Call on Federal Government to provide all assistance to the Sabah State Government to conduct a full-scale public inquiry by a Commission of Inquiry into the mismanagement, malpractices and corruption of the two previous state governments

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, in Dewan Rakyat on the Prime Minister’s Department during the Committee Stage on Wednesday, 13.11.1985

Call on Federal Government to provide all assistance to the Sabah State Government to conduct a full-scale public inquiry by a Commission of Inquiry into the mismanagement, malpractices and corruption of the two previous state governments

Firstly, I wish to congratulate the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, for his directive to Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries about their responsibilities to Parliament.

For the first time in many years, Ministers are now more seen in the House, although some times fleetingly for 15 minutes, and also for the first time, the most number of Ministers answered on behalf of their departments during the winding-up of the Budget debate. This is as it should be if Parliament is not to be relegated to a third-rate coffee-shop presided over by Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries, while Ministers find it more worthwhile going out-station for mini-ceremahs for their respective political parties.

There is an urgent need to restore the standing and credibility of Parliament, which is crucial to the healthy growth of our fragile plant of parliamentary democracy. If the people at large have no confidence in our MPs, how can they have confidence in the system of parliamentary democracy.

The time has come to institute far-reaching parliamentary reforms to make our Parliament more efficient, effective and relevant to the aspirations of the people. Unfortunately, ‘parliamentary reforms’ seems to be a dirty word for many Prime Ministers and Minsters, for they are loth to upset the comfortable status quo where Parliament is presently a compliant and obedient rubber stamp of the Executive.

If there are parliamentary reforms, then Ministers cannot take Parliament for granted as now, and must expect to be held accountable for their actions more closely, as in having to appear before Parliamentary Specialist Committees where they would have to expound and defend their policy decisions or new Ministerial measures.

For instance, if there are Parliamentary Specialist Committees on Home Affairs or Finance, the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Radzi Sheikh Ahmad, would not be able to get away with evasive answer on the problem of illegal Indonesian immigrants, nor would the Deputy Finance Minister, Datuk Sabaruddin Cik, be able to get away with the cheeky answer that in the his Ministry in April this year, in the light of religious and Islamic injunctions aginst gambling, ‘a small wrong is the same as a big wrong, as both are wrong’. Datuk Sabaruddin Cik seemed to be telling wrongdoers and criminals that if they want to commit wrongs or cimes, then they might as well go for the big wrongs or heinous crimes as minor infractions would be equally wrong.


Furthermore, if there are Parliamentary Specialist Committees, MPs would become more specialised in their knowledge, experience and expertise, which would be a contribute not to Parliament, but an asset to the nation as well.

In this connection, I wish to protest in the strongest possible terms against the government practice of denying even Parliament information which MPs and the nation are entitled to.

For instance, in the present meeting of Parliament, I had asked the Minister of Defence “the latest estimates for the total costs of the Lumut Naval Base, and to state whether nuclear missiles facilities are being installed at the Base.”

This question was rejected under Standing Order 23(1)(f) which said that ‘a question shall not seek information about any matter which is of its nature secret’.

This is indeed the height of effrontery and contempt of Parliament. The Government comes to the House to ask for votes and allocations for the Lumut Naval Base, which had increased from the original $480 million to $1.2 billion, and when asked what is now the latest estimates, and whether nuclear missile facilities were being installed, the government is telling Parliament that it has no right to know.

If Parliament has no right to know the latest revised costs for Lumut Naval Base, whether the $720 million cost overrun is because of the decision to build silos and to equip the base with nuclear warheads and facilities, then the principle of Parliamentary control over the government purse had been reduced to nothing.

In fact, Parliament should not vote a single cent for the Ministry of Defence this year if the Mindef treats Parliament with utter contempt and refuse to divulge information which MPs and the Malaysian people have the right to know.


The Mindef bigwigs cannot be living in utopia to believe that the defence industry in the world, and countries interested to know about Malaysia’s defence capabilities, are not aware of the installations going on in Lumut Naval Base. Only Malaysian MPs and the rakyat would be kept in the ‘dark’, unable to help decide Malaysia’s defence policy and future.

I notice that this year’s budget has a new format which is giving MPs even less information about details of the expenditures sought from the House. For instance, for development expenditures for the Navy, the expenditure sought is divided under two sub-heads, namely ‘pembinaan’ and ‘kelengkapan’, which tells nothing at all. Previously, the budget will give separate votes for the various Naval Bases in Lumut, Kuantan, Labuan, etc, as well as separate figures for Naval vessels and ‘kelengkapan’.

I call on the Prime Minister to personally look into this disturbing development of denying information to Parliament, and to issue a directive to all Ministries, and in particular Mindef, to stop using the excuse of ‘secrecy’ to suppress information which Parliament and Malaysians have the right to know.

This trend towards greater government secrecy is inimical to a meaningful Parliamentary control over public expenditures. The cult of secrecy in government in Malaysia is most unhealthy, which could also be seen in the further amendment to the Official Secrets Act to make it even more repressive than the parent Act, the prosecution of New Straits Times journalist, Sabry Sharif, and the Far Eastern Economic Review correspondent, James Clad, under the Official Secrets Act.


The discretion of the Attorney-General, Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman, to grant leave to prosecute under the Official Secrets Act could not be challenged in the courts. Parliament is the only place where its exercise could be questioned.

I would call on the Attorney-General not to indiscriminately grant leave for prosecution under the Official Secrets Act, for the rigour, severity and draconian features of the OSA could only be tempered by judicious exercise of the Attorney-General’s discretion to give leave for prosecution.

The Attorney-General should not grant leave for prosecution under the Official Secrets Act unless the security of the nation is undermined or compromised, and no one could by any stretch of imagination accept that the nation’s security could in any manner be threatened if there are disclosure about the various types of armaments being considered by Mindef, and their respective costs. The only persons who would feel threatened by such disclosures would be those who hope to profit by huge commissions if their ‘secret defence deals’ are not divulged.

Before I leave this subject, I wish to emphasise that the Attorney-General should be mindful of the necessity to act above party, or personal considerations if his high office is not to suffer disrepute.

Although I have received the answer to my parliamentary question on the exercise of the AG’s discretion on prosecution, it has not satisfied or convinced Malaysians that there had been no improper exercise of this discretion by the Attorney-General.

Up to now, the question that is being asked is why the Bar Council’s Vice President, Param Cumaraswamy, is being prosecuted for charges under the Sedition Act, while in the 1983 Constitutional Crisis, when there were many attacks on the Rulers’ Position, not a single person had been prosecuted.


Twenty-eight years after Merdeka in 1957, Malaysia’s nation building process is still quite feeble, and subject to great stress and strain.

The Sabah political and constitutional crisis is a great test of Malaysia’s nation building and our system of parliamentary democracy.

There are undemocratic elements inside and outside Sabah who are artificially manufacturing a protracted political and constitutional crisis so as to create the conditions which would engender tensions to justify the Federal proclamation of emergency, the dismissal of the duly elected PBS Government of Sabah, Federal take-over and the elevation of USNO and Berjaya leaders to positions of power in Sabah which they had lost in a fair general elections in Sabah in April this year.

The national leaders should realise that what is involved in the Sabah political and constitutional crisis is not just the ups and downs of political parties, or the ‘face’ of the Barisan Nasional which through its Chairman, the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, had declared in the April Sabah General Elections to ‘sink or swim with Berjaya’, what is at stake is whether the Malaysia idea which in 1963 brought the people of Sabah, together with the people of Sarawak, to join the people of Peninsular Malaysia to form a nation committed to freedom, equality and justice, is to be honoured or broken.

If the people of Sabah, through the ballot box in the April General Elections, do not have the right to elect the government of their choice, and had to face direct or indirect Federal intervention through assistance or collusion with Sabah political forces out to thwart the will of the people of Sabah, then we have dishonoured the Malaysia Compact.

For this would mean that the promise of the first Malaysian Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, to the people of Sabah to achieve independence through Malaysia and enjoy democratic freedoms had been broken, as the people of Sabah do not have the right in 1985 to choose the political leadership they want, but only the freedom to choose the political leadership or arrangement imposed by Kuala Lumpur.

This would in effect make Sabahans second-class political citizens, and can only add greater strain to the problem of nation building, especially in the integration of the different territories in Malaysia.

The Federal Government has a great responsibility to help defuse the artificial political and constitutional crisis in Sabah, and allow the PBS Government of Datuk Joseph Pairin Kitingan, who enjoys a substantial and clear-cut majority, to get on with the task of governing the state.

It is my view that without the expressed or implied, open or tacit approval from Federal government forces, the artificial political and constitutional crisis in Sabah would not have reached this stage.

It is now for the Federal forces to put national interest above party or sectional interest, and to respect and abide by the democratic will of the people of Sabah, and not to do irreparable damage to the Malaysia idea by shattering the confidence of people of Sabah in the Malaysian nation.


It is for this reason that I was surprised and shocked that the Elections commission had fixed such an unprecedented long date of 86 days between the forced resignations of the four Sabah Assemblymen on Oct, 30 and the polling of the four vacancies on January 24 and 25.

This compromises the independence and impartiality of the Elections commission, for to those who want to destabilise the PBS state Government, the longer the four Sabah seats are kept vacant, the better it is for them.

It is for the same reason that Malaysians are disturbed by the arrest and prosecution of the Sabah Attorney General and PBS Adviser, Herman Luping, on corruption charges.

Is Herman Luping’ s prosecution on corruption charges politically-motivated?

It is not for me to pass comments on whether Herman Luping is guilty or not guilty of the charges preferred against him. This is for the courts to decide.

The question the Anti-Corruption Agency must answer is why they could act so swiftly to bring charges against a top PBS Government leader for corruption in less then six months of the new government, but could not bring a single top USNO or Berjaya leader to court for corruption in the last 15 years?

Malaysians are aware from ACA history that the ACT had been used as a political instrument to deal with political opponents. Political rivals whom the ‘powers that be’ want to eliminate from the political scene would find themselves hauled to court for corruption charges, while other political personalities who are equally if not more corrupt, would be immune from ACA investigation or prosecution. The care of the former Selangor Mentri Besar, Datuk Harun Idris, is a classic example.

The question I want to ask is whether Herman Luping’ s prosecution is connected with the view that he opposes the idea of the PBS forming a coalition with USNO or Berjaya? If this is the case, then it is outright political persecution.


The ACA and the 2M Government must restore its tattered image on the anti-corruption front, especially that the anti-corruption theme is not being used as a political instrument to flush out political rivals or enemies on the one band, and used to give protection and immunity to the corrupt among the political mainstream on the other.

In the last few months, the Prime Minister himself spoke many times about the danger of the Politics of Money in UMNO to the entire national moral fibre. But the Government has no concern when the politics of money in Sabah has reached the position of open ‘horse-trading’, where $2 million are being offered for the defection of Assemblymen!

The PBS Sabah Chief Minister, Datuk Joseph Pairin Kitingan, said today that enough evidence had been gathered for a commission of Inquiry to be set up to investigate ‘mismanagement, maladministration and corruption’ under the previous two state Governments of Berjaya and USNO.

He said there was a delay in setting up the commission because of the difficulty in getting someone of ‘ acceptable stature’ to head the commission.

I call on the Prime Minister to give full all assistance, including financial support, to the formation of a commission of Inquiry to conduct full-scale public investigations into the corruption and malpractices of the Tun Mustapha and Harris Salleh governments.

If the Prime Minister is sincere in his profession about his hatred of corruption, then he must support the Sabah Chief Minister, unless his sincerity in the battle against corruption is to be doubted.

To make the commission of Inquiry more palatable to the Federal Government, I am sure the PBS Government would have no objection to expand the scope of the commission of Inquiry to include jurisdiction to investigate any corruption at present within the time frame specified in the terms of reference of the commission.


