Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The other White Rajahs

Mariam Mokhtar
Tuesday, 15 December 2009 01:29

SARAWAK FOCUS Sarawak’s heir-apparent, Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Taib, may have resigned from his post at the Tourism Ministry, but his eyes could possibly be set on a more lucrative prize. Why be a small fish in a big pond when he can be the great white shark in …?

He may not sport the familiar Ray-Bans of his father on his walkabouts, but then, what need has he of the shades, for what Sulaiman sees is only a rose tinted view of his country.

At 40, he has led an ostentatious and wealthy life. His father is reportedly one of the richest men in the world, with assets and businesses in Malaysia and worldwide.

People may say the White Rajahs of Sarawak, who ruled the state for a hundred years, have gone. Have they, really? Isn’t the Taib Mahmud dynasty a re-incarnation of the original Brookes of England?

In 1841, James Brooke laid the groundwork for ruling Sarawak; Charles, his nephew, was the builder and Vyner, Charles’s son, traded his position as Rajah for a hefty pension and a controversial deal with the British Protectorate then.

History repeating itself

History has repeated itself. Abdul Rahman Yakub (left), chief minister of Sarawak from 1970 to 1981 and Taib’s uncle, was his political mentor who paved the way for the nephew to rule Sarawak like the state was his own.

The rich Borneo state was ripe for the taking – petroleum, gas, timber, land. It now remains for Sulaiman to take over the helm. But time is running out fast. And the plot thickens. Putrajaya is still pulling the strings.

Sulaiman is married to the daughter of Deputy Chief Minister Dr George Chan. Politics in Sarawak is a family affair. But this union has not exactly endeared him to the nation.

The scandal of him assaulting a television personality in a Kuala Lumpur nightspot in 2003 worsened his already tarnished image.

Fortunately, papa controls the media in Sarawak. There was a news blackout. The case was closed for lack of evidence.

Sulaiman’s resignation was mired in controversy. We are told that it had nothing to do with politics, that it was for personal reasons and as he was still grieving over his mother’s death.

Papa to the rescue

Without sounding disrespectful, hundreds, if not thousands of people face the death of a parent or close relative or spouse, but they continue with their responsibilities.

Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s wife died whilst he was in office but the former prime minister continued his duties admirably, after a respectable period of mourning.

So again, papa has come to the rescue with more explanations.

Then, came the denials. So thick and fast, like a swarm of flies over a rotting carcass. For a year and a half, Sulaiman worked under two ministers – the first was Azalina Othman Said and then Dr Ng Yen Yen (right).

It is alleged that Sulaiman and his lady bosses got on like a marriage made in hell.

Some men abhor working under women. And men with big egos suffer most. It did not help that he had an over-inflated image of ‘who’ he was.

Having been the chairman of Cahaya Mata Sarawak and the RHB Bank, he probably felt entitled to a more deserving role, rather than being made a mere deputy of an even lesser ministry.

Many people, at some point in their lives, have a woman as a boss. If the generalisations are to be believed, woman bosses are more likely to discriminate against female employees with children.

Not a team player

Sadly, we live in a world that believes a ruthless male boss to be assertive, but considers a woman acting in a similar fashion, to be aggressive. Some men cannot handle having a woman as a boss. And Sulaiman may have been one of those.

Things got unpleasant when Idris Jala (left), from the Kelabit community was appointed Minister without Portfolio in the Prime Minister's Department and chief executive officer of the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu). Here was someone, who had simply breezed in to assume his role as senator and minister.

Sulaiman's inability to act as a team player and to get the job done is reason enough to go.

Sarawakians ought to take heed. If this man is unable to perform at the federal level and give the people his best, why should he be expected to perform well at the state level?

However, what if this resignation had been planned a long time ago and with the collusion of Putrajaya? Taib needs a successor. And what he wants, he gets or so, it seems.

In March 2008, Sulaiman stood as a candidate in the parliamentary seat previously held by his father. And won. But it is hardly a ringing endorsement for a ruling party candidate with the best-financed campaign and a father who pulls the strings in the state.

He may lack his father’s political guile and experience, and even if he is cut from a different cloth, it may take time for him to emerge as his own man.

Others more qualified to be CM

Hence, the reason for him to return to Kuching, to be groomed for his future role.

There is turbulence ahead with three others who are more qualified to be chief minister. But as he owes his political career to his father, return to Sarawak he must. His survival and that of his father’s dynasty centre on how fences can be mended with the electorate.

Sulaiman will find himself under a lot of pressure if the MACC vigorously pursues the various claims about corruption in Sarawak - "if" being the operative word.

Then, he will have to address the imbalance between progress and conservation. His father has handed out timber concessions and allegedly approved various multi-million projects that have wiped out huge swathes of jungles and the people, flora and fauna it supports.

Someone forgot that what happens in Sarawak has worldwide consequences - global warming, destruction of plant life and animals, the way of life of its indigenous people.

After gobbling up hardwood trees, the same companies are allegedly expanding into oil palm plantations. Without biodiversity, not many species of plant and animal life will survive.

Taib's vision very short-lived

The ancestral lands of the indigenous people have been encroached upon. Lawsuits have been filed. Not just for seeking compensation but also to halt certain projects.

Thousands of people have been displaced. Their rights are taken away, their fruit trees and crops destroyed, their longhouses pulled down and their lands flooded to make way for dams.

Companies operating in the interior have allegedly polluted the rivers and groundwater, destroyed their jungle pathways and raped their women. But still no form of justice is evident. No one has been made accountable.

Taib has forgotten that with his purported political style and management of Sarawak’s resources, he is essentially killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. His vision is very short-lived.

Plantations benefit the owners, and dam construction, the project builders. But for all the development in trading, construction, property and road making, very little money and few benefits have filtered down to the common man. Education, provision of health, law-enforcement, electricity, running water, roads and basic infrastructure are reportedly still lacking in many parts of Sarawak

Resettlement of various people into designated areas has not helped. They are still poverty stricken. Hunting is impossible as the animals have either been killed off by logging or migrated elsewhere.

Their fruit trees have been destroyed. The soil where they have been relocated to may not support the types of agriculture they originally practised. Moreover, the much promised offers of employment have not materialised. Jobs in the plantations sector still go to foreign workers who are paid even lower wages.

As a result, the young migrate to the bigger towns looking for jobs and fall prey to vice, drink, lawlessness and other unhealthy activities. Young girls get sucked into prostitution. In the longhouses, older men are enticed with hard liquor and drugs by the logging companies as an inducement to work.

Lot of bridges to mend

Sulaiman may hear the pleasant tinkling of the ivory from Liberace’s piano which his father had reputedly bought for US$2mil. But all the Sarawak people can hear is the grinding of the chain saws from the logging companies.

Sulaiman may one day drive around in his father’s grand Rolls Royce. But some Sarawak people have difficulty travelling to their school or their smallholdings, traversing bamboo bridges or paths over difficult terrain.

If Sulaiman feels he is cut out for his father’s job, he has a lot of bridges to mend before he can even think about assuming that role.

Is he prepared to engage with the people? Can he incorporate the needs of all of the peoples in Sarawak? Will he see for himself the hardship his father’s tenure has brought them? Is he prepared to listen?

The vulgar display of wealth by Taib and also the lack of concern and respect for the welfare of the people disconnect him from them.

Maybe, it is time the Sarawak people see what is really going on and exercise their right to decide their own future. – Malaysian Mirror

MARIAM MOKHTAR has a passion for people, places and plain speaking. Don't suffer fools gladly.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Honouring Our Agreements

by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah

The Government has now responded to Kelantan’s claim to a portion of the profits derived from petroleum resources extracted offshore by PETRONAS.

Its response violates the letter and the intent of a solemn agreement signed between each State Government and PETRONAS under the Petroleum Development Act.

That agreement is made out in language simple enough for a schoolboy to understand, in both Bahasa Malaysia and English.

The Constitutional rights of the people of Kelantan are denied. However this has implications far beyond Kelantan:

1) It negates an agreement signed between the Kelantan Government and PETRONAS. By implication, it negates identical agreements signed by PETRONAS with every other state and deprives the people of their constitutional rights.

2) The Government’s refusal to recognize a straightforward contractual obligation on PETRONAS’s part puts a question mark over the status of oil payments due to the other oil-producing states. The States’ rights to 5% of profit derived from the extraction of any petroleum resources is based on a quid pro quo according to which the States vested entirely and in perpetuity all their rights and claims to petroleum resources to PETRONAS. In return for this PETRONAS is legally bound to pay the states the 5% directly

3) If PETRONAS no longer recognises its legal obligation to pay the States what is due to them under the Petroleum Development Act, the States, and in particular Sabah and Sarawak, will now wonder if the corresponding Vesting Deed by which they vested all their rights in their petroleum resources to PETRONAS remains in force.

4) The Government’s response substitutes for PETRONAS’s legal obligations under the Petroleum Development Act an arbitrary “compassionate payment” from the Federal Government. This casts serious doubt on the Malaysian Government’s respect for the sanctity of contracts and the rule of law. Let’s not talk about spurring investment to take our economy to a higher level if we fail to understand the importance of abiding by contractual obligations.

I helped craft and negotiate the Petroleum Development Act. As Chairman of Petronas, I signed separate and identical agreements in respect of these payments with each of the Mentris Besar of the States. I must insist that PETRONAS is bound by them and that the Federal government should not interfere in their fulfillment.

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah

Member of Parliament, Gua Musang

I will discuss my response to the proposed parliamentary caucus on this issue in my next posting.

I last wrote on the issue of Kelantan’s right to oil payments in my letter to the Mentri Besar of Kelantan in July this year. PETRONAS was formed to unite the country under a single and simple formula for sharing the bounty of our petroleum resources. Any unraveling of this formula could have serious consequences for our Federation.

Friday, November 06, 2009


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Saturday, October 03, 2009


Why would someone want to generate electricity through a giant hydroelectric plant in an area that does not demand that massive supply? Answer me that question and you can stop reading.

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by Hakim Joe

Why would someone harness the power of moving liquid and transform it into a clean and usable energy? The answer is of course for the electricity that is utilized to operate the multitude of electrical and electronic devices that we have. Simple answer.

Now comes the harder question. Why would someone want to generate electricity through a giant hydroelectric plant in an area that does not demand that massive supply? Answer me that question and you can stop reading.

The Bakun Hydroelectric Plant (BHP) is located on the wrong side of the divide. The requirement for more energy emanates from the power-hungry residents of West Malaysia where flashing neon lights and air-conditioned shopping centres swallow them up by the megawatts, and not the East Malaysians where everything is rather subdued. How much electricity does one require to light up a longhouse anyway? (That was meant to be a joke…continue to vote BN and they will make certain that you people remain in longhouses watching Charlie Chaplin reruns on black and white television sets without a remote control in a congested room full of houseflies.)

Seriously though, even the West Malaysians have more than sufficient electrical energy to run all their electrical components simultaneously without having to rely on those generated by the BHP. In fact, we are drowned in it up to our nostrils that Tenaga Nasional had to payoff the Independent Power Producers (IPP) to stop their respective plants generating more electricity into the national power grid. So, why the urgent need for a hydroelectric plant capable of generating another 500 megawatts of electricity (originally 2,400MW), a plant so massive that it is only eclipsed by China’s Three Gorges Dam in Asia?

Even the original plan of rerouting the excess electricity back west through undersea cables was flawed. Yes, hydroelectric generated power is far cheaper and cleaner than the coal-fired or diesel-fired plants but when has the Malaysian government ever cared about the pollution levels in the country? (Even Petronas sells their cleaner and more expensive petroleum overseas and imports the cheaper high sulphur petroleum for use locally and the introduction of the environmental less-unfriendly RON95 was only done this year.) About the only time when they start caring is when their drivers and bodyguards find it hard to look past the windshield of their limousines.

Okay, so the West Malaysians do not require this clean energy here but what about the East Malaysians? Do they not deserve clean fresh air with their electricity? Well, of course they do but someone’s got to pollute the environment there and all the smokers and recalcitrant backyard dry leaves and rubbish burners are just not up to it, hence the intervention of the government.

To make up for cleaning the air through the production of clean hydroelectric energy (instead of coal-fired), Putrajaya in partnership with the Sarawak State Government has plans on the pipeline to retain the environmental status quo by developing a humungous pollution and toxic fumes (hydrogen fluoride, sulphur dioxide, tetrafluoromethane, hexafluoroethane, nitrogen dioxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and particulate matter PM-10 and PM-2.5) generating, electricity devouring aluminium smelter within its borders, a really gigantic one judging by its proposed production capacity of a maximum of 1.5 million tons a year.

Ha! Ha! You guys over there really thought that you are going to enjoy a breath of clean air, eh? Well, think again!

Oh, by the way, the largest existing aluminium smelter being built in the world is the Emirates Aluminium (Emal) plant in Abu Dhabi, capable of producing 1.4 million tons a year when it becomes operational after 2010. When the Malaysian plant becomes operational, it will be the largest in the world – Malaysia Boleh! (A Heads of Agreement has been signed between Rio Tinto and Cahaya Mata Sarawak Berhad in 2007.) More on CMS later.

Before we start with the serious stuff, let us look at the damned dam. If anyone reading this article thinks that a dam lasts almost forever, think again. Hydroelectric plants are not considered a renewable plant where constant maintenance will keep it going perpetually. (The engineers might think that their magical skills are all that is required to keep the dam going on indefinitely but this is a hypothetical scenario as the oldest serving dam is only 110 years old.)

The water might still flow but the dam cannot be salvaged after its expected lifespan and require decommissioning. Similar to our Buatan Malaysia products, they tend to be problematic right past their expiry date. Concrete under constant pressure fails after a fixed period of time. Nothing lasts forever and even God does not build things to last forever.

The International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD) predicts a lifespan of 100 years (under present engineering designs) for those that are not maintained at all and double that for those that are well-maintained. It goes without saying that these predictions are made with the clause that the dams exist in a perfect environment. The ICOLD tracks all large dams (over 100-meters tall) in the world and at least 300 have experienced accidents. These were not all catastrophic failures, but if you are an engineer in charge of building an enormous dam, you definitely want to give some thought to what can go wrong. Remember Murphy’s Law.

Even the World Bank is sceptical of such mega load-bearing structures that they had stopped financing it completely. Additionally, if you are a resident living downhill where the dam is situated, you must seriously want to consider the calibre of Mara graduates. (That was another joke! To all Mara graduates, “stay cool lah!”)

Maintaining a dam is not easy either. With such a massive structure and its corresponding parts, a lot of predetermined inspection periods must be conducted properly and diligently. The powerhouse equipment can and will suffer a breakdown, the spillways will erode, the steel pipes might crack, the valves will fail, the retaining concrete wall might also suffer a crack at the bottom, the water will silt up, the sluice gates might get jammed, and a hell of a lot of other things can happen like someone might do a 911 with a hijacked plane or Thor might have forgotten to wear his bifocals and accidentally strikes it repeatedly (with lightning). Additionally, did you know that the construction of a large dam can artificially cause earthquakes to happen in areas previously thought to be seismically inactive? (28 earthquakes were registered in Sabah and Sarawak in the period between 1965 and 1994, the highest being a 5.8 tremor in 1976.)

The most powerful artificially induced earthquake caused by the construction of a huge dam (over 100-meters in height) is thought to be the 6.5 tremor that had it epicentre directly under the 103-meter Koyna Dam reservoir in Maharashtra, Western India in 1967 which flattened the village of Koynanagar causing 180 deaths. There have been 24 dams which have induced earthquakes of magnitude 4.4 and above (in recorded history) and in 17 cases, the tremors occurred within three years of initial Impoundment of the water. The Bakun Dam is 205 meters high, over twice the 100-metre height regarded by dam experts as likely to trigger off seismic activities.

The two worst accidents happened in 1963 and 1975 in Italy and China respectively. A huge rock fall into the Vajont Dam reservoir in Italy sent an enormous splash of water over the top causing a tsunami more than 80 stories high, sweeping downstream and wiping out several villages causing the deaths of almost 2,000 people. Massive rainfalls (record 41.7 inch within 24 hours) caused the failure of the Banqiao Dam in China where millions were left homeless and a victim count exceeding 200,000. Altogether this 1-in-2,000 year chance flood caused 62 dams to fail in a domino effect where the accumulated water from one uphill dam crashes into the following dam and the accumulated water from both dams crashes into the third dam and so forth. Nothing to do with a lack of maintenance and the Banqiao Dam was designed to handle an additional 12 inch of rainfall a day (which was already an overkill) but the sedimentation caused by the rainfall choked the spillways. Overall, 15.738 billion tons of water was released triggering a 10km wide wave only 7 meters high rushing downhill at a speed of approximately 50km per hour and wiping out an area 55 kilometers long, 15 kilometers wide, and created temporary lakes as large as 12,000 square kilometers. BTW, the 1-in-2000 year deluge was caused by Super Typhoon Nina (T7503), the second deadliest tropical Pacific typhoon in history with winds up to 250km/h at its peak.

Okay, enough of the horror stories let us now look at the initial profits before construction starts. What? Oh yes, this is one of those rare construction projects that earns money from the onset. To facilitate the site being ready, the area surrounding the construction site must initially be cleared and that means timber. In fact, access roads leading to the site must be built and that means more timber as the BHP is located inside the virgin rainforest of Sarawak’s interior. Let us do a wee bit of math here – the shortest route between two points is a straight line but why settle for clearing only the trees that is in the way between these two points when one is able to maximise profits if the route takes us past the densest rainforest in the region? So, instead of clearing the forest between Point A and Point B, we can reroute it from Point A to Point C onwards to Point D and then to Point E before we make a sweeping curve back to Point B. The overall yield is estimated to be in the region of 12 million cubic meters of timber from the deforestation of 56,000 hectares of virgin rainforest. The harvest is estimated to be able to fetch RM1.2 billion in total (1995 estimates) of which a quarter was harvested.

Enough said. Let us look at the history of the BHP. Initially conceived in the early 60’s, it finally got the go-ahead in 1986 when TDM gave it the thumbs up (as opposed to the thumbs down given to Mohd Isa in the Bagan Pinang by-election) and preliminary studies were conducted to assess the feasibility of constructing a 205-meter high dam capable of producing 2,400MW of hydroelectric juice annually. This was at a time when Malaysia was slowly recovering from the 1985 recession and by 1990, the boasts of having the largest hydroelectric dam in Asia (China’s 3 Gorges Dam was not conceived yet) came back to haunt the Malaysian government as they were forced to shelf it due to the low demand for electricity and high cost of building it. Strike One.

As a stubborn man who can never accept no for an answer, TDM revived the US$5.2 billion “deal of the century” project again in September 1993 and awarded it to Ekran Berhad (without a public tender exercise) in 1994. (Ekran’s CEO’s wife is the now infamous “I don’t know what is projected cashflow” former PKA General Manager and PKFZ MD Datin O.C. Phang.) One of the major shareholders of Ekran is Rasip Harun. Who is he? Rasip is the business partner of Tun Daim Zainuddin (who happens to be the Finance Minister at that time). Coincidence? Rasip is also the partner of Robert Tan Hua Choon (another one of Daim’s business partners) who controlled Jasa Kita Sdn Bhd, a company involved in the Maika Telekoms share diversion. Remember Samy’s proxy company Clearway Sdn Bhd? Robert Tan’s driver (Baharuddin M. Arip) happened to be a director of that company. Rich driver indeed! (Probably comes to work in a Lamborghini.)

How did a Chinaman from Sarawak lay his hands on “the deal of the century”? TDM is after all no Cina Apek lover and his continuation of support for the NEP only serves to reinforce his ambition to see his cronies get enriched in government projects, and there are certainly more than enough of these people to serve his needs. Okay, one good deed deserves another and TDM is merely reciprocating a “debt of honour”.

The story goes like this. Ting Pek Khiing was a two-bit small time construction subcontractor picking up low-margin construction jobs in Sarawak but he had a reputation as the “Speed Demon” where no jobs are too complicated or too short a period to complete. His “never say die until you meet the God of Hades” attitude soon caught the eye of Emperor Abdul Taib Mahmud, and they soon found each others’ company “enriching”. Being a crafty Chinaman, he soon latched on to the Emperor’s two princes (Mahmud Abu Bekir and Sulaiman Abdul Rahman) and they formed a company seeking timber concessions from the Sarawak government. To Ting, it seemed like all his Christmas(es) have arrived together. On the other side of the horizon, TDM found himself in a pickle after sending out gilded invitations to the high and mighty of the international aerospace industry to kick off his inaugural international air show on Langkawi Island. No, there is nothing wrong with the air show except that the construction of the new convention resort is ambling along at such a pace that the invited guests might start fighting for the park benches after their arrival. The ever so helpful Taib knew of this and recommended Ting to TDM. Now, TDM does not suffer fools gladly and Ting’s “can do” motto was soon put to the test. Ting went on to slap together the remainder of the resort in a record breaking three months, saving TDM the embarrassment of ever having his invited guests sleep in the open, and earned himself the nickname of Ting Pek “Speed” Khiing. A star is born (no, not Barbara Streisand).

Ting, whose total knowledge about building a dam can probably fit on a single line on an A4 paper, hired Asea Brown Boveri (ABB) of Zurich and Companhia Brasileira de Projetos e Obras (CBPO) of Brazil as the contractors and formed a construction consortium consisting of Ekran Berhad, Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB), the government of Sarawak, Sarawak Electricity Supply Corporation (Sesco), and Malaysia Mining Corporation Bhd (MMC) – Syed Mokhtar was bound to have some kind of involvement in TDM’s projects.

So, how does one go about building a dam? Well, first you need to clear the land, and I mean “clear the bloody land” and that includes any indigenous people living there. Wildlife? Get rid of them all. Foliage and vegetation? Clear them out. Man-made structures? Flatten them. Timber? Keep and sell them.

Negotiations soon started between the indigenous people and state government. The almost 9,000 natives will be relocated to Sungai Asap under the Asap Resettlement Scheme (Operation Exodus) and each family be given 3 hectares of land gratis. This is of course pending on the outcome of the EIA report. (The natives eventually received 3 acres each, not 3 hectares as promised – suckers!)

Financing of this massive project was shady, to say the least. Investment capital was announced as a matter of fact stating only that the Sarawak government together with Ekran will provide 51% of the financing and the remaining 49% will be harvested from money-growing-trees. Okay, fair enough but how will abang-adik provide for the 51% which amounted to RM7.65 billion? Initially, Ekran launched a rights issue to finance the building of the dam, but it was pitifully undersubscribed (Ting had to eventually payout RM500 million). Well, EPF allegedly chipped in RM3 billion, the Pension Trust Fund for Bakun contributed RM400 million, and Hicom and TNB made up the rest. More of it later on.

Let us look at the two main contractors. First, ABB. Not a very good sign already. This is the same company under the same management that sold seven gas turbines valued at $500 million for $1 billion each to TNB. (Wonder where the excess money went to.) Then there is CBFO, the company that built both the Itaipu and Xingu dams in Brazil. Both went over budget by 488% and 100% respectively. Great, eh? And then there is the preliminary work performed by South Korea's Dong-Ah Construction and Industrial Co, the same company that built the Songsu Bridge over the Han River in central Seoul which collapsed killing 32 people in 1994. Getting better, right? Fortunately the 1997 Asian economic crisis brought things to a screeching halt after construction started in 1996. Strike Two.

Due payments were then made to Dong-Ah (RM400 million) for completing the river diversion tunnels, Global Upline (RM60 million) for completing the auxiliary coffer dams and an undisclosed sum (rumoured to be in the region of RM1.8 billion) to Ekran as compensation for kicking them out. The government had also turned over a sum of RM1 billion to the Bakun Dam Consortium for the purchase of 8 hydropower turbines (the contract eventually went to IMPSA of Argentina and Alstom of France). BTW, Global Upline belongs to Ting as well.

IMPSA managing director Juan Aguero later revealed that they had secured the contract to design, manufacture, assemble and commission 4 of the 8 turbines at the Bakun project for RM300 million. The math doesn’t work out correctly, agree? If 4 turbines cost a total of RM300 million, 8 turbines should cost twice that amount, i.e. RM300 million times 2 equals RM600 million. So, where is the other RM400 million? Maybe the dog ate it or is this a case of what we call “escalating inflation”?

In 2000, plans were renewed to revive the project. Sarawak Hidro, a 100% government-owned company was established to take control of the construction of the Bakun Dam. The initial plans to transmit the additional electricity back to West Malaysia was now abandoned as the cabling project cost more than the remaining construction of the dam.

In 2002, the new main contractor was named. The Malaysia-China Hydro JV (MCH), a 70:30 consortium led by Sime Engineering Berhad of Malaysia (a subsidiary of Sime Darby) and Sino-Hydro Corporation of China. Other members of the consortium are WCT Berhad, MTD Capital, Ahmad Zaki Resources, Syarikat Ismail and Edward & Sons. Dato' Mohamad Shukri Baharom is the Chairman of this company and also the executive VP of Sime Darby Group's Energy & Utilities Division. The new completion date was summarily revised to February 2008.

Two years later, the engineering consulting firm JR Knowles of the UK (no relation to the sexy “PAS kata haram” Beyonc√© Knowles) was hired to study the delays in the construction of the dam. The spanking newly revised and freshly amended completion date is now sometime in 2010 (probably February the 30th.) Also in 2004, Global Upline (owned by Ting) was allegedly awarded the contract to clear the biomass in the flood basin. One company (under the name of Pacific Chemicals and also owned by Ting) had already “cleared” a quarter of it (in 1995) and another was “just coming back to finish off the job” in an alternative form.

Let us leave the construction side of things and access the feasibility of using the excess energy being churned by the 8 turbines. Here is where the aluminium smelter comes in. Forget about the non-income generating toxic gases for awhile and concentrate on the electrical usage. This mega smelter requires 50% of the total electricity produced by the Bakun Dam and that means a huge and constant income for Sesco (1,200MW at a selling price of RM0.286 per unit equals RM343.2 million a year. The current IPP selling price to TNB is RM0.017 per unit. The total margin would be RM322.8 million a year.). Additionally, it will provide an extra 4,700 jobs. Wow! We can even construct huge fans in arrays and blow it in the direction of Indonesia if they do not control their annual forest fires! Double Wow!

As mentioned above, the two suspects in this joint venture are Rio Tinto (largest aluminium manufacturer in the world) and CMS. Never heard of Cahaya Mata Sarawak Berhad before? Well, it was called Cement Manufacturers Sarawak Berhad when it started business in 1974 producing Portland cement as a state-owned firm. It was in the 90’s that it was privatised from a state-owned public-listed company into a private sector public-listed conglomerate. Why would someone takeover such a dull company? Let’s look at what CMS owned before they were privatised - PPES Quarry, Steel Industries Sarawak and PCMS, all profitable companies. After the takeover, CMS continued consolidating their company by purchasing Syrakusa Sdn Bhd and Concordance Sdn Bhd, via cash and share swaps. In a reverse takeover, the owners of these two companies acquired CMS and began injecting their other assets into it including Bank Utama, Sarawak Securities and Archipelago Shipping. CMS is now a diversified conglomerate involved in stock brokering, road construction, water filtration and treatment, quarry operations, civil and structural engineering, steel bar manufacturing, trading of construction materials, cement production, technology, education, financial services and investment holdings. No prizes for guessing who owns CMS – the Mahmud family. Oh, by the way, Taib Mahmud’s spouse Laila and his children are the majority shareholders of Sitehost Plc, Australia, which owns the 380-room Adelaide Hilton Hotel. Company records dated December 2000 show them holding 95 percent of the company or 9.5 million (Aussie dollars) fully paid up shares. One question: How much does a hotel cost anyway? Another family member (Taib’s brother Onn Mahmud) along with his daughter and son in law owns SAKTO Corporation, a major real estate operator of non-residential buildings in Ottawa, owning and managing more than half a million square feet of prime office space with affiliate offices in the US, UK, Asia and Australia. They also own SAKTO Development Corporation, a multi-million dollar development and construction company in Ottawa.

Back to the construction site. In 2007, the government once again revived the cabling project. The new estimates (from TNB) are approximately RM9 billion. Others put it as high as RM20 billion, depending on the number of cables involved. These include the Bakun to Bintulu HVAC double circuit overhead lines for a distance of 160 km, Bakun to Tanjung Parih HVDC overhead line for a distance of 670 km, Tanjung Parih to Tanjung Tenggara submarine cable for a distance of 670 km and the Tanjung Tenggara to Kuantan landline to connect to the national grid. The government in fact invited Sumitomo Corp of Japan to do a feasibility study report and assist in the laying of the submarine cable. The longest existing submarine cable is the 580km NorNed undersea connection linking Norway and the Netherlands.

The once revised 500MW capacity is once again back to the original figure of 2,4000MW with 1,600MW being rerouted back west and the completion date has been pushed further back by another year. This is done with the assumption that Rio Tinto would back out of the aluminium smelter deal. However plans are being drawn to construct yet another dam (the 1,000MW Murum Dam in the Upper Rejang Basin of central Sarawak) and concept studies are being prepared for the construction of an enormous 20,000MW hydroelectric dam along the Rejang River rivalling China’s 22,500MW Three Gorges Dam.

In 2008, Sime Darby announced that the company will not be taking up the offer of an equity stake in the Bakun project. This prompted the government to search for another shareholder and at the beginning of this year, TNB and Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) were granted permission by the federal government to form a special purpose vehicle to jointly takeover the entire project from Sarawak Hidro through a leasing agreement. Additionally, the Xinhua News Agency published a report on its website revealing that four Chinese state-owned enterprises, including China Sinohydro Corp, had been "downgraded" because of "safety or environmental pollution accidents". Sinohydro is one of seven firms in the Malaysia-China Hydro Joint Venture consortium working on the Bakun Dam.

The proposed public tender for the undersea cable laying process is expected to be held next year. The manufacture of these RM4 billion cables was promised to FCW Holdings way back at the onset of the project by TDM but anything could happen now that the government is under a new administration. (FCW Holdings is owned by Ting and allegedly also by one of TDM’s son.)

One last thing, the planning of the dam was conducted with no public accessibility to vital feasibility studies, no process of public feedback on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process and limited consultation procedures with the indigenous peoples. Feasibility studies and reports commissioned by the government on the Bakun project have been classified under the Official Secrets Act (OSA), meaning it is a criminal offense for anyone to see or use their information. Not all of the appendices, interim and final reports of the EIAs have been made accessible to the general public. Project proponents have refused to meet critics in any open discussion.

Cost overruns? Maybe, but one won’t get to hear about it as this information is classified (unless MT gets their hands on it). Let’s just put it this way – if a RM1.8 billion project situated in nearby Klang can balloon to a staggering RM12.5 billion, what are the chances that a US$5.2 billion (approximately RM26.3 billion) project situated in the middle of the forest in Sarawak, coming in on budget?

Jinxed dam? Perhaps, but one thing is certain – we (the taxpayers) are damned. - Malaysia-Today

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Why no Federal Court written judgment on Perak

by N.H. Chan

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MAY 19 - Do you know why the Federal Court is not giving a written judgment in the Perak debacle?

The answer can be simply put. It is because Article 72 (1) of the Federal Constitution is written in unambiguous language which even a child can understand.

As I have said before in an earlier article that the words, “The validity of any proceedings in the Legislative Assembly of any State shall not be questioned in any court”, mean what they say.

Nothing can be plainer than that. No one in his right senses would try to interpret the obvious meaning of the words in Article 72, unless he wants to say the words mean something else. But the Federal Court was not prepared to do that. And the reason is because they do not want to be known as Humpty Dumpty judges.

Remember Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carrol’s, “Through the looking Glass?”:

“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

So the judges of the Federal Court did the unthinkable. They blatantly refused to apply the constitutional provision as it stands. They ignored it altogether.

But by so doing they have committed the cardinal sin of not administering justice according to law. It is the duty of every judge, indeed it is his only function, to administer justice according to law. And the law, in this context, is Article 72 (1) of the Federal Constitution which is the supreme law of the land.

Said Lord Denning, What Next in the Law, p 319:

“Parliament is supreme. Every law enacted by Parliament must be obeyed to the letter. No matter how unreasonable or unjust it may be, nevertheless, the judges have no option. They must apply the statute as it stands.”

Since the judges of the Federal Court, especially the infamous five, have refused to apply Article 72 (1) as it stands, they have, as a result, impaled themselves on the horns of their own dilemma.

They have, so to speak, placed themselves between the devil and the deep blue sea. Either way their position is untenable. By refusing to apply Article 72(1) of the Federal Constitution as it stands they would be guilty of a misuse of power.

As put by Lord Denning, ibid, p 380:

“May not the judges themselves sometimes abuse or misuse their power? It is their duty to administer and apply the law of the land. If they should divert it or depart from it and do so knowingly, they themselves would be guilty of a misuse of power.

And, in this country, this could be a ground for the judges to be removed from office. This is what section 2 of the Judges’ Code of Ethics 1994 says:

2. (1) This Code of Ethics shall apply throughout the period of his service.

(2) The breach of any provision of this Code of Ethics may constitute a ground for the removal of a judge from office.

And section 3 (1)(d) says:

3. (1) A judge shall not -

(d) conduct himself dishonestly or in such a manner as to bring the Judiciary into disrepute or to bring discredit thereto;

Judging by the unfair treatment of Nizar in his encounter with the Federal Court, public opinion has no doubt that the judges of the Federal Court has brought discredit to the Judiciary. The words of section 3(1)(d) are so clear and easy to understand that we do not need any court of law to explain it to us ordinary folk. We know what the words mean.

By not administering and applying the law, which in this case is the supreme law, of the land as it stands the errant judges have brought discredit to the judiciary – a ground for their removal from office.

And if the Government of the day failed to listen to the voice of the people then they have placed themselves in jeopardy of losing the next general election or any by-election or any State election in the future.

And finally, what about Ramly JCA the judge who had acted with indecent haste when he granted a stay to Zambry of the well-considered judgment of Abdul Aziz J.

Zambry was appealing against the High Court judge’s declaratory order in favour of Nizar. Like the judges of the Federal Court, he has not given any reason for his decision.

Ramly JCA granted the stay of the declaration which Nizar had obtained against Zambry. The judge was unable to explain why he granted the stay. As any lawyer will tell you it is unusual to stay a declaratory order. If such a stay is to be granted, there are legal arguments to be considered from both sides and the judge will have to say why he prefers the argument of one side as against the other.

The people’s perception of him as an unfair judge is the same as that of the errant judges of the Federal Court. Ramly JCA is in no better position than his seniors in the Federal Court.

* N H Chan is a retired judge who last sat in the Court of Appeals.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Najib and Khairy’s unconvincing Perak script

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KUALA LUMPUR, May 15 — What do Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Khairy Jamaluddin have in common?

Well apart from sharing an image problem in pockets across the country, they both believe that if you stick to a porous script and repeat it often enough, you still can turn over doubters.

This is clear from the justification both of them used in defence of the power grab in Perak. Decrying the double standards being employed by the Opposition and the alternative media, they noted that it was Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who started the cross over craze by predicting a mass exodus from the Barisan Nasional and the collapse of the Federal Government on September 16.

All the BN did was execute better and bring that plan to fruition in Perak.

Speaking to reporters in Manado, Najib said: “Don’t forget that on September 16, who had wanted to steal 21 of our members of parliament. But when he failed, and we succeeded in Perak, we were then said to be undemocratic. We have been accused of seizing power.

“It was the Opposition who first tried to seize power but without success…we didn’t start it.’’

The Malaysian Insider

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What is at stake in the Perak crisis

razaleigh.com | Tengku Razaleigh’s official weblog

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The Perak crisis is a tragic comedy of errors and bad political judgment that reflects a failure of political leadership. As it continues to spin out of control, it damages our democratic system of governance. To all intents and purposes, one of our most prosperous and developed states has been reduced to a failed state, with a possibly illegal state government in place. This is a condition that can propagate outwards to the rest of the country.

I stated at the beginning of this crisis that by our Constitution, a change of government can only be brought about by democratic means, which is to say, through the ballot box or through a formal vote of confidence in the elected Legislative Assembly. These are the constitutionally mandated means by which the people decide on their government. Any other means of changing the government is unconstitutional and undemocratic, and subverts the basis upon which we are a civilised society.

We now have reason to fear the loss of the people’s confidence in the Constitution, in democracy and in our constitutional monarchy. Responsible political leadership must support rather than destroy the confidence of the people in these practices and institutions. In particular, powers reserved for the Legislative Assembly, which represents the sovereign will of the people, cannot be taken away under any circumstances by anyone. This foundational constitutional principle has been affirmed by the Court. We are all sworn to uphold it. Those who do not understand or accept this principle have no place in government.

Some issues can be solved by a court of law, but the Perak crisis is not one of them. The back and forth events of the past week demonstrate this fact abundantly. The Perak crisis cannot be solved by a decision of the Court because it is at heart a political rather than a constitutional problem. There is really no doubt about what the Constitution says. What is now unclear as a result of an ugly series of manoeuvres is whether Perak has a legitimate government, and there is only one way to resolve that issue. Perhaps our political leadership has not understood how important it is that the people’s voice must prevail, and be seen to prevail, in the choice of their government.

The only solution to the Perak crisis now is for the State Legislative Assembly to be dissolved and free and fair elections held. At this stage there is no other way to restore both public confidence and constitutional legality to the Perak state government, and by extension to our entire system of government. Our survival as a democratic and constitutional monarchy depends on our acceptance of the judgment of the people as expressed in free and fair elections. Any attempt to circumvent that judgment betrays the basic principles and values upon which our nation and incidentally, UMNO itself, stand. I appeal for wisdom and a broader concern for the wellbeing of our country.

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah
Member of Parliament, Gua Musang

Monday, May 11, 2009

Nizar Is The Rightful Perak Menteri Besar (Update)

KUALA LUMPUR, May 11 (Bernama) -- Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin (right) was declared the rightful Perak Menteri Besar by the High Court here Monday.

With the decision, the question of who is the rightful Menteri Besar -- Nizar or Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir -- which has plunged the state into political turmoil for more than 100 days, was finally answered.

High Court (Appellate and Special Powers Division) judge Datuk Abdul Aziz Abd Rahim ruled that Nizar did not vacate the office of Menteri Besar as he had not lost the majority confidence of the state legislative assembly.

In this case, said Abdul Aziz, there was no vote of no confidence issued against Nizar.

"How can one say that the applicant (Nizar) had lost his majority confidence under Article 16(6) of the Perak Constitution?"

"Based on the democratic practice, the issue of the loss of majority confidence should only be taken by a vote of no confidence against the applicant (Nizar), only by this manner can a Menteri Besar be removed," Abdul Aziz, said in his written judgment which was delivered at 2.30pm.

On Feb 13, Nizar, 52, filed an application to the court for a declaration that he is at all material times the rightful Menteri Besar of Perak.

Nizar, who was appointed Menteri Besar on March 17 last year after the opposition alliance won 31 seats at the 12th general elections, also sought a declaration that Zambry has no right to hold the office of Menteri Besar.

Abdul Aziz, in his judgment, said that a Menteri Besar could not be dismissed by the Sultan of Perak for the reason that he did not hold the office at the sultan's pleasure.

The dismissal of the Menteri Besar by the Sultan of Perak was never contemplated by Article 16(6) of the Perak Constitution, he added.

Abdul Aziz said that although the Sultan of Perak had the prerogative power in a Menteri Besar's appointment, a Menteri Besar, once appointed, was only answerable to the members elected in the state legislative assembly, and no one else.

In his judgment, Abdul Aziz, who is the third High Court judge hearing the case, disagreed with the submission of Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail, as intervenor, that there were only two circumstances under which a Menteri Besar could request for the dissolution of the legislative assembly.

"The AG submitted that a Menteri Besar can only request for dissolution when the life term of the assembly comes to and end, that is under Article 36(2) and the other one is when he ceases to have command of the majority.

"I do not agree with this. Under Article 36 of the Perak Constitution, there are unlimited circumstances for the Menteri Besar to request for dissolution from the sultan, and it is up to the Menteri Besar to choose his time (to request for dissolution)," said Abdul Aziz.

The judge also disagreed with the AG and Dr Zambry's earlier submission that Nizar was deemed to have resigned from the office of Menteri Besar although he (Nizar) refused to do so.

"The AG and the respondent argued that the word 'shall resign' in Article 16(6) is mandatory that the Menteri Besar must resign.

"What if the Menteri Besar refuses to resign? However mandatory it is, the provision cannot be interpreted to mean that the Menteri Besar is deemed to resign," said Abdul Aziz who suggested that the article be amended to rectify the lacuna in Article 16(6) of the Perak Constitution.

On the issue of the affidavit by Perak State Legal Advisor Datuk Ahmad Kamal Md Shahid, Abdul Aziz ruled that he was not a neutral and impartial witness.

"It was his own admission that he was instructed by the respondent's counsel to affirm the affidavit. The word instructed is a very strong word.

"To me he is not a neutral or impartial witness, his testimony was coloured by the instruction that he received," said Abdul Aziz who preferred Nizar's version of what transpired during the audience with the Sultan of Perak at Istana Kinta on Feb 4.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Great DUN Perak Fiasco

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The Perak Putsch


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The Honourable Speaker! being dragged out of the Dewan

This is my personal opinion only.

It's May Day for Justice. I am not referring to the book written by Tun Salleh Abas. I am referring to the May 7 Putsch in Perak and the despicable behaviour of lawmakers. It was actually a Coup d'état that will surely guarantee the plotters and perpetrators an ignominious place in history.

All the PR had to do was to give enough rope for the BN people to hang themselves. If it was a putsch, then like such similar events in history, the Munich Beer Hall Putsch and the Algiers Putsch, they will fail. This one in Perak will fail to endear UMNO and BN with the people.

I have been asked about the Perak DUN Perak episode this morning. My opinions are as relevant as the next fellow's. That means, we can't avoid being judgemental. Either we accept or we don't accept what has happened. The following is my personal opinion not necessarily reflecting that of the majority in UMNO.

If we are for it, we can find 1001 excuses to support it. If we are against it, we shall find a similar number of rebuttals. As for me, I will echo what a senior UMNO leader ( who is presently in the government) said in another situation. It has come to a stage where even we (ministers) feel ashamed to ask people to vote for us. This latest Perak Putsch just builds up the resentment of the people.

The general opinion from people on the street? It is not acceptable and further injures UMNO being the backbone of the BN government.

What happened in Perak is no longer amenable to legal niceties. The top legal eagles will have their day in court and if the judiciary is full of correct-correct-correct judges, the decision of the court of law will no longer be relevant. The court of public opinion and the sentence that will follow suit overwhelms everything- you and I, the lawyers and constitutional experts.

Perak will become the political quicksand that will drag Dato Najib in. Unless he gets out from the quicksand either by being pulled out or grabbing a pole as we see in the movies, Perak will prove to be his political waterloo. That will mean, the victory he secured over Anwar Ibrahim in persuading the 3 guys to quit PR, is a pyrrhic victory.

The only honourable thing to do is to remit the whole thing to the rakyat and that means calling for a fresh elections. It's better for UMNO to lose honourably than to win detestably. Unless of course we are deaf to the resentment building up among the rakyat, we will insist on staying. That resentment has reached a stage where what UMNO says is no longer believable and where lies dished out Pakatan and its high priest Anwar are believable. We lose more by our obstinacy.

The thing that people remember was the speaker being forcibly carried out. The photo (above) showing the poor speaker being dragged out will be forever etched in the mind of millions. It was high-handedness at its most foulest.

Let's discuss this a bit.

The House enjoys a stature of sanctity. It cannot be violated. Its proceedings and deliberations therein are unimpeachable. The lawmakers performing their duties in session enjoy immunity. The master of the House is the speaker. His person cannot be violated. Only he rules supreme. Not the clerk on duty. Not the secretary of the dewan. Not the sergeant-at-arms. These are servant status obliging what the Master instructs.

If it's accepted that what is said in the Dewan enjoys immunity, there is a stronger reason to accept the principle that the authorised persons in the dewan is inviolable.

Who were the people violating the speaker? Can they be in the dewan in the first place? Who ordered the physical ejection? Was it the deputy speaker? On what standing? The speaker cannot be deemed to be absent from proceedings. He has not been removed. In order to have him removed, there must be a motion and if the motion is allowed by the speaker, it is deliberated and finally a vote taken. Was there a motion and was it debated?

The prerogative of accepting or rejecting any motion lies with the speaker. If he disallows a particular motion, there is nothing anyone can do about it. Even written questions need to be submitted to the speaker- he sifts through those question and allows those he judges to be allowable.

Anwar Ibrahim and the PR parliamentarians have moved to table several motions but in the end, the speaker decides whether to allow them, to be heard. It is not the case of whether can allow or refuse to allow. Everything can be allowed provided the speaker allowed them. The speaker is the master of the house.

How do you remove a sitting speaker?

As a former ADUN, in my opinion, the speaker can be removed by presenting a question of privilege and declaring the office of speaker vacant. I think the removal of a sitting speaker cannot be done through the courts.

The next question we ask, what is a Question of Privilege? If what is practiced here is the same as those practised elsewhere in countries that follow the Westminster style of Democracy, then Questions of privilege shall be, first, those affecting the rights of the House collectively, its safety, dignity, and the integrity of its proceedings; and second, those affecting the rights, reputation, and conduct of Members, individually, in their representative capacity only.

A Question of Privilege also includes Questions relating to organization. Privileges of the House include questions relating to its organization and the title of its Members to their seats. Questions regarding these may be raised as questions of the privileges of the House even though the subject has been previously referred to committee. Such resolutions would include those to declare prima facie right to a seat, or to declare a vacancy.

A resolution electing a House officer is presented as a question of the privileges of the House. To me, a resolution declaring vacant the Office of the Speaker is a matter of high constitutional privilege. Privileges of the House, as distinguished from that of the individual Member, include questions relating to its constitutional prerogatives. The constitutional prerogatives of the House also include its function with respect to: impeachment and matters incidental thereto

In short, the rules of the Dewan provides for the removal of a seated Speaker, during session, for the purposes of preserving the dignity, and the integrity of its proceedings under the constitutional prerogative of its function with respect to impeachment. This can be done and MUST be done to reclaim the integrity of the Dewan and to hold this government accountable to the rule of law!

It is never accomplished by ordering people to drag out the speaker. The person/persons ordering must be referred to the committee of privileges. The Dewan is not a Balairaya where JKKK meetings are held. Otherwise, the ADUNs and all members therein, are just spruced up JKKK members.

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