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It's about saving M'sia, not me, says Guan Eng in open letter

MP SPEAKS The proposed early state election for Penang is not intended to save Lim Guan Eng from trumped-up corruption charges. Lim Guan Eng cannot be saved politically.

However, it is clear that Malaysia and Penang can still be saved from BN’s dirty political manipulation to undermine the people’s yearning for change for a clean Malaysia, that is free from the massive corruption evident in the 1MDB scandal.

BN will not stop at its political conspiracy to character-assassinate me, that I abused my power to benefit Phang Li Khoon who sold her 30-year-old house to me. The truth that she made a profit and not a loss from selling her house to me, is overlooked.

The fact that she has no direct business dealings and did not benefit from the state government is ignored – her land is still zoned as agricultural and could not be rezoned as housing, after the local government council rejected her application.

If it is not the two trumped-up charges against me that did not involve a single sen of public funds, there would be other fictitious allegations.

Again, powers are abused to conduct exhaustive investigations on the Penang state government’s public works projects that practise open bidding and competitive tenders, whilst ignoring BN’s failure to practise open competitive tenders. Of course, no action is taken against 1MDB for robbing Malaysians blind.

BN’s determination to finish me off by hook or by crook, is matched by our determination not to permit BN to undermine the people’s centric Pakatan government in Penang and escape punishment for the massive 1MDB scandal.

My colleagues and I are determined to ensure the continued survival of the Penang Pakatan government and the people’s will, regardless whether I finally survive or not.

Should my political victimisation by BN help to wake up the people from their political lethargy, I am willing to be that catalyst.

Penang leads

This is the reason why we ask for a fresh mandate from the people of Penang. The proposed state general election is not just about being against the trumped-up corruption charges against me.

It is about the people of Penang deciding on endorsing the clean Pakatan government over the corrupt BN administration.

It is about protecting and preserving the positive changes Pakatan has brought to Penang, that is now cleaner, greener, safer and healthier.

It is about the people of Penang taking the lead to condemn BN for establishing 1MDB that allowed the prime minister’s stepson Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz, Jho Low and his family to steal and defraud Malaysians of US$3.5 billion (RM13 billion). It is also about Malaysians’ yearning for change to a clean and new Malaysia – an entrepreneurial and welfare state.

Despite lacking natural resources and bereft of federal government funding, Penang has managed to prosper by relying on good and clean governance, building our human talent and relying on the private sector and civil society in a framework of public private partnership (PPP).

With the state government providing either the seed money or funding the entire project/initiative, we invite the private sector to invest either in funds or expertise on sustainable development.

Despite being publicly funded, many of these projects/initiatives are run by the private sector or civil society, with minimal or no interference from the state government.

The RM20 million Penang science café project to give free classes to kids in applied science and robotics, the RM28 million Tech Dome of Penang to rekindle interest in science and technology, the RM6 million German dual vocational training scheme offering free 42-month advanced diploma courses where students learn on the job and work at factories that is recognised even in Germany, the new RM3 million Penang Digital library, the building of a RM1 billion fish farming on the sea industry out of nothing in 2008, and even the annual George Town Festival showcase the successes of Penang’s entrepreneurial state model.

Penang is also a welfare state in not forgetting about the poor and disadvantaged. Since 2008, more than RM400 million has been paid out to schools, senior citizens, new-born babies, single mothers, the disabled, housewives, taxi drivers, fishermen, trishaw riders, primary, secondary and university students.

We devote 12 percent of our budget annually in cash aid and even guarantee a minimum monthly household income of RM790 by topping up the income of those who earn less than RM790. In other words, if your monthly household income is RM600 per month, the state will pay RM190 every month.

Perhaps, this is why Penang’s Gini coefficient of income inequality has been reduced from 0.42 in 2009 to 0.364 in 2014, an improvement of 13 percent over five years, as compared to the national average of 0.401.

The entrepreneurial and welfare state is only possible because we record annual budget surpluses through clean administration.

Penang’s CAT administration of Competency, Accountability and Transparency has allowed our reserves to increase from RM850 million to nearly RM1.6 billion in eight years.

Penang’s government debt has been reduced by 90 percent to only RM69 million – the lowest in Malaysia. Further, Penang’s unemployment rate of 1.5 percent offers many job opportunities.

