Alor Gajah Municipal Council A Disgrace For Giving More Emphasis To Junket Trips To Australia That Wastes Public Funds Than Speeding Up The Distribution Of Desperately Needed Assistance To Fire Victims Of The Alor Gajah Market In July 2003

Media Statement
Lim Guan Eng

(Melaka, Monday): The Alor Gajah Municipal Council (AGMC) is a disgrace for giving more emphasis to junket trips to Australia that wastes public funds than speeding up the distribution of desperately needed financial assistance to the fire victims of the Alor Gajah market. The 14 hawkers who were severely affected by the fire that swept the Alor Gajah market in July 2003 were promised RM1,000 each by the then Minister of Human Resources Datuk Dr Fong Chan Onn to help them cover some of their losses in the fire.

For over 5 months, the 14 hawkers comprising of 9 Chinese 1 Indian and 4 Malays had waited in vain for the money to come. Even though the money is now with the AGMC, the money can still not be distributed due to technical problems. Apparently, the technical problems will only be sorted out before Christmas. There is no reason why the RM 14,000 fire relief funds can not be handed out immediately. Any technical problems should be given utmost priority to be sorted out as these are emergency funds sorely needed by fire victims. The 5 months delay is highly irresponsible of AGMC and completely unacceptable by the public.

What angered the fire victims even more is the suspicion that the AGMC is not setting an earlier date for the distribution because they want to first enjoy their junket trip to Australia beginning on 10.12.2003. Only upon their return are they willing to get down to work to deal with the 'technical problem' and distribute the funds to the fire victims.

If this is true, then it is not only heartless but a gross dereliction of duty by a government agency. AGMC should place its priorities right. Solving and dealing with the people's hardships are more important than wasteful and unnecessary junket trips to Australia that bring no benefit to the people except for the personal pleasures of these irresponsible AGMC Councillors.

When I visited the market, one of the fire victims was furious, at the inordinate delay. No explanation can justify the AGMC's MCA Councillors inaction and inefficiency must be the worst in the country, they said. Another complained that he is considering borrowing from loan sharks because of the delay. He had tried borrowing from the Bank Pertanian Malaysia Micro-credit Fund but was told that additional funds from the Ministry had been frozen until next year.

Such hardships had unfortunately left the AGMC Councillors unmoved and inert. Despite such displays of irresponsibility, AGMC Councillors were still rewarded with a junket trip to Australia that is beyond comprehension. Worse, some of these Councillors are retiring and since they are not slated for reappointment next year, what benefit can they impart to the Council from the lessons learnt from their so-called study tour to Australia?

The AGMC should not be allowed to go for their RM125,000/- junket trip to Australia. They should stay back and focus on distributing the fire relief funds to the fire victims. What type of caring society can Malaysians be proud of if RM125,000 can be allocated almost immediately for a junket trip but not a miserly RM 14,000 for 14 different fire victims for the past 5 months?


* Lim Guan Eng,  Former DAP MP For Kota Melaka