“Several cabinet Ministers” who “sent word to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to ‘go slow’” after Kasitah Gaddam’s arrest for corruption should identify themselves and justify their action or Abdullah should purge his Cabinet of weaklings and liabilities in the war against corruption

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(PenangSaturday): Singapore’s Straits Times today reported:  

“Hours after Land and Cooperative Development Minister Kasitah Gaddam became the second big name to be arrested and charged with corruption this week, several Cabinet ministers sent word to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to 'go slow'.”

Its Malaysia correspondent, Brendan Pereira, who has proved that he has access to the innermost sanctum of the corridors of power of the Abdullah administration, wrote:

“It appears they were worried that the tough action by the administration was raising expectations to the point that only continuous prosecution of high-profile businessmen and politicians could satisfy the public.

“They were also concerned that the prosecutions could create the impression of a witch-hunt. Some of them may also have been unnerved by the prospect of Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) officials sniffing around, unencumbered.”

The “several cabinet Ministers” who sent word to Abdullah Ahmad to “go slow” after Kasitah Gaddam’s arrest for corruption should identify themselves and justify their action or Abdullah should purge his Cabinet of weaklings and liabilities in the war against corruption.  

The intervention by the “several cabinet Ministers” to ask Abdullah to “go slow” in the campaign against corruption  is most deplorable for two reasons: 

  • Firstly, it has confirmed the widespread public perception that Abdullah’s pledge for “a clean, incorruptible, modest and beyond suspicion”  administration is very much a one-man commitment and that he is up against his own  government system, whether the Cabinet or the public service, as apart from lip-service support there is  not a single Cabinet Minister who had stepped forward to stand side-by-side with the Prime Minister in an all-out war against corruption, including calling on all other Cabinet Ministers to publicly declare their assets and those of their next-of-kin.
  • Secondly, it underlines the public concern about  the lack of independence of the Anti-Corruption Agency to fight “big fish” corruption, when the Prime Minister can decide whether to “go fast” or “go slow” in the war against corruption.

Malaysians are also entitled to know whether the attempt by several Cabinet Ministers to persuade Abdullah to “go slow” in the crackdown on corruption is prompted by fears that they might themselves be in the blacklist, as the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Dr. Rais Yatim said in Jelebu yesterday that at least another 18 high-profile corruption cases are now with various authorities awaiting further action. 

Public interest and Abdullah’s commitment to openness, accountability, transparency and a new culture of public integrity with zero tolerance for corruption demands that Malaysians should be told as to whether current Cabinet Ministers are among the list of “at least another 18 …high-ranking individuals and decision-makers awaiting further action”! 

I for one would want to know whether former MCA President and Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik is in this list of “at least another 18 high-ranking individuals and decisions-makers waiting further action”! 

In August last year,  DAP leaders made a most futile visit to the Anti-Corruption Agency headquarters in Putrajaya to find out the outcome of ACA investigations into my seven-year report  in 1997 on the RM1.2 billion corporate acquisitions by 27-year-old Ling Hee Leong in a matter of months and whether there had been improper Ministerial and political influence by his father, Liong Sik , who was then  Transport Minister. 

The ACA gave two conflicting versions, firstly,  that ACA investigations into my report against  Liong Sik and Hee Leong in June 1997  had been completed, that no offence was disclosed and the case was closed although my second report in June 2003  arising from Soh Chee Wen's Malaysiakini interview was still under investigation; and the second version, that investigations into my 1997 report on Liong Sik and Hee Leong had been re-opened after my second report of June 2003 consequent on Soh Chee Wen's interview. 

Up to now, no one is wiser as to the real status of ACA investigations into Liong Sik and Hee Leong. 

The ACA  director-general, Dato Zulkipli bin Mat Noor had a very colourful expression which was used in today’s  front-page headline of Nanyang Siang Pau lead story on the  ACA campaign  against “big fishes”  - “There are so many rivers, the sea is so huge, how can there be no fish?” 

Except that Zulkipli could not explain why, despite so many rivers, the size of the sea and the multitude of fishes, he had not been able to land any “big fishes”, whether sharks or piranhas,  in the past three years that he was ACA director-general. 

Even the two high-profile arrests this week of the two Tan Sris,  Eri Chia and Kasitah Gaddam, are not really in the league of “big fish”.  Kasitah, for instance, was never regarded as a “big fish” even in  the Sabah pond.  Why then are the sharks and piranhas in Sabah still scot-free? 

However, the ease with which Kasitah’s family could come up with a million-ringgit bail has not only raised eyebrows but created  a scenario where  Malaysians would not be surprised if other Cabinet  “bigger fishes” could produce personal bails of five or even ten million ringgit if the situation warranted it! But what does this imply in terms of the uprightness, rectitude and incorruptibility of Cabinet Ministers and top public servants? 

Kasitah’s case also raised a series of other  questions, viz: 

  • Why Kasitah  was arrested and charged this week when it is clear that ACA investigations into his case had been completed quite some time ago.
  • How many other Cabinet Ministers are in the same category as Kasitah – with ACA investigations completed but no decision yet on action.
  • Would the ACA and the Attorney-General Chambers re-open all cases involving Cabinet Ministers and “big fishes” going back to 1990?

Former Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Musa Hitam has expressed support for Abdullah’s anti-corruption campaign, declaring that the Prime Minister’s intentions are quite sincere. 

DAP fully endorses Musa’s sentiments and we want Abdullah to succeed in his campaign to clean up the corrupt system entrenched over the decades, which is the cause for the deep and widespread skepticism that he could succeed without a fundamental change of the system of governance in the country. 

Malaysians are still waiting for the real “big fishes”  to be nabbed in the anti-corruption campaign – and if no  real “big fishes” are forthcoming in the coming days and weeks, then public hopes and expectations of a real clean-up of corruption in the country will give way to deep cynicism and great disappointment.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman