COMMENT The alleged political prosecution of Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has given his personal popularity the boost his persecutors had not envisaged.
Lim's 'crime' it seems is buying a house while in office. His enemies in trying to pin him down with corruption are denying him this basic right to buy a home available to anyone. In Singapore, the critics tried to pin a similar charge on the late Singapore former PM Lee Kuan Yew when he bought a property at a discount in his country. How ridiculous. Men in such positions will not go after peanuts if indeed they are corrupt. A trumped-up charge should at least appear credible, not an oxymoron.
If there is a lesson from the episode it is for all those who could be targets of political vendetta to act above reproach and suspicion in their private and public dealings at all times. There are conspirators waiting to pounce for the slightest reason. No one should doubt Lim was targeted because of his politics. Thousands of other buy and sell transactions above and below so-called 'market values' occur without fuss.
Some politicians will stop at nothing in their political vendettas as more household names fall by their sharpened swords.
This is politics Malaysian-style, which is making the country the new 'sick man of Asia.'
What decides market value?
A valuer's report is not sacrosanct. It is not cast in rock and can be misleading, even wrong, or worse, manipulated. In the 1980s, someone who had escaped overseas told me how he sold properties with the collusion of a valuer at inflated prices to a company he controlled and made millions. It raises questions on the veracity of market values, which at best are estimates, not definitions on price.
But to argue that market value in the real estate world is the price of the done deal will be lost among those whose minds are made up and won't be convinced by the facts. The facts of Lim's Jalan Pinhorn house purchase offer no grounds for any charge against him or the seller. It was a bona fide and arm's length deal. So why charge a transparent man who has been upfront and had cooperated with the investigators? Or is it a sad case of, "Don't confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up"?
Everyone loves a martyr. Lim may regain some lost humility and be reminded why he is Penang chief minister. It may strengthen his resolve to be a champion for the underdogs of society against injustice and keep him in touch with ordinary people and serve them well. As they say power corrupts and it takes one of strong and impeccable character to be incorruptible in politics...