Cabinet position on ARE a big MCA ‘let down’ to the people in Bukit Merah and surrounding areas

by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Thursday, June 18, 1987:

Cabinet position on ARE a big MCA ‘let down’ to the people in Bukit Merah and surrounding areas

The Cabinet position yesterday on the Asian Rare Earth (ARE) factory in Ipoh is a big MCA let-down to the people of Bukit Merah and the surrounding areas.

For the sake of the Gopeng by-election, MCA Ministers had suddenly showed interest for the ARE issue, although it had been a four-year controversy, suggesting a government-approved independent panel of atomic energy experts to find out whether the ARE’s operations were safe or were a threat to the people’s health. The MCA Ministers even said later that the ARE factory should be temporarily closed down until the whole controversy over radioactive danger to the affected residents had been clarified.

The MCA Ministers raised the ARE issue at the last two Cabinet meetings, and the people of Bukit Merah and the surrounding areas had high hopes that the four MCA Ministers would be able to announce good news to them after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting.

But all the the MCA President, Datuk Ling Liong Sik, could report was that the Cabinet had no objection to the establishment of an independent panel of experts on the radioactive effects of ARE, showing that the MCA Ministers are ‘hens which could not lay eggs’!

Surely, no government or Cabinet has the power to stop any person or group of experts from making a study on the radioactive dangers of ARE, and the whole purpose of the MCA Ministers raising the ARE issue in Cabinet is not to come out with and inane position that the Government has no objection to an independent panel of experts to investigate into the ARE. In fact, the Cabinet cannot object to any independent panel of experts to be established into the ARE.

The purpose of the ARE issue being raised in Cabinet is for the Government to establish an independent panel of experts, which is acceptable to the people of Bukit Merah and the affected areas, to make another study of the radioactive dangers of ARE – with the government bearing all the expenses of such an independent panel, and the government commitment to accept the verdict and findings of the panel.

What is also very significant is that the MCA Ministers have now stopped talking about the ARE temporarily suspending all its operations, until the outcome of the findings of such an independent panel.

Will Cabinet come out with a similar stand on the co-op issue?

The DAP must also place on public record our public censure of the MCA Ministers for failing again to raise the co-operative issue in the Cabinet.

At the joint press conference after the UMNO Youth delegation called on him on Monday, the Acting Prime Minister, Ghaffar Baba, said the Cabinet had discussed the co-operative issue three times. I am sure that all these three cabinet meetings on the co-op issue were held last year, when the Cabinet took its first policy decision and issued the White Paper to Parliament in early November.

The MCA Ministers have promised that the Government would make a final decision on the co-operative issue by before June 28. I do not see how this deadline of June 28, 1987 for the MCA Gopeng by-election pledge to be publicly adopted by the government could be fulfilled, when the MCA Ministers dare not even raise the co-op issue in Cabinet?

In the Gopeng by-election, the MCA made the promise that the 588,000 co-operative depositors would get full ‘dollar-for-dollar’ cash refund latest by March 1989.

Will the Cabinet also come out with a position, as in the ARE issue, that it has no objection to the MCA’s promise of the ‘dollar-for-dollar’ full cash refund to the 588,000 depositors, but that the government will not be a party to it?

Is this why the MCA Ministers are jumping on the suggestion by UMNO Minister, Rafidah Aziz, that ‘dollar-for-dollar’ proposal need not mean ‘payment of $1 for every $1’?

It is clear that the MCA’s stand on the co-op issue has changed again, and that it has abandoned its Gopeng by-election pledge of a full ‘dollar-for-dollar’ cash refund by March 1989. However, MCA Ministers and leaders would not publicly admit any such change or betrayal, until after the MCA and MCA Youth party elections on July 10 and 11.

I hope the delegates to the MCA, MCA Youth and Wanita MCA General Assemblies will not allow their leaders and Ministers to betray the Gopeng by-election pledge, and the 588,000 co-operative depositors another time. This can only be done if the MCA, MCA Youth and Wanita MCA each adopt a clear-cut resolution at its General Assembly directing the MCA leadership to withdraw from the Barisan Nasional if MCA could not honour its Gopeng by-election pledge of full cash refund by March 1989 – as it would then be meaningless for MCA to continue to be in the Barisan Nasional.

If the MCA, MCA Youth and Wanita MCA General Assemblies on July 10 and 11 are not prepared to adopt such a resolution on the co-operative issue, then the 588,000 depositors should know that they are in for another ‘sell-out’ by the MCA.