Speech by Penang Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in the Penang State Assembly on the 1995 Budget on Thursday, 8th December 1994
Tsu Loon has again shown his ‘little cleverness’ by being the first and only Chief Minister to manipulate question time so as to suppress opposition questions on controversial issues from having time for answer
I must start by congratulating the Penang Chief Minister Dr. Koh Tsu Loon for he must have been very pleased, with himself for establishing a new assembly record on Monday where he again showed his ‘little cleverness’ by being the first and’ only Chief Minister to manipulate question time so as’ to suppress opposition questions on current and controversial issues from having the time for answer.
This is however not the conduct of a Chief Minister who feels that he has full command in the State Assembly but thee behaviour of one who is afraid of the State Assembly proceedings.
The former Chief Minister Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu in his 21 years in office never had to resort to such cheap tactics.
Before the State Assembly meeting, Tsu Loon must have had several stategy sessions to plot ways and means to prevent DAP Assemblymen from raising current and controversial issues during the three-hour question time on the first day of the assembly, as in the past four years both the Chief Minister and his Exco members had been shown up in very poor light because of their inability to answer probing opposition supplementary quest ions.
The strategy which Tsu Loon has adopted for Monday’s three-hour question time was two-pronged.
The first prong was to plant Barisan questions in the beginning, and in this, case, for the first time in his four-year term as Chief Minister, the first seven questions were all Dansan questions. The second prong was for Tsu Loon ‘to give very long-winded and repetitive answers to the questions lasting from 20 to 30 minutes each so as to crowd out the time for DAP quest ions on current and controversial issues from surfacing.
Most of the Barisan planted questions had been answered by Koh Tsu Loon in previous State Assembly meetings in great repetitive length as for instance, on the question by his own political secretary Goik Hock Lai on the Indonesian-Malaysian- Thailand Growth Triangle.
At the last assembly meeting in June, there was also a planted Barisan question on the IMT-GT by the assemblyman from Kebun Bunga Dr. Teng Hock Nan, which was then placed No. 4th on the list, which Tsu Loon had answered at great length.
What Tsu Loon said on Monday on IMT-GT was mostly repetition of his reply in the Assembly in June and this also applied to ‘his answers to the other planted Barisan questions.
The purpose of question time is for assemblymen to elicit answers from the government on its positions particularly on current and controversial issues so that it is kept on its toes in having to account to the people for its actions and
However Koh Tsu Koon had completely abused and perverted this assembly practice by his two-prong strategy to prevent DAP questions on current and controversial issues from having the time to be answered, followed by supplementary questions.
This was why on Monday, only 11 out of the 74 oral questions were answered in the three-hour question time,, which created history in the Penang State Assembly in having the least number of questions answered during the question-and-answer session.
In contrast, during the Penang Assembly Meetings on December 17, 1990, 50 out of 55 questions were answered; on June 2, 1992, 41 out of 58 questions were answered; on December 7, 1992, 40 out of 73 questions were answered; on Juno 12,’ 1993, 16 out of 59 questions were answered: on, December 7, 1993, 17 out of 65 questions were answered; and on flay 31, 1994, 17 out of 66 questions were answered.
Tsu Koon’s trickery in manipulating the question time reminds me of his role’ in Parliament in 1983 when he was the MP for Tanjong when he played the role of a ‘Ninja Assasin’ and helped UMNO to kill the DAP motion to repeal section 21(2) of 1961 Education Act to ensure that Chinese primary schools will never change character or be converted into national primary schools. What Tsu Koon did then was to filibuster on an comparatively inconsequential bill so as to kill time for the DAP mot ion.
I feel very sorry for flu ‘Koon that he should be up to his old tricks again.
Although he has succeeded in denying the DAP questions on current and controversial issues the opportunities of a full question-and-answer session, and in the process hogged the newspaper coverage with his long and repetitive’ answers, he has done a great disservice to the principle of democratic accountability.
Why should Tsu Koon hi so petty minded as to play such cheap and silly games, which no Chief Minister, Menteri Besar or Federal Minister had ever done?
In Parliament for instance, when there is a daily hour-long question time, if the Federal Sinister has resorted to the Koh Tsu Koon tricks for long-winded and repetitious answers, then only three or four questions would be answered each day.
A responsible Chief Minister would have borne in mind the importance of having as many oral questions answered as possible especially as the State Assembly meets so rarely and is convened once in six months, and not to think of tricks to answer as few questions as possible to avoid embarrassing DAP supplementary questions.
Tsu Koon ‘killed’ the question on Hotel Metropole Demolition ‘for fear that it might highlight the scandal of Penang having three Chief Ministers
We must ask why Tsu Koon is so afraid of the current and controversial issues posed by the DAP assemblymen.
One of the questions ‘killed’ on Monday was my question as to why the HPPP had given a year-long extension to Dolphin Square Sdn Bhd for the reconstruction of Hotel Metropole which was demolished in a scandalous manner last Christmas, whether the owner had undertaken to rebuild Hotel Metropole to its original condition and whether the extension of time was at the initiative of MPPP or Dolphin Square Sdn Bhd.
Tsu Koon must be afraid that this question if allowed to come up for supplementary questions, would throw him in a very bad light as it would highlight the scandal of Penang having three Chief Ministers, and that Tsu loon’s writ from the 28th floor of Komtar does not extend to Tan Gim Hwa, the MPPP President on the 17th floor of Komtar.
As the question was ‘killed’ and could not come up during the three-hour question and answer session, I have been given a written reply which is most evasive and unsatisfactory.
The written answer is as follows:
‘Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang telah meluluskan tempoh lanjutan setahun mulai 3/7/1994 kepada
Dolphin Square Sdn Bhd untuk membina semula bangun an Hotel Metropole mengikut bentuk asal kerana tempoh masa yang agak penjang adalah diperlukan untuk membina semula bangunan Hotel Metropole.
Pemberian lanjutan mada itu dibuat oleh kerana satu rayuan telah diterima daripada Dolphin Square Sdn Bhd supaya diberi masa mematuhi membinasemula bangunan itu.’
Koh Tsu loon would have been torn to pieces with such an evasive and unsatisfactory reply if the DAP had been able to put supplementary questions, as everybody knows that the one-year extension is mere ‘play acting’ to delay the whole issue until after the next general elections. The people of Penang have no doubt that if Gerakan is returned as the state government of Penang in the next general elections, the MPPP would reverse its decision where Dolphin Square Sdn Bhd would not be required to rebuild Hotel Metropole but could undertake full development on the Hotel Metropole site.
Thu loon would be required to declare whether he agreed with the MPPP decision to give one-year extension to Dolphin Square Sdn Bhd for the reconstruction of Hotel Metropole, when Dolphin Square Sdn Bhd had never admitted that it had acted wrongly and illegally in demolishing the heritage building.
In fact, five months have passed since the granting of the one-year extension on July 3, 1994, which means the owner has a total of more than 11 months for the reconstruction of Hotel Metropole since its demolition.
Anybody who passes the Hotel Metropole site can see there is no intention whatsoever on anybody’s part to reconstruct Hotel Metropole in accordance with its original design which makes the one-year MPPP extension even more untenable and deplorable.
That Hotel Metropole scandal is a Gerakan scandal is an established fact in Penang and this is why the Penang state government has refused to establish a public enquiry to ascertain the real nature of the sale of Hotel Metropole St Bhd by Penang Gerakan leaders like Tan Gim Hwa to Gerakan national leaders through the Gerakan ‘investment arm’ Cempaka Sdn Bhd, and the subsequent sale of the hotel to a RM2 company Dolphin Square Sdn Bhd for RM9.5 million – accompanied by the surreptitious removal of Hotel Metropole from the original MPPP heritage list and its lightning demolition last Christmas.
No Gerakan leader has dared to openly deny that Cempaka Sdn Bhd is Gerakan’s ‘investment are. I had already revealed that according to the June 1993 records with the. Registrar of Companies,, the Directors of Cempaka Sdn Bhd were the Gerakan’ Secretary General Tan Sri Chan Choong Tat, the Gerakan Treasurer General Datuk Soong Siew bong, and Lim Guan Eng, brother of Gerakan President, Datuk Sri Dr. LimKeng Yaik.
In fact, in a recent secret general elections strategy paper, the Gerakan admitted that one of its weaknesses which will make it vulnerable to DAP attack, is precisely the issue of the Hotel Metropole demolition scandal involving the Gerakan ‘investment arm’ Cempaka Sdn Bhd.
DAP ‘serves notice that it would establish a public enquiry Into the Hotel Metropole demolition scandal if we capture the Penang state government in the next general elections
It is also open knowledge that Cempaka Sdn Bhd and its subsidiary companies have also been used to employ Gerakan party backs and mercenaries.
It is because of Gerakan’s fear of the Metropole scandal that Tsu Koon has resorted to the dishonourable manuoeuvre to ‘kill’ my question on this issue during question time.
I give notice that if the DAP captures the Penang state government in the next general elections, the DAP will establish a public enquiry into the Hotel Metropole demolition scandal and we will not permit anyone to play for time so that they could be rewarded for the destruct ion of a part of Penang heritage.
Such an inquiry will also investigate into the allegation by the former MPPP conservation consultant Alexander Koenig that urban conservation efforts in Penang had been obstructed and sabotaged by Gerakan leaders and Councillors who teamed up with rich landowners
Another embarrassing question which Tsu Koon wanted to ‘kill’ was my question on the double-standards practised by the MPPP in refusing the DAP to use the Taman Free School grounds to organise a 10,000-people Tanjong 3 Dinner on October 1, which resulted in the DAP holding ten most successful 1,000-people Tanjong 3 Dinners in Penang in October to launch off the Full Liberalisation campaign.
The Gerakan Jelutong division had held a dinner on Taman Free School grounds on July 17, whose sole objective was to attack the DAP and myself. However the MPPP refused to allow the DAP the same facility to use the Taman Free School grounds unless we invited Koh Tsu Koon, Ibrahim Saad or state Exco Members to be guest of honour.
What type of democracy is this? At least during Dr. Lim Choong Eu’s time, he was not so fearful of his own shadow like the present Chief Minister as the DAP was able to organise a 10,000 people dinner on the Esplanade grounds in 1989.
This may explain why the Gerakan has become the biggest enemy against democratisation and full liberalisation as they not only’ opposed the lifting of the ban on public rallies to allow for free, fair and clean general elections, they are also making things more undemocratic in Penang and in the state assembly.
There are other questions which Tsu Koon find very embarrassing and want them to be shut out from question-and– answer session, like the mini bus controversy, which again high- lights the weak, subservient and marginal. role of Koh Thu Keen whether at state or federal government level; the Longest Beach Buffet Party which became the World’s Biggest Rip-off; abuses in state awards; corruption in Penang football which is under the charge of Koh Tsu Koori; and the Bukit Minyak toxic-waste transit centre.
Koh Tsu Koon may think that he is very smart. and clever in perverting the question-and-answer session but only the ‘small man’ will go for such cheap thrills as it only highlights his total lack of confidence in himself as well as his lack of sympathy and understanding for increasing demands for greater democratisation and liberalisation.
This was why yesterday Tsu Koon, assuming that I was not available, tried to pull another trick, wanting to catch the DAP by surprise and adjourn the debate on the budget by getting the first Exco member to start the winding-up after the speech by the DAP Assemblyman for Pangkalan Kota Chow Ken Yeow.
This manoeuvre was foiled when I turned up in the State Assembly in the course of Chow’s speech.
The question is why the Chief Minister of Penang should indulge in such a childish game?
This may be the real reason behind the demonstration yesterday by so called MCA members in Tanjong against me in the State Assembly. I will riot he surprised if the whole demonstration had been planned with the connivance of Tsu Koon and the Gerakan leaders, for several of them gave moral support to the ‘demonstration’ yesterday.
The demonstrators, and their connivers, were actually a pathetic sight for they dared riot, demonstrate against gross injustices and inequalities like ‘rampant corruption, the specific case of Rahim Tamby Cik’ corruption; government double-standards and the outragous treatment of the 16-year-old girl named in the allegation that Rahim Pamby Cik had committed statutory rape with an underaged girl; gross incompetence and negligence like six fires at the Kuala Lumpur international Airport in two years or land acquisition abuses and injustices.
The demonstrators and their connivers in top Gerakan leadership therefore have no credibility and credentials whatsoever.
It may be that. Tsu Koon has become so obsessed by the coming general elections that he is acting so out of character.
For instance, he must have complained to the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Mahat.hir Mohained during the latter’ s three-day visit to Penang in July this year causing the Prime Minister to accuse the DAP of being chauvinistic because we raised Chinese education issues. Dr. Mahathir must be refering to the DAP’s motion and calls in the Penang State Assembly wanting the state government to give regular annual allocations to the Chinese Independent Secondary Schools in Penang and that the state government give more meaningful financial assistance to the Chinese primary schools.
Tsu Koon has forgotten his roots as he had pledged to ‘attack into the BN to rectify the BN’ on Chinese education issues. But now, he has gone to the opposite camp and denounces to the Prime Minister and other UMNO leaders those who want mother-tongue education to get Justice and rightful place in Malaysian society as ‘chauvinists’.
Is this the price that Tsu Koon must pay in order to continue as Chief Minister in Penang, although more in name than in fact, and worse still, being only the third-ranking ‘Chief Minister’ in Penang?
DAP proposes an emergency Assembly resolution urging the immediate lifting of the ban on public rallies and the holding of ‘free, fair and clean’ general elections
Dr. Koh Tsu Noon should not be too obsessed and preoccupied with personal and party considerations as to the likely outcome of the next general elections, and in particular whether the Gerakan in Penang will be completely removed from the state government. As political leaders, we should be more concerned about creating conditions for greater freedom and the development of the potentials of the pec.ple whether in the state or nation.
In this regard, I challenge the Penang Gerakan to join the DAP in demanding for ‘tree, fair and clean’ general elections where public rallies and fair mass media coverage are allowed.
At present, although elections are held regularly, they are far from ‘free, fair and clean’ and therefore democratic. There are for instance over 1,200 duplicate voters in Penang state on the 1993 certified electoral roll – i.e. the multiple registration of voters using the same identity card number but with different names, addresses, gender, race and constituencies.
Throughout the country, there are over 30,000 duplicate or multiple voters using the same identity card number. Up to now the Election Commission has been unable to explain for instance there could be 13 registration of voters using different names, addresses, gender and race under one common identity card.
There are of cause other weaknesses and blemishes in the electoral process like the politics of money, blackmail and fear.
As the constitution and legitimacy of the next State Assembly would be affected by the question as to whether the next general elections is conducted in a ‘fair, free, clean manner, I propose that the current State Assembly meeting adopt an emergency motion urging the Election Commission, the Federal Government and all other agencies concerned to ensure the holding of ‘tree, fair and clean’ general elections which should include the immediate lifting of the ban on public rallies.
I will leave it to the Chief Minister to move such a motion as it will be a test as to where the Penang Gerakan and Barisan Nasional stand on the crucial question of ‘free, fair, clean’ general elections.
DAP calls on the Penang state government to take the lead to honour the undertaking by former Deputy Prime Minister Ghafar Baba to allow land owners affected by land acquisitions the opportunity to take part in joint-venture development of their land
Last night, at a meeting in Bukit Mertajam, land- owners affected by unfair and unjust acquisition of their land by the Penang state government expressed their grievances and their feeling of being robbed of their property rights.
In one case in Seberang Prai Tengah the landowners only discovered after more than three years that their land had been acquired by the state government. In June 1990 the section 4 notice to acquire was gazzetted while the section 8 notice of acquisition was gazzetted in March 1991 while compensation was deposited in the High Court in December 1992.
However throughout these period, the landowners were kept in the dark and they continued to pay quit rent and the Land Office also continued to collect quit rent from them from .1990 until 1993.
This is most scandalous. The owners bought the 0.725 acre of land for RM47, 371.50 in November 1980 and they are offerred compensation of RM58, 680. Even if the money had been placed in the bank all these years to gain interests, it will be worth more than the compensation being offered.
The question is whether in this particular case, the Chief Minister is prepared to admit that the state government had illegally acquired the land concerned without giving proper notice to the land owners and would cancel the entire land acquisition process
Of course, Tsu Koon can come up with the standard reply that the affected landowners are entitled to go to the courts to protect their rights.
Unfortunately, landowners whose rights have been adversely affected by arbitrary, inequitable and unfair land acquisitions have lost confidence in the courts as a protector of their rights. This is particularly so after the 1991 land Acquisition Amendment Act which allowed land to be acquired not only .f or public purpose but also for private development by private companies and individuals.
DAP calls on the Penang state government to take the lead to honour the undertaking given by former Deputy Prime Minister Ghafar Baba to allow land owners affected by land acquisitions the opportunity to take part in joint-venture development of their land.
Ghafar Baba gave this undertaking in Parliament in July 1991 to allay widespread fears and objections to the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill but this solemn promise, to be implemented by all, state government, has been completely forgotten, even by the Penang state government.
Four new principles for land acquisition in Penang to give justice and fair play to the affected landowners’
The DAP calls on the Penang state government to accept the following tour principles as the new basis for land acquisition in the state to give justice and fair play to the affected landowners:
(1) There must be a clear distinction between land acquisition for public purpose like the building of schools, hospitals and government complexes and land acquisition for development by private companies or individuals.
(2) There must be higher compensation in cases of land acquisition for development by private companies or individuals which must take into account the intended development potential and land use
of the property concerned.
(3) In cases of acquisition for private development, the affected landowners should also be given the first option of participating in joint venture development of the land so that they could share in the profits of development.
(4) The establishment o a Land Acquisition Arbitration Tribunal to arbitrate land acquisition controversies under these new guidelines.
Penang should be the engine-head of full liberalisation in Malaysia
I would advise Koh Tsu Koon to dare to breathe the air of full liberalisation and in particular to support and adopt the DAPs Nation-Building Policies on Full Liberalisation, Real Democracy and Human Rights, A Clean and Accountable Government, The Charter on Mother-Tongue Education and to turn Penang into a model state and engine-head for full liberalisation in Malaysia.
The immediate steps that can be taken are:
1) Restore democracy to the Penang state assembly through assembly reforms and hold frequent state assembly meetings to get regular feed-back from the people and to make the assembly the highest legislative and political forum in the state;
(2) Restore democracy to the municipal councils;
(3) The introduction of new land acquisition policy to allow landowners affected by land acquisition the opportunity to participate in the joint-venture development of their land.
(4) Restore the rightful place of Mother-Tongue educations through: –
a. Provision of state government regular allocation to Chinese Independent Secondary school and Chinese and Tamil primary schools;
b. Offer of site in Penang to make the state the centre of Chinese education in South-East-Asia whether primary, secondary or university level;
(5) Promote Penang as a centre f or all religions including: –
a. Government approval and support for the reconstruction of the Kwan Yin statue at Kek Lok See whether to its original 121 feet height or a taller statue, which will not only be a symbol of inter-religious harmony in Penang, but will be a great premier tourist attraction for the state and nation;
b. Pull respect for all religious festivals and processions to prevent the repetition of incidents which violate religious sensitivities and rights of Malaysians.