Friday, January 28, 2011

MCA: Its OK for UMNO to be corrupt

MCA President Dr Chua Soi Lek and other MCA leaders have gone on a rampage against PAS, arguing that a vote for PAS will mean the end to religious freedom for the non-Muslim community and individual liberties in the country.

Dr Chua has gone to the extent of arguing that while “UMNO is not perfect, it has corruption”, it is still a better choice than PAS for the latter’s religious principles.

The MCA President’s statement is only half-correct for not only is UMNO corrupt, it abuses Islam as a political tool to promote extremism, ultra-conservatism to spread fear among Malays against non-Malays and non-Muslims. Dr Chua has intentionally chosen to turn a blind eye on the fact that UMNO’s attempts to curtail non-Muslim rights far exceed anything PAS has to offer.

Over the past 2 years, we saw how UMNO attempted to monopolise the use of “Allah” for Muslims only and prevent Malay-speaking Christians and Sikhs from using the term for their religious prayers. The UMNO-led BN government, of which MCA is an integral part of, has chosen to fight the Catholic Church in court to restrict the freedom of the latter’s community. This is despite the fact that the term “Allah” is used by even Christian Arabs and Jews in the Middle East for centuries, commonly regarded as the home of Islam.

UMNO leaders have also sensationalised DAP MP Teo Nie Ching’s attempts to foster greater ties with the Muslim community by visiting mosques and taking part in their community activities. Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein even condemned Teo for having desecrated the mosques and insulted the religion as she was “unclean”.

UMNO’s intentional procrastination over the issue of conversion to Islam by a spouse in a civil marriage has resulted in scores of broken families and untold suffering. Non-Muslims like Tan Cheow Hong, Indira Gandhi, Nedunchelian, Shamala, and Genga Devi were told by the BN government that they must go to the Syariah court in order to exercise their constitutional rights to raise their children in their own religion.

UMNO leaders have also promoted extremism by supporting activities promoting hatred among the various races and religions, such as the “cow-head protests” against the construction of a Hindu temple in a Muslim-majority residential area. They have also used Islam at their convenience to protest against welfare policies of the Penang state government, arguing outrageously that the RM100 appreciation for the elderly is “not halal”.

In all of the above events and more, MCA has demonstrated its hypocrisy by doing absolutely nothing and remaining absolutely silent like a mouse, despite being a partner of UMNO in BN.

In contrast, it has been PAS which was highly vocal in fighting UMNO extremism and defending the rights of non-Muslims in Malaysia. PAS President Datuk Seri Hadi Awang has openly defended non-Muslims’ use of Allah in Parliament arguing that even the Quran permits and cited such usage. It was Tok Guru Nik Aziz who comforted and defended Teo and encouraged her to continue visiting mosques and building bridges between the various communities, arguing that even Prophet Mohamed received non-Muslim visitors in the mosques. It was PAS MP for Shah Alam, Khalid Samad who stood his ground against the UMNO orchestrated onslaught to defend the rights of the Hindus in his community to build their place of worship.

It is clear as day that PAS has chosen the path of moderation while UMNO has chosen to abuse religion to achieve its political goals at all costs. Worse, MCA has chosen to abet UMNO in the process to ensure its own political survival by protecting UMNO and attacking PAS for supposed extremism.

The rakyat in Tenang needs to make a choice between PAS, a party which has proven its moderation in its words and deeds in defending non-Muslims in the interest of justice and equity, or UMNO which will stop at nothing, including manipulating the people’s religious sensitivities, promoting extremism and dividing the nation according to racial and religious lines, to hang on to political power.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Johor Water Tariffs Highest in Malaysia

In a Bernama report yesterday, Dr Chua Soi Lek denied the fact that the water tariffs in Johor were the highest in the country.

However, it is odd that he did not at the same time specify which state actually has a higher tariff than Johor in the country. If the MCA president is convinced that Johor doesn’t have the highest water rates, then it should be very easy for him to quote the state(s) with higher tariffs than Johor.

The fact of the matter is that Johor has the highest water tariffs with the first 20m3 of water being charged today at RM0.60 per m3 after a hike of 59% in 2010.

Selangor charges RM0.57 per m3 of water for the first 20m3. Despite being lower than Johor’s new rates, the Pakatan Rakyat government has offered 20m3 of water free monthly to every household in the state. Penang on the other hand charges on RM0.22 per m3 or nearly 3 times cheaper than in Johor.

In fact if a household were to use 40m3 of water, they would be paying RM2.96 per m3 or 63% higher than the previous rate of RM1.82 per m3.

Hence Dr Chua should take to task the MCA state executive councillor for International Trade and Industry, Energy, Water, Communications and Environment, Tan Kok Hong for failing to protect the interest of Johoreans by allowing the steepest possible increase in water tariffs in the state.

Tan Kok Hong and the state government must be taken to task for colluding with Syarikat Air Johor (SAJ) to enable the latter to make exorbitant profits at the expense of the rakyat. MCA must explain to the people why SAJ was allowed to make the price increase despite the fact that the Federal Government has taken over most of the cost and assets of SAJ as part of the water restructuring exercise.

Dr Chua must not belittle the intelligence of Johoreans by claiming that the steep increase in water rates will only marginally affect the livelihood of the ordinary man-in-the-street. Instead he must tell Johoreans how he plans to convince Barisan Nasional to check the increase in prices and improve the livelihood of the people.

UMNO Hooligans in Tenang

It is normal for a healthy democracy to have differing ideologies, policies and agenda for the different political parties. The purpose of a democracy to enable these political parties and its leaders have the necessary space to convey its views to the public and electorate for their consideration.

However, the brutish and thuggish behaviour of BN-UMNO hooligans last night at the Felda Chemplak Barat ceramah by PAS last night, intentionally arranged to “greet” the arrival of Penang Chief Minister and DAP Secretary-General Lim Guan Eng, proved that they are antithetical and alien to the concept of democracy.

These 30 UMNO supporters who are not locals spent the evening attempting to disrupt the proceedings of the evening with their loutish behaviour which crescendoed during Lim Guan Eng’s speech. While some 20 policemen were present at the ceramah prevented these hooligans from physically disrupting the function, more should have been done to disperse their presence at the event.

This is a clear and blatant attempt by Umno to block and prevent Pakatan Rakyat leaders from presenting our case to the voters. It is also a mark of desperation by Umno that they are likely to fail their attempt to meet the Deputy President Muhyiddin’s KPI of 5,000 votes. It also represents their fear that their attempts to divide their electorate by splitting the electorate by racial rhetoric.

UMNO by all counts is the biggest threat to democracy in Malaysia.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

UMNO Fights MCA: BN in Disarray

The open warfare between UMNO Deputy President, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and MCA President, Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek on the simple issue of respecting an individual’s religious sensitivity proves that the BN coalition is a 50-year marriage of convenience which is cracking at the seams.

Muhyiddin had to openly chastise Dr Chua to respect the choices of an individual, particularly one’s religious beliefs, specifically with regard to the issue of Muslim women “shaking hands” with men. As the Pakatan Rakyat parties have all pointed out, and agreed by Muhyiddin, there are many other issues of importance to discuss in an election, than about whether a Muslim woman should shake men’s hands.

Dr Chua in return, rebuked Muhyiddin for bringing the issue into the open instead of “communicating through internal channels”. He told reporters yesterday that they could go and tell Muhyiddin what he just said. Instead of putting the issue to a close, he persisted by repeating his claim that “shaking hands” is “good manners”, implying that the PAS candidate, Cikgu Normala Sudirman had bad manners for sticking to her religious beliefs.

The strain between the two race-based parties is completely understandable given that UMNO and MCA seeks only to draw the votes of Malays and Chinese respectively and do not care about the sentiments of the other communities. MCA for example, isn’t bother about the impact of its comments on Malay Muslims because it will do all that is necessary, including playing on the fear of Islam to gain the votes of the Chinese. On the other hand, UMNO will not hesitate to play on the Malay’s fear of losing political power to the Chinese to frighten the Malays into voting for UMNO.

The strategy is failing today because of a more instantaneous and open media catalysed by the online newspapers which transformed the media landscape which was previously controlled with an iron fist by BN.

On the other hand, it is the Pakatan Rakyat parties which have proven itself in slowly but surely disintegrating the racial barriers and silos with its leaders endorsing a Common Policy Platform, and criss-crosses all party ceramahs demonstrating on our ability to speak with a common voice. It is ironical that while the bonds of the 3 parties in Pakatan Rakyat, which is accused of being a marriage of convenience is only getting stronger by the day with increased understanding and cooperation, the Barisan Nasional is tearing at the seams with its leaders unable to see eye-to-eye with each other.

Chua Soi Lek Mocks 1Malaysia

Datuk Seri Chua Soi Lek sheer ignorance and arrogance confirms MCA as the Malaysian chauvinist association with utter disregard for other races, religion and culture and a complete failure of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak’s “1Malaysia”

In dismissing Muhyiddin’s “instruction” to stop playing on the issue of handshakes, Dr Chua pleaded ignorance about the religious sensitivities by arguing that he does not practice Islam.

He was quoted saying “So what is so great about that? That is your religious value which I don’t know. How am I to know about the religious values when I’m not practicing that religion?”

He further argued that “…I have a right to say that its basic manners to shake hands with people. That’s my values. Understand? You must also value my value, which is good manners, which include shaking hands.”

The fact that he claimed he is completely ignorant about Islam just because he is not a Muslim proves that the MCA President and his party are chauvinists who have little regard and respect for other religions and cultures.

Dr Chua makes a complete mockery of the Prime Minister’s “1Malaysia” slogan by admitting that he is completely separated from the other communities in the country and is completely not interested in integrating with them through greater race and religious understanding. This is despite the fact that he has spent more than a decade as a senior Johor state executive councillor and a Cabinet Minister.

His statement that “you must also value my value, which is good manners” smacks of unbridled arrogance where he expects Cikgu Normala and other Muslims to accept and adopt his moral values, despite his own lack of understanding and interest in the values of other communities. It is difficult to a more bigoted statement than what Dr Chua told the press yesterday.

Chua Tee Yong Should Apologise to Normala

Deputy Agriculture Minister Datuk Chua Tee Yong shows he’s not a man of his words for the unbelievable flip-flop over his baseless accusation that Cikgu Normala Sudirman questioned a coffee shop owner for selling alcohol.

The China Press reported that Deputy Agriculture Minister and MP for Labis Datuk Chua Tee Yong accused Cikgu Normala of questioning a coffee shop owner for selling beer during her walkabout. The accusation was obviously a ploy to scare the non-Malay community that PAS will curtail the rights of non-Muslims if they were to win the by-election.

PAS Johor had given Chua 24 hours to apologise and retract his false allegations or face the threat of a defamation suit. In an immediate response to The Malaysian Insider over the issue, Chua stood by his remarks by refused to name the shop.

Chua was quoted as saying “Of course I cannot name the shop. The owner wants to remain anonymous.”

However, within a few hours after the above comments, Chua now denies ever having made the accusation. He explained that he was merely conveying the fact that a voter had asked him about a “hypothetical” situation should she win the by-election.

Even a twelve year old would have found his denial hard to believe. I strongly advise Chua to be man enough to admit to his mistake and apologise to Normala for having made the baseless accusation against her, instead of attempting to cover a lie with a bigger one, and as a result, digging a deeper hole for himself.

If he still insists on sticking to his new version of the story, then I call upon Chua to demand that both China Press and The Malaysian Insider to issue a correction to the story as well as an apology for the blatant and grievous error which has been committed. This is because if Chua didn’t make the allegation against Normala, then both the reporters must have independently made up the story.

Should he try to evade the issue by remaining elegantly silent, that he has completely his credibility and integrity, and is unfit to be the people’s parliamentary representative in Labis, much less a Deputy Minister.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Overpriced Electricity Despite Billions in Subsidies

Based on subsidies given to the IPPs, the BN government should immediately reduce our electricity rates by at least 17%

The Barisan Nasional government provided between RM6.2 billion to RM 8.1 billion of gas subsidies to the Independent Power Producers annually over the past 5 years.

These subsidies however did not reach the man-in-the- street in terms of cheaper electricity prices. On the other hand, these subsidies allow the IPPs to make billions additional profits per annum.

The IPPs have often refuted the fact that the subsidies benefited them and they are "passed through" to the consumers.

However a comparison of electricity prices in the region based on subsidies provided and the types of fuel used clearly shows that Malaysia is relatively much more expensive.

A very good example is Thailand where 70% of the fuel used is natural gas just like Malaysia.

When we compare the electricity tariffs between the two countries, Malaysia's average rate of RM31.31/kWh is only 8% cheaper than that of Thailand's at RM34.11/kWh. Worse, the commercial electricity tariff in Thailand is RM38.01/kWh only marginally more expensive compared to RM37.85/kWh in Malaysia. This is despite the fact that IPPs in Malaysia received subsidised gas which is a whopping 53.7% cheaper than in Thailand.

Based on Thailand's IPP efficiency and productivity, given the current subsidies the Malaysian IPPs receive and that fuel cost represents 40% of a typical power producer, the appropriate electricity tariff in Malaysia should be at least 17% cheaper than the current rates, or at RM26.7/kWh instead of RM31.31/kWh.

The fact that the BN government has decided to reduce subsidies of basic goods to the rakyat, resulting in significant price hikes, such as 55% for sugar but steadfastly refused to restructure the subsidies for the IPPs, mostly owned by BN cronies proves that BN does not have the interest of the rakyat at heart.

Worse, despite the overpriced electricity rates today on top of the billions of subsidies extended to the IPPs, PEMANDU has proposed that electricity rates be increased every 6 months!

Together with the hefty water price hikes in Johor by up to 63% due to lopsided privatisation deals, BN has long chosen to abandon the rakyat in the interest of its cronies.

The Tenang electorate must take this one-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take a stand and express Malaysians' frustration with the intolerable increase and artificially inflated prices for basic goods and services.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Religious Freedom in Malaysia - Really?

Najib should personally ask the non-Muslim community if there is genuine “religious freedom” under BN’s rule before proudly declaring “BN’s fairness”

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the freedom of religion practised in the country proved that the government is fair to all during a Thaipusam celebration. He said “we can see today Hindu devotees celebrate the Thaipusam freely throughout the country” at the Subramaniya Swami Devasthanam Temple.

Najib must be reminded that the practice of religious freedom should not only be skin deep, where celebrations are held in the open but both written and unwritten restrictions are placed on the various religions in the country.

If Najib truly believe in the “freedom of religion”, he must immediately instruct the Home Affairs Minister, Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein to retract the Government’s appeal against the December 2009 High Court decision to permit the use of the term “Allah” by the non-Muslim community. No such rule exists even in the predominantly Muslim Middle East, and history has shown the use of the term for centuries among Christians and Sikhs. However, the Barisan Nasional Government has chosen to unreasonably restrict the religious practices of non-Muslims resulting in the suit filed by the Catholic Church against the former.

There is now a growing list of cases where non-Muslims had to battle government servants who act as the Islamic religious authorities in Malaysia and with lawyers from the Attorney-General’s Chambers who argue that they must go to the Syariah court in order to exercise their constitutional rights to raise their children in their own religion.

These have included the cases of Tan Cheow Hong, Indira Gandhi, Nedunchelian, Shamala, and Genga Devi where their family lives totally disrupted when their children were converted to Islam without their knowledge or consent by a disgruntled spouse.

Rev Dr Thomas Philips is president of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) wrote that “the decision of the judges of the Federal Court led by Chief Justice Tun Zaki Azmi to dismiss Shamala’s case on a mere technicality rather than determine the five constitutional questions she had raised is of much concern. If not the Federal Court who else should the non-converting spouse turn to in order to protect and uphold their basic rights enshrined in the Federal Constitution.”

If Najib truly believe in the “freedom of religion”, he must urgently form an inter-faith panel to openly discuss critical issues affecting religious harmony in the country. The BN government has repeatedly postponed the inter-faith meetings which reflect the degree of intolerance among certain religious leaders in Malaysia, including a petty dispute over the name of the sub-committee.

In fact, it is unfortunate that Catholic Archbishop Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam has asked Datuk Seri Najib Razak during a Christmas function organised by the Malaysian Christian Association to support an inter-faith group by meeting them regularly. “In your busy and overloaded schedule honourable prime minister, may we humbly request you to make time for the multi-religious body MCCBCHST. If you can find the time to meet their leaders regularly for some good-willed feedback,” he said.

On the other hand, Pakatan Rakyat component parties have been active in convening such dialogues and we were the first it in February 2010 attended by more than 100 religious leaders from all faiths.

On the other hand, the extremists in Umno who had demonstrated violently with a severed cow head against the building of a Hindu temple in Shah Alam on the basis that “a majority of the residents are Muslims”. Hishamuddin even held a meeting with the protestors in a show of support for them.

It is hence completely hypocritical for Johor Menteri Besar, Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman to call PAS extremists, and to claim that a vote for BN is a vote for moderation when it is clear that UMNO today represents the voice of the religious and racial extremist. It is PAS who has demonstrated itself to be part of the Malaysian moderate voice by supporting the use of Allah by non-Muslims and support inter-faith dialogues to promote religious understanding and harmony.
Moderate Malaysians must not be misled by the sweet rhetoric from BN leaders and instead make itself heard to protect the freedom of religion as enshrined in our Federal Constitution.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Vote for BN is a Vote for Cronies

BN has been in power but remains powerless to fight crony interests, at the expense of the interests of the rakyat

Yesterday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said that Barisan Nasional (BN) needs to be in power to enable the people’s interests to come first, not for the coalition’s interests.
He argued that it is only BN that can bring progress for the country and therefore the people should put only capable people in the right places.

Najib must be finding it more and more difficult to sing the same BN song over the past 50 years as the fact that BN has failed to protect the interest of the people and had instead increasingly favoured it’s the interest of its cronies over the past half-a-century. The past two decades have been littered with examples of BN policies which have enriched a few while increasing the burden of the people at the same time.

The highway toll concessions provide the clearest example of the BN government guaranteeing billions of profits annually to companies which are cosy with BN while ensuring at the same time that the people will have to pay exorbitant toll rates daily for decades. The North-South Expressway (PLUS) for instance, makes profits in excess of RM1.5 billion and yet the Government still pays compensation of more than RM800 million annually. At the same time PLUS enjoys tax free status while being allowed to raise toll rates by 10% every 3 years.

However with the rise of Pakatan Rakyat in the 2008 general elections, our state governments, despite their limited powers and opposition from the Federal Government have shown a completely different philosophy where we fought crony interest and unfair contracts to ensure that the people’s rights and welfare are prioritised.

The Selangor state government for instance, fought the Federal Government to prevent SYABAS, a private concessionaire, from unfairly increasing water tariff rates in 2009 by 37%. Not only did we stop the tariff hike, the state government has provided 20m3 of free subsidized water to each household ever since taking power costing RM120 million a year, derived from expenditure savings as a result of good governance practices.

On the other hand, the Johor BN government colluded with the private concessionaire, Syarikat Air Johor (SAJ) to increase water rates by as much as 63% in November 2010, substantially increasing the burden of more than 3.2 million Johoreans.

The recent rounds of creeping subsidy cuts where food and fuel subsidies to the man-in-the-street are reduced but the RM6-8 billion of gas subsidies extended to independent power producers (IPPs) which are owned by powerful BN cronies which also makes billions in profits annually are ignored.

Pakatan Rakyat states have also proven the competence in running state administrations better than their previous BN counterparts as shown in Penang where for the first time in history, the tiny state topped the country’s performance in terms of attracting capital investments amounting to RM12.2 billion, or more than 26% of total capital investment in Malaysia for 2010.

Najib who warned that “if incapable people who only knew how to make empty promises were chosen as leaders, the country would collapse” cannot be more true, for if the rakyat continue to give support to BN, then we will be feeding the insatiable appetites of its cronies while impoverishing the ordinary citizens.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Another BN Land Swap Scam

BN once again failed to protect the interest of the rakyat by ensuring most "value for money" for government assets and contracts by awarding a RM600 million contract without open tender

In a mirror image of the RM682 million contract to construct Malaysia's largest exhibition and convention centre via direct negotiations by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry in November 2009, the Ministry of Health has awarded a RM600 to 700 million contract to Sentosa Jitra Sdn Bhd, a 50% associate of SP Setia Bhd to build 1National Institute of Health (1NIH).

In both cases, the Government is footing the bill via land swap deals. The Matrade International Convention & Exhibition Centre is paid with a 62.5 acres piece of prime land near Mont Kiara to Naza TTDI Sdn Bhd while the 1NIH project is paid with a 40.22 acres piece of prime land along Jalan Bangsar.

In both cases, the estimated value of the land far exceeds the value of the construction contract. Professional valuers have estimated the Naza TTDI land to be worth between RM350 and RM500 per square feet (psf) i.e., a total value between RM970 million to RM1.5 billion. The proposed project on the land is expected to achieve RM10 billion in gross development value (GDV).

Maybank Investment Bank has also estimated the value of land obtained by SP Setia to be worth RM646 to RM1,050 psf based on recently transacted prices in the area, giving a total land value of up to RM1.8 billion. ECM Libra also estimated a GDV of around RM8 billion.

The nature of these contracts only prove that the lack of transparency and good governance practices continue despite all the talk of reform through the hyped up transformation programmes such as the GTP, ETP and NEM.

Why did the Government choose not to tender the respective construction projects without any tenders, open or restricted to ensure that it gets to build the Matrade Centre or the 1NIH at the lowest possible cost?

Why was there no open auction on the Government land which was bestowed upon these private developers to ensure that the Government maximises the value of its assets?

Government losses from these two deals of up to RM1.28 billion combined would have more than offset the "savings" generated from the most recent round of subsidy cuts on essential goods.
In direct contrast to the award of the 1NIH project, the Pakatan Rakyat Penang state government has also recently awarded a contract via open tender to SP Setia to build the RM300 million subterranean Penang International Convention and Exhibition Centre (sPICE) where the developer will only be paid a total of RM50 million. SP Setia has to recoup its investments from managing and operating sPICE during the 30-year concession.

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak has promised to stamp out “rent-seeking and patronage” under his “New Economic Model” to ensure value-for-money for government expenditure. He has even promised under the “Economic Transformation Programme” to carry out open tenders for big projects. However, the deals which have been awarded by the Government to date fails to live up to Najib’s lofty promises. These deals continue to heavily benefit the big businesses at the expense of the Government, and ultimately the rakyat.

We call upon Datuk Seri Najib to cancel the above transaction and instead call for an open tender to build the proposed 1NIH and conduct an open auction for the 40.22 acres of prime land in Bangsar to not only ensure that the rakyat’s interest is prioritised, but prevent the GTP, ETP and NEM from becoming for all intents and purposes, dead and buried.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Double Standards in Azan Row

Double standards in azan row, says Pua
By Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani

The DAP national publicity secretary questioned if BN would have been forgiving if the controversy had involved a Pakatan Rakyat (PR) politician.

Yesterday, MCA lawyer Ng Kian Nam apologised for complaining about the volume of the “azan” from a mosque in Kampung Kerinchi here, and described the matter as a “misunderstanding’.

“I think the apology should be accepted. I don’t think the matter should be exploited or made into a big deal.

“The issue that Pakatan Rakyat has is not so much about the apology but the double stand that Umno politicians have. When it is an MCA rep, let’s close the case quickly and make sure the issue should not prolong,” Pua told reporters during a press conference here.

Ng said he had mistaken the pre-dawn sermon for the “azan”, which led him to send a letter of complaint to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on December 20 last year.

In the letter, the MCA Youth leader had suggested the authorities set specific guidelines to control the volume of the loudspeakers at mosques, saying that the “azan” often disturbed his sleep in the mornings.

This led to a protest by two Malay NGOs last Friday.

The issue was resolved yesterday when Ng met Lembah Pantai Umno division chief Datuk Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin as well as representatives from the NGOs which had protested against the lawyer.

However, Pua pointed out that the “azan” row would have made headlines in Umno-owned newspapers, especially Utusan Malaysia, if it had involved PR.

He said PR would have been attacked for religious insensitiveness and called a racist.

Click here for full article.

KTMB RM85m Contract to Company Without Track Record?

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha must explain why the RM85 million Automatic Fare Collection (AFC) system is awarded to a company without the necessary track record

It has been confirmed by both the Transport Minister as well as KTMB officials that KTMB is facing investigations by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission over irregularities over the award of the RM85 million “Design, manufacture, supply, installation, testing and commissioning of automatic fare collection (AFC) system for KTMB's Commuter Stations”.

