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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Why KLIA 2 is sinking now?

This was written almost four years back. Read for yourselves on the possible reason why KLIA2 is sinking now.

Why was a new masterplan drawn up in 2008 for the expansion of the low-cost carrier airport (KLIA2), resulting in the airport being built on soft soil, when an earlier plan circumvented this problem?

This question lies at the heart of the current outcry over the ballooning cost of the airport from an estimated RM1.7 billion to up to RM3.6 billion today.

Referring to the KL International Airport Masterplan 1992, Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua (left) said today the move also remained the main cause of the construction deadline for KLIA2 to be extended from September 2011 to April 2013.

“The transport minister and Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd must answer why they made a hard-to-fathom move to the new site. This is the reason the cost went up by more than RM2 billion,” Pua said.

According to the 1992 plan, the current construction site of KLIA2 “mainly comprises saturated marine clay with an overlay of peat material, which varies in thickness from two to three metres”.

“It has poor load bearing qualities and is not suitable for airport construction without undertaking significant engineering measures… which include improved drainage, removal of the peat layer and the introduction of fill material with good load bearing qualities (a minimum of three metres deep),” Pua said, quoting from the report.

The earthworks required to make the site suitable, he said, cost an estimated RM1.2 billion. This could have been saved if the 1992 masterplan, drawn up by Anglo-Japanese Airport Corporation Bhd, had been followed and the KLIA2 had been built on the original hard land area marked out.

The area marked out in the 1992 plan is a hilly area, which had already been prepared during the construction of the main terminal (KLIA) at the time.

Double watch towers and extra runway

The 2008 plan, drawn up by Netherlands Airport Consultants BV and KLIA Consultancy Services, led to further consequences on costs:
A third runway, estimated to cost RM270 million, has to be constructed as the new site would not allow KLIA and KLIA2 to share two runways. However, the third runway will also need to be built on soft soil, raising questions as to when it will be ready.

“Airlines would not want to move to KLIA2 if they have to taxi longer in order to use KLIA’s runways,” Pua said.
A second control tower, estimated to cost RM500 million, needs to be constructed as KLIA’s tower would not be able to see some parts of the third runway. The 1992 plan had both terminals sharing the same tower.

“This would make it the first modern airport, built after the 1960s, with two control towers within two kilometres of each other,” Pua said.

While conceding that he was not an expert in the field, Pua said an engineering expert who was consulted had said the deadline of April 2013 was “iffy” at best, mainly due to the poor soil.

In comparison, he said, the current low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT) had cost RM232 million and had taken about 15 months to construct, including upgrades.

“Of course it’s not fair as (KLIA2) would have a third runway, etc, but it gives a comparison of contrast in cost from the new airport and the current terminal. The current one was built in budget fashion, the new one is as good as a premium terminal.

“We are not disputing the need to move to a bigger terminal as the LCCT is close to capacity. Nor do we mind shifting the location, but not at such a ballooning cost,” Pua said. LCCT currently caters to 15.4 million passengers, 400,000 more than its capacity.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

"Facing corruption scandal, Malaysian PM fires officials investigating him"

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, stung by allegations that he received some $700 million in government money, fired the attorney general who had been investigating him and a deputy who has been among his most prominent critics on Tuesday.

Najib is under increasing pressure over leaked confidential documents that allegedly show the money, from state investment fund 1MDB, went into his personal accounts.

Najib announced over national television Tuesday that his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin will be replaced by Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, a Cabinet member who will also retain his home minister portfolio. Earlier Tuesday, the government announced it had terminated the services of Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail.

Najib said he also dropped four other ministers to strengthen his administration and ensure they can “work as a team.”

“I can accept differences in opinion and criticisms as part of the decision-making process, but these differences in opinion should not be made in an open forum that can affect public perception of the government and the country,” he said.

Critics slammed Gani's abrupt removal and cast it as an attempt by Najib to avoid prosecution.

“The purge commences. The Attorney-General is replaced. Any flicker of hope that the prime minister might be charged for misdeeds is extinguished,” opposition lawmaker Tony Pua tweeted.

“The fact that he is not answering the allegations but instead removed his critics is not a good sign,” said Wan Saiful Wan Jan, who heads the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs think tank. “It shows deep desperation on Najib's side.”

Muhyiddin, the deputy, has been critical of the government's handling of 1MDB's massive debt and on Sunday night repeated his call for Najib to explain the alleged funds transfer.

Najib said, “The decision to replace Muhyiddin was a very difficult one, but I had to do it so that a strong team can move forward.”

Gani was replaced by a federal court judge, Mohamed Apandi Ali, months before the attorney general had been due to retire in October. The government said Gani was leaving for health reasons, but when contacted by Malay Mail Online, Gani said he had not been aware of the decision.

Gani confirmed earlier this month that he had received documents from investigators that linked Najib and 1MDB. The existence of the documents, which allegedly show $700 million was wired from entities linked to 1MDB into Najib's accounts, were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Najib has not disputed the existence of the accounts or the receipt of the funds. He has only said that he has never used government funds for personal gain, and called the allegations a political sabotage. Officials with 1MDB also have denied wrongdoing.

The documents sent to the attorney general pave the way for possible criminal charges, which would be a first for a Malaysian prime minister.

Apart from Muhyiddin, Najib also dropped Shafie Apdal as rural development minister. Shafie, a vice president in Najib's ruling Malay party, has also been critical of the government's handling of the 1MDB saga. On Tuesday he defended his comments, saying in a statement that they were aimed at strengthening the party and putting the country on the right track.

Najib's ruling National Front coalition has been in power since independence from Britain in 1957. However, support for the coalition has eroded in the last two general elections. In 2013, it won the polls but lost the popular vote for the first time.