A witch-hunt to whitewash corruption, DAP says after Penang exco’s arrest

THE arrest of a Penang executive councillor yesterday is the latest in a “witch-hunt” on the opposition while no action is taken against Barisan Nasional leaders allegedly involved in corruption and kleptocracy, DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang said. 

The opposition lawmaker said the arrest of state welfare, caring society and environment committee chairman Phee Boon Poh, a DAP veteran in Penang, was an “utter shock”.

“It is clear it is a witch hunt to distract attention from the global kleptocracy. I think the top Umno leadership is nervous, going berserk.

“How can he be arrested over alleged letters, whatever the nature of the letters?” he told The Malaysian Insight last night.

About 4pm yesterday, Phee, the Sungai Puyu assemblyman, was arrested at the Penang Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission headquarters while giving his statement office over allegations of using office or position for gratification.

His lawyer R.S.N. Rayer, who is also DAP’d Seri Delima assemblyman, accompanied Phee, and said the arrest order came from Putrajaya. 

He said the anti-graft investigator had wanted to record Phee’s statement regarding some letters related to an illegal factory that was operating in Sungai Lembu, Bukit Mertajam.

Phee had explained that he wrote those letters in his capacity as the exco in charge of the environment and did not receive any bribes, Rayer added.

It is reported that the factory’s manager, 70, and his director son, 37, were also arrested by MACC at 6.45pm yesterday when they turned up at the Penang office to record their statements.

Phee’s arrest comes as the opposition Pakatan Harapan is organising nationwide roadshows to explain the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal to voters.

Yesterday, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) delayed its civil forfeiture suits on assets allegedly obtained with money stolen from 1MDB in order to start a criminal investigation. 

Kit Siang said it appeared that MACC “was being used to whitewash corruption at the highest order”, which was a disservice to the country.

“It confirms that this is a kleptocracy and a ‘kakistocracy’ – a country run by the worst, least qualified, most unscrupulous, unprincipled and corrupted people.

“They will use any means to whitewash kleptocracy and the 1MDB scandal,” he said.

As the opposition in Malaysia, where BN had never lost an election, DAP had been persecuted for 50 years, said Kit Siang, who is also Gelang Patah MP. 

‘Expect more arrests’

DAP vice-president Teresa Kok said she expected more Selangor and Penang government excos to be investigated and perhaps even charged in court before the next general election. 

“I am not clear what are the exact charges against Phee, but if he is charged because of an illegal factory in Penang, then many other excos and councillors will be in trouble for similar cases, too,” the Seputeh MP said. 

Kok herself was visited by MACC in March this year after Sungai Besar Umno division chief Jamal Md Yunos lodged a report on the Skim Mesra Usia Emas (SMUE) welfare scheme.

MACC officers turned up at the office with a search warrant to look for documents on SMUE and Yayasan Warisan Anak Selangor (Yawas).

Kok described the MACC investigation that resulted from Jamal’s report as a dirty tactic by BN ahead of the elections, which must be held by August 2018.

Meanwhile, Penang deputy chief minister II Dr P. Ramasamy said it was clear that there was a hidden political agenda behind what happened.

“I am not sure whether this is a crackdown. We are not sure why Phee was taken in. 

“But one thing is clear, there is hidden political motive to destabilise the Penang government,” he said, citing Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s corruption charges, as an example.

Guan Eng was charged last year over the rezoning of two plots of agricultural land in Balik Pulau to residential use, which was said to benefit the plots’ owner Magnificent Emblem, a company linked to his former landlady, Phang Li Khoon.

He faces a second charge over his purchase last year of a bungalow on Jalan Pinhorn from Phang for RM2.8 million, which was allegedly below the market price of RM4.27million.

Just this Monday, Guan Eng scored an early victory against MACC when the Court of Appeals ruled that Section 62 of the MACC Act 2009 was unconstitutional for requiring the person accused to file his or her defence before the trial even began.

Ramasamy, who is also DAP deputy secretary-general, asked why the MACC had not gone after those behind the 1MDB scandal and the many alleged corruption scandals involving those in BN.

Following his sudden arrest, a candlelight vigil was organised for Phee last night in front of the Penang MACC office on Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah, despite the rain.

At the gathering,, Guan Eng said Phee had done nothing wrong, and he neither had interests in the illegal factory nor taken bribes.

He said Phee had performed his duty according to the state government policy, which was to solve issues of illegal premises that had existed since before the opposition took over Penang in 2008, amicably if they presented no problems to the public.

“In Penang, we protect no one in the fight against corruption. But we trust Phee. We all know he is already the richest exco in the state and a people-centric leader,” said Guan Eng, referring to Phee’s personal wealth inherited from his family. 

“We have confidence in him that he will prove his innocence,” he told the crowd made up of other state government leaders, elected representatives and supporters.

Guan Eng said they did not know why MACC arrested Phee, but hoped the commission would investigate the case fairly and according to the law.

Another gathering is also planned this morning at the Penang Court Complex, where Phee is expected to be brought for a remand application. – August 12, 2017.