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Saturday, January 31, 2009

> New LCCT flip-flop: Who's in charge here?

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng wants the government to explain its contradictory statements regarding the proposed low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT) in Labu, Negeri Sembilan.

Lim was referring to Transport Minister Ong Tee Keat's claim on Dec 19 that Cabinet had approved the construction of the new airport, only to have Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak claiming otherwise on Jan 23.

"Now we are confused. Who is actually in charge? Is the transport minister in charge of transport? We hope that when we deal with the transport minister, he would have power of authority," he said.

On Dec 20, Ong reportedly said that Cabinet had given the nod for the new RM1.6 billion airport spanning 2,800-hectares, dubbed KLIA@East, and that it would be privately financed by Sime Darby Bhd and budget airline AirAsia.

Ong was reported to have said that the new airport was necessary as the current LCCT in Sepang was unable to cope with the increased volume of passengers.

More than a month later, Najib in a sudden turn of events said that the government had not decided on the matter. Yesterday, the project appeared to have been shelved indefinitely.

'Clarify your powers'

Speaking to reporters midway through the DAP national level Chinese New Year open house event in Kuala Lumpur today, Lim said that Ong's level of authority needed to be clarified because the implications were large.

For example, Lim said that Ong had previously assured that the transport ministry would be assisting in the construction of an LCCT in Penang, which was crucial for the state's economic development.

"But if we have a transport minister who is not given the power to decide, we are all in a quandary," he said.

Lim added that the issue was important as it would impact the airline industry and tourism.

He said that the government should encourage AirAsia to expand its operations as the company had made air travel affordable to the public.

"If MAHB (Malaysian Airports Holdings Berhad) is the stumbling block, then we should make sure that MAHB facilitates the growth of the airline industry and not stunt it," he said. 

Meanwhile, about 2,000 well-wishers thronged the open house, attended by DAP top leaders. PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Ismail and PAS central political bureau member Khalid Samad were also in attendance - Malaysiakini.