(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): Gerakan President and Primary Industries Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik should apologise for giving outdated, misleading and false data detrimental to the national harmony and our international image when he alleged firstly that Malaysian Chinese millionaires, and later all Malaysian Indian and Malay millionaires, for being unpatriotic in transferring RM20 billion from local banks to foreign countries during the economic crisis.
Keng Yaik's statement in Kota Bahru last Friday castigating Malaysian Chinese millionaires for transferring RM20 billion from local banks to foreign countries during the crisis was given front-page coverage by Utusan Malaysia as well as prominent coverage by other local media.
Keng Yaik later clarified that his statement was directed to all Malaysians, including local Chinese millionaires who have savings abroad to transfer the money to Malaysia to help rejuvenate the country's ailing economy.
He said many Malaysians transferred their money to foreign banks following their loss of confidence in November and December last year. However, since February many had brought their money back following the gradual economic recovery and government assurances on local banks.
The reply by the Deputy Finance Minister, Datuk Dr. Affifuddin Omar in the Dewan Negara yesterday has thrown Keng Yaik's statement into a completely new and unfavourable light, highlighting that the Gerakan President had been guilty of the most irresponsible sensationalism.
Affifuddin said that the RM20 billion which Malaysians deposited in Singapore banks had been there for some time and "for a long time". He denied that unpatriotic businessmen had withdrawn RM20 billion from local financial institutions to be deposited overseas, or that the money was "siphoned out" of the country in view of the economic problems which had struck the region since July 2 last year.
Affifuddin said the sum had been kept in Singapore even before Malaysia was affected by the current economic problems.
He said: "An outside source revealed to us that the money has been deposited there by Malaysian citizens. However, we do not know how much actually has been taken out of the country."
The question is why Keng Yaik, after being privy to the information mentioned by Affifuddin, should distort and sensationalise it into firstly accusing Malaysian Chinese millionaires of being "unpatriotic" in transferring RM20 billion from local banks to foreign countries during the economic crisis, and when challenged, said he was referring to all millionaires - when there was no basis or truth to the allegation in the first place?
Keng Yaik should apologise for giving outdated, misleading and downright false data, and worst of all, for sensationalising them in a manner which was highly detrimental to national harmony and our international image, as Affiffudin's statement in Parliament has shown that Keng Yaik's first statement as well as the subsequent clarification about the RM20 billion transferred by Malaysian Chinese (and subsequently by other Malaysian Indian and Malay millionaires) from local banks to foreign countries during the economic crisis was completely baseless.
Keng Yaik's unfortunate antics is the latest illustration of why the government has not been able to restore confidence although the country is in the eleventh month of the economic crisis - as Cabinet Ministers have not shown that they are serious about the fundamental problems which must be addressed to restore confidence to effect a quick economic turnaround and recovery.