Challenge to Mahathir to sue Lodon Sunday Times for defamation for its Wimpey story, so that the entire truth about the Wimpey allegation could be revealed

Speech (Part 2) by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang, in Parliament on the Royal Address motion on Tuesday, 11th April 1994

Challenge to Mahathir to sue Lodon Sunday Times for defamation for its Wimpey story, so that the entire truth about the Wimpey allegation could be revealed

I am very disappointed that the Government has not presented a White Paper to Parliament to give a detailed rebuttal to all the allegations in the British mass media in the past few months about corruption, abuses of power and improprieties of Malaysian leaders.

The Cabinet has jumped on the Wimpey story of the London Sunday Times to announce sanctions against British companies from tendering for Government contracts.

The Malaysian Government however cannot use the Wimpey story to dismiss all other British mass media reports which had raised serious questions about propriety, accountability, transparency and integrity of Malaysian leaders in various business deals, whether the Pergau dam project or the various Malaysian arms deals with Britain as a result of the RM5 billion Memorandum of Understanding signed by Malaysian Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed and the former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher in 1988.

I will deal firstly with the Wimpey story which was carried by London Sunday Times on February 20 this year under the heading: “Wimpey offered bribes to Malaysian Prime Minister”, where it alleged that in 1985, the British construction giant, George Wimpey International (GWI), which was bidding to build a 615 million British pound aluminium smelter in Malaysia, had approved US$50,000 initial bribe payment to the Malaysian Prime Minister. The London Sunday Times said there were internal company documents of Wimpey which referred to “the account numbers in Switzerland to which fees related to contract award are to be paid.”

Mahathir reacted with indignation to the London Sunday Times report and declared that the story was a lie and that he was “not so cheap”, and that he had not collected any money and that there was no such aluminium smelter project in Malaysia.

I back Mahathir on this issue, not only because the Malaysian Prime Minister could not be so cheap as to be involved in a US$50,000 bribery, but also because London Sunday Times had failed to produce any proof that Mahathir had been implicated.

This is confirmed later by a clarification by the editor of London Sunday Times, Andrew Neil that his newspaper at no stage had claimed that Mahathir had sought a bribe or was paid one and that its story “had made clear that, in the end, no money changed hands”.

DAP agrees that the London Sunday Times had been irresponsible in not openly apologising for the Wimpey story, for the imputation that Mahathir was corrupt was very clear from its February 20 report.

Wimpey had also denied that it had paid bribes to Malasian politicians in 1985 in pursuit of an aluminium smelter project.

Wimpey’s denial has been acknowledged by Londan Sunday Times in a report on Malaysia in its issue of March 13, although I said that the bribery was not paid because the deal fell through and that if the deal had gone through, around ten million British pounds or RM50 million would have been paid in “special payments.”

As Mahathir case against London Sunday Times is so clear-cut, he should institute legal proceedings against London Sunday Times to clear his name, reputation and character.

Malaysians cannot understand why Mahathir is reluctant to institute legal proceedings against London Sunday Times.

I challenge Mahathir to sue London Sunday Times for defamation, not only to clear his own name but also the name of Malaysia.

It is not that Mahathir had never taken legal action against newspaper for defamation. A few years ago, he took legal action against the Far Eastern Economic Review for defamation in connection with a report that he wanted to hand over Limbang to the Sultan of Brunei, and he won the case in an out-of-court of settlement.

Why is Mahathir afraid to sue London Sunday Times this time?It is because he had to institute the legal proceedings in the British court of law?

Although we deplore the unsubstantiated allegation in the Wimpey story of London Sunday Times that Mahathir was corrupt, we cannot dismiss the entire London Sunday Times article as ‘figment of the imagination’.

This is because the Wimpey story named names as well as referred to documents and correspondence, which calls for a full explanation by all those involved.

DAP calls for public inquiry into all other aspects of the Wimpey story, in particular where names had been named and documents referred to.

Parliament must take serious note, for instance, of the London Sunday Times report that there were documents to show that he Malaysian and British Governments had discussed in 1985 on how the project should proceed, and that “the next stage of the project was dependent on a joint decisions by the Malaysian and UK governments” and the probable involvement of British aid.

The London Sunday Times report then went on to name names and to refer to documents in its possession, as follows:

“Internal company documents show that negotiations and a feasibility study ran through the summer of 1985, and that British aid was being sought for the deal.

“By September, however, the political ‘team’ recruited by Wimpey in Malaysia was ‘pressing for payments as an earnest of Wimpey’s intentions.’ The original team recruited by Wimpey appears to have been Tunku Razaleigh Hamzah, minister of trade and industry, and Selva Rajah, a friend of the prime minister.

“A memo, dated September 20, 1985, stated that ‘contact has been made directly with Dr, Mahathir’. It added that Mahathir had asked for and obtained from hose involved an assurance they are happy with the way in which it is proposed they should be looked after.’ The same memo refers to the ‘account numbers in Switzerland to which fees related to contract award are to be paid.’”

Malaysians are entitled to know whether:

1. There had been a proposal by Wimpey to build an aluminium smelter in Malaysia in 1985 and whether feasibility study had been made that year;
2. Whether this proposed aluminium smelter had been a subject of discussion between the Malaysian and British Governments in 1985;
3. Whether the proposed Wimpey alminium smelter was ever considered as a British aid project for Malaysia;
4. Whether the Malaysian Government had ever considered the Wimpey proposal and up to which stage of the discussions was the decision taken to reject the proposal and why; and
5. Whether the “account numbers in Switzerland to which fees related to contract award are to be paid” are genuine accounts or fictitious ones.

These are all pertinent questions which Malaysians are entitled to a full answer. These answers would be forthcoming if Mahathir sues London Sunday Times for defamation. Alternatively, a public inquiry should be established into all aspects of the Wimpey story- with particular reference to the names named, the documents referred to and the nominated “account numbers in Switzerland”.

Parliament cannot turn a blind eye to the numerous allegations questioning propriety, accountability, transparency and integrity of Malaysian leaders in various business deals if Malaysians are to hold their heads high internationally.

The concerns of Malaysian MPs and Malaysian people are not the same as the concerns of the British MPs and the British people. For instance, Malaysians are not concerned as to whether there had been a misuse or even illegal use of the British aids programme as a ‘sweetener’ to get Malaysian contracts.

Malaysians have no objections if the British Government wants to give special terms or ‘sweeteners’ to the Malaysian Government in order to secure defence contracts. However, all these transactions must be above-board, can with-stand public scrutiny, and the ‘sweeteners’if any must be for the Malaysian Government and not to individual government leaders or companies associated woth them at the expense and interests of the Malaysian taxpayes.

The Malaysia Government and Parliament cannot turn a blind eye to the numerous allegations which have been raised in the British mass media questioning the propriety, accountability, transparency and integrity of Malaysian leaders in various business deals and transactions if, Malaysians are to hold their heads high internationally.

For instance, allegations have been made that the Malaysian Government had been overcharged for defence equipment bought through GEC Malaysia’s subsidiary, GEC Marconi Projects Malaysia (GMPC), and that documentation showed that the Malaysian Government had paid up to twice the going rate for radar communications package which had been sold to GMPC for less than 100 million pounds sterling.

There is also the allegation that Malaysia had paid excessively for the frigates from Yarrow Shipbuilders, the GEC subsidiary, compared to the lower-priced and better-equipped ones built at the Swan Hunter Shipyard, which supplied frigates to the British Royal Navy.

This is not the first time that there had been allegations of overcharging of British arms under the RM5 billion Memorandum of Understanding signed between Mahathir and Margeret Thatcher.

As far back as MA\ay 1989, the London Observer had made serious allegations that the Malaysian Government was being overcharged for the Tornados deal, when the Tornado were the first jetfighter choice of the Malaysian Government.

Mahathir’s eldest son, Mirzan Mahathir, specifically named as a beneficiary of the RM5 billion MOU on British arms purchase

What was even more serious, the Observer also alleged at that time that the RM5 billion MOU on Malaysian purchase of British arms involved an ‘up-front payment’ of RM500 million –RM300 million to UMNO and RM200 million to agents and ruling parties.

The British mass media have not only proved that the GEC companies are some of the main beneficiaries of the MOU on Malaysian purchase of British arms, as well as the RM1.8 billion Pergau hydroelectric dam project, the London Sunday Times in its report under the heading “Mahathir ‘s men made millions from British taxpayers’ money” specifically named as a beneficiary Mirzan Mhathir, the eldest son of the Prime Minister, described asa “business associate of Tan Sri Arumugam; a close friend of Mahathir, who co-ordinated the 1.3 billion pound sterling defence deal”.

All self-respecting Malaysians would want to know answers, for instance, to some of the following questions:

• Why the Pergau hydroelectric dam contract was awarded to Balfour Beatty/ Cementation International without open tender;

• Why Balfour Beatty was allowed to raise the cost of the Pergau project by some 81 million pound sterling days after the agreement was signed between the Prime Ministers of Malaysia and Britain in 1988;

• What was the real connection between the RM5 billion MOU Malaysia arms purchase with the Pergau project;

• Whether the Malaysian Government had been overcharged for the various British defence purchases, such as Hawks fighter jets, frigates, radar communications – even to he extent o double the market prices, and why;

• Who are the local agents for the British defence deals;

• Did senior members of Malaysia’s ruling parties make huge windfall profits from the privatisation and flotation of TENEGA NASIONAL shares;

• Did the British Government suppress 150 documents during the extradition proceedings against Lorrain Osman in order to help the Malaysian Government in a ‘cover-up’ of the RM2.5 billion Bumiputra Malaysia Finance scandal, as part of the British Government’s effort to get Malaysia to end its ‘Buy British Last’ campaign and to sign the RM5 billion MOU on defence purchases.

If these questions are not answered, then the national image, credibility and integrity will be under a cloud, not only at home but internationally as well.

It is for this reason that the All-Party Parliamentary Committee on Parliamentary Honour and National Integrity was formed in February, but unfortunately, Barisan Nasional MPs were not prepared to take a common stand with the Opposition on larger national interests to protect national integrity and parliamentary honour.

It would appear that on questions of national integrity and parliamentary honour, the Barisan Nasional leaders are only interested in playing political games and scoring points.

Even government agencies are influenced by such narrow partisan considerations where they fail to distinguish between the national interest from the interests of ruling political parties.

DAP leaders would have been investigated and even arrested if the London Observer had alleged that it was DAP, and not UMNO, which had received an ‘up-front payment’ of RM300 million

For instance, although numerous allegations about corruption, abuses of power and improprieties of Malaysian leaders in Government had been appearing in the British mass media in the past few months, neither the Police nor the Anti-Corruption Agency had taken any action to investigate these reports.

Malaysians have no doubt that if the British mass media allegations had been directed against the Opposition, and in particular the DAP, the Police and the ACA would have acted against DAP leaders without hesitation.

For instance, if it was the DAP and not UMNO which had been alleged by London Observer to have received an ‘up-front payment’ of RM300 million, DAP leaders would have been investigated and even arrested by the Police already.

This can only reinforce national and international view that in Malaysia, corruption in high political places in government is no offence. The offence is only when it is committed by the Opposition!

Such double standards are also rampant in the Government including the top Police personnel. For instances, foreign mass media allegations against government leaders are automatically taken as lies while allegations against the Opposition are regarded as prima facie true.

Whipping up frenzy to create a scenario to arrest DAP leaders for taking bribes from foreign spies

This was best illustrated by the Government and Police early this year. At the end of January, the Barisan Nasional Government tried to exploit for its political purpose a Sydney Sunday Telegraph report on January 16 alleging that Opposition politicians and MPs in Malaysia had been taking bribes from Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) agents.

Even the PRIME Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir said that there must be some basis to the Sydney Sunday Telegraph report, and every day, one Cabinet Minister after another was demanding to know who were the Opposition politicians and MPs who have become ‘traitors’ of the nation.

Gerakan President and Primary Industries Minister even made the defamatory insinuation over RTM that I had taken bribes from foreign spies alleging that my quick and strong reaction to the Sydney Sunday Telegraph allegation showed that I had ‘guilty conscience’.

I had challenged Keng Yaik to confirm what he had said on RTM so that I could sue him, or to withdraw and apologise for his insinuation, but he had no honour to do either.

Within one week, the whipping up of frenzy in the official mass media seemed to have set a scenario for the mass arrest of DAP leaders for being agents of foreign powers, for the new Inspector-General of Police, TAN Sri Rahim Noor, even made a public statement that preliminary investigations by the police showed that there was basis in the allegation.

He said that the Police was prepared to use the Internal Security Act, under which, as everybody knows, no evidence or even investigations are needed to detain a person indefinitely without trial.

However, the tables were turned when the Canberra Times came out with a report on February 3, clearing Opposition politicians and pointed out that the receipients of ASIS bribes were government politicians and UMNO leaders.

The Canberral Times report heading “ASIS Cash Not for Opposition”, states:

Malaysia and Singapore have been looking in the wrong places for receipients of financial largesse from the Australian secret service, ASIS.

A newspaper report last month said Opposition politicians from both countries had been paid by ASIS –but the receipients were in fact government politicians, according to highly-placed diplomatic and intelligence sources.

“What would be the point of cultivating people out of power with little hope of winning power? It doesn’t make sense,” a source told The Canberra Times.

The object of the exercise, long since abandoned, had been to acquire a degeree of leverage within the ruling elites by ‘sponsoring’ politicians who were seen as potential contenders for power.

In Malaysia, the focus of the operation, in which tens of thousands of dollars was spent, was on politicians from the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) – seens as less than enthusiastic about the leadership of Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, whose destinclty anti-Australian views are well known.

“If you like, they were opposition politicians in the loose sense – oppositionists within the ruling parties, not the formal capital –o opposition,” said a source.

According to sources, ASIS abandoned payments four years ago after they had continued for many years, unknown to the Australian Government.

The payments had been halted when it was decided that little of value was being chieved through their continuation.

Who are these government MPs and UMNO leaders who had been taking bribes from ASIS until four years ago? This would narrow down to the time period just before the 1990 general elections, not excluding those who are today Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Minister or full Minister.

This is a most serious allegation and warrant a special Cabinet meeting. But no, the Cabinet was not interested in the Canberra Times report although it had a special discussion on the Sydney Sunday Telegraph report before releasing its report to the local press.

Tan Sri Rahim Noor was not speaking as the top policeman in the country but as a politician

The Government, Police and the mass media also lost interest in the allegation because the target is no more the opposition but the Government politicians! Clearly, they are not interested in the truth, but only in playing politics.

Are the Government and the Police of the view that it is only treasonous crime if Opposition politicians accept bribes from foreign powers, but fully permissible if the receipients are government politicians including Ministers and Deputy Ministers?

The All-Party Parliamentary Committee on Parliamentary Honour and National Integrity had twice invited the Inspector-General of Police to give a briefing on his statement that preliminary police investigations showed that there was basis in the Sydney Sunday Telegraph allegation, but he had declined both invitations. The reason is very clear: the IGP was not acting as a top policeman of the country but as a politician when he made such a statement! He had no proof or basis to make such a statement whatsoever!