By Clara Chooi
June 17, 2011 | The Malaysian Insider
KUALA LUMPUR, June 17 — Already facing growing public discontent, Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen was confronted with a hostile Cabinet today when she tried to explain her ministry’s controversial RM1.8 million outlay on six Facebook pages and was even told by some colleagues not to waste their time.
The Malaysian Insider understands several ministers also insisted against announcing that Cabinet had officially accepted Ng’s explanation, preferring instead to say they had taken note of it.
A source who was familiar with what transpired said this was because the ministers did not want Ng to publicly declare that she had been cleared of guilt by the Cabinet led by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
The source told The Malaysian Insider that rather than addressing the root cause of the allegations against her, the tourism minister had chosen to beat around the bush in defending herself.
Ng, who is also MCA vice-president, was scheduled to explain to the Cabinet today her ministry’s RM1.8 million expense bill for developing six Facebook pages to promote tourism in Malaysia.
“She did not explain [the] cost, not the cost or bill. Only the importance of cyber advertising and other [nonsense],” said the source.
The source said when it grew clear that Ng had no plans to divulge further details or provide a breakdown of her expenses, several ministers cut her short.
“She was trying to explain but she did not finish because people asked her to stop. They said she was just wasting their time. She was not talking about the main thing — the cost and why she spent so much,” said the source.
But the source noted that it was unclear if the prime minister considered Ng’s explanation satisfactory or planned to pursue the matter further.
“The PM was silent on that part. What is clear is that the ministers only want to say that Cabinet has taken note of her explanation and that she should not go and say that Cabinet has accepted it,” said the source.
The debacle over the Tourism Ministry’s Facebook expenses first began on Tuesday when Ng’s deputy, James Dawos Mamit, revealed in Parliament that RM1,758,432 was spent on developing six Facebook pages for Malaysia’s tourism.
He had said each of the six pages — Cuti-Cuti 1 Malaysia, Citrawarna 1Malaysia, Karnival Jualan Mega 1 Malaysia, Festival Pelancongan Seni Kontemporari 1 Malaysia, Kempen 1 Malaysia Bersih and Fabulous Food 1 Malaysia — cost RM293,072
The announcement drew condemnation from the online community and a spontaneous campaign was kicked off on Tuesday evening, inviting thousands to condemn Ng’s exorbitant spending.
Her ministry first entered the spotlight late last year when it was revealed in Parliament that while Ng had slashed her tourism promotional budget, she had spent more for her official trips abroad.
Ng again came under fire after Tourism Malaysia’s former advertising agency alleged that the ministry had asked for bribes in exchange for a promotion contract.
Following the latest complaint against Ng, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said yesterday that the Cabinet would seek an explanation from her over the matter and that an investigation would be mooted if she failed to do so satisfactorily.