Press Conference Statement By Parliamentary Opposition Leader DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, in DAP Headquarters in Petaling Jaya on Friday, 30.11.1984 at 12 noon
Challenge to Attorney-General, Tan Sri Abu Talib, to refer the Harris Salleh case to court for ruling as to whether the latter had violated Article 6(5) of Sabah Constitution
I am surprised and even shocked by the ruling of the Attorney-General, Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman, that Sabah Chief Minister, Datuk Harris Salleh, had not breached the Sabah State Constitution by remaining as a director of three companies.
The Attorney-General claimed that investigations by the Anti-Corruption Agency revealed that Datuk Harris Salleh during his tenure as Chief Minister did not make any decisions in favour of the companies.
There are two separate issues involved in the question of Harris Salleh’s flouting of Article 6(5) of the Sabah Constitution, which reads: “The Chief Minister shall not hold any office of profit and shall not actively engage in any commercial enterprise.”
The first issue is whether there had been any conflict on interest whereby Harris Salleh had made use of his position of Chief Minister to make any decision in favour of his companies. If there is any such conflict of interest, then Harris Salleh would be guilty of corrupt practice.
The Attorney-General said that investigations by the ACA showed that there had been no such conflict or interest in the three companies first reported by the DAP, namely Dua Bersaudara Sdn. Bhd., Empat Bersaudari Sdn. Bhd. and Sejati Sdn. Bhd. He said that if there was fresh evidence or new reports lodged regarding the matter, he was prepared to ‘look into it again’.
The question I want the Attorney-General and the ACA to answer is why they had not investigated into the fourth and fifth companies which I had mage public at the Chinese Assembly Hall in Kuala Lumpur on Sept. 24,1984, involving Harris Salleh, and which I repeated in Parliament in October, 1984.
The fourth company in which Harris Salleh remained as a director during his tenure of office as Chief Minister is SADAS Sdn. Bhd. The fifth company I mentioned is MINYAK BERJAYA SDN. BHD. where , according to the 16th August,1980 annual returns lodged with the Registry of Companies, Datuk Harris Salleh is the largest single shareholder with 600,000 shares out of the total of 3 million Shares at $1 each. Sabah Land Development Board, which is a Sabah State Government agency, held 500,000 Shares.
After 1980, the entire company of Minyak Berjaya Sdn. Bhd. was sold to SAPLANTCO SDN. BHD., which is wholly owned by Sabah Land Development Board.
The question is whether there is any conflict of interest here where 600,000 shares of Datuk Harris Salleh out of total 3 million shares were sold to wholly-owned subsidiary of a government agency of the State, of which he is a Chief Minister.
After I made the revelations at the Chinese Assembly Hall on Sept. 24, where as usual, Datuk Harris Salleh did not have the courage to turn up, the ACA contacted Dr. Tan Seng Giaw/who, with my knowledge and agreement, handed the particulars with regard to Sadas Sdn. Bhd. and the Minyak Berjaya Sdn. Bhd. to ACA. Why have the Attorney-General and ACA excluded these two companies from their investigations.
The second issue on the Harris Salleh affair is regardless of whether there had been any conflict of interest or corrupt practice, whether Harris Salleh, by being or remaining as director of companies, had per se violated Article 6(5) of the Sabah State Constitution.
The Attorney-General has presented the most novel idea that to be a ‘sleeping director’ of companies is permissible for a Chief Minister who is prohibited from actively engaging in any commercial enterprise.
By this logic, it would not be necessary for the Finance Minister, Daim Zainuddin, for instance to resign from the host of companies of which he is director before his appointment to the Cabinet, provided Daim Zainuddin ‘goes to sleep’ at the Boards of Directors of these companies.
Furthermore, the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, Cabinet ministers, Deputy Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, would also be able to accept appointment as ‘sleeping directors’ and stay away from all Board meetings-although we will soon have a situation where ‘sleeping directors’ would be more important and influential than ‘non-sleeping of thousand and one companies directors’.
This will make a complete mockery of the purpose of Article 6(5), and in this context, one must bear in mind the words of the former Lord President, Perak Sultan Azlan Shah, in his recent 11th Tunku Abdul Rahman Lecture on ‘Supremacy of Law in Malaysia’ where he stressed that “the spirit of the Constitution and of laws need also to be given attention” if the intention of the Constitution and laws are not be frustrated.
I find the Attorney-General’s ruling most subversive of the efforts by Malaysians to demand higher standards of political and public integrity and morality of our political leaders, and in fact, runs counter to the Mahathir government’s motto of a ‘Clean, efficient and trustworthy’ administration and ‘Leadership by Example’.
If we want to have political leaders of integrity and morality, as is the intention of Article 6(5) of the Sabah Constitution, then the very act of being or remaining as director of companies is already flouting its prohibition of active engagement in commercial enterprise!
It would appear that the Attorney-General was given the brief to defend the position of the Sabah Chief Minister, and he had therefore presented the case for Harris Salleh. If the Attorney-General had done this, then he had abused his powers and misconceived his responsibilities as Attorney-General.
His constitutional duty is not to be the defense counsel for the Sabah Chief Minister, but to uphold laws and the constitution in the interests of the nation. In this matter in question, where there is room for dispute as to whether Harris Salleh had breached Article 6(5) by being or remaining as director of firms during his tenure as Chief Minister, the Attorney-General should have referred the case to the Courts for a definitive interpretation and decision.
I challenge the Attorney-General, Tan Sri Abu Talib, to refer the case of Harris Salleh’s position with regard to Article 6(5) of the Sabah State Constitution to the Courts for a clear-cut ruling, and not to usurp the powers of the Courts by seeking to lay down ruling himself.
Secondly, I call on the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, to repudiate the ‘sleeping director’ concept for it would be productive of gross abuse and corruption – as how is one to know whether a director is ‘sleeping’ or ‘half awake’? If the ‘sleeping director’ concept is allowed to stand, then the Mahathir Administration might as well announce that its war against corruption has come to an end!
Call on the entire Chinese community to give the fullest support to the DAP’s one-person one-dollar campaign to protest against the extortionist demand of the Malacca State Government and its collaborators for $2 million Bukit China quit rent or face forfeiture.
The DAP calls on the entire Chinese community to give the fullest support to the DAP’s one-person, one dollar campaign to protest against the extortionist demand of the Malacca State Government and its collaborators in MCA for $2 million quit rent for Bukit China or face government forfeiture of the ancient cemetery hill.
It is clear that the Malacca Chief Minister, in full consultation with the Tan Koon Swan MCA Malacca faction leaders like Chan Teck Chan, Ng Peng Huay and Lim Soo Kiang, have decided on taking the offensive against the Chinese community over the Bukit China issue.
As the Tan Koon Swan MCA Malacca faction openly, and the Neo Yee Pan MCA faction secretly, gave support to the Malacca Chief Minister in the Bukit China question, the Malacca Chief Minister was encouraged to embark on a confrontationist course with the Chinese Community on the Bukit China issue.
The Malacca State Government had never demanded quit rent, or arrears of payments or late payment fines from other Muslim and other cemeteries, and only pick on Bukit China, demanding 16 years of arrears and fines, when in 1968 the Malacca State Government had informed the Cheng Hoon Teng trustees that if Bukit China is used for burial ground, it need not pay quit rent.
This shows the bad faith, insincerity and extortionist tactics of the Malacca Chief Minister in trying to force Cheng Hoon Teng Temple and the Chinese community to surrender to his Bukit China plans.
What is most deplorable is the action of the Malacca leaders of Tan Koon Swan MCA faction, like Chan Teck Chan, Ng Peng Huay and Lim Soo Kiang, who in the last one week in the Assembly and outside Malacca provided the Malacca Chief Minister with the good excuse to disregard the representations of 553 Chinese organizations and 300,000 signatories.
As even MCA leaders like Ng Peng Huay, Chan Teck Chan and Lim Soo Kiang could question and challenge the legitimacy of the 553 organisations and 300,000 signatories opposing Bukit China being forcibly developed by the Malacca State Government, the Chief Minister has even stronger ground to dismiss the views of the 553 Chinese organizations and 300,000 signatories – resulting in the decision to demand $2 million quit rent within one month or the initiation of forfeiture proceedings.
The Malacca Chief Minister must be condemned in the strongest possible terms for even talking about ‘forfeiture’ of Bukit China, to deprive the Chinese community of their centuries-old cemetery hill, for it shows the utter insensitivity of the Malacca Chief Minister to the need to preserve inter-racial harmony and goodwill in a multi-racial society.
DAP calls on Dr. Mahathir and Datuk Musa to curb the excesses of Malacca Chief Minister, who must bear the full consequences if racial polarization is aggravated to the worst situation.
I call on the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed and the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Musa Hitam, to curb the excesses and the extremism of the Malacca Chief Minister who by threatening to forfeit Bukit China, is in fact, plunging racial polarization in Malaysia to a new crisis point. The Malacca Chief Minister must bear full responsibility for the consequences of racial polarization being aggravated to the worst situation if he continues with his provocative actions.
I want to ask what would be the UMNO Youth’s reaction if the Penang Chief Minister, Dr. Lim Chong Eu, had issued a notice demanding $2 million quit rent payment, arrears and late payment fines to a an ancient and historic Muslin graveyard, and threatening forfeiture for non-payment within a month, going back for 16 years, after it had been exempted from such payment.
A Chief Minister who is not aware of such sensitivities is clearly not fit to be a Chief Minister.
The DAP National Save Bukit China Committee is forming a Committee for the One-person One-Dollar Save Bukit China Campaign to protest against the $2 million quit rent extortionist demand of Malacca State Government, to mobilise national popular opinion against the Malacca State Government’s latest offensive against Bukit China.
State and local committees will also be set up which will be responsible for the one-person one-dollar Save Bukit China campaign to protest against the $2 million quit rent demand.
When the National One-Person One-Dollar Committee has been formed, and the details of the campaign finalized, the campaign would be officially launched in each state. The is time for the people to demonstrate that their views, rights and aspirations must be respected by the authorities, who are entrusted to be the people’s government, and not the people’s oppressors.