The artificial Sabah political and constitutional crisis threatens the Federal-Sabah relationship, and the Prime Minister has a responsibility to make a distinction between party relationship and Federal-State relationship. It is for this reason that I had from the start in May called on the Prime Minister to make an official visit to Sabah to demonstrate to Sabahans that whatever the party political diffrerences, the Federal Government’s relationship with the people of Sabah would be maintained and promoted.

It is also for this reason that I am suggesting the establishment of the Federal-State Ministerial committee to repair the Federal-Sabah state relationship undermined by the six months of protracted artificial crisis.

The Prime Minister can easily put an end to the artificial Sabah crisis if he indicate in no uncertain terms that he would abide by the verdict of the people in the April 1985 general elections, and would not countenance any undemocratic and unconstitutional means to thwart the will of the people.

The Prime Minister should also stop some government leaders who are second-line UMNO leaders, like the Deputy Foreign Minister, Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir, and the Deputy Minister for works, Datuk Zainal Abidin Zin, from interfering in the Sabah crisis by trying to cause a split within PBS to force the formation of a coalition government in Sabah.

These UMNO leaders are blaming certain PBS leaders of opposing a coalition government, which they claimed had the support of Pairin. Instead of trying to divide PBS, they should respect the right of Sabahs to political self-determination.

UMNO leaders should not think just because they had recently virtually taken over the running of the MCA, with their National Vice President, Ghaffar Baba, exercising MCA Presidential powers, UMNO has the right to interfere in the internal affirs of all political partied in the country.

UMNO leaders should realise that the political system we have in Malaysia is democracy and not UMNO-cracy.


During the budget debate, DAP MPs stressed that national unity in Malaysia is threatened by the over-emphasis of Malaysians into bumuputras and non-bumiputras, and we called on the government to accept the Joint Declaration of the 27 Malaysian Chinese Guilds and Associations on 12th Oct. 1985 to build a truly united, harmonious and prosperous nation.

I regret that the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Khalil Yaakob, speaking not only on behalf of the Prime Minister but the Barisan Nasional component parties of MCA, Gerakan, SUPP and others, said that the Declaration was the view of a small section of the Malaysian Chinese.

What is even more regrettable, since the Budget presentation on Oct. 25, there has been further new and unwarranted extension of the NEP policy of quotas and percentages, which take the division of Malaysians into ‘bumiputras’ and ‘non-bumuputras’ into a new dimension.

Without warning or consultation, the Malaysian public were made aware during the MAS public issue on Nov. 7 that there is a new Ministry of Trade and Industry guideline requiring 51 per cent of new shares offered in a public issue to be reserved to bumiputras.

Under the new guideline, companies wishing to float their shares will now have to allot 30 per cent of the open portion of shares available for public subscription to Bumiputra individuals and wholly Bumiputra-owned companies and organizations registered with the Ministry. This is in addition to the 30 per cent made by way of private placement to government approved Bumiputera institutions. This works out to a total of 51 per cent of new shares in a public issue being reserved for bumiputras.

With the approach of the year 1990, which marks the end of the 20-year Perpective Plan of the NEP, Malaysians look forward to the beginning of the process of the dismantling of the NEP policy of quotas and percentages, and the reduction in the emphasis dividing Malaysians into bumiputeras and non-bumiputeras. Unfortunately, the oppostite seems to be taking place, where there is a repeated process of new and unwarranted extension of the NEP policy of quotas and percentages – as in the Batu Pahat West District Council categorisation properties into ‘bumiputera properties’ and ‘non-bumiputera properties’. Are we to reach a stage when one day, in the market, there would be ‘bumiputera fish’ and non-bumiputera fish’ and ‘bumiputera vegetables’ and ‘non-bumiputera vegetables’ with different price differential. In the interest of national unity, the DAP calls for the withdrawal of this new guideline requiring 51 per cent to be reserved in new public shares.

Malaysia has rightly taken a correct stand in international forums attacking the racist policies of apartheid practised in South Africa. However, we should be careful that we do not give cause in some international forum for some countries to accuse Malaysian of practising some form of apartheid in Malaysia ourselves.

