RM50 million wasted on renovating Parliament House when the money would be better spent in improving the quality of parliamentary debate by providing a world-class library and research service for MPs

Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(PenangSaturday): The 40-day 2004 budget meeting of Parliament started on Tuesday with MPs dumb-struck by the physical transformation of the  40-year Parliament House undergoing a RM50 million renovation – “exuding elegant style and class”  more mesmerizing than five-star hotels and matching the mammoth splendour of Putrajaya landmarks. 

The RM50 million  are wasted on renovating Parliament House as the money would be better spent in improving the quality of parliamentary debate by providing a world-class library and research service to Members of Parliament as the first week of the current Parliament was most unproductive and disgraceful in failing to address the teeming issues confronting the country – whether  

  • the five-state four-hour power blackout a day before the start of the parliamentary meeting;  
  • the considerable  mess in the Education Ministry whether the computer laboratory scandal or  the student gangsterism and hooliganism; 
  • the public crisis of confidence in the double rise in crime rate and fear of crime; or
  • the continuing threat of terrorism vividly highlighted by the arrest of Hambali, al Qaeda’s top man in Asia and operations chief of Jemaah Islamiah (JI), which was preceded by bomb blasts like the Marriot Hotel bombings in Jakarta; the prominent role played by Malaysians in the top leadership role of JI with two, Dr. Azahari Husin and Noordin Mohammad Top believed to be among the likely candidates to take over the JI; and al Qaeda’s “third generation” militants.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Education Ministry, Datuk Mahadzir Mohd Khir did give a reply during question to the DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Kerk Kim Hock on the RM140 million East Coast computer laboratory scandal, resulting in 574 of the 600 computer laboratories built not safe and in danger of collapse – but Mahadzir did not say anything which MPs or the Malaysian public did not know already.

Mahadzhir conspicuously failed to give a full accounting to Parliament on important questions about the school computer scandal, including: 

  • Why wasn’t the Cabinet Commttee  and Public Works Department reports on the school computer lab scandal made public?
  • What actions had been taken to recover payments already made to school computer laboratory contractors whose contracts have been terminated, and whether contractors had been or would be charged in court – as promised by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad on July 24, a day after the Cabinet terminated the services of the  East Coast contractor and consultant; and
  • What actions have been taken against Education Ministry officials for their negligence in  allowing the contractors/consultants to default in their obligations throughout the country in a national project which would cost RM762 million.

The failure of Parliament to emulate the example of the United States Congress and the United Kingdom House of Commons to immediately address their respective black-outs will be a standing shame to the Malaysian legislature. 

The first week of the current Parlament is in fact the  classic illustration of the Malaysian malady which had been eloquently diagnosed by the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi – “First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality”. 

Unlike other Commonwealth Parliaments, the Malaysian Parliament have no respectable library and absolutely  no research facilities for MPs. The Parliament library is at best a “kampong” library which any respectable college let alone university would feel ashamed. 

The RM50 million renovation work of Parliament started early last year and was scheduled to be completed in February this year.  But the renovation timetable has been extended by one year to March  2004, as it has been reported that round-the-clock renovation work had to be halted after workers refused to work at night as Parliament House was  “haunted”, being the site of a former graveyard! 

In his final  National Day message last Saturday, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad hit out at Malays, including the youths, for believing in the supernatural as a substitute for hard work to guarantee success.  What has he got to say about a “haunted Parliament”  which I had never heard in my 30 years in Parliament. On Monday, he should make a Ministerial statement in the Dewan Rakyat  on the “haunted Parliament” and the one-year delay in the completion of the  RM50 million renovation  – money better spent  to produce a world-class Parliament library and world-class parliamentary research service. 

Typical of the “First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality” is the parliamentary website, which shuts off its only useful feature – the Hansards -  during weekends and public holidays, blissfully unaware of  the 24/7 concept in cyberspace, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.  Some members of the International Advisory Panel (IAP) have been reported as describing the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) as a “miracle” which has progressed beyond all expectations.  There are certainly  many “miracles” in Malaysia – including a parliamentary website which “goes home to sleep” during weekends and public holidays!


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman