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Are BN MPs -  subsidy MPs from a subsidy generation –speaking for the people or representing the government against the people?


Speech (1) in Parliament  on Royal Address Motion
by Lim Kit Siang  

, Wednesday): I want to register my shock and outrage at  the speeches of the proposer and the seconder  of the Motion of Thanks for the Royal Address, the MP for Kuala Pilah Datuk Hassan Malek, the MP for Kelana Jaya, Loh Seng Kok, and other Barisan Nasional MPs who had intervened on the subject of the 30-sen price hikes for petrol, diesel and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG).

The total omission about  the recent hike in fuel prices in the Royal Address on Monday was very glaring, reflecting a government which is getting increasingly out of touch with the  foremost concerns of the ordinary people.

The assurance later on Monday   by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad  Badawi that BN MPs were  free to debate the government’s controversial decision to hike the increase in fuel prices and could say “whatever they want” had been  some consolation that BN MPs are not prohibited from articulating the opposition and protests of the people to the fuel hikes, although a clampdown on public protest and opposition to the hike has been imposed on the mainstream media – the first and most ominous press censorship in the Abdullah premiership.

It would appear from yesterday’s proceeding that the freedom for Barisan Nasional MPs to speak  in Parliament on the hike in fuel prices was not to convey the people’s opposition and protest but only limited to support and praise for the fuel hikes regardless of the hardships to the people.

Yesterday, Hassan ended his marathon speech of more than four hours on the fuel price hike while Loh Seng Kok started on the subject. Like the other Barisan Nasional MPs who intervened on the subject, they are united by one common thread - to support and praise the government for being so thoughtful and  caring  for the welfare of the people in the decision to hike fuel prices of petrol, diesel and LPG by 30 sen with the MP for Pasir Puteh Datuk Che Min Che Ahmad even suggesting that the fuel price increase was not enough and should have been by 40 sen a litrte!

They concentrated their  fire on Malaysians who are unappreciative and  ungrateful for what the government had done, using terms like anti-national, profiteers and even “shaitan” as well as making accusations of “not loving the country”  – refusing to understand why the majority of Malaysians, regardless of race, religion, territory, gender or age, are outraged by the heftiest increase in fuel prices on Feb. 28, the sixth time fuel prices had increased in the past two years. The previous occasions were May and October 2004, March, May  and July 2005,  resulting in a 40 per cent increase for petrol and 102 per cent increase for diesel in the past 21 months.

But they came across as smug, conceited, hypocritical humbugs when they lectured the people about the need to be weaned  from the subsidy mentality – when they are not prepared to set an example of eradicating such a subsidy mindset in the first place.

This is because Barisan Nasional MPs are subsidy MPs in a subsidy generation.  They get an annual RM500,000 constituency development allocations which are denied to Opposition MPs to subsidise their parliamentary positions at public expense.

They were elected through the grand subsidy of the politics of money, running into hundreds of millions and even billions of ringgit, totally against the principles of free, fair and clean elections.

Last week, Election Commission Chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman made the shocking revelation that that RM110 million had been spent on posters in the 2004 general election while RM3.5 million was spent on posters in the Pengkalan Pasir by-election – blatantly flouting election laws limiting election expenditures to prevent electoral abuses and well as casting grave doubts on the legitimacy and legality of the landslide victory of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the Barisan Nasional in the March 2004 general election.

When lecturing Malaysians about the need to remove the subsidy mentality, are the Barisan Nasional MPs prepared to set an example by ending their own “subsidy” mindsets?

Have Barisan Nasional MPs  spoken up against the most pernicious subsidy mentality crippling Malaysia’s economic growth, productivity and competitiveness – the scourge of corruption?   In my decades in Parliament, I have not heard any Barisan Nasional MP standing up to call for an all-out war against corruption to promote a new culture of political integrity with zero tolerance for corruption.

The New Economic Policy has degenerated into a subsidy policy and programme, benefiting a handful of UMNOputras at the expense of the many bumiputras.  Are BN MPs prepared to speak up for the dismantling of such NEP  subsidy syndrome   so that they are not guilty of  “cakap ta serupa bikin” when praising the government for reducing various subsidy programmes adversely affecting the rakyat?

The people are angry and outraged by the latest oil hikes, not so much because there had to be an increase, but by the timing, manner and amount of the increase, and most important of all, by the loss of moral authority and legitimacy of the government to call on the people to make “lifestyle change” and  “sacrifices”  because of its  failure to  deliver  a clean, incorruptible, transparent and efficient public service.

Rocketing world oil prices are a boon not only to the government in terms of higher oil revenues but also for  the coffers  of  Petronas.  Malaysians are not convinced why they should not benefit from the nation  being a net oil exporter and why there should not be greater accountability, transparency and parliamentary scrutiny in the disbursement of Petronas funds from its vast profits, especially when there had been extravagant and profligate expenditures in the past which had not been properly accounted to the people.

No Barisan Nasional MP who had  intervened in the debate yesterday  had demanded for greater accountability and  transparency from Petronas.

Petronas is likely to post some RM100 billion profits for the past three years, but is it prepared to be subject to parliamentary and public scrutiny for  its management and trusteeship of the  national “black gold” resources?  Petronas posted RM23.66 billion profits for  2004, RM35.56  billion profits for 2005, and is poised to post record-high profits  for the financial year ended March 31, 2006 because of spiraling oil prices.

In the past 31 years, it had made profits of RM500 billion – or is it RM800 billion?  The inability to arrive at a correct figure is an indication of the lack of accountability and transparency of Petronas.

Petronas was ranked last in the latest survey of the ‘World’s Most Sustainable and Ethical Companies’ conducted among 15 major oil companies by a Spanish-based ethics rating firm. 

The annual survey, inaugurated three years ago by Management & Excellence (M&E), evaluates and compares the compliance of each company with over 280 internationally recognised standards in transparency, corporate governance, social responsibility and ethics.

This ranking, released last month, had Shell at the top for the third year running, followed by British Petroleum (BP) and Brazil’s Petrobras shooting into third spot.

Petronas, which was included for the first time, obtained the lowest score at 20.15 percent. 

“No oil company studied was as transparent as Shell, publishing 13 separate reports on topics ranging from environmental impact to animal testing,” said M&E.

“Caught in a scandal two years ago for misrepresenting its oil reserves, Shell now publishes a 40-page report on how its reserves calculations comply with international guidelines.”

Are Barisan Nasional MPs prepared to call for greater accountability, transparency and good corporate governance on the part of Petronas, so that the question uppermost in the minds of MPs and  more and more Malaysians, “Where have Petronas’ RM500 billion or RM800 billion profits for the past 31 years  gone to”, could get a satisfactory answer?

Without accountability and transparency, the record of the use of the  Petronas’ hundreds of billions of ringgit to bail out mega-financial scandals like the repeated Bank Bumiputra rescues, Malaysian International Shipping Corporation and Renong, and to fund mega-projects like Formula 1 Circuit, Petronas, F1 Petronas  Sauber team, Dayabumi, Twin Towers, Proton and Proton City –the most spectacular examples of a subsidy culture and  mentality – is it any wonder that the people are not convinced by the government’s case for the hefty hike in fuel prices?

Are  Barisan Nasional MPs sympathetic with the plight of the consumers and workers as a result of the vicious spiral of inflation caused by the hefty hike of fuel prices and are they supportive of the Malaysian Trade Unions Congress’ call for a RM150 COLA for workers in the private sector and a minimum wage of RM900?

Are the BN MPs speaking in this debate representing the people or representing the government against the people?


*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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