(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): I would like to advise the MCA President and the Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik, to take a serious approach to the problem of all-out war against corruption and not to play politics just to score petty points.
Yesterday, he purportedly expressed full backing to the announcement by the Acting Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, that the fight against corruption would cover all Barisan Nasional parties, and immediately tried to deflect the subject by targetting the opposition parties, particularly the DAP.
He said the fight against corruption should not be concentrated on Barisan leaders alone but should also cover the opposition party leaders as well. He said the opposition leaders were always collecting donations without any public accountability.
He specifically referred to the DAP for raising funds for various purposes including collecting donations from the people of Teluk Intan to pay him following a court decision in his favour amounting to RM30,000 and asked who was to know whether the DAP collected RM3 million rather than RM30,000.
It is fortunate that Liong Sik is not in Singapore, where for such defamatory statements, he would have to pay millions of ringgit in damages. I had sued Liong Sik precisely on such a defamatory statement in connection with the DAPís Save Bukit China campaign in 1984, and I found that I had to pay him costs amounting to RM29,960.
The people of Teluk Intan, who in two ceramahs and one dinner in the by-election, raised the amount to meet Liong Sikís legal costs, know whether I had raised RM3 million from them.
Liong Sikís callous statement is most insulting to the voters of Teluk Intan. But what is more important is that Liong Sik is trying to deflect attention from Anwarís statement that the fight against corruption would not be confined to UMNO but will cover all Barisan Nasional parties.
Is Liong Sik suggesting that the fight against corruption should not extend beyond UMNO to other Barisan Nasional parties unless and until someone in the Opposition is investigated and indicted for corruption by the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA)?
Such an attitude seems to betray a certain fear that the all-out war against corruption might really get serious and will not be confined just to UMNO but will cover all other Barisan Nasional parties - and the demand that the Opposition must also be investigated is thrown out as distraction and decoy.
The DAP and DAP leaders are prepared to be investigated by the Anti-Corruption Agency anytime. The question is whether MCA and MCA leaders are prepared to be investigated by the ACA, as for instance, in probing into where Liong Sikís son, Ling Hee Leong, got all the hundreds of millions of ringgit for his various corporate acquisitions at the age of 27?
The February 7 issue of Asiaweek, for instance, carried the following item under the heading: Money Doesn't Grow on Trees:
"Malaysia's business circles are abuzz over the recent corporate purchases - notably of engineering firm Promet - by Ling Hee Leong, son of transport minister and Malaysian Chinese Association leader Ling Liong Sik. Businessman Soh Chee Wen is suspected to have sold Promet to Ling Jr. As a way of thanking the elder Ling for appointing him to the MCA executive committee. But the question remains: Where did the 27-year-old get the money to make the (US)$480-million acquisitions? Some speculate that he may be a frontman for tycoons Tan Koon Swan and Lee San Choon, both former MCA presidents. Ling Jr. simply says he got the money from bank loans. Grassroots partymen aren't convinced, and word is that even Dad is perturbed by the negative vibes from the corporate forays."
Liong Sik should take not of the warning given by the new Malacca Chief Minister, Datuk Abu Zahar Isnin to his State Exco members that they must ensure that the business activities of their family members do not give rise to any public suspicion of conflict of interest as well as the warning by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad that leaders must not only be clean but must be seen to be clean.
Under these circumstances, is Liong Sik prepared to set a good example by inviting the Anti-Corruption Agency to conduct a full-scale investigation into the sources of his sonís extraordinary corporate acquistions which have been estimated to exceed RM1.2 billion in a matter of nine months to establish that there is no conflict of interest whatsoever with his political and Ministerial responsibilities?
Liong Sik seems to have forgotten the maxim that those who stay in glass houses should not throw stones.
I want to make it very clear that I had never said a word about Ling Liong Sik and Ling Hee Leong in the past year and would not have mentioned it if the MCA President had not tried to deflect national attention on the need for an all-out war against corruption by claiming that Opposition leaders should also be investigated for corruption by ACA.
Opposition leaders in Malaysia in the past decade had always operated under the risk where they could be arrested and charged in court with or without cause, while Barisan Nasional leaders could get away scot-free even when guilty of the most heinous of crimes, whether it be corruption or gross abuses of power.
Opposition leaders, whether from DAP, PRM or PAS have nothing to fear if the ACA is given greater powers of investigation and prosecution, for it has never been the Opposition leaders but the Barisan Nasional leaders who had benefitted from an ACA which is unable to conduct free and independent investigations against the corrupt in high political places.
The DAP can produce a thick volume as to our record in the fight against corruption in the past three decades. What can Liong Sik or the MCA as a whole to show as far as the fight against corruption is concerned?
It has never been my intention to talk about what the DAP had done with regard to ensuring that Malaysia has a clean and honest government, as in the final analysis, anti-corruption should not be a political party issue but must become a national issue which should be the concern of all patriotic Malaysians.
I would therefore again advise Liong Sik not to try to play politics with the important issue of an all-out war against corruption, when he should give all support even for the ACA to investigate MCA leaders rather than trying to pour cold water over the campaign for an all-out war against corruption.