Call on Mahathir to honour his word that he is prepared to investigate the multi-million ringgit logging scandal involving Pahang UMNO by suspending Khalil as Information Minister and establishing an independent public commission of inquiry with powers to investigate other logging scandals, whether involving PAS or UMNO
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Friday): After the UMNO Supreme Council meeting yesterday, Prime Minister and UMNO President, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad made three statements:
However, these three statements do not amount to any full and unqualified commitment either by UMNO or the Barisan Nasional government to a clean, honest and incorruptible government, as they raise the following three questions:
When stating that he was prepared to investigate the multi-million ringgit logging scandal involving Pahang UMNO which as reported by Malaysiakini, Mahathir added that “as far as I am concerned, UMNO does not own any land in Pahang”. He said that state land could only be alienated to a private company, and not a political party, and asked: “Does that company belong to UMNO? How can a political party be given state land?”
Mahathir immediately targeted PAS for its abuses of logging practices in Kelantan and Terengganu under PAS state governments, with the comments:
“When did UMNO do this (awarding land to the party)? It is PAS which has been giving out land to its members, even though the land shouldn’t be logged. If you do a survey, you will see it. This is PAS….but, yes, I ‘m always ready to investigate. We will investigate Kelantan and Terengganu too. Let’s see who gives and who gets (the land).” - (Malaysiakini 31.7.03)
Mahathir’s response gives the unfortunate impression that he wants the demand for accountability on the Pahang UMNO logging scandal to end with the threat that any investigation into the multi-million ringgit logging scandal involving Pahang UMNO will also lead to investigations and expose of the logging malpractices and abuses of the PAS state governments in Kelantan and Terengganu.
Mahathir should clarify whether this was what he meant and threatened in his comments yesterday.
If Mahathir has proof of any multi-million ringgit logging scandal involving PAS in Kelantan or Terengganu, it is his duty to expose them and not to use it as a quid pro quo for silence about multi-million ringgit logging scandals involving UMNO in the other states.
Another unfortunate impression of Mahathir’s comments yesterday was that he was trying to hide under the technicality that “state land could only be alienated to a private company and not a political party” as an adequate defence to the serious allegation of multi-million ringgit logging scandal involving Pahang UMNO.
This is a weak and even untenable defence, when UMNO Pahang secretary Ahmad Tajudin Sulaiman had filed an affidavit in court on June 17, 2003 advancing technical arguments denying liability for breach of contract in having to compensate timber company Seruan Gemilang Makmur (SGM), which claimed that it was given concession rights by Pahang UMNO to exclusively extract, remove and sell all the timber logs in a 10,000-acre plot of land in Nenasi, about 100 kilometres south of Kuantan. The logging concession, estimated at RM100 million, was awarded to Pahang UMNO in March 1998 when Khalil was the Pahang Mentri Besar.
I do not want to go into the merits or demerits of the respective arguments by Pahang UMNO and SGM in their litigation which is for the Kuantan High Court to adjudicate, but to note that in Tajudin’s affidavit six weeks ago in denying liability and even claiming counter-compensation, there is a clear admission of the involvement of Pahang UMNO in the mutl-million ringgit logging scandal in Pahang.
Mahathir should honour his word that he is prepared to investigate the multi-million ringgit logging scandal involving Pahang UMNO. He should suspend Khalil as Information Minister and establish an independent public commission of inquiry into the multi-million ringgit logging scandal involving Pahang UMNO and GSM with powers to investigate other logging scandals, whether involving PAS or UMNO.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman