of priority had been disposed off, that the problem of illegal factories should be addressed.
Here it must be clear that the approach is not to close the illegal factories, but to regularise and legalise them.
The people who operate these unlicensed industries must not be treated as if they are criminals, but deserve all the help from the government to regularise and legalise them because of their contribution to job creation and economic growth.
In fact, the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Sungai Buloh fireworks factory disaster should consider whether one important reason why there are so many ‘illegal’ factories in the country is because of over-bureacratisation and too much red tape involving too many different departments which make it very difficult for small and medium-scale industries to operate within the confines of the law, and an unsympathetic bureaucracy at both Federal and State Government level which does not understand the concept of Malaysia Inc.
There is a need for a totally new approach by the Federal and State government authorities if Malaysia is to be a fully developed nation in the Year 2,020 as envisioned by Dr. Mahathir – where government departments help to regularise and legalise all small and medium scale industries with government loans and assistance such as available industrial land at nominal or low premium.
Such a government innovation, which will mean imbuing Federal and State government agencies with the proper Malaysia Inc. spirit, as in helping to regularise small and medium scale industries which are illegal rather than hounding them out of existence, can only succeed if it emanates from the top.
This is why the DAP suggests that the special committee under the Chief Secretary should broaden its scope to include the task of helping the illegal industries in the country to be regularised and legalised.