George Chan should declare whether he  is ashamed and repudiates SUPP’s radical  origins  and history to the extent that he could use Seng Hin’s past trade union activities in Singapore 30 years ago to justify Sarawak state government’s human rights violation and breach of rule of law?

Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Friday): Firstly, let me publicly apologise to Tan Sri Dr. George Chan as I had been referring to him in the last ten days as Datuk, not knowing that he had been conferred a Tan Sri-ship by the Yang di Pertuan Agong.

I am very surprised by his statement to Bernama on Wednesday that the Sarawak state government was justified in cancelling Malacca-born businessman Tan Seng Hin's social visit pass in December last year because of some of his "extreme actions'' while staying in Miri.

Chan said there was no reason for the state to review the decision despite Tan's appeal.

He said: "We do not act against anyone until they go to extremes.''

What are these “extreme actions” committed by Tan while staying in Miri as to justify the Sarawak state government’s  most  uncaring, unconscionable and inhumane abuse of its state immigration autonomy powers  to expel Tan from Sarawak on January 6,  2001  after he  and his family had settled down in the state for 23 years without giving any reason and to ban him  from re-entry to be united with his family?

Are these “extreme actions” in the eyes of the people of Sarawak as to make Tan an “undesirable person” in the interests of the state or only  in the eyes of Chan himself because Tan  was principled and outspoken in representing the Miri Hainan Association to uphold the cause of Chinese education in criticising  one of Chan’s pet projects?

Chan  should realise that he is not the Deputy Chief Minister of a 19th century  feudal and autocratic state  where he could do what he likes without having to account to anyone for his actions  but is in  a 21st century  democratic society where  all powers are held in trust on behalf of the people and they must be exercised with justice, fairness  and accountability.

The most elementary notion of such a democratic concept of the trusteeship of power on behalf of the people is that there must be  a good reason for every decision made so that there is no arbitrary use or abuse of power.

When Chan claims that there is no need for the Sarawak state government to give any reason for the excercise of its state immigration autonomy powers to deport and ban Tan from Sarawak, he is acting as a feudal autocrat in a democrat’s clothing which is completely at odds with the political culture of democracy and the rule of law in Sarawak and Malaysia.

Chan should make public the nature of Tan’s “extreme actions” while staying in Miri for 23 years for Sarawakians, Malaysians and the world to decide whether the Sarawak state government has any reasonable cause for its action.

Does Chan regard Tan’s role as Miri Hainan Association Secretary which resulted  in a clash of views between both of them over one of Chan’s pet projects - the establishment of the Curtin University campus in Miri - as one such “extreme action”?

The Miri Hainan Association had never opposed the setting up of the Curtin Unviersity campus in Miri, but  it is opposed to the change in the teaching medium and character  of the Riam Road Middle School as one of the 60 Chinese Independent Secondary Schools in the country to become a feeder school to  prepare the students for future enrolment at the Miri campus of the Curtin University of Western Australia.

Chan should respect the position of the Miri Hainan Association expressed by Tan as its secretary that the change of the   teaching medium of Riam Road Middle School last year from Mandarin to English, maintaining Mandarin only as a subject, affected  its character and identity as  a Chinese Independent Secondary School instead of regarding it as an “extreme action” by Tan to justify the Sarawak’s gross human rights violation and breach of the rule of law.

If Chan dare not make public the nature of Tan’s “extreme actions” while staying in Miri, it  can only mean that this is a mere figment of his imagination - not very different from his claim that the biggest “white elephant” in the country, the Miri port in Kuala Baram, has not yet been completed although Sarawak Infrastructure Development and Communications Minister Datuk Wong Soon Koh,  had been telling the Sarawak State Assembly in the past three years that the new Miri Port in Kuala Baram had been completed on 31st December, 1998 and operations began in July 1998!

If Chan can make such a dishonest statement about the Miri Port in Kuala Baram, can he be believed when he claims that the Sarawak state government is justified to deport and ban Tan from Sarawak because of his “extreme actions” in Miri - when he dare not specify these “extreme actions”?

But the bigger shock was when Chan told Bernama that Tan should  explain why he had been “black-listed” by the Singapore government and banned from entry into the island republic.

Tan has explained that he is on the Singapore “black-list” because of his trade union activities in the republic  30 years ago.

What Tan did in Singapore 30 years ago was not and  could not be the reason for the Sarawak state government’s human rights violation and breach of the rule of law  in deporting Tan from Sarawak on January 6 this year and banning him from re-entry after 23 years making Miri his home.

But what makes Chan’s query most astounding is that it should come from him, who is  President of SUPP, a political party  whose radical  origins is well-known, still with leaders in party and government who had once been detained under the Internal Security Act or  “black-listed” by both the Malaysian and Singapore governments as “security threats” or “anti-national” elements.

Chan should declare whether he is ashamed and repudiates SUPP’s radical origins and history to the extent that he could use Seng Hin’s past trade union activities in Singapore 30 years ago to justify Sarawak state government’s human rights violation and breach of rule of law?

Would he next logically propose that SUPP leaders, cadres and members who had a past history of being “blacklisted” by the Malaysian and Singapore governments, including those who had been banned from entry into Singapore, should be removed from all positions of responsibility in the state cabinet and the party leadership?  If so, then there would have to be a major overhaul of the current SUPP leadership as well as SUPP’s representation in the Sarawak state government.

Let me remind Chan that among those who had been “blacklisted” and banned from entry into the Singapore island republic were  those who later had the closest relationships with  the highest  leaders in the Federal Government,  including being the most trusted advisers of former Prime Ministers.  Surely, Chan is not doubting the judgement, wisdom or integrity of former Prime Ministers who had enjoyed such close and confidential relationships with persons “blacklisted” and banned from entry into Singapore?

I do not know whether Chan is ashamed of the radical past of the SUPP and the histories of the founding leaders of his party, but I believe Tan has nothing to be ashamed about his past trade union activities in Singapore, which he volunteered to let me know when I first spoke to him last week.

Tan in fact has every reason to be proud of what he had done in the past as he  had made great personal sacrifices in his trade union activities in Singapore in the sixties after his graduation from Nanyang University in 1964.   He was one of the island republic’s  trade union leaders in the sixties,  president of the Singapore Commercial House and Factories’ Employees Union from 1965-1966, and was later active in the Singapore Goldsmiths and Silversmiths Employees’ Union. He was  twice detained under the Internal Security Act, the first time for two to three weeks, the second time in 1970  for more than  a year the whole period  kept in solitary confinement - only released as a result of international pressure  coinciding with the holding of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference (CHOGM) in Singapore in 1971.  He was not given back his personal liberty but handed over to the Malaysian Special Branch at the Johore causeway  and was detained in Johore Bahru for a month followed by an extended period of restricted residence.

One can agree or disagree with Tan’s  trade union activities in Singapore in the sixties, but there can be no doubt that he was not  motivated by any personal gain but by his commitment to serve the larger workers’ cause.

After his incarceration and restricted residence, Tan started a new life in  business in Kuala Lumpur for two to three years before going to Sarawak for a construction business, which led him to settle down in Miri for 23 years.

In his 23 years in Miri, Tan  had not joined any political party or involved himself in any political activity - a fact which Chan had publicly acknowledged when he said in February that Tan’s deportation had nothing to do with politics.  It was only in 1995 that he joined the Miri Hainan Association and became its secretary - which clearly resulted in his predicament today.

Be that as it may, as Tan’s past has nothing to do whatsoever with the Sarawak state government’s deportation and ban order against him, Chan should apologise for casting aspersions against both Tan’s present and past activities  - raising questions whether Chan is also casting aspersions against SUPP’s own past and party founding leaders and cadres.

I would call on Chan to end the Tan Seng Hin episode which does no credit to him, the SUPP, the Sarawak state government and Malaysia’s reputation in the international arena, and  to revoke the ban imposed on Tan to allow him  to re-enter Sarawak to be reunited with his family in Miri.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman