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MRR2 turf war – Samy Vellu won the battle but lost the war to PWD
Speech (8) in Parliament on Royal Address Motion
6. First-World Infrastructure, Third-World Mentality
The Prime Minister had rightly diagnosed the Malaysian malaise of “First-World Infrastructure, Third-World Mentality” when he was Acting Prime Minister in March 2003.
Last week, speaking at the monthly assembly of the staff of the Prime Minister’s Department, Abdullah reminded government servants about a circular which had been issued against wastage, that “One should not switch on the lights of the whole floor just to use a room”.
The question that immediately comes to mind is why Abdullah had waited after being Prime Minister for 29 months to make such a reminder.
If Abdullah had issued the reminder right from the beginning of his premiership, it would be proof that his injunctions against waste, sloth and corruption had not made any impression at all after 29 months.
This would be potent evidence that three years after he had first diagnosed the Malaysian malaise at the Oxbridge Society, the disease of “First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality” had remained or become even more intractable.
Examples of the Malaysian malaise of “First-World Infrastructure, Third-World Mentality” are galore.
Off-hand, I can cite the following examples:
1. Over waist-high flooding in Shah Alam, capital of Malaysia’s first self-proclaimed “fully developed state”, Selangor, victimising thousands of families and causing tens of millions of ringgit of damage to property.
2. Stinking, unacceptable and undrinkable tap water supply to hundreds of thousands of households in Klang Valley after the Feb. 26 flood, when the taps should be supplying quality drinkable “clear, colourless and odourless” water.
3.“PM: Billions being lost?” newspaper headline (NST 20.2.06) – “Lack of maintenance of government buildings and public infrastructure, coupled with vandalism, is washing billions of ringgit down the drain.”
4.The Federal Court decision on 17.2.06 that the Majlis Perbandaran Ampang Jaya was shielded by the Street, Drainage and Building Act and was not liable for its negligence which caused the Highland Towers Collapse and Tragedy which killed 43 people on December 11, 1993 and made over 1,000 residents in the three blocks homeless.
5. About 2.66 per cent of students in secondary schools and 4.87 per cent in primary schools cannot read – according to a survey by the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) which found that 1,964 out of 73,898 students in 70 secondary schools and 3,690 out of 75,699 pupils in 143 primary schools analysed could not read.
6. More than a year after the 2005 government deadline for all public universities to use English to teach mathematics and science-based programmes, some lecturers’ English in UM, UKM and UPM are so weak as to be “practically incomprehensible” that students have to ask them to teach in the national language instead.
7.Johore Baru City Council had to be shamed by a public-spirited pothole patcher, 64-year retiree Panjang, to patch up potholes in the city roads –but for how long?
8.RM240,000 10-day junket to Mauritius and South Africa by 24 Selayang Municipal Council (MPS) councilors and departmental heads on a “Travel now pay later” scheme funded by MPS, despite MPS facing a deficit budget and unable to pay contractors for services rendered.
Another instance of “First-World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality” is the necessity for the Prime Minister to intervene for all elevated highways and bridges to be examined after reports of cracks on the Ampang-Kuala Lumpur Elevated Highway as well as to get the repair of the RM238 million MRR2 in Kepong started after a delay for more than a year because of intra-ministerial wrangling.
I have in fact many questions about the MRR2 scandal.
Firstly, why the 14 month-delay in the repair work of the MRR2 flyover cracks. On August 9, 2004, the MRR2 flyover in Kepong was closed after cracks were discovered. On August 12, 2004, the Cabinet appointed British consultants the Halcrow Group to investigate reasons for the cracks and come up with a way to repair the MRR2. On Sept. 29, 2004, Halcrow submitted its findings, noting that a design flaw and the improper anchorage of the crossbeams on the concrete columns were at fault.
This Halcrow report was supposed to be the “decider” as the foreign consultants employed by the contractor and the Public Works Department after the cracks were detected each gave a different verdict as to the safety of the flyover. In December, the British consultants submitted a draft of the remedial measures for the repairs to the PWD.
But virtually nothing was done to carry out urgent repairs of MRR2 as the next 14 months from December 2004 to February 2006 saw an intense turf war between the PWD and the Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, which finally required the personal intervention of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in a special Friday meeting on 3rd February 2006 attended by, among others, the Second Finance Minister, Tan Sri Nor Mohamad Yakcob and Chief Secretary, Tan Sri Samsudin Osman.
Samy Vellu won the battle against the PWD at the Feb. 3 meeting but eventually lost the war. Although Samy Vellu announced after the meeting that the MRR2 repair work would be supervised by the British-based consultants Halcrow, maintaining that the costs would be RM18 million, the turf war was finally won by the PWD at a Cabinet meeting two weeks later which upheld the PWD’s recommendation in awarding the repair work to German consulting firm Leonhardt Andra and Partners (LAP) at a cost of RM40 million.
Secondly, the catalogue of contradictions made by the Works Minister on the MRR2 flyover cracks scandal in the past 18 months. When the cracks were first publicly revealed in August 2004, he threatened defamation proceedings for suggestions that it was caused by design fault. At the end of September 2004, Samy Vellu announced Halcrow’s findings, which included design flaw. In February this year, Samy Vellu came up with a third version of another cause for the MRR2 cracks – the Malaysian weather!
There was also the glaring contradiction between Samy Vellu’s announcement on January 26 this year that the MRR2 viaduct in Kepong was safe for use by motor vehicles, based on Halcrow’s report the same morning confirming the flyover’s safety carrying restricted traffic and the announcement on its closure a week later to carry out repair works.
Thirdly, the scandal of the cracks of the RM238 million MRR2 Kepong flyover which had to be closed down within two years of completion when it should be able to meet international standards and last for 100 years, as well as the turf war between the Works Minister and the PWD on investigations into the causes of flyover cracks and who should carry out the repair works - painful and disgraceful examples of a shambolic government at war with itself.
There are serious allegations of PWD defiance and insubordination of the Cabinet decision of August 2004 appointing Halcrow as the “decider” consultants on the causes of the MRR2 cracks and the design of repair works, that PWD interfered with Halcrow’s independent and professional investigations, PWD manipulation of Halcrow’s terms of reference by purposely omitting many important areas, e.g.
· Halcrow not required to install instruments to monitor cracks.
· Halcrow not required to advise on remedial works.
· Halcrow not required to advise on whether it is safe to reopen.
· Halcrow not required to advise on significance of cracking.
· PWD not interested in advice on need for any temporary propping of or temporary load restrictions;
The Public Accounts Committee had met several times on the MRR2 flyover cracks scandal but MPs are still waiting for a special PAC report on the MRR2, in particular with regard to the 14-month delay in carrying out repairs, how this aggravated the MRR2 flyover cracks and the costs of repair, and the more than doubling of the original quoted cost of RM18 million to some RM50 million (as the RM40 million bill of the German consultants does not include the Halcrow bill).
The government is advancing the RM40 million for the MRR2 repair works by the German consultants, LAP, to be reimbursed by the MRR2 contractor, Bumi Highway. Will the MRR2 repair works coming to some RM50 million eventually have to be paid by the Malaysian taxpayers if the government is unable to get Bumi Highway to repay the repair costs?
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