Sue Sarawak for right to meet federal ministers, DAP tells community leaders

Sarawak DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen speaking to reporters, October 21, 2018. — Picture by Sulok Tawie
Sarawak DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen speaking to reporters, October 21, 2018. — Picture by Sulok Tawie

KUCHING, Oct 21 — Sarawak DAP offered today pro bono legal services to any community leader who wanted to sue the state government for preventing them from attending official functions of federal ministers in the state.

Sarawak DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen said it was up to community leaders to take up the offer from the state DAP.

“If they are willing to come forward, then we will provide them with the legal service against the state government for such an unreasonable, unconstitutional, irresponsible action and insulting the intelligence of the  community leaders,” the deputy minister of domestic trade and consumer affairs told reporters here.

Chong, who is also the Stampin Member of Parliament, was responding to an official memorandum signed by State Secretary Tan Sri Morshidi Ghani on October 11.

The memorandum, addressed to the Residents’ Offices of Sarawak’s 12 administrative divisions, told community leaders that they could only attend functions of the state government — which is under Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) — or approved bodies.

Chong said attending official functions of Pakatan Harapan (PH) federal ministers and Members of Parliament was a basic right of freedom of association.

He cited his own experiences in Bintulu and Sri Aman as examples where community leaders were ordered by the Residents’ Offices not to attend his official functions two weeks ago.

“In the first case, a Penghulu was ordered by the Resident’s Office of Bintulu Division not to attend my official function in a community hall in Bintulu,” he said, adding the office also told the organisers to stop the function.

He said the second case involved a village headman who was ordered not to allow the federal Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs to hold its function in his longhouse.

Chong said in both instances, his ministry went ahead with its functions that sought to raise consumer awareness among the local community and also a speech by a Health Ministry official on the rabies outbreak in Sarawak.

He said attempts were also made in Sri Aman to stop the people from attending his official function at a longhouse.

He said despite the directive from the Resident’s Office of Sri Aman Division, some 200 people attended his function.

Chong chastised Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) leaders for defending the ban imposed on the community leaders from attending PH federal ministers’ functions in Sarawak.

He said it was the most absurd explanation from the SUPP leaders to say that the ban was an act of retaliation against federal government agencies for not inviting state leaders to attend federal ministers’ functions.