“Jurassic” Parliament homepage does not justify spending  RM100,000 let alone the RM2.4 million expenditure claimed by  the Parliament administration

Media Statement 
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Monday): Parliament has taken one whole week before “refuting” my statement last Monday that it had squandered tens  of millions of ringgit to go online only to produce one of the most disgraceful public websites in the country and in the international parliamentary community in the past six years. 

A Parliament spokesman said the Parliament administration had only spent about RM2.4 million for the purchase of computers and the development and maintenance of the website and “dismissed” my allegation that the Parliament’s website was not user-friendly.  (The Star)

Let me respond at the outset that the “jurassic” Parliament homepage does not justify spending RM100,000 let alone the RM2.4 million expenditure claimed by Parliament, that such excessive expenditure borders on criminal negligence, as it remains the most user-unfriendly, inaccessible and uninformative website among the world's Parliaments and Malaysia's public websites in the past six years. 

In any event, the Parliament Speaker, Tan Sri Mohamad Zahir Ismail owes the Malaysian taxpayers a full accounting, and should present a report to convince  the Malaysian public that Parliament did not squander millions or tens of millions of ringgit to produce a most disgraceful website for six years, by giving a detailed account of  the annual expenditures  in the past six years to put Parliament online, and to  allow a  close scrutiny as to the actual expenditures in the past six years for the Parliament homepage and their cost-effectiveness. 

Parliament will become a standing joke  if it is incapable or unwilling to account for  the millions or tens of millions  of ringgit wasted on the Parliament homepage, for it would lose all credibility as the highest legislative and deliberate chamber in the land to hold the government to full account for over a hundred billion ringgit of public expenditures a year! 

The Parliament spokesman “dismissed” my condemnation of the Parliament homepage for being “user-unfriendly” but gave no grounds and made no attempt to list  its user-friendliness for the simple reason that  there are none to be cited. 

The Parliament homepage is so user-unfriendly that there are frequent complaints by the  few visitors to the site   that its “Order of Business” and “Hansard” pages regularly “hang up”, while after six years, the “Bills” are still “under construction” and it is unable to provide a single Act enacted by Parliament – and there are no other topical or interactive material on the site. 

There is not much  improvement of the Parliamentary homepage since it was suddenly launched in May 1996, not because Parliament was going to play a leading role in the information revolution but to forestall my persistent criticism  in the Parliamentary chamber about the IT-backwardness of Parliament in  not even having a website. 

What is tragic about the Parliament homepage is that it is  a living advertisement to the world that Malaysia is not serious in wanting to be a IT powerhouse and is totally unready with the mindset needed  to take the quantum leap into the information and knowledge era, despite all the talk about ICT, the Multmedia Super Corridor (MSC) and the K-economy. 

What is the use of talking about a world-class IT workforce when the Malaysian Parliament cannot put up a world-class homepage? 

The Parliamentary  homepage is one reminder that Malaysia has lost six years in the international competition to become an IT powerhouse – or 30  Internet years as a human year is equated to five Internet years  - and the country should not continue to talk IT without the necessary IT mindset and cultural transformation which are the prerequisites for Malaysia to take the quantum leap into the information/knowledge era.

It is very sad that while governments around the world, national and local, are embracing electronic government by putting critical information online, automating once cumbersome processes and interacting electronically with their citizens –Malaysia seems to be doing the reverse, where e-government is  being used  by some government departments and public authorities to waste resources, impede greater public access to information and make them  even less accountable to the citizens, with Parliament standing out as the worst culprit determined to lumber on as a dinosaur in the IT era!              


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman