(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahthir Mohamad revealed in London yesterday that some Barisan Nasional state governments have not been working closely with the Federal Government on policy matters.
One example given by the Prime Minister was the acquisition of land for private development.
He said: "There is a tendency for certain state governments to acquire land for other purposes when we made it easy for them to acquire land for development.
"We found that some state governments acquired the land in order to sell it to make a profit for themselves."
It is open secret in the corridors of power and the politically-informed that Negri Sembilan is one of these "wayward" states where the State Government had abused the Land Acquisition Act to compulsorily acquire land, not for the public purpose of building schools, hospitals or police stations, but to enable a selected few to make fortunes.
The DAP had right from the beginning opposed the amendments to Land Acquisition Act in 1991 giving powers to state governments to acquire land for private development by the private sector. In Parliament on 30th July 1991 during the debate on the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill, I had warned that such powers would "become the ‘mother’ of all corruption, abuses of power, conflicts-of-interest and unethical malpractices".
My warning in Parliament had been proved right and this was why by the time DAP convened a National Conference Against Land Acquisition Abuses and Injustices in Kuala Lumpur on January 8, 1995, the public outcry against land acquisition abuses and injustices throughout the country had become totally unprecedented in Malaysian history.
In my speech in Parliament opposing the 1991 Land Acquisition Amendment Act, I stressed that public opposition to the amendment was not a racial issue as it transcended race, because all Malaysians who own land, regardless of race, could be deprived of their constitutional rights to property by the new government land acquisition powers.
This had also been proved right, as opposition to the land acquisition powers come from Malaysians of all races, who found themselves victims of the land acqusition abuses and injustices - whether they be Malay villagers in Pantai Kundor and Pantai Tanah Merah in Malacca, the Malay padi farmers in Kerpan in Kedah, the Malay smallholders in Tanjong Kupang and Gelang Patah in Johore, or Chinese and Indian landowners in Sungai Patani in Kedah, Seremban II new township in Negri Sembilan or the second Johore-Singapore crossing project.
Although in 1996 the Federal Government had ordered a freeze on all land acquisitions by state governments for private development until new amendments to the Land Acquisition Act had become law, there is still the outstanding issue of injustice suffered by land owners whose land had been acquired before the Federal Government freeze order.
I call on the Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar, Tan Sri Mohamd Isa Abdul Samad, to make public all cases of compulsory land acquisition for private development in the Repah state assembly and Tampin parliamentary constituency in the five years between the 1991 Amendment and the Federal Government "freeze order" in 1996, and to ensure that all the affected landowners get justice by either the State Government cancelling the compulsory acquisition of their land and returning the land to the original landowners, or increase compensation to the landowners based on a 20 per mark-up of the present market land value.
I now know why Tan Sri Mohd Isa is even more concerned than MCA leaders about the Repah by-election, appearing nightly at MCA by-election functions - something which no MCA leader has ever done.
The MCA President, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik could be so carefree about the Repah by-election that immediately after the nomination, he went overseas and would not return until after by the election.
This is because he knows that Mohd Isa is fighting for his political survival in the Repah by-election and the issue at stake for Mohd Isa is not whether Garry Gan of MCA would be elected as Assemblyman for Repah but whether he could demonstrate his political strength to stave off any attempt to replace him as Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar.
It is clear that Mohd Isa wants to send a clear message to the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister that despite the large-scale abuse of land acquisition powers by the Negri Sembilan State Government in the five years between 1991 to 1996, the people of Negri Sembilan are still solidly behind him and Mahathir should not try to replace him as Mentri Besar of Negri Sembilan.
I call on the voters of Repah to deny Mohd Isa this "vote of confidence" for him to show Mahathir and the Federal Government that he had the solid support of the voters of Negri Sembilan until and unless he gives justice to the landowners in Repah state assembly and Tampin parliamentary constituency who are aggrieved by unfair and inequitable compulsory acquisition of their land for private development, either through the cancellation of the acquisition of their land and immediate return of their land to their original landowners or an increase of compensation based on a 20 per cent mark-up of the present market land value.
Mohd Isa wants to use the voters of Repah to save his political position in UMNO and to retain his post as Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar. The voters of Repah must demand that Mohd Isa do justice first, beginning with the land acquisition issue!
In this connection, I call on Mohd Isa to conduct a clean, fair and honest election campaign although he regards Repah by-election as a personal test as to whether he could retain his post as Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar.
He should not stoop so low as to tell untruths. For instance, he told a MCA ceramah Wednesday night that the DAP was repeating its Teluk Intan by-election campaign tactics in telling the Malay voters not to come out to vote, on the ground that the MCA candidate can win without Malay votes.
This is doubly untrue. Firstly, the DAP had never told the Malay voters in the Teluk Intan by-election not to vote on the ground that the Gerakan candidate can win without Malay votes.
Secondly, the DAP had no such tactics in the Repah by-election to tell the Malay voters not to come out and vote on the ground that the MCA candidate can win without Malay votes.
The DAP will formally complain to the Acting Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim about the dirty tactics and dishonest election practices and campaign by Mohd Isa and to urge the Acting UMNO President to discipline Mohd Isa and to impress on him the importance of a head of government conducting himself honourably and ethically.
The DAP also reserves the right to lodge a police report against Mohd Isa for committing the offence of publishing "false news" under the Printing Presses and Publications Act, and if the DAP lodges such a police report, it would be another test as to whether the Attorney-General, Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah could be even-handed in the exercise of his discretionary powers of prosecution or whether he would continue in his abuse of his discretionary powers of prosecution.
I call on Mohd Isa to co-operate with the DAP to conduct a clean and honest campaign. Mohd Isa is so confident of winning the Repah by-election that he had even challenged the DAP to contest, and MCA national leaders are boasting that they would win the Repah by-election with an even bigger majority in the April 1995 general elections.
If Barisan Nasional is so confident of a crushing victory in Repah, why should Mohd Isa stoop so low as to resort to unclean, dishonest, unethical and dishonourable tactics?
Let me tell Mohd Isa - If he is so sure of winning Repah, then win it honestly and honourably!