No to kleptocracy

We believe that Malaysians prefer a democracy to an autocracy and never a kleptocracy. At no time did the people vote for a government of thieves, a kleptocracy where government leaders steal public funds or natural resources from the people to enrich themselves.

In its court action filed under laws relating to US's Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative (Kari), the United States Department of Justice has sought the seizure of valuable assets of up to US$1 billion owned by various individuals alleged to have been purchased from monies "stolen" from 1MDB.

The US attorney-general said that the US$1 billion assets is only part of the total US$3.5 billion or RM13 billion stolen by 1MDB from the people. The rationale of Kari is to prevent corrupt leaders in foreign countries practising kleptocracy, from enjoying the fruits of their corrupt acts by committing money laundering in the US.

In contrast to BN turning Malaysia into the largest kleptocracy in US history, the Pakatan state government is proud of turning Penang into a model state of integrity, accountability and transparency.

Penang achieved the distinction of being the only government in Malaysian history to be commended by Transparency International for adopting an open competitive tender system.

The annual auditor-general's report has also praised Penang for the best financially managed state administration in the country. And yet Penang has been subjected to repeated corruption investigations into our public projects granted by open tender.

Penang can fire the first salvo to save Malaysia from kleptocracy. There are those who said that DAP should just dissolve the Penang state legislative assembly on our own to mirror PKR’s unilateral Kajang move to change the Selangor menteri besar with a sudden by-election. I do not agree.

Unlike BN’s kleptocrats, DAP leaders are democrats. DAP will not make a unilateral decision to call for an early general election, but will try to seek a consensus amongst all three parties in Pakatan Harapan.

Despite being unfairly criticised, we will hold on to keeping our word and display trustworthiness as a basis towards forging a strong coalition.

Despite justifying the need for an early state election, there will continue to be those who miss the wood from the trees by insisting that a Pakatan victory will not rid Malaysia of the 1MDB scandal.

This displays both a lack of faith in the decency and righteousness of Malaysians as well as underestimates the power of the people to effect change by rejecting wholesale robbery by BN in the 1MDB scandal.

Keeping the future safe

I still remember asking Anwar Ibrahim, whether the Kajang move was worth it, when he received criticisms from his friends in the civil society. He reiterated that change, even though painful and risky, was necessary if it brought good in the long run.

Yes, we all run the risk of losing seats to the machinations of BN. However, we must have faith in Penangites. We must not lose faith in the people’s innate goodness to choose right over wrong, good over evil and a clean government over a corrupt government.

Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans and Ibans encounter the same problems and share the same dreams as Malaysians, all linked directly to the economic problems brought about by the 1MDB scandal.

The depreciation in the ringgit, the imposition of GST, loss of business and the difficulty of finding high-income employment are all related to the 1MDB scandal. Are we to be forever imprisoned by our fears that the politics of hate over race and religion will be exploited to cover up the 1MDB scandal and distract attention from BN’s gross abuses of power and injustice?

If so, how can the political situation be better and more favourable to Pakatan two years later, when general election is held and anger over 1MDB has slowly dissipated?

Yes, we must avoid three-cornered fights, but is there any assurance of a one-on-one contest against BN, two years from now?

When will this madness end?

Pakatan must have faith in the people to rise up to the occasion to save the country from BN. Malaysia is spiralling down a dangerous path when Umno Youth lodged a police report against former Bank Negara governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz, outgoing Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief Abu Kasim Mohamed and former attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail for being involved in a conspiracy to topple Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and the Malaysian government.

Umno Youth vice-chief Khairul Azwan Harun even accused the three of providing confidential information to foreign agencies without authorisation, including the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

When will this madness end, where the innocent whistleblowers are persecuted whilst the corrupt who stole billions of ringgit from ordinary Malaysians escape unpunished?

Political parties can only do so much, it is ordinary Malaysians that possess the power to effect change.

Let Penang be the first state to lead the change. We must boldly lead the charge for reform and freedom from corruption and injustice even at the cost of losing seats or our votes. For the terrifying alternative is to lose the hopes and future of our next generation.

Our present generation has suffered enough by letting BN steal our future. Let us not allow BN to steal the future of the next generation. We believe that Penang and Malaysia can be saved, and that Penangites will support Pakatan to keep the future safe for our young.

LIM GUAN ENG is MP for Bagan. He is also Penang chief minister and DAP secretary-general.

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