Is Datuk Poh Ah Tiam Willing To Announce That MCA Shall Sue Government Authorities That Implements Policies Detrimental To The People's Interests?

Press Statement
Betty Chew Gek Cheng

(Melaka, Thursday):  I wish to ask MCA State Chairman And Melaka State EXCO member Datuk Poh Ah Tiam whether he is willing to announce that MCA shall sue government authorities that implements policies detrimental to the interests of the people. Such an announcement will only prove the sincerity of MCA to protect the people's rights and correct injustices. Datuk Poh had said that the Melaka MCA legal bureau will be expanded to take action against unscrupulous traders who cheat consumers and the people.

Such a move is politically motivated to enhance and rescue the image of MCA, which has been battered following policies which have aroused the people's anger such as the high-handed and arbitrary closure of Jalan Graha Maju and financial scandals. I had questioned why Datuk Poh did not concentrate on using his powers as Melaka State EXCO member to direct the relevant government authorities' enforcement division to exercise their prosecuting powers to take action against unscrupulous traders.

Such use of prosecuting powers will be more effective than consumers taking legal action against unscrupulous traders in saving time and money from filing civil actions in court. Why travel all the way to Perlis to lodge a report when you can do the same in Melaka? After all, there are enough laws in Malaysia to prosecute anyone for any offence committed. Even if there is insufficient evidence, we still have laws which allows for government action to detain those suspected of wrongdoings.

Furthermore unscrupulous traders are not afraid of civil suits as they can always employ lawyers to fight the matter in court. What unscrupulous traders are really afraid of is being prosecuted by the government under relevant laws where they can be penalised not only in fines or losing their licenses but also imprisonment. Will traders be
afraid of facing civil suits from individuals where the heaviest penalty is monetary compensation or being prosecuted by the government where they can go to jail? I am sure the people, especially the poor, will prefer that the government prosecute unscrupulous traders than they themselves sue in court, where they are exposed to the risk of paying all legal costs should they lose.

Instead of Datuk Poh replying, I am surprised that Melaka MCA Legal Bureau Koh Nai Kwong has responded by criticising me today. Koh Nai Kwong should realise that the functions of the MCA Legal Bureau is a political not a legal decision. It is Datuk Poh Ah Tiam who decides the ambit of the MCA Melaka Legal Bureau especially whether it is empowered to sue government agencies who neglect to carry out their duties.

Koh Nai Kwong should not interpret my remarks as an attack against him when I have never mentioned him or any other lawyers but directed myself solely against Datuk Poh Ah Tiam. My remarks were based on facts, not
emotionally, and have never used words like puppet to describe him or the MCA Melaka Legal Bureau. As members of the Bar, we lawyers enjoy a cordial professional relationship. I have never made any attacks nor
denied the contributions of my fellow lawyers who are sincere in serving the public.

What I will not agree is political leaders like Datuk Poh who appears to try to push the matter to their legal Bureaus to act when a more effective solution is to exercise their powers as State EXCO members to direct the relevant government agencies to take action. What is the use of holding political power if one does not use it "being a houseowner without the power'! What is the use of paying our civil servants salaries if we do not direct them to act for the benefit of the people?

So far Datuk Poh has not announced that MCA is prepared to sue the government authorities that implements policies detrimental to and cause losses to the people. It can not be denied that the people suffer more directly from unfair government policies and indirectly from the failure of the government to act against unscrupulous traders. For instance when MPMBB tried to evict Jalan Bendahara 9-storey flat residents in 1987, MCA did not step forward to fight this eviction notice against MPMBB. It was DAP Deputy Chairman Karpal Singh who stepped forward and gave free legal service to the 200 families in 9-storey flats.

Similarly when the police unfairly imposed two RM300 traffic summons early this year under Ops Warta that affected almost every Malaysian who had to line up for hours to pay traffic summons, MCA did not dare to sue the police. Again it was Karpal Singh who stepped forward and sued the police. Such courage to sue the government appears to come only from the DAP.

It is for this reason that I directed my questions to Datuk Poh Ah Tiam as the courage to sue the government is a political issue to be decided by the party and not an individual or personal one. I believe that many MCA lawyers have the same courage to act if only MCA as a political party has the courage to act. However, such courage in MCA is lacking when two Penang State Assemblyman are now being punished by MCA, not for corruption but for daring to stand up for the people.

As long as Datuk Poh dares not announce that MCA is prepared to sue the government over policies detrimental to the people, any announcement of expansion of MCA's legal work to help the people by Datuk Poh is merely a "political sandiwara". The people can not see how MCA can legally protect the people's rights and correct injustices when it is willing to support such unfair government policies like the closure of Jalan Graha Maju.


* Betty Chew Gek Cheng,  DAP Wanita Melaka Chairperson and State Assemblywoman for Durian Daun