(Petaling Jaya, Friday): I have just read Sarawak Tribune yesterday under the heading "Kit Siangís insinuations distasteful : Dr Rauf" which reported:
KUCHING - Political Secretary to the Chief Minister Dr Abang Abdul Rauf Abang Zen described Democratic Action Party (DAP) leader Encik Lim Kit Siangís insinuations against Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud at the recent Parliamentary sitting as distasteful and unwarranted.
The opposition leader had demanded that the Chief Minister give full details on his trip overseas during the haze emergency.
Dr Abang Rauf said Encik Limís allegations had strong political undertones in view of the coming Kidurong by-election.
Defending the action of the Chief Minister, Dr Rauf said Datuk Patinggi Taib left the State on official duty and did so only after he had fully organised the emergency machinery and appointed Deputy Chief Minister and Finance and Public Utilities Minister Datuk Dr George Chan as director of operation.
Datuk Dr Chan was assisted by Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Alfred Jabu, who is also Agriculture and Community Development Minister.
Dr Abang Rauf explained that since the haze emergency, which was declared on September 19, was the first of its kind ever to happen in the State, few knew exactly how best to deal with the phenomenon.
In view of the urgency of the situation, the Chief Minister, he said, took the trouble to meet and hold discussions on the haze and how to put out the forest fires with at least four scientists abroad.
The Chief Minister was constantly kept informed of the situation back home by Datuk Dr Chan, Dr Abang Rauf added.
He pointed out that Encik Lim had lied by saying the Chief Minister left the State to escape the hazeÖ
Dr Abang Rauf also questioned Encik Limís concern for Sarawak. "Everyone knows Encik Lim is stirring up the peopleís feelings against Datuk Patinggi Taib to fish for votes in the Kidurong by-election. But Encik Lim has harped on the wrong issue at the wrong time."
It is clear that the worry uppermost in the minds of Taib Mahmud and his political secretary is the Kidurong by-election in Sarawak on Oct. 25 and 26.
Dr. George Chan, for instance, was also quoted in the Sarawak Tribune as saying that the DAP would have nothing but only "imaginary issues" to talk about in the upcoming Kidurong by-election, and I assume that one of these "imaginary issues" is the mysterious trip overseas of the Sarawak Chief Minister during the haze emergency.
Let me assure Taib Mahmud that when I telephoned his office in Kuching on Sept. 23 after I had received calls from very angry Sarawakians that the Chief Minister had left the state when Sarawakians were faced with their worst environmental disaster in history, I did not have the Kidurong by-election in mind at all.
I took up the issue as a matter of public interest and I thank Sarawakians who have expressed appreciation for what I have done.
Let me also assure Taib Mahmud that I would advise Sarawak DAP not to raise the issue of his mysterious trip overseas during the haze emergency if he could give full and satisfactory explanation of his sudden and unexplained absence in the state at the height of the haze disaster.
Unfortunately, all the explanations which Taib Mahmud and his battery of political secretaries could give about the Chief Ministerís mysterious trip overseas have only succeeded in raising more questions. In fact, the Sarawak Chief Minister is committing a second outrage. The first outrage is his irresponsible disappearance from Sarawak during the haze emergency, and the second outrage is his contempt for public opinion in Sarawak and Malaysia in thinking that any ridiculous explanation about his mysterious trip overseas is adequate for him on his return to the state.
Let me also tell Taib Mahmud that if he could give a full and satisfactory explanation which could convince me that he had embarked on a "SOS" mission to seek international help from haze and health experts during the haze emergency in Sarawak, I am prepared to be his most vocal defender both in Sarawak and Malaysia.
But he should not expect me to keep quiet when he cannot give basic facts like when and how he left Sarawak, the members of the family who went with him, the countries he visited with a full itinerary, the haze and health experts he met in the United States giving dates and names, and the outcome of his meeting with these haze and health experts.
Taib Mahmud has very good reasons for staying away from Parliament during the three days of the debate on the haze disaster, which would have been the ideal venue for him to give a full and satisfactory explanation of his mysterious trip overseas during the Sarawak haze emergency, as he knows that the majority of Barisan Nasional MPs are also very disappointed with him because his absence from Sarawak state was completely inexcusable.
Many Barisan Nasional MPs as well as members of the administration have privately conveyed to me their agreement that Taib Mahmud should account for his mysterious absence overseas as he had failed to provide the leadership at the most critical time at the height of the worst environmental disaster in Sarawak history.