15th February 1998.
New Sunday Times.
It is Kadir Jasin who failed to check the facts before making comments on the Tanah Putih, Gua Musang land case
I refer to last Sunday’s “Other Thots – by A. Kadir Jasin’ where Kadir Jasin accused me of “desperation to score political points and to belittle the MCA and Gerakan, he failed to check his facts”.
Kadir Jasin wrote:
“For weeks he had been issuing Press statements challenging the MCA and Gerakan leaders to join him in the fight against land acquisition by the Pas-led Kelantan Government affecting some 500 Chinese smallholders in Tanah Putih.
“So when he visited Gua Musang on Monday, he discovered to his horror that they did not have titles to the land and out of the 500, only 30 had ever paid deposits for the land.
“Chargined, Lim meekly told reporters that the party sympathised with the farmers of their plight and promised to assist them in whatever way possible.”
It is Kadir Jasin who is guilty of the sin of not checking his facts before making comments on an issue.
In this case, Kadir’s sin is further compounded for this is a rudimentary error no journalist should ever make.
If Kadir Jasin had checked the facts, or read the press statements which I had issued on the matter, he would have realised that it was the MCA and Gerakan which had made the claim that the Kelantan State Government had acquired the land of 500 Chinese smallholders in Tanah Putih, Gua Musang under the Land Acquisition Act without compensation and the further allegation that the DAP was applying ‘double standards’ in not opposing such illegal land acqusition by the Kelantan State Government while taking a strong stand against land acquisition abuses and injustices in other states under Barisan Nasional government.
It was as a result of this allegation, which was repeated ad nauseam by the MCA and Gerakan, that I declared that if it is true that the Kelantan State Government had acquired land in Tanah Putih under the Land Acquisition Act without compensation, the DAP is prepared to institute legal proceedings against the Kelantan State Government for its illegal and unconstitutional action.
The question of my “discovering to my horror” during my visit to Tanah Putin on February 5 that the Tanah Putih farmers have no titles never arose – for I had always been under the impression that the Tanah Putih farmers do not have legal title although some of them had opened up and cultivated the land for as long as 25 years.
My visit to Gua Musang with DAP MPs and leaders was to establish as to whether the MCA and Gerakan claims that the Tanah Putih MCA members and farmers have legal title to their land have any basis. In the visit, I not only found that this was not a Land Acquisition Act case, but that, the MCA had on the Tanah Putih issue alone told at least a dozen lies – including the claim that 500 Chinese smallholders were involved when I have been given only 152 names.
Kadir Jasin is clearly one of the victims of the MCA propaganda of lies on the Tanah Putih land issue against the DAP.
Although the Tanah Putih farmers have no legal title to their land, they have created socio-economic rights as a result of their long-standing opening and cultivation of Tanah Putih which should be respected by any State Government.
It was for this reason that during my visit to Tanah Putih, I accepted the request of the Tanah Putih farmers – 98 per cent of whom are MCA members and 100 per cent of the Gua Musang Branch of the National Smallholders Association are from the MCA to make representation to the Kelantan State Government to uphold their socio-economic rights, as in demanding that the Kelantan State Government cancel its plan to take back the Tanah Putih land from the MCA members and farmers for low-cost housing scheme to resettle Gua Musang squatters and select, another piece of land for such resettlement, or give fair compensation in terms of alternative land or monetary assistance.
However, I suspended making representation to the Kelantan State Government because of the objections of the MCA national leadership, which still insists that the Tanah Putih MCA members and farmers have legal rights and claims to their land, and that the DAP would be betraying their legal rights and claims by fighting for their socio-economic rights.
The DAP is not abandoning the fight for justice and fair play for the Tanah Putih MCA members and farmers. But we do not want to undermine or jeopardise their legal rights if the MCA national leadership and the Tanah Putih, Gua Musang MCA are convinced that they have legal rights and claims.
There is in fact no need for the Tanah Putih MCA members and farmers to fight for their socio-economic rights over their land, if they have legal rights.
However, once the MCA national leadership has exhausted all avenues to vindicate the legal rights of the Tanah Putih MCA members and farmers, or the MCA national leadership admits that the Tanah Putih MCA members and farmers do not have any legal rights or claims, the DAP is prepared to resume its plan to make representation to the Kelantan State Government on the socio-economic rights of the Tanah Putih MCA members and farmers.
Kadir Jasin’s snide remarks against DAP and hypothesis about the two “major reasons” for exploiting the Tanah Putih issue are therefore totally unwarranted and baseless.
I do not want to enter into a polemics with Kadir Jasin, but can we expect honesty and decency from New Sunday Times to at least put the record straight?
Opinions may be free, even opinions without basis, but surely we have not reached a stage where we have abandoned the precept that ‘facts are sacred’.
(Lim Kit Siang)