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2008 Budget Committee stage debate on Transport Ministry should be stood down until Chan Kong Choy returns from London next week or this is evidence of the Transport Minister on-the-run to escape accountability for the RM4.6 billion Port Klang Free Zone bailout scandal

Media Conference          
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Parliament, Tuesday): I was surprised to read a Bernama report last night that the Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy has left for London to attend the 25th International Maritime Organization (IMO) Assembly and will not be back until later next week.

My immediate reaction is that the Transport Minister is on-the-run from Parliament to escape accountability for the RM4.6 billion Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) bailout scandal, as the committee stage debate on the Transport Ministry for the 2008 Budget is scheduled for this Thursday or latest by Monday – when Chan will still be in London.

This is most irresponsible, as Chan knows that the PKFZ scandal will feature prominently in the debate on the Transport Ministry as for the past three months of the parliamentary meeting, no satisfactory answer had been given to the many issues and questions which I had raised repeatedly about the PKFZ scandal.

In fact, last Monday in Parliament during the committee stage debate on the Finance Ministry, I had posed the specific question as to why the government was “on-the-run” on the RM4.6 billion PKFZ scandal.

I had protested that government ministers were kicking the issue of the RM4.6 billion PKFZ scandal from one Ministry to another, evading accountability by refusing to give a direct answer to many pertinent questions which I had posed – with the ball being kicked among the Prime Minister’s Department, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Transport with no one wanting to give a proper answer.

I had even simplified the questions on the PKFZ scandal which cry out for answer, viz:

1. Was it true that when the Port Klang Authority and the Transport Ministry insisted on buying the 1,000 acres of Pulau Indah land for PKFZ at RM25 psf on a “willing buyer, willing seller” basis, in the face of strong objection by the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the Treasury which had recommended that the land be acquired at RM10 psf, the Cabinet had given its approval subject to two conditions: (i) categorical assurance by the Transport Minister that the PKFZ proposal was feasible and self-financing and would not require any public funding; and (ii) that every RM100 million variation in the development costs of PKFZ would require prior Cabinet approval.

2. In the event, the first condition was breached when the PKFZ project ballooned from RM1.1 billion to RM4.6 billion requiring government intervention and bailout while the second condition was breached with the original PKFZ development costs of RM400 million ballooning to RM2.8 billion without any prior Cabinet approval ever been sought for every RM100 million increase in development costs.

3. The Transport Minister had unlawfully issued four Letters of Support to Kuala Dimensi Sdn. Bhd (KDSB), the PKFZ turnkey contractor – to raise RM4 billion bonds, which were regarded as government guarantees by the market. The Transport Minister had no such powers to issue financial guarantees committing the government, as it could only be issued by the Finance Minister and only after Cabinet approval. The first Letter of Support was issued by the former Transport Minister, Tun Dr. Ling Liong Sik on May 28, 2003, which was Liong Sik’s last day as Transport Minister while the other three were issued by Kong Choy.

4. Whether it wasn’t true that in recognition that the four unlawful “Letters of Support” of the Transport Minister had nonetheless given implicit government guarantee to the market that the Cabinet had in mid-year to give retrospective approval for the unlawful and unauthorized four Letters of Support by the Transport Ministers in the past four years creating RM4.6 billion liability for the government in the bailout of PKFZ.

5. Why no action had been taken against the Transport Minister, both Liong Sik and Kong Choy, as well as the government officials responsible for the unlawful issue of the four “Letters of Support”. Kong Choy had said that he did not know that he had no power as Transport Minister to issue such Letters of Support, Was this acceptable explanation for getting the government embroiled in the RM4.6 billion PKFZ scandal?
The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Nazri Aziz had said that questions on the PKFZ scandal should rightly be answered by the Transport Minister.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Finance Ministry, Datuk Seri Dr. Hilmi Yahya when pressed on the issue last Monday, asked that he be allowed to answer by way of written reply. When asked when the written reply would be given, he declined to give any firm date on the ground that a proper study had to be done. When I persisted in asking whether an answer could be forthcoming in a week’s time, as this was not a new issue and had been raised for over two months, Hilmi said he would try.

More than a week had passed and I have not yet received any written reply from Helmi, while Chan has run away to London on the pretext of attending the International Maritime Organization meeting in London.

Chan should be reminded that while his international commitments are important, they should not be allowed to overshadow his responsibilities to Parliament and Malaysians as Transport Minister.

After all, if Chan is not Transport Minister, he would be nothing in the International Martime Organization! This is why he must not forget his roots by running away from his primary responsibilities to Parliament and Malaysian taxpayers to evade answer and accountability for the biggest financial scandal in the Abdullah premiership.

If Chan feels that it is very important that he should attend the International Maritime Organization conference in London which clashes with the parliamentary schedule for the Transport Ministry in the committee stage debate on the 2008 Budget, he could easily ask for the debate on the Transport Ministry to be changed to a later date when he is back from the London Conference.

Chan must stand accused of using the International Martime Organization conference in London as an excuse to run away from Parliament and escape accountability for the PKFZ scandal in the 2008 Budget committee stage debate on the Transport Ministry, especially as Chan’s role in the RM4.6 billion PKFZ bailout scandal is a major and central one.

I have given notice of a RM10 cut motion for the salary of Chan as Transport Minister over his major role in the RM4.6 billion PKFZ scandal – and it will be the height of Ministerial irresponsibility and parliamentary cowardice for Chan to run away to London when the Transport Ministry comes up for debate on Thursday or Monday.

I have written a strong protest to the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Nazri Aziz, who is in charge of parliamentary affairs for the Cabinet over the absence of Chan in the debate on the Transport Ministry and to ask that the debate of the Transport Ministry should be stood down until Chan has come back from London to “face the music” over the RM4.6 billion PKFZ bailout scandal.


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

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