To many,who get charged with CBT is still exciting, it is a bit like the old days – when the phone rang, you did not know who it was till the other person identified himself. You hoped it was that pretty liberal girl doing fine arts in “D” Section, but chances were that it would turn out to be the Headmaster’s conservative clerk, demanding to know more about why the report card had not yet been signed and returned. this charging with CBT has been of no use to the chattering classes, because most of the announcements which matter have already been made and quietly gone under in the course of the huge PR blitz we are being subjected to lately about the new soap opera unfolding in UMNO. There is nothing new about Looters in UMNO. But every time they change, life for the common man and woman simply becomes more difficult. This is a historical truth.
The latest but by no means most egregious example of these sordid scandals involves the National Feedlot Corporation, tasked with spearheading a meat-production industry to help poor rural dwellers. At least that is the rationale, hence the generous government low-interest loans.
The principal there is one Dr. Salleh Ismail; he is now more known as the husband of a federal minister. Many Malays who reach the top today are not known for their brilliance; they may have degrees but often from third-rate universities or even blatant degree mills. Imbecility is the norm at the highest levels.
Salleh, however, is the exception. He is one of the early Malay PhDs in science, and not just any doctorate but one from Cornell at Ithaca, New York . He is precisely the sort of Malay the government should be rewarding.
So I have no problem with his getting the cattle project instead of some incompetent UMNO operatives or science-illiterate retired civil servants. Nor do quibble with his putting his children on his company’s payroll; after all it is his company.
As with any project, the best way to get the best candidate or price would be through competitive bidding. Today, there are many more qualified Malays with proven entrepreneurial flair especially in this field of rearing animals. Many also have proven research expertise directly in the area. The likes of Salleh Ismail are no longer a rarity.
Dr M. Bakri Musa disappointment is with Dr. Salleh using taxpayer-subsidized loans to buy luxury condominiums. The irony of his getting special Bumiputra discounts! Dr. Salleh is, of course, free to do what he wants with his personal assets. Equally if not more reprehensible would be the responsible ministers and treasury officials; they should have disbursed the loan conditionally and in phases, upon proof of satisfactory performance.
Datuk Seri Mohamed Salleh Ismail was charged today in the Sessions Court here with criminal breach of trust and violating the Companies Act in relation to RM49 million in federal funds given to the National Feedlot Corporation (NFCorp).
He pleaded not guilty to the CBT charge as well as two counts under the Companies Act in the scandal that has opened Datuk Seri Najib Razak and the Barisan Nasional (BN) government to damaging attacks ahead of elections expected soon.
The charges were read out to the NFCorp executive chairman as his wife Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil —who was forced to announce yesterday that she would relinquish her Cabinet post next month — sat two rows behind him together with relatives and supporters.
Only one of their three children — Izmir — was present in court.
The other two children — Izran and Izzana — all of whom are also directors of the company running the national cattle farming project, were not present.
It is unclear if they will also face criminal charges.
Shahrizat said yesterday she would step down as minister for women, family and community development when her term as senator ends on April 8 after months of attacks from the opposition.
The authorities were forced by public anger as a result of allegations made by opposition politicians to investigate whether her family had used part of a RM250 million ringgit loan from the government to the NFCorp to buy condominiums both at home and abroad.
The scandal has highlighted the prime minister’s stuttering reform efforts and the decision to sacrifice Shahrizat politically is seen as a damage control exercise as Najib is expected to call elections within the next few months.
It is understood that Najib wants to call elections soon to take advantage of a recent spike in public approval ratings likely sparked by his decision to dish out direct aid to the public.
A looming global economic slowdown could jeopardise BN’s chances at the polls which must be called by early next year.
The NFCorp mess is not the first corruption scandal to hit Najib and Umno, but the farmyard connection makes it a potentially damaging one because many ordinary Malaysians have a better understanding of it than more obscure financial matters.
Shaming By Showing Them Up
Dr. Salleh is from Kelantan. I was on vacation there once and witnessed the appalling poverty that tugged at my sensibilities. I wonder whether Salleh feels that way too when he visits Bachok; those villagers could well be his cousins, once or twice removed. He could have invested in building homes for them and his would-be franchise farmers instead of splurging on luxury condos. He would then be hailed a hero instead of yet another spouse or relative of an UMNO minister hogging the public trough To develop our society we must give young Malays, especially those from the kampongs, a first-class education that would prepare them for the best universities, the kind that Dr. Salleh was privileged to partake. That is our only hope. Yes, some will forget their humble origin and be consumed with their newly-acquired luxury tastes, courtesy of Ketuanan Melayu of course. However, there will more than a few with enough conscience; their modest behaviors would then shame these high-flying pseudo-sophisticated kampong Malays with their taxpayer-supported laggak.We have many brilliant and unassuming former children of the kampongs. They are doing their best under very trying circumstances for our nation.humbled and more than just a bit embarrassed in their presence. Unlike Dr. Salleh or Khairy, these Malays are not married or related to top UMNO operatives. Many would consider that plain unlucky, but those smart dedicated Malays feel otherwise. They consider themselves lucky to be spared the corrupting influences around them.
Dr M. Bakri Musa forthcoming book, Liberating the Malay Mind, profiled a few of these admirable individuals. One in particular, Professor Badri Muhammad, deserves special mention. Like Dr. Salleh, Badri was also from a village in Kelantan and obtained his PhD (Dalhousie, in Cchemistry) a few years earlier than Dr. Salleh.
Badri’s legacies, however, are not luxury condominiums or multimillion-ringgit companies, but his children, biological as well as academic, the many undergraduates and doctoral candidates he inspired and guided. Yes, his biological children too have done well, sporting degrees from top universities, including one, Adam, a Carnegie Mellon PhD in engineering.
Here is another significant difference; despite Badri’s modest academic income, he was able to give his children a superior education sans JPA, MARA, or other Ketuanan Melayu crutches. Contrast that to one Rafidah Aziz, also of my vintage. Like other UMNO officials, she too had her share of scandals. On a visit to America many years ago she bragged about her daughter getting a MARA “scholarship.” Tiada maruah! (No sense of shame.)
With characters like Dr. Salleh, Tajuddin Ramli, Rafidah Aziz and Khir Toyo, it is tempting to indict Malays of my generation. However, I am certain that Malays like Badri are not the exceptions. There are, for example, Syed Mokthar Albukhary and Zaid Ibrahim; both were named as Asia’s philanthropic heroes by Forbes magazine a few years ago. Syed Mokthar gave generously to causes like education while Zaid has dedicated a home for the disabled in Kota Baru.
You do not realize how slothful you look until you are in the company of the well-groomed. Thus we need more Malays like Syed Mokthar, Zaid Ibrahim
In East Malaysia there was the Chief Minister of Sabah, one Osu Bin Haji Sukam, who skipped on his multimillion-pound gambling debt incurred in a London casino. His Haji father would roll over in his grave on that one. On a far grander scale with respect to sheer avarice and outrageous obscenity would be the still-to-be-fully-accounted glutton of another chief minister, this one of Sarawak. Purists may argue that these two characters are not Melayu tulen (“pure” Malays), so I will not focus on them.
That would still leave me with plenty of loathsome characters with whom, embarrassingly, I share far too many ready commonalities. Meaning, among others, we were poor, from the kampong, and the first in our family to go to college.
Stated differently, in an unguarded moment, scratch a bit and our “kampongness” would ooze out of our pores. I could readily swap old familiar stories with these high-flying former kampong Malays, of having to light pelita (kerosene wick lamps) in order to study at night, of hauling water in pails hung at the ends of a bamboo pole painfully strung across the shoulder, and of back-breaking plowing of rice fields with our primitive cangkul (hoe).
Those are not just distant hazy memories. Every time I visit my kampong, I am painfully reminded of this harsh reality.
The Laggak (Swagger) of these Malays
I meet many of these high-flying Malays when they visit America on their taxpayer-paid junkets; you could not have guessed their humble origins from their laggak (swagger). One official stayed at the presidential suite of a five-star hotel, the sort usually reserved for President Barack Obama. She then had the audacity to complain that her car in which she was driven in was not the latest luxury model! As for her flight, it was first class all the way.
Recently Prime Minister Najib stayed at a $20,000-a-night penthouse suite of the Darling Hotel in Sydney while his wife splurged on a $100,000 shopping spree in a single day. Even if those figures were in our devalued ringgit, that would still be obscenely extravagant. Najib’s wife denied that Australian report, but having seen her behavior while she was visiting America, I believe the Australian account. Najib’s predecessor from Kepala Batas, Penang was even more indulgent, what with his fondness for custom-made, ultra-luxury Airbus and yacht!
Najib and his wife, self-styled Malaysia’s “first couple,” compare themselves to our Sultans, who in turn model themselves after the British and Saudi monarchs. More the latter as the House of Windsor is now much more restrained; not so the House of Saud, still amply funded by their overflowing oil wells. Ours are fast drying up.
With such extravagances and excesses at the top, no wonder lesser kutus(characters) try to outdo each other. Consider one Khir Toyo, a former dentist. Thanks to a liberalized legal definition, this son of a Javanese immigrant is now Melayu tulen. He fancied himself a shrewd businessman who could drive a hard bargain and thus secured for himself a mega-mansion at half-price! The only problem was that his “victim” was someone who did considerable business with Selangor while Toyo was its Chief Minister.
It was of course no shrewd bargaining, merely of, as Prime Minister Najib would inelegantly but nonetheless accurately put it, “Gua tolong lu, lu tolong gua!” (You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours!). A more appropriate term would be extorting, but then this Khir Toyo was a product of our all-Malay education system and had only recently learned English; hence his inability to discern the not-so-subtle difference between negotiating and extorting.
Too bad this Toyo did not use his negotiating prowess to secure for Selangor similar lean contracts! Thank God that he is now a former chief minister! He would still be Chief Minister if Barisan Nasional had won the last election(2008). This point is worth pondering come the next general elections.
Too Big To Jail Tajuddin-GLC Settlement: A Blatant Abuse of Power
This “cowgate” scandal pales in comparison to an earlier and much more expensive one involving Tajuddin Ramli and Malaysia Airlines. Like Salleh, Tajuddin is the son of a villager from Simpang Empat Kangkong, near Alor Setar in Kedah, a predominantly Malay and very poor state. Like Salleh, Tajuddin too still has many poor relatives back in the kampongs.
You would think that the memories of their still miserable relatives in the kampong would put a damper on the laggak of these high-flying Malays.
The lack of transparency in last week’s settlement in court between former Malaysia Airlines System chairperson Tajuddin Ramli and government-linked corporations (GLCs) does not augur well for Malaysia’s standing, domestically and internationally.
Transparency International Malaysia chapter chairperson Paul Low (right) said the case indicated blatant abuses of power and a lack of prudence in the managing of the country’s finances, resulting in losses of public funds.
Low also warned that following the court settlement, Malaysia’s aspiration of having good governance has also come under scrutiny.
“His (Tajuddin’s) claim that the government (through the assurance given by the then Prime Minister and Minister of Finance) had indemnified him of any liability incurred in his purchase of the MAS shares from Bank Negara needed to be substantiated and disclosed by the institutions and the ministers concerned.
“We are extremely concerned as to the lack of public disclosure of the reasons for what seems to be a ‘arbitrary write-off’ of the RM589 million loan owed by Tajuddin relating to his purchase of MAS shares,” Low told Malaysiakini.
The Kuala Lumpur High Court had on December 7, 2009, ordered Tajuddin to pay RM589 million to Pengurusan Danaharta Nasional Bhd, which manages unpaid loans. The same court had earlier dismissed Tajuddin’s RM13 billion counter-claim.
Last Tuesday, Tajuddinwithdrew his appeal against Danaharta and other GLCs over the High Court decision.
The same day, Tajuddin also withdrew his lawsuit against numerous other litigants, including Telekom Malaysia Bhd, Naluri Corporation, Celcom (M) Bhd, Atlan Holding Bhd and CIMB Group.
Petaling Jaya MP Tony Pua has claimed that according to his sources, the RM589 claim has been written off as part of the settlement.
Blatant abuse of power
Low said said the court settlement indicated a blatant abuse of power and a lack of prudence in the stewardship of the country’s finances, resulting in substantial losses of public funds. “In view of the inconsistencies , from the explanations of the personalities involved, a public clarification needs to be done by the government,” he said.
“As the case involves a public listed company and GLCs, the opaqueness of the settlement will not augur well for Malaysia’s standing in the investing community, domestically as well as internationally.It shows a lack of consistency and seriousness in tackling corruption (defined as the abuse of entrusted power for person gains) at the higher echelon of the administration.”
Mahathir and the Tajuddin Ramli-MAS Deal: No Explanation Required
by Shannon Teoh@http://www.themalaysianinsider.com
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad brushed off today Datuk Zaid Ibrahim’s call that he “write a book” on why Malaysia Airline System (MAS) was privatised to Tan Sri Tajuddin Ramli in 1994, saying he was not in charge of the loss-making national carrier.
“I’m not in charge of MAS, how can I write a book? I can make some comments, that’s all,” the former Prime Minister told reporters today.
Zaid, who was de facto Law Minister in 2008, wrote in his blog today that Dr Mahathir must explain by “writing (a book) that is believable, that at least reflects the true situation surrounding the MAS saga that has still not been resolved until today.”
Zaid, who resigned from UMNO in September 2008 to join PKR but is now estranged from Pakatan Rakyat (PR), has backed the opposition’s criticism of recent confidential out-of-court settlements between Tajuddin and several GLCs.
“Since the settlement was conducted in secret, allow me to guess the terms of the deal: Tajuddin was not required to pay a single sen to Danaharta or any of the GLCs; instead, the government will pay Tajuddin RM6.5 billion (or half of what he had claimed).
“Tajuddin will then be generous in his contributions to the party coffers for the upcoming general election,” he said.
Tajuddin’s settlement with Pengurusan Danaharta Bhd (Danaharta) on February 14 came after a lengthy legal dispute following a High Court decision in December 2009 ordering the ex-MAS chief to pay the state asset management manager RM589.14 million plus two per cent interest per year, backdated to January 1, 2006.
But Dr Mahathir, who was PM from 1981 to 2003, insisted today “the government is very sensitive to these things because it may affect the image of the government and the support in the next election.”
“If they have evidence that there was blatant abuse of power they can make a case for it,” he added.
Tajuddin, who was MAS chairman until 2001, was also a poster boy of former Finance Minister Tun Daim Zainuddin’s now discredited policy of nurturing a class of Malay corporate captains on government largesse during the Mahathir administration.
The case between Danaharta and Tajuddin arose after he executed a facility agreement on July 13, 1994 to borrow RM1.79 billion from a group of syndicated lenders to finance his purchase of a 32 per cent stake in MAS.
However, from 1994 to 1998 he failed to service the original loan, causing it to become a non-performing loan (NPL). In 1998, Danaharta acquired the NPL from the lenders but Tajuddin also failed to settle his debt to Danaharta until it was in default of RM1.41 billion as at October 8, 2001.
As part of a settlement agreement, Tajuddin was to pay RM942 million in four instalments over three years and that he was permitted to redeem his charged shares at a minimum price per share.
Tajuddin, however, defaulted in the payment of the quarterly interest payable under the settlement agreement and on April 27, 2002, the plaintiffs terminated the settlement agreement and demanded RM1.61 billion from him.
On April 29, 2002, Danaharta, together with its units Danaharta Urus Sdn Bhd and Danaharta Managers Sdn Bhd sold part of the charged shares consisting entirely of Technology Resources Industries (TRI) shares at RM2.75 per share, resulting in total proceeds of RM717.39 million.
As at December 31, 2005, the amount outstanding was RM589.14 million and on May 11, 2006, Danaharta and the subsidiaries commenced action to recover the money.
Tajuddin had alleged in his affidavit that it was Dr Mahathir and Daim who directed him in 1994 to buy a controlling stake in MAS to bail out the government.
Tajuddin claimed that his purchase was a forced “national service”, disguised as an arm’s length commercial deal, because the government wanted to appease the investment community and the public.
Dr Mahathir, however, denied in his autobiography published last March that he and Daim had forced Tajuddin to bail out MAS in 1994 for RM1.8 billion, claiming instead that Tajuddin was “elated” over his purchase.
MP Sivarasa to file urgent motion in Parliament on A-G Gani Patail
by Terence Netto
The fifth session of the 12th Parliament opens today amid speculation that it would be the last one before Prime Minister Najib Razak dissolves it to pave the way for the country’s 13th general election, expected to be the most keenly contested in the nation’s history.
Lawyer Sivarasa said the motion would be filed on Wednesday under Standing Order 18 (1) which allows for Parliament to discuss matters of public importance that are of an urgent and specific nature.
“The shocking revelations in the Malaysiakini report satisfy all the requirements of the relevant standing order under which the motion would be filed,” said Sivarasa, who is the go-to man in PKR’s constant predicament of needing legal representation as a result of the spate of police reports and legal suits filed against or by them.
A Rhodes scholar who read law at Oxford, Sivarasa said Parliament only allows for one urgent motion to be filed in a day.
Another PKR MP, Zuraidah Kamaruddin, has reserved Friday for the filing for an urgent motion to discuss the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) scandal that has dogged the Najib government since October last year.
Sivarasa said he was particularly interested in the news that the former director of the Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) Ramli Yusuff that he had new evidence in connection with the ‘black eye’ incident that involved former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and former Inspector-General of Police Rahim Noor.
The incident which became an international cause célèbre arose from Anwar being beaten while under custody.The episode forced the resignation of Rahim as IGP and his eventual jailing for assault.
In the Malaysiakini report yesterday, Ramli (right) also disclosed that he had new evidence about corporate figure Tajuddin Ramli in connection with Police reports lodged by MAS alleging crimes committed by the former owner of the national carrier.
“The Malaysiakini report yesterday furnishes grounds for an inquiry on the A-G’s alleged commission of the crimes of corruption, abuse of power and fabrication of evidence,” said Sivarasa.
“These are allegations of the gravest import. Parliament must discuss them and an investigation must be held,” said the PKR lawyer.