Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Monday, 8th September 2008: 

“The birds have flown” – BN MPs forced to flee from Malaysia because of “916″

The Star front-page headline today “Off to Taiwan – 50 Barisan MPs begin eight-day study trip” is the latest update of the political farce which could be appropriately entitled “The Birds Have Flown” to tell the story as to how 51 years after Merdeka, two-thirds of the 75 BN parliamentary backbenchers were forced to flee from Malaysia to ensure that they don’t take part any “916” political changes.

Despite maintaining a public stanc of stoic indifference, there is no doubt that with the daily countdown to September 16, there is an increasing panic in Umno and Barisan Nasional leadership ranks over the degree of cohesion, solidarity and allegiance of the 75 Barisan Nasional parliamentary backbenchers, resulting in the farcical “forced flight” overseas by two-thirds of the BN MPs to make it absolutely sure that none of them will participate in any “916” developments.

The Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club (BBC) chairman Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing (Bintulu) may pride himself for coming up with a “political masterstroke” to thwart “916”, but he did not realize that he has made the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak and the entire Umno and BN leadership look even more foolish in the eyes of Malaysians and the world!

Tiong should be sacked as BBC Chairman instead of being praised and rewarded for hatching such a stupid idea, as it will go into the Malaysian political folklores of Abdullah being exposed as a latter-day “Emperor’s New Clothes”.

What makes Tiong and the leaders of Umno and BN think that physically shipping two-thirds of the 75 parliamentary backbenchers overseas and sequestering from any contact with Pakatan Rakyat until after “916” (may be every BN MP will be subject to 24-hr surveilliance in their Taiwan study trip with all the handphones confiscated or all forms of communications monitored and censored), the loyalty and allegiance of all the BN MPs are forever secured?

If there are BN MPs who are minded to leave BN as it is a “sinking Titanic”, nothing can stop them from proceeding with their fateful decisions any time after their return to Malaysia after September 16.

The panic of BN leaders with the approach of “916” is also evident from the increasingly intemperate and irrational statements emanating from their ranks.

New Sunday Times yesterday carried one such statement by the Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) deputy president and Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, Datuk Dr. Maximus Ongkili.

The New Sunday Times quoted Ongkili as condemning as “evil” the plan to overthrow the BN government by alleged “undemocratic means”.

He said “enticing elected BN representatives to cross over so that Pakatan Rakyat could seize power was shameful, unethical and dangerous because it would create political chaos and economic strife”.

He said the people should “reject the dirty politics propagated by the opposition, and erase the notion that elected politicians in Malaysia could be bought and sold for a pot of political porridge”.

He also posed the following questions:

“Why is Pakatan so insistent in promoting the formation of a government of unprincipled politicians?

“Do we want this country to be governed by frog legislators who will surely mortgage the rights of the people?”

I have always known Ongkili as a level-headed politician but it is reflection of the extreme pressures he and other leaders, whether PBS, Umno or BN, have been subject to by the “916” dateline, to make him to use intemperate language when Ongkili should have known that the language of abuse like “evil”, “dirty politics”, “elected politicians…bought and sold for a pot of political porridge”, “unprincipled politicians”, “frog legislators who …mortgage the rights of the people” could be so easily used back against him as he had led PBS from the Opposition into the Barisan Nasional in highly controversial circumstances.

I fully agree that Malaysian politics must be kept clean, ethical and principled and there must be no room for elected representatives to be “frog legislators” to defect for monetary gain or other material inducements – or to use Ongkili’s words “a pot of political porridge”.

This is why DAP and I had maintained since the 70s that elected representative should resign if they want to defect, return the mandate to the voters to seek their approval in a by-election on a question of principle – which will banish the disgraceful political spectacle of money politics where MPs and state legislators could be bought and sold in the market place and end unprincipled, unethical and dishonourable politics.

This honourable option for an MP to resign and cause a by-election to seek a new mandate from the electorate to endorse his resignation or defection was closed in 1990 when the Constitution was amended to bar any MP who resigns from his seat from standing for election for five years.

After the two political tsunamis of March 8 general election and the Permatang Pauh by-election on August 26, there is a deepening crisis of confidence in the authority and legitimacy of the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the Barisan Nasional government who seem to be completely lost as to how to resolve the multiple crisis of confidence afflicting the country, whether political, economic, institutional, good governance or even nation-building.

As a result, more and more Malaysians have come around to the view that in the national interest to safeguard the well-being of the nation and people, particularly to enhance our international competitiveness to assure the future prosperity of all Malaysians, a change of government is not only timely but has become an imperative national agenda.

I believe that this is also the view of more and more BN MPs.

I will have no truck with BN MPs who want to join forces with Pakatan Rakyat because this is an opportunity for them to make money or get other material gain, i.e. for “a pot of political porridge”, for this is clearly unethical, unprincipled and dishonourable which must be deplored by all right-thinking Malaysians.

However, if BN MPs are motivated by noble principles of saving the country from further drift and loss of direction of the Barisan Nasional government and for the political, economic and national betterment of the people, their honourable and principled action to leave the sinking BN Titanic will surely gain the sympathy, support and respect of all Malaysians.

* Lim Kit Siang,  DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor