Appointment of Khalil Yaakob as Malacca Yang di-Pertua Negri should be deferred until all questions and ACA reports and investigations involving the former Pahang Mentri Besar have been given  full and satisfactory public accounting

Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Ipoh, Friday): Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam announced yesterday that the UMNO and Barisan Nasional secretary general, Tan Sri Khalil Yaakob, will be appointed the sixth Yang di-Pertua Negeri of Malacca next Friday (June 4). 

Khalil, who was former Pahang Menteri Besar and Information Minister, will replace Tun Syed Ahmad Shahabudin, 79, who was Malacca Governor for almost 20 years. 

The questions Malaysians want answer includes:  

  • What will happen to the corruption reports and Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) investigations involving Khalil Yaakob, particularly in connection with his tenure as Pahang Mentri Besar concerning serious allegations of  logging malpractices, whether all these ACA reports and investigations would be completely suspended during his term of office as Malacca Governor as he would be enjoying immunity from prosecution, and which could only be reactivated after he had relinquished his appointment or re-appointment as head of state of Malacca?
  • Is Khalil one of the “at least 18 high-ranking  individuals” which the former Law Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Rais Yatim revealed in February as “awaiting further action” by the ACA and various authorities, and if so, has he been cleared by the ACA for appointment as the Malacca Governor?

In his latest interview with the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi denied that his anti-corruption campaign had ground to a halt, declaring: “No, it’s going on. But I can’t be talking about it every day as if I’m going to be a one-issue man.” 

In the interests of national integrity and the Prime Minister’s credibility in his  commitment to establish a clean, incorruptible, accountable, trustworthy and people-oriented administration, the appointment of Khalil Yaakob as Malacca Yang di Pertua Negeri should be deferred until all  questions and ACA reports and investigations involving him have been given full and satisfactory public accounting.

On the appointment of the new Malacca Governor, the people of Malacca and Malaysia have legitimate grounds to be disappointed for two reasons: 

  • Firstly, that an anak Malacca had not been appointed to the post after 47 years of Merdeka; and
  • Secondly, the failure to honour the Merdeka compact in 1957 on  “power-sharing” that the posts of Malacca Governor and Chief Minister would be alternated between the Malays and the Chinese, a compact which was observed only once when Tun Leong Yew Koh was appointed Malacca Governor immediately when the country achieved Independence in 1957, but never honoured after that.

In his interview with FEER, Abdullah defended the size and appointment of his first Cabinet after his landslide victory in the March 21 general election. 

Replying to the question about “the need to change the political culture in UMNO to combat corruption” and “Shouldn’t senior cabinet positions go to the most qualified people”, Abdullah said:

“That’s easier said than done, and it’s just not practical. The person leading the government must also be leader of the party. At the same time, of course, we try our best to get good men in the government. I know I have been criticized from all quarters for not doing much to change the entire cabinet… Look, I also have 14 political parties to take care of. Every one of them wants representation—that’s what we call power sharing.”

Abdullah’s reply is not satisfactory at all. Firstly, the 14-party Barisan Nasional coalition is no excuse or justification for having the biggest Cabinet in the nation’s history.  Secondly, there  is also no justification as to why Malaysia with 2.3 per cent of India’s one billion population, should have  a bigger Cabinet than the Vajpayee coalition Cabinet defeated in the recent Indian general election.

When Abdullah first became Prime Minister last November, his intimates had asked for time until the first part of this year for a mandate from  the general election before he could move  to bring major changes in government. Now, the word is that Abdullah should be given time until after the September UMNO party elections before he could stamp his personal imprimatur on his administration.

Is Abdullah prepared, after the September UMNO election, to have a total shake-up of the Cabinet, dropping the corrupt or those perceived by the public as corrupt and the deadwood, to give way for a clean, efficient, dedicated and lean Cabinet to propel Malaysia to make the transition from “First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality” to “First World Infrastructure, First World Mentality” nation


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor & DAP National Chairman