Three proposals on the Yang di Pertuan Agongís birthday to give teeth to Mahathirís all-out war against corruption - including million-ringgit fines for corruption offences

Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Saturday): In his videoconference from London on Thursday with UMNO leaders after the UMNO Supreme Council meeting, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad ordered UMNO to wage an all-out war against corruption.

He said action must be taken against anyone found guilty even if they were friends.

He said: "We will not defend anybody who is corrupt. Otherwise, people will think that just because we are in power, we protect them...this is not healthy for the party and the Government.

"I think that we should not only be clean but also be seen to be clean, or we will lose our credibility."

Today is a national holiday on the occasion of the Yang di Pertuan Agongís birthday. I would like to make three proposals to make the 1997 Yang di Pertuan Agongís birthday especially meaningful by giving teeth to Mahathirís all-out war against corruption.

These three proposals are:

Congratulations to Abu Hassan on his being sworn in as Selangor Mentri Besar

I congratulate Datuk Abu Hassan Omar on his being sworn in as Selangor Mentri Besar. It has taken the Barisan Nasional leadership nearly two months to get a suitable replacement for the former Mentri Besar, Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib - and for this whole period, the Selangor State had been without a head of government.

It is a sad reflection of the political integrity and morality in the state and country that a senior Cabinet Minister had to resign from the Federal Government and a by-election specially created in order to find a suitable candidate to fulfil the two conditions specified by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad of being "clean and capable" to take over as Selangor Mentri Besar.

Although Federal Ministers had been sent to the states to be heads of government, it had never happened to a senior Federal Cabinet Minister and never in circumstances where a by-election had to be specially created and the post of head of government kept vacant for as long as nearly two months.

Abu Hassanís first task is to restore public confidence in the integrity and uprightness of the state administration.

He should be very careful in selecting the Selangor State Exco members and should not hesitate to leave some Exco positions vacant if there are not enough suitable candidates to fill them.

This is particularly pertinent as the Prime Minister had not been able to find a single UMNO or Barisan Nasional State Exco or Assembly member who could fulfil the two conditions of "clean and honest" to be appointed Mentri Besar.

This can only mean that out of the entire Selangor Barisan Nasional team in the Selangor State Assembly, Abu Hassan is the only person who is recognised and acknowleged by the Prime Minister as both "clean and capable".

All the other UMNO and Barisan State Exco and Assembly members fall into one of the following three categories:

This is clearly not an impressive team to find candidates for a Selangor State Executive line-up where everyone could be regarded as both "clean and capable" in order to establish a "clean and capable" administration in the state.

This is why Abu Hassan should be prepared to leave some State Exco seats vacant if there are no suitable candidates. This is better than appointing members from anyone of the three categories of "clean but not capable", "capable but not clean" and "neither clean nor capable" to be responsible for the future destiny of the Selangor state.

Of course, Abu Hassan needs to have an Exco and cannot operate in solo. Out of these three categories, if there have to be appointments, they can only come from the "clean but not capable" category, but not from the other two categories of "capable but not clean" and "neither clean nor capable"!

It is in this context that the new State Exco announced by Abu Hassan yesterday must be considered. In the new line-up, Abu Hassan had dropped two former Exco members, Datuk Mohamed Aini Taib and S. Rajagopal.

Asked by reporters whether the decision to drop both of them had anything to do with the Anti-Corruption Agencyís investigations into several State Assemblymen, Abu Hassan said he did not say that and that both Aini and Rajagopal wanted to concentrate on their business ventures.

Surely, this cannot be the real reason. If Abu Hassan wants to fulfil his vow to run a "clean, honest and efficient" government, it is time to use frank and even blunt language rather than resort to meaningless diplomatic lingo.

The reactions of both Aini and Rajagopal do not tally with the reasons given by Abu Hassan, which suggested that both of them had asked the new Mentri Besar not re-appoint them to the State Exco because they wanted to "concentrate on their business ventures".

In the first place, how can Aini and Rajagopal have "business ventures" to concentrate on when their former positions as Selangor State Exco members until yesterday were full-time responsibilities and they would have committed serious corruption offences if they had "business ventures" on the sideline.

Secondly, both Aini and Rajagopalís reactions show that they had not voluntarily asked to be dropped from the State Exco. Aini said he would continue to serve as an assemblyman and also in the party but was unsure of his status as president of the Shah Alam Municipal Council and president of the Football Association of Selangor. Rajagopal said he wanted to continue with his studies and dismissed rumours that his exclusion was because of internal squabbling in the MIC. Both these reactions do not tally with Abu Hassanís explanation that they wanted to "concentrate on their business ventures".

The people of Selangor and Malaysia are entitled to a frank and truthful answer from Abu Hassan as to why both Aini and Rajagopal had been dropped from the new line-up.

The people of Selangor and Malaysia also want an answer to the question as to whether such a minor reshuffle by Abu Hassan is adequate to fulfil his pledge reiterated yesterday to run a clean government when the entire Selangor State Government was plunged into a crisis because of the inability of the Prime Minister to find a single UMNO or Barisan Nasional State Exco or Assembly member who is both "clean and capable" to become Selangor Mentri Besar - having finally to resort to the expedient of bringing Abu Hassan down to the state from the Federal Cabinet.


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong