I would not hesitate to give fulsome praise to Liong Sik if he could lead a campaign to clean up the Transport Ministry to establish the national reputation as among the cleanest Ministries in the country

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Thursday):
I have been asked in the mass media as to why I had publicly praised the Primary Industries Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik for setting the good example of publicising malpractices in government departments and government agencies as in his recent strictures against the Smallholders Development Corporation Sdn. Bhd for evading export cess and hiring out its export quotas but I had not been even-handed in giving praise to the Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik as well.

I am told that Liong Sik had also called for investigations into alleged corrupt practices at Puspakom, the countryís privatised computerised vehicle inspection centre in April this year.

I would have no hesitation in giving fulsome praise to Liong Sik if he could lead a campaign to clean up the Transport Ministry to establish the national reputation as one of the cleanest Ministries in the country.

There is a great difference between what Keng Yaik and Liong Sik had done - the former had exposed malpractices by a government subsidiary while the latter had only asked for investigations by the Road Transport Department and the police into alleged corrupt practices at Puspakom.

It is significant that Liong Sik did not even ask the Anti-Corruption Agency to launch a full-scale investigation into Puspakom - his call was only directed to the JPJ and the Police. Nobody knows whether there had been any follow-up action by the JPJ or the Police.

In any event, Malaysians do not need Ministers to call for investigations into alleged corrupt practices, but to set the example in cleaning up their respective Ministries and establish a national reputation of being among the cleanest Ministries in the country.

It is sad that Liong Sikís call for investigations by JPJ and the Police into investigations into alleged corrupt practices by Puspakom has fizzled into nothing.

Liong Sik made the call on April 4 this year after chairing a three-hour dialogue with representatives from the Malaysian Bus Operators Association at his office, as the MBOA alleged that for an undisclosed sum of money, buses deemed to be not roadworthy could be passed by Puspakomís employees.

Two days later, Liong Sik took an about-turn and declared that those "who allege corrupt practices at Puspakom may themselves be involved in such activities" and gave the shocking advice that "if one wants to offer money, then do not complain".

With such a Ministerial attitude showing a very high tolerance for corruption in Puspakom, it is no wonder that his call for investigations fizzled out into nothing and the problem of the privatisation of corruption has still to be addressed seriously.

Last week, the Transport Ministry Parliamentary Secretary Chor Chee Heung announced that as one measure to combat corruption, Puspakom inspection department staff would be allowed to carry a maximum of only RM50 while at work and upon leaving for home.

This is a most disappointing and ignominous end to the call by Liong Sik for investigations into corrupt practices in Puspakom - for nothing had been resolved!

Liong Sik should realise that special efforts are needed for his Ministry to establish a national reputation for cleanliness, and he should act on the advice of the Acting Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to conduct surprise visits to check on public complaints about corruption and abuses of power in the various departments and agencies in the Transport Ministry.

Of course, Liong Sik must resolve his own credibility problem first, especially with regard to one of the hottest issues in the country, the explanation of his role in the corporate phenomenon where his son, Ling Hee Leong, could embark on RM1.2 billion corporate acquisitions at the age of 27 in a matter of three months, when he had no corporate record whatsoever.

Defined simply, corruption is the misuse of public power for private profit. It also means failure to comply with the "armís-length" principle, under which no personal or family relationship should play any role in economic decision-making, be it by private economic agents or by government officials.

The public are entitled to a full explanation from Liong Sik that he had scrupulously adhered to this "armís-length" principle and had no role whatsoever in his sonís corporate acquisition of RM1.2 billion worth of shares in four companies in a matter of three months, when Hee Leong was only 27 and had no corporate record whatsoever.


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