Thursday, August 26, 2010

MACC's latest 'comedy circus' no laughing matter

Mariam Mokhtar

The inquest into Teoh Beng Hock’s death is at the forefront of our minds. The cross-examination last week, of Thai pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand by Abdul Razak Musa, the lawyer representing the MACC, was not worthy of a government counsel, or any lawyer for that matter.

A further disappointment is the article which was posted on the MACC official blog on Monday.

The entry described Dr Pornthip as a fortune-teller, with a doctored picture of her as a gypsy, complete with crystal ball. It was not complimentary and was intended to smear her character.

A Saga of Corruption Ignored, Tajudin escapes.

(Asia Sentinel) - On June 4, 1995, Tajudin Ramli, then one of Malaysia's brightest Bumiputra, or native Malay stars, was named a Tan Sri, the country's second highest honor, by the country's reigning sultan. At the time he had been the managing director of Malaysian Airline System, Malaysia's nationally owned flag carrier, since July 1, 1994.

Like his friend and former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, the then 49-year-old Tajudin was a native of Alor Setar in Kedah state. He would be the recipient of a long list of national honors including being president of the Malay Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia. He was regarded as a shining example of the bumi businessman that Mahathir wanted to foster to run the country and take the commanding heights of the economy back from the ethnic Chinese who ran it.

Abuse of power: PM's Dept funding defeated BN candidates

Viktor Wong,

The BN - under the guise and funding of the Prime Minister's Department - has appointed all the defeated BN election candidates as parliamentary and state constituency coordinators.

The landmark 2008 general election saw the Barisan Nasional losing many seats in both the federal Parliament and the state legislative assemblies. Needless to say, the ruling coalition also lost a few prized states to the Pakatan Rakyat led by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim.

But although more than two years have passed, the BN federal government is insistent on not recognizing the mandates given by the people.

And to avenge the people's mandates, the BN under the guise of the Prime Minister's Department has appointed all the defeated BN election candidates as parliamentary and state constituency coordinators.

The job of these coordinators is to manage their respective "constituencies", with the PM's Department providing them annual grants and allocations similar to those enjoyed by the sitting BN MPs and state assemblymen.

It goes without saying that such generosity has resulted in smaller annual grants, allocations and other funding for the Pakatan elected representatives, even though this is clearly a violation of the people's wishes and against their constitutional rights.

And to make sure that the defeated BN candidates are motivated to serve their respective "constituencies" and not laze around, the PM's department has allocated a large amount of funds in the form of salaries and given them grand titles such as "Federal Representative to the parliamentary/KADUN" or "the Prime Minister's Department representative to the parliamentary/KADUN" areas.

Such a move by the BN clearly reflects their refusal to recognize the democratic process. Is it not also an improper use of government funds and taxpayers' money? If BN wants to maintain their "lost" consituencies, should not the money come from their own coffers?

Instead of using public money to finance these so-called coordinators, would not the funds be put to better use to help the poor, finance a much-needed project or community development. Mind you, the final bill is quite staggering because we are talking about hundreds of lost seats.

No wonder, allocations for the PM’s Department alone for 2010 has been escalating and is now a whopping RM12 billion. The huge increases in the Department’s budget in 2009 and 2010 have never been seen before. The combined operating and development expenditure for 2009 was RM14 billion or nearly double the RM7.1 billion allocated for 2008. The total for 2005 was a mere RM4.1 billion in comparison.

It is time for the BN federal government to come clean and make public the accounts and transactions of these allocations to their defeated candidates now posing as coordinators.

The practice should be stopped immediately and the funds diverted to them so far must be accounted for. Steps should also be taken to make sure that those who are really elected by the people get access to the people's money and rightful allocations made to them so that they can carry out projects for their constituents.

RM300mil loss for S'wak from land 'sold' to Taib's children

(Malaysiakini) - A company owned by Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud's children has obtained land in Kuching at a very low price, causing the state to lose at least RM300 million in potential revenue.

Bandar Kuching MP Chong Chieng Jen said the state government had alienated 269 acres of land within the city to Monarda Sdn Bhd at a "grossly and obscenely under-priced" rate of RM291,000 per acre on average.

"The market rate is between RM1.5 million and RM2 million per acre. Had the government gone for public tender, the state could have (earned) RM400 million to RM500 million," he told Malaysiakini today.

Instead, Monarda, which has a paid-up capital of RM100, only paid about RM78.28 million for the three parcels of land, he said.

"We demand that the state government gives a full explanation and be accountable to the people of Sarawak," said Chong (left), who is also Sarawak DAP secretary.

The three parcels are located next to the Kuching International Airport near Stutong. There is a military base located in the same area.

Monarda is headed by Taib's eldest son Abu Bekir, who holds 52 shares, and one Choong Sun Nam, who holds 12 shares.

Other shareholders include Taib's daughters Jamilah and Hanifah Hajar, and Taib's daughter-in-law Anisa Hamidah Abdullah, all of whom hold 12 shares respectively.

Unusual alienation exercise

Chong, who traced the Taib connection through land and companies registry searches, said this was one of the largest parcels of city land to be alienated in any one exercise.

"The land is currently vacant and Monarda has not done any business since it was founded," he said.

Earlier this year, three complaints were lodged with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission against Taib, alleging that he and his family had used corrupt means to build a property empire valued in excess of RM3 billion.

Two documents surfaced this month in the Sarawak Report website alleging that Taib had used proxies in 1987 to take control of a US-based property company, Sakti International Corporation, then worth at least US$80 million (RM250 million).

Inquest video of MACC lawyer buylling Pornthip not uploaded

Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng has thrown the book at the Attorney-General for not uploading the latest video clip of the inquest proceedings of the late Teoh Beng Hock, accusing his chambers of trying to hide the way it tried to bully Thai forensic expert Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand.

“Why not the latest recording? The latest recording is supposed to be the funniest, full of surprises and our government lawyer will be the laughing stock in the whole legal profession and the whole world. So they purposely tried to hide it,” Lim told a press conference on Wednesday.

Lim was among the lawyers involved in the Teoh Beng Hock case since his body was discovered on July 16, 2009, after overnight interrogation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission in connection with a graft probe on several DAP leaders.

Amid public outcry and accusations of a government cover-up, the AG had last year promised transparency and that it would upload the video tape of each inquest proceeding on its website at .However, it has not done so for the latest hearing which took place on August 18.

Making a mockery of themselves and the country

Last week, Dr Pornthip flew in to testify at Teoh's inquest, flustering the MACC because her forensic findings show Teoh’s death was homicide while the federal-government agency has been insistent it was suicide.

The MACC, together with the Attorney-General’s Chambers, has tried hard to discredit Pornthip because of her popularity with the Malaysian public. In her country, Pornthip is rated as the most trusted individual in the whole of Thailand, according to a recent Reader’s Digest poll.

But Malaysian authorities have mocked her, and a Cabinet minister even called her a liar. Few Malaysians were surprised when at last week’s inquest, she was subjected to brutal cross-examination.

The MACC prosecutor Abdul Razak Musa denigrated her academic qualifications and at one point even asked her where the weapon was if it was not suicide. But Pornthip held up well despite Abdul Razak’s belligerence.

She also impressed Malaysians by the way she answered his questions and stole the day when she refused to retaliate to his needling that her testimony was biased because she was hired by Beng Hock’s employers - the Selangor government,

"You have to understand. I work for the rights of the dead, not the Selangor government. My objective is to help the dead," said Pornthip, drawing loud applause from the courtroom.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A result of Umno's racial incitement

KUALA LUMPUR (Harakahdaily) - UMNO and Barisan Nasional must take responsibility over the racist remarks uttered by a secondary school principal in Kulai Jaya, Johor.

PAS vice president Salahuddin Ayub said the action by the principal was the result of "continuous racial incitement whether through government agencies under Barisan Nasional control or the main stream media dominated by them".

Siti Inshah Mansor, the headmistress of SMK Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, had allegedly told Chinese students to go back to China.

"For the Indian students, the prayer string tied around their neck and wrist makes them look like dogs because only dogs are tied like that," she had alleged said, as reported by several angry parents who lodged police reports against her.

Salahuddin said many people had fallen into "UMNO-BN’s racist incitement and it cannot be denied that the principle is one of them."

“She dared to utter those remarks because most likely she felt confident that she won’t be punished because she saw UMNO leaders, including Prime Minister's special officer, who got off scot-free,” added Salahuddin referring to Nasir Safar who created a stir last February when he called Indians "beggars" and Chinese women as "prostitutes".

Salahuddin, the Kubang Kerian member of parliament, also called for an end to racist incitements found in government programmes especially the Biro Tata Negara (BTN).

Salahuddin also took a shot at UMNO Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin, saying it was hypocritical of him to condemn the headmistress, saying the latter's action was encouraged by Barisan Nasional whose leaders had been "fanning racial hatred".

"Don’t just punish those subordinates while UMNO leaders are let off,' he said.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Twist in jet-engines theft: Airman charged for money laundering

New charges have been levied against former airman N Tharmendran in the Sessions court today, this time for alleged money laundering in connection with the 2007 theft of two jet fighter engines.

He was slapped with three separate charges while company director K Rajandran Prasad, who is jointly charged with the theft, faces five separate counts on the same charge.

Both accused denied the charges.

The latest accusations add yet another twist to the already convoluted case facing Tharmendran who claimed that the armed forces had tortured him in connection with the jet engine theft.

His lead counsel, N Surendran, said the prosecution intended the new charges to be heard together with Tharmendran's earlier one, but the defence had submitted against the application.

Judge Hayatul Akmal Abd Aziz set Sept 6 for mention to decide whether or not the new charges should be heard together with the earlier ones.

Surendran said the new charges are fishy as there had been no prior investigation by the police.

"We believe someone gave instructions to charge Tharmendran, because after the charge was read out the police wanted to take him to record a statement.

"The charges are completely baseless and we believe this is being done to simply persecute Tharmendran, since he had exposed his torture by the military," he said.

Tharmendran is currently being detained at the Sungai Buloh prison, after he retracted his bail, fearing possible reprisal from his former employers after making his torture claims.

The former air force sergeant is also facing a court martial for alleged dishonest misappropriation of public property and has the alternative charge of accepting stolen property filed against him.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

If not for "monstrous hijack", 30% Malay-Bumi quota already met

As Umno and MCA continue to wrangle over the country’s economic pie, Pakatan Rakyat leaders have ramped up calls for a Royal Commission of Inquiry to probe if it was true that if not for a “monstrous hijack”, the 30 percent Malay and Bumiputera target would have already been met.

“The real problems for Malaysia are not BN's claims of race or religion but deep-seated corruption, inefficiency, abuse of power, mediocrity and lack of rule of law,” DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said in a statement.

“If the RM52 billion worth of Bumiputera shares still remained in Bumi hands, then the 30 percent Bumi/Malay equity target under the NEP would have long been achieved.”

No need for heated polemics, just do it

Lim was referring to shares allocated to Malays and Bumiputera worth a whopping RM54 billion since the New Economic Policy was launched in 1971. Prime Minister Najib Razak said in June last year that of this amount, only RM2 billion still remained in Malay hands.

“Clearly the RM52 billion worth of shares given to the few Malay and Bumiputera leaders was cashed out and sold off. Stern action and the full force of the law should be unleashed at this open sabotage of the NEP,” Guan Eng said.

PKR Youth chief Shamsul Iskandar Akin said the best way for Umno and MCA to prove to the people that it was not hiding any misdeeds was by agreeing to hold an independent full-scale RCI.

"We have to stand by principles of honesty and zero-tolerance for corruption. It is no point launching into heated polemics and boring everyone in the country to death because they know from the past, it will just be sandiwara. If Najib is sincere, call for a Royal Commission of Inquiry," Shamsul told Malaysia Chronicle.

Protecting cronies

Indeed, the NEP was introduced in 1971 to eradicate poverty regardless of ethnicity. But due to decades of Umno political dominance, the policy has been turned into a symbol of Malay rights and special position to help the party camouflage the gross corruption amongst its top leaders.

Covers for graft, again in the name of Malay supremacy, have also been added to the policy through the years, mostly during the rule of former premier Mahathir Mohamad from 1981 to 2003.

“BN's refusal to take action against these NEP saboteurs and that they return the RM52 billion is an immoral act designed to protect their own cronies who have profited shamelessly from a policy that is supposed to assist the poor Malays and Bumiputera," Guan Eng said.

Calling a spade a spade

At at a recent economic congress, Najib’s brother Nazir, the CIMB CEO, openly described the NEP as having been "bastardized" into its current corrupt form. Najib has tried without much success to replace the NEP with the New Economic Model that strives to distribute economic wealth on a needs-basis - much like the Pakatan's own platform.

As expected, Nazir's comments sparked a furore from Malay rights groups such as the Mahathir-patronized Perkasa and Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who rushed to issue stinging warnings to the Chinese not to encroach on Malay rights. But their emotional rhetoric failed to impress.

“So long as the BN government refuses to demand full accountability and action over the ‘lost’ RM52 billion in bumi shares, they are using the NEP to divide and rule by playing racial antagonism against Malaysians,” said Guan Eng.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Land worth RM6-8 mil to cronies

Perak Mentri Besar Zambry Kadir has come under fire for alleged corruption after he gave a 50-acre piece of land worth between RM6 to 8 million to a company owned by an Umno crony.

The news comes amid a storm of Umno and MCA accusations against the DAP for issuing recommendation letters to help businesses win contracts from the Selangor state government.

“This is the biggest joke. Here they just hand over the state’s land to their cronies. Not once have they thought about the aqua farmers who have been toiling the land for more than 20 years,” Teja assemblyman Chang Lih Kang (pix), disclosed.

Unkindest cut, and not the first time

Chang has lodged a complaint with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission over the land in Kampung Sungai Itek in Gopeng, Perak. He has also demanded that Zambry be suspended from the Land Committee and that approval granted to the crony firm is immediately revoked pending investigations.

“This is the unkindest cut of all. Zambry not only ignored the claims of the farmers who have worked on land and contributed to the state’s economy all these years but he actually gave away the land to his cronies. It is a clear case of abuse of power,” said Chang.

The land is currently being cultivated by ornamental fish breeders and farmers, who have for years been applying for land titles from the state authorities but to no avail. When they found out about Zambry’s grant, they complained to their assemblymen.

Chang then raised the matter in the Perak state assembly and a written reply revealed that the land had been given to a company called Safura House of Diamond Sdn Bhd under the state’s Proper Village Planning Plan. A check with the Companies Commission of Malaysia showed that one of Safura’s shareholders is the deputy chief of Umno Gopeng.

“It is actually the second time this sort of shenanigan has taken place. The first scandal also took place in Kampung Sungai Itek, where the UMNO Gopeng division chief was given 10 lots of land in the planned village scheme,” said Chang.

More farmers are being evicted

He warned that if the federal authorities ignored the charges against Zambry and if the MACC delayed taking action, more farmers would be expelled from the land.

“Their livelihood will be badly affected. It is the duty of the government to care for the people and not grab their land from them and give to their friends and families,” Chang said.

"Through the years, the farmers in Sungai Itek have invested a lot of their savings and if they are evicted, they will have nothing. Even if Zambry offers compensation, the water quality might not be suitable for fishes. So what is going on, where are the priorities?”

Najib must account for the Scorpenes' never-ending costs

Pakatan Rakyat leaders have demanded a clarification from Prime Minister Najib Razak over what they said were never-ending costs for the two problematic Scorpene submarines he bought, in light of the latest RM532 million "in-service support" deal dished out to a government-linked firm.

“This looks like an additional cost the Najib administration has not disclosed before. It will jack up the total bill and re-emphasize the foolishness of the government in making such a wasteful acquisition,” PKR strategist Tian Chua told Malaysia Chronicle.

"But even though nasi sudah jadi bubur (the misdeed has been done), he cannot hide. The public has a right to an explanation and he must account for how he has spent taxpayers' hard-earned money."

The two Scorpene submarines purchased from France’s defense giant DCNS in 2002 were delivered only recently. Since arriving, both ships have suffered some form or other of malfunctioning and were reportedly docked for weeks.

Although the Navy has given both the Scorpenes a clean bill of health, the intimidating way in which they denied the malfunctioning accusations and warned off the media have sparked even greater suspicion than before.

Account to the public on the costs

Indeed suspicion, corruption, blackmail, sex and even murder have marked this arms acquisition, the chunkiest so far by the Malaysian government.

Apart from public worry that the submarines do not cater to national needs as the coastal waters may be too shallow to justify their high-tech costs, the ships have also dragged country into international infamy.

French financial police are investigating the possibility of corruption between DCNS officials and members of Malaysian defense ministry in the deal. On the Malaysian side, Najib was the defense minister who had authorized the purchase, and part of the French probe actually centers on a complaint that a commission of 114 million eurors or RM 570 million was paid to a firm controlled by his close friend Razak Baginda.

Apart from possible graft, Najib, his wife Rosmah Mansor and Baginda were also implicated in the murder of a Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu, who had allegedly acted as a go-between for Baginda and DCNS.

“The Scorpenes have cost Malaysia much more than the actual billions of ringgit spent. No doubt the damage has been done but it does not mean that Najib can sweep it under the carpet especially when new bills are still coming in,” PAS vice president Salahuddin Ayub told Malaysia Chronicle.

New bills still coming in

Defense Ministry data show the total costs for the 2 submarines excluding annual maintenance came up to 1.34 billion euros or about RM6.7 billion before taking into account maintenance fees. The sum broke down down to 969 million euros for the two submarines, 219 million euros for missiles, 38 million euros for miscellaneous equipment and 114 million euros for commission paid to Perimekar, which is Baginda’s firm.

Maintenance fees were initially agreed at RM600 million for six years or RM100 million per year. However, this was later increased to RM270 million per year.

On Friday, in a filing to the Malaysian stock exchange, Boustead Holdings Berhad announced the government’s decision to award the contract to its unit Boustead DCNS.

“Boustead DCNS Naval Corporation Sdn Bhd had received a LETTER OF AWARD dated 12 August 2010 from the Government of Malaysia for the contract to undertake In Service Support (ISS) for the two Royal Malaysian Navy’s Prime Minister Class Scorpene Submarines (“the Contract”). The Contract is for total contract sums of EUR 193 million and RM 532 million and is effective for a period ending 30 November 2015.

“The contract includes a full Submarine Integrated Logistics Support package. This consists of a comprehensive spare parts package as well as the outfitting of workshop equipment, respective yard facilities and equipment, submarine safety conditioning facilities and their corresponding upkeep and maintenance. The contract also covers tug boat services and the operation and maintenance of the shiplift, transfer system and submarine “umbilical services”.