Thursday, December 29, 2011

FELDA Controversy: Tengku Razaleigh's Help Sought

by Hafiz

A non-governmental organisation representing the children of FELDA settlers (ANAK), hopes to rope former Finance Minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah into the fight against the listing of Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd (FGV) next month.

NONEANAK President Mazlan Aliman said he would be meeting Tengku Razaleigh (left) at a private location this afternoon.

Mazlan, who is also PAS central committee member, said the Kelantan Prince, who was also one of the founding members of FELDA along with then Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, had reservations about the move.

“I met Tengku Razaleigh last year, and he was opposed to the idea of FELDA building its new headquarters on private land in a prime city spot in Kuala Lumpur. This is despite there being government land available at cheaper rates.

“He (Tengku Razaleigh) asked for today’s meeting and we will meet to exchange views and ideas over the latest move taken by the present Prime Minister, Dato Seri Najib Abdul Razak, to list Felda Global Ventures,” he said.

He hopes that Tengku Razaleigh and others, including Perkasa, will support its cause in opposing the proposed listing.NONE

“PERKASA, as a Malay rights group, should be supporting us as the matter involves Malay land. However, it dances to the tune of the Prime Minister.

“There will be many more people joining our cause in the coming days, including a former senior person from FELDA.” Mazlan (centre in photo) said.

He was speaking to reporters after meeting with 11 other NGOs to form the Save FELDA Movement (Gerakan Selamatkan Felda) today.

Also present were national laureatte A Samad Said and former Bank Negara Malaysia Deputy Governor Dr Rosli Yaakop.

FELDA or the Federal Land Development Authority is known as the largest land development authority for settlers planting rubber and oil palm in the country.

It is also UMNO’s and the BN’s vote bank as FELDA settlements are located in the rural heartland of the Malays. The latest move sees the proposed listing of Felda Global Ventures, a lesser known subsidiary, after taking over the assets of Koperasi Permodalan Felda Bhd (KPFB).

This is viewed as undermining the rights of the settlers and opening the ownership of their land to investors, including foreigners, following the listing exercise. This, Mazlan claims, would further undermine the original intent of the setting up of Felda, which is to help poor rural Malays.

Mazlan said the NGOs have also written to the International Cooperative Alliance, the world body governing the cooperative movement, to look into this government move, and also the proposed appointment of FELDA chairperson Isa Samad (left) as FGV chairperson.

“We have also brought up this issue to Angkasa (the National Cooperatives Body) to complain about the illegal move.”

In a strong statement against Isa, Mazlan slammed the former Negri Sembilan menteri besar’s appointment as the cooperative chairperson. Isa will also spearhead the listing exercise of FELDA Global Ventures.

“Isa is not a member of the cooperative, he is neither a staff member nor a settler. His appointment by the Prime Minister is by contract.Hence, his appointment as the cooperative’s chairperson is illegal,” he said.

Call for Isa’s removal

Mazlan and the coalition of GSF also called for Isa’s removal as FELDA chairperson and Sabri Ahmad as Chief Executive Officer of Felda Global Ventures.

“Their appointments, within less than a year, have caused turmoil in Felda’s assets and we call for their removal. Isa was found guilty of money politics during the UMNO elections and his appointment is questionable. Furthermore, Felda Global Ventures registered losses of RM500 million in its foreign ventures,” he said.

Mazlan said when Raja Muhammad Alias left as FELDA chairperson, it had RM5 billion in reserves, “but sadly today, we do not know how much is left”. In addition to this, he said, FELDA recently took a RM5 billion loan from the Employees Provident Fund “and we do not know how much of it is spent or left”.

“All this must be accounted for,” he said, adding he had reliably learned that FELDA’s reserves have dwindled. Mazlan also said that unlike the past, FELDA was now holding settlers to ransom with the replanting scheme, as it was now empowered to impose a caveat on the settlers’ land.

“There was no such agreement in the past and this is detrimental to the settlers. You can ask those at FELDA Cahaya Baru, FELDA Sungai Buaya, FELDA Sendayan and FELDA LBJ,” he said.

Rosli said Felda Global Ventures did not have the financial strength to go for listing on its own, as it was not making a huge profit but was relying on KPFB’s strength. "Isa cannot be appointed chairperson of KPFB as he is not a member. The voices of members are important in the cooperatives movement. But in Isa’s case, he is not even a member, but yet he is appointed and his appointment is bulldozed by Najib.”

“Hence, Isa’s appointment to head the cooperatives is against the spirit of the cooperatives movement,” added Rosli, who is an economist.

NONEMazlan said the court case to prevent the listing of FELDA Global Ventures on Bursa Malaysia has been fixed for Wednesday, January 4. ANAK is seeking an injunction to stop the proposed meeting on the listing, scheduled for the next day.

He warned that if attempts to prevent the listing of FELDA Global Ventures were not successful, ANAK and the other 11 NGOs would not hesitate to go to the streets to demonstrate the proposed listing.

“We have done all we can peacefully, sent a memorandum to the Prime Minister, filed the court case, met with Suruhanjaya Koperasi Malaysia (Malaysia Cooperatives Commission) and have written to the International Cooperatives Alliance.

“If the listing goes through, the livelihood and status of the settlers and their children will be in jeopardy.That is why we will protest if Najib does not heed our pleas,” Mazlan said, adding that he fould it puzzling that while Abdul Razak Hussein successfully built FELDA, his son Najib is seen as dismantling it.

“Arrest Taib”! – NGOs Call For Action

Enough is enough

In a dramatic move, a group of NGOs have today called on the Malaysian Attorney General and the Commissioner of Police to arrest Abdul Taib Mahmud!

A letter drawn up by the Bruno Manser Fund and signed by a number of Malaysian and international NGOs, including Greenpeace, requests “the immediate arrest and criminal prosecution” of Taib, along with 13 family members, whom it names as “co-conspirators in the illegal appropriation of public funds”.

The demand represents the culmination of evidence against the Chief Minister, who is now internationally recognised as one of the world’s most corrupted leaders and as being personally responsible for much of the destruction of the Borneo jungle. [For full text visit]

Plain evidence

The letter makes clear that so much evidence about the corruption of Taib and his family members is now publicly available that it is no longer acceptable to leave the matter with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), which announced an investigation into the Chief Minister last year.

The letter says:

“We firmly believe that it is not enough for the MACC to announce a public investigation and immediate police action should be taken. Ample evidence of Mr Taib’s and his co-conspirators’ offenses is available, and the above-mentioned suspects might use their remaining time in freedom to destroy evidence, to intimidate possible witnesses and to transfer their substantial illicit assets out of the country”

Enough is enough! - Time to arrest Taib.


Are times are coming to a close for corrupt dictators?

The letter, backed as it is by a mountain of evidence that has been compiled and made public over the past year, places the Malaysian government in an awkward position.

As a party to the UN Convention on Corruption, Malaysia is committed to combating corruption and to assist investigations by external authorities. Taib is being investigated in Germany, Switzerland, the UK and Canada.

The letter points out that the evidence against Taib is clearly available by virtue of the enormous wealth he has accumulated, along with his family members, during his 30 years in office. They point to the Taibs’ stake in over 400 companies in 25 countries and to the $1.5 billion asset value of just 14 of those companies.

Backed by NGOs from Malaysia, Australia, The UK, Germany and Japan, the letter claims such wealth could only have been accumulated by a holder of public office “by a systematic breach of the law and the use of illegal methods”.

Family affair

The letter does not spare Taib’s mass of wealthy siblings and his four children, who it points out are now adult and able to distinguish criminal behaviour. It lists the family members who have benefited from Taib’s hand-outs of state owned and native customary lands, as well as public contracts and timber concessions. They include his siblings, his children and also his top business confidant, cousin Hamed Sepawi.

The letter singles out the Taib family’s control of Sarawak’s largest company Cahya Mata Sarawak (CMS) and also Achi Jaya, the company which Taib handed a monopoly over timber export licences, which is owned by his brother Onn Mahmud. One other company Ta Ann, which is controlled and largely owned by Taib’s cousin, Hamed Sepawi, has received over 362,439 hectares of logging concessions and 313,078 hectares of plantation concessions from the Chief Minister.

The letter backs its allegations with figures and tables and even helpfully provides the names addresses and ID numbers of Taib and his family members in order to assist in their arrest!

Taib family gathering - how come they are all so very rich?

Running Scared?

Tight lipped – He once lapped up attention, but now the door is slammed shut

For the first time in 30 years Abdul Taib Mahmud has cancelled the traditional press conference, normally held at the Wisma Bapa Malaysia after the weekly Cabinet meeting.

Even more astonishing, the journalists were barred from the building, as if they were unwanted intruders.

It is often such small, but extremely strange signs, that make us aware of developments that are seismic behind the scenes. Like when a beach suddenly bares before a tsunami or there is rumbling before an earthquake.

So what has made Taib act so out of character? What pressure is he under that he and his ministers have suddenly decided they dare not face what has for so long been their ’lapdog’ press?

The inescapable conclusion is that the evidence has now piled so high, that Taib suddenly realises that he can no longer brush aside the questions about his corruption and the squalid wealth of his family, both in Sarawak and abroad.

With the issue now making headlines in Malaysia and reaching the international news, even the controlled pressmen of Sarawak would not be able to avoid asking questions about it. And, by cancelling the press conference, it seems clear that Taib has no idea how to answer them.

It is a sign of fatal weakness at the heart of his regime that Taib no longers dares to face the press.

Lost for answers!

Family company CMS built the DUN – now it is full of hostile questions directed at Taib

People should remember that Taib has already been suffering under siege in the State Assembly.

He may have been able to rig the recent election to produce his customary 2/3 majority of seats yet again, but even after all the bribery and manipulation 45% of voters still voted against him and there now is a strong body of PR opposition YBs, who are fearlessly giving him a far tougher time than before.

So how has he dealt with their outraged questions about corruption and cronyism? How has he met their complaints about lands and contracts being handed out to his unqualified children and siblings, instead of being tendered properly for the benefit of the people of Sarawak?

It turns out he has been reduced to having to switch off their microphones, rub out their statements from the Hansard record and even to throwing these individuals with their rightful concerns physically out of the DUN building!

The only reason for such a farcical reaction has to be that he finds such questions impossible to answer, so he needs to pretend that they haven’t been asked.

In exactly the same way, now that it is the turn of the press to ask the same set of questions, he has been forced to lock the doors and shut them out!

The questions that Taib is frightened of being asked

So, what are the questions that any decent set of journalists would have put to Taib, if he had agreed to open the door? We suggest the following top five:

“Chief Minister, how do you explain the US$1.5 billion dollars worth of assets that have been acquired by members of your immediate family through just 14 of the more than 400 companies that they own?”

“Chief Minister, you claimed that you and your family ‘do no business in Sarawak to avoid being hounded by accusations that you have used your influence to enrich yourself’. So how do you explain the over 300 companies in Sarawak that you and your family own shares in?”

“Chief Minister, your dead wife is the largest single shareholder of Sarawak’s largest single company, CMS. Yet she passed away two years ago. So who is her beneficiary?”

“Chief Minister, why do you keep handing out all the most valuable state lands and state contracts to members of your own family in secret deals, instead of putting them out to open tender?”

“Chief Minister, given that dual citizenship is illegal, is your eldest daughter, Jamilah, Malaysian (as it says on the records of the 87 Sarawak companies in which she holds shares) or is she Canadian, as admitted by her husband Sean Murray?”

There are, of course, numerous other questions that eager journalists, given half a chance might unleash on the Chief Minister and we suggest that contributors to our comments column put theirs forward too. These are also questions that should rightly be asked by the Malaysian police force, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and, of course, Taib’s political colleagues and the Prime Minister of Malaysia!

Jobs for the newsmen

Sarawak – full of stories for newsmen

Now that Taib is no longer so interested in talking to the press it is going to give them a bit of a challenge. After all, for the past decades Sarawak newspapers have relied for every page on tedious stories recording the aging Taib and his colleagues’ daily movements, without question or criticism.

The Borneo Post is largely owned by his timber crony Henry Lau of KTS and the Sarawak Tribune is half-owned by his cousin Hamed Sepawi and edited by his own daughter Hannifah Taib. Their fawning praise has, unsurprinsingly, never faltered.

However, if the Chief Minister is no longer going to provide them with a constant stream of ‘stories’ about his comings and goings and lhis atest theories on ‘progress and development’, what can we suggest for them to write about instead?

Again, we would be happy to see suggestions in our comments column. However, we think that the journalists of Kuching should roll up their trouser legs and get out on the roads to examine some of Sarawak’s devastated interior and visit some of Sarawak’s disinherited tribes?

Progress and development? Sarawak’s dreadful roads

They could consider why the majority of the population no longer have clean rivers and fish to provide food and water. They could cover the landgrab scandal. They could demonstrate the effects of erosion. They could look at the lamentable health problems of the population and ask how corruption has interfered with proper medical care.

They could look at schooling and why it still fails so many native Dayaks? Why promised roads are not being delivered? They could document the gangster attacks on behalf of loggers and go searching to see what remains of Sarawak’s once fabled biodiversity – its trees and animals.

They could feature the lives and problems of some of the ordinary folk of Sarawak, instead of boring everyone to death with yet more dreary and depressing articles about Abdul Taib Mahmud, the ancient Chief Minster, who dare not step down for fear that his successor might challenge all his ill-gotten gains!

Suspicious Secrecy From the Swiss!

Snowy silence from the Swiss won’t shut up the corruption campaigners!

Taib did not get the response that he wanted from the Swiss Government yesterday. But he did buy some time.

In answer to questions from MP Maya Graf in the Bern Federal Parliament, the Swiss Finance Minister, Evelyn Widmer Schlum, fell back on traditional Swiss secrecy!

The country’s financial regulators FINMA would not be able to publicise the findings from their investigations into Taib’s assets, Widmer-Schlumpf explained, owing to Swiss confidentiality laws.

She announced that FINMA has ”no possibility, nor the right“ to disclose any information on its findings to the public. Rather, it ”will inform the directly affected persons only“ on the results of its investigations.

Those interested parties are, presumably, Taib himself and the Malaysian Government. But what about the people of Sarawak, who have lost billions in revenue owing to the Chief Minister’s handouts of public property, concessions and contracts to his own companies and to his family?

Still on the hook!

Swiss Finance Minister, Evelyn Widmer-Schlumpf

While this cryptic response has infuriated campaigners, who had been given to understand that Switzerland’s new drive for more openess in its banking system would bring swift and clear answers, it has done little to help Taib.

The reply that would have benefitted the Chief Minister, of course, would have been a straight confirmation of his own declaration earlier in the year, after the investigation was announced, that he had no assets in Switzerland at all!

Indeed, Sarawak’s billionaire politician had laid his reputation on the line by standing up in his own state assembly and announcing:

“Let me state categorically that I have no secret Swiss bank account, nor assets or investments of any description. None whatsoever”.[Taib Mahmud statement]

The Swiss Finance Minister has refused to corroborate this statement. Instead her reply seems to give the strong impression that there ARE interested parties who need to be informed of the results of this investigation!

How long are his secrets safe?

Maya Graf – Green MP, Swiss Parliament

Campaigners are hardly going to allow the situation to rest there. The Swiss, who have been trying to wipe clean their reputation as a country that made itself rich off the back of Nazi gold and the ill-gotten gains of the world’s worst dictators, are in the middle of a national argument over ending its obsessive banking secrecy.

The Finance Ministry may be on the side of conservatism, however the former President Micheline Calmy-Rey, who ordered the enquiry, made clear that she was in favour of openess and yesterday the Green MP Maya Graf said:

“I am disappointed that the Swiss government is hiding behind the Swiss banking secrecy and thus helps promote corruption in countries with weak governments. There is no point in complaining about the destruction of the world’s tropical rainforests as long as Western countries assist corrupt families like the Taibs enrich themselves by cutting down the forests.”

It is not the sort of endorsement that Taib would have wished for from Switzerland and it is a clear sign that the story is by no means finished as campaigners step up their noise on this matter. The Sarawak-focused Bruno Manser Fund demanded:

“How can it be that our authorities will inform a corrupt potentate but not the public on the findings of their investigations?“[BMF press release]

Taib will know that the longer an issue is bottled up, the bigger the bang when it is finally un-corked!

So what about Monaco?

The Taib family attracted Tatler Magazine to wallow in their wealth in Monaco last year

Of course, the speculation has been that it is likely that Taib has already removed his assets from Switzerland. The tightening of banking laws and moves towards better scrutiny of criminal customers has caused the flight of a great number of rich clients, who no longer feel so secure from investigation, despite the stand that was taken by the Finance Minister yesterday.

Many felt that Taib’s comments in the Assembly were carefully worded, in that he denied having assets in Switzerland now, but not in the past.

Indeed, those close to the Chief Minister have remarked that his trips ‘to see his Swiss dentist’ have dropped off markedly in recent years and that he currently appears to favour more detours to Monaco!

Likewise, Prince Albert’s tax-haven has become a popular haunt for Taib family members in recent years and it is a place where they are happy to put their flashy couture on full display.

Prince Albert’s Foundation (which supports the environment!) has also become a major beneficiary of Taib’s largesse, including a fat 100,000 euro cheque presented at the Islamic Fashion Show in Monaco last year and an expenses paid tour to Mulu National Park for the Prince and his entourage.

Currently on trial for fraud – Kallakis (left) enjoys Mulu with Prince Albert, Jabu and Robert Geneid (right)

It is worth noting that a prominent member of that Mulu entourage, Achilleas Kallakis, then on the Board of Albert’s Foundation, is now on trial in the UK, charged with conducting Britain’s largest ever mortgage fraud, involving the purchase of properties to the value of £850 million (RM 5 billion).

Interestingly, the trial has currently been put on hold while some 8,000 new papers are considered. These papers have just been released by the Swiss authorities and relate to Kallakis’s alleged collaborator, a Swiss lawyer called Michael Becker.

Kallakis has previously acknowledged that the wealth behind his investments was not in fact his own, but came from a ‘family trust’, based in Switzerland. Once again Swiss secrecy laws seem to have been actively used in an attempt to protect the identity of the owner of those millions that Kallakis was investing in his property empire. However, in this case the authorities have clearly come round.

It means that the full story may eventually come out in London’s Southwark Crown Court when the case re-opens in January. With the Swiss documents placed before the court we might finally get to hear more details of how this enormous property fraud developed, involving the company Atlas Management, which was originally set up in London by a Malaysian National, one ‘Mr Azlina Goh Abdullah’ (a man with a woman’s name). It was later taken over by Kallakis and alleged co-conspirator, Alexander Williams, while keeping its headquarters at the same address.

Depending on the extent of the transparency allowed in the release of the Swiss papers, we might even learn which family trust Kallakis was investing on behalf of, during those years when he was dazzling Europe with his flamboyant apparent wealth and even found his name near the top of the UK’s Sunday Times Rich List.

The family who sponsored Kallakis, at least, may well be wishing they had not hidden their money in Switzerland after all.

Corruption? ‘I not stupid’

Selena Tay | December 28, 2011

As the government continues to 'make don't know' about the string of corruption scandals, it is time for Malaysians to make a firm stand.


Is the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) going to pieces? That seems to be what is going on as corruption and cronyism still rules the day.

Recall these instances: Umno and the Feedlot-cattle-caper, MCA and PKFZ and MIC with the Maika shares issue. And yet the culprits involved are going around smiling and thumbing up their noses at the rakyat as if to say “So what?”.

They go around acting in an arrogant manner best described in Malaysian English or Manglish slang as “make don’t know”. This shows that they also “make don’t know” about the Government Transformation Programme or the Key Performance Index (KPI). Indeed, the KPI Minister Koh Tsu Koon must have very little clout as many BN politicians seems to have failed their KPI.

Entering 2012 in a few days time, the sixth Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Tun Razak still has no clear-cut policy on how to curb corruption and eradicate graft.

Wastages, leakages, uncontrolled spending, white elephant projects and failed projects are the norm as outlined in the Auditor-General’s Report year in year out.

More importantly, has Malaysia got a game plan to counter the volatile global economic crisis? In present times, no country can say that they are totally insulated and those who say so are merely hallucinating or deceiving themselves.

In Malaysia nothing seems to have changed since Najib took over the nation’s top job. Corruption is more rampant than ever, illegal money outflow has increased and the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index rating has fallen for the umpteenth time.

It is business as usual so much so that the rakyat have labelled MACC as “Mana Ada Curi-Curi” and its Malay acronym SPRM as “Suruhanjaya Pengurusan Rumah Mayat” – a mortuary due to Teoh Beng Hock and Ahmad Sarbaini meeting untimely deaths at the MACC office albeit at different locations.

There has been no MACC action on the biggest crocodile in Sungai Rejang and even the Attorney-General’s Chambers have failed to charge the three MACC officers who interrogated the late Teoh Beng Hock right into the wee hours of the early morning.

As for Ahmad Sarbaini, a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) is still pending while the cases of Kugan and Aminulrasyid have not been dealt with in a satisfactory manner. Ditto for the issue of the three boys who were shot dead in Glenmarie, Selangor.

And those were not the only cases wherein lives were lost. There were fatal bus accidents, most notably the Simpang Pulai bus crash which killed 28 passengers, many of them Thai nationals in December last year – the worst bus accident in history.

Doom and gloom coming

Looks like it is all doom and gloom in the coming year. The urban poor and the low-wage earner’s shortlived cheer are the one-off RM100 and RM200 book vouchers for their children and the RM500 one-off aid for the low-income household which will be paid between mid-January to mid-March next year.

These short-term one-off piecemeal measures to assist the poor are not the long-term solutions wherein concrete economic solutions are the answer.

In the meantime, the cost of living has gone up in leaps and bounds as the price of basic foodstuffs has sky-rocketted causing the poor and the low-income earner to be burdened further.

At this point in time, the BN federal government can be said to be bungling their way through the Malaysian economic malaise.

In addition to that, there are flip-flops in policies, for instance the teaching of Science and Maths in English and the fiasco in regards to whether the civil servants should be signing the Borang Opsyen or not. Due to protest by Cuepacs, the deadline has been extended to mid-January 2012.

However, the amendments to the Employment Act 1955 and the bulldozing through of the Peaceful Assembly Bill have been done in such a manner suggesting that the wider interests of the people have not really been considered.

And the year does not end on a happy note with the looming Eurozone crisis providing a backdrop to the year-end financial scene.

Elsewhere, the biggest disasters of 2011 was the tsunami and earthquake in Japan in March, continued violence in Iraq, Afghanistan and Middle-East and cruel regimes being toppled in North Africa in what is referred to as the “Arab Spring”.

Bersih 2.0 and the cattlle saga

Back in Malaysia, the only bright spark was the Bersih 2.0 rally which succeeded in uniting the rakyat for a common cause faster than you can say 1Malaysia. But the year of 2011 will be remembered not just because of the Bersih rally but also due to the cattle-condo saga and the venomous racist remarks spewed forth at the recent Umno general assembly.

The top three Umno leaders who are also the nation’s top three leaders: PM Najib, Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein seem to be dancing in the dark, all three of them sitting in a boat but no one is rowing. Needless to say, the boat is going nowhere. Dull!

Due to their aimless drifting around, perhaps it is time for the rakyat to take a cue from the Russians demonstrating against widespread election fraud who can be seen holding up a placard saying “We woke up, this is just the beginning”.

Can we hold up such a placard to give the same message to the BN federal government?

As the government continues to “make don’t know” on curbing corruption and cronyism, it is time for each and every Malaysian citizen to firmly tell the government: “I not stupid”.

Selena Tay is a FMT columnist.

UDA: Malay Agenda and its Future

Malaysia set up Urban Development Authority (UDA) Holdings 40 years ago, giving it large land banks and huge government grants to fulfil its mission: to help Malays buy property in cities.

Today (2011), the state-owned company is not only struggling for survival, saddled as it is with debts of RM900 million (S$370 million), but also faces a firestorm of complaints over its redevelopment of the famous Pudu Jail site in Kuala Lumpur.

To its chairman Nur Jazlan Mohamed, the decline of the UDA's fortunes is a cautionary tale. It tells of the direction that Malaysia will be heading in if it continues to promote the Malay agenda through the old ways of rampant government spending and political cronyism.

'But no one dares to talk about this,' said Datuk Nur Jazlan, an UMNO MP appointed to the UDA a year ago, in an interview with The Straits Times.

The company was in dire need of reform to become profit-oriented and focus on building Malay capacity, rather than doling out contracts, he said.But Mr Nur Jazlan himself has come under attack over his handling of its biggest project - the RM6 billion redevelopment of the site once occupied by the Pudu Jail, at one time a landmark in Kuala Lumpur's tourist zone.

As news leaked out that several Chinese state-owned companies were front-runners to win the bid, he has been accused of abandoning the UDA's Malay agenda. Eleven companies - about half of them Chinese or joint ventures with Chinese companies - have put in bids. The matter is now pending approval by the Finance Ministry.

Several politicians, including independent MP Zahrain Hashim and Penang UMNO Deputy chairman Musa Sheikh Fadzir, have alleged that Malay contractors were sidelined.Wrote Datuk Seri Zahrain in his blog: 'I'm not accusing anyone, but I only want to protect the original intent of the UDA.'

Mr Nur Jazlan said the UDA had stringent requirements on this project. The winning company will have to fully finance the development, and will not be allowed to use the land as collateral to raise financing.

In return, it will be given part of the development - a hotel, offices and condominium units. But before it builds those, it will have to deliver the UDA's portion - a 2 million sq ft mall and carpark, as well as a transport hub.

Mr Nur Jazlan said the winning bid will have to meet these requirements, as the Pudu Jail site has to be developed with a profit motive in mind. The government can no longer keep pumping money into the UDA, he said.

National oil and gas company Petronas, which provides 40 per cent of the federal budget, now wants to cap its dividends to the government at 30 per cent of its profits as it needs money for reinvestment, he said. Last year, it paid the government 69 per cent of its gross profits.

'Who is going to keep paying for the bumiputera agenda?' he asked. Mr Nur Jazlan said the UDA's debts began piling up since the government cut off grants in 1996. It now has just RM90 million in the bank, depleting land banks, and still owes RM130 million in premiums for the Pudu Jail site.

He said the company will give priority to Malays to run the businesses in the new development, although it will not subsidise their leases permanently. 'They have to be successful businesses,' he added.

This is a better way to create real Malay businesses, than benefiting a handful of powerfully connected people through contracts, he explained. Mr Nur Jazlan added: 'Nobody wants to say this - it is political suicide - but it's time for political leaders to speak up on reforming the Malay agenda.'

The Maminco Affair and the Politics of the 1980s

by Terence

The spot of contention between Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim over whether the former Prime Minister had indeed taken loans from the World Bank during the period of the Asian Financial Crisis (1997-1998) is interesting in the way it is reminiscent of an episode at the tailend of the premiership of Tun Hussein Onn.

The matter concerned Malaysia’s attempt to corner the tin market on the London exchange which resulted in the collapse of the price of the commodity in 1981, with consequent huge losses to the country’s exchequer. It was called the Maminco Affair, details of which began to seep into the public domain a few years after the collapse of the price of tin, once a top-earning commodity to the country.

hussein onnWhen the Maminco Affair began to leak into the public sphere, Tun Hussein (right), who had retired as Prime Minsiter in the middle of 1981, was already in a state of advanced disenchantment with the way things were going under chosen successor Mahathir.

He gave vent to his misgivings at press conferences held immediately after functions where he had received donations from the private sector for the Tun Hussein Onn Eye Hospital, a project being built under his patronage.

His publicly aired qualms, on a host of issues in which he favoured the liberal line to the authoritarian one that Mahathir was beginning to tread, were increasingly embarrassing to the incumbent PM.

This was at a time when the billion-ringgit Bank Bumiputra Finance scandal was being exposed to national attention and the Mahathir administration had assumed a high spending aura, what with the Dayabumi project and the palatial prime ministerial home at Sri Perdana, that were either completed or in the works.

The era of edifice complexes, with their attendant inflated costs and huge wastage - an unnerving throwback to the days of oriental potentates - had begun.

Hussein was clearly unhappy with the goings-on but because of the indirection and reticence that characterise Malay political discourse, it was difficult at that time to infer whether there was anything more substantive to the elder statesman’s discontent than the mere grumpiness and disdain of age.

Which PM was responsible?

At the time, Hussein enjoyed a high standing in the public perception because of the way he gracefully stepped aside from wanting a second term as the elected UMNO President, to give way to a younger and seemingly more dynamic breed of successors.

Thus when he sustained his tone of public remonstrance, he became a liability to the Mahathir administration. That’s when the Maminco Affair began to dribble into the media headlines.

Because the timeline on the matter raised questions about which PM was responsible for the affair and under whose watch it had occurred, Hussein was quick to disavow any responsibility for the matter, although the collapse of the tin market had occurred in 1981.

The early part of that year saw Hussein on medical leave because of a heart bypass operation in London. This was followed by a period when he was in the country but largely convalescent and contemplating retirement which became the reality by April when he tearfully announced his decision not to contest the Sri Gading (in Johor, his home state) UMNO division chairman’s post.

When the Maminco debacle sizzled in the national arena a few years later, the matter of who was responsible for the decision to corner the tin market became critical to the whole question of apportioning blame.

A public pummeled by the steady drip of controversial disclosure over the BMF and other burgeoning scandals was in the mood for blame-fixing. Hussein was confident he was not responsible while Mahathir was discreetly mute about responsibility for the matter.

Mahathir is always careful to show he is not an ingrate to people who have helped him. His appointment as Deputy Prime Minister in April 1976 by Hussein was the most significant act of political supercession, over the more pressing claims of others, since Tunku Abdul Rahman favoured Abdul Razak Hussein over Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman as his UMNO deputy in the mid-1950s, and Razak’s selection of Hussein himself for the same position after Ismail had suddenly died in August 1973.

Hussein humiliated

Thus, after a spell of public contention over who was responsible for the Maminco Affair, Mahathir gave permission for cabinet meeting minutes to be exposed.It showed that in the final few meetings Hussein chaired in mid-1981, a decision was made to corner the tin market.

tunku abdul rahmanThere followed the spectacle of a humiliated Hussein giving vent to a public apology over his responsibility while ex-premier Tunku Abdul Rahman (left) aired his anguish that the whole thing was highly unfair to Hussein.

In extenuation, the Tunku said he himself was on long leave prior to his retirement in September 1970 and so could not be held responsible for decisions made just prior.

The abiding memory of that incident was Hussein’s apology, promptly tendered when notified of the cabinet minutes. He offered no extenuations, excuses, or exculpations. He just bowed his head in abject submission to what was the seeming truth of the matter of responsibility for Maminco.

But the jury is still out on who was really responsible for Maminco because the case is like several other issues of great moment in Malaysian history, like the Project IC in Sabah and a host of others - too many to name, simply because these are like a Pandora's box of horrors.

No doubt, these issues would soon come under the ferreting thrust of multiple truth commissions whose sittings would be deemed necessary as and when these matters bob like cork on the sea of recurrent public concerns.

Like buried gold, the truth will have to be disinterred because it is useless otherwise, and simply cannot stay entombed for long.

Former Menteri Besar of Selangor guilty of graft: 12 months in the slammer "for a heinous crime"

by Hafiz

After a trial lasting over a year, the Shah Alam High Court today found former Selangor Menteri Besar Dr Mohd Khir Toyo guilty of graft. He has been sentenced to 12 months' jail beginning today, and the property in question has been ordered to be forfeited to the government.

In delivering sentence, Justice Mohtaruddin Baki said a deterrent sentence was needed because in cases involving public and private interests, public interests must take precedence.

"This is truly a heinous crime as the accused may have used his position (as Menteri Besar) to obtain the property.Hence, a deterrent sentence requiring a custodial sentence is warranted in view of the offence," said Mohtaruddin.

He added that as the Chief Executive, Khir should have set an example. After a short pause, Mohtaruddin sentence Khir to 12 months' jail. However, the court granted stay of execution of the sentence pending appeal to the higher courts. The prosecution did not object.

The court also decided not to raise the bail amount and it will remain at RM750,000 set earlier. Earlier Mohtaruddin said the prosecution had managed to prove the case against the 46-year-old Sungai Panjang assemblyperson beyond reasonable doubt.

While the prosecution applied for the multi-million-ringgit property in question to be forfeited, the defence appealed to the judge for Khir to be bound over on good behaviour.

Khir was charged under section 165 of the Penal Code, a lesser graft charge compared to charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act and the new Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act.

It had been speculated whether Khir would receive more than one year's jail term or a fine in excess of RM2,000 - that would have cost him eligibility as an assemblyperson and banned him from contesting in the coming elections.

'First time offender'

Pleading in mitigation counsel M Athimulan told the court that Khir was a first offender and married with six children. "The charge and conviction is unique as the valuer had evaluated the property at RM3.5 million as it is an uncompleted property," he said.

He also submitted that section 165 is a compoundable offence and the court has wide jurisdiction to allow the imposition of a fine.

"If this case had been tried at a magistrate's court the maximum could be RM10,000.We argue under the concept of Equality under Article 8 of the Federal Constitution to impose the fine of RM10,000 and not more than this although this has been brought before the High Court," he said.

Athimulan pleaded for Khir to be bound over, pointing out that the court has the power under section 173a of the Criminal Procedure Code to release the accused. Kamarul Hisham asked Justice Mohtaruddin to tamper justice with mercy as Khir had been the state's chief executive and by convicting him the court had already punished him.

'Come down hard on abuse'

DPP Mohd Masri Daud on his part, argued that although the accused was charged under Section 165 the court should send a strong message that as a public servant one should not seek favours.

"It is clear that the accused was interested in the property in 2004 and asked Shamsudin to buy it and later bought it for himself.As the Menteri Besar and Chairperson of the Selangor Development Corporation, he should have set an example and not use his contacts and acquiantances to benefit himself," he said.

Mohd Masri then delivered a shocker when he applied to the court under Section 36 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1997 for the mansion to be forfeited.

"In any offence of graft of such a nature, the court has the discretion to grant forfeiture of the property," he said.

Athimulan said the defence was taken aback by the prosecution's application as it had given no indication of doing so. He then asked that the court to fix another date to determine the prosecution application on the forfeiture of the property.

The court subsequently took a break before delivering sentence.Also present in court was his wife Zaharah Kechik and about 40 of his supporters, some seated and others standing in the packed courtroom.

Khir was represented by a team of lawyers led by Jahaberdeen Yunoos, M Athimulan and Kamarul Hisham Kamaruddin.DPP Abdul Wahab Mohamed represented the prosecution.

Khir arrived in court as early as 9.15am, with scores of his supporters in tow.

Second Selangor MB charged with corruption

Khir was charged on Dec 4 last year, with corruption for obtaining for himself and his wife Zahrah Kechik, two lots of land and a house at No 8 & 10, Jalan Suasa 7/1L, from Ditamas Sdn Bhd director Shamsuddin Hayroni, at RM3.5 million - a lower price than the RM6.5 million Ditamas paid for it in 2004.

The former Selangor MB allegedly entered into the transaction with the knowledge that Shamsuddin had dealings with him in his official capacity as the state’s chief executive at that time.

The Sungai Panjang assemblyperson allegedly committed the offence at the Selangor Menteri Besar’s official residence at Jalan Permata 7/1, Section 7, Shah Alam on May 29, 2007.

He is the second Selangor Menteri Besar to be charged with graft after the late Harun Idris, who spend three years in prison in 1977.

Khir in one of his blog postings this year alleged that three federal ministers had wanted him jailed for graft following the charge.Without naming the ministers, Khir claimed one of them was said to have told the other two that to get back Selangor, he (Khir) must be charged.

“Are they powerful enough to control a judge? I don’t believe they can direct a judge nor will a judge listen to this group,” wrote Khir in the blog, resulting in spiralling speculation on the identity of the three.

Twenty-five prosecution witnesses and five defence witnesses, including Khir, testified at the trial.

The Dangers of Judicial Corruption

By William Leong Jee Keen (received by e-mail and partially edited by Din Merican)

MP SPEAKS: Tay Choo Foo, a Barisan National-friendly businessman, has lost all confidence in the Malaysian Judiciary. When he was sued, he was sure the courts would throw out the case. To Tay, the claim was a fabrication of lies.

To his horror, the court accepted the hearsay evidence from the claimant’s witness and threw out his testimony. The High Court ordered him to pay RM13 million. The Court of Appeal and the Federal Court upheld the High Court judgment. Tay feels like a victim of sexual assault; he feels violated except he does not have a video to prove it.

Alexander Hamilton warned of Injustice

Tay now realises from bitter experience what Alexander Hamilton (right) warned Americans in 1787, more than 200 years earlier in the Federalist Papers, that: “A steady, upright and impartial administration of the laws” is essential because “no man can be sure that he may not be tomorrow the victim of a spirit of injustice, by which he may be the gainer today.”

Tay is writing a book entitled ‘Lawless’ to warn Malaysians of the dangers of judicial corruption and to stir citizens into action. The question is whether Malaysians, having been warned, will act on it. When it mattered most, Malaysians did not act.

In 1988, Malaysians did not speak out when Dr Mahathir Mohamad sacked the Lord President, Tun Salleh Abas and the five Federal Court judges. In 1998, many stood by when he sacked Anwar Ibrahim, his Deputy Prime Minister and the courts convicted and put him in jail for six years.

The Federal Court judges, who had dedicated their entire career to the principle of upholding the Rule of Law, became victims of the Rule of Man. They suffered a grave injustice at the hand of Mahathir in being sacked, disgraced and robbed of their personal dignity and self-esteem. The monetary payment given 20 years later by Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi can never compensate for their pain and suffering.

An even graver injustice was visited on Anwar Ibrahim when he was arrested, beaten and imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. All this was done for the sole purpose of destroying his political career in order to prolong that of others. It is not just heinous, it is evil. The Federal Court judges were sacked and the Deputy Prime Mby theiinister was imprisoned for political purposes.

Economic entities also gain influence over the courts

Malaysians by their timidity and indifference allowed political powers to exert influence over the Judiciary for political ends. They did not realise that like in all usual public private initiatives, economic entities would also gain influence over the courts. Thus were spawned judicial decisions that:

  • Interfered with the shareholding control of a public listed company such as the infamous Insas Bhd v Ayer Molek Rubber Co Bhd [1995] 2 MLJ 833;
  • Allowed multi-million ringgit defamation suits against MCG Pillay, Param Cumaraswamy, Raphael Pura, Tommy Thomas and Skrine & Co for writing about judicial corruption;
  • Allowed contempt cases to be instituted against Zainur Zakaria, Tommy Thomas, Manjit Singh and prosecution of Karpal Singh who dared to challenge the unfairness of court proceedings;
  • Allowed a forger to acquire indefeasible title to property such as the Federal Court decision in Adorna Properties v Boonsom Boonyanit [2001] 1 MLJ 241 that made our country a forger’s haven for 10 years until corrected by the case of Tan Ying Hong v Tan Sian San [2010] 2 MLJ 1 FC;
  • Ordered an insurance company to pay an arsonist who set fire to his own factory to claim on his insurance policy and dismissed the insurance company’s application for review in Asean Security Paper Mill v Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance (Malaysia) Bhd [2008] 5 AMR 377.

In Tay’s case, the administrators of the estate of Tunku Mansur (deceased) sued him for the purchase price of 1.2 million Harrisons Holdings Berhad shares. Tay contended that the shares were given to him by Tunku Mansur as commission for arranging an investor to participate in the management buy-out led by Tunku Mansur.

The High Court allowed the hearsay evidence of a purported conversation between the witness and Tunku Mansur to be admitted under section 32(1) (b) of the Evidence Act. Until the Federal Court upheld the High Court decision, section 32(1) (b) of the Evidence Act is accepted of only allowing a statement made by a deceased clerk in the entry of account books and records kept in the ordinary course of business.

Tunku Mansur was not a deceased clerk but a respected member of the Kedah Royal Family and an outstanding and high powered corporate executive, and the statement was not an accounting entry or documents kept in the ordinary course of business. The Federal Court held that section 132(1) (b) should be given a broad and liberal interpretation. The Federal Court decision adopted a new approach that differed from what lawyers and academicians knew about section 32(1) (b).

The decision may be a development of the law but it gave rise to the issue of satisfying the requirements of certainty and predictability which is so essential to the legitimacy of judicial decisions. There are many more cases that are not reported.

I have a friend who lost his family business built over several generations to a third party despite non-compliance of the clear provisions of the law. He dared not challenge the matter in the courts because the third party is well connected. Political connections matter in Malaysia, not the Rule of Law.

Many are suffering in silence

If the rich are fearful to fight for their rights, the weak, the poor and the disadvantaged have no chance at all. Many are, therefore, suffering in silence. This is because we did not speak up when it was needed to.

In 2008, this cycle of political interference has been repeated. The 2nd edition of the Anwar Ibrahim (Sodomy 2) trials was instituted to clip the opposition’s momentum after the 12th general election. The Guardian in its strongly worded editorial on December 13, 2011 described what the Malaysian courts will do to Anwar as an egregious travesty of justice. The last vestiges of the Judiciary’s legitimacy will be lost on January 9, 2012 if Anwar is convicted of a crime he did not commit. All evidence presented by experts in his defence has been ignored.

The public knows there is a clear distinction between a legitimate system of law and a mere system of commands forcibly enforced. It is not necessary for the public to be lawyers or legally trained to know whether a judicial decision is legitimate or not. Each of us has a built-in antenna that can sense the truth from a lie, and whether a judicial decision is fair or unjust.

The public can detect Judges, who while hiding behind a veneer of fairness, make intellectually dishonest decisions. They make procedural and evidential rulings to admit into evidence facts favourable to the outcome they want. They shut out facts that would make it inconvenient for them to arrive at the desired outcome. They are thus able to write impeccable decisions by adopting the applicable laws to the selected evidence.

However, to the losing litigant and the public such decisions are complied with only because of the coercive force the Court can bring to bear. The decisions are not accepted as expressions of legal and valid authority. They totally lacked legitimacy.

It is public confidence that gives legitimacy to the judiciary and its decisions. To enjoy public confidence the Judiciary must honour the values and principles of consistency, coherence, legal certainty, predictability and not the least justice and objectivity. The civil society must always be vigilant and remind the Judges of their sacred duty to uphold the law and administer justice.

Sandra Day O’Connor said: “If judges are to be independent guardians of rule of law values, they must be incorruptible. Judges are entrusted with ultimate decisions over life, freedoms, duties, rights, and property of citizens.

“But judges will never win the respect of the citizens if they are subject to corrupt influences. Whenever a judge makes a decision for personal gain, or to curry favour, or to avoid censure, that act denigrates the Rule of Law... If the Judiciary is perceived as being corrupt, biased, or otherwise unethical, society’s confidence in the legal system and its respect for the Rule of Law will crumble.”

‘Anwar trials lacked legitimacy’

The public is aware that the two Anwar Ibrahim trials in the late 1990s lacked legitimacy:

  • In the first, Anwar Ibrahim’s trial for corruption, the judge attracted adverse worldwide criticism for the manner he conducted the trial. The Judge threatened and charged defence counsel with contempt for complaining the court was not impartial and fair.

The words “Irrelevant! Irrelevant! Irrelevant!” were uttered so often that it was only matched 10 years later by a subsequent refrain of “Correct! Correct! Correct!” The trial did not meet the requirement of impartiality, justice and objectivity.

  • In the second, Anwar Ibrahim’s first trial for sodomy, the High Court judge had applied the wrong law in convicting Anwar. It is a well established law that the court cannot convict on uncorroborated evidence of the complainant in a sexual offence. The Judge can only do so upon reminding himself of the danger of convicting on uncorroborated evidence.

The Judge is required to set out in his judgment the reasons he found the complainant’s evidence were sufficiently convincing to establish the case beyond reasonable doubt. The High Court Judge failed to do this and the Court of Appeal failed to pick up this error.

It was only after the change of Prime Ministers that the Federal Court pointed out that the complainant’s evidence lacked credibility and that the confession of sodomy was extracted by torture and improper means. The trial did not meet the standards of consistency and coherence to existing legal principles.

ragunath kesavan bar council pc 080808 01In the 2008 edition of the Anwar trials, Ragunath Kesavan (left), chairperson of the Malaysian Bar Council, said that the Federal Court’s decision to dismiss Anwar’s application for access to key evidence was a regressive decision. The decision contradicted the clear language and intent of Parliament in section 51A of the Criminal Procedure Code.

The section imposed on the prosecution a statutory duty to provide to the accused before the commencement of the trial the documents that the prosecution intended to use at the trial. This was made in the interest of enhancing an accused person’s right to a fair trial.

By barring Anwar access to CCTV footage, medical reports, chemist reports and witness statements, Anwar was severely and unfairly impaired in defending himself. The Federal Court decision did not meet the standard of coherence, consistency, certainty and predictability, impartiality and justice.

Anwar applied under Rule 137 of the Federal Court Rules 1995 to review the Federal Court’s decision in dismissing his application for disclosure under section 51A Criminal Procedure Code. The second Federal Court dismissed the application on the ground that the Federal Court does not have jurisdiction to review an earlier Federal Court decision.

Former Judge NH Chan said that the decision fly in the face of the plain words of Rule 137. Rule 137 provides that nothing shall be deemed to limit or affect the inherent powers of the court to hear any application or make any order as may be necessary to prevent an abuse of the process of the court. The Federal Court decision was clearly incoherent and inconsistent with the clear words of the Rule.

The trial was filled with rulings on procedural and evidential matters that left the public with the distinct feeling that the decisions did not satisfy the standards and values of impartiality, legality, certainty, predictability, transparency and justice.

‘A bad taste in the mouth’

International and domestic observers with a sense of fair play have a bad taste in the mouth at the injustice perpetrated. The New York Times in an article published on December 13, 2011 reported that human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have criticised the trial.

Condemnation has also come from Al Gore, former US Vice President who, with Paul D Wolfowitz, the former US Deputy Secretary of Defence, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the trial “threatens not just Mr Anwar but all those who have struggled for a freer and more democratic nation”.

Malaysians had twice missed the call to stand up and speak out against injustice in 1988 and 1998. If we miss the third chance on January 9, 2011, it will be strike three and Malaysia shall be struck out.

It is, therefore, not inappropriate to recall the famous words of Martin Niemoller who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist;
Then they came for the Trade Unionists and I did not speak out
Because I was not a Trade Unionist;
Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me- and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Niemoller’s quotation reminds us that the people were complicit through their silence in the Nazi imprisonment, persecution and murder of millions of people. We will similarly by our silence be complicit in the erosion of our society’s foundation.

By staying neutral, by keeping silent, we will allow the Rule of Law to be replaced by the Rule of Man, criminals to go unpunished, the innocent to be denied of a fair trial, the poor losing out to the rich and the strong over the weak.

This country has deteriorated not because of bad people but because good people did not stand up and speak out against injustice. Edmund Burke said, "[A]ll that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Tay is now standing up and speaking out. Many more must do so otherwise, they will take Anwar, then Tay and when they finally come for you, no one will be left to speak for you.