Invitation to Taib Mahmud to a public debate on his double absences – from Sarawak during the height of the haze emergency and from the three-day Parliamentary motion on the national haze disaster


Media Conference Statement
- Kidurong by-election
by Lim Kit Siang

(Bintulu, Thursday): It is most regrettable that up to now, the Sarawak Chief Minister, Tan Sri Taib Mahmud had not been able to give a full and satisfactory explanation of his absence from the state during the height of the haze emergency – mysteriously disappearing overseas at a time when Sarawakians were facing their worst environmental disaster.

An experienced political leader like Taib Mahmud cannot be unaware that at a time when the people were going through their worst environmental crisis, with the Air Pollution Index (API) reaching the unthinkable height of 839, the top political leader should be with them to provide leadership and guidance. Instead, he preferred to become a "fugitive" from the haze emergency, going overseas to enjoy clean and healthy air while leaving the people of Sarawak to fend for themselves when the state was choked with the worst air pollution in history.

The explanation Taib Mahmud gave when he returned from overseas after the haze emergency was over was an insult to the intelligence of the people of Sarawak and Malaysia, as he expected the people to believe that he had gone overseas for a "SOS" mission to save Sarawakians from the haze disaster.

What is worse, when Parliament debated for three days the national haze disaster, he also failed in his duties as Chief Minister of Sarawak – the state which suffered the worst damage in the haze disaster with the 10-day haze emergency causing losses of RM100 million a day or RM1 billion for the period – as well as a Member of Parliament in not attending the Parliamentary meeting both to explain his mysterious absence from the state as well as to impress on the national authorities the grave damage the haze had done to the economy, environment and health of the people of Sarawak.

Despite my repeated public reminders to Taib Mahmud to be in Parliament for the debate on the motion on the national haze disaster, the Sarawak Chief Minister chose to be a "fugitive" a second time, on this occasion from Parliament on the debate on the national haze disaster.

I have said publicly that Taib Mahmud had acted most irresponsibly in running away from Sarawak when he should be with the people during the haze emergency.

Taib Mahmud had again acted most irresponsibly in running away from Parliament during the three-day debate on the motion on the national haze disaster moved by the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Taib Mahmud cannot continue to be "on the run" from accounting to the people why he had acted so irresponsibly on both these occasions.

I invite him to a public debate on his double absences – from Sarawak during the height of the haze emergency and from the three-day Parliamentary motion on the national haze disaster. The public debate could be held anywhere in Sarawak, even in the chambers of the Sarawak state legislative assembly.

By refusing to give full and satisfactory explanation for his two absences, Taib Mahmud has shown his contempt for the people. This is why the voters of Kidurong should use the by-election to speak up on behalf of all Sarawakians that they want Taib Mahmud to properly account for his two absences on the national haze disaster.

DAP candidate for the Kidurong by-election, Wong Sing Ai, stands very little chance of winning in the by-election. But if he could confound political observers and scrape through the by-election with a victory, his victory in the by-election would be even more significant than his surprise 22-vote win in the Kidurong constituency during the 1996 Sarawak state general elections.

The DAP’s historic breakthrough in the Sarawak state general elections in September last year shook up the SUPP, but it did not shake up the Sarawak Barisan Nasional or the Chief Minister, as they continued to be very arrogant with their overwhelming control of the State Assembly, i.e. 59 out of 62 seats.

This was why Taib Mahmud could act so haughtily and irresponsibly in disappearing from Sarawak during the haze emergency and to be absent from the Parliamentary motion on the haze disaster, without feeling any need to give any full and satisfactory accounting for his actions.

However, if Wong Sing Ai could miraculously win in the Kidurong by-election, despite the hectic campaigning by Taib Mahmud and the entire State Cabinet, it would shake up the Sarawak Barisan Nasional leadership as it would serve as a warning that the people are thoroughly fed up with the arrogance of power of the Sarawak Chief Minister and state Barisan Nasional leadership and that they want changes where the Sarawak State Government is more responsive to the needs and demands of the people.

(23/10/97)


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