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Samy Vellu – stop being
childish, attend the PAC meeting on Thursday, end his unseemly row with
PAC and stop undermining the Prime Minister’s fragile programme of
Yesterday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said he asked Samy Vellu what he was going to do about the invitation from the PAC Chairman Datuk Shahrir Samad requesting the Works Minister to a PAC meeting on Thursday and that Samy Vellu said he would reply to what’s required by the PAC – meaning that he would give a written explanation to the PAC.
This is most unsatisfactory. The Prime Minister should have been more decisive and just directed Samy Vellu to attend the PAC meeting and end the unseemly row between the PAC and the Works Minister which could only undermine his fragile programme of parliamentary reform, further reinforcing public impression of a weak Prime Minister.
Samy Vellu had kicked up a row with PAC in his outburst on Tuesday when he told Shahrir to “stop meddling in the affairs of the Works Ministry” as “the PAC could not keep asking ministry officials to attend its meetings just so that it would be able to give press conferences”, asserting:
“Every week, they have their meetings, and our officers attend and answer their questions. Our officers can't be there always as they also have their responsibilities to carry out.”
This has been denied the following day by Shahrir who “countered that it was unfair for Samy Vellu to claim PAC called his officials every week because the committee only met once a month”, further explaining that the only meeting pertaining to the Works Ministry for this year was “last Monday”, while last year the PAC had only met twice to discuss issues relating to the ministry. This was on the Middle Ring Road 2, or MRR2, and the Johor Baru hospital.
If so, what was the bone of contention between Samy Vellu and the PAC as to lead to such a unprecedented media row? The answer is quite simple. Samy Vellu’s anger and outburst have nothing to do with any PAC “meddling” with the Works Ministry but because his control and monopoly of information pertaining to his Ministry had been breached and jeopardized by the PAC scrutiny with regard to the crooked half-bridge in Johore.
As a result of the PAC meeting last Monday, the public came to know of more information about the costs of cancellation of the R1.113 billion crooked half-bridge in Johore, viz: (i) RM470 million instead of the RM250 million for the eight-lane elevated highway from the new Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) complex in Johore to the Causeway; and (ii) RM170 million which had already been spent on the preliminary works on the crooked half-bridge.
But what was most shocking was the revelation that the costs of the cancellation of the RM1.113 billion crooked half-bridge could be higher than its original estimated costs, when consideration is taken of two other items: (i) RM100 million compensation to contractor Gerbang Perdana and (ii) RM380 million in land premium demanded by the Johore state government from the federal government now that the bridge project has been discontinued.
This will bring to the total costs for compensations and various financial outlays to cancel the RM1.113 billion crooked half bridge to the higher total sum of RM1.12 billion!
I can understand Samy Vellu’s indignation that he was not the first to announce all information about the crooked half-bridge and for them to percolate to the public from the PAC meeting particularly on two items, viz : (i) RM470 million instead of the RM250 million for the eight-lane elevated highway from the new CIQ complex in Johore to the Causeway; and (ii) RM170 million which had already been spent on the preliminary works on the crooked half-bridge – but he has only himself to blame for not making public such information earlier.
This should be a lesson to all Ministers not to hoard information which the public are entitled to as if it is their private property, when in the era of information society and knowledge economy, all government information are public property and belong to the people and should be made easily available or at the first available opportunity – except for sensitive information such as pertaining to national security, commercial dealings or personal privacy – and not wait until they are unearthed, and rightly so, by parliamentary committees.
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP
Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman