Friday, November 26, 2010

Penang Port to be Privatised?

DAP seeks details on Penang Port takeover
UPDATED @ 05:11:46 PM 24-11-2010By Clara Chooi November 24, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 24 — DAP raised questions today over the widely-speculated takeover of the troubled Penang Port by tycoon Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary and demanded that the government disclose the full details of the privatisation process.

Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua pointed out to reporters in Parliament today that the port operations was already fraught with malpractice and irregularities, as underlined in the recent Auditor-General’s 2009 report, and was poised for a probe by the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in about two weeks’ time.

Pointing to a speculative report carried in Singapore’s Business Times on Monday, Pua noted that if the takeover did take place, it would be yet another direct affront to the government’s many promises of transparency and public accountability as underlined under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s New Economic Model (NEM).

Pua described the move as another privatisation process “ala-Dr Mahathir” and questioned why the government had not conducted an open tender to allow the best bidder to develop the Penang Port.

“What we are disappointed so far with Najib, in terms of his economic policy and his privatisation policies, there has been zero change as government entities are being privatised despite various failures that have been carried out in the 1980s and the 1990s. We have seen failures in the LRT system, the bus system, water companies and unfair contracts with the Independent Power Producers (IPPs). The same way of privatising government entities are continuing... why isn’t there an open tender to see who can best develop the Penang Port? How much investment can they bring to the port, to upgrade it into a world-class port in the region?” he asked.

According to the news report, the government was likely to give the nod to port magnate Syed Mokhtar to take over ownership of Penang Port.

Syed Mokhtar is presently known as the biggest port operator in the country with his flagship company MMC Corporation, and owns two of the country’s busiest ports — Tanjung Pelepas and the Johor Port in Pasir Gudang.

Pua questioned the government’s agreement with Syed Mokhtar in the impending handover and demanded that all details be fully disclosed for public consumption.

“It seems now that all you need to do is know BN before you can get a contract. We do not know the terms and conditions of this privatisation process and we call upon the government to disclose all details. What type of site infrastructures will they have to pay, what kind of guarantee does Syed Mokhtar have to give and also, what type of guarantee the government has to give to Syed Mokhtar,” he said.

He noted that Najib was not sticking to his guns on his promises of transparency and accused the premier of carrying out policies similar to his predecessor in the government, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“We hope this privattisation will improve the performance of Penang, and not require assistance from the government, in terms of guarantees, letters of support and so on,” he said.

Jelutong MP Jeff Ooi said that the Penang government felt “insulted and shortchanged” that the handover of Penang Port was not being done via open tender.

“The first right of refusal of any form of privatisation should be given to the Penang state government,” he said.

Ooi also called for the suspension of Penang Port chief executive officer Datuk Ahmad Ibni Hajar over reports of malpractices and irregularities in the port operations.

“The Penang government has suffered and contributed a lot through concessions given to the port authority, including the valuable prime land that has been alienated to them... notably, the one that is at the North Butterworth Container Terminal.

“According to the A-G’s report, there were a lot of malpractices here and the failure of the management has contributed to the sorry state of affairs. We want the CEO to be investigated by the CEO and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission,” he said.

He added that Ahmad was also the Umno division chief for Tanjong since 2001 and between 1999 and 2001, he was also appointed the executive chairman of the company.

Penang Port’s board of directors chairman, he added, was Datuk Hilmi Yahya, the former parliamentary secretary in the Finance Ministry and a current state assemblyman in Pahang. Penang Port Sdn Bhd is a wholly government-owned subsidiary under the Finance Ministry.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

DAP PJ Annual Fund Raising Dinner 2010

We would like to invite you to join us in our 2010 DAP Petaling Jaya Utara Annual Fund Raising Dinner.
Theme: “We Are Malaysian First”
Venue: MBPJ Dewan Sivik
Date: 8 December 2010 (Wednesday)
Time: 7.00pm
The speakers will include:

  • DAP Parliamentary Leader, Lim Kit Siang,
  • MP for Shah Alam Khalid Samad,
  • MP for PJ Utara, Tony Pua,
  • MP for Lembah Pantai, Nurul Izzah Anwar,
  • ADUN for Damansara, Dr Cheah Wing Yin
  • ADUN for Kg Tunku, Lau Weng San.

Halal Chinese food will be served, and the primary language for this dinner will be English and Bahasa Malaysia.

The cost of the dinner will be RM60 per pax or RM600 per table. VIP tables are also available for RM1,500 a table. The funds raised from the dinner will be used for running our service center.

For reservations, please email to dapdamansara (at) or to me directly with your name, contact number, which dinner(s) and number of seats or tables (VIP or normal) required.

For those who are not able to make the dinner, donations are also very much welcome ;-). Cheques should be written to "DAP Damansara Branch" or cash can be deposited at DAP Damansara Maybank account: 5141 9634 2008.

I'd like to thank you in advance for your much needed support!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

PKFZ: Were OSK Trustees Cheated?

Did the Attorney-General office charge the 3 accused in the PKFZ scandal of cheating OSK Trustees without first establishing that OSK Trustees were cheated?

In December 2009, Engineer Law Jenn Dong, 52, architect Bernard Tan Seng Swee, 49, and Kuala Dimensi chief operating officer Stephen Abok, 52 were accused with dozens of charges of cheating the Port Klang Authority (PKA) by by misleading the authority into believing that the 33kv system to Precinct 2 and Precinct 8, as well as other electrical infrastructure works for the PKFZ had been completed when they knew otherwise, thus deceiving PKA into paying up to RM122.267 milllion to Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd (KDSB).

Two days ago, they were offered 24 alternative charges by the prosecution for all their original charges by the Deputy Public Prosecutor. In these alternative charges, they were accused of “deceiving OSK Trustees” instead of cheating PKA, into believing that various 33KV electrical infrastructure works for the PKFZ had been completed in order to collect payment, despite knowing that it was not. These offences were allegedly committed at the OSK Trustees office, Plaza OSK in Ampang, between June 30, 2006 and June 20, 2008. The amount in the payments from OSK Trustees ranged between RM583,000 and RM16.73 million, totalling to RM116.85 million.

However, in a shocking response yesterday, as published in the Financial Daily today, OSK Trustees were “taken by surprise” at these new charges and have denied knowledge that it was “cheated” into releasing millions of ringgits in payments for the PKFZ project. According to the report, “OSK Trustees is said to have been caught unawares given that it had not filed any official complaint with the authorities that it had been “cheated”.

The above raises the key question of whether the Attorney-General's office has done all the necessary investigations and due diligence on the case before initiating these charges. One can only imagine during the trial when an OSK Trustees representative takes the witness stand and when asked if they were cheated, they then declare that they do not think or believe that they were “cheated”. Would not the entire prosecution case collapse?!

Additionally, the prosecution charges of OSK Trustees being “cheated”, and the denial by OSK Trustees of being unaware of being “cheated” has raised the question as to whether the Trustees can now continue to legally make payments to the bondholders. The OSK Trustees have written to reassure bondholders that the funds due this month for principal and coupon redemptions “would be duly paid out on the due dates”.

Given that there is now the real possibility that at least part of these funds received by OSK Trustees were derived from the process of “cheating”, then can the cheated funds be legally utilised to make further payments? And if OSK Trustees proceed to make payments despite now knowing of the seriousness of the potential implications, would they be abetting or become party to the conspiracy by disbursing these funds?

What's more, if the Attorney-General's office is certain that these monies paid to OSK Trustees were derived from cheating, then would it not be proper for the prosecution to apply for the monies to be frozen to ensure recoverability upon a successful prosecution?

As highlighted in the debate on the Attorney-General's pay cut in Parliament yesterday where Pakatan Rakyat leaders have expressed grave concerns over the quality of prosecution which have resulted in multiple corruption charges against junior officials such as former Ampang Municipal Council enforcement director Abdul Kudus Ahmad, as well as against high-profile VIP cases against former Land and Development Minister, Tan Sri Kasitah Gaddam and Perwaja CEO, Tan Sri Eric Chia collapsing into acquitals for all the accused.

We call upon the Attorney-General's office to utilise its best resources to prosecute those deemed guilty of bring the Government into disrepute, especially in this PKFZ “mother of all scandals” which has brought not only billions of losses to Malaysians but is also the epitome of shame and embarrassment in our fight against corruption.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Government Prepares Multi-Billion Ringgit Water Companies Bailout?

The fact that the Federal Government is contemplating a multi-billion ringgit bail out of the privatised water industry in Selangor is repulsive and a sheer abuse of tax-payers' funds

In a November 4 report by the Malaysian Insider, the Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water, Datuk Seri Peter disclosed that “the federal government may come to the rescue of Selangor water bondholders by undertaking a bond swap if no headway is made soon in stalled water consolidation talks”. He revealed that “swapping existing bonds with triple-A government-backed ones was one option on the table to buy stakeholders more time as state and federal governments try to break the current impasse.”

The multi-billion ringgit move to bail out the Selangor water companies, Puncak Niaga (PNSB) and its subsidiary Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas), Syarikat Pengeluar Air Sungai Selangor (SPLASH) and Konsortium Abass is shocking and repulsive for the Federal Government is once again attempting to use tax-payers' money to rescue its Barisan Nasional cronies who have profited tremendously from the Government's privatisation exercise.

As of today, PNSB, SYABAS, SPLASH and ABASS have net debts of RM1.3 billion, RM2.9 billion, RM1.6 billion and RM640 million respectively, translating into a combined net debt of RM6.4 billion. The move, if carried out will become the clearest example yet of a Barisan Nasional government who will privatise profits to its favourite businessmen, and when the latter face dificulties, socialize their losses to the rakyat.

It should be noted that most of these private water companies, despite their huge liabilities, have been rewarding their shareholders most lucratively by prioritising the payment of dividends over the repayment of their debts. PNSB in 2008 alone made dividend payments of RM500 million while SPLASH paid out a whopping RM578.6 million to their shareholders.

And now, after paying out their substantial cash holdings to enrich the shareholders, much of which were raised from the debt markets, they now want the want the Government to bail them out of their debt and liabilities. What is worse is that the Government is appearing more than willing to participate in this scheme to victimise the man-on-the-street.

Instead, the Government should utilise this opportunity to tell the recalcitrant water concessionaires like PNSB and Syabas who are holding the Selangor water industry to ransom by refusing to cooperate over the industry's consolidation exercise under the state government, in no uncertain terms that there will be no bail out and that they need to play ball in the industry's restructuring exercise.

In addition, the National Water Services Commission (SPAN) has powers under the Water Services Industry Act (WSIA) 2006 Sections 113 and 114 to intervene when a licensee is facing financial difficulty. SPAN has to date refused to intervene particularly in Syabas who has threatened to stop the maintenance of water pipes in the state due to the lack of funds.

And should these companies refuse to “play ball”, then let the bondholders declare an event of default and take over the assets and management of these companies as provided for under the bond agreements.

The Federal Government's admission on the likelihood of a bailout of the water concessionaires smacks of a collusion with BN which clearly prioritises the interest of its cronies over that of the rakyat. Datuk Seri Peter Chin must declare in no uncertain terms that there will be no bail outs of the financially troubled water companies and instead direct them to reach a settlement with the state government over the water industry restructuring exercise.

Should the Federal Government proceed with the mega-bailout at the end of the year by undertaking the existing bonds with triple-A government-backed ones without first resolving the restructuring issue, Pakatan Rakyat will immediately organise a nationwide roadshow to protest against the action and let the rakyat know how the government privatises all the profits, but socialises all the liabilities and losses.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

MCA vs Racists: All Talk No Action

MCA's futile attempts in its call for action against school principals and teachers for racist, insensitive and inappropriate behaviour highlights its complete irrelevance in the Barisan Nasional Government

We would like to commend MCA for being quick to the draw to demand for action and punishment against the recent cases of racist, insensitive and inappropriate behaviour by some of our school principals and teachers.

In August 2010, Datuk Chor Chee Heung who himself is the Minister of Housing and Local Government had called for the school principal in Bukit Selambau who used racist remarks against some non-Muslim students to be “punished to set an example to everyone”.

MCA's spokesperson and deputy publicity chief, Loh Seng Kok has publicly called for the school principal of Kulai's SMK Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, Siti Inshah Mansor to be “severely disciplined” for making derogatory and racist remarks against Indian and Chinese students just before the Bukit Selambau case.

Similarly, at the end of September, Loh had asked the Public Service Department to take action against the Deputy Director of the National Civic Bureau (BTN), Hamim Husin claiming that “shameful for a public servant employed to train upcoming civil servants to use derogatory, stereotypical terms that offended the Chinese and Indian communities... If necessary, the police should also charge Hamim under the Sedition Act. It is time to put a halt to the arrogance and intolerance of bigots.”

However, despite their concerns raised since August on the racist principals issues in Kulai and Bukit Selambau as well as the BTN Deputy Director, no definitive action appears to have been taken by the Barisan Nasional government. The Minister of Education himself Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin abdicated from his responsibility to take action by delegating it to the Public Service Department, claiming that he is “powerless”.

The Speaker of Parliament had rejected a motion by Lim Kit Siang to debate the issue on the issue nearly a month ago claiming that action has already been taken by the Government against the principals.

Until today, Malaysians have not been given a straight answer on the actions taken and punishment meted out to these culprits who are not only poisoning the minds of our young Malaysians, but are among the root cause of national disunity and racial intolerance in the country.

Even last month when the Minister of Education and Deputy Prime Minister announced at the UMNO Annual General Meeting on implementing the compulsory pass policy for History at SPM level, Loh had expressed concern that “distrust can be bred if History textbook contents are incomprehensive but emphasise racial superiority while negating the contributions of other races, or downplaying other worldwide civilisations.”

Hence when Loh Seng Kok once again called yesterday for the Education Ministry to act against a Sarawak primary school for enforcing a halal food policy, it proves that MCA is now officially reduced to trying to meekly voice its views from the outside because it is completely ineffective and marginalised on the inside of the Government.

One could almost be forgiven for forgetting that the MCA is actually the 2nd largest component party of the ruling Barisan Nasional Government. What is perhaps most damaging is the fact Loh seems to have himself forgotten the fact that MCA Youth Chief, Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong holds the position of a Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Education.

MCA should perhaps stop whining like a kitten which lost its mom and start acting on the above critical issues like it is part of the Government. Instead MCA must answer to the Malaysian public at large as to why it has been rendered completely ineffective and irrelevant in ensuring that proper actions be taken against public servants guilty of creating unrest through racist and insensitive behaviours.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Pemandu Defends Government's Anti-Corruption Track Record

Pemandu must stop digging a deeper hole for itself in defending the Government's poor performance against corruption

It is sad and almost comical for the current administration's leading agency to be tripping over itself repeatedly to demonstrate, however insignificantly, that the Government is delivering improvements in its fight against corruption.

In the latest Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) calculations, Malaysia’s corruption index score declined to its record lowest levels from 4.5 last year to 4.4 out of 10. At the same time, Malaysia’s ranking still remains the same as last year, at 56 out of 178 countries, the worst in our history after falling from 47th in 2008 and our recent best of 33rd in 2002.

However, in response, Pemandu has responded with an official statement yesterday which essentially stated that while Tl's Index had shown “a slight reduction”, the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook showed an improvement in index from 5.2 in 2009 to 6.3 in 2010. In addition, the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy's (PERC) Asian Intelligence Newsletter showed in improvement in index from 3.6 in 2009 to 4.6 in 2010 while the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report indicated an improvement in index from 4.5 in 2009 to 4.6 in 2010.

The statement issued by Director of Communications of the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) of Pemandu, Alexander Iskandar Liew added that "if we take an average score of the four surveys, it is clear that Malaysia's index has improved from 4.45 in 2009 to 4.975 in 2010. It is in the context of the above that we in Pemandu are saying that the NKRA's efforts in addressing corruption are on the right track...However, if one were to look at the outcome of the other three surveys on corruption in Malaysia by (those) reputable organisations, then the score clearly shows that there are improvements.”

I almost feel sorry for Pemandu for having come up with such a statement. Firstly, it is a case of picking and choosing only surveys which are favourable towards themselves to highlight.

But more importantly, these surveys have already been taken into consideration by TI's CPI. For Malaysia's index scores, the results from 9 different surveys including the IMD, PERC and WEF's reports have been imputed. Attempting to paint a fake positive picture by averaging the TI score and the 3 other surveys is an obvious case of double counting the favourable surveys.

Hence, Pemandu is either trying to pull a fast one on the rakyat, or perhaps, they should have a refresher course on mathematics and statistics to avoid such embarrassing schoolboy errors in the future.

Pemandu needs to face up to the reality that things have not changed much over the past year despite many superficial attempts to improve transparency and accountability.

Despite the call for public disclosure over the government's privatisation projects in the GTP, such information has not been forthcoming, for example the RM628 million MATRADE Centre project which was awarded without any open tender. Many government-related projects under the ETP are expected to be awarded without any competitive bids, such as the MRT and the high-speed rail projects.

The half-hearted attempts at government procurement transparency via the “MyProcurement Portal” shows up its ineffectiveness. For example, despite having a procurement budget of nearly RM3 billion, only 8 contracts worth RM15.3 million have been published for the Ministry of Rural & Regional Development. Worse, these contracts have been published since April when the portal was launched, without additional updates since!

TI's statement on Malaysia's “achievements” is telling.
Although positive steps have been taken, there have been problems with implementation and lack of confidence-building improvements, indicating insufficient political will to eradicate corruption. For example, there are glaring items of grave concern, such as generally no “big fish” being brought to book, poor progress in identifying and prosecuting culpable persons in the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) fiasco, No Further Action by the Attorney-General against those implicated in judicial appointment tampering (“Lingam tapes”) despite the Royal Commission’s findings and recommendations, the continuing and snowballing practice of awarding mega projects and contracts without open tenders or competitive bidding, and no IPs implemented to date.
It's time for Pemandu to stop attempting to paint a brighter picture on the fight against corruption that it actually is. Instead, it should receive Transparency International's report with an open heart and figure out more effective ways to prevent corruption and help the Government find its political will to fight and punish corruption.

Monday, November 01, 2010

A Challenge for Utusan to Debate

DAP mencabar “Awang Selamat” untuk mengadakan pembahasan terbuka mengenai isu “DAP dan Melayu”

Sekali lagi pihak penyunting dan pemilik Utusan Malaysia menggunakan kolum “Awang Selamat” untuk melontar pelbagai fitnah, pembohongan dan tuduhan liar terhadap parti DAP. Ruang beliau dalam Mingguan Malaysia yang diterbitkan semalam mendesak bahawa

Sesungguhnya DAP adalah parti paling rasis di dunia. Pada Awang, ancaman DAP adalah jauh lebih berbahaya daripada apa-apa ancaman sekalipun yang pernah dihadapi dalam sejarah tanah air. Cuma bentuk penjajahan mereka lebih halus, berselindung atas slogan demokrasi dan tanpa menggunakan senjata. Tetapi implikasinya amat besar. Perlembagaan termasuk kedudukan Islam dan institusi beraja menjadi taruhan, yang akhirnya membawa Malaysia menuju negara republik. Apakah itu yang kita mahu?

Penyerangan Utusan yang dimiliki oleh Umno terhadap DAP kian lama kian ekstrim dan keterlaluan. Penyerangan mereka termasuklah penyerangan terhadap kerajaan Pulau Pinang atas dasar kebajikan, pengambil-alihan tanah untuk membina hub pendidikan, isu penjaja-penjaja dan lain-lain perkara di mana kami dituduh menghalau orang Melayu dari Pulau Pinang. Utusan Malaysia juga telah menyerang bertubi-tubi terhadap pemimpin DAP yang lain termasuklah Ahli Parlimen Serdang, Teo Nie Ching yang difitnah memberikan takzirah dalam surau, dan juga saya sendiri yang dikatakan berniat untuk menghapuskan hak diskaun beli rumah bumiputera.

Demi mengemukakan kebenaran dan keadilan, saya ingin mencabar “Awang Selamat”, yang boleh diwakili oleh sesiapa daripada Utusan Malaysia untuk mengambil bahagian dalam satu perbahasan terbuka mengenai desakan-desakan Utusan dan Umno mengenai “DAP dan Melayu”.

Penyunting dan pemilik Utusan Malaysia tidak sepatutnya menyembunyikan diri mereka yang sebenar di belakang nama pena dan meluahkan pelbagai tuduhan tanpa berasas seperti penembak curi. Kami ingin memberikan peluang terbuka kepada pihak Utusan Malaysia untuk membela pendirian mereka seperti hulubalang kaum yang tulen, dan bukannya bertindak sebagai pengecut apabila menghadapi cabaran.

Kami dari DAP ingin membuktikan bukan sahaja bahawa kami tidak bertindak rasis, kami telah bersama dengan rakan seperjuangan kami di Pakatan Rakyat, menambah baikkan nasib orang Melayu bukan sahaja di Pulau Pinang tetapi juga di negeri lain di mana DAP merupakan sebahagian daripada kerajaan negeri.

Kami ingin membongkarkan bukti-bukti yang kukuh yang menunjukkan sesungguhnya Utusan Malaysia merupakan suratkhabar yang paling rasis di seluruh dunia ancaman Utusan adalah jauh lebih berbahaya daripada apa-apa ancaman sekalipun yang pernah dihadapi dalam sejarah tanah air.

Kami berani kerana benar dan kami berharap supaya pihak Utusan mempunyai keberanian yang mencukupi untuk menghadapi pihak DAP yang dikatakan sebagai musuh utama mereka. Penolakan peluang untuk pembahasan terbuka ini hanya akan menunjukkan bahawa pihak Utusan tidak berintegriti, dan tidak mampu mempertahankan pendirian mereka yang bersifat fitnah dan rasis.

Pembahasan ini boleh dianjurkan oleh mana-mana pihak bebas termasuk Kesatuan Wartawan Nasional (NUJ) ataupun TV3 dan format pembahasan boleh dipersetujui sebelum acara tersebut. Kami sedia menunggu berita baik daripada pihak Utusan Malaysia.