By Mohd Farhan Darwis and Leannza Chia
The Malaysian Insider
Nov 30, 2012
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 30 — Several Umno members appeared today to dismiss the controversy over Sabah Umno’s RM40 million “political donation”, saying the sum was pittance compared to the millions the party dishes out during elections.
Arsit Sedi @ Sidik, a delegate from Sabah, even described the sum as “a very small dot” and revealed that in the Putatan constituency in his home state, Umno would have to spend up to RM6 million during the polls.
“RM40 million is a small sum, I don’t think it can even support the next election.
“The amount needed is very high, especially Sabah. If you are talking RM40 million, it is not enough to even move the election machinery.
“RM40 million is a very small dot only,” he told The Malaysian Insider when approached on the sidelines of Umno’s 66th general assembly here.
Sabah Umno chief Datuk Musa Aman has been at the centre of allegations linking him to a RM40 million corruption scandal that the opposition has been using as fodder to discredit the Barisan Nasional (BN) state government in its east Malaysian fortress.
The issue hit media headlines last month when Umno minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz told Parliament that Musa had been cleared of corruption and money-laundering allegations in a case involving Sabah timber trader Michael Chia.
“I think it’s only the opposition trying to make a huge issue out of it; it is a very small allegation,” added Arsit.
Sabah delegate Sahak Noh from Batu Sapi also agreed that the amount stated was insignificant for the needs of the coming election, and that this issue would have no effect on the state.
“In my opinion, this is a personal issue that has been manipulated by the opposition so close to the general election,” said Sahak. “I’m certain that the people will realise that this is an issue meant to trick the public.”
When asked, former Home Minister and now Land Public Transport Commission chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar refrained from describing the RM40 million as insubstantial, but did admit that Sabah would likely need a lot of funds because “there is a lot more work to be done” in Sabah as the area is “wide” and “a lot of the places are inaccessible”.
Musa’s alleged link with Chia first exploded in the media following an April article by whistleblower site Sarawak Report, which had claimed that latter was caught trying to leave the Hong Kong International Airport with the RM40 million in Singapore currency.
At the time, Chia had allegedly told the authorities that the money was meant for Musa, kicking off a probe on the series of funds transfers from Malaysia to Hong Kong that was then believed to be the possible laundering of monies generated from illegal logging activities in Sabah.
But Nazri said Musa’s name was cleared after Malaysian and Hong Kong anti-graft authorities found that the money was a “political donation” to Sabah Umno and was not meant for Musa’s personal use.
In the ensuing debates on the issue, however, Pakatan Rakyat (PR) lawmakers chided Nazri for declaring Musa innocent without providing proof that Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) had cleared the chief minister of its own accord.
According to Nazri, the ICAC had closed the case after the MACC discovered in its probe that the money in Chia’s possession was meant for Sabah Umno and not Musa.