More to the Tun Ling Liong Sik Story

August 6, 2010

More to  Tun Ling Liong Sik Story: Messy PKFZ saga

by Dr. Ooi Kee Beng*

Corruption charges being brought against Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik, the former Minister of Transport and head of the powerful Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), have left Malaysians stunned.

He is being tried for deceiving the Malaysian Cabinet in 2002 into agreeing to a land purchase for the Port Klang Free Zone project (PKFZ) by withholding highly relevant information about interest rates which, if known to the Cabinet, would have led it – according to the prosecution — to deny consent for the deal.

The sense of public disbelief caused by the case is not because Malaysians feel that Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail does not have a case, or that Dr Ling is being unjustly accused. On the contrary, few doubt that the ballooning cost of the PKFZ project needs investigating, and a lot of explaining still needs to be done by the government.

Cynical by nature, especially where politics are concerned, Malaysians have reacted with uncharacteristic reserve to the news that the Datuk Seri Najib Razak administration is moving against one of the major figures from the Mahathir period. Why now? Why him?

Even the opposition is lost for words, and its leaders are wisely taking a wait-and-see attitude towards the case. Easy associations are being drawn to the cases of Tan Sri Eric Chia, the former Perwaja Steel managing director, and Tan Sri Kasitah Gaddam, former Land and Cooperative Development Minister. Both were hit with bribery charges in February 2004 by former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Both have since been acquitted.

An official with Malaysia's Sime Darby conglomerate, Zamri Mohamad Iderus (centre), handcuffed has been charged with corruption

Dr Ling arriving at the Sessions Court, NOT handcuffed and in style, where he was charged with two counts of cheating

The question being asked now is if Dr Ling’s case is a similar show orchestrated by the current prime minister for a demanding public, and in light of strong rumours that a snap election is on the way.

Be that as it may, Malaysians have reason to rejoice over the fact that public demand for accountability in governance does actually have an effect. Not only is the cyberspace activism that has been growing over the last decade now very much a potent part of Malaysian politics, the fact that the ruling coalition, after 50 years at the helm, no longer feels that power is its god-given right, bodes well for the future.

The charge against Dr Ling potentially opens a can of worms — though as yet, there is no hint of how great the consequences are going to be. He was after all a trusted figure during the Mahathir years.

When the dominant United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) was split by internal conflicts in 1988 and former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was in danger of losing power, Dr Ling acted for a time as the president of the Barisan Nasional (BN).

The phrasing of the charge against Dr Ling also leads to queries about how naive and innocent the rest of the 2002 Cabinet were. Was everyone ignorant of what was going on? Is this the only case where the alleged criminal method was practised, either by Dr Ling or by anyone else in a ministerial position? Will others be implicated soon? Or is this the whole show?

In any case, some key members of the old Cabinet will have to be called to the stand to testify against their former colleague when the trial gets going. This includes Dr Mahathir himself.

Dr Ling has always been considered a powerful behind-the-scenes player in the MCA. The party is in a bad way at the moment. Along with other BN allies, it has failed to rejuvenate itself after suffering bad losses in the last general election. It has also just emerged from a painful internal struggle that has left it vulnerable.

The arrest is bound to cause confusion in the party ranks and severely test the relationship between the present leaders of the MCA and UMNO.

Some wonder if this is an early sign that UMNO has given up on winning back a significant number of Chinese votes, and is instead coldly contemplating the feasibility of a unity government built on cooperation between UMNO and the Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS). If so, then the basic structure of Malaysian politics will undergo yet another revolution.

Whatever the hidden details are surrounding Dr Ling’s arrest, the uncertain nature of politics will continue for some time to come. — Today/the Malaysian Insider

* The writer is a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. His latest book is Pilot Studies for a New Penang,co-edited with Goh Ban Lee.

9 thoughts on “More to the Tun Ling Liong Sik Story

  1. Ling being thrown into the deep end of the pool gives a clear message to those who have plans to test the patience of those who call the shots.

    Here is a former Cabinet Minister who is alleged to have deceived his Cabinet colleagues. They cannot take us for fools. We can’t be that naive as to believe that an MCA Minister acting alone and without more, is able to deceive the entire Cabinet – unless, of course, they want to be deceived.

    There has to be in law a causal connection between the apparent act of deceiving and the fact of being deceived – referred as the nexus. I cannot deceive you into believing anything if you have already made up your mind about wanting to be deceived.

    They can’t be serious about wanting Ling, a man of his stature, privy to the inner workings of the kitchen Cabinet, to take the fall.

    Still the prosecution of one of their own is to be welcome if for nothing else, for the rare glimpse into the inner workings of a corrupt regime.

  2. Yup, it’s all theater and magic show for kids and morons. Truly this regime has no idea on how to extricate themselves out of the pit latrine they dug themselves into. Temporary play-play and cynical measures don’t work anymore.

    I’ll betcha, Ling was politely asked if he would mind being the fall-guy, with assurances that this will not go further than the lower courts. This is not a case of opening a can of worms, it’s about a PR exercise with plenty of wind and no substance! Another Lingamgate and they hope the common folk will be distracted enough. Can’t even get to the bottom of Teoh BH’s murder.., and they try to take on a “Tun”? Real ‘chi-toon’ (beyond morons) flurs.

  3. The Tun did say in a report (difficult to believe a main stream media report) that the other Tun (the tulukan ie) is to be blamed. If this is the case then a replay of the cock (Lingam) inquiry,(korek, korek,korek) . Remember what the Tun said when questiond,”I don’t remember”

    This is a farce, the only people that will benefit is Theater People in Jalan Ipoh. It will be perfect for a comedy play. That’s Malaysian Politics,judiciary and the government, all a load of “unadulterated bunkum” The opposition is a very close second.

  4. The pictures I posted tell a lot. There is camaraderie among political types, each scratching the other’s back and together laughing at the gullible rest of us; there is discrimination among the accused (the one from Sime Darby is handcuffed whereas the MCA Tun comes to court as if he is going on a picnic) according to status and political connection; Rosli Dahlan was dragged in handcuffs from his office in front of his staff and then taken to Putrajaya where he is spent overnight in the MACC lock-up; there is, therefore, double standard; there can be no justice if in the administration of the law, there is discrimination.

    We can now speculate that Tun Ling will go scot free after a sham trial. Why? Because he knows too much and could implicate the truly diabolical Tun Dr. Mahathir “Saya Lupa” Mohamad from Alor Setaq. Kedah and others in UMNO (these characters are presumed to be above the Law).–Din Merican

  5. Najib knows that the public will take this charge on LLS as sandiwara. Najib also knows that, this sandiwara will not gain him any merit points in terms of electoral votes. Najib futher knows that the public have no trust in the Judiciary, Polis, MACC and the rest of government machinery. Thus why would Najib do this? In my view, this charge gives Najib an OPTION. This option is be used against Mahathir if and when needed. By putting LLS into a corner, Najib has the option to leverage against Mahathir who is now closing in to hang Najib. Thus, this is only a defensive shield that Najib is buying himself.

  6. Yes, that’s how i would read it Habib.

    Only problem with this so called ‘cornering’ of Octo and cohorts, is that the forces arrayed against PM is very powerful and it includes his own deputy. That is why it’s cynical and not well thought out. Expediencies like these ad hoc ‘prosecutions’ don’t work against manipulative and vastly more experienced street fighter, that is the Octo. The annual assembly will probably reveal the grassroot sentiment. But, rest assured it ain’t gonna be easy for Jibbo whose grass is wilting very quickly. The anticipated cabinet reshuffle, will see the fast-tracking of baby squids/octos, as ‘compensatory’.

  7. Hey, it wasnt only the Sime Darby fella who was handcuffed whlie the Tun who looked a little grim but otherwise was free as a lark.

    The same day the Toon splashed his greasy self unto the Malaysian consciousness, up north a lowly bank clerk was also charged for some RM90,000 fraud. She was, like the Sime slimeball, handcuffed too.

    There is no gender discrimination in Bolehland I’m so pleased to note. But the rich and influential are treated differently from you ordinary unwashed plebes. Can’t wait to see how the other Tun is treated. Maybe set up court in his home, wherever it may be?

    Cheers, I think.
    Mr. Bojangles,

    The other Tun will be a privileged person for the rest of his life as long as UMNO remains in power. He knows that he will not be touched and feels that he is at liberty to criticise the present administration even though his administration was deeply flawed.–Din Merican

  8. Already there are images of this VIP of Malaysian politics, surrendering himself and walking into court to answer the charges. Compare that to the picture of the Sime Darby manager being escorted by police in handcuffs. It begs the question: shouldn’t Ling be in handcuffs too?

    The fact that one is a former Cabinet Minister, and a Lu Shing and the other just an ordinary citizen who wanted to find out how it feels like living life in the fast lane, shouldn’t make a difference.

    Or it is just the way things are done in a third world country like Malaysia. You put your traffic offenders (guilty of just misdemeanors and not crimes) in handcuffs but escort white collar criminals like you do a celebrity on his way to McDonald’s for a quick bite?

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