The RM85 million Parliament renovation has become the  symbol of how public funds should not be wasted, as apart from a  glitzy appearance and  more useless columns,  there is less usable  space,  functionality and utility for MPs who have more than doubled to 219 from 104 when Parliament was built in 1963

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Sunday): Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu responded within hours yesterday to the directive by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to the Public Works Department (PWD) to postpone all costly projects which are of little benefit to the people, declaring that he will submit a list of high-cost projects and consult with Abdullah, who is also the Finance Minister, on the projects that needed to be postponed.

It is shocking that after being a Works Minister for two decades in his more than 25 years in the Cabinet, Samy Vellu needs guidance from the Prime Minister to identify what are the development projects which are cost-effective and have a beneficial impact on the people as distinct from prestigious “white elephant” projects.

I am still waiting for Samy Vellu to explain why last Tuesday, after being briefed by the PWD director-general Tan Sri Zaini Omar,  he had claimed  that the Parliament renovation cost RM60 million when it is RM85 million, with RM74.5 million already spent, and another RM14 million to be requested – to total RM99 million.

The Works Ministry should not only postpone prestigious “white elephant” projects, but should slash wasteful features and expenditures from  necessary development projects to concentrate on functionality and utility.

The Parliament renovation is a good example.  There is pressing need for Parliament renovation which was built in 1963 at a cost of RM18 million  for 104 elected Members of Parliament as more than  40 years later today, with elected MPs more than doubled to 219, more space and facilities are needed  for MPs to carry out their manifold responsibilities, e.g. the 2005 Federal government  budget is RM117.4 billion, more than 100 times more than the annual  budget four decades ago when it was less than RM1 billion.

The RM85 million Parliament renovation has become the symbol of how public funds should not be wasted, as apart from a  glitzy appearance  and more useless columns,  there is less usable  space,  functionality and utility for MPs who have more than doubled to 219 from 104 when Parliament was built in 1963.

After spending RM85 million, there is not even a “smoking room” for MPs who smoke, so that the whole Parliament House could  set the example of being smoking-free.

Before 1999, thanks to the campaigning efforts of the then Deputy Health Minister, Datuk Farid Ariffin, Parliament was on the way to become one of the national institutions which is  “smoke-free” – but six years later, despite the naltion-wide “Tak Nak” campaign, the smoking condition in Parliament has got very much worse.

If  Samy Vellu wants really to heed Abdullah’s call to cut out prestige “white elephant” projects, he should ensure that wasteful features of the RM99 million Parliament renovation should be slashed  to maximize functionality and utility of the Parliament House.


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