(Penang, Sunday): There have been three different explanations in four days by three Barisan Nasional leaders about the failure to rebuild the Sungai Jawi Tamil school after it was razed two years ago.
At first, the Deputy Minister for Land and Co-operatives and MP for Nibong Tebal, Dr. Goh Cheng Teik, said on Nomination Day on Wednesday the SRJK (T) Ladang Jawi school had not been rebuilt because the private land owner had refused to give his written consent.
On Friday, Penang Chief Minister, Dr. Koh Tsu Koon said there was a pending court case between the owner of the land where the school stood before it was gutted, and a developer.
Yesterday, MIC President and Works Minister, Datuk Seri Samy Vellu said the government is looking for alternative land to rebuild the Ladang Jawi Tamil primary school.
It is clear that there have been three different explanations in four days by three different Barisan Nasional leaders because the earlier explanations were completely unacceptable.
Both Cheng Teik and Tsu Koon's explanations were not acceptable as regardless of private land disputes, it is the responsibility of the government to find alternative land - through land acquisition by the state government if necessary - for the immediate rebuilding of the Ladang Jawi Tamil primary school.
There is no doubt that if not for the Sungai Bakap by-election, nobody in the Barisan Nasional leadership would have shown any interest in the issue at all.
It is significant that in his visit to Sungai Bakap, Samy Vellu had failed to address the important issue raised by independent candidate, K. Ganesh who had resigned as Rantau Panjang MIC branch chairman and Nibong Tebal MIC division treasurer, in protest against a Gerakan leader who had derided the Indian community by claiming Indians could be bought over by providing alcohol and food.
If there had been no such incident, and it was a pure concoction by Ganesh, I am sure Samy Vellu would have given Ganesh a tongue-lashing. Samy Vellu's silence on this issue is therefore very eloquent.
I have given the Gerakan leaders 48 hours to give a proper and responsible response to this serious allegation made by Ganesh. If what Ganesh alleged was true, then the Gerakan leader concerned should step forward and publicly apologise to the Indian community, not only in Sungai Bakap, but in Penang and Malaysia for deriding the Indian community by claiming Indian votes could be bought by providing alcohol and food and withdraw from all by-election activities.
If the Gerakan leader concerned had not been guilty of such conduct highly insulting to the Indians in the constituency, he should declare his innocence, challenge Ganesh to prove the allegation and take all other necessary actions to clear his name.
I regret that the Gerakan leadership had not taken this matter seriously and I am giving Dr. Goh Cheng Teik, who is responsible for the by-election campaign, a final 24-hours to give a proper and responsible response to this serious issue.
Malaysians have just celebrated the Deepavali - the festival of light to celebrate its triumph over darkness and of good over evil.
Let Deepavali give special meaning to the Sungai Bakap by-election in bringing to light and justice, once and for all, this serious stigma on the Indians in the constituency that their votes could easily be bought with alcohol and food - by establishing the veracity of the allegation and getting to the bottom of the whole matter.
The summary and arrogant rejection of the need for another opposition member in the Penang state assembly by the Penang Chief Minister, Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, is most regrettable.
He alleged that the Gerakan candidate, Lai Chew Hock, 32, is honest and committed to serving the people, unlike the DAP candidate, Goh Kheng Huat, who seeks only publicity.
Only a few days ago, Tsu Koon was alleging that the DAP was making personal attacks on the Gerakan candidate. I had asked him to give proof of any DAP campaign worker making personal attacks on the Gerakan candidate, but before Tsu Koon could do so, he was himself making personal attacks on DAP candidate, Goh Kheng Huat.
Tsu Koon should be more humble and admit the important role played by the DAP in Malaysian and Penang politics, and should set a good example of not saying bad things about the candidate of the opposing party.
I have not said a single bad word about the Gerakan candidate, Lai Chew Hock, and I will also not say anything bad about him in the rest of the by-election campaign. I hope Tsu Koon can do the same.