MCA should not only ask for an additional  Minister and Deputy Minister but also for one of the senior Cabinet posts such as Finance or  International Trade and Industry Minister

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Thursday): MCA is asking for the post of second Penang Deputy Chief Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad  Badawi said on Monday that the MCA request would be considered by the Barisan Nasional leadership.

MCA should not only be asking for the post of second Penang Deputy Chief Minister but also for an additional Minister and Deputy Minister as well as for one of the senior Cabinet posts such as Finance or International Trade and Industry Minister because of the Nov. 29, 1999 general election results.

UMNO suffered its worst electoral setback in the history of Barisan Nasional and for the first time had to depend on the other Barisan Nasional component parties to bring in the parliamentary seats.

UMNO lost four Ministers who were defeated in the polls, namely Second Finance Minister Datuk Mustapha Mohamed, Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Megat Junid Megat Ayob, Minister in the Prime Ministerís Department,  Datuk Abdul Hamid Othman and Rural Development  Minister, Datuk Annuar Musa.

Several UMNO Ministers won very narrowly, most notably Education Minister, Datuk Seri  Najib Tun Razak (Pekan - majority 241 votes); Social Welfare Minister, Datin Paduka Zaleha Ismail (Gombak - majority 803 votes); Primary Industries Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik (Beruas - majority 1,455 votes),  International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Paduka Rafidah Aziz (Kuala Kangsar - majority 2,774 votes) and  Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu (Sungai Siput - majority 5,259 votes).

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who was assigned the task  by UMNO to recapture the Kelantan state government from PAS, and who is expected to return to the Cabinet, won with the slim majority of 2,925 votes.

It has been reported that the MCA President, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik  has recommended  that Datuk  Dr. Fong Chan Onn  who won the Selandar seat with a 10,447-vote majority be elevated to replace  Datuk Lim Ah Lek as Human Resources Minister.

PAS should announce that it would not introduce the kharaj tax unless it could get support from non-Muslim Malaysians both in Terengganu and Malaysia

The 1999 general election results, with Barisan Nasional retaining two-thirds parliamentary majority and the marginalisation of DAP in Parliament and Malaysian politics, and the distinct possibility that Parliament in the next five years will  become primarily a battleground between UMNO and PAS to win the hearts and minds of the Malay heartland with a spiral of Islamisation policies, have created new uncertainties which is bad for a sustained economic recovery and growth.

Hopes that after the  dusts of the  general election campaign had settled the country could finally see far-reaching economic and political reforms have now been dashed.

This is why ever since the Nov. 29, 1999 polls, there was no post-election rally of the stock market and there appears to be no possibility of the Kuala Lumpur Composite Index (KLCI) recovering even to the pre-poll level of 745.91 points two weeks after the election!

Barisan Nasional leaders are already looking for scapegoats for the lack of market confidence in the general election result, and what better scapegoats than PAS and  the  kharaj issue.

This is why the Finance Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin, alleged in Sungai Patani yesterday that the Terengganu PAS governmentís proposal to introduce kharaj tax on non-Muslimsí business activities had affected investor confidence, although both foreign and local investors had already shown their lack of confidence  in the election results even before the kharaj issue became a national controversy.

Barisan Nasional is running the Federal government and it is the height of irresponsibility to blame the lack of investor confidence on PAS and the kharaj issue - when the real cause must lay at the door of the Barisan Nasional at the national level in failing to spark confidence that it would be able to use its election victory to restore justice, freedom, democracy and good goverance and power equitable and sustained economic recovery and growth.

I call on the PAS leadership, both national and Trengganu, to be fully mindful of the new Barisan Nasional gameplan to blame the PAS Trengganu government and its kharaj proposal for undermining investor confidence and impeding the countryís economic recovery and growth.

This is a new and very powerful reason why the PAS Trengganu government should announce that it would not proceed with the kharaj proposal unless it could get support from non-Muslim Malaysians, both in Terengganu and Malaysia.

The Barisan Nasional government should address the root causes as to why it had failed to command investor confidence despite winning two-thirds parliamentary  majority on Nov. 29, 1999 and not go  looking for scapegoats.

The general election is over and the Barisan Nasional leaders should stop playing political games.  Even more important, it should stop all its campaign of falsehoods and fear which it had used with such great effect, but with such great damage to the healthy development of a democratic, secular and prosperous Malaysia.

One thing the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad can do to start the process to restore market confidence and foster national unity  is to establish a Smart Cabinet with technocrats, experts and political leaders who can command public confidence in their integrity, competence and dedication.

Previous Cabinet Ministers, even those who had been elected with big majorities, should be dropped if they had proved to be "deadwoods" or had bungled in their Ministerial responsibilities, like the Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng.

Up to now the victims of the Nipah virus catastrophe are still in a limbo, whether 107 deaths and their families, the pig-rearing families who are still waiting for equitable compensation for the destruction of over one million pigs of at least RM200 to RM250 per pig, or the rehabilitation of the livelihood of the hundreds of  thousands of people affected by the "Chua Jui Meng" viral catastrophe!!

It is in this context of having a smart and more professional Cabinet that Dr. Fongís Ministerial appointment should be given serious consideration.  It would be more appropriate, in view of his economic background, to be appointed either Finance Minister or Minister for International Trade and Industry than to replace Datuk Lim Ah Lek as Human Resources Minister.

If Datuk Chua Jui Meng is dropped as a Minister, and MCA is given another Ministerial post, then both Datuk Chan Kong Choy and Datuk Ong Ka Ting  can be promoted to be full Ministers.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman