Archive for November 12th, 2007

RM4.6 billion Port Klang Free Zone scandal — why is the government on-the-run?

This is the question I posed in Parliament today — “Why is the government-on-the-run on the RM4.6 billion Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal?”

During the 2008 Budget committee stage debate on the Finance Ministry, I started my speech protesting against government ministers kicking the issue of the RM4.6 billion PKFZ scandal from one Ministry to another, evading accountability by refusing to give a direct answer to many pertinent questions which I had posed — with the ball being kicked among the Prime Minister’s Department, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Transport with no one wanting to give a proper answer.

I simplified the questions on the PKFZ scandal which cry out for answer, viz:

1. Was it true that when the Port Klang Authority and the Transport Ministry insisted on buying the 1,000 acres of Pulau Indah land for PKFZ at RM25 psf on a “willing buyer, willing seller” basis, in the face of strong objection by the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the Treasury which had recommended that the land be acquired at RM10 psf, the Cabinet had given its approval subject to two conditions: (i) categorical assurance by the Transport Minister that the PKFZ proposal was feasible and self-financing and would not require any public funding; and (ii) that every RM100 million variation in the development costs of PKFZ would require prior Cabinet approval.

2. In the event, the first condition was breached when the PKFZ project ballooned from RM1.1 billion to RM4.6 billion requiring government intervention and bailout while the second condition was breached with the original PKFZ development costs of RM400 million ballooning to RM2.8 billion without any prior Cabinet approval ever sought for every RM100 million increase in development costs.

3. The Transport Minister had unlawfully issued four Letters of Support to Kuala Dimensi Sdn. Bhd (KDSB), the PKFZ turnkey contractor — to raise RM4 billion bonds, which were regarded as government guarantees by the market. The Transport Minister had no such powers to issue financial guarantees committing the government, as it could only be issued by the Finance Minister and only after Cabinet approval. The first Letter of Support was issued by the former Transport Minister, Tun Dr. Ling Liong Sik on May 28, 2003, which was Liong Sik’s last day as Transport Minister while the other three were issued by Kong Choy. Read the rest of this entry »


You Have Been Challenged, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi!

by M. Bakri Musa

“Saya pantang dicabar!” (lit: “I am allergic to challenges;” fig. “Don’t challenge me!”) declared Prime Minister Abdullah in an uncharacteristically bold assertion to the media on the eve of BERSIH’s massive street demonstrations in Kuala Lumpur last Saturday, November 10, 2007.

You have now been challenged, Mr. Prime Minister, openly and publicly by your own citizens, and you have emerged impotent! That huge street rally may be illegal to you, but the King had consented to receiving its leaders and their petition. In effect, the King too has challenged you, Abdullah! In case you did not get the message, you had just been served a very public royal rebuff.

I too, challenge you, Abdullah! Instead of arresting those ordinary citizen demonstrators, I dare you to arrest their leaders, Anwar Ibrahim, Hadi Awang, Lim Kit Siang, and Raja Petra Kamarudin. Those ordinary folks were merely exercising their basic rights as citizens of a democracy: the right to free assembly and to petition the authorities.

As per the refrain of the Ghostbusters theme song, “Who are you gonna call now!” Mr. Prime Minister? Your fabulous Fourth Floor boys? Your son-in-law who is using you as his “protection?” Imagine being considered as such by your son-in-law!

Khairy Jamaluddin obviously had not heard of your “demonstrations are not part of our Malay culture” bit. Either that or Khairy had blissfully ignored it as when he led that pathetic street demonstration against your official guest, US State Secretary Rice.

In a speech earlier in the week, Khairy demanded that the authorities “come down hard” on the BERSIH demonstrators. While there were some water cannons and tear gas canisters unloaded, the demonstrations went ahead smoothly and successfully to the palace. The police even released most of those arrested. Your son-in-law challenged you to be tough on the demonstrators, and you came out lembik (limp). Read the rest of this entry »


BERSIH petition to King – acid test whether it marks the burial of Abdullah’s 4-yr pledge to hear the truth

The negative and irresponsible responses of the government and its leaders to Saturday’s mammoth peaceful BERSIH gathering petitioning the Yang di Pertuan Agong for electoral reforms to ensure clean, free and fair elections is most disappointing though not unexpected.

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the BERSIH gathering and petition were “tantamount to dragging the institution of the monarchy, and the king, into politics”.

This is a baseless allegation completely unworthy of the Prime Minister as nothing could be further from the truth.

The Yang di Pertuan Agong symbolizes the fountain of justice in Malaysia, and it is completely within constitutional norms for Malaysians who are shut out from all avenues of redress to seek justice to appeal to the Yang di Pertuan Agong for intervention — and it will be beholden on the Prime Minister and his Cabinet to give such petitions to the Yang di Pertuan Agong serious consideration and not to dismiss them in a most arrogant, cavalier and undemocratic manner.

In this particular case, the mass petition to the Yang di Pertuan Agong is all the more pertinent as the government has turned a deaf ear to widespread and legitimate calls for electoral reforms to ensure that there is a level playing field for all contestants so that clean, free and fair elections could be held in Malaysia.

This is why I said during question time that the government should uphold the important symbol of the King as the fountain of justice by giving serious and positive consideration to the petition to the Yang di Pertuan Agong supported by the mammoth and peaceful BERSIH gathering on Saturday or the government will be doing an injustice to the system of monarchy. Read the rest of this entry »


A Wake-Up Call for the Government: Malaysians Want Their Country Back

By Farish A. Noor

That elections should be free, fair and transparent is perhaps one of the most basic requirements of any working democracy, and to demand that elections should be free, fair and transparent is perhaps one of the most fundamental rights of any society. When citizens demand such things it can and should be seen as an act of civic responsibility and they should commended for it. Indeed, it ought to be seen as a test of civic participation and citizenship that all citizens should demand that their state works and functions properly and accountably, to serve the interest of the nation as a whole and not a select coterie of landed elites and entrenched class interests.

That was exactly what happened in the streets of Kuala Lumpur on 10th November and for that reason alone Malaysians should be proud to say that they are in the process of reclaiming the state and demanding their country back. As in the cases of Pakistan and Burma — as well as the pro-democracy movements that swept across Southeast Asia in the 1980s and 1990s which led to the fall of dictators like Ferdinand Marcos and General Suharto — what happened in Malaysia was, in many ways, a landmark moment in the country’s postcolonial history.

Yet ironically elements in the Malaysian government — the very same elements that ostensibly supported the recent pro-democracy campaign in Burma — were at the forefront of demonising their fellow citizens and doing their utmost to prevent the demonstration in Kuala Lumpur from taking place. Leaders of the ruling UMNO party issues a continuous stream of warnings to the general public, warning them not to take to the streets. UMNO leaders and members who were willing to join in the rallies calling for democratic reform in Burma were suddenly taking the opposite side when the very same demands were being articulated in Malaysia by their fellow Malaysians. Malaysians were told that they would be arrested if they attended the rally; that the demonstrators were a nuisance and a security threat; that the demonstration would deter foreign investment into Malaysia. Yet the mind boggles at the logic of such arguments, when it should be clear that what is deterring investment into the country is not public demonstrations but rather mismanagement of the economy, allegations of corruption and abuse of power by the elite instead.

For a nation that has always been cast in a passive light as docile and apathetic, Malaysians defied their own stereotype by coming out in huge numbers and braving the rain from above and the tear gas and batons on the ground. Contrary to the scare-mongering campaign of the government, the rally proved to be ordered and peaceful. What does this say about Malaysia today and where the country is heading? Read the rest of this entry »