Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, at the DAP Prai by-election ceramah at New Ferry Road, Prai on Tuesday, July 23, 1991 at 10.30 p.m.
I was prepared to be declared a bankrupt and disqualified as Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP and Assemblyman should I lose and have to past damages to United Engineers Malaysia (UEK) when I filed legal action on the North-South Highway case
For the Prai by-election period, I had been attending the Parliamentary meeting during the day and rushing back for the DAP ceramah in Prai at night.
Tonight, however, I thought I would not be able to make it for the Prai by-election ceramah here when the MAS plane tried to land at the Penang Airport but failed, and had to abort the touch-down, because of very bad weather and poor visibility. All the passengers who were resting or even sleeping became very awake after that!
The MAS plane flew over Georgetown and Butterworth for quite some time and we could see the dark thick clouds which out off visibility and made landing at the Penang airport very dangerous.
After about half an hour’s delay and attempt, the plane finally succeeded in a touch-down, and there were passengers who were so relieved that they clapped in applause at the safe landing.
If DAP loses Prai by-election, no political leader in Malaysia will accept responsibility for being involved in political, financial and moral scandals
In actual fact, by Barisan Nasional standards, there is no need to have a Prai by-election at all, and there is no need for DAP leaders to run all sorts of risks – including unscrupulous and unprincipled attacks by the Barisan Nasional.
But the DAP is different. We take political integrity morality, responsibility and accountability seriously and we ask the people of Prai to support us to establish this important political principle in Malaysian politics.
If the DAP loses in the Prai by-election, then in future, no political leader in Malaysia will accept responsibility for being involved in political, financial and moral scandals.
The Penang Chief Minister, Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, is using his Gerakan state youth chief, who has admitted that he could not ‘make the big league’, to try to character-assassinate me and the party.
Yesterday, I gave him a ‘tip’ as to how to get cheap publicity by lodging a police report against me for being involved in a financial scandal involving my own money.
Now, he has tried to raise a scandal out of the various legal battles which the DAP had fought and the public contributions made to some of these legal battles.
What this person who could not ‘make the big league’ is doing is only to use a ‘small man’s heart to measure a nobleman’s depth’!
Karpal and I were detained under ISA because we won the North-South Highway case in getting an interim injunction to stop the contract
The risks the DAP leaders have to take when they challenge the government in various legal suits are something which no Gerakan or MCA leader would dare to bear.
When I sued the Government and the United Engineers Malaysia (UEM) to stop the Government from awarding the $3.5 billion North-South Highway contract to UEM, I had to be prepared to face the following risks:
Firstly, detention under the Internal Security Act;
Secondly, declared a bankrupt; and
Thirdly, disqualification as Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Member of Parliament and State Assemblyman.
In the last few days, the Deputy Prime Minister, Ghafar Baba and other Barisan Nasional leaders have been saying that the people should not be unduly worried about abuses of power under the new Land Acquisition Amendment Act, for those not satisfied can still go to court.
In Malaysia, the people can sue the Government. It is all right b if they lose. If they win, they might end up under the Internal Security Act, as happened to me and Karpal, who was my lawyer in my legal suit to stop the Government from awarding the North-South Highway contract to UEM.
The trouble was Karpal and I won in getting an interim injunction to stop the UEM from signing the North-South Highway contract at the Supreme Court and High Court. Because of our court victory, Karpal and I were detained under the Internal Security Act and sent to Kamunting.
The lesson seems to be – in Malaysia, the people can sue the government, but they should not win; if they win, they might end up in Kamunting Detention Centre under the Internal Security Act.
However, the risks I had to face in filling legal action to stop the UEM from signing the North-South Highway contract are even greater than just being detained under the Internal Security Act.
I had also to be prepared to be be declared a bankrupt and be disqualified as Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Member of Parliament and State Assemblyman, should I lose in the case and have to pay damages to the UEM for loses that they suffered.
This is because UEM was also asking for damages from me for the losses they had suffered for the delay in signing the North-South Highway contract.
The UEM claimed in court that they had spent about $20 million already, and that it expects to get a profit of over $1 million per month.
This means that if the case drags out for say three to five years, which is very common in Malaysia, should I lose eventually, and I am ordered to pay costs and damages to the UEM, the total amount could easily come to the astronomical figure of about $100 million.
It would be totally beyond my capacity to pay costs and damages of $100 million to UEM. I had thought about this before I initiated the case against the Government and the UEM, but I decided to take the risk, for there was no other way to fight the UEM North-South Highway scandal except in court at the time.
If I had to pay the $100 million in costs and damages to UEM, I would have been declared a bankrupt, and would have automatically been disqualified as Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Member of Parliament and Assemblyman.
I don’t think any Gerakan, MCA or MIC leader would ever dare even to think of taking suc a stand up for the rights and interests of the people and the country.
Gerakan and MCA leaders becoming bankrupt is not uncommon, but they become bankrupt not because they fought for the rights of the people, but because of criminal breach of trust and misappropriation of public funds.
This is why the DAP leaders can look with contempt at the feeble attempts of the Gerakan and MCA leaders to try to paint the picture that DAP leaders are as corrupt and decadent as Gerakan and MCA leaders.
The people and country know that on this vital issue of political integrity, morality, responsibility and accountability, the DAP is different from the Gerakan and MCA.