Media Statement by Liew Chin Tong in Bukit Bendera on Sunday, 5th April 2009:
PM’s not king, please give up taxpayers-funded palace
The newly-minted Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak should take a bold step by giving up the opportunity to stay in the palatial Seri Perdana Putrajaya as it is too costly for the taxpayers to maintain.
At the moment, the Prime Minister’s Residence in Putrajaya is most expensive house in Malaysia.
Over the last decade, the Government has given at least 6 versions of estimated cost for the construction of the Residence. The most credible figure, disclosed in a legal suit by the architect against the main contractor, is that the residence costs RM 201 million to build.
The Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s Istana Melawati in Putrajaya costs RM 120 million to build, less expensive than the PM’s Seri Perdana. This is despite the fact that Article 32 (2) of the Federal Constitution stipulates that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong takes precedence over all other persons in the Federation.
The taxpayers have to bear the cost of RM6 million annually for rental and maintenance works of Seri Perdana Putrajaya.
According to a parliamentary reply to my question last year, for Seri Perdana Putrajaya, RM4.149, 000 was paid annually as rental to Putrajaya Holdings – the master developer of the federal administrative capital – while the remaining RM1, 896,616 was for maintenance works.
The government also pays RM3.4 million (RM2,273,888 for rental and RM1,129,992 for maintenance) for Seri Satria, the deputy premier's official residence.
In total, this works out to about RM26, 000 per day for both residences. This means that every other day, the nation spends an amount which is equivalent to the price of a low-cost house to keep our Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister live like kings.
In Malaysia’s half-a-century of independence, there have been six prime ministers with four residences. Tunku Abdul Rahman stayed in the Residency (now the Tunku memorial), Tun Razak Hussein and Tun Hussein Onn stayed in the supposedly permanent prime ministerial residence – Seri Taman in Lake Garden (now the Tun Razak memorial). When Tun Mahathir first came into power, the government spent RM 11 million (land cost not included) to construct Seri Perdana in Kuala Lumpur, completed in 1983 (now Galeria Seri Perdana, Tun Mahathir’s memorial).
In October 1999, Tun Mahathir relocated to the palatial Seri Perdana Putrajaya – Malaysia’s fourth Prime Ministerial residence – amidst controversies.
In view of the current economic situation, the new Prime Minister should make a bold move by refusing to stay there.
The residence can be turned into the new Istana Negara while the construction of Istana Negara in Jalan Duta, which is said to cost RM 600 million, can be halted. It will be a win-win situation for the taxpayers.
* Liew Chin Tong, DAP International Secretary & MP for Bukit Bendera