GEORGE TOWN: Aug 5, 2008 By LOOI SUE-CHERN
Former Penang Chief Minister Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon should debate on the state's land scams during his administration without setting pre-conditions, said his successor Lim Guan Eng.
"Dr Koh should be decisive and make up his mind whether he wants to debate the RM124mil twin land scams in Penang instead of desperately setting conditions and making excuses," Lim said Tuesday.
He was commenting on the two conditions set by Dr Koh on Monday for a debate between him and Lim. Dr Koh had asked that the debate be conducted fairly and only after the conclusion of a court hearing on a land scam case involving a RM40mil suit.
"Why should Dr Koh behave differently by imposing all sorts of conditions when he should debate like a true opposition member seeking the truth, promoting public participation and accountability?" Lim told a press conference.
"It is clear that this act is politically motivated as part of Barisan Nasional's preparations for the upcoming Permatang Pauh by-election."
He also accused Dr Koh of trying to "gag" him by demanding that he immediately retract and stop mentioning the potential loss of RM40mil due to a land scam that occurred during the previous administration.
"If he does not want to debate on the scams, the state government is willing to meet him privately to get to the bottom of this scandal."
Lim clarified that he had never issued a challenge to Dr Koh for a debate but said he would take part in one if that was the only way for Dr Koh to come clean on the land issues.
He also said he had requested to meet with Dr Koh privately many times since becoming Chief Minister in March but the latter had yet to meet him.
"The recent admission by a former deputy chief minister and state Land Committee chairman Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya that the previous state government made a mistake on one of the land scams and his accepting full responsibility for it leaves Dr Koh no choice but to concede that the state government faces a potential RM40mil loss.
"Why didn't Dr Koh come clean about it when the scam happened five years ago instead of waiting for a change of government to have it exposed? This may be interpreted as an attempt to cover up."