Mahathir should have the courage to admit that his outbursts over reactions to Guan Eng’s convictions were wrong in the same way as he had been courageous to admit that his views in his book, "The Malay Dilemma" were wrong

Speech - Teluk Intan By-election
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad should have the courage to admit that his outbursts on Saturday over reactions to the convictions of DAP Deputy Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Guan Eng, were wrong in the same way as he had been courageous to admit that his views in his book, The Malay Dilemma, on the inability of the Malays to succeed had been proven wrong.

Professor Dr. Syed Hussein Alatas, former vice chancellor of Universiti Malaya and now a professor at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, and the strongest critic of The Malay Dilemma, coming out with two books in response, namely Siapa Yang Salah and The Myth of the Lazy Natives, has rightly welcomed and commended Mahathir for "a great deal of courage and integrity" in admitting that he had made a judgmental error in the book.

I hope Mahathir could also show that he has a great deal of courage and integrity in admitting what he had said wrong, not 28 years ago, but three days ago last Saturday.

Yesterday, in Gurun, Mahathir defended his outbursts against the DAP, Guan Eng, the local press and myself after the UMNO Supreme Council meeting last Saturday.

He reiterated his complaint that my statements that there was injustice in the court decisions on Guan Eng’s conviction for offences under the Sedition Act and Printing Presses and Publications Act had been given prominence.

Mahathir also said that he had seen my letter to the New Straits Times in response to the Other Thots column written by NST Group Editor Datuk A. Kadir Jasin.

Mahathir said: "I saw Kit Siang’s letter to the NST complaining that Kadir did not understand his complaint … that is Kit Siang’s view.

"But our view is that we have been losing cases in the court…much more serious cases. Yet there was no reaction the way the Press, especially the foreign Press, reacted to Guan Eng being fined more than RM2,000."

Touching on the court ruling which declared UMNO as an unlawful party, Mahathir said never in the history of democratic politics anywhere in the world had there been a party which formed the Government declared as "haram".

He said: "It happened to us but yet people keep on accusing us of meddling with the courts and doing all kinds of funny things… I can’t uinderstand that.

"In fact, a judge who made several decisions against us was even promoted…but that’s Malaysia.

"You think it can happen in some other countries? I needn’t name the countries but it will not happen."

From Mahathir’s comments, it is clear that my complaint in my letter to the NST is valid, as even the Prime Minister does not understand what I had been saying, both inside and outside Parliament.

For instance, Mahathir referred to my statements that "there was injustice in court decisions" in Guan Eng’s convictions for offences under the Sedition Act and the Printing Presses and Publications Act.

Let me reiterate that I had never questioned or challenged the honour, independence or integrity of the Malacca High Court judge in finding Guan Eng guilty of the offences of sedition and publishing false news, as Guan Eng had filed his appeal and we will leave it to the Court of Appeal to decide on the fate of Guan Eng.

What I question and challenge is the series of highly controversial decisions by the Attorney-General, Datuk Abdullah Mohtar involving cases like Jeffrey Kitingan, Yong Teck Lee, Rahim Tamby Cik, the four UMNO Youth leaders who rioted and broke up the APCET II Conference in Kuala Lumpur last year, Lim Guan Eng and Irene Fernandez, showing a serious misuse of his discretionary powers of prosecution and the need for the Attorney-General to give satisfactory public accounting for the exercise of his discretionary powers and to stop selective prosecution against the Opposition and NGOs.

The case of UMNO being declared illegal by the court or questions about the independence of the judiciary or the government manipulating the courts to convict Guan Eng are totally irrelevant to the issue raised by the DAP over the misuse of discretionary powers of prosecution by the Attorney-General.

I am however taken aback by the following statement by Mahathir yesterday:

Mahathir is mistaken here, for as far as I know, there is no such case as mentioned by the Prime Minister, where the AG took the Barisan Nasional government to court and "even though one of our candidates was found not guilty, he lost his seat".

He must be referring to the Bukit Begunan election petition, where in February this year, the Sarawak High Court judge Mr. Justice H.C. Chin declared the election of Mong Anak Dagang as the Barisan Nasional Assemblyman for the Bukit Begunan state constituency in the Sarawak state general elections last September null and void on grounds of general bribery in the state assembly poll.

In this case, the judge cleared Mong of the charges of excessive spending and vote-buying in the election, allowing him to contest in a new by-election, which was subsequently won by Mong.

The judge’s decision is a highly controversial legal issue, not in Mahathir’s sense, but in allowing Mong to contest in the subsequent by-election as there are clear precedents in decided cases in Malaysia to hold Mong as personally liable under the circumstances as all those guilty of excessive spending and vote-buying to secure his election were acting as his agents!

Be that as it may, the Bukit Begunan case has nothing to do with the Attorney-General as it was the result of an election petititon by the defeated independent candidate, Donald Lawan. This is, therefore, another instance where the Prime Minister has received bad and wrong advice!

Yesterday, Mahathir again cited my case in 1978 over the five Official Secrets Acts charges against me for raising the issue of the purchase of four Swedish-made SPICA-M fast strike crafts, which eventually resulted in the reduction in the price of the four fast-strike crafts by RM9 million.

Mahathir said yesterday: "He should have been fined more than RM2,000 but the court bent over backwards to give him a lower fine.

"Now why is it necessary for the court to bend over backwards… it is almost a political decision and not a decision based on the case."

Who now is questioning and challenging the integrity of the judiciary? Let us not forget that the Federal Court constituted a strong five-judge quorum which heard and decided on my appeal on 14th September 1979, comprising the then Lord President, Tun Suffian, the then Chief Justice of Malaya, Raja Azlan Shah (now Sultan of Perak), the then Chief Justice of Borneo, Tan Sri Lee Hun Hoe, Tan Sri Chang Min Tatt and Tan Sri Wan Suleiman.

I would like to ask Mahathir whether he is subtly sending a message to the Judiciary that just as I should have been fined more than RM2,000 in 1978 for offences under the Official Secrets Act and disqualified as a Member of Parliament (as well as Parliamentary Opposition Leader), Lim Guan Eng should be fined more than RM2,000 for offences under the Sedition Act and Printing Presses and Publications Act?

I am very surprised by Mahathir’s reply to a press question as to why other Barisan Nasional leaders had not voiced their stand on the issue of Guan Eng’s conviction. Mahathir had replied: "They told me that they issued statements but the Press never published the statements. That’s their complaint to me.

"They said unless the Prime Minister makes a statement the Press just ignores them."

This is a most extraordinary reply, giving the impression of a press freedom in Malaysia where Minister’s statements could just be thrown into the wastepaper-basket by reporters or editors. Is this for real?

Malaysians will like to know who are these Ministers who issued statements to the Press on Guan Eng’s issue but which were ignored by the Press. Clearly, I am unlikely to agree with their stand but I will defend the right of these Ministers to have their statements published in the newspapers.

I will invite these Ministers whose statements on Guan Eng’s case made before the Prime Minister’s outburst last Saturday and which had been ignored by the press to send these statements to the DAP Homepage and we will post them on the Internet for the whole world to read.

As political veterans, let me advise Mahathir that he is being misled by his own Ministers - that in Malaysia today, there is no such thing of Ministers issuing press statements which are ignored by the Press. He should cause an investigation to be made so that he will know who are the Ministers who could mislead him and who should be dropped in the next Cabinet reshuffle.

After the Prime Minister’s outburst last Saturday, a few Ministers have been making statements which tantamout to publishing "false news" for they attrribute to DAP leaders what was never said, which is a criminal offence under the Printing Presses and Publications Act.

We are considering lodging police reports against these Ministers as well as a few newspapers which had also published "false news" against Lim Guan Eng and myself for accusing us of saying things which we never said, and if we decide to lodge police reports, it would be another test for the Attorney-General as to whether he could exercise his discretionary powers of prosecution without bias and without "fear or favour".

As I have shown conclusively that Mahathir had been wrong in his outbursts, he should again show that he has the courage and integrity to admit his errors.

The Prime Minister should be concerned about Malaysia’s international image as his attacks on the local press, most of which are misinformed, has given the impression of a very "fettered" press - which will not help in the country’s effort to be an important IT global player and make the quantum leap into the Information Era.


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