Saturday, May 19, 2007

Government or Parliament Should Pay?

In today’s (May 20, 2007) The Star and Berita Minggu, the headlines on the front pages are: ‘Big job ahead’ and ‘Najib persoal JKR’ (Najib questions PWD), respectively. The issue is the ‘roof leak’ in Parliament—which keeps simmering unabated, contrary to the wishes of Minister Shahrizat, who wanted the ‘bocor’ issue be totally plugged.

I find it strange that Najib should tick off JKR (Public Works Department, PWD) since it is a government department directly under a cabinet colleague, S. Samy Vellu, Minister of Works. This guy has been central figure of many controversies involving highway toll hikes, highway cracks, and leaking roofs in the Parliament building. By ticking off JKR, Najib is indirectly telling off Samy Vellu to get cracking with his job. By extension, since Samy is in the Cabinet of Abdullah Badawi (Pak Lah) at the pleasure of Pak Lah, Najib is indirectly insinuating something at his boss.

I pity the Director General of JKR, Dr Keizrul Abdullah (no relation to Pak Lah) who has to suffer in silence, being a civil servant. In the past, JKR has been the butt of jokes, being dubbed as ‘Jabatan Keling Ramai’ (department with many Indians) during pre-Merdeka days, and a few years after Merdeka. Then, when the racial mix of the Department changed, it became known as ‘Jangan Kerja Rajin’ (“Don’t work too hard”, an attitude said to be solely in the Malay domain, I am sad to say).

Now, however, JKR has turned the tables around, and tag itself as “Jasa Kepada Rakyat”. You see this tagline at many government projects, side by side with the BN tagline “Satu Lagi Projek Kerajaan Barisan Nasional.” Obviously, you do not see this sign at the Matrade Building, or the MMR2 highway which had the most colossal number of cracks. For example, 31 of 33 pillars supporting the Kepong Flyover were reported to be faulty as they had obvious cracks. At some pillars and tiers, there were more than 7000 cracks detected. Of course, no one wants to claim something as faulty as the MRR2; fortunately there was no fatality involved.

There must collective responsibility of the Cabinet in matters that involve the public interest. It is not right for a minister to point fingers and blame a subordinate department for the forlorn conditions of government assets, like buildings and highways. They should not be passing the buck. Each minister must say the “buck stops here!” There is no need to drum up publicity for oneself at the expense of another cabinet colleague. All ministers are responsible in the end for the sad state of affairs of a country, for they are the ones running the country.

The fact that RM90 million was used to renovate the parliament building and that did not include the roof speaks volumes about the lack of checks by the authority on the proposal made by parliament. Why was it overlooked? Aren’t there people who are qualified enough to go through the proposal for repairs to know that the time was also ripe to maintain the roof? Why create another fiasco, another ammunition for the ‘opposition’ to lambast at the government? All these are giving a negative image of the government being led by Pak Lah.

Najib says that it has not been decided whether the ‘government’ or ‘parliament’ should pay for the extensive roof repairs, the cost of which was not revealed. My, my! What kind of distinction is this? To me, whether the money comes from the ‘government’ (meaning the Executive branch?) or ‘parliament’, the taxpayers are the ones to bear the brunt of the cost.

So, what is the point of wondering who will pay? Just say the tax-payers will have to pay. Period. Parliament is part of the governance of Malaysia, comprising the Agung, Executive Branch, Backbencers and Opposition members.

Yes, the opposition members are part of the government too, since they are part of parliament. Once this concept is understood, there might be more respect for non-BN members of parliament—including the female members of opposition MP’s. We should prevent another ‘bocor’ fiasco in parliament and save the nation the embarassment brought about by the borderless world.

- MBA@64

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