Malaysians can unite and must unite for a common national future and destiny, but this can only come about if the over-emphasis of Malaysians into bumiputras and non-bumiputras is reduced and the division eliminated eventually.


Religious polarisation is the newest threat to national unity in Malaysia. Although the Malaysian Constitutional made it clear that Malaysia is a secular state, and not an Islamic state in spite of the fact that Islam is the official religion of the country, non-Muslim Malaysians are very worried by the relentless whittling away of their religious and Constitutional rights.

The process of Islamisation in the various spheres of national life, the repeated statement by government leaders that Malaysia is a Islamic state in rebuttal to PAS’ attacks, and the other developments which eroded away the right of non-Muslims in religious freedom, have given rise to grievances which have not been given the attention they are due.

For instance, non-Muslims find mosques and suraus mushrooming in the country for which they have no objection, but they also find it extremely difficult to apply for a piece of land for temple or Church purpose. Yet when houses or sho-houses are turned into places of worship, because the people have nowhere to go to for worship, they are harassed and even prosecuted by the authorities. This makes the right of worship enshrined in Article II of the Malaysian Constitution unmeaningful.

I understand in the building of a Church, some local authorities refuse to pass the plan if there is a cross on top of the building. Is there a law forbigging such a thing?

The partial ban of the Christian Bible in Bahasa Indonesia, ‘Alkitab’, is another grievance.

For the sake of national unity, an Inter-Religious Council should be formed so that the problems of the various religions could be thrashed out, as well as a forum established to advance inter-religious understanding and goodwill, tolerance and harmony.


Of all the OBAs, the most powerful, wealthy and most disturbing is Petronas, whose wealth has come to equal that of the the government, and even holds the key to the liquidity of the Malaysian banking system.

Recent Petronas events have reinforced public concern that the Government is using Petronas to firstly, avoid public accountability for the management and stewardship of substantial public funds, and secondly, to bail out failing operations and to hide the public cost from the people.

The most notorious example was of course the bailing out and purchase of Bank Bumiputra and the $2.5 billion BMF bad loans, which was an illegal action which had to be validated retrospectively by Parliament when the DAP challenged the legality of the action in the courts. The second dubious action was the proposed purchase of the $313 million Dayabumi complex from UDA, which would help UDA improve its financial position as it lost $100 million in the first yen years of its operation.

The third dubious Petronas action was the purchase of a Boeing 747 and leasing it to MAS, partly to avert a law suit for breach of contract from Roll Royce and to preserve the airline’s debt-equity ratio on its becoming a public company.


But leaving aside for the moment the doubt over the legality over the Petronas-Boeing deal, which the government probably feels confident of curing by another retrospective legislation in Parliament, if necessary, Malaysians are entitled to ask about the series of events leading to the Pratt & Whitney engine deal.

The Government must be aware of allegations that $US 5 million kick-back had been involved in this transaction involving a Cabinet Minister, and a fullest public inquiry into the entire transaction is needed to establish the full integrity of the deal, nationally and internationally.

The fourth dubious event is the government approval for a Malaysian businessman, Mohamad Ariff Ibrahim, to buy a second-hand French refinery and relocate it at Lumut at a cost of some $1.2 billion.

I understand that government approval was given despite Petronas’ strongest objections, because plummeting refinery profits, mounting world overcapacity and the generally bleak oil price to as low as US$20 a barrel next year, do not give the project much hope as a viable undertaking.

According to the Asian Wall Street Journal of 5th November 1985, Mohamad Ariff Ibrahim is associated with Tan Sri Ibrahim Mohamed of Promet fame, and that the private refinery project could have the blessing of the Prime Minister and Finance Minister personally.

But Petroleum specialists fear that the $1.2 billion private refinery project would end up as a big flop, and Petronas would be required to step in to bail it out as happened with the $2.5 billion BMF bad debts.

Malaysians have a right to demand that Petronas come under closer public scrutiny and accountability, so that it is not operated as a ‘fat cow’ to be milked, bled and fleeced for the creation of new bumiputra NEP millionaires- not through entrepreneurship but recklessness and blatant irresponsibility.