By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Monday, August 22, 1994:
DAP calls for emergency sitting of Parliament to debate the Subang Airport radar station fire – the third fire in two years and whether Liong Sik and Zaludin Sulong should be removed as Transport Minister and Director-General of DCA respectively
Commenting on the Subang Airport radar station fire yesterday, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed said that government officials have a long way to go in shedding their bureaucratic mindset and that although the Look-East policy was implemented 10 years ago, “people do not change so easily”.
Two days earlier last Friday, Mahathir said that the “incompetence of the airport officials” led to the radar breakdown at Subang Airport and that despite two earlier Kuala Lumpur International Airport fires, the airport officials “ are continuing to remain incompetent and not taking their jobs seriously.”
Why should anyone in the bureaucracy ‘Look East’ – apart from making use of it for making nice-sounding speeches – when at the highest government level, Ministers do not have to ‘Look East’.
If Ministers accept the culture of ‘Look East’, Malaysia would have changed three Transport Ministers after three fires at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in two years!
Can anyone imagine that Japan could have a Ling Liong Sik as a Transport Minister who could refuse to resign his Cabinet post after three international airport fires in two years, or that in those two years, three Japanese Transport Ministers would have publicly bowed low their head in shame and tendered their resignationa – if not committing hara kiri?
The bureaucratic mindset of the government officials cannot change without Ministers first changing their mind-set to accept responsibility
The bureaucratic mindset in the Malaysian public service can never change when there is no change in the Ministerial mind-set in Malaysia – where a Transport Minister does not feel the shame, remorse or sense of responsibility of resigning his post even after three fires at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in two years.
If Ministers do not have to accept responsibility and accountability, even after three Kuala Lumpur International Airport fires in two years, why should anyone in the bureaucracy bother about responsibility, competence, accountability, quality or excellence?
Mahathir should realise that there can never be any change in the bureaucratic mind-set in keeping with the ‘Look-East’ Policy when there is no clear system of reward and punishment for the public service – where incompetence, irresponsibility and even negligence are ‘tolerated’ as part of the Malaysian culture of public service.
In fact, the culture of responsibility and accountability has deteriorated further in the past two years. At least, a day after the October 1992 Subang Airport Control Tower fire, the then DCA Director-General, Datuk Zolkipli Abdul publicly apologised to the government and the people for the fire, and Datuk Zolkipli was removed from the DCA at the end of the month.
In the present case of the Subang radar station fire, there was no apoligy whatsoever from the current DCA Director-General, Datuk Zaludin Sulong, who contimued be on a ‘war-path’ with the press and even walked out from the press conference bosted by the Transpoet Minister over the fire!
Just as the rot in the fish begins in the head, the rot in the bureaucracy, as highlighted by three Kuala Lumpur International Airport fires in two years, can only be checked by ‘cleaning up’ the head, and in this case, ‘heads must roll’ starting with the Transport Minister, Datuk Sr. Ling Liong Sik and the Director-General of the Department of Civil Aviation, Datuk Zaludin Sulong!
DAP calls for an emergency sitting of Parliament to debate the Subang radar station fire and whether Liong Sik and Zaludin Sulong should be removed as Transport Minister and DCA Director-General respectively.
The emergency Parliamentary debate should throw light on the various ‘mysteries’ about the Subang airport radar station fire, in particular why the Prime Minister was ‘kept in the dark’ and why Liong Sik took 60 hours before visiting the scene of the fire!
The New Sunday Times gave further details about the attempt by the Transport Ministry and the Department of Civil Aviation to ‘cover up’ the Subang radar station fire when it first occurred on August 13 at 8.30 am, calling it a ‘bush fire’ and then later a ‘minor fire’.
The New Sunday Times described the ‘cover-up attempt’ of the Transport Minstry and the Department of Civil Aviation as a “desperate game of deceit” so that :nobody – not even Dr. Mahathir – would know about it”.
What is even more shocking is the New Sunday Times revelation that “a senior Transport Ministry official” threatened to get one of its reporters arrested for the New Straits Times expose of the ‘cover-up’ of the Subang radar station fire!
Who is this ‘senior Transport Ministry official’ and was he directed by the Minister for Transport to make this threat? Liong Sik should make a full public statement of this threat by a ‘senior Transport Ministry official’ to get a reporter arrested or carrying out his duties as a journalist – and to publicly apologise for such a shocking incident.
I am glad that the Prime Minister had yesterday given approval for the New Straits Times expose of the Subang Airport radar station fire, saying: “We should report it …… we cannot hide anything.”
Mahthir is wrong when he said that it was easy for me to call for Liong Sik’s resignation because of the fire because I do not have the responisbility.
I do accept responsibility for what I say – including being twice detained under the Internal Security Act!
Mahathir is only doing the ‘Look East’ policy and creating the culture of responsbility, accountability and quality in government a great disservice if he allows political factors to intrude on what is right and wrong about Ministerial and bureaucratic responsibility over the latest Subang airport fire.