Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat on Monday, 23.7.1984 on the Privileges Committee Report on Fung Ket Wing and Harris Salleh
Harries Salleh should be reprimanded for not telling the truth in Parliament, and for his far from sincere and honest attitude to disclose his entire land property in Labuan.
On 31st October 1983, while debating on the 1984 Budget, the DAP MP for Sandakan, Fung Ket Wing, expressing concern at the possible conflict of interest arising from the proposal to establish Labuan as Federal Territory, made the following statement:
“Adalah menjadi pengetahuan umum bahawa pemilik tanah yang terbesar di Labuan adalah Ketua Menteri Sabah sendiri, Datuk Harris Salleh, yang memiliki kira-kira 70% daripada tanah di Labuan.”
On 22nd November, Datuk Harris Salleh made a denial in Parliament to Fung Ket Weng’s statement, and said:
“Dengan tegasnya saya menafikan bahawa 70% daripada tanah di Pulau Labuan kepunyaan saya. Jumlah kawasan Pulau Labuan ialah sebanyak 8,752 hectar dan saya hanya mempunyai sejumlah 147.88 hectar atau tidak lebih dari 2%”
On 23rd November, the Dewan Rakyat adopted a resolution to the Privileges Committee to “menentukan siapakah di antara kedua Ahli Yang Berhormat itu yang telah membuat kenyataan palsu di dalam Dewan ini.”
Today, we are here to debate and decide whether to accept the Privileges Committee’s finding that Fung Ket Wing had made a false statement and its recommendation that Fung be reprimanded.
Reading the Privileges Committee findings and the verbatim proceedings of the Committee, I cannot help getting the impression that the Committee had deviated from its terms of reference, which is to ascertain which of the two MPs concerned had make a false statement. The terms of reference adopted by the Dewan Rakyat in referring both Mps to the Privileges Committee made it very clear that this is not the case of one MP making an accusation against another, and he being required to prove his allegation. This is a case where two MPs made two conflicting claims, Fung saying that Harris Salleh own some 70 per cent of the land in Labuan while Harris Salleh claiming that he did not own more than 2 per cent if Labuan island, and the Privileges Committee required to ascertain who has made a false statement.
If Fung Ket Wing cannot prove his 70% claim, then he had made a false statem,ent; and of Harris Salleh could not prove that he had not more than 2% of Labuan land, he had also made a false statement. If both could not at the same time prove their respective claims, then both had made false statements, and both should be equally reprimanded.
The Privileges Committee is wrong therefore to give this case the title:
Y.B.Tuan Fung Ket Wing .. .. .. .. Yang Mendakwa
T.B.Datuk Harris bin Mohd.Salleh .. .. Yang Menjawab.
It is from a complete misreading of the terms of reference of the Dewan Rakyat motion to refer Fung Ket Wing and Harris Salleh to the Privileges Committee, that the Committee required Fung to prove his 70% claim, while not making a similar requirement on Harris Salleh to prove his ‘not more than 2%’ claim.
Reading the verbatim proceedings of the Privileges Committee, although Fung Kit Wing had not been able to prove his ‘70% claim’, he had proved beyond a shadow of doubt that Harris Salleh had also made a false statement in the Dewan Rakyat when he claim that he did not own more than 2% of Labuan island.
Harris Salleh should be reprimanded for telling an untruth in Parliament, especially for his far from honest and sincere attitude in disclosing his entire land property in Labuan. I shall substantiate my statement in the course of the debate.
During the Privileges Committee hearing, Fung Ket Wing submitted two lists of Labuan properties belonging Harris Salleh:
Exhibit A listing the land owned by Harris Salleh in person and Exhibit B listing the land owned by companies in which Harris Salleh had shares.
The Privileges Committee reported that if Harris Salleh’s ownership of shares in companies that also owned land in Labuan was taken into consideration, i.e. Exhibit A and Exhibit B, the amount involved would be about 409 hectares, or 4.5 per cent of total land on the island. This would be twice over Harris Salleh’s statement in the Dewan Rakyat that he had less than 2% of land ownership in Labuan.
The Committee of Privileges, by 5 to 1 (with Karpal Singh objecting), decided to reject Exhibit B as irrelevant to the terms of the inquiry. We shall discuss later whether this rejection of Exhibit B to calculate Harris Salleh’s total land holding in Labuan is correct or not.
Based solely on Exhibit A, which totals 140.388 hectares, the Privileges Committee reported as the total land area of Labuan was 9,065 hectares, this will work out to about 0.154 per cent. This is wrong, for 140.388 hectares out of a total of 9,065 hectares is not 0.154 per cent, but 1.54 per cent. I do not know how the Privileges Committee could make this mistake.
I fully agree with the argument submitted by the Councel for Fung Ket Wing, K.C Cheah, to the Privileges Committee that the Committee’s specific responsibility is to establish the veracity of the statements made by Fung Ket Wing as Harris Salleh, that both sould have been made to prove their claims in Parliament.
Fung Ket Wing was asked to prove his statement that Harris Salleh owned some 70 per cent of the land in Labuan, but why wasn’t Harris Salleh asked by the Privileges Committee to prove his statement that he did not have more than 2% ownership of the land in Labuan.
I also find Harris Salleh’s conduct at the Privileges Committee hearing, as reported in the verbatim proceedings, shifty, evasive, and far from honest and sincere in waiting to make a full disclosure of his land holdings in Labuan, adopting the attitude that he would only admit what has been revealed but would not volunteer data on his other landholdings in Labuan if they have not been discovered by Fung Ket Wing, disregarding the fact that the onus is on him to prove that he has not more than 2 per cent of the land ownership in Labuan.
Just as it is always said that he who asks for equity in the Courts must come with clean hands, similarly we must ask Harris Salleh that in demanding justice from Parliament, had he come with clean hands? Why is he unwilling to discharge the onus of proof that is on him to prove that he does not have more than 2% of the land holdings in Labuan by producing under oath a full list of his land properties?
At first, Datuk Harris Salleh affected preparedness to volunteer information about landownership in Labuan, of himself and that of his family as well as companies where he has shares. Thus, I quote from the verbatim minutes of the first Privileges Committee hearing on 5th March 1984 (page13):
“ Datuk Harris bin Mohd,Salleh: …… Saya ada semua, jelas di sini yang ditandatangani oleh Pendaftar-pendaftar Tanah Negeri Sabah – semua ada. Jadi daripada membuang masa dokumen-dokumen dari sana ini semua ada ^ geran, map negeri Sabah dipunyai oleh saya volunteer juga kerana tuduhan itu kepada saya sendiri. Saya volunteer bawa dokumen kompeni-kompeni, family saya yang ada di Labuan, volunteer masukkan di sini. “Sebenarnya, saya tidak payah kerana the burden of proof bukan saya punya hal, tetapi hal penduduk……”
But less than five minutes later. He backtracked completely and declared:
“ Yang Berhomat Datuk oleh itu saya tarik baleik yang saya sukarela memberi dokumen tadi. Saya tarik balik, jadi sekarang the burden of the proof itu……(interruption) Jadi saya tidak payah bawa saksi apa semua di mesyuarat akan datang kerana bukan saya yang menunjukkan bukti-buktinya, ini terpulanglah kepada pihak sebelah apabila mereka mengemukakan dokumen itu untuk membawa saksi-saksi datang ke sini – saya tidak payah bawa saksi-saksi, saya tidak payah serahkan dokumen ini.” (p.14)
The first impression of anyone who reads the above verbatim proceedings would be that Harris Salleh is a very poor specimen of the Leadership by Example which the Prime Minister, Dr.Mahathir Mohamed, has been exhorting on Federal and State government leaders ^ in order to have a clean and trustworthy government.
As Harris Salleh asserts that he does not have more than 2 per cent of the landownership in Labuan, why is he unwilling to produce to the Privileges Committee his entire Labuan land ownership records? Why did he make a show of wanting to produce all these landownership documents, not only of himself, but of his family and companies where he has shares, and then withdraw this offer? Is it just for the sake of ‘drama’, and bravado meant to make his subsequent refusal to produce his landownership records more credible?
I just wish to note here that at the first Privileges Committee, meeting, Harris Salleh was prepared to volunteer landownership information of his family and companies where he had shares, which he later retracted as I will be dealing with this later.
There are various discrepancies between Datuk Harris Salleh clAim in the Dewan Rakyat on 22nd November that he owned only 147.88 hectare or not more than 2%, and the facts out at the Privileges Committee proceedings.
Firstly, I will deal with Exhibit A of the list of landholdings in Harris Salleh’s name, which was produced by Fung Ket Wing to the Privileges Committee, which comprised 33 separate land titles representing a total of 140.388 hectares.
After the Exhibit A was produced, Harris Salleh objected to seven of the 33 titles from being admitted, wither on the ground that the property concerned had been transferred to a Company where he had 75 per cent shareholding as Tropicals Orchid. Sdn. Bhd with regard to Item No.33 in Exhibit A; or on the ground that memorandum of transfer had already been signed although the transfer had not been registered, as in Items 3, 30 and 31 of Exhibit A.
If the Committee of Privileges had sustained the objections of Harris Salleh to the seven properties from being included in Exhibit A, the overall landholdings would have been reduced to 137.539 hectares-which is very much less than the 147.88 hectares which he himself claimed he owned.
This shows very clearly, backed up by his conduct in the verbatim proceedings, hi that he has his own list of landholdings, which he was not prepared to submit to the Committee of Privileges. As Harris Salleh was not prepared to submit his list of landholdings to the Committee of Privileges, and evaded his onus proving on oath that he had not more than 2% of land in Labuan, we must draw the adverse conclusion that had he submitted his list of landholdings, coupled with the Exhibit A, his claim that he had no more than 2% landholdings in Labuan would have been provided false.
That Harris Salleh was not prepared to explain the discrepancy between the total landholdings in Exhibit A, which is 140.388 hectares for all the 33 items, and his claim in Dewan Rakyat that he had only 147.88 hectares shows that he was not being fully honest and sincere with the Privileges Committee to enable Parliament to decide on the veracity of his statement of Nov.22.
Fung had produced not only Exhibit A, landholdings in Harris’ name, but also Exhibit B, landholdings owned by companies in which Harris has shares, some of which are virtual family companies like SEJATI SDN.BHD, EMPAT BERSAUDARA SDN.BHD, DUA BERSAUDARA SDN.BHD, both lists add up 409 hectares, which is 4.5 per cent of Labuan island – which makes false Harris’ claim that he did not have more than 2% landownership in Labuan.
The Privileges Committee, by majority opinion, has rejected Exhibit B on the ground that what Fung said was with regard to Harris’ personal landholdings, and did not include those belonging to companies where he had shares.
This is what Fung said In Parliament on Oct,31:
“Adalah menjadi pengatahuan umum bahawa pemilik tanah yang terbesar di Labuan adalah Ketua Menteri Sabah sendiri, Datuk Harris Selleh, yang memiliki kira-kira 70% daripada tanah di Labuan.”
A close study of Fung’s statement shows that he was unambiguously referring to Harris’s personal assets.
This statement is open to two interpretations. Firstly the broad interpretation that what is at issue is Harris Salleh’s position as a landowner in Labuan, whether registered in his name or in the name of companies where he has full of majority shares, or through that of nominee companies; or the second narrow interpretation that it the issue is with regard to Harris Salleh’s personal landownings disregarding those registered in companies in which he had shares.
To help in determining which interpretation Parliament should adopt, we should consider the intention and the context in which this remark was made.
Fung was referring to the Sabah State Government offer at that time to make Labuan a Federal Territory, and this is what he said; in the Hansard on 31st Oct. 1983:
“The proposal to turn Labuan Island a Federal Territory is most shocking as the people of Sabah were not consulted on the matter. In fact, I am shocked that the proposal was first made public by the Sabah Chief Minister on 1st August and am doubly shocked to know that the proposal was officially communicated on 23rd July when I understand that the Sabah State Government approved the proposal only on 27th July. If this is true, then it is safe to assume that the Sabah Chief Minister acted on his own bet without consultation and prior approval of the State Cabinet.
“What is more pertinent and disturbing is that such an important issue was never discussed with the people of Sabah and their wishes ascertained.”
Fung then spoke of how Sabah would lose in terms of revenue and income, especially from the oilfields situated at the off-shores of Labuan, and that no compensation would be paid to Sabah for offering Labuan as Federal Territory when Selangor was paid some $3 billion for acquiring Kuala Lumpur as Federal Territory.
After suggesting a referendum to be held in Sabah to ascertain the wishes of the people of Sabah on the matter, Fung continued:
“It is public knowledge the biggest landowner in Labuan is Chief Minister of Sabah, Harris Salleh, himself, who owns some 70% of the land in Labuan.
“The question the people want to ask is whether Harris Salleh will be the Chief beneficiary from Labuan becoming Federal Territory because of the appreciation of property values that would ensure as a result of the carrying out of Federal projects in Labuan.
“If the whole idea of Labuan becoming Federal Territory will eventually benefit Harris Salleh most, then Harris Salleh must declare clearly his pecuniary interest in this proposal.”
“I would suggest that in order to avoid any suspicion about the personal motives of the Labuan proposal, Sabah State Government should immediately issue a government ^ land acquisition order covering all acquisition order covering all Harris Salleh land in Labuan so that their property values would not appreciate as a result of the Labuan proposal, and when Labuan should become Federal Territory, the Federal Government acquire those land it need for Federal development while the rest could be released for sale to the public way by way of auction.
“In Harris Salleh’s case, he would get the current price for Labuan land and in this manner avoid any suspicion that he was making the Labuan proposal as Federal territory solely for his own personal benefit.
What Fung said was that it was Harris Salleh himself, and not anybody else, who is the biggest landowner in Labuan, whether holding in his own personal name, or through companies where he or his family have shares or through nominee companies.
In fact, Harris had at one time conceded that land held by companies where he or his family had shares are also at issue, for he had offered to volunteer to produce these landholding records to the Committee of Privileges on 5th March 1984 before he withdraw it.
It is signification that Harris Salleh had not disputed the statement that he is the biggest landowner in Labuan.
What Fung had produced, which are unavoidably incomplete records, amount to some 4.5% of Labuan land in the ownership of Harris, whether in his personal name, or companies where he has shares. This does not include land held by nominee companies of Harris Salleh.
Thus, although Fung’s statement that Harris Salleh owned 70% of the Labuan island, whether directly, or through companies where he or his family has shares or nominee companies, is ‘unproven’ – for the inability to prove a statement does not mean it is false in this case – Harris Salleh’s statement that he has not more than 2% of the Labuan land has been proved false, whether by a proper interpretation to include the ownership of companies which he has shares, or by his deviousness and refusal to co-operate with the Committee of Privileges by producing on oath his own list of land properties in Labuan.
The intention of Fung Ket Wing was to ensure that there is good and ethical government, whether in Sabah or Malaysia, that public officials have a direct responsibility to ensure that not only that they are clean and incorruptible, but seen to be clean and incorruptible.
This is fully in keeping with the emphasis which Mahathir Government is giving to ensure that corruption, whether legal or moral, is eliminated from all levels of public life.
The courts have no powers to deal with moral corruption, and as a result, many corrupt in high political places have been able to get away scotfree to enjoy their kll-gotten gains.
A year after he became Prime Minister, in a wide-ranging interview, the Prime Minister, Dr.Mahathir spoke about moral corruption, referring at that time specifically to the Taman Aman case in Petaling Jaya where one and a half acres of park land in Petaling Jaya had been subdivided and awarded to five influential Selangor Government officials.
Dr.Mahathir said there was clear moral corruption in this incident although there was no legally answerable case.
The Prime Minister said he was helpless in cases of moral corruption, and he appealed for public and press help to expose such moral corruption.
Fung Ket Wing was responding to the Prime Minister’s call for help to check moral corruption when he raised the question of a possible conflict of interest between Harris Salleh’s landownership in Labuan, whether personally or though various other companies where he had shares or nominees, and he even suggested a way whereby such likely conflict of interest could be prevented.
The courts have no power to deal with moral corruption but Parliament has the power and responsibility to check moral corruption. The privileges Committee and Parliament therefore should bear in mind Fung’s purpose to ensure a good and ethical government and its responsibility to check moral corruption or all other forms of improper government practice when deciding on the Fung Ket Win-Harris Salleh case.
From the Privileges Committee proceedings, we must note the followings:
- That Datuk Harris Salleh had refused to co-operate with the Privileges Committee by producing on oath his list of land properties in Labuan;
- Datuk Harris Salleh’s failure to prove his Dewan Rakyat claim that he owned not more than 2% of the Labuan island;
- That for at least two companies, which have land in Labuan, namely DUA BERSAUDARA SDN.BHD. and EMPAT BERSAUDARA SDN.BHD. Datuk Harris Salleh remained until the last check with the Registry of Companies in 1983 a Director, for it contravenes Article 6(5) of the Sabah Constitution which provides:
“6(5) The Chief Minister shall not hold any office of profit and shall not actively engage in any commercial enterprise.”
- That for the companies referred in the Privileges Committee report as holding land in Labuan, their total landholdings as shown in existing company records both inside and outside Labuan amounts to some 2,500 hectares; and these exclude companies in which Harris Salleh have shares but which have land elsewhere apart from Labuan;
- That Datuk Harris Salleh had not disproved Fung’s statement that he is the biggest landowner in Labuan who, with Labuan’s becoming Federal Territory, stands to make the greatest profit as compared to other landowners,
- That Harris Salleh had offered 500 acres of his land on Labuan in 1978 to the ASEAN University project which is already 2.2% of Labuan.
Parliament would be abdicating from its responsibility to be guardian of political and public morality, if in the Fung Ket Wing-Harris Salleh case, it disregards the real crux of the issue, which is to check any likely conflict of interest and any form of political corruption (whether legal or moral), so that Parliament can demonstrate to Malaysians that we are fully conversant with the aspirations of the people to have a clean, incorruptible and honest political leadership and government. We can spend all our time quibble over technicalities, over legal persona or corporate personality, while missing the large picture, and we will be no different from the Middle Age theologians in Europe who spend whole lifetimes debating as to how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.
Fung Ket Win has not been able to prove that Harris Salleh has 70% of the land in Labuan. It need not mean that the statement is false. At the moment, it is merely unproven.
We find it most unfair however, if Fung Ket Wing is to be reprimanded for falling to prove 70% statement, while Harris Salleh gets scotfree when he is also unable to prove that he has not more than 2% of landownership in Labuan.
In the Fung Ket Wing –Harris Salleh case, Fung Ket Wing is performing a public and national service, to throw the glare of public scrutiny on government actions to ensure greater accountability and higher ethical standards.
The person who is really on trial is Harris Salleh, and I am afraid he has not emerged from it with intact. He had the excellent opportunity to show not only to the Privileges Committee, Parliament, but the people of Sabah and Malaysia that he is political leader of integrity who has nothing to hide, by throwing open all his properties, whether held in his name, or through compnies with shares or nominess, to prove that he dare to withstand the fullest and the most minute public examination for his deeds as Chief Minister of Sabah.
Before I conclude, I call on the Anti-Corruption Agency to investigate and if there is basis, to arrest and prosecute, Datuk Harris Salleh for breach of Sabah Constitution Article 6(5) in continuing to get involved in commercial enterprise by remaining as Director of Dua Bersaudara Sdn.Bhd and Empat Bersaudara Sdn.Bhd. and for his removal as Sabah State Chief Minister.