KUALA LUMPUR: Aug 21, 2008
Penang under the Barisan Nasional government had a near-perfect record in handling land matters if not for five to seven "botched" cases, former Penang Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon said.
He said the state Exco's performance would have been more than 99.9% if not for the botched cases in a debate entitled The True Story Behind the Land Controversy in Penang organised by online media Agenda Daily. In replying to the land scam allegations by current Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng that the previous state government was still trying to cover up their tracks, Dr Koh said: "Don't use two or three cases to blame the previous government and tarnish our name.
"Every year the state Exco solved more than 500 land papers, which meant that in 15 years it was almost 10,000 cases. If there were mistakes in not more than seven cases, our performance is already 99.9%," Koh said yesterday.
His debate opponent Lim Guan Eng, however, had a cynical reply at hand.
"It's worrying enough to have only six or seven cases as it already involves up to millions of ringgit," he said.
Lim had also questioned Dr Koh repeatedly as to why the officer involved in the RM40mil botched land deal was only given a warning, to which Dr Koh replied that the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) had investigated the matter twice, but did not have "solid evidence that a crime had occurred".
Dr Koh then took his turn to pry Lim instead.
Dr Koh: The case is still open. The Chief Minister can still take action. Why has he not conducted a deeper investigation than the one done by the previous government?
Lim: Why didn't we do more internal investigations? It's double jeopardy. How can we punish him twice for the same mistake? But in the first place, why was he let off with only a warning?
To a question that Lim had also accused Koh of leaving him with an empty office without any files, Dr Koh replied: "His accusation is altogether baseless. The Chief Minister's office on the 28th floor (of the Komtar Building in Penang) is 4,267sq metres (14,000 sq ft). And the Chief Minister's office alone is less than 609 sq metres (2000sq ft).
"But most important is the bilik sulit (private room). In the office there are thousands of files. This is a case of shooting before looking, and one that causes misunderstanding to the rakyat," he said.