Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng was arrested by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on the evening of 28 June 2016. He faces two charges, i.e. Section 23 of the MACC Act and Section 165 of the Penal code. The first charge carries a jail term of not more than 20 years and a fine of five times the value of gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher.
Lim is accused of using his public office or position to obtain gratification for himself by approving an application by Magnificent Emblem Sdn Bhd (MESB) to convert agriculture land to residential purpose during a state planning committee meeting on 18 July 2014. The Penang Island City Council had already rejected the application to re-zone the land, in which MESB did not receive any benefit.
Global Bersih urges that Lim be given a free and fair trial and that his trial be free from political interference. The AG must also act with similar resolve and punish those involved in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.
While the arrest may look like an act of fighting corruption, abuse of power and conflict of interest, many other corruption cases had not been dealt with such speed, such as the glaring 1MDB and the multibillion Ringgit donation to Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Lim’s arrest is another strategic move by the government to cripple the opposition. With the highly suspicious conviction of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and many other opposition leaders and political activists, the ruling party is moving to disarm the opposition, as the 14th General Election may take place as early as the beginning of 2017.
Global Bersih’s President Colin Rajah stated that ‘the harassment and intimidation against a democratically-elected opposition leader from an opposition stronghold furthers the erosion of Malaysia’s electoral process and institutions. An institution like the MACC is supposed to be independent and not doing the dirty work of the ruling party.’
He added that ‘Overseas Malaysians should use the opportunities we have to highlight such violation of human rights and the conditions in Malaysia to other governments. We should work harder at reforming our very corrupt electoral system.’