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  Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Friday, 28th March 2008: 

Public inquiry on accountability and integrity of expenditures of several billions of ringgit of “black gold” through Wang Ehsan in Terengganu in the past seven years

The constitutional crisis in Terengganu over the appointment of Datuk Ahmad Said as the new Mentri Besar has come to an end with the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi backing off from his original nominee of the former Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh.

As a result, the front-page article of former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in The Sun on “Role of rulers in picking mentri besar” has been overtaken by events.

However, Mahathir’s views on two ongoing controversies – Wang Ehsan and the judicial crisis – are very pertinent.

On the Wang Ehsan issue, Mahathir wrote:

Terengganu is blessed with petroleum deposits. It should get 5% of the total earning from oil production. The Federal Government; fearing the previous PAS government might use this money wrongly had withheld payment.

But when the Barisan Nasional (BN) regained Terengganu the money, now called "Wang Ehsan", was lavishly spent by the Federal Government on Terengganu. It is not a small sum. Over these years "Wang Ehsan" totaled several billion.

We know that since the BN regained Terengganu in 2004, all kinds of projects have been developed in Terengganu. This includes The Monsoon Cup, luxury housing for sale to foreigners, Crystal Mosque and theme park, university, etc. Some of these projects are very good but many are totally unnecessary and wasteful.

But what the Terengganu people are saying is that all these mega projects costing billions of Ringgit have been contracted out to people outside Terengganu. Terengganu contractors got practically nothing.

But additionally, they say the contracts all went to one person and they are suspicious that behind this person are members of the first family. The rumours also say that the previous Mentri Besar was responsible for these things happening and of course, they think that he might have benefited financially.

The rumours went on to say that the Prime Minister might have influenced the Mentri Besar into doing wrong things. These are all rumours. It will be quite impossible to prove anything as the perpetrators are skilled in hiding themselves.

This is not good for a Government keen to abolish corruption and be transparent. To clear its name, an investigation should be made.

With former Prime Minister Mahathir coming round to the view that there should be an investigation into the expenditures of Wang Ehsan, Abdullah should take up the challenge to institute a public inquiry on accountability and integrity of expenditures of several billions of ringgit of “black gold” through Wang Ehsan in Terengganu in the past seven years since 2000.

In his article, Mahathir also denied any fault, culpability or responsibility for the two-decade crisis of confidence in the judiciary, particularly the 1988 “mother” of judicial crisis which saw the arbitrary and unconstitutional sacking of Tun Salleh Abas as Lord President and Datuk George Seah and the late Tan Sri Wan Suleiman Pawanteh as Supreme Court judges, as well as the suspension of three Supreme Court judges.

This is what Mahathir wrote:

Even other accusations against me, including the dismissal of judges, were not my doing and I do not feel obliged to apologise. Ask the Tribunal to apologise.

The person asking that the Government should apologise for what happened to Tun Salleh Abbas may have forgotten that as President of the Muslim Lawyers Association, he fully supported the action that was taken. He castigated the Bar Council for condemning Tun Hamid Omar over the dismissal of judges. Now he wants to be more correct than correct. I wonder why.

If Mahathir could suggest an inquiry into the investigation into the expenditures of several billions of ringgit on Wang Ehsan in Terengganu, he should also support a public investigation into the two-decade crisis of confidence in the judiciary, starting with the “mother of judicial crisis” in 1988.

* Lim Kit Siang, MP for Ipoh Timor & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman


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