Aliran is not in the least surprised that Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has been arrested by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and charged by the attorney general’s office over a bungalow purchase in 2015.
Rumours of his pending detention had been circulating for months. It was always a question of when his arrest would be expedited.
However, we are utterly dismayed that he has been charged under section 165 of the Penal Code for the alleged purchase of the property for RM2.8m, which is allegedly below market value, as well as under Section 23 of the MACC Act 2009 related to the rezoning of agriculture land to residential use. Apparently, this charge is related to the sale of state land to private developers.
As a Penang-based civil society organisation, Aliran has followed developments closely since the issue was first raised in Parliament on 4 March by Umno Tasek Gelugor MP Shabudin Yahya. He had linked the purchase of the bungalow to the sale of state land in Taman Manggis to a private developer.
Aliran’s has carefully scrutinised the circumstances that resulted in the purchase of the modest two-storey bungalow. In this regard it should be clarified that land and houses in land-scarce Penang Island are ridiculously expensive.
The explanations surrounding the sale of the property by Phang Li Koon to the chief minister, who had already been renting the house from her for several years prior to its purchase, are now available in the form of a statutory declaration. Moreover, Phang has declared that she had no interest whatsoever in the company which tendered for the plot of state land, nor was she involved in its management in any form, at any stage.
The chief minister has further clarified that the plot was sold via an open tender committee chaired by the federal-appointed state secretary.
For Aliran and for many Malaysians, these explanations suffice. Aliran has issued several statements on these related matters as they unfolded during April and June 2016. Do visit our website aliran.com for these statements. For us, there is no basis to MP Shabudin Yahya’s claims of corruption. The MACC, the attorney general, the police, and the Umno-BN government should focus their attention on the missing billions which are the subject of investigations in seven countries.
Having witnessed how former Parliamentary Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had been charged in court, found guilty and jailed first in Sodomy I and then Sodomy II; how the late DAP chairman and long-time Opposition MP Karpal Singh had been charged and found guilty for sedition; indeed Lim Guan Eng himself jailed on two extended occasions; and so many other Opposition leaders and ordinary citizens critical of the BN government have been and continue to be arrested, charged and punished with fines and jail sentences under various coercive laws ranging from the Sedition Act, the Communications and Multimedia Act, Sosma, Pota, the Peaceful Assembly Act, to the Penal Code, it was always a matter of time before the chief minister would be arrested and charged, again.
Since GE12 in March 2008, Aliran has welcomed the burgeoning emergence of a two-party system in Malaysia, which helps to deepen our parliamentary democracy. Although we have not supported several of the Pakatan-led Penang state government’s development policies, especially those which have contributed towards overbuilding, environmental destruction and traffic congestion within the state, we have always supported the chief minister and his Penang government in their efforts to usher in good governance via promoting Competency, Accountability and Transparency (CAT).
The court authorities should see that this case is heard speedily so that the chief minister (and Phang) will have the opportunity to clear their names.
Aliran and many groups and individuals in Malaysia believe that the judicial and legal processes, like so many other government institutions including the MACC, the attorney general’s office and the police, have become compromised as a result of almost 60 years of continued Umno-BN rule.
Nonetheless, with the whole world watching, we believe that Justice and Truth will have its day. Malaysia’s global reputation and future as a democracy characterised by the rule of law is at stake, once again.
Aliran stands in solidarity with Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.
Dr Francis Loh
30 June 2016