Let’s have ALL the answers
WHILE prudent taxpayers rejoice over the fact that their RM490 million will be spent on more beneficial projects than a forward base in London for national athletes, it is too soon to pop the champagne.
Many questions abound as to why the government spearheaded by the previous administration of the Youth and Sports Ministry as well as the cabinet committee on sports development was gung-ho to proceed with an expensive project, which was doomed from the word go. The East Herts Council, from the outset had maintained that it would not approve transforming the heritage-listed Tun Abdul Razak Rubber Research Centre in Brickendonbury which sits on a green belt into a high performance training centre for Malaysian sportsmen who are competing in Europe.
Unlike some individuals in our country, the British authorities pride themselves in doing things by the book, without fear or favour – the kau tim culture being as alien a term to them as a game of sepak takraw.
In spite of the discouraging forecast, the Malaysian government decided to go ahead to woo the English, spending in excess of RM2 million on consultants, architects, travel and accommodation expenses for Malaysian agents and representatives as well as a PR exercise called "the Olympics comes to Hertfordshire" – piggy-back riding on the hype over the 2012 Games in London.
The persistence of then Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said in pushing the project in spite of the protest by Malaysians and documented negative remarks over the project by city council officials who had the final say, gives one the impression that the wishes of the public are never a primary concern for our decision-makers; while at the same time, wanting to exert control over something that is beyond their power.
Now that good sense has finally prevailed with the project being buried for good, thanks in no small part to Azalina’s successor Datuk Ismail Sabri Yaakob who had convinced the government not to throw any more good money on a project that was doomed to failure, it is imperative for those whose bright idea it was to come up with this proposal in the first place to come clean with the amount spent so far (click here for related article).
Ismail had given his undertaking that these figures will be revealed. But that is not enough. Those working on the project must be put on the stand and give cogent answers to the following questions: why they pursued the project despite its unpopularity and in the midst of the country’s waning fiscal strength; who are the rent-seekers and agents who benefited; what were the criteria of their appointments as well as that of those on the working committee – many of whom are businessmen without any affiliation to or experience in sports management and competition; why were squash and junior football teams who were sent there made to say that the facilities "were great" when in fact there were none, while they stayed at a hotel 20 minutes away.
These questions, apart from a detailed account on monies spent, are pertinent and must be addressed accordingly if the government, which has just been returned to power on a smaller mandate wants to make good on its promise of prudence, accountability and transparency. To show it is serious, it must be forthcoming with its responses, and yes, heads must roll.
Updated: 11:23AM Mon, 14 Apr 2008