Saturday, December 31, 2011

KLIA 2: Delay and More Delays?

When will KLIA2 - the new "low-cost terminal" actually get completed?

1. September 2011

Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri, who also attended the press conference, said the tender for the construction of the new LCCT will be called as soon as the design is completed. The new LCCT is expected to be completed by September 2011. The terminal, estimated to cost RM2 billion, will be built about 2km away from KLIA. ~ 30/10/2009 Business Times

The building of a new Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) will be completed by the end of 2011 although its construction faced some delay, said Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri. "The project's progress should be 15.5 per cent but right now it is 13.5 per cent. Based on the current status the delay is two per cent or 18 days," he said.

~ 17/11/2009 Bernama

2. Early 2012

The new low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT) is expected to be ready by late 2011 or early 2012, said Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd’s (MAHB) managing director, Tan Sri Bashir Ahmad. Earlier, it was expected to be ready by September 2011. ~ 1/9/2010 Bernama

3. April 2012

Kumpulan UEM Bhd. dan Bina Puri Holdings Bhd , yang bertindak sebagai kontraktor utama bagi terminal baru itu memberi jaminan projek itu akan disiapkan tepat pada masanya … ''Kami berupaya menepati tempoh pembinaan yang ditetapkan dan penyerahan KLIA2 akan dibuat pada akhir tempoh 20 bulan (April 2012) seperti yang ditetapkan kerana kami memiliki sumber, kepakaran dan pengalaman,'' janji Pengarah Urusan Kumpulan UEM, Datuk Izzaddin Idris. ~ 1/9/2010 Utusan Malaysia

4. October 2012

Semua syarikat penerbangan tambang murah akan berpindah ke terminal penerbangan tambang murah tetap baru, KLIA2, yang dijadualkan siap pada bulan Oktober 2012, kata Menteri Pengangkutan, Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha. ~ 25/1/2011 Kosmo

5. April 2013

SEPANG: The new low-cost carrier terminal, expected to be operational by April 2013, will cost Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) between RM3.6 billion and RM3.9 billion, and it will come with aerobridges. ~30/11/2011 Business Times

Will that be the last and final delay?

KLIA 2: Low Cost or High Cost Airport?

This is the design of the new KLIA2 "Low-Cost Terminal"

This is the "luxurious" interior of the new KLIA2 "low-cost terminal"

And another view of the "luxurious" interior of KLIA2 "low-cost terminal"

And here's the history of KLIA2 cost overrun from RM1.7 billion to RM3.9 billion:

1. 2007 – RM1.7 billion

22/7/ 2007 Terminal baru syarikat penerbangan tambang murah (LCCT) serba canggih dan selesa bernilai RM1.7 bilion akan dibina di Lapangan Terbang Antarabangsa KL (KLIA) bagi menggantikan LCCT sedia ada yang semakin sesak. (Berita Harian)

2. 2009 - RM2.0 billion

10/3/2009 – Ong said the new LCCT would be ready by 2011 and the total cost was estimated at RM2.0 billion. (The Star)

3. 2010 - RM2.5 billion

30/10/2010 – Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB)… its board of directors had mandated a sum of RM2.5 billion for the overall construction cost of KLIA 2. (Business Times)

4. 2011 - RM3.9 billion

29/11/2011 – The new low-cost terminal (LCCT), KLIA2, with world class facilities to handle about 45 million passengers yearly, is expected to cost between RM3.6 billion and RM3.9 billion… (Bernama)

Existing LCCT

For comparison purposes, the cost of existing LCCT is RM108 million plus a subsequent upgrade costing RM124 million for the total cost of RM232 million.  The existing LCCT doesn't have to add the cost of new aprons (where planes taxi and park) and runways, but the sheer gulf in cost difference tells you how MAHB has been spending its money.  As a result of the new KLIA2, MAHB had to raise RM2.5 billion in sukuk loans in 2010.

We Will Meet Zahid

The Defence Minister, Dato’ Seri Zahid Hamidi has said yesterday that he was willing to meet up with me to explain and clarify the purchase of the six second generation patrol vessels or “littoral combatant ships (frigate class)” (LCS). The issue surfaced again since the price tag for the war ships has increased from RM6 billion announced on 5 February this year, but has since increased 50% to RM9 billion this month.

Boustead Holdings Bhd has announced on Bursa Malaysia that its subsidiary Boustead Naval Shipyard Sdn Bhd has received the “letter of award to undertake the construction of the ships” from Ministry of Defence Malaysia “to design, construct, equip, install, commission, integrate, test and trials, and deliver six LCS” for the new ceiling price of RM 9.0 billion

We have asked for the Defence Minister to explain the drastic increase, especially since even the initial RM6 billion price tag had already attracted controversy and required Dato’ Seri Zahid to provide an explanation in parliament.

In defending the RM6 billion deal in parliament, the Minister had claimed that these patrol vessels were no ordinary ships but were advanced warships known as "littoral combatant ships" (LCS).

Datuk Seri Zahid had in March claimed that the LCS is "bigger and faster" and "it is also equipped with three-dimensional warfare equipment like cannons, missiles and torpedoes” which are able to take on jets, ships and submarines respectively.

He argued that "with the rapid development of technology, the RMN would need an LCS with state-of-the-art equipment like the sonar system for submarine detection and anti-submarine torpedoes, which would help in the operation of the two RMN submarines to safeguard the sovereignty of national maritime areas."

Since the RM6 billion price tag has already come with all the above “advanced” technologies to fight jets, ships and submarines, what else has the Ministry of Defence ordered to justify the additional allocation of RM3 billion? The price-tag of RM1.5 billion will certainly make our patrol vessels among the most expensive in the world.

Instead of providing in open explanation, Dato’ Seri Zahid had mocked me yesterday asking “Where does he get his figures? From Kua Kia Soong, the former DAP MP?” If he has bothered reading my statements, I’ve stated clearly that the figures came from the announcements made by Boustead as well as “authoritative” answers made by himself in the Parliament. The Minister will perhaps do well to stop relying on Papagomo as his chief intelligence advisor, who has to date provided the former with only half-truths and fictitious data.

Pakatan Rakyat MPs, including Nurul Izzah Anwar and Dr Dzulkefli Ahmad are more than willing to take up the offer from the Minister to seek his clarification. However, he should not only provide clarifications for the above purchase involving RM9 billion but also the other mega-acquisition of 257 armoured personnel vehicles (APVs) costing RM7.55 billion this year. In his parliamentary reply to me on the APVs, he had claimed “no knowledge” over the details of the cost.

The Minister must also answer, given his assurance that his Ministry is “open to transparency”, why the Government is unwilling to set up a Parliament Oversight Committee to review and monitor defence expenditure. If the Ministry is not even willing to subject himself to oversight by the Parliament, the country’s highest legislative body, then Dato Seri Zahid Hamidi has no right to talk about “transparency”.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 Walk Out

The "Walk-Out" - was it right or was it wrong?

I've received plenty of emails, tweets and questions during meetings asking about the Pakatan Rakyat "walk-out" during the passing of the Peaceful Assemblly Bill 2011 debate in parliament earlier in December.

Without going into the merits of the walkout, perhaps its better for me to explain what happened that day and the parliamentary process. This will at the very least clarify some of the misinformation doing its rounds and give you a clearer picture of what actually happened.

1. Pakatan Rakyat was given only 3 speakers to speak. Hence only 1 rep from each party. The top leaders spoke - about 20 min each - Anwar, Kit Siang and Hadi. So we all spoke and all the points the civil society and the Bar Council raised were all raised in parliament. You can check the speeches in the Hansard which can be downloaded from the website. No more speakers were allowed and the Speaker dictates the order in parliament.

2. There is no room for amendments at all. Full stop. BN had no intent on incorporating any of the proposals by Pakatan or others into the Act. For everyone's information, it has never happened in the history of Malaysian parliament where any single amendment proposals or motions by the opposition were adopted. The parliament will and can pass any law tabled by the BN govt with sheer brute majority. The only exception is that the constitution can only be amended with 2/3 majority which we have denied. For the 1st time in recent history, there were no constitutional amendments proposed during the current term.

Hence aside from the above, the Parliament is a "rubber stamp" due to BN majority and the exercise of the Whip who controls all their MPs votes.

3. Hence the only difference was the "voting" being carried out in our presence or absence. The outcome is already a forgone conclusion. It makes absolutely no practical purpose to stay and vote because the BN MPs are out in force to ensure the bill's passage.

Finally, again without judging whether we should have walked out or not - we walked out only after we have exhausted all practical channels to reject or amend the bill, and after it was made absolutely clear from BN's side that they have no intent to make any changes to the bill. We walked out to protest the "tyranny of majority" by BN in parliament and their refusal to accede to the voice of the people, especially to set up a parliamentary select committee on PAB. It made a mockery of the parliamentary institution which we were not willing to take part in.

Hope the above makes it clearer on the situation.

But as I've mentioned many times during Q&A sessions during townhalls and forums, the public backlash as a result of the walkout, whether justified or otherwise will certainly make Pakatan MPs think twice about such moves in the future. This is because perception of the walkout, regardless of whether it is misinformed or actual, is what matters most at the very end of the day.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Purchase of 6 Naval Vessels up from RM6 billion to RM9 billion

On February 5th this year, Defence Minister Dato' Seri Zahid Hamidi announced that the Government has approved RM6 billion for the Royal Malaysian Navy to acquire 6 second generation patrol vessels to be built by Boustead Naval Shipyards.

In defending the RM6 billion deal in parliament, the Minister had claimed that these patrol vessels were no ordinary ships but were advanced warships known as "littoral combatant ships" (LCS).

Datuk Seri Zahid had in March claimed that the LCS is "bigger and faster" and "it is also equipped with three-dimensional warfare equipment like cannons, missiles and torpedoes” which are able to take on jets, ships and submarines respectively.

He argued that "with the rapid development of technology, the RMN would need an LCS with state-of-the-art equipment like the sonar system for submarine detection and anti-submarine torpedoes, which would help in the operation of the two RMN submarines to safeguard the sovereignty of national maritime areas."

The LCS is indeed a technologically advanced patrol vessel currently only acquired and deployed by the United States (US) in the world. The US owns 2 of these ships - USS Independence and USS Freedom while Malaysia is seeking to acquire 6 of these LCS.

While the price of the ships was not "final" in February, it has come as a shock when Boustead announced on Bursa Malaysia that the contract which was just signed last week is now valued at RM9 billion or 50% higher that what was approved earlier this year by the Government.

The Minister must explain why has the price for each ship increased by RM500 million or RM3 billion in total for the 6 ships suddenly, well above the original approved budget. For example, has the specification for the ships been "improved" further since Dato' Seri Zahid's reply in Parliament - which was then already the most technologically advanced patrol vessel - which justified the whopping increase in price?

Boustead Naval Shipyard, previously known as PSC Naval Dockyards which delivered the previous 6 naval patrol vessels at RM6.75 billion or 26.2% above the original contract price of RM5.35 billion. The ships were also delivered only after a 2 year delay and hundreds of defects.

In the 2006 Auditor-General Report, the Ministry of Defence was faulted for the dubious award of contract to an obviously unqualified contractor, the failure of technical and financial management, hefty illegitimate contract price increases, undocumented and overpayment, unjustifiable waiver of penalties, and a complete failure of ministry oversight. The Defence Ministry was then headed by Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Such a track record does not give Malaysians any amount of confidence that history will not repeat itself. With such a rapid increase in budget by RM3 billion before even the start of construction of these ships, can the current Defence Minister assure Malaysians that these ships will not suffer the same disgraceful fate as the earlier ships?

As Defence expenditure in Malaysia remains highly opaque, with Malaysia ranked "medium to low" in transparency by Transparency International, we continue to call for a Parliamentary Oversight Committee to review and approve defence expenditure as practiced in all developed countries. The expenditure involved billions of ringgit in acquisitions annually, hence the sheer lack of transparency leads only to poor accountability, and more often than not, massive leakages and over-spending. These leakages must be plugged to ensure that the country doesn't become bankrupt by 2019 as speculated by Minister in Prime Minister's Department, Datuk Idris Jala.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why Was KLIA2 Moved to A More Expensive Site?

Why was KLIA2 moved to a soft soil site?
Aidila Razak
11:41AM Dec 14, 2011

Why was a new masterplan drawn up in 2008 for the expansion of the low-cost carrier airport (KLIA2), resulting in the airport being built on soft soil, when an earlier plan circumvented this problem?

This question lies at the heart of the current outcry over the ballooning cost of the airport from an estimated RM1.7 billion to up to RM3.6 billion today.

Referring to the KL International Airport Masterplan 1992, Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua (left) said today the move also remained the main cause of the construction deadline for KLIA2 to be extended from September 2011 to April 2013.

“The transport minister and Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd must answer why they made a hard-to-fathom move to the new site. This is the reason the cost went up by more than RM2 billion,” Pua said.

According to the 1992 plan, the current construction site of KLIA2 “mainly comprises saturated marine clay with an overlay of peat material, which varies in thickness from two to three metres”.

"It has poor load bearing qualities and is not suitable for airport construction without undertaking significant engineering measures... which include improved drainage, removal of the peat layer and the introduction of fill material with good load bearing qualities (a minimum of three metres deep)," Pua said, quoting from the report.

The earthworks required to make the site suitable, he said, cost an estimated RM1.2 billion. This could have been saved if the 1992 masterplan, drawn up by Anglo-Japanese Airport Corporation Bhd, had been followed and the KLIA2 had been built on the original hard land area marked out.

The area marked out in the 1992 plan is a hilly area, which had already been prepared during the construction of the main terminal (KLIA) at the time.

Double watch towers and extra runway

The 2008 plan, drawn up by Netherlands Airport Consultants BV and KLIA Consultancy Services, led to further consequences on costs:

A third runway, estimated to cost RM270 million, has to be constructed as the new site would not allow KLIA and KLIA2 to share two runways. However, the third runway will also need to be built on soft soil, raising questions as to when it will be ready.
“Airlines would not want to move to KLIA2 if they have to taxi longer in order to use KLIA’s runways,” Pua said.

A second control tower, estimated to cost RM500 million, needs to be constructed as KLIA’s tower would not be able to see some parts of the third runway. The 1992 plan had both terminals sharing the same tower.
“This would make it the first modern airport, built after the 1960s, with two control towers within two kilometres of each other,” Pua said.

While conceding that he was not an expert in the field, Pua said an engineering expert who was consulted had said the deadline of April 2013 was “iffy” at best, mainly due to the poor soil.

In comparison, he said, the current low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT) had cost RM232 million and had taken about 15 months to construct, including upgrades.

“Of course it’s not fair as (KLIA2) would have a third runway, etc, but it gives a comparison of contrast in cost from the new airport and the current terminal. The current one was built in budget fashion, the new one is as good as a premium terminal.

“We are not disputing the need to move to a bigger terminal as the LCCT is close to capacity. Nor do we mind shifting the location, but not at such a ballooning cost,” Pua said.

LCCT currently caters to 15.4 million passengers, 400,000 more than its capacity.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Stop the Impossible Task of regulating the Impossible

From a university dropout, William Henry Gates III turning lines of codes into the Windows Operating System first released back in 1985, to a Harvard social misfit, Mark Zuckerberg creating the world most successful social media site –, the industry is one that is fertilised by impulse and innovation, perpetually morphing and forever intruding into every aspect of our lives.

The industry is so pervasive that hardly any product escapes its reach. Computer programming is required today to build your car, produce movies and animations, set up manufacturing plants and to develop an efficient order management system to deliver pizzas. IT is the industry of making what was "impossible", possible.

The draft Computer Professionals Bill 2011 however, is an ill-conceived impossible attempt by the Government to regulate the “impossible”. The proposed bill fails because the limits and scope of the law cannot be strictly defined as the industry changes by the minute.

“Computing services” for example, will include today, website designers, setting up blogs or anyone producing an animated Flash-game for your Facebook. In fact, with seamless integration of a simple word processor, such as Microsoft Word with the Internet, a desk clerk now effectively becomes a provider of “computing services”.

The definition of “critical national information infrastructure” will be equally impossible define as it would and could encompass any industry from the government sector to financial services to the telecommunication communications or even the airline or transportation industry. Surely a failure in any of these industries would have a “devastating impact on national economic strength”.

Putting the two indefinable terms together will result in absurd outcomes. An advertising agency offering web design services for a bank will have to become a “Registered Computing Services Provider”, or a technician providing maintenance services of computer hardware in a government office would have to be registered as a “Registered Computing Professional” or a “Registered Computing Practitioner”, whichever applicable.

What is unimaginable would be for Microsoft to have all its computer programmers in the United States registered with the Board of Computing Professionals in Malaysia, before the company could sell its software to entities providing “critical national information infrastructure” in the country! If Microsoft or Hewlett Packard or any other product developer or manufacturer involving “computer services” from overseas could be exempted from being “registered”, then why should Malaysians be penalised for being unregistered?

The Bill and the bureaucracy to be created with its implementation will become an utter waste or resources for both the Government and the industry. Registration of practitioners or professionals does not guarantee quality and will not lift industry standards. If other countries from the United States to South Korea, from to Singapore to Germany and from India to South Africa do not require such a Bill to design, develop and produce top quality computing and related products, what makes the Government think that such a Bill will miraculously make Malaysia a top computing nation?

In fact, the implementation of such a Bill will only lead to an exodus of talent in Malaysia because they will find the environment substantially more conducive in other countries to pursue their computing dreams.

Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and hundreds of others did not succeed because they registered with a “Board of Computing Professionals” in the United States or elsewhere in the world. On the contrary, their success is based precisely on an environment which encouraged unrestrained creativity, breeding innovation without the leash.

The Malaysian Government will do well to admit the mistake that is the Computing Professionals Bill, and withdraw the thought of ever tabling the bill in the Parliament.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Computing Professionals Bill 2011: An Orwellian "Big Brother"

The draft Computing Professionals Bill 2011 (CPB2011) which is currently being circulated for "consultation" is an attempt by MOSTI to regulate all "computing services" provided to entities or persons related to the "critical national information infrastructure" (CNII).

"Computing services" is defined as any services provided to "plan, architect, design, create, develop, implement, use and manage information technology systems". Based on this definition, the scope of such services would cover anything from designing websites to the setting up of computer servers to the design and development of any computer products - whether software or hardware. In fact, one would easily classify the setting up of blogs and news portals, or even use of Facebook and Twitter accounts as being covered under "computing services".

"CNII" on the other hand, is defined as "those assets, systems and functions that are vital to the nation that their incapacity or destruction would have a devastating impact on National economic strength or National image or National defense and security or Government capability to function or Public health and safety".

CNII could hence cover any entity in the Government, financial institutions and government linked companies. What is absolutely frightening is the definition would also cover all the way to any website, portal or information technology application which could have a detrimental impact on the "National image" or deemed to hurt the "Government's capability to function".

Any ambiguity in the law shall be determined by the 15 imember "Board of Computing Professionals" appointed at the sole discretion of the Minister, and subjected only to the Minister's approval.

Contrary to the clarification statement made by MOSTI, which claimed that the bill does not restrict the practise of "computing services" and is only limited to CNII, the bill has pervasive and damaging consequences not only on the information technology industry, but also infringes on key Goverment commitments under the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) Bill of Guarantees.

The Bill of Guarantees have promised "unrestricted employment of knowledge workers" and "no censorship of the Internet". However the CPB 2011 will clearly restrict the hiring of knowledge workers by necessitating registration. Similarly, the CPB 2011 as it is currently defined could be used to register, regulate and restrict the activities of individuals or corporations to publish news reports or those who use Facebook, Twitter or other similar applications with the excuse of protecting the "National image".

It is clear that the flimsily drafted CPB has the Orwellian "big brother" fingerprints all over it.

The information technology and computing industry has been operating without controversy, issues or impediment for the past decades. There is absolutely no bureaucratic requirement to restrict and control the industry, which will only bring adverse outcomes without any corresponding tangible benefit.

I will personally attend the CPB 2011 Open Day organised by MOSTI tomorrow to hear the Ministry's clarifications on the bill, and to submit the relevant points of objection.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Zahid Hamidi and Papagomo: What's the Link?

The presence of blogger Papagomo on board KD Tun Razak Scorpene submarine proved that Defence Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi is an incorrigible liar, for he had promised Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng that Papagomo will not be on board the submarine.

Zahid had even told reporters that no bloggers were on board claiming that "If we allowed any blogger to go, others would ask, too".

However Papagomo's blogpost with pictures has proven beyond doubt that Zahid is not only untrustworthy, Papagomo is the numero uno Umno blogger, hatchetman and special advisor to the Defence Minister, or the latter would not have been allowed on board the high security submarine.

The Defence Minister hasn't only lied to Lim Guan Eng about Papagomo's presence, he had earlier promise the Penang Chief Minister that he would accompany the latter for the ride, but reneged on the promise last minute.

Zahid had also earlier this year made unbelievable and scurrilous allegations againts me when he alleged that I was previously arrested and charged in Singapore which disqualified me from becoming a Member of Parliament in the city state. He had further claimed that it was due to my connections with the Singapore authorities that I was released and returned to Malaysia to become an elected representative here.

Such fantastic stories can only originate from an Umno blogger extraordinaire, who had also started the despicable and fictitious allegations that Lim Guan Eng's son was forced to transfer school due to sexual assault and Lim Guan Eng had paid money to cover up the case. It was later proven beyond doubt that Papagomo and his cohorts had made up the allegations when the alleged victim was a foreigner never to have stepped onto the shores of Penang.

The fact that Papagomo possesses such exclusive privilege with the Defence Minister who is also the most senior Umno Vice-President confirms his position as the latter's inner-circle confidante.

Papagomo 's privilege is a clear cut case of abuse of power and the Defence Minister must answer to all Malaysians for his lies and his intimate association with one of the most despicable of Umno bloggers.

Zahid has singled me out for criticism for not having gone on the submarine sojourn. I was overseas for the past week and was unable to make the trip to Langkawi. However, as pointed out by Lim Guan Eng, going on the dive will only prove the dedication and professionalism of the Malaysian Navy, which was never in doubt. It will give people like Papagomo the bragging rights but does not at all answer our questions over the seemingly exhorbitant billions of ringgit paid, as well as the hundreds of millions of "commissions" made to interested parties.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Najib Hypocritical Over Civil Service

The Prime Minister has the cheek to inflame racial sentiments among the Malays by accusing the opposition of wanting to trim the civil service when it is the BN Government who will chop 29,000 civil servants starting next year

The Prime Minister had in his speech a Pertubuhan Kebajikan dan Dakwah Islamiah Malaysia (Pekida) gathering 3 days ago accused and berated the opposition of wanting to “halve the civil service” which is majority Malay.

Firstly, there was never any proposal from Pakatan Rakyat to “halve the civil service”. I had suggested in reply to questions from an audience in a forum that we could consider early optional retirement and the removal of those who had breached discipline and regulations, such as those who purchased RM1,940 binoculars for RM56,350. I had even emphasized that drastic measures are out of the question because we would need the cooperation of the civil service to govern effectively should Pakatan Rakyat take power in the next general elections.

But secondly and more importantly, Datuk Seri Najib Razak has proven himself to be a hypocrite of the highest degree when two days after his speech, the Public Service Department (JPA) under the Prime Minister’s office announced 29,000 redundancies in the civil service.

Under the new civil service scheme “Saraan Baru Perkhidmatan Awam (SBPA)”, not only did the Barisan Nasional government made redundant thousands of civil servants, JPA also announced that those who were assessed with 70 marks or less for their performance will be given warnings. And if their performance does not improve in 6 months, then they will be removed from the service automatically via an “exit policy”.

The Director-General of JPA, Tan Sri Abu Bakar Abdullah had also emphasized during the announcement that the new exit policy will affect all 1.4 million civil servants in the country.

The above civil service downsizing attempts by the BN administration is consistent with Najib’s Government Transformation Programme (GTP) which said “the Government will move towards a new model of smaller government” (page 240). Similarly, Najib’s cornerstone New Economic Model (NEM) Part II had called for a “reduced government role” which will involve “downsizing and re-focussing” (page 55).

Hence the above proved that the Prime Minister and his fellow UMNO leaders were just mere political opportunists in portraying Pakatan Rakyat as anti-civil service by inflaming racial sentiments using racist arguments.

It is UMNO who is culling the civil service today and yet they had the cheek to claim that Pakatan Rakyat and myself are racists. Dato’ Seri Najib Razak has taken an extreme racial position in this matter, and together with other aspects of his speech which pits Malays against non-Malays, he is fighting to retain power at all costs, even if it means spreading vicious lies and even signing the death warrant for his 1Malaysia policy.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Call for Parliamentary Select Committee on Defence

The Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi yesterday dismissed the need for a bi-partisan parliamentary oversight committee over defence expenditure, claiming that he “is confident in the ability and transparency of the evaluation committee of the three branches of the Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM)”.

Such contemptuous arrogance towards parliamentary oversight over defence expenditure which amounts to tens of billions of ringgit annually has proven Transparency International (TI) right by scoring Malaysia at only 4.5 points out of a maximum of 12, or only 37.5%, well below the failure mark. This was the score given in the inaugural “Transparency of Defence Budgets Report” launched on 19 November 2011.

Director of the International Defence and Security Program for TI in United Kingdom, Mark Pyman, who launched the report in Subang Jaya said “Malaysia ranked far below other countries (for this), where the budget lacked details and no audits were undertaken of the secret programmes.”

Malaysia is ranked alongside Afghanistan, Rwanda, Georgia and Azerbaijan in the report, well below other countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. The results of the research indicate that approximately 14 per cent of the countries under review in this study scored high and these are primarily developed countries with strong democratic systems in place.

The Minister’s disdain towards transparency and accountability is best epitomised in his reply to the question which I had posed in the recently concluded parliamentary sitting. I had asked for the Minister to explain the gap between the RM7.55 billion paid for 257 armoured personnel carriers to Deftech Sdn Bhd, and what latter will be paying to FNSS Defences Systems, a Turkish defence manufacturer – RM1.7 billion for the same items. Deftech is a subsidiary of DRB-Hicom Bhd based in Pekan, a company controlled by Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Syed Bokhari.

The Minister had acknowledged the above transactions, but had the gall to claim “no knowledge” of the details of the Deftech-FNSS transactions and hence was not able to explain what makes the difference in the 2 contracts. The Minister was also not forthcoming in explaining other sizeable transactions such as the RM6 billion purchase of 6 Second Generation Patrol Vessels as well as the RM2.3 billion acquisition of 12 Eurocopter EC725 helicopters.

The answer most often given by the Minister and defence officials to justify the much higher pricing had been that the military equipment were “customised to our specific needs”. Mark Pyman had stated that it is in the best interests of the government that customisation is kept at a bare minimum as it disproportionately drives costs up. He said that “it doubles the base price before you can say good morning. It’s not value for money, difficult and dangerous”.

However the best justification for a Parliamentary Oversight committee is the annual litany of scandals and transgressions reported in the Auditor-General Report on the Defence Ministry.

We call upon the Government to honour the Prime Minister’s Government Transformation Plan (GTP) which pledged for transparency and accountability by setting up the Parliament Select Committee on Defence, modelled after the United States House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations which looks after defence policies as well as the US Defense Budget Appropriation Committees which review and approve detailed defence expenditure.

Otherwise, Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi’s contemptuous attitude towards transparency and accountability marks the lack of honesty and sincerity by the Prime Minister to honour his GTP pledges.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Health Minister Confirms E.Coli in 1Malaysia Fresh Milk

The developments over the past few days, including the dialogue between the Health Ministry with the Member of Parliament for Lembah Pantai, Nurul Izzah Anwar and myself have proven that there are serious concerns over the food safety of 1Malaysia products.

The Health Minister, Dato’ Seri Liow Tiong Lai has finally confirmed the presence of e.coli bacteria in the 1Malaysia fresh milk yesterday. However, he had attempted to downplay the incident by claiming that most of the other 13 products were withdrawn over “labelling” issues and not over food safety concerns. The list of products included all the products which we have raised which had quality issues or failed to comply with Food Regulations 1985 – fresh milk, ice-cream, evaporated milk, sweetened creamer, ghee, fruit jam, oyster sauce, tinned sardines and curry chicken.

He was quoted in The Star as saying “the products were removed due to non-compliance with food regulations such as incomplete labelling, he said, stressing that it was not due to food safety matters.” In fact, most shockingly The Star had made absolutely no mention of the e.coli find.

Various strains of the E.coli or Escherichia coli bacteria produce potentially lethal toxins which causes common food-related illness such as diarrhoea, and at its worst, even deaths have been recorded.

Instead of giving a severe warning or even taking punitive action against the supplier of the harmful food products – where under the Food Act 1983 the supplier is subjected to a “fine not exceeding RM100,000 and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years”, the Minister chose to go on a rant against me for exposing the 1Malaysia food products scandal.

The Minister must realise that it is his responsibility to enforce the food safety and quality standards of products sold in our stores and not the role of the opposition members of parliament. The fact that the stores were selling all of the above products over the past 6 months proved that the Minister had failed in his role, most likely because these products were sold under the “1Malaysia” brand which was heavily promoted by the Prime Minister and the Government.

Had it not been due to the exposé by the Pakatan Rakyat MPs and the subsequent public pressure, no action would have been taken. Hence Dato’ Seri Liow Tiong Lai must not try to downplay the incident or deflect responsibility by trying to put the blame on us instead.

On the other hand, we would call upon the Minister to make the public announcement to be printed in ALL mainstream newspapers for all consumers who have purchased the products to return the items to Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia stores for a full refund. That is the very least the Minister could do for the ordinary Malaysians, if he has decided not to take further action against the supplier(s) of the offending products.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Low Cost KLIA2 Turned High Cost

Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAB) had confirmed fears that the cost of KLIA2 has effectively doubled from less than RM2 billion to a massive RM3.9 billion and will only be completed at the earliest in April 2012, a delay of more than 8 months.

MAHB admitted increases in scope in practically all elements of the airport were increased significantly causing the cost of building the airport to balloon. The KLIA2 airport terminal for example, for increased from the original 2 storeys to the new 9 storey’s building, costing an additional RM420 million. At the same time, the footprint of the airport increased by 130.7% which caused a whopping RM670 million extra. In addition, there was an increase of RM530 million just for the construction of buildings of government agencies.

The biggest question must be, were all these major expansion of scope justified? Underlying MAHB Managing Director, Tan Sri Bahsir Ahmad Abdul Majid’s basis for the cost increase was for the new airport terminal to cater to 45 million passengers, as opposed to the original 30 million. Hence the increase in cost for the airport is just a case of “bring forward the capex”.

The Ministry of Transport must justify the approval for such a massive increase in capacity which involved MAHB raising RM2.5 billion in debt in 2010 when the current passenger traffic at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) is only 15.4 million. What’s more, even the current main KLIA terminal which has a capacity for 25 million passengers received 18.7 million passengers or 74.8% of the capacity. As a gauge, the Dubai airport, which is one of the busiest hub in the world today, served 47 million passengers while Changi Airport served 42 million in 2010.

Essentially, what MAHB is building is a terminal 80% larger than the current main terminal! In addition, the provision for super-scale A380 operations, walkalators, fully automated baggage handing system, substantially larger commercial space including a public shopping mall, provision for 4 hotels excluding an Airside Transit Hotel and a premium lounge gives the impression that KLIA2 is a “replacement” for the KLIA Main Terminal today, instead of being a new Low-cost carrier terminal!

The Ministry of Transport and MAHB appears to have gotten the concept of a “low-cost” terminal completely wrong and have obviously not been able to adapt and cater to the new business model despite demands from the low-cost carriers. Their penchant to spend big money for grandeur has resulted in Malaysia missing a true and rare opportunity to bring about a game-changing transformation for the Malaysian aviation sector.

What is more, shareholders of MAHB, including Khazanah and the Government must question MAHB’s reckless expenditure – for if the passenger tax will not be increased as a result of the massive expansion of cost as asserted by Tan Sri Ahmad Bashir, then effectively, the returns to MAHB would have reduced by nearly half as a result of the doubling of costs. One could also argue that had MAHB not overspent on KLIA2, then there would have been no need for the recent 28% increase in airport taxes from RM25 to RM32 at LCCT and RM41 to RM65 at the main airport terminal, which resulted in lower competitiveness for Malaysia.

What is more important for MAHB is to improve the efficiency, service and other intangible qualities of our airport in the region instead of being obsessed with everything “big”. It is unfortunately that Malaysia today serves fewer passengers today than most of our regional competitors – Indonesia (44 million), Singapore (42 million), Bangkok (43 million) and Hong Kong (50 million) – compared to KLIA’s (Main Terminal and LCCT combined) 34 million.

The Ministry of Transport must give an assurance that there will be no further cost increases and no further delays in the construction and operations of KLIA2 which will further jeopardise our leadership in the increasingly competitive low-cost carrier industry.