It has been exactly four years (or 1,461 days) since the fourth Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad retired and the fifth Prime Minister, Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi swore into office, at the Balairong Seri, Istana Negara, Kuala Lumpur infront of HM Seri Paduka Baginda Yang DiPertuan Agong XII, Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Ibni Almarhum Syed Putra Jamalulail Al Haj.
Planned and Smooth Transition of Power
The Fourth Prime Minister Dato' Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad sixteen months earlier dropped a bomb during June 2002 UMNO General Assembly closing speech where he abruptly announced his retirement as Prime Minister and UMNO President. However, he did not manage to finish his speech and after few rounds of consultation with top party officials, he agreed to go and hand over the helm of the party and country to his successor and named deputy at a planned deadline.
Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, who earlier was invested with the award S.M.N. (which carried the title 'Tun'), handover the 'working file of the Prime Minister' to his successor at 4.00pm at the Office of the Prime Minister, Perdana Putra, Putrajaya.
This was the Prime Minister’s inaugural speech and motion of tribute to former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and MP for Kubang Pasu, at the Dewan Rakyat after being sworn in, dated 3 November 2003:
"INHERITING SUCCESS AND BUILDING A FUTURE OF EXCELLENCE, GLORY AND DISTINCTION"
With your permission, I would like to table the following motion at this sitting of the parliament session:
`That the Dewan Rakyat,
Accepts the fact that the Member of Parliament for Kubang Pasu, who was the fourth Prime Minister since 16th july 1981, and who has served with the fullest of dedication, firmness, efficacy, excellence and wisdom, has vacated the nation's top leadership;
Appreciates and holds in high regard the noble, enduring and invaluable struggle, sacrifice, deeds and service of the Member of Parliament for Kubang Pasu, carried out through pragmatic policies, strategies and programs, to ensure national unity and resilience, security and well being of the people, and prosperity and brilliant success of the nation;
Is mindful and conscious of the consistency, resolve and compassion of the Member of Parliament for Kubang Pasu in his struggle to uphold the dignity of Islam and The Ummah throughout the world, particularly in plural Malaysia, through the acquisition and mastery of knowledge in all fields;
Aprreciates and fully supports the wisdom of the Member of Parliament for Kubang Pasu in tackling the nation's economic crisis caused by international rogue financial speculators, through the execution of unique, effective and internationally acclaimed economic and financial strategies and management;
Recognises that vision 2020, inspired by the Member of Parliament for Kubang Pasu, is a national doctrine to build a Malaysian nation that is sovereign and independent, unified, happy, peaceful, prosperous, advanced, excellent, dignified and respected, in an era of globalisation and neo- colonialism;
Acknowledges that the great effort of the Member of Parliament for Kubang Pasu to develop information and communications technology (ICT) through the establishment of the multimedia super corridor, and to develop biotechnology through the creation of the bio-valley, will bring about tremendous benefits to the people of Malaysia, in the future;
Holds in the highest esteem the character, wisdom and courage of the Member of Parliament for Kubang Pasu, who has empowered and upheld the dignity of the people and nation of Malaysia, as well as of developing nations in the international arena, through multilateral initiatives across continents and throughout the world, as well as through expressing universal opinions, ideas and thinking in the fields of humanity, justice, equity, trade, science, technology, as well as the primacy and sanctity of international law, particularly at ASEAN, APEC, NAM, OIC and un;
Accordingly, the Dewan Rakyat sitting today on 3rd November 2003, 8th Ramadhan 1424, hereby resolves to;
Record the highest gratitude and appreciation from all Malaysians to the Member of Parliament for Kubang Pasu;
Pledge to continue the struggle to defend the sovereignty, independence and prosperity of the nation through policies, strategies and programs introduced and promoted by the Member of Parliament for Kubang Pasu;
Continue the effort to enhance the excellence of the Malaysian people in the future, through means founded upon the spirit of the federal constitution, the principles of the rukunegara as well as the main objectives of vision 2020.
2. Tun Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad served Malaysia and its people for 22 years, 3 months and 15 days as Prime Minister, from July 16, 1981 until he retired on October 31, 2003. His record of service can be tracedBback well before his tenure as this nation's leader. His firm and articulate voice was first heard in this august house when he became a Member of Parliament after winning the Kota Setar Selatan seat in the 1964 general elections. His parliamentary career was interrupted briefly after being defeated in the next general elections in may 1969. On 12 February 1973, he was appointed to the Dewan Negara. In the august 1974 general elections, he contested and won in the Kubang Pasu parliamentary constituency and was appointed education minister by the late Tun Abdul Razak. After the passing of Tun Bbdul Razak in 1976, the next Prime Minister, Tun Hussein Onn, appointed the Member of Parliament for Kubang Pasu as Deputy Prime Minister. During this period, he also served as minister of international trade and industry. When he became Prime Minister, he held at different times the portfolios of Defence, Home Affairs and Finance.
3. The Member of Parliament for Kubang Pasu is the longest serving Member of Parliament after the Member of Parliament for Batu Berendam. In the 36 years he served as a member of parliament, the Member of Parliament for Kubang Pasu served in the cabinet for 29 years, of which he was Prime Minister for 22 years. Since his early days as legislator, he has been known to voice his opinions and criticisms openly and frankly. He has a reputation as a man who articulates his views with discipline. He has always advocated renewal and possesses a vision that his ahead of his time.
4. When he was appointed Prime Minister, the country was in its 24th year of independence. And when he retired, we had just celebrated our 46th independence day. He inherited a stable country and a prosperous economy. On these building blocks, he brought the country to a higher level of success and prosperity.
5. The development of our infrastructure and human resources grew at its fastest pace during his premiership. More importantly, he placed our country on the world map and has made Malaysia an example of political stability, economic prosperity, racial unity and religious tolerance. We are now widely acknowledged as a progressive Islamic country.
6. Under his leadership, this small nation wielded a big voice in international forums. South-south cooperation was infused with a new lease of life. The membership of ASEAN was successfully expanded. The commonwealth heads of government meeting and the summit meetings of the g-15, the non-aligned movement and the organisation of the Islamic conference were all held in Malaysia. Today, Malaysia is the 18th largest trading nation in the world. Malaysia possesses a clear vision to become a developed nation by 2020. Malaysia successfully weathered the financial crisis of 1998. The Member of Parliament for Kubang Pasu has imbued us with self-confidence, dignity and national pride. He is a hero to his nation and to his people - a hero who elevated his country in the eyes of the world
7. The former Prime Minister is a visionary leader. More importantly, he has the tenacity and capacity to convert his vision into reality. He is a statesman who has inspired his people to achieve their aspirations. He is a statesman ahead of his time and has enabled the hopes of the future to become reality today. He has transformed a country solely dependent on its agrarian resources to become one of the most industrialized nations in the developing world.
8. The people and the country greatly appreciate his services, which he has discharged with integrity and responsibility. He has brought this country to the altar of excellence and allowed us to emerge as a nation that is respected throughout the world.
9. This house records its highest appreciation and thanks to the Member of Parliament for Kubang Pasu, for his selfless service to the nation, for all his ideas and articulate opinions, for his sacrifices and dedication. This house also records its highest appreciation and gratitude to Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah bt. Mohd Ali and her family, who have sacrificed to allow the Member of Parliament for Kubang Pasu to devote his energies, thoughts and time in service to his country, his people, the region and the muslim and developing world.
10. We pray for his health and contentment in his retirement. We wish him, Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah and their family much happiness. May his services to the nation be recognised in this world and in the hereafter. The biggest retirement gift that the people can present him is to continue towards achieving his vision and his dream to make Malaysia a peaceful, stable and prosperous developed nation.
11. I am grateful that the former Prime Minister has left behind a legacy of success. A legacy that has sustained political stability, strengthened national unity, promoted economic development and given meaning to our independence. With Allah's guidance, I shall build on this foundation to achieve excellence, glory and distinction for Malaysia. In fulfilling this responsibility, I shall take stock and guidance from the successes of the leaders who came before me and seek the cooperation of my cabinet colleagues and from all segments of society.
12. Allow me to recite a hadith: "If Allah wishes peace on a people, then god will grant them a good leader." We are grateful that Allah has always granted us good leaders. All four Prime Ministers before me - Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak Putra, Tun Hussein Onn and the Member of Parliament for Kubang Pasu, Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad - passed on to their successors a peaceful, stable and prosperous nation, enabling them to strive for greater heights. Each of these men was successful in their time. It is therefore fitting for this house to remember and acknowledge the contributions of each Prime Minister who left a legacy of a peaceful and prosperous country to the people. In this holy month of Ramadhan, may peace be upon them.
13. On the afternoon of Friday 31 October 2003, by the will of Allah I was sworn in as the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia. This determination demonstrated the greatness of Allah. Man proposes, but god disposes. Allah is the divine power that decides everything. Allah has declared in the holy Quran in Surah Al Qasas, verse 68:
"And your Lord creates whatsoever He
wills and chooses: no choice have they
(in any matter). Glorified is Allah, and
exalted above all they associate
(aspartners with him.)"
14. I realise that in our collective effort to manage and build upon the success that we have today to greater heights of excellence, I have to play the leading role as the head of our government. It is based on this realisation that I have decided to speak in this august chamber to outline and clarify the principles that we have to hold on to together in our efforts to achieve excellence and glory for our country.
15. I am fully aware of the need for me to carry out my duties with integrity, trustworthiness, efficiency and fairness. I am aware that I will be assessed by the members of this house, by the people and above all, by the almighty. The position and the power that have been entrusted to me is a test from god for this humble servant. If this can be carried out with integrity, honesty and fairness, then this humble servant will have succeeded in passing the test. But failure to do so will be a heavy burden for me to bear in this world and the next.
16. I have chosen this house to deliver my maiden official speech in my capacity as leader of this nation. This is a symbol of my respect for this august institution; an institution of public trust, an institution based on consultation, an institution where laws are made and where policies are debated.
17. Since the first elections were held in this country in 1955, we have upheld and defended our democracy, apart from a lapse of 21 months during the days of the national operations council after the May 13 riots. But we quickly restored parliamentary democracy and have the distinction of being one of few countries in the world where the government has been returned to the people. We believe democracy is the best system of governance to ensure the participation of the people and for their voices to be heard.
18. It is incumbent upon us as elected representatives to display exemplary political leadership, which can only be effective if we are respected. We must inculcate the values of honesty, determination and dedication if we wish to be held up as examples for others to emulate. We must be open and ready to accept criticism and contrary views to ensure that the culture of democracy thrives. We must cultivate an image that is clean, incorruptible, modest and beyond suspicion.
19. Democracy will flourish if all its participants behave responsibly. Democracy does not mean absolute freedom. Issues that inflame religious, racial and cultural sentiments should not be sensationalised, while attempts to undermine national security and public order must be dealt with firmly.
20. We cannot compromise when dealing with the threats posed by extremism, terrorism and militancy. Therefore, the government's firmness in dealing with these threats must be fully supported to ensure the security and peace of our nation. The Malaysian people must hold to the principles of the Rukunegara: belief in god, loyalty to the king and country, supremacy of the constitution, sovereignty of the laws, good behaviour and morality.
21. The success that we have inherited cannot be continued if creativity and innovation do not become part of our culture. First world infrastructure must go hand in hand with first world mentality. Human resource development has to be enhanced to ensure that the growth of the Malaysian people balances physical, mental and spiritual aspects.
22. In a knowledge based economy, people are the most important factor. Therefore, the government will work towards providing quality education for each and every Malaysian to reach their full potential. We must also develop a value system that rejects crass materialism. We must reject a mindset that places the pursuit of material gain and narrow self-interest above all else.
23. We must seek and identify new sources of economic growth. We must develop new approaches to enhance our competitiveness and strengthen our resilience to face global challenges. The distribution of economic opportunities must be equitable to benefit the broadest range of people. We need to ensure that rural development continues to be a part of mainstream national economic development, and identify new sources of wealth for those in the rural sector. Malaysians must be ready and courageous enough to face and deal with change. Our capabilities in the new and strategic areas of information and communications technology, biotechnology, science and modern agriculture are still nascent, and therefore we must enhance research and development in these areas.
24. The Bumiputera development agenda in producing a commercial and industrial community, as well as a science and technology community, must be fair and just, based on meritocracy within the community itself. This is necessary to enable Bumiputeras to receive due respect and recognition for their capabilities. Marginalising Bumiputeras who are truly capable and qualified, whatever the reason, will be damaging to the community in the long term.
25. The private sector is acknowledged as the engine for economic growth and should play a more important and active role in creating employment and economic opportunities. This requires the private sector to develop a more efficient delivery system. The public sector must radically move beyond its role as mere regulators and law enforcers. It must become more effective, efficient and transparent facilitators, able to respond speedily to the needs and requirements of the private sector.
26. The public sector shoulders the responsibility of ensuring national policies are implemented effectively and transparently, reflecting a clean and incorruptible image. The public sector should be clean, efficient and trustworthy and embrace a work culture that is based on the concept of leadership by example. People friendliness must be the order of the day in public service delivery, especially to the ordinary citizen - those without high standing or important positions or a famous name - and the people who are in most need of assistance. We need to prioritise the people.
27. Corruption is an odious crime. We must explore more effective methods to deal with it and in this regard, prevention is equally important as punishment. Streamlining work processes, reduction of red tape, improvements in the delivery system, a conscious effort to raise the quality of work and more frequent and effective audits would reduce the opportunities for bribery. Our resolve to have a civil service that is corruption-free should not be weakened by unhealthy practices in the private sector or by parties that are outside the government that contribute to this disease.
28. The governance of the nation would be strengthened if our laws were enforced transparently and without fear or favour. Crime prevention must be intensified. Vice that tears apart our moral values must be eradicated. We must fight those groups involved in the underworld and vice activities, and expose those who collaborate with them. The security of private property and the personal safety, particularly of women, children and visitors to our country, must be assured. Mr. Speaker
29. We have both a young nation and a young population. Malaysia must be able to cradle the hopes and aspirations of the younger generation. The ideas, aspirations and idealism of the youth must be harnessed into mainstream national development and draw from it innovation, invention and creativity.
30. The family institution is important and must be reinforced by educating our young wth the right value system. We must advocate the concept of a happy family, to ensure the older members of our society are treated with deference, respect and continue to be cared for. This approach is consistent with the teachings of Islam and with the tenets of our Asian culture. We need to ensure that women, making up half of our population, are accorded equality and are not discriminated against in the formation of policies, in the enforcement of these policies and in levels of participation. We need to recognise the importance of their role.
31. Globalisation and information and communications technology (ICT) have connected the world. We cannot live in isolation. Malaysia must be committed to being an oasis for foreign investments, international trade and a place where cultures meet. In the face of global realpolitik, the government will continue to protect the sovereignty of the nation and will not compromise on our national interest. We will remain steadfast and principled in pursuing global and universal justice. As the chair of both the non aligned movement and the Organisation of Islamic Conference, we will work towards creating an equitable world economy and a global political order based on international law.
32. In shouldering these heavy responsibilities, I assure that i will continue the policies that have been laid out by the leaders who came before me. Vision 2020 will continue to inspire and drive this nation towards holistic development, to become a developed country. We must bring comprehensive human development in the areas of politics, ethics and morality, and socially. The national vision policy will continue to underpin our national economic policy.
33. The spirit of the new economic policy will not be neglected, given that it ensures our efforts to restructure society will strengthen national unity, and will eradicate poverty. The spirit of power sharing, which is the core of our system of governance and of nation building efforts, will continue to be strengthened. The practice of constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy will continue to be supported, and we must respect the separation of powers between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. This is important to maintain the checks and balances needed to prevent abuses of power.
34. I have inherited the responsibility of governing a successful country. The responsibility is heavy and I cannot do it alone. Therefore, I seek the cooperation and support from all - legislators, administrators, the private sector, political parties, the media and from Malaysian citizens from all walks of life to work with me to take Malaysia to greater heights - to achieve excellence, glory and distinction.
35. To you Allah, your humble servant turns for guidance and inspiration, strength and fortitude, patience and determination.
I move the motion.
Changes Start To Take Place
Former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and the incoming Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had a ‘gentlemens’ agreement’ when they had the planned and smooth transition of leadership. Tun Dr. Mahathir agreed to not ‘interfere’ in any administrative decisions, provided that PM Abdullah follow through and implement all the decisions that have been started and decided before the former stepped down. However, as early as two weeks after assuming the Premiership, PM Abdullah breached the ‘agreement’ and cancelled the double tracking railway system project that was awarded to the Bukhary Foundation, led my philantrophist and humble billionaire Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al Bukhary and put the project on hold indefinitely.
Scomi Centrifuge Scandal
In February 2004, four short months after PM Abdullah, took over the helm of the country, the world was shocked about the Scomi Precision Engineer (SCOPE) involvement in the supply of centrifuge for nuclear weapon devices to Libya. A Sri Lankan born business associate of Scomi, BSA Tahir was arrested by the Police and detained under ISA. The single largest shareholder of Scomi was and still is, Kamaluddin Abdullah, PM eldest son.
BBC.com has the story, dated 6 February 2004.
|Last Updated: Friday, 6 February, 2004, 13:10 GMT
Malaysia PM urges nuclear probe
Malaysia’s prime minister has told police to investigate “without favour” allegations his son had a stake in a company making nuclear parts for Libya. Abdullah Badawi said there was nothing to fear from the truth.
Police say foreign intelligence warned them that Malaysian centrifuge parts were on a Libyan-bound ship last year.
The company, controlled by Kamaluddin Abdullah, made the parts after being told they were for oil and gas work, a spokesman said.
“We received the drawing for the part and made it according to the drawing. We were told these parts were for the oil and gas industry,” factory manager Che Lokman Che Omar told reporters.
The BBC’s correspondent in Kuala Lumpur, Jonathan Kent, says that the Malaysian media have been slow to draw attention to the links between Scomi and the prime minister’s son.
The Malaysian government has denied that the country in any way contributed to the spread of nuclear technology.
“Investigations so far showed that not one company in Malaysia has the ability to manufacture a complete centrifuge unit,” Malaysia’s Inspector General of Police Mohammad Bakri Omar said in a statement.
“This requires technological capability and high expertise in the field of nuclear weapons,” Mr Bakri said.
Analysts say the news of Scomi Precision Engineering’s involvement in the probe could be embarrassing to Mr Badawi, who was only appointed prime minister last October.
Mr Bakri said the tip-off was received by British and US intelligence services in early November.
He said the CIA and MI6 claimed the parts had been found a month earlier on board a ship heading to Libya during a stopover in Italy.
“The components were said to have been placed in wooden boxes labelled Scomi Precision Engineering Sdn Bhd (Scope). Scope is a subsidiary of Scomi Group Bhd,” said a police statement.
Scomi – a medium-sized oil and gas company – said Scope had been awarded a contract to provide tooling services to a Dubai-based firm.
In a statement, the company said it shipped the components in four consignments to Dubai between December 2002 and August 2003.
Scomi said the contract had been arranged by BSA Tahir, a Sri Lankan businessman who is currently under investigation in Malaysia. They were not told the “end-use” of the components.
“The company was recently informed by the Malaysian police that Mr Tahir is currently the subject of an investigation by Malaysian, American and British intelligence authorities over his alleged involvement in the supply of nuclear technology to Libya,” said Scomi.
A high-level government source noted that any firm knowingly involved in the clandestine nuclear trade was unlikely to label its cargo with its own name.
Mr Bakri said Mr Tahir was co-operating in the investigation and was not under arrest.
Later, in a SCOPE related case, Sumitoyo Corp CEO and four executives were arrested by Tokyo Police on 2006 for their involvement in supplying equipments for SCOPE, which was implicated by the BSA Tahir – centrifuge for nuclear weapon scandal.
5 Japanese arrested in atom case
By Martin Fackler
(taken from) The New York Times
August 25, 2006
TOKYO Five executives of a precision instruments maker were arrested Friday on suspicion of illegally exporting equipment to Malaysia that could be used in making nuclear weapons.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Police arrested the president and four other executives of Mitutoyo for allegedly exporting advanced measuring devices without government permission in late 2001 to an unspecified recipient in Malaysia a police spokesman said.
The police said Mitutoyo’s president, Kazusaku Tezuka, and the other four were arrested on suspicion of violating foreign trade control laws.
While the police provided few details, reports in the Japanese news media said the devices were sold to Scomi Precision Engineering, a company that was part of the network used by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani nuclear scientist, to transfer nuclear technology to Libya
The police are reportedly trying to determine whether Mitutoyo’s devices were used by Scomi to manufacture centrifuge parts that were sold to Libya to enrich uranium for its nuclear weapons program, which was discontinued three years ago.
Scomi figured prominently in a 2004 investigation into the supply of advanced centrifuge technology to Libya.
In 2003, containers full of centrifuge parts made by Scomi were intercepted en route to Libya, a discovery that led to the uncovering of Khan’s role in Libya‘s attempts to build nuclear weapons.
Scomi Precision’s parent, the Scomi Group, was principally owned by Kaspadu, a holding company linked to a Sri Lankan businessman, B.S.A. Tahir, now in custody in Malaysia. Tahir has been accused of helping Khan to distribute controlled nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya.
The Malaysian police later cleared Scomi of wrongdoing. The company said it did not know the parts were bound for Libya, but instead believed they would be used in oil and gas production in Dubai.
Reports Friday by the Kyodo news agency and most major Japanese newspapers said that at least one of Mitutoyo’s devices had been shipped to Libya via Dubai on an Iranian-flagged cargo ship. The reports said the police were also investigating whether additional measuring devices were sent to Iran through an unnamed Iranian trading company based in Tokyo.
Iran faces possible UN sanctions if it fails to end its uranium enrichment by Aug. 31. Iran says the enrichment is for peaceful purposes, but the United States and other nations fear it could be used to build nuclear weapons.
The news reports appeared to be based on briefings that government officials here frequently give to large local media organizations. An employee at Mitutoyo’s headquarters refused to comment beyond confirming the arrests.
The Tokyo police said that Mitutoyo allegedly exported two of the devices, known as coordinate measuring machines, to Malaysia in October and November 2001. The machines were sent by ship to Singapore, and then transported over land to Malaysia.
The sophisticated machines, normally used in the precision manufacture of parts for commercial products like automobiles, can also be used in making the centrifuges that enrich uranium for weapons production. Because of this potential use, the devices cannot be exported without government permission.
Mitutoyo is one of the world’s largest makers of the most advanced types of coordinate measuring devices.
The Thunderous Landslide Mandate on 21 March 2004
Then in March 2004, PM Abdullah called for the General Elections which saw the rakyat gave him a thunderous landslide mandate. Barisan Nasional (BN) took 199 of the 219 seats in the Dewan Rakyat, retook Terengganu from PAS and almost took over Kelantan. The manifesto for BN was focused on eradication of corruption, first class governance and promises of continuous prosperity, stability and harmony. PM Abdullah personal tagline was “Work with me, not for me”.
‘Fourth Floor Boys’
Upon receiving the 90% mandate in the Dewan Rakyat, PM Abdullah now is the Prime Minister which the Malaysian public decided through democratic channels. Changes on how things are carried out began. Firstly, the much talked about Oxford trained son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin, who was a former Special Functions Officer while he was the Deputy Prime Minister is now the Deputy Principal Private Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office.
The Prime Minister’s Office also saw some major changes. Two strategic post, Head of Policy and Head of Media Co-ordination were created, to emulate the White House styled “West Wing” spindoctors. Strategic decisions of the nation are now in the hands of these thirty something new-kids-on-the-block and wannabes, where the “most powerful twenty-eight year old man” is at the top.
The ‘Fourth Floor Boys’, were now an integral part of the nation’s decision making process.
Khazanah and GLCs
Khazanah Holdings Bhd., the Federal Government investment arm was revamped and restructured. A Key-Performance-Index (KPI) focused management strategy was introduced and Government companies now are known as ‘Government Linked Companies’ (GLCs), modeled exactly like the Singaporeans and how Temasek Holdings is managed. The focus of GLCs are now centered towards profitability, return on investments (ROIs), ‘wealth creation’ and market capitalisation and corporate and management deliverables. The emphasis of nation building now has fallen as second fiddle.
The Scenic Bridge Cancellation
A major change in decision already made and being implemented is the Bridge-Replacing-Causeway Project at the Johor Straits. This is the chronology of events which eventually saw the abrupt cancellation of a much needed project for Johor Bahru:
August 2003: Malaysia announced it would unilaterally build its half of the bridge.
January 2004: Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said Malaysia would present a new bridge proposal to Singapore. He said Malaysia was still interested in building a straight bridge instead of a “crooked” one.
February 2004: Singapore said it could only agree to the bridge if there was a balance of benefits for both sides. Singapore reportedly wanted Malaysia to sell sand for its reclamation works and to allow its jetfighters to use Malaysian airspace as a trade-off for it to agree to the proposal.
January 2005: The Government gave the go-ahead to resume works to build the bridge. The target was for it to be completed in the second quarter of 2009.
October 2005: Singapore’s lukewarm response prompted Malaysia to pursue the idea of a “crooked bridge” on the Malaysian side.
Jan 27, 2006: Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu said the Government was expected to issue a letter of intent to the Gerbang Perdana consortium to proceed with the project. He said the instructions came from Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar.
Jan 31, 2006: Abdullah said Malaysia was going ahead with its plan to build a bridge across its half of the Johor Straits as any delay would incur more cost. He said that while the construction of the RM640mil bridge was going ahead, negotiations to get Singapore to complete the project would continue
Then On April 13, 2006, reported by the Star,
Quotes “ Gerbang Perdana Sdn Bhd, the contractor of the “scenic bridge” that has been scrapped even before it took off, has been asked to stop work immediately on the project.
Following the decision to cancel the bridge project, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi asked the company to stop all preparatory works on the project and to concentrate on completing the new Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) complex.
This would include building roads connecting the complex to the Causeway.
The Prime Minister said the developer would be given RM100mil compensation, as well as other development projects in southern Johor.
Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu said the Government has asked Public Works director-general Datuk Dr Wahid Omar to issue the contractor a stop-work order.
The contractor would also be told to remove all construction machinery from the site and to clean up the area.
The AP Fiasco and Proton Slow Death
The Approved Permit (AP) issue and how it severely affected and systematically saw the slow death on once highly profitable national car maker, Proton surfaced in 2005. The contract for Proton CEO was changed and forced Tengku Tan Sri Mahaleel Arif not to accept the new terms. At the same time, the flooding of AP saw the influx of foreign cars competing directly with Proton products into the market.
One time cash rich Proton, which could actually afford to finance a multi billion Ringgit new facility in Tanjung Malim just through internal borrowings and fund raising exercise, actually started to bleed to death, after Tengku Mahaleel left and the new Proton Chairman Dato’ Azlan Hashim, took over.
NST has a commentary on this, dated :
Why the AP lists won’t satisfy everyone
First published in The New Straits Times on 20 July 2005
FINALLY, it is out. The names of Approved Permit holders allowed to import and sell cars are now known to anyone who cares. Apart from juicing our conversations on the who’s who, the list does nothing more than identify those who have benefited from the policy.
We would likely see more snide and comments about whether someone should be on the list at all, or how his riches were made. But where do we go from here?
The underlying argument in all the noise about APs and their beneficiaries is, it seems to me, “Why them and why not me?” Why should the few hundred individuals get them while the rest of us have to toil in our daily grind?
Well, that question can never be answered satisfactorily, except that the Government gives to whoever it deems fit. It can be a result of policy, such as helping Bumiputeras, or ensuring national interest or competitiveness, or for other reasons best known to the Government.
Why did the Government give Genting Group founder Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong a hilltop and a monopoly on the casino business? Why did the Government grant a company controlled by Tan Sri Ananda Krishnan a monopoly on satellite TV, albeit for a specified period? Or why was the Kuok Group at one time accorded a large chunk of the sugar import quota for the country, and the former Renong Group (now UEM) awarded the job of building and running the North South Expressway?
History has shown that many people and groups have benefited from such government decisions, ranging from the lease of agricultural and plantation lands, to tin mining and logging rights, to exclusive franchises for some business activities.
Should we begrudge them? As humans, presumably, it will be very hard for us not to. But, realistically, can we expect the Government to issue permits and licences to everyone who wants them?
The AP is a bureaucratic requirement for the import and export of goods, ranging from machinery to raw materials, and, of course, our current infatuation, cars.
In the 1970s, the issuance of APs for cars was used as one of the tools to get Bumiputeras into the automotive business, when there were none.
The idea was for them to develop and build enough capacity so that they could evolve and expand their businesses.
Obviously, along the way there were those who abused their APs by selling them to others, and living off commissions. They may not necessarily be breaking the law, but their actions are reprehensible for defeating the spirit of the policy, which is to help build a credible Bumiputera community in the automotive industry. Maybe they should be stripped of the privilege and their APs given to others.
At the same time, one must also admit that the AP policy has worked. One does not have to be a fan of Tan Sri Nasimuddin S.M. Amin to appreciate that in his case it did help in the creation of a Bumiputera automotive company.
A late arrival among AP recipients, Nasimuddin got APs to import and sell used cars in 1988. He did that very well and was given more APs. Over the years he built his business enough to be able to convince the South Koreans and the French to allow him the domestic Kia and Peugeot franchises, respectively. He later got the South Koreans to agree to let him assemble Kia cars, under the Naza name, in Gurun, Kedah.
And like the Genting, Binariang, Kuok and UEM groups before, the Naza Group has used the opportunities to build capacity and resources to venture into other areas, such as the hospitality business.
There are many other names in the AP list that have expanded beyond the automotive industry, proving that given time, and the right candidate, the policy does work.
However, what the list does not answer is the allegation of abuses.
There have been many innuendos about the AP that must be resolved through investigations and legal action. These allegations can only harm current policy, and make it more difficult to defend it if left unanswered.
Then there is the question of how APs are cannibalising national car maker Proton’s market share.
The allegation is that some AP holders are under-declaring the true value of imported cars to sell them at Proton’s expense.
Obviously, it is in our interest to make sure that Proton not only survives, but thrives. If the allegation is true, then ridding the system of abuses will ensure Proton’s survival, provided, of course, if it makes itself competitive.
Finally, the release of the AP lists is good in the name of transparency, but it is unlikely to satisfy everyone. There will always be the question of “Why not me?”
In a related case, after the Tengku Mahaleel were no longer Proton CEO, a highly potential and high value motorcycle subsidiary, MV Agusta, which was acquired at the sum of Euro 70 million was sold off to an unknown Gevi S.p.A. for an incredible mind boggling nominal value of one Euro (RM 4.50).
Malaysian National News Agency
Dr Mahathir And Mahaleel Question MV Agusta Sale
January 03, 2006 21:01 PM
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 3 (Bernama) — Proton adviser Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the former chief executive officer (CEO) of the national car maker, Tengku Tan Sri Mahaleel Tengku Ariff, Tuesday questioned the rationale behind Proton’s sale of MV Agusta Motors S.p.A. for one Euro (RM4.50).
In a joint statement released here, they also raised several questions regarding the disposal that was announced by Proton Holdings Bhd in a filing to Bursa Malaysia last week.
Among them were on who had offered to sell or buy the stake for one Euro, whether there were other bidders and if there had been an attempt to get the buyer to pay a higher price.
Questions were also raised on if there had been an announcement on the sale of MV Agusta, whether Proton approached only one bidder, and if other bidders were approached, had the bidders rejected?
They also sought to know who made the decision to sell, and an explanation from Proton on how selling an entity bought at Euro 70 million (RM315 million) for one Euro would not cause Proton to lose money as claimed.
Proton Holdings had announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary Proton Capital Sdn Bhd has signed an agreement with GEVI S.p.A., to sell MV Agusta. Proton Capital has a 57.75 percent joint controlled entity in MV Agusta.
Dr Mahathir had recently said that he was not involved in the decision to sell Proton’s stake in the Italian motorcycle maker.
MV Agusta, a famed but struggling designer and manufacturer of the Agusta, Cagiva and Husqvarna motorcycles was bought by Proton in 2004. Its Agusta F4 1000 Tamburini is recognised as the best sports motorcycle in the world.
Dr Mahathir, the former Prime Minister and Tengku Mahaleel, whose tenure with Proton ended at the end of September last year said Proton owed its shareholders and the public an explanation.
As the two people most involved in the purchase, Dr Mahathir and Tengku Mahaleel said their credibility and honesty were at stake.
“We want to know the correct answers. The public too may want to know as Proton is a national project.”
Dr Mahathir and Tengku Mahaleel said that the loss incurred by Proton following the sale should amount to RM315 million less RM4.50.
“Assuming that this relieves Proton from paying the loss incurred by MV Agusta over the 15 months at Euro 26.87 million (RM131 million), it would still lose the purchase price of euro 70 million by selling off at one Euro.”
Due to the sale, they said there was no possibility now for Proton to turn around the company and regain its purchase price, if not make a profit.
“Of course, Proton will now not get access to MV Agusta engineering technology.”
They added that Proton bought MV Agusta fully knowing that it had a debt of euro 230 million, which it does not have to pay for three years.
In addition, MV Agusta has assets in the form of two plants (in Cassinetta and Morazzone) and stocks of motorcycles.
“Losing automotive companies like Rolls Royce, Bentley, Skoda, Lamborghini, Aston Martin and many others have been bought by stronger companies and have been turned around.
“But the price reflect the assets and the brand. As far as we know they were not sold for one Euro,” Dr Mahathir and Tengku Mahaleel said, stating that MV Agusta’s four brands were of high value.
On Proton’s ability to turn around MV Agusta, they said the building of a RM1.8 billion facility in Tanjung Malim without borrowing or capital injection from the government; and still left with over RM2 billion cash showed that Proton was a profitable company and it knew something about management to make profit.
Referring to the recent loss incurred by Proton, which was said to be due to provisions made for MV Agusta loans, Dr Mahathir and Tengku Mahaleel claimed that Proton Edar CEO Datuk Maruan Mohd Said had during a press conference admitted that the discounts given by Proton had affected Proton’s profits.
“Unfortunately no figures were given. But apparently a total of 54,000 cars were sold in three months with rebates and large discounts which included free registration, free insurance, free first instalment payment for three months and free service.
“Roughly the discount per car would be around RM2,000 or more. At RM2,000 on 54,000 cars, Proton would forego RM108 million. The increase in the number sold cannot make up for the amount foregone.”
Describing these figures as a reflection of a failed strategy, Dr Mahathir and Tengku Mahaleel said instead the loss was attributed to provisions for debts of MV Agusta.
“When provisions are made for bad debts, it does not necessarily mean that the debts cannot be recovered. Besides, how is the quantum determined?
“The debts of MV Agusta are frozen in any case and it need not be paid immediately. Has the amount provided been paid so as to reduce MV Agusta’s debt or is it still with Proton when MV Agusta was sold at one Euro?” they asked.
Meanwhile, they also questioned the sale of MV Agusta to Gevi S.p.A as the latter is not a household name in the automotive industry.
“Is it a motorcycle company, confident that it can turn around MV Agusta, something that the sale by Proton implies that Proton has no capacity or ability to turn it around?”
Not having to pay euro 70 million will be an advantage for Gevi, they said.
In mid 2007, it was reported that part of MV Agusta, Husqvarna motorcycle was sold to BMW with a whopping Euro 93 million.
The ECM Libra-Avenue Scandal
Then surfaced the story about his son in law, Khairy Jamaluddin, former Deputy Principal Private Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office took up shares in a boutique investment bank-wannabe, ECM Libra Bhd. Much was said about this scandal and even mentioned in the Parliament. The Public Accounts Committee convened to look into this scandal. Despite PAC convened several times, so many unanswered questions still linger about the scandal.
This is what appeared in MyKMU.net:
Bloggers are part of Government, as I said the other day. We participate to elect the executive branch of Government and representatives. And, we are duty bound to remind them. When the channels to do so are inaccessible, we must ensure our reminder is accessible to them. Along the way, it happens to be available to the public🙂. But, just like them in public office, our opinion is open for scrutiny.
This is exactly what the ECM Libra issue has demonstrated.
PAC and Parliamentarian
The first two PAC sessions on August 10th and October 16th, 2006, cleared Ministry of Finance (MoF) and Securities Commission (SC) officials as having followed procedures and Government seemed to benefit from the deal. Do you expect our MPs to ask questions on Company Law, Corporate Finance and Capital Market to MoF and SC Officials?
The third PAC session hearing on ECM Libra on 26th February, 2007 absolve the Minister of Finance II. I’d bet you would ask, where is MoF I?
Strangely, a hearing, that is supposed to talk of ECM Libra, end up covering a wider range of issues, thus diluting the focus of the enquiry. The 8 BN MPs members innocently or expectedly went along with Dato’ Shahrir. Even the 4 opposition MPs fell for it. They were asking about SJER, Pantai Irama, KTM Kelantan, Synergy Drive, and such. Omigod…
If Jim Hacker in the TV Series, “Yes Prime Minister” belittled his Backbencher MPs, I’d bet he’d belittle both the Malaysian BN Backbenchers and Oppositions. God save Malaysia.
Even that, Tan Sri Nor Mohammed didn’t really answer quite a few questions raised. The Walls with my ears were telling that Shahrir told few PAC members he had a private long talk with Tan Sri Nor Mohammed. That could be Parlimentarian-speak for “hold off he’s innocent”. Should Shahrir alone be entrusted to determine MoF’s innocence?
Pak Lah’s Enron?
The ECM Libra-Avenue “Takeover” is a MAJOR financial scandal. It’s got so deep a ramification that MOST comments thus far exposed only the surface. The indiscretion and wrongful act is multi-layered and is practically at every step of the way. Its Enron in the manner of Collusion and Collaboration to Commit fraud.
The most talked about is the conflict of interest and insider’s trading. The technically savvy could spot the manipulation of goodwill, overvaluation of ECM Libra, market rigging of ECM shares, and undervaluation of Avenue. NTA, PAT, EPS, PER, and all those mumbo jumbo boils down to “ular lidi si-hitam” gobbled “ular sawa gomen”. And, everyone had their comments on Khairy’s sales of his share portion and doubting he lost money.
Dato’ A Kadir Jasin commented that Dato’ Shahrir’s press statement infer that the Cabinet were, either not doing its monitoring work, or a decision to not deem it to work. All one need to do is read his Press Conference on August 10th, 2006 from AgendaDaily below:
Wartawan: Jadi peringkat pegawai sahaja yang meluluskan penggabungan ini?
Shahrir: Nampaknya peringkat pegawai sahaja.
Wartawan: Dari keterangan yang diperolehi hari ini…siapa sebenarnya yang meluluskan penggabungan ini?
Shahrir: Ia diluluskan oleh para pemegang saham..
Wartawan: Tak… Dalam kerajaan …diperingkat mana ?
Shahrir: Itulah kita tak berapa pasti… sebab tu kita nak (dapatkan keterangan)… Proses tu kita tak berapa tahu… Kita tak jelas… Akhirnya kenapa ambil keputusan… Siapa yang bagi OK… Pasal Menteri Kewangan ni ada dua (orang) ada Menteri Kewangan Dua… Ada Menteri Kewangan Satu…
Wartawan: Apakah soal pengabungan ini ada dibawa ke dalam mesyuarat kabinet dulu?
Shahrir: Saya pun tak berapa pasti…..
Still the unanswered question. Who decide? Government Commitee? Government Officer? Minister? Names … we want names!!! The public wants to know.
He said that from Tan Sri Nor’s comment, the Government view the deal as legit because SC approved. Ah-ha, that’s blame language but its telling us to:
Follow the Money!
Tracing the Money Trail to SC
Lets start with the SC.
The role and power of SC is defined under the Securities Commission Act, 1993. They administer the SC Act, Securities Industry Act, 1983, and other related related industry Acts. The Bursa is under their purview. The power of SC is so wide and Part II Section 16 of the Act specifies the SC “shall have all such powers necessary“.
Part II Section 15 Para 1(i) of the Act provide for the function to “suppress illegal, dishonourable and improper practices“. The contravention to provide false and misleading statement in Section 32B Para (1) of the Act covers all “applicant, any of its officers or associates; a financial adviser or an expert; or any other person.”
SC allows for market-determined pricing of securities. However, it is not absolved from ensuring the issues of valuation of securities are fair and equitable and not FRAUDULENT.
In this case, SC’s prior approval was required for the Scheme of the Merger, its valuation, its prospectus, its appointment of Adviser to Minority and the advice given to Shareholders, Waiver for Mandatory General Offer (MGO), etc.
All roads lead to SC.
The Director of Avenue only recommend the deal as “fair” but Adviser K&N Kenanga could recommend deal as “fair and reasonable” to Shareholder. SC approved that recommendation? Isn’t it odd for K&N Kenanga to no more about the company than its Directors?
The Fraudulent Waiver at the EGM
Many have covered various aspect of the deal but few really touched on the Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) of Avenue Capital.
The EGM was the final clincher to approve the “Takeover” (which the ECM Libra shareholders already did, why not?) and to give Waiver to ECM Libra from a Mandatory General Offer (MGO) for busting the 33% limit to 53.2%. A MGO would have been f**king costly because its buying control.
On paper, Avenue Capital originated the Merger. It is strange don’t you think, for someone to initiate a Merger and invite some small kucirat Company to have majority control? And, for cheap?
