by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Friday, September 2, 1994:
The best way to ensure that Mahathir’s fear that ‘Soon the planes will also be missing’ at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport does not materialise is to get the Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik to go ‘missing’ first.
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, summed up the disgust and even despair of all Malaysians at the incompetence and lackadaisal attitude of the Transport Ministry and airport authorities about the safety, credibility and reputation of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport when he said: “Soon the planes will also be missing”!
It is a great irony and tragedy that on the same day when the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir called for a new culture and spirit of excellence, responsibility and accountability in his National Day Message, the Kuala Lumpur International Airport ‘excelled’ itself by chalking up two more ‘ignominies’ on National Day itself – the RM12 million gold bar robbery making it the second gold bar robbery at the airport, in four months and the Terminal One Kentucky Fried Chicken toilet fire making it the fourth fire at the international airport in two years!
Mahathir hit the nail on the head when describing the crisis of leadership and responsibility of the Transport Ministry and the Kuala Lumpur International Airport when he said: “Soon the planes will also be missing!”
The best way to ensure that Mahathir’s fear that ‘Soon the planes will also be missing’ at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport does not materialise is to get the present Transport Minister Datuk Seri
Dr. Ling Liong Sik to go ‘missing’ first.
The 1,500 people from Ipoh and Perak who had petitioned the Prime Minister after the Subang radar station fire on August 13 to remove Liong Sik as Transport Minister before there, are more airport, fires and disasters have been proved right!
It is better for one person, the Transport Minister, to go ‘missing’ than for ‘planes to go missing’ together with Malaysia’s reputation as a reliable investment centre and tourist destination.
Liong Sik has become a ‘household joke’ in Malaysia and made Malaysia into an ‘international joke’ as well.
Liong Sik has now become a ‘household joke’ in Malaysia. Malaysians read how the security at the Subang International Airport was ‘tightened’ after the RM12 million gold bar robbery – a typical Liong Sik case of “locking the stable doors after the horses have bolted”.
Liong Sik is not content in becoming a “household joke” in Malaysia, but he has contrived in turning Malaysia into an “international joke” as well.
Many Malaysians tell me that Liong Sik has made them ashamed to identify themselves as Malaysians when they go abroad.
This is because they are invariably confronted with a stare coupled with a question: “Why is your international airport so unreliable that it is always on fire?” – which they could give no good or satisfactory answer.
Liong Sik’s tenure as Transport Minister, with the longest string of airport and other transport disasters of any Transport Minister in the world, represents the undesirable symbol that ‘Malaysia Can Be the Worst’ rather than the edifying symbol of ‘Malaysia Can Be The Best’!
Liong Sik’s announcement of the airport toilet fire is the greatest ‘public relations’ disaster for Malaysia in history.
I am totally amazed by Liong Sik’s handling of the airport toilet fire on National Day, and I do not think I am exaggerating when I describe Liong Sik’s announcement of the airport toilet fire as the ‘greatest public relations disaster’ for Malaysia in history!
Liong Sik’s mishandling of the Subang airport toilet fire is enough to cancel the effects and efforts of several Ministerial missions overseas to woo investments and tourists to Malaysia!
Malaysians are entitled to ask what Liong Sik is trying to prove when he ‘blew up’ a small airport toilet fire into another major Kuala Lumpur International Airport disaster in the world headlines with scary references to ‘anti-national elements, sabotage and arson?’.
I have one advice for Liong Sik: When the issue is big, don’t try to make it small; when the issue is small, don’t try to make it big!
In the Subang radar station fire, Liong Sik tried to make a big issue into a small or even non-existing issue. This was why he stayed away from the scene of the fire for 60 hours, hoping to mislead the Prime Minister and the country by dismissing the fire as ‘bush fire’ and later ‘small fire’.
In the Subang toilet fire, Liong Sik tried to make a small issue into a big issue – probably trying to impress the Prime Minister and the country that he is now very efficient and thorough!
He does not realise that, in doing so, he has done the country a great disservice for he had only reinforced the bad international image of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport that it is prone to fires and all sorts of disasters caused by human irresponsibility and negligence!
The damage caused by the Kentucky Fried Chicken toilet fire is minimal, probably in the region of hundreds of ringgit, but the adverse publicity it had given to Malaysia’s international reputation – especially in connection with Malaysia’s reputation as a reliable investment centre and tourist destination would be in tens or even hundreds of millions of ringgit!
The Subang toilet fire must be the only toilet fire in die world to make national and international headlines!
I am not suggesting that Liong Sik should repeat his previous attempt and try to ‘cover up’ the Terminal One Kentucky Fried Chicken toilet fire.
But Liong Sik must not lose his sense of proportion – and not blow a small toilet fire into another major Kuala Lumpur International airport disaster.
The toilet fire should have been made public when it occurred on National Day on Wednesday itself – and not ‘kept under wraps’ until yesterday, which seemed to indicate that Liong Sik was weighing the possibility of again managing and manipulating news as in another ‘cover up’ attempt.
However, the toilet fire should be treated in the proportion it deserved -probably a three-paragraph statement by the Public Relations Office of the Ministry of Transport.
It is a joke for the Minister of Transport to take the whole press team to inspect the toilet and turn it into an international news – bigger than the visit of the Deputy Prime Minister to China and Japan and the Rahim Tamby Cik scandals.
If anyone is to visit the airport toilet, the Deputy Transport Minister or even the Parliamentary Secretary to the Transport Minister would have been adequate.