DAP calls for the establishment of an Ombudsman by Parliament

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, at the Bedong DAP Branch Thousand-People Dinner to commemorate the Party’s 15th Anniversary help at Bedong New Village, Kedah, on Sunday, 1st Nov. 1981 at 9pm

DAP calls for the establishment of an Ombudsman by Parliament with powers to receive and rectify maladministration, abuse of power and deviations of the New Economic Policy by the Government

In recent years, the Government machinery grew by leaps and bounds and more and more power over the lives of the citizen had been acquired by government officials.

With such phenomenal growth of the government machinery and its power oven the lives of the ordinary citizens, the potential for misuse of power and incidents of actual abuse and administrative injustice have grown more then proportionately.

There is at present no proper and effective remedy for a citizen who has been wronged by maladministration or administrative injustice, whether it is bias, incompetence, indifference, or because of downright misuse of power.

At the same time, there have been more and more blatant abuses under the New Economic Policy in the disregard of the NEP pledge that no “no racial group would feel any loss or suffer any sense of deprivation of its rights, privileges, opportunities, income” under the various Five Year Economic Plans.

When the Government is responsible for such a gross breach of NEP pledge, whether at the Federal or State Government lever, the Government would clearly not admit or concede – and again there is no proper or effective remedy for Malaysians who had been wronged by such deviations from the New Economic Policy.

The latest instance of such administrative injustice and breach of the New Economic Policy pledge on “no loss or deprivation” for any racial group came to light yesterday when accompanied by Penang DAP officials, I visited I Balik Pulau in Penang.

In February 1979, the smallholders in Balik Pulau who cultivated cloves, nutmeg, durians and rubber, were suddenly informed that the Government was acquiring their smallholdings. They were offered the derisory rates of compensation at $1,200 per acre for hilly land and $2,500 per acre for flat-land.

One clove smallholder, who has three acres, and whose family had cultivated cloves for generations, told me that at the current high price for cloves, he could net an income of about $20,000 per year. What is a compensation of $7,500 going to be of use to him and his family, when his source of livelihood is destroyed completely.

The area of land affected by the government acquisition in Balik Pulau is about 300 acres. Whet is galling for the smallholders is that they were never informed before hand of any intended government acquisition, although the government claimed that as far back as 1972 ,the government had already gazetted a notice of intended government acquisition.

However, the smallholders paid their quit rent yearly but were never informed of intended government acquisition.

While the question of a fair rate of compensation for the clove-smallholders and the others who planted durian, nutmegs and rubber, await a final decision, another matter of mare immediate urgency affecting them has arisen.

As a result of the government acquisition of the Balek Pulau smallholdings, in 1980, the clove smallholders ware told that they had to tender for the right to collect the cloves from their own smallholdings.

The smallholders tendered, some succeeded, while those who did not succeed had to buy out outsiders who got the tenders just to collect the fruits of their years and even generations of blood, sweat and tears!

But for this year, the smallholders were completely shut off from the right to collect cloves from their smallholdings. The rights were given to one Daud bin Seman. Although the smallholders paid money and had written evidence of buying out this right from agents of Daud, these agreements have been repudiated and the smallholders threatened if they dare to go to their own smallholdings to collect the cloves.

So we have the most unfair and unjust situation where the clove smallholders were deprived not only of their land, but also of the fruits of their own labour. This is a gross administrative injustice and wrong. About 400 people in Balik Pulau are now completely without a means of livelihood, watching others harvesting their crops they planted for generations!

Until such time as the government agencies concerned want to use the land for development, the government is morally bound to mitigate the losses of livelihood suffered by the clove smallholders, by giving them the absolute and unchallenged right of priority to collect cloves from the smallholdings. According to one estimate, the smallholders will lose $300,000 as income for the cloves harvesting this year!

This does not take into account the durians, nutmegs, rubber and other crops planted on the 300 acres, which would exceed this figure.

Where are the Balek Pulau smallholders to get immediate relief and remedy for such gross administrative injustice and wrong, and open deviation from the New Economic Policy, if the Gerakan State Government continues to disregard its duty to the people?

A second case happened in Muar a few weeks ago. The Johor State Government acquired two pieces of land in Sungai Abong and Tanjong Agas respectively from Chinese landowners with the purpose of building low-cost houses. But before the 1,000-odd low-cost houses were built, the Johor State Government gazetted the two pieces of land as Malay Reservation area. As a result, when the Chinese and Indians for the 1.000-odd low-cost houses at Sungai Abong and Tanjong Agas, they were rejected on the ground that the houses were built on Malay Reservation area. Clearly, here is another gross and blatant deviation from the New Economic Policy.

The third case happened in Bintulu last year, when the Bintulu Development Authority refused to consider applications for land development unless 50% of the land is held by bumiputras. What has happened to the NEP pledge of “no loss or deprivation”?

The people must take a firm stand against these serious and repeated erosion of the people’s rights under the NEP. Parliament should appoint an ombudsman with powers to receive and judge complaints administrative injustices and wrongs and deviations from the New Economic Policy, with the power to rectify such abuses and deviations.

Thus, with such an Ombudsman, he should have the power to direst the Penang State Government to restore to the clove smallholders the absolute and unchallengeable right to collect cloves from their holdings until such time as the land is required for development, to establish the important principle that the government must mitigate the losses suffered by victims of government land acquisition. The Ombudsman should also be able to inquire into unfair compensation of land acquired by the government, which ignored the rights of the people to livelihood, such as alternative site for cultivation or housing, etc. In Muar, the Ombudsman should have the power to declare the Sungai Abong and Tanjong Agas cases as clear breaches of the NEP and direct that the Johor State Government should cancel the Malay Reservation for the two areas to open up the 1,000-odd low-cost housing for all Malaysians, regardless of race. The Johor State Government should declare alternative sites as Malay Reservation land in lieu of Sungai Abong and Tanjong Agas which do not deprive non-Malays of their legitimate rights. In the Bintulu case, the “Ombudsman should have the power to declare the Bintulu Development Authority a violation of the NEP, and recommend the withdrawal of that regulation.