To avoid ECM shareholders paying through their ass for majority control, they applied for waiver under the Whitewash Procedure in Practice Note 2.9.1 of the Malaysian Code of Takeovers and Mergers. The requirement for exemptions such as approval from Independent Shareholders, appointment of an Independent Adviser, Circular of Independent Advice, and prior consultation with SC were met. Except for the following:
(5)(b) (iii) interested parties have abstained from voting at that meeting;
Para (7) of the Whitewash Procedure defines interested parties. To cut thing short, the SC allowed the interested parties of Government Company and Pantai Holding to vote.
In addition, there was another infringement under this procedure when there are ECM Libra executives present to vote under proxy. You want names? OK its Mr Lim Boon Soon, the ECM Libra CFO.
In the usual practise of Mergers & Takeover, the interested parties and those working in concert cannot vote in the EGM. It’s only the Minority Shareholders. Off course, they plant people to buy and vote for them but it’ll cost!
In this case, aren’t the major shareholders (represented on the Board) interested parties in this Merger? They want to see this deal they originated go through. In fact, they were in discussion with ECM parties. Sure they will deny but who turn up at … on … Is that not working in concert?
Why did the SC allowed them to vote as Independent Parties at the Avenue EGM? The Minority could have had a fighting chance. Even with Aroma Teraju (Government) voting for and Pantai Group “forced” to vote for, the majority was 60-70%, said the shareholders.
Lets Go For The Fish Head
Shareholders were telling me.
On Saturday May 20th, 2006, newly-appointed Securities Commission chief, Datuk Zarinah Anwar got news headline for giving a stern warning to market manipulators. Just two days earlier, this fraudulent EGM was happening. Off course, Iris was mentioned but not ECM Libra.
Who is Datuk Zarinah?
The grapevine is saying Datuk Zarinah Anwar’s sister, Datin Marina is close to the late Datin Seri Endon. Husband, Dato’ Mat Abid is very close with Pak Lah. That’s an indirect family tie. She is cleared under the law. Rumours are saying her husband, Azizan is a business partner to Dato Kalimullah.
So much for conspiracy theory. What relevant credential does she have for the job? Any experience in Banking, Merchant Banking, Stockbroking, Fund Management, or as Regulator? I’m seeking information and not creating doubt.
I am asking this because she presented the case at the first two PAC Session and she was protected from questions. Perhaps, Shahrir had to work for boss, but what the f**k were the MPs doing, both BN and Opposition?
She was not asked why asset value was not considered? Why the manipulation of ECM Quarterly Financial Result announced on March 3rd, 2006 was amended from NTA per share of RM0.50 to Net Asset per share of RM1.34?
Why did she say “Avenue Capital Resources & ECM Libra akan mendapat manafaat” when Avenue shareholders end up buying over inflated ECM Libra and all the major shareholders now sold their shares?
Why did she say “Penasihat Bebas (K&N Kenanga Sdn Bhd) telah dilantik untuk menasihati pemegang minoriti” when all are independent shareholders and the advise was half truth?
Why did she said “Penilaian ke atas nilai ECM Libra dan syer balasan ECM Libra adalah munasabah” when SC was not curious of the market rigged value of ECM Libra?
Why did she said “Penggabungan tersebut adalah tertakluk kepada kelulusan pemegang saham kedua-dua syarikat” when the Avenue EGM was fraudulent?
Over and Under But Its Not Rugby
Why didn’t Dato Kris Azman Abdullah, Director of Issues and Investment Division accompany the Chairman for the presentation? She is newbie then. He could assist to answer the questions. The SC’s credibility is on the line. These days the market is saying there is no more under the table at SC but above the table. Its not the man on the street but those corporate people gossiping at Gourmet Cafes.
Now, Kris, you should be doing something about this. There were awful rumours saying Danaharta sold asset cheaply to friendly parties. Weren’t you at Danaharta (Read his resume here)? Can the experience there be useful to “help” SC?
So it seems there are Police reports made on ECM Libra. Since it is out of the Police area of expertise, it was referred to the SC. What happened to the investigation? Whose table is the file on now?
What happened post Merger? Still not relenting.
After so much attention was given by the Malaysian public on Kalimullah Masheerul Hassan and Khairy Jamaluddin in the ECM Libra-Avenue scandal, they announced in August 2006 that they disposed of a big chunk of their holdings in the mergered financial firm. Later it was revealed that Khairy Jamaluddin and Kalimullah Masheerul Hassan received the support of AirAsia Boss Tony Fernandes in the ECM Libra-Avenue take over and regained their position and role in the company, espcially after receiving the universal broking and boutique investment banking licenses from the authorities. This episode also basically explained how AirAsia benefited so much from the ‘Airline Industry Rationalisation Plan’ and conveniently get preference for immediate landing rights and announcing AirAsiaX is going into the highly lucrative London-Kuala Lumpur-Australia route.
Scandals Involving Family
PM Abdullah was plagued with his scandals, which involved his own family. In third quarter 2006, the ‘Oil for Food’ scandal surfaced where PM Abdullah was recognized by an indenpendent American committee known as the Volcker Report in 2005 of his personal involvements for the lucrative deal, whilst serving as the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia. PM Abdullah issued and signed a letter recommending his sister in law for the UN sponsored deal.
Another important story which started in the blogs and later became so inevitable to PM Abdullah and his family was the episode about the house/s in Perth, Australia.
Of course, Scomi where his son Dato’ Kamaluddin Abdullah is the single largest shareholder, saw significant exponential upwards movement the moment PM Abdullah steps into power.
In August 2004, PM Abdullah went through UMNO first party elections since taking over the Presidenc. UMNO wholesomely endorsed his ascension to office. His son-in-law, now being dubbed as “The most powerful 28 year old in the country”, is ambitious and aspired to climb the ladders of echelon of party’s rank, managed to get himself ascended to the position of Vice Head, UMNO Youth uncontested.
Annil Netto of Asia Times online has the story:
UMNO elections a time for reinvention
By Anil Netto
PENANG, Malaysia – As this country’s largest political party holