By Doreenn Leong
THE Malaysian Rubber Board (MRB) chairman Datuk Ahmad Nazlan Idris recently clarified that the RM100 mil rubber technology centre (RTC) project said to be for his constituency is still in the planning stages and has yet to be presented to the board members for approval.
He was rebutting reports quoting former primary industries minister Teresa Kok who claimed that Ahmad Nazlan, who is also Jerantut Umno chief, “appeared to have worked at warp speed” to have obtained the necessary approvals for the project in his parliamentary constituency, Jerantut. He was only appointed about a month ago.
It is good that Ahmad Nazlan cleared the air on the matter. He said the multi-million ringgit project is still on the drawing board and feasibility studies are being undertaken.
Given the magnitude of the project using public funds, MRB has to weigh the pros and cons of building another centre. For one, are we already facing space constraints in the existing centres? Is there an urgent need to build a new centre? Shouldn’t the funds be better used elsewhere?
One can’t blame Kok, who is Seputeh MP, for being concerned that the RTC will end up being a white elephant. She cited the example of a similar RM44 mil project in Jasin, Melaka, sanctioned in 2010 by former MRB chairman Datuk Seri Ahmad Hamzah, who was the Jasin MP then.
Kok said the project was unnecessary and has turned out to be an ‘unsalvageable white elephant’ and MRB was still forking out millions of ringgit beyond the original cost for the incomplete project.
She also highlighted similar unwarranted projects such as the Rubber Research Institute of Malaysia Mini Stations (Rriminis) and integrated processing complex (IPC) a few years ago in Kota Tinggi, Johor, which had cost over RM130 mil and are facing construction delays.
Kok claimed such projects were approved under the pretext of model rubber technology and processing schemes.
These are indeed serious allegations. Was there a proper study made then? Just how much power do chairmen of statutory bodies have?
Essentially, it doesn’t look good on the Jerantut MP that such a massive project be located in his constituency. Were other locations considered to build the RTC?
More importantly, there are existing research centres that could be upgraded or expanded. Kok said there are already fully operational rubber technology and research centres in Sungai Buloh (formerly the Rubber Research Institute of Malaysia) and the Tun Abdul Razak Research Centre in England and in Kota Tinggi, Johor Bahru.
As it is, the country is faced with possible recession and needs to address its mounting debt level. Malaysians are suffering with many being laid off or having salary cuts.
The present government has to be mindful that we do not have another wasteful project that sets us back further. – May 28, 2020