By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung. Lim Kit Siang, in Malacca on Tuesday, 8.9.1987:
DAP calls on Home Ministry to give public reasons every time it bans or withholds from the public a foreign magazine for its articles on Malaysia
The DAP welcomes the release to the public the Sept.3 issue of Far Eastern Economic Review, after a two-week study of certain articles” in the issue by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The Home Ministry should only can ban or withhold from the Malaysian public any foreign magazine if its articles on Malaysia is prejudicial to public order or national security. The Sept.3 issue of FEER carried a six-page reports on the UMNO investment holding company, Fleet Group; UDA’s wholly owned subsidiary, Peremba; the financial crisis faced by the Fleet Group empire; the dealings between Fleet Group and government companies; and the conflict-of-interest roles of Finance Minister, Daim Zainuddin, in the dealings involving the Fleet Group and the government companies.
These reports in the FEER are highly embarrassing to the Finance Minister, Daim Zainuddin, and the UMNO leaders, but they could not by any stretch of the imagination be construed as likely to prejudice the public order or national security, even to justify a two-week hold-back of the issue from the Malaysian public.
Daim Zainuddin andt the UMNO leaders have recourse to legal remedies if the information contained in the eix-page reports are incorrect, or if their reputation had suffered – but personal embarrassment cannot be used to be reasons of state to invoke governmental powers to ban or hold back newspapers or publications.
In fact, the Malaysian public have the right to know whether UMNO, whether as a party or its leaders as individuals, have abused their special positions of trust and power to allow unethical, and conflict-of-interest, situations to take place, especially in commercial transactions involving companies owned by UMNO or UMNO leaders.
The FEER issue of 3rd Sept. raised many public interest issues which must be answered satisfactorily by the Finance Minister and government, which includes:
• Whether the UMNO investment holding company, Fleet Group, had been involved with conflict-of-interest situations involving UMNO Ministers in its various dealings;
• Whether Fleet Group is getting special government treatment in not having to forfeit its $16 million deposits as down-payment for the purchase of Peremba (UDA’s subsidiary on property development) and compensation of $300 million, for its failure to carry out the sale-and-purchasing agreement for Peremba?
• Whether Fleet Group had used some of its shares in publicly-listed subsidiary New Strait Time (M) Bhd and listed associate Faber Merlin (Malaysia) to by-pass foreign exchange-control regulations;
• Whether there had been conflict of interest in the transfer of ownership in UMEC and Bank of Commerce on the part of Daim Zainuddin, the Finance Minister;
• Whether Fleet Group is selling out substantial shareholding in New Straits Times to foreigners because of its financial troubles, although this goes against the Fleet Group’s original principle of wanting New Straits Times to be fully owned by Malaysians.
The Home Ministry should have known that there is no effective way to ban such articles, for the ban or the very withholding for two weeks, had probably made them even ‘hotter’ properties, being circulated in greater numbers through the Xerox machine. Such actions are most self-defeating. In keeping with the government’s claim to an ‘open, accountable and trustworthy’ administration, I call on the Home Ministry to give public reasons every time it bans or withholds foreign magazines for their articles on Malaysia. The Malaysian public have the right to know whether the government is acting in the national interest, or just to defend individual or group interest.