Lim Kit Siang to meet the Bank Negara Governor, Datuk Jaffar Hussein, on the 24 suspended deposit-taking co-operatives next Tuesday

Press Conference Statement by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General, MP for Tanjong and Assemblyman for Kampong Kolam, Lim Kit Siang, in Malacca on Thursday, 21.8.1986 at 11.30 p.m.

Lim Kit Siang to meet the Bank Negara Governor, Datuk Jaffar Hussein, on the 24 suspended deposit-taking co-operatives next Tuesday

I will meet the Bank Negara Governor, Datuk Jaffar Hussein, next Tuesday, 26th August 1986, at 4 p.m. Over the 24 suspended deposit-taking co-operatives.

I am very concerned that as a solution to the Co-operative Finance scandal and crisis, the options which are being considered includes the liquidation of the assets of the co-operatives and the money distributed to the depositors.

The responsibility of the Government and Bank Negara is not to ‘kill off’ the deposit-taking co-operatives, but to salvage them, protect the $ 1.5 billion depositors of some 540,000 depositors, and put the deposit-taking co-operatives on sound and prudent financial paths to help mobilise and invest small-time savings.

The co-operatives which are found to be free from abuses, excesses or fraud should be allowed to re-open without any delay, but the Government must set up a fund and guarantee to every depositor that they would not lose a single cent – for otherwise, the whole Bank Negara operation in freezing the assets of the 24 co-operatives would be a great financial disaster, with far-reaching consequences on the entire banking and financial system.

It is significant that in the $ 2.5 billion BMF scandal, even before the government was fully aware of the magnitude and enormity of the fraud and theft of public funds in Hong Kong, the Government had no hesitation right from the beginning to announce its full backing for Bank Bumiputra and BMF, which it kept repeating – until it used Petronas money to bail them out.

Why is the Barisan Nasional not prepared to extend the same treatment to the 24 co-operatives, especially as the long delay in the government’s taking action is party contributory of the Co-operative Finance scandal and crisis today.

Unlike the $ 2.5 billion BMF scandal, where we lost practically 80 per cent of the money, the $ 1.5 billion Co-operative Finance scandal and crisis is not so serious. This is because most of the 24 co-operatives which had been suspended have assets, and it has been estimated that a public commitment by the government of $500 million as a lifeboat fund for the co-operatives would be adequate for the crisis.

Directors of co-operatives should also be required to make good from their assets for any loss suffered by co-operatives and depositors arising from fraud, breach of trust and abuse of authority; and several millionaires who had used the money of co-operatives running into tens of millions of dollars should be required to repay them without any delay.

I still cannot understand why Bank Negara was so quick to lift the freeze on the depositors of directors of several co-operatives which are clearly in trouble, when the Bank Negara was not prepared to release funds for the payment of co-operative staff.

In this connection, I want to ask why Bank Negara did not act to freeze the assets of all those involved in the $2.5 billion BMF scandal, which would have gone a long way to reduce the country’s losses.

I welcome the formation of the Action Committee to Safehuard Deposit-Talking Co-operatives comprising officials and staff of some of the affected co-operatives.

The greatest issue affecting the co-operative finance crisis is the question of Confidence, and in this regard, the DAP and I are prepared to do what can to help the 540,000 depositors to protect their savings.

In this regard, the DAP is considering initiating a national organisation of all the 540,000 depositors in the 24 affected co-operatives, to directly protect their rights and interests. We will await the outcome of the meeting with the Bank Negara Governor on Tuesday before further considerations of this proposal.

From the Co-operative Finance Scandal and Crisis, it is clear that the Co-operatives Department and government had failed in their duty to protect public interest. In fact, there is a need not only to weed out the opportunists and crooks in the 24 deposit-taking co-operatives, there is an urgent need to weed out opportunists and crooks in all co-operatives, although the great majority of the other co-operatives do not have the co-operative finance problem.

A co-operative clean-up to ensure that no one make use of the co-operative to advance personal gain must be conducted nation-wide to protect the interests of all co-operative members, for otherwise, there is a danger of a new class of co-operative leaders emerging and entrenching themselves who exploit the co-operative members.

As I am meeting the Bank Negara Governor on Tuesday, I welcome co-operatives who wish to contact me with more information and data to do so in the next few days.

PM’s speech on press freedom an attempt to justify even stronger press control

The speech by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, not only defends the government’s strong press controls, but attempts to justify even more repressive press censorship.

The Prime Minister should know that in the recent general elections, the Malaysian press – and on particular the English and Bahasa Malaysia press, radio and television – have nothing to be proud about.

At the end of 1984, there was an announcement that an organisation of newspaper editors (ONE) would act as a press council which will investigate complaints about unfair and biased newspaper reports. If this ONE is not just a tooth-less tigeer, it should investigate into the press performance in the nine days of the 1986 general elections campaign.

But then, the ONE will have sit in judgement on itself, for many of them have been guilty of the most biased and unfair journalism in the campaign.

There is an urgent need to review the whole question of press freedom in Malaysia today, so that they can help to promote democratic growth instead of stunting human rights and fundamental liberties.

The ONE should commission a study by eminent Malaysians like Tun Hussien Onn, Tan Sri Ahmad Nordin, Dr. Chandra Muzaffar, Datuk Nordin Sopiee, Tan Sri Dr. Tan Chen Khoon to give a report on the Malaysian Press on the 1986 general elections, in the content of press freedom and democracy in Malaysia.