Forward    Feedback    


Press Statement by Lim Guan Eng in Penang on Tuesday, 5th August 2008: 

Koh Tsu Koon should have a debate now without setting any pre-conditions  

Former Penang Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon should have a debate now without setting any pre-conditions instead of desperately trying to stifle discussion, discourse and even debate of the RM 124 million twin land scams in Penang committed under his administration. Koh should act decisively and make up his mind whether he wants to debate the land scams instead of desperately setting up conditions and excuses to avoid and delay this proposed debate.

By Koh demanding that, “Lim Guan Eng has to immediately retract and stop mentioning again his often repeated open allegations, since March 2008 regarding the potential loss of RM40.0 million by the state government in this case,” it is clear that this is politically motivated as part of BN’s preparations for the up-coming Permatang Pauh by-election.

When DAP leaders were in opposition, we accepted debates without imposing any conditions out of our motivation to discover the truth. Then we did not have the benefit of being in government like Koh. Why should Koh behave differently by imposing all sorts of conditions before debating when he should be manfully debating without any conditions like a true opposition seeking the truth, promoting public participation and accountability?

I wish to state that I had never issued a challenge for debate but when asked by a reporter whether I would debate I had replied that I would accept if that was the only way of Tan Sri Dr Koh to come clean and allow the public to get to the bottom of the largest scandal in the history of Penang. When I assumed the post of Chief Minister, I had requested to meet him privately many times to discuss the problems left by his government and how we can face these challenges together to minimise losses. But despite Koh’s promises to meet me, he has broken every single one of them.

That is why I have no confidence that if I agree to a delay, he would keep his promise. If Koh is sincere about minimising the potential losses faced by the state government, he should not be afraid to meet me privately and discuss these issues. After all I have met former Chief Minister Tun Datuk Seri Utama Dr Lim Chong Eu privately without any problems within the first two weeks of coming to power.

Is Tan Sri Dr Koh still trying to run and hide from the responsibility and mistakes made by his administration. By setting conditions for a debate, Koh is still trying to run away from his moral responsibility and ethical duty to meet and co-operate with the new government to get to the bottom of land scams that happened in his administration to see how losses can be minimised, determine the causes and culprits responsible as well as overcome weaknesses to prevent another repeat of such land scandals. How can Dr Koh pretend that everything is okay and let the new government face the rot of these scandals without our knowledge and make it almost impossible to assess the true financial situation so that we can plan our programmes beneficial to the people?

The admission by former Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya and ex-Chairman of the Penang Executive Council Land Committee on one of the land scams that the previous government had made a mistake which he accepted full responsibility, had left Tan Sri Dr Koh no choice but to concede that the state government faced potential losses of RM 40 million.

This leaves the important question in the public’s mind why Koh did not come clean when the land scam happened five years ago but had to wait for a change of government for this scandal to be exposed? Such failure to come clean does not fulfil the principles of CAT(Competency, Accountability and Transparency) and may even be interpreted as an attempt to cover-up the twin 124 million land scams from public knowledge.

We should not be afraid of admitting mistakes honestly made as we are only human. The new Penang state government practices CAT by admitting the mistake made by the Land Office in issuing the wrong forms for application to convert their residential homes to freehold status even before any member of the public knew about it.

If Koh prefers to play politics then to help Penangnites resolve and punish those involved in these land scams by co-operating with the new state government, he should answer 7 questions posed by me.

1. failed to implement land procedures that could have prevented such a grievous error that the land was mistaken as state land and then granted to one individual;

2. could have approved to be leased to an individual such a big piece of land for 10.6 acres for quarrying purpose;

3. whether through the Land Committee chaired by Datuk Dr Hilmy or the State EXCO chaired by him, could have given such approvals when all the technical government departments had opposed the application for quarrying purpose;

4. refused to implement an earlier out-of court settlement of RM 1.8 million to Tan Hak Ju;

5. failed to take stern action against the government staff responsible and only issued a warning to him;

6. failed to transfer him out of his present position in his department and was only transferred out by the new government when we took over after 11 March 2008.

7. could claim that internal investigation by EXCO members was still continuing when it was completed in 2006?

Koh’s refusal to come clean and take full responsibility like Datuk Dr Hilmy is regrettable and not in the public interest. Even though Koh has no personal interest or benefit in these two land scams, his failure to act is a classic example of “Evil exists because good people do nothing”, where one may be personally clean but yet allows or close a blind eye to malpractices or abuses by those surrounding or close to him.

* Lim Guan Eng, Penang Chief Minister & DAP Secretary-General