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Public building mishaps - once is accident, twice is coincidence, thrice is systemic government collapse


Media Statement (2)       
by Lim Kit Siang  


(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday) : The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was angry yesterday. He ordered an immediate inspection of all government buildings for defects. 


He said: “I feel angry. I feel ashamed. What the hell is this? It’s so new and such a thing happened.  

“Something must have gone wrong somewhere. We need to know. I can’t be jumping all over the place!”

The Prime Minister was referring to a spate of embarrassing defects in new government offices – the collapse of a ceiling due to a leaky sprinkler system at the Entrepreneur and Co-operative Development Ministry in Putrajaya on Saturday, the ceiling collapse in a secretary’s room at the world’s largest court complex at the Jalan Duta court complex yesterday and on April 11, the Immigration Department headquarters in Putrajaya had to be closed after water flooded the seven-floor building following a failure in plumbing, turning and evacuating more than  1.000 people.

On March 22, Abdullah reacted in disbelief when what he never expected happened – a landslide in Putrajaya (Precinct 9) only inches away from three 15-storey government apartments, damaging 25 cars and evacuating more than 1,500 people from Blocks A, B and C in Phase 11 of the government housing complex.

The Prime Minister said he was angry and he “can’t be jumping all over the place”. But there were no signs that he was really either. 

The disgraceful episode of the ceiling collapse of the multipurpose hall at the ground floor of the Entrepreneur and Co-operative Development Ministry (MEDC) Building in Putrajaya occurred on Saturday but Abdullah has not angry enough to say anything immediately or for  the next 24-36 hours – as he only expressed his anger after the Umno supreme council meeting yesterday. Was Abdullah “advised” by the other Umno leaders to be “angry” over the string of government mishaps? 

Yesterday, Abdullah said:  “Maintenance is very important. I have said this many times but these people, as long as nothing happens, they don’t care.” 

A “third-world culture of maintenance” had been the favourite whipping-boy to explain away government mishaps, but when even new buildings costing more than first-world counterparts break down even before being fully operational, like what happened at the largest court complex in the world in Jalan Duta, Kuala Lumpur, the problem must be fundamental and deep-seated. 

What we are seeing is the decay and disintegration of a public service delivery system which had rightly prided itself of being world top-class in the first decade of Independence – another sobre reminder of how far behind the country had gone backwards in public service quality and efficieincy.

Of late, more and more government  mishaps which had been quite unthinkable and unbelievable seem to have entered into the realm of the possible during the 42-month premiership of Abdullah.

The tag line that “once is accident, twice is coincidence, thrice is enemy action” for completely different circumstances could appropriately be modified to “once is accident, twice is coincidence, thrice is systemic government collapse” in reference to the spate of government mishaps under the Abdullah premiership.


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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