KUALA LUMPUR, June 20 — The battle between Transport Minister Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat and DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang over the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) is set to explode in Parliament on Monday.
The two politicians, who have been trading barbs and comments in the media and cyberspace for the past weeks over the issue, are set to face each other when Ong presents his ministerial statement on PKFZ.
Lim has taunted the Transport Minister in Parliament for what he termed as “failing to be in Parliament to take questions on the ongoing PKFZ scandal” as he wants answers over how the project’s initial development cost of RM2 billion could swell to over RM12.5 billion.
The Ipoh Timur Member of Parliament even accused Ong of running away from his duty to explain and “deliberately making travel arrangements to go abroad to avoid a grilling in Parliament”.
“Where in France have you gone to Tee Keat, that you dare not reveal to Parliament and the Malaysian public your actual programme of activities in Paris and your travel plans?” Lim asked in his blog.
Lim also equated ministerial overseas visits as sheer pleasure or holiday trips and escaping from answering to issues in Parliament.
This warranted a strong rebuttal from Ong, who was on a week-long visit to France, when he asked Lim whether he did not have better things to pursue rather than dabble in cheap publicity stunts.
“My present visit to France is to attend the prestigious Paris AirShow and to meet up with my French counterpart. Its dismissal by Kit Siang is an insult to his own credibility as well as the wisdom of all his blog readers,” Ong said.
However, Lim in his reply upped the ante by launching a website www.pkfz-scandal.org to rival the official www.pkfznews.com.my, as part of the party’s move to intensify its “assault” on the Barisan Nasional (BN) government.
The website featured articles on PKFZ which was compiled from various sources including press statements from DAP leaders on the issue to rival the official explanations and reports of PKFZ by the Transport Ministry.
The government has established three committees to deal with the PKFZ – namely an ad-hoc committee on corporate governance, a special task force of legal, accounting and project experts and a third team, called the executive committee to take charge of PKFZ’s business development.
However, this was not enough for Lim as he continued to raise the issue by expressing his scepticism over the appointment of Transparency International Malaysia (TIM) president Datuk Paul Low as head of PKA committee on corporate governance.
“Low is an MCA life member and former chairman of an MCA think-tank when Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik was MCA president,” he said, referring to the fact that Ling has also been linked to the scandal.
Following that, Low has announced that he has left the MCA.
Lim also tried to table an emergency motion to have a royal commission of inquiry into the PKFZ but was rejected by Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia, who said it was not urgent.
His efforts did not stop there and Lim went on to demand Ong explain whether he (Ong) “pressured the prime minister” to approve a RM1.2 billion payment as variation of costs for the PKFZ.
The demand was made after a website posted a letter dated May 10, 2008, where Ong had apparently asked the then Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to approve RM1.2 billion payment as variation of costs for the PKFZ project to its turnkey developer Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd.
Lim had asked why this information was omitted in the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) audit report on PKFZ.
However, in his immediate response, Ong said he was merely relaying the PKA board’s decision, which was made even before he became a minister to the then prime minister.
At that time, he said the PwC had not even started their position review work and the variation order was approved by the PKA board in 2008 where they had written to him, asking him to write to Abdullah to apply for the additional funding.
At that time, Ong said PKA was also at risk of defaulting payment as the deadline to meet its financial obligations was approaching.
Ong reiterated that he had nothing to hide on the matter and pointed out that it was he who had directed PKA to commission an independent report and asked for the findings to be made public.
“It is unfortunate that there are quarters who are uncomfortable with this and have chosen to spin unfounded lies about me. Many of them hide behind online anonymity to tarnish and discredit me and even leak out official letters,” he said.
“It is deplorable that a mere representation made to convey the PKA board decision to the prime minister could be spun by (Lim) Kit Siang as pressuring the PM.
“If this is not blatant spinning, what else would better befit this?” he asked.
Whatever it is, according to Ong’s aide, the Transport Minister will take the opportunity on Monday to answer the points raised by opposition MPs on the issue while outlining the measures taken by the government to save the project when he delivers the ministerial statement.
In fact, The Transport Ministry has even agreed to distribute the PwC audit report, together with its appendices, to all Members of Parliament on Monday following a request from the Parliament secretary.
Deputy Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat, Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, said the normal practice for a ministerial statement in the Parliament was that there would be no limit of time for the presentation but there would be no question and answer.
“It’s up to the speaker and minister concerned. It will definitely start after the question and answer session is completed at 11.30am on Monday,” he said, adding that it had been sometimes since the last ministerial statement had taken place in the Malaysian Parliament.
A ministerial statement is made in order to tell the truth, to explain and to clear the air, he added. – Bernama