VIOLET YONG -DEBATE ON MOTION OF THANKS TO THE ADDRESS OF TUAN YANG TERUTAMA DELIVERED IN THIS AUGUST HOUSE ON 29thAPRIL, 2019
1.OPUS CONSULTANTS (M) SDN. BHD.
I was made to understand that the Sarawak Government has appointed OPUS (not Octupus) Consultants (M) Sdn Bhd. which is the Consultancy arm of UEM Edgenta Bhd as the project management consultant (PMC) worth RM50 million for the initial package of the Sarawak’s RM 11 billion coastal road network and second trunk road projects which is estimated to be completed in phases over 8 to 10 years.
We know that these two mega projects are in no doubt, good for the state and our people will benefit from it.
However, while implementing the multi-billion projects, it has come to our knowledge that Sarawak Government is ready to splash off at least a total of RM165-RM198 million which is calculated at 1.5% to 1.8% over the total work package of RM11 billion for project management contract value. As I had mentioned earlier, for the initial’s package awarded to OPUS, the consultancy fee is already worth RM50 million. What an outrageous HUGE amount the Sarawak people have to fork out!
On behalf of the people, I urge the State Government to provide us the answers to the following questions:
1.Why is there a need for the government to engage OPUS which is not a full-fledge Sarawak company, as the project management consultant to implement these two projects? Please, let us know what is so special about OPUS that the whole of MIDT (Ministry of Infrastructure Development and Transportation Sarawak), JKR Sarawak and our local team of consultants cannot achieve?
2.We all know that JKR Sarawak has branches all over the state from Kuching, Miri, Sibu, Bintulu and so on. If PMC such as OPUS is handling all the monitoring works on behalf of JKR Sarawak, does it mean that JKR Sarawak has no qualified personnel to handle the task now? Or that JKR Sarawak is incompetent to handle the task?
3.All these years, it has always been JKR Sarawak monitoring all the infrastructure projects in Sarawak and why now that Sarawak State Government decides to engage PMC to take over the job of JKR Sarawak and that all local consultant companies are required to report to OPUS?
4.Why is there a need for the allocation of RM10 million as travelling expenses for JKR Sarawak staff for year 2019 on coastal road network project? If everything is being monitored by external consultants and OPUS, then why the need for JKR Sarawak staff to travel so much that RM10 million is needed?
5.What is the exact job scope of OPUS? How are we sure that there is no duplication of jobs between OPUS, JKR Sarawak, MIDT and the whole team of private Consultants?
6.How could a Company like OPUS help to save the cost of construction of the projects?
7.How will Sarawak government get back or recoup the total amount paid to PMC which in our case here is estimated to cost RM165 million to RM198 million at least for the total work package?
8.What are the criteria for OPUS to be selected as the project management consultant for these projects? May I know, is it through political connection? Network connection? Or buddy connection? Or is OPUS being chosen on its own?
9.Were there any other PMC being considered during the consideration and appointment process? How was the selection done? Whose decision was it to have a PMC and whose decision in the State Government was it to choose OPUS or is there a committee being set up for the appointment? I know Sarawak is famous for its cake lapis. But when it comes to implementing mega projects, please don’t follow the process of making the cake lapis, going through layer after layer.
In order to prove that Sarawak GPS government practices integrity, transparency and accountability, it is necessary to furnish all answers to these questions. All these exercises involve tax payers’ money and we definitely not allow certain irresponsible quarters to use it as an opportunity for self-enrichment.
2. COWGATE IN SARAWAK
We have the famous ‘Cowgate’ in Peninsula, let us not start a ‘cowgate’ in Sarawak.
As the Daily Telegraph has reported on March 26ththat the YAB CM of Sarawak and a high-powered ministerial delegation slipped quietly into Darwin sometime in mid-March to visit Carmor Plains Station in the costal flood plain region of Point Stuart.
It was reported that SEDC, a state-owned corporation, is buying the 41,500-hectare station. Included in the sale are approximately 2500 head of buffaloes, plus plant and equipment. If this deal was not reported in the media at all, no one would know that another ‘handsome’ deal is going on in Darwin using taxpayers’ money of Sarawak. Now, I would like an explanation from Sarawak GPS Government, why the need for SEDC to invest there? How much is this deal? What is the investment returns that this deal can bring? How would Sarawakians benefit out from this? Whether Sarawakians will enjoy cheaper beef price?
It was claimed that these Carmor Plains station will also be served as a breeding station for buffaloes that will be sent to Limbang for domestication to increase the animal population in Sarawak.
But, I have read about an interview on December 24, last year with Dr Adrian Susin Ambud, Sarawak Veterinary Services Department Director who said, generally, buffaloes from Australia were wild and unmanageable and did not perform well under the local condition. And he added that buffaloes from Sabah were preferred.
So if this is the case, why is SEDC still proceed to invest in this Carmor Plains Station in Northern Territory, Australia to bring the buffaloes back to Limbang? Since, the buffalos from Australia are unmanageable and did not perform well under local condition; and if the state government were to insist on bringing these buffalos back, I can foresee our local farmers will be busy chasing the buffalos around in Limbang daily, don’t you think so? Will that be the case?
If Sabah’s buffalo is a much-preferred choice, then, in my view it is only prudent for Sarawak government to get in the buffaloes from Sabah instead of flying thousands of miles to Australia to rear buffalos and then export them back to Limbang. Don’t’ you agree?
Dr Adrian had further pointed out that there is a lack of land for cattle breeding and the competition against cheaper frozen beef and other products derived from it, so may I ask in SEDC views, is it still a feasible investment with so much problem attached? Please, do enlighten us, what is the motive behind the purchase of Carmor Plains Station? Is someone planning to be a cowboy in the event Sarawak GPS lost the coming State election? People in the street told me, if no kantow, sure no commission. Is this the case here?
Whatever, the reason, we must bear in mind that SEDC does not have a great record in managing their assets. We do not have to look far, just look at Sarawak Plaza which is poorly managed and you can see many outlets are left empty. So if SEDC cannot even manage its business here, what more to say, overseas!
I would like to ask also how did SEDC manage to channel out so much money to Australia? Is there any declaration made to Bank Negara? Don’t play, play with public money.
3. MUSICAL FOUNTAIN
In the last DUN sitting, I have pointed out that Auto Power Consultants (M) Sdn Bhd is not a company specializing in constructing musical fountain project.
Today, in my second episode on the Musical Fountain issues, I wish to further enlighten this August House that, I have found out that Auto Power Consultants (M) Sdn Bhd did not construct the fountain project though payment was paid to Auto Power though DBKU. Instead, they sub-contracted the project to another company called JUMSAR (SARAWAK) SDN BHD. Do you smell something fishy? But disappointedly, our GPS government thinks it is alright for such practice to take place.
During the last DUN sitting, Honourable Minister in the Chief Minister Office (Integrity and Ombudsman) disdainfully responded that this musical fountain was so complex and needed specialized expertise to construct it and that’s why it was proper to award to Auto Power and RM31 million is not overvalued. Today, the truth is out. I would like to ask the Honourable Minister who is also the Honourable from Jepak, do you still stand by what you said? Or was it just a cover-up statement?
According to the business search, the business nature of Jumsar Sarawak is also a company not specializing in construction of musical fountain. It is an ordinary company supplying Industrial equipment, parts and accessories and general contract works.
With these facts given, it is crystal clear to everyone in this August House that, not only Auto Power is NOT an expert in construction of musical fountain but the other company which Auto Power sub contract to is also NOT an expert in the field.
Given these revelations, I would like to ask and I am sure that the people of Sarawak want to know as well, how much was it that Auto-Power sub-contracted it to Jumsar Sarawak? Why did the Honourable Minister refused to disclose all this information to this August House when I questioned him in the last DUN sitting? Why Sarawak GPS allows Auto Power to sub-contract it to JUMSAR SARAWAK? I can easily conclude by saying that Sarawak GPS government is not truthful in this RM31 million musical fountain dealing. And I wish to put on record that, whatever I had requested from the Honourable Minister particularly, the design specification, the bill of quantity and all relevant documents concerning the musical fountain, all still not given to me until now. What is there to hide? I want to remind the Sarawak GPS Government, the more you want to hide, the deeper I will dig.
I am upset and I believe many Sarawakians also share the same sentiment as me over Sarawak GPS government ‘throwing’ away RM31 million to construct a fountain that is over-valued and not durable.
4. UNSUSTAINABLE DIRECT FLIGHTS
When it comes to the issue of Direct flights to Sarawak, Sarawak GPS is All about Thunder but no RAIN!! The State GPS leaders do not know the concept of doing things step by step on solid footing. As shown, time and time again, the leaders of GPS have penchant to put the cart before the horse.
When YAB Chief Minister took over the helm of CM’s post, it must be a memorable day for him. That was also the day whereby the direct flight Kuching – Hong Kong which YAB himself launched just months earlier during his stint as the Minister of Tourism was scrapped. It is indeed a historical day. Never in history have I remember there to be a more memorable day than that!
If I could refresh everyone’s memory, here I shall name other direct international flights that were launched and cancelled. In 2007 Air Asia Kuching-Bali direct flight was launched but terminated one year later. Then come 2008, Air Asia Kuching-Macau direct flight was launched. Within a few months this flight was terminated as well. In May 2011, direct flight Kuching –Jakarta flight, was terminated not long after launching. Kuching Tokyo/Osaka flight launched in 2011 was also scrapped eventually. Based on these records, Sarawak GPS has more failures than successes where sustainability of direct international flights is concerned.
Over the years, Sarawak GPS keeps harping for direct flights to Kuching and rightfully so! In order for Sarawak to grow and be developed, Sarawak needs more connectivity to the rest of the world. We agree and everybody cannot dispute on that. But alas. There were only thunders without rain. Why? Because these so called leaders forgot that there is still much to do after the glamorous launching. During launching of inaugural flights, there are always big ‘Hoo hah’s! These ‘one night heroes’ from GPS took these opportunities during the launching, looking glamorous, busy posing for members of the media while praising themselves for having accomplished such splendid jobs. We have to make sure that the state spends money where it can make a difference and bring the biggest mileage to every ringgit spent.
The Government has failed to understand the bitter lesson in the name of basic logic of supply and demand. The people we rely on to develop the State failed to go into details and seems to have forgotten to continue the very much-needed work to develop new tourism products after the launches. They do not seem to like to get into hard work of working out what tourism products should be developed in order to help to sustain these very much required direct flights for Sarawak. So over the years, the State Government and whoever their advisors are have ended up spending money to do celebrations and launchings by event management companies and ended up with cancelled flights. It seems that these ‘one night heros’ of Sarawak are only good for launching. They must have thought these flights can fly on their own without passengers.
The question now is sustainability. In order to sustain these direct flights, I suggest that Sarawak Government to look seriously into developing and offering attractive tourism products. Please create more new tourism products and packages. The state government just don’t put in enough effort to plan, develop, package, promote and market our beautiful Sarawak. The Ministry of Tourism Sarawak and Sarawak Tourism Board must take the initiative to study the tourists’ behavioral change, what are the ‘in’ today for international tourists, develop these products according to demand, make sure they are sustainable and lure more tourists here.
Sarawak cannot just depends on Borneo Rainforest Festival alone year after year. Neither can we year after year fall back on statistics which includes tourists’ arrivals from Brunei into Miri, which we know are week-end Bruneians who came over to Miri for weekends shopping. These Bruneians have been doing this for years, they are almost locals. Let us be real, face the reality so that we can genuinely gauge how well Sarawak has really achieve in tourism. Take away the statistics from Brunei international tourists, Sarawak is actually left with only around 30% of international arrivals. Whoever is in charge of Sarawak Tourism should realize that Sarawak has a lot of offer. But, unfortunately, GPS Government does not seem to be interested.
In my humble opinion, Sarawak should concentrate on its own niche. Sarawak should not be following what other countries have done and invest millions in something ‘alang-alang’ that cannot even compare to the ones offered by the rest of the world. Take for example, the RM31 million musical fountain built right in front of our DUN complex. Let us be frank and ask ourselves. Who would want to come all the way to Sarawak just to see a fountain? There are many bigger and sophisticated ones right across the straits in Singapore and not to mention in China, Las Vegas, Dubai and others. If the musical fountain is a built as a complementary product, is RM31 million worth spending on a fountain? Why does Sarawak Government not spend the RM31 million on upgrading of Sarawak Cultural Village, for example, or improving some of the chalets in some national parks so that international tourists can stay and spend more tourism ringgit into our retail market? All these improvements to me, is meaningful value adding into tourism assets Sarawak and making sure every Ringgit spent is bring to Sarawak maximum benefits and returns. The best way to do that is to value add and invest into what Sarawak has which is unique to the world and can become magnet for tourists. So, be creative and package something priceless that the rest of the world cannot offer and cannot compete. Our cultures, our ethnicity, our heritage, our people, our nature, our caves, our beaches, our mountains, our jungles, our food, our, flora fauna and endless endless unique potential are the ones we should focus on. Because a lot of what Sarawak has are unique, and others cannot beat us to it, if we develop them in a meaningful way. You may claim you have done all these. But, I can tell you, it is not enough.
At the same time, I would like to call upon the Honourable Minister for Tourism, to ensure his Ministry improves and upgrades the existing tourism facilities in Sarawak. Tourists today as we know, share their thoughts and opinions on places they have visited online, which became source of information which potential visitors rely on when they decide the places to visit. The comments left by visitors will either be positive memories or negatively scarred the image of Sarawak as a tourist destination. If we look at the comments left in popular travel websites, there are numerous complaints on Matang wildlife park in TripAdvisor. The majority of the negative commentaries are made recently. One visitor from Australia described his visit to Matang Wildlife Park as distressing and commented that the place is ‘run down and depressing’. Another visitor from UK who visited the place on 5th February 2019 commented that Matang Wildlife Park needs major investment and that the animals they saw are living in small cages. Another visitor who claimed that he was once a volunteer at Matang Wildlife centre for two weeks also commented that there is lack of funding for the centre and has to rely on many volunteers along with volunteers’ donation. This particular visitor even encouraged other tourists to make donation to Matang Wildlife Park. Another visitor from California commented that the centre is doing a great job in view of ‘the limited resources’ it has! Another visitor from Singapore commented that while Bako National park provides wonderful hiking experience but the trail is poorly maintained. Examples given are broken wooden plank paths, missing ropes, broken fences. Not to mention the complaints about barbecue areas being dirty and poorly maintained. Comments such as these made me feel so ashamed of what the present government has done.
I believe it is high time Sarawak Government buck up and concentrate on what we already have and start to acknowledge the potential of the natural beauty God has blessed us with. Because without consistent or strong passengers demand for flights to and from Sarawak, any new international flights launched will not be viable and sooner or later Sarawak has to kiss these flights good-bye.
5. Singapore Office
Let me enlighten this August House regarding a job vacancy advertisement which was published in Singapore Strait Times dated April 19 by Sarawak Trade and Tourism Company Pte Ltd. Sarawak Trade and Tourism Company Pte Ltd is a Singapore company set up by Sarawak GPS Government.
The posts offered included that of a Deputy CEO with the monthly salary range between S$7,000 – S$8,000, Accounting and Admin Manager, salary of S$3500 to S$4,000, Showroom Supervisor, salary offered is between S$2,800 to S$3,200, PA to the CEO, salary offered is between S$2,700 to S$3,200. Office and Admin Assistants, salary between S$2,200 to S$2,600. It was stated in the advertisement that Sarawak government is setting up an office in Singapore to promote trade, investment and tourism for Sarawak.
By looking at the advertisement, it puzzles me and make me wonder, why does Sarawak need to specially set up a physical office in Singapore for such purposes listed in the advertisement? Don’t we have all the relevant ministries and agencies to handle matters relating to trade, investment and tourism in Sarawak? Is Sarawak GPS is trying to prove to the world that its government ministries and agencies are unable to function? It is undeniable that to set up an office in a foreign country is not cheap. May I ask whether the Sarawak government has carried out any feasible study before coming to such a decision? What are the economic benefits and impact this company will bring for Sarawak?
By doing a rough calculation, just the salary alone spent for this company is at least S$20,400 per month excluding all other expenses like salary of CEO, office rental, utilities charges, allowances and perks for the CEO and Deputy CEO etc.
When I had a close look at the advertisement, there is no post offered for CEO. I assume that the post is taken. So may I ask, who is that lucky person sitting as CEO for the company? How much is his or her salary?
Of late, I do notice Sarawak GPS government is trying very hard to spend off Sarawak’s taxpayers’ money like there is no tomorrow. I must say this is not right. When it comes to rakyat’s money, it must be spent prudently and should not be put to wastage. The government of the day is held accountable for every single cent of money spent. Looking at the ways and rate of Sarawak GPS spending the state coffer, I am fearful that Sarawak resources and reserve will be gone in no time.
We all know the State election is coming up and is that the reason pushing everyone in Sarawak GPS thinking hard to find ways and plots to spend as much as possible before the Sarawak election so to get ready for survival in future in the event Sarawak GPS failed to capture state power? In my view, this should be stopped immediately. Hey, never think that this is your grandfather’s money.
As such, I urge the State government to re-consider the necessity of setting up this office in Singapore as it is in fact, creating a financial burden for Sarawak. In my view, the company is in fact, redundant as, I believe all our ministries and agencies are capable in delivering the tasks advertised through the digital platforms.
6. Allocation of Funds to State Opposition ADUN
I can only say Sarawak GPS is full of hypocrisy. It has already been a year since YAB Chief Minister promised that he will be fair and just to allocate funds to the opposition ADUNs. He even announced it to the media portraying himself like gentlemen. But until now, I declare to this August House, we, in the Opposition bench have not seen a single cent.
Our YAB CM had repeatedly claimed that only Sarawak GPS can protect and fight for Sarawakians. But I can tell you Sarawak GPS memang cakap tak serupa bikin. In terms of allocation to Opposition ADUNs, our YAB Chief Minister did not even honour his words. So mana GPS ada fighting for Sarawakians? Isnt’ it obvious that all of the ADUNs in the opposition are Sarawakians? Why are we treated differently by Sarawak GPS? The Sarawak GPS must understand that whatever allocation and funding from the state are meant for serving our own Sarawakians living in Opposition’s constituencies. But sad to say, Sarawak GPS is punishing the rakyat by not giving us the allocation all these years. To me, Sarawak GPS Government is a just a big political bully.
On the other hand, we have seen PH Federal government practice and respect democracy by allocating funding to Sarawak GPS MPs. All the GPS MPs had received their respective allocations from the PH Federal government.
I thus urge the Sarawak GPS under the leadership of YAB Chief Minister to stop playing hostility towards the people from Opposition constituencies. Sarawak GPS must not bear grouses just because the seats are in the good hands of DAP and PKR. It is the people’s choice and thus the Sarawak GPS Government must respect.
Hence, I once again urge the YAB Chief Minister to act now by channelling down the funds to us sitting at the Opposition bench without further delay because a day delayed, is a day you deprived your own Sarawakians from getting what they deserved.