BN handling of Mazu issue damages national unity

(SAPP News)“The Federal Court has shut out a full trial on the Mazu case so only a political solution remains open. This is a new start to the Mazu issue. BN, which used to practise harmony and unity in the past, has failed to see the damage caused to national unity. The internal power struggle in BN has blinded its leaders to the wider picture and the public interests. 

Federal court ruling is a start, not the end, to the Mazu issue

Kota Kinabalu, Wednesday, 4 August 2010: Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) President Datuk Yong Teck Lee said the Federal Court has only refused to grant leave to Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat and his Kudat Thean Hou Charitable Foundation to appeal against the Court of Appeal decision that Tan Sri Chong lacks legal standing to take legal action in the Mazu case because of the non-registration of the foundation.

“No reason was given by this highest court. No other issue has been decided,” Yong said during a press conference held at the party’s headquarter today.

“There is no court ruling on the legality or otherwise of the approvals granted by the Kudat Town Board to the foundation. Further, the issue of abuse of power by the State authority in arbitrarily withdrawing the approvals was not fully heard in court. No government official has defended the withdrawal of the Kudat Town Board approvals. Hence, the main substantive issues of the Mazu case were never decided by a court of law. There is therefore no legal impediment for a political resolution to this Mazu issue.

“The Federal Court has shut out a full trial on the Mazu case so only a political solution remains open. This is a new start to the Mazu issue. BN, which used to practise harmony and unity in the past, has failed to see the damage caused to national unity. The internal power struggle in BN has blinded its leaders to the wider picture and the public interests.

“If this BN government cannot solve this matter politically and amicably, then a new State Government after the 13th general elections will sort out this mess left behind by this BN administration. SAPP together with other relevant parties will revisit the whole issue objectively and fairly and take into considerations all relevant factors in the best interests of the people and in maintaining harmony and happiness among the people. For devotees, Mazu is the Goddess of the Sea, a deity of more than one thousand years who watches over the safety of fishermen and sea farers.

What relocation are the Chief Minister and BN Secretary talking about?

In news reports of July 28 and August 2, the CM and the BN Secretary respectively said that the Mazu statue relocation offer still stands. But the 4-acre of land at Bak Bak in Kudat that was first offered for the relocation of the original Mazu project by Kudat Thean Hou Charitable Foundation has already been approved to the Hainan association.

The relevant news reports are:

(i) 8 May 2009 – Minister Datuk Dr. Yee Moh Chai said he was “very grateful to the Chief Minister for expediting” the approval of a piece of land to the Hainan Association of Sabah and Labuan. Considering that two days earlier (May 6), the Prime Minister had expressed hope that the Mazu case will be settled out of court and “the door is always open for us to sit and talk about it”, the hasty announcement by Minister Yee was seen as an attempt to close off any chances of an amicable settlement of the Mazu issue. It was perceived that Minister Yee was trying extra hard to please the Chief Minister before the imminent cabinet reshuffle due to the position of party-less Raymond Tan who was holding the much coveted post of deputy chief minister,

(ii) Political Secretary to Minister Yee, John Lim Yu Chin, on the same day, similarly expressed gratitude to the Chief Minister in his capacity as the President of the Hainan Association,

(iii) 13 September 2009 – Minister Yee witnessed the handing over of the letter of approval for the land in Bak Bak in Kudat to “Gabungan Persatuan-Persatuan Hainan Sabah dan Labuan” by the Director of Land and Survey, Datuk Osman Jamal, to John Lim (the association President). It was abundantly clear that Minister Yee was spearheading this project. John Lim announced the formation of a fund raising committee. It was confirmed that the alternative site offered by the Chief Minister has been taken up by the Hainan association. It follows that the earlier offer to the Kudat Thean Hou Charitable Foundation to relocate to Bak Bak no longer exists,

(iv) 24 April 2010, the Hainan Association paid a courtesy call on Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat to seek his support for the association Mazu project at Bak bak. It is safe to say that Hainan association project is not that of Tan Sri Chong.

The announcement by the Chief Minister and repeated by the BN Secretary, Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan, that the Mazu relocation offer still stands has casted serious doubts on the sanctity of the approval of land at Bak Bak to the Hainan association.

Suspicions of ulterior motives have therefore re-emerged over the allocation of land for another Mazu project. Is there a hidden agenda by Minister Yee and his political secretary John Lim to spearhead the new Mazu project? Why was the land for the new Mazu project approved only in 2009, only in Kudat and only to an association headed by this political secretary? Isn’t this a case of three wrongs: wrong time, wrong place and wrong person?

For instance, Hainan association secretary general Wong Ka Hung had (13 May 2009) revealed that the Hainan association has been applying for a piece of land in Kota Kinabalu ever since 1997. Instead, why was a piece of land in Kudat selected for this purpose? Of all the districts in Sabah, why was Kudat chosen? As for timing, why was Minister Yee’s announcement of the land approval made one week after the Prime Minister had called for an out of court settlement? Was it the Hainan association who asked the government for the land or was it Minister Yee who asked the Hainan association to accept the offer of land at Bak Bak, specifically for a Mazu project?

Minister Yee had claimed May 8, 2009 that the Chief Minister had instructed him (Yee), then Deputy Chief Minister Raymond Tan, Minister Peter Pang and Assistant Minister Edward Khoo to oversee the smooth implementation of the Hainan association Mazu project.

One might understand why some UMNO leaders demand that Tan Sri Chong accepts the relocation offer because they do not understand the significance of auspicious location. But what many people do not understand is why Ministers Yee, Raymond Tan, Peter Pang and Edward Khoo cannot make the Chief Minister and the Sabah BN Secretary see the importance of site selection. You cannot simply put up a building, more so a Mazu statue, on any piece of land that a politician or a land officer thinks is available.

For the government to forcibly stop the Mazu project is one thing. But the government cannot force Tan Sri Chong to build the Mazu statue at another location. He has his criteria on site selection. The choice of an auspicious site is solely the right and prerogative of the statue owners, something that outsiders cannot simply interfere with.

It is possible that the half-completed Mazu statue at original site could become a bigger attraction than the government-sponsored Mazu project at Bak Bak. History will be the judge.