Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Saturday 29.8.1987
The $360 million UMNO complex is no excuse or justification for any unethical conduct or conflict or interest in government, or to force the people in the Klang Valley to pay toll after widening of an old highway.
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, said in Johore Bahru yesterday that he agreed with the first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, in his weekly ‘As I see it’ column in Monday’s STAR, calling on UMNO not to enter into business but to concentrate on politics. Tunku Abdul Rahman was commenting to UEM, a company controlled by an UMNO holding company, Hatibudi Sdn. Bhd.
However, Dr. Mahathir justified UMNO’s business involvement by asking “who is going to pay the $360 million for the UMNO complex?”
Dr. Mahathir seems to suggest that the UEM deal for the North-South Highway privatization contract was to enable UMNO to pay for its $360 million UMNO complex. Is it really the case? Apart from the 50% UEM shares held by Hatibudi, who are the beneficial owners of large chunks of UEM shares held under nominee names? Is the government prepared to reveal the identity of all shareholders, or eventual shareholders, after it has signed the contract with the Ministry of Works.
In any event, the $360 million UMNO complex is not and cannot be an excuse or justification for any unethical or conflict of interest conduct in government. It will set a dangerous precedent where other Barisan Nasional component parties will be entitled to clamour for a share in the country’s privatization programme to finance their own party projects, or pay off debts, like the MCA’s present $50 million debt, or to be used for general elections campaign.
UMNO Vice President, Anwar Ibrahim, has been going round the country calling for ethics to be taught in schools, business, cooperatives and to youths, but he has forgotten the even greater importance and urgency of teaching ethics in government.
What Dr. Mahathir has suggested is so blatantly unethical and wrong, and anyone with the most elementary notion of right and wrong must be shocked by the moral blinkers worn by the top government leaders of the day.
Anwar Ibrahim has a reputation as the guardian of ethics and morality in the government, and I challenge him to declare that what Dr. Mahathir has defended is unethical and morally wrong.
If Anwar Ibrahim does not make a stand, then he should cease to hold himself out as the paragon of ethics and morality in the Cabinet and government.
I suggest that the Cabinet should go into an emergency session at its weekly meeting on Wednesday on the question of ethics and morality in government, and in particular on the ethics and morality of the UEM deal in view of UMNO’s involvement.
The UMNO Supreme Council can resolve this ethical quandary by divesting all UMNO shares in UEM, which will give meaning to the Barisan Nasional’s motto of “Leadership by Example”.
On the highway toll, Dr. Mahathir said that there is no such thing as free facilities. The Prime Minister is mistaken, for the people are not asking for free facilities. They are paying $1.2 billion a year in road tax, various driving and transportation licences and fees, and as well as duty on petroleum, which are meant for the development of highway facilities.
Dr. Mahathir said that the government had no plans and no obligations to build new roads as alternative routes to the toll highway. The Prime Minister is again mistaken, for the people in the Klang Valley are not asking for a new highway as an alternative route to the New Klang Valley Expressway. What they oppose is the imposition of toll on an old highway, namely Federal Highway Route II from Subang to Klang which they have been using for some 20 years, after it had been widened from four lanes to six lanes. The government can go ahead with its plans to build the New Klang Valley Expressway and collect toll, but it should leave the Federal Highway Route II alone, for it will be an existing alternative route to the New Klang Valley Expressway.
It would be most unfair as suggested by Works Minister, Datuk Samy Vellu, that toll must be imposed on Federal Highway Route II or otherwise the UEM privatization contract will not be profitable for 100 years. This tantamounts to forcing the Klang Valley people to pay toll on an old highway, just to ensure UMNO can pay for its $360 UMNO complex.