KTMB is being investigated for alleged fraud in rigging the tender evaluation process to award the contract to Hopetech Sdn Bhd, despite being 18% more expensive than 2 other bidders.
Instead of suspending the project pending investigations, the Transport Minister, who is also the MCA Secretary-General, Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha had immediately decreed that the project must proceed with the awarded contractor without delay.

In the interest of transparency and public accountability, Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha needs to explain the reasons why the project was awarded to a company with no track record of delivering AFC systems and why no site visits to installed locations or manufacturing facilities conducted by the tender evaluation team to determine the competence of the respective tenderers. It is critical for Datuk Seri Kong to respond since the KTMB chairman, Dato' Sri Mohd Zin Mohamed, has denied any role in the award process as it was decided by the Ministry of Transport and KTMB will just be the end-user of the system.

What is perhaps more worrying and requires further investigation is the fact that the CEO and Executive Director, Mohamed Zafril bin Mohamed Zabdin and the Managing Director, Hairul Ridza Hayata bin Hayata Elias are both directors of other companies which are either facing winding up petitions or have been wound up on orders by the court.

I have been provided with financial search results which showed that Mohamed Zafril and Hairul Ridza were directors of The Royal Mint of Malaysia Sdn Bhd which was wound up by Mayban Trustees Bhd in February 2009. Hairul Ridza is also director of Southvakes Systems Sdn Bhd which was facing an on-going winding up petition as at the end of 2010.

Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha must not shirk his ministerial responsibility to ensure that the tender processes in the Ministry of Transport and KTMB are conducted in a transparent, fair and professional manner. Continued leakages and award of contracts without value-for-money will only worsen the financial position of KTMB which has accumulated losses of RM1.45 billion as at 2008.

In addition, by choosing to proceed with the project amidst serious investigation for fraud, Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha has also turned a blind eye on the Prime Minister's NKRA on fighting corruption. The Transport Minister's care-less attitude is not only the height of ministerial irresponsibility, but will also cement the perception that the Barisan Nasional government is not at all serious about fighting rampant corruption. The increasingly negative perception has reduced Malaysia's Transparency International's Global Corruption rankings to a record low of 56th place in 2009 from 33rd in 2003.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Kong Cho Ha's Height of Ministerial Irresponsibility

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha is demonstrating utmost ministerial irresponsibility for decreeing that KTMB ticketing system project continues despite investigation of irregularities by MACC

It has been confirmed by both the Transport Minister as well as KTMB officials that KTMB is facing investigations by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission over irregularities over the award of the RM85 million “Design, manufacture, supply, installation, testing and commissioning of automatic fare collection (AFC) system for KTMB's Commuter Stations”.

KTMB is being investigated for alleged fraud in rigging the tender evaluation process to ensure award to the “designated” company, despite being 18% more expensive than 2 other bidders.
It is hence shocking that the Transport Minister, who is also the MCA Secretary-General, Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha chose to ignore the major implications and ramifications of such an investigations, and immediately decreed that the project must proceed with the awarded contractor without delay.

By proceeding with the project with a potentially “underqualified” company at a significantly higher cost means that the project may not achieve its goals, and KTMB will be spending more money than absolutely necessary. Given KTMB's precarious financial position of cumulative net losses of RM1.45 billion as at 2008, the entity could ill-afford to be extravagant with its expenditure. What's more, KTMB has been unable to service even its soft loans amounting to RM880 million from the Federal Government which have fully matured as of July 2010.

By choosing to proceed with the project amidst serious investigation for fraud, Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha has also turned a blind eye on the Prime Minister's NKRA on fighting corruption. The Transport Minister's care-less attitude is not only the height of ministerial irresponsibility, but will also cement the perception that the Barisan Nasional government is not at all serious about fighting rampant corruption. The increasingly negative perception has reduced Malaysia's Transparency International's Global Corruption rankings to a record low of 56th place in 2009 from 33rd in 2003.

What is worse, KTMB has demonstrated incorrigible behaviour over the past decade with a whole laundry list of poor governance and suspicious deals signed over the past decade, including the purchase of 38 EMU 6-coach units from China worth RM1.9 billion, 8 second-hand diesel multiple-units (DMU) worth RM64 million and the disposal of land which does not belong to KTMB.

I call upon Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha to declare his position with regards to the award of the AFC contract, as to whether he is completely satisfied with the evaluation process and that the company awarded is the most competent of the shortlisted companies to deliver the project. If he has doubts or is unable to unequivocally declare his position, then he should then immediately suspend the award of the project to ensure that only the company with the best track record at the best price will receive the award of the project.

Monday, January 03, 2011

How much is Gamuda-MMC paid to be MRT's PDP?

SPAD must lead the way in the Government Transformation Plan's (GTP) call to ensure “Performance Now” through transparency and accountability

The speedy response by the Land Public Transportation Commission (SPAD) to questions and criticisms with regards to the proposed RM47 billion MRT project on the 23 Dec last month is indeed praise-worthy and should be emulated by all other government agencies and departments which typically oblivious, intentionally or otherwise, to criticisms.

In the press conference, SPAD CEO, Mohd Nur Ismal Kamal stressed that the project delivery partner (PDP), MMC-Gamuda Joint Venture Sdn Bhd, would bear any cost over-runs to deflect concerns that the Government may be forced to bail out the contractors in the event of project failure.

On criticisms that the Government is commencing the MRT project before the Klang Valley Urban Public Transport Plan is ready, he argued that “the Bus Rapid Transit (system) is not practical as the main (transport) solution here in the city,” pointing out that the BRT required multiple-lane highways. He added that “we put out this rail plan first because rail is the backbone.”

The response by SPAD however, raises more questions than answers on Malaysia's largest ever infrastructure project, and possibly the riskiest ever due to its sheer size and scale.

Firstly, it is interesting to note that while MMC-Gamuda Joint Venture's is limited as the “project delivery partner”, it has to bear all cost over-runs of the contractors to be appointed by the Government for the RM36 billion project. To say that it is a heavy burden placed on the PDP would perhaps be a severe understatement. We call upon SPAD to disclose in full the terms of the arrangement with the PDP, including the fees being paid to MMC-Gamuda as the PDP.

Malaysians cannot be blamed for doubting the credibility of the Malaysian government as history has shown the complete lack of political will for the Government to take action against failing contractors despite clear legal provisions. For example, the government bore the cost to complete the MATRADE building where the cost of construction increased from RM167 million to RM287 million after nearly 10 years of delay in 2006. At the same time, the Government had to bear RM70 million of repair costs to the RM238 million Middle-Ring Road 2, while the contractors got away scot free.

Secondly, SPAD has indeed put the cart before the horse by proceeding with MRT project before the Urban Public Transport Plan is ready in September this year. While Nur Ismal claimed that the use of buses will be insufficient and ineffective is at best an intelligent guess for clearly a detailed study on routes, population density and growth, most efficient public transport mix has not been done or completed. I welcome SPAD to prove me wrong by publishing the full public transport requirement study which has taken into account the above, other than the MRT proposal submitted by the Gamuda-MMC joint venture.
Finally, SPAD has altogether avoided the question which I had posed earlier on how the RM47 billion MRT system will be made available at an affordable basis – what is the proposed fare structure? - without at the same time, become a long-term unsustainable burden for the tax-payers. For example, last year’s audit report on Prasarana showed that the current average LRT fare of RM1.60 has to be increased to nearly RM9 for the LRT infrastructural costs to be fully recouped within the next 20 years despite the LRTs costing the Federal Government less than RM8 billion, nearly 6 times less than the proposed MRT system. Are we going to take two centuries to pay for the RM47 billion MRT project?

As of today, Prasarana is already heavily indebted with RM8.5 billion in bonds which it is unable even to service its interest. This has been heavily criticised by the Auditor-General’s report in 2009 for making accumulated losses of RM840 million as of December 2007, in part due to suspicious activities and mismanagement. In the 2011 budget, the Government had to allocate RM2.5 billion of funds to bailout Prasarana-issued bonds which are due in November 2011.

We call upon SPAD to be completely transparent with the entire plan, design and financial impact of the MRT project to convince the rakyat that the MRT routes are optimised based on maximum public benefit, but also that it will not become an unsustainable project which will leave our future tax-payers with billions in debt.