When pushed by Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang, Deputy Minister of Finance Dr. Awang Adek replied:
This was finally admitted by the Deputy Finance Minister, Datuk Dr. Awang Adek this evening during the winding-up of the two-day policy debate on the 2007 Supplementary estimates.
At first Awang said the original estimates for the 50th Merdeka
Anniversary celebrations under the Prime Minister’s department was RM74 million, and with the additional supplementary vote of RM18.25 million requested, making
up a total of RM93 million. The government spent RM38 million for the Merdeka anniversary in 2006 and RM35 million in 2005.
He said the expenditure of RM93 million for the 50th Merdeka
anniversary celebrations were proper and justified once in 50 years and in creating a sense of national unity for the occasion, which was priceless.
I asked for the ‘grand total” of all expenditures for all Ministries in connection with the 50th Merdeka annivesary celebrations and not just the allocations for the Prime Minsiter’s department.
In his reply, Awang admitted that there were other items of
expenditures outside the Prime Minister’s Department like the RM7.2 million figure (he did not touch on the RM8 million item) which would bring the total to RM100 million. He said he could not give a categorical answer that there would not be other figures but as far as he knew these were the substantial sums, and if there were other items they would not be major ones.
He said with 26 million population, the RM100 million tag worked out to about RM3 or RM4 per person once in 50 years, symbolising the peace, harmony and welfare enjoyed by the people.
RM100 million? I am sure many of us would have agreed to distribute the money to the country's poor so that they can enjoy a better life. Celebrating our nation's independence by helping the poor is so much more meaningful than all the fireworks, dances, entertainment events and grand events.
I hope in the next merdeka celebration, we can spare some thoughts and money for the nation's poor and not waste our resources on superficial events which are meaningless.
Please do not turn us into another North Korea. The failed state was able to celebrate a public event in a grand style but allowed many of its citizens to live in poverty.