By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Thursday, August 18, 1994:
The latest Subang International Airport fire has become a major threat to the success of the Visit Malaysia Year 1994
The latest Subang International Airport fire, which caused extensive damage to the RM16.5 million terminal approach radar, has become a major international embarrassment for Malaysia, as it will not only drive away foreign investment to other countries with more dependable infrastructure facilities, but has also become a major threat to the success of the Visit Malaysia Year 1994.
The latest fire, the third Kuala Lumpur International Airport fire in two years, has also posed hazards to safety and life for air travel in Malaysia having to use the Subang International Airport, as the terminal approach radar had been knocked out and the air traffic controllers have to resort to manual control.
Yesterday, a Malaysian Airlines pilot reported a ‘near-miss’ on the runway when his Boeing 737-400 which was coming to land had to make a turn-around to avoid crashing into the rear of an Eva Air Boeing 767-300 aircraft which was taxing.
The incident took place at 2.30 pm and the pilot of the MAS aircraft MH 710 from Jakarta had about 30 seconds to clear the runway to avoid hitting the Taiwanese carrier from Taipeh which had earlier landed as the distance between the MAS aircraft and the runway was about 300 metres.
I have received a report from Perak DAP Assemblyman for jalong, Ngoi Thiam Who, who was a passenger on MH 710 yesterday, and he related how ‘scarifying’ was the aborted land experience for the passengers.
Such ‘near-miss’ incidents at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport will not enhance Malaysia’s reputation as a reliable international aviation centre and many international travelers are likely to make a point of by-passing the Kuala Lumpur International Airport for the next few months.
It was fortunate that the incident was a ‘mear-miss’ as it had the makings of an international disaster of first magnitude if the worst had happened, as the MAS aircraft carried 140 passengers and crew members while the Eva Air jetliner had 241 passengers and 11 crew members.
The ‘near-miss’ air misadventure yesterday should be somber reminder for the Cabinet and in particular the Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik, of the great responsibility on their shoulders.
Liong Sik should explain why he took 60 hours before visiting the site of the fire when he was informed by Saturday midnight
Liong Sik has reluctantly admitted that he was first informed of the fire at around midnight on Saturday.
He should then explain why he took 60 hours before visiting the site of the fire when a responsible Minister would have rushed over to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport immediately – regardless whether it was midnight or early hours of the morning.
Was the reason Liong Sik did not rush over to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport because there would be no press coverage, as a decision had been taken to try to ‘cover up’ the seriousness and extent of damage of the third Subang International Airport fire in two years?
Liong Sik’s response to my query as to what has happened to the report of the inquiry into the Subang International Airport Control Tower fire on October 1992 is most shocking.
Liong Sik’s answer is that he had not received the report, although the then Deputy Prime Minister, Ghafar Baba promised that the inquiry would be completed in two weeks.
Two years have passed, and didn’t Liong Sik inquire what has happened to the report? Or does he think that it is of no interest whatsoever?
Liong Sik has failed miserably to provide the necessary leadership, authority and responsibility to ensure that Malaysia enjoys the transport infrastructural facilities with the standards and quality befitting a country of Malaysia’s economic position.
How can the Transport Minister, for instance, ispire respect from his subordinates in the Department of Civil Aviation or from the Malaysian public when he took 60 hours before visiting the site of the fire? Can Liong Sik continue to enjoy the confidence of the Prime Minister and Cabinet as Transport Minister?
This is why Liong Sik should not linger any longer in the Transport Ministry and should vacate the post of Transport Minister. Does he want to wait until a fourth Subang International Airport fire before bowing down to public demand for a new Transport Minister?