by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Tuesday, February 23, 1993:
Mahathir’s explanation for national energy crisis is too simplistic and a lowering of standards of accountability expected of political leaders had government officers
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, yesterday deflected criticisms of poor government planning as the cause of the national energy crisis and instead blamed it on “unfair criticisms” against the Government’s intention to invite the private sector to set up new power stations and personality clashes in the government.
Dr. Mahathir’s explanation for the national energy crisis is too simplistic and a lowering of standards of accountability expected of political leaders had government officers
Dr. Mahathir said the Government was aware of the weaknesses in the infrastructure since 1990, “but so many things have happened to the extent we are not implementing what is necessary”.
If Dr. Mahathir is suggesting that the present national energy crisis had not come as a surprise to the government and the relevant energy authorities, then this is the greatest surprise for the people and the country.
One impression from Mahathir’s statement is that the government had been aware at least since 1990 that the country was facing a national energy crisis. If this was so, why wasn’t the country and people informed and educated and a contingency energy-saving plan implemented in the past three years – which would have averted the 1993 national energy crisis?
If the government had been aware that the country was already faced with a national energy crisis in 1990, and had failed to adopt any contingency plans in the past thee years, this would be a gross negligence and incompetence by itself, and the Minister for Energy, Telecommunications and Posts for this period, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu cannot escape responsibility and accountability.
The 1993 national power crisis, however, seemed to have taken the Minister for Energy, TENAGA and the government by surprise – and this was why, at the early stage of the crisis, Samy Vellu and TENAGA were assuring the people that this was only a temporary difficulty’.
In fact, the alarm that the country was in the midst of a national energy crisis was not sounded by the Ministry of Energy, Telecommunications and Posts or TENAGA, but by the users, particularly the industries and businesses.
Even at the stage, both the Minister of Energy and TENAGA officials were very complacent. On 23rd January 1993, Samy Vellu said that TENAGA NASIONAL had assured him that it was treating the problem of frequent power disruptions very seriously. One week later, TENAGA Executive Chairman, Tan Sri Dr. Ani Arope announced that the number if power breakdowns would be greatly reduced as repairs and servicing of turbines at its power stations had been completed.
It was not only until 8th February 1993 that Samy Vellu woke up to reality and was forced to admit that the country was faced with a national energy crisis which could last for one whole year!
From this series of events, it was clear that ‘awareness’ that the country was faced with a national energy crisis was forced on the Ministry of Energy, TENAGA and the government. Nobody therefore could believe that way back in 1990, these energy authorities were already ‘aware’ that the country was faced with a national energy crisis.
DAP calls for Royal Commission of Inquiry into the national power crisis as the Ministry of Energy and TENAGA cannot be trusted to be in exclusive charge
Mahathir seems to suggest that the government knew as far back as 1990 that the country was facing a national energy crisis, but its plans to overcome this crisis like allowing the private sector to set up power plants ran into all sorts of difficulties.
However, according to records, it was not until January 1992 that the Cabinet decided to invite the private sector to participate in power-production. This was revealed by Samy Vallu in February 1992 after he opened the Pos Malaysia Training Institute in Bangi.
In September 1992, Samy Vellu told the World Energy Council meeting in Madrid that private plans will begin to come onstream in 1995.
This means that the present national power crisis could not be blamed on ‘unfair criticisms’ or delays on the scheme to allow the private sector to set up independent power plants, or even on ‘personality clashes in government’, as they would not be generating power until 1995.
After the September 29 nation-wide power blackout, Dr. Mahathir said such a disruption should ‘never have happened’. But now, what should ‘never have happened’ appears to be a common occurrence in Malaysia.
As Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir must not lower the standards of performance and accountability expected of his Ministers and all relevant agencies, by helping to find scapegoats or reasons for the national energy crisis.
What Dr. Mahathir should do is to order a high-powered Royal Commission of Inquiry into the entire energy situation in the country, and the short-term, mid-term and long-term plans to deal with the national power crisis as it is clear that the Ministry of Energy, Posts and Telecommunications and TENAGA could not be fully trusted to be put in exclusive charge of such an important infrastructure which could cripple Malaysia’s economic growth.