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Azalina had committed a grave breach of parliamentary privilege in deliberately withholding information from Parliament on RM317,000 en spent so far on the feasibility study for the London Sports Training Centre proposal
(Parliament, Monday) : Two things have been demonstrated in this first week of the 2007 budget meeting of Parliament – (1) that the “white elephant” mega-project mentality is deep and potent among Cabinet Ministers and government officials; and (2) no real commitment to accountability, transparency, integrity and good governance – although both represented key planks of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s reform pledge in terms of a clean, incorruptible, efficient, people-oriented and trustworthy government when he became Prime Minister 34 months ago.
I will start with the answer by the Youth and Sports Minister, Azalina Othman on the proposed Brickendonbury High Performance Sports Training Centre in London, when she committed a grave breach of parliamentary privilege in withholding information from Parliament.
My question last Tuesday specifically asked for the total expenditures incurred to date with regard to the proposed London Sports Centre, including costs of feasibility studies, giving breakdowns and the name of officers/consultants who had flown to London on the project.
But Azalina evaded the question saying that all queries about the London Centre will be answered when the Cabinet Committee on Sports makes a final decision on the project at the end of September.
What has the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Sports in September got to do with the question as to how much costs had been incurred to date on the proposal? Or Azalina did not have any information on the costs incurred so far?
No, she had the figure of the costs incurred on the project when she stood up in the House, but she chose to deliberately withhold information from Parliament. The costs the National Sports Council (Majlis Sukan Negara) had incurred to date on the feasibility study of the London project was RM317,000.
Why did Azalina withhold this information which was with her when she stood up to answer in Parliament last Tuesday? Is it because she realized that spending RM317,000 for a feasibility study on the London Sports Centre is quite scandalous, and she wanted to avoid another round of adverse publicity?
Whatever her reason, it was a contempt of Parliament and a grave breach of parliamentary privilege to deliberately withhold information when asked by MPs and which information was in her possession when she replied in Parliament.
Apart from saying that the cost of the London Sports Centre will not be RM490 million, Azalina was equally unforthcoming to my supplementary questions, viz:
· Why she was so stubborn to persist with the London Sports Centre project, which will become the first “white elephant” project of the Abdullah premiership,
(i)especially when it is roundly opposed by the people and MPs regardless of party as the monies could be better spent on building sports centres throughout the country as in every parliamentary constituency, in towns, kampongs, felda, felcra, to scout and develop sports talents;
(ii)aware of the objections of the planning authorities to such development as the proposal by the former Primary Industries Ministry to build a golf course at the Tun Abdul Razak Research Centre (TARRC) in Brickendonbury had been rejected by the local council concerned;
· Why if a foreign country is being considered for a Sports Centre, why was not Australia considered which won 84 gold models in the Melbourne Commonwealth Games 2006 and a recognized sports power as compared to England, which only won 36 golds in Melbourne;
· Whether having a Sports Centre in London can result in:
(i)Malaysia winning back the Thomas Cup’;
(ii)Improvement in the standards of Malaysian football, which had fallen to 148 placing in the FIFA World Rankings 2006. (This is lower than North Korea, Singapore, Palestine, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Bangladesh and Indonesia. A decade ago, Malaysia’s FIFA world ranking was around the 100 mark); or
(iii)Breaking Mani Jegathesan’s 400 metre record of 46.3 second set in 1965 without any Sports Centre in London.
Azalina furnishes not just an example of the abiding “white elephant” mega-project mentality, but also the bail-out complex, in the RM3.5 million bailout of Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) – with the Sports Ministry forking out RM2.3 million and theTourism Ministry forking out RM1.2 million.
There is just no sense of right and wrong in the higher government councils, where those who have done wrong must be penalized as a lesson to others. Instead, we have repeated examples of the bail-out complex at play where cronies and toadies are saved from the consequences of extravagant failures – all at the public expense.
I will have more to say on this later.
Next, I will come to the parliamentary answer last Wednesday on the use of public funds to create 141 “half-millionaires” in the MAS MSS exercise, paying them more than three times what they would have been entitled if they had completed their services with the national airline.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman