Nation-wide uproar over inflationary spiral in the wake of the  hike in diesel and petrol price is  new and powerful reason why Abdullah should recall Parliament for a three-day meeting, which could also complete outstanding business disrupted by RM85 million “leaking” Parliament scandal

Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Ipoh, Friday): The nation-wide uproar over inflationary spiral in the wake of the  hike in diesel and petrol prices is  new and powerful reason why the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi  should recall Parliament for a three-day meeting, which could also complete outstanding business in the Dewan Rakyat disrupted last Thursday by  the RM85 million “leaking” Parliament scandal.

The outstanding parliamentary business which would have been transacted last Thurday if the Dewan Rakyat had not been prematurely, ignominiously and unceremoniously cut short because of the “leaking” Dewan Rakyat chamber are three government bills, six Treasury motions and the motion on Myanmar’s Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2006.

There will now be two new urgent matters in the parliamentary agenda. Firstly, the almost daily expose of most  shoddy and sub-standard workmanship, supervision and use of materials  in the RM85 million Parliament renovation, not only with the Dewan Rakyat chamber ceiling leaking to cut short a parliamentary meeting; two Dewan Negara chairs breaking in the morning session of the first sitting after renovation on Tuesday, with both victims UMNO Senators; ceiling leak in the Parliament media centre; frequent power breakdown, both in the meeting chamber and the 18-storey tower block – but also the disgraceful condition of women toilet highlighted in the Chinese media today.

Parliament had been the highest forum in the land to expose all forms of abuses of power, breach of trust, corruption; government irresponsibility and negligence; but when Parliament itself becomes the subject of a national scandal in the RM85 million renovation and Members of Parliament cannot immediately and effectively bring the full glare of scrutiny and accountability to bear on the scandal, then Parliament is advertising to the nation and the world its complete irrelevance – after voting a 10% increase in the allowances of Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries and MPs!

Up to now, Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu and the Public Works Department seem to be treating the RM85 million Parliament renovation scandal as a joke if not  a “circus”.

Last Friday,  PWD director-general Tan Sri Zaini Omar admitted that it was a “catastrophic oversight” that no one in the department had spotted “the potential for disaster”, but when Samy Vellu came back from his visit to India and Pakistan on Tuesday, he described it as a “small problem and should not have been sensationalized”. 

Last  Friday, Zaini said the repair work for the Parliament “leak” shouldn’t take more than one month, but Samy Vellu came back and boasted that the repairs were completed by the contractor “within 24 hours of the incident” – something which the PWD director-general was clearly unaware!

Although in his first reaction from Punjab last Friday, Samy Vellu said PWD must take “full responsibility” for the Parliament “leak”, he seemed to have changed his mind when he came back, making no mention of PWD responsibility and putting the entire blame on the contractor, Syarikat Pembinaan Anggerik Sdn. Bhd., which has borne the cost of the RM25,000 repair.

Last Friday, Zaini said it would have cost only RM60 to seal the hole between the ceiling and a smoke extractor which caused the leak, and that the repair for the damaged ceiling was estimated at RM5,000.  Two days later, he  said zinc sheets instead of pvc canvas would be used for the repair and that it would  cost RM30,000 instead of the earlier estimate of RM5,000. 

But when Samy Vellu came back on Tuesday, he said the repair cost was RM25,000, making no mention of another cost in his Punjab statement, the additional  RM100,000  needed for modification of the smoke spill  fan. 

The RM5,000, and then RM30,000 and now RM25,000 repair would be borne by the contractor but who would bear the cost of the RM100,000 fan modification?

The Parliament renovation had increased to RM85 million from the original RM50 million estimates. Is there going to be a request for further allocations, bringing the final cost of the Parliament renovation closer to RM100 million?

The second agenda for a recalled three-day parliamentary meeting is the double whammy effect of the increase in petroleum prices, i.e. seven per cent increase in the price of petrol and 23 per cent increase in the price of diesel, leading to further economic slowdown and the chain effect of rising consumer prices.

What is worse, there is no confidence that the chronic diesel shortage crisis in the past four months  has been resolved once and for all, as  the quota system is still in place.

The government should explain why it has not adopted the numerous proposals which had been made by various organizations and individuals, including MPs, in the past few months to end the diesel shortage crisis, as in giving tax rebates instead of subsidizing the fuel to eliminate  abuses such as smuggling, and the abolition of  the road tax.


*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman