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Three years after the euphoria over Abdullah’s pledge of reform and integrity, public disillusionment is widespread as the political rot is setting in
deep and fast

by Lim Kit Siang  


(Parliament, Monday) :  We have past the half-way point for the current 11th Parliament elected in the March 2004 general election with unprecedented landslide
victory giving the Prime Minister 91 per cent control of the parliamentary seats.


I had warned in my first speech in this Parliament during the debate on the Royal Address on 20th May 2004 that this unprecedented nine-tenth parliamentary
majority of the Barisan Nasional was  “a time-bomb to democracy  and good governance” in Malaysia because of the truism of the maxim by  British historian,
Lord Acton – “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”! 

I had cautioned that with such a weak Opposition in Parliament, comprising  less than ten per cent parliamentary representation which  could be  no real check to
overbearing power, “things can go wrong, very quickly, dangerously, catastrophically and on a  mega-scale, when it is corrupted into unbridled arrogance of power”. 

I said: “The only saving grace is the full realization by the Prime Minister and the Barisan Nasional leaders of their great responsibility to fulfill their election pledge of
a clean, incorruptible, efficient, trustworthy, people-oriented government prepared to hear the truth from the people and  its slogan of ‘Cemerlang, Gemilang, Terbilan’;
 their full consciousness that  their unprecedented nine-tenth parliamentary majority carries  the great historic responsibility to restore the independence, professionalism 
and integrity of the major institutions and organs of the state which had been seriously compromised in the past two decades including Parliament, the judiciary and the
civil service; and their full commitment to restore democracy and good governance in Malaysia.”

What I had warned in May 2004 that with such unprecedented nine-tenth parliamentary majority, that “things can go wrong, very quickly, dangerously, catastrophically
and on a  mega-scale” is unfortunately coming to pass.

How else explain the following catalogue of scandals:

·         The Zakaria Mat Deros scandal – showing utter contempt for the Sultan of Selangor, public opinion and the Prime Minister’s reform and integrity agenda,
where the most important issues are not even the illegal building of a palatial mansion on dubiously acquired land, the operating of an illegally built restaurant
squatting illegally on state reserve land, three members of the family as Klang Municipal Councillors but how Zakaria had acquired his riches to become a
multi-millionaire and the complete inaction and disinterest by both the Anti-Corruption Act and the Inland Revenue Department as to how Zakaria has got his

·         The sweeping under the carpet of the APs scandal, arousing the ire of even the former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad who had “turned the
table” alleging the corruption had come above the table under the Abdullah premiership - when one of  the Prime Minister’s greatest vote-getting qualities in
the last general election was his promise to make a total break from the corruption, cronyism and nepotism of the previous administration so that he could be
a modern-day “Justice Bao”!

·         Abdullah’s failure to give satisfactory responses to integrity  allegations whether  involving himself on the Iraq Food For Oil scam involving billions of ringgit,
his son, Kamaluddin over Scomi government contracts or his son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin over ECM Libra share acquisitions  – which should all have been
referred to an independent public inquiry.

·         Abdullah’s shocking riposte to Tun Mahathir in their “four eyes only” meeting before the  Hari Raya holidays that the children of the former Prime Minister
had more government contracts that his son, Kamaluddin, as if the Prime Minister had lost the sense between right and wrong on the question of integrity,
which is to be his legacy to the country as the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia.

·         The poor and dismal record in the last three years in the battle against corruption. In the recently-released World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators
(WGI) 2006 report, Malaysia fared worse as compared to 10 years ago in five of the six good governance indicators – voice and accountability, political stability
and absence of violence, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law and control of corruption. Malaysia’s ranking in the Transparency International’s
Corruption Perception Index (CPI) had plunged from No. 23 in 1995 to No. 37 in 2003 when Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad stepped down as Prime Minister,
but the decline continued in 2004 and 2005, falling to No. 39 in both years.If the World Bank’s WGI findings on “control of corruption” reflect the latest position,
then Malaysia’s ranking in the Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2006 may even fall from 39 to 52, as World Bank has found
Malaysia to be in an even worse position than 12 countries which had been behind Malaysia in the TI CPI 2005, including Thailand!

·         The  shocking assertion  by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz  last Thursday claiming that Umno members are immune from
the Anti-Corruption Act 1997 for money politics and that the Anti- Corruption Agency (ACA) cannot investigate cases of political corruption or money politics
because these offences are confined to political parties and not public transgressions.  The failure of the Prime Minister to  dissociate himself from the Nazri doctrine,
the silence from the ACA and the Attorney-General’s Chambers on this pernicious doctrine seem to  mark the end and full retreat of Abdullah’s lacklustre and fruitless  
three-year anti-corruption campaign.

In his three years as Prime Minister, Abdullah has failed to “walked the talk” of his reform pledges and agenda, as well as his many beautifully-crafted calls and admonitions.

Although the Prime Minister  is the most powerful office in the country, his words are now being treated like “water off a  duck’s back” by all and sundry in the country  
– whether Ministers, bureaucrats, party apparatchiks and  the members of the public.

In mid-April, the Prime Minister chided the “Little Napoleons” in the public service, ticking off heads of departments and officials who delayed giving approvals or who sat
on  files, telling them instead to “facilitate, don’t frustrate”.

He said the few who caused delays because they wanted to throw their weight around would only tarnish the Government’s name.

He said:

"There's no need to show how powerful you are by delaying ... I don't
agree with that. Don't show power by holding back the file. Instead, show
how powerful you are by quickly implementing and facilitating. Please
remember this.
 "There are 'little Napoleons' all over the place who like to show power
by delaying things.
"These people do this because they think they should teach other people
a lesson for making noise (raising complaints or issues). Instead, find
out what the problems are. There must be a reason."
Has the “Little Napoleon” mentality and culture been rooted out of the public service? Has any “Little Napoleon” been disciplined in the past six months since 
Abdullah’s “Little Napoleon” speech? Are there statistics? Or are there now  even  more “Little Napoleons” in the public service than six months ago?

Three years after the euphoria over Abdullah’s  pledge of reform and integrity, public disillusionment is widespread as the political rot is setting in deep and fast.

It would appear that Abdullah’s writs, whether as Prime Minister now or formerly as Deputy Prime Minister, never ran very far.
In August 2003,  less than three months from taking over the highest political office in  the land, after chairing the 51st meeting of the National Council for Local 
Councils, Abdullah directed all State authorities immediately to gazette open spaces for recreational purposes and place them under the supervision of the respective 
State Secretariats.
Abdullah said there have been numerous cases of such areas being developed by unscrupulous developers as the actual status of the land was  shrouded in
confusion.  This happened because the land was  not gazetted and no one knew the actual status of the land. May be the approving party (local councils)
failed to conduct proper checks or had insufficient information on the
status of such land. Thus, approval was granted for development.
Abdullah said the ruling was necessary as such land had been dubiously
developed, depriving residents of the facilities.
This was  well and good. But how many open spaces had been gazetted after Abdullah’s directive – or was this another case of “water off the duck’s back”?
And what has Abdullah done  as Prime Minister in the past three years to protect open spaces and preserve recreational grounds?
I was in Tawau last Friday together with the DAP MP for Seputeh, Teresa Kok and DAP Secretary-General Lim Guan Eng. Over 500 people gathered at a local 
hotel during a midday three-hour meeting, forgoing lunch, to protest against the deprivation of five pieces of open spaces in the  Sabindo area, which was a clear 
defiance of the directive by Abdullah in 2003 to preserve open spaces and protect recreational lands from profiteering by developers.
I find the Sabindo development in Tawau most scandalous, for the five pieces of  open spaces in the developed Sabindo area provided  300 car parks and  are now 
being redeveloped to build 54 four-storey shopping units, without any provision for car parks when under the by-laws such development would require the building of 
some 300 car parking lots or their equivalent monetary compensation. 
Tawau is already choked with traffic in the Sabindo area which urgently needs another 300 carpark lots to ease the congestion.  Now 300 existing car park lots in five 
open spaces are being eliminated for commercial development, which must be accompanied with provision of space for 300 car parks but which had been exempted 
without any need for monetary compensation, creating even worse congestion by  trebling the shortfall of car parks from 300 to 900!
The Sabah state cabinet had  issued a directive in September last year for an immediate  halt of the development project of open spaces  within an already developed 
area in Sabindo, but this was defied by the developer which had entered into a joint venture agreement with the Tawau Municipal Council in 1996 and started work 
after its development plan was approved in May 2005.
It is a measure of the public indignation in Tawau that over 500 people were prepared to forgo lunch in a three-hour mid-day meeting last Friday to vent their outrage, 
anger and  frustration, adopting a five-point resolution, where they unanimously resolved to:

1)     Condemn the blatant disregard for the basic principles of municipal good governance, especially in condoning deprivation of the fundamental rights of the Tawau ratepayers to open spaces;


2)     Call on Tawau Municipal Council President and Councilors to protect recreational lands, to preserve open spaces in Tawau and to stop development projects in Sabindo, or to resign collectively;


3)     Call on the Tawau MP and ADUNs to effectively, diligently and conscientiously to defend and protect the basic rights of Tawau people to open spaces or to resign and return their seats to the people;


4)     Call on the Sabah Chief Minister  and the entire Sabah cabinet to enforce their decision to stop all development projects depriving the people of their open spaces or to resign collectively for their irresponsibility and impotence;


5)     Fully support the campaign to protect recreational lands and preserve open spaces in Tawau as what is at stake is the larger issue as to whether Malaysia is a nation of laws and not of men, and to form a committee to launch the campaign in Sabah and Malaysia. 


I want to ask Abdullah what he is doing to address the open defiance and challenge to his directive to the State governments and local authorities to protect and preserve open spaces and recreational grounds, particularly in the scandalous Tawau case where open spaces in a developed township  are being systematically  developed  by another developer for profit, creating infernal traffic congestions,  depriving the people of  basic civic facilities of open spaces and recreational grounds and showing utter disregard for the law.


I call on the Prime Minister to give his personal attention to the scandalous case of Tawan redevelopment of open spaces of a developed township as such utter disregard for the civic and environmental rights of ratepayers  must never be allowed to be a precedent in urban development for other towns and states in Malaysia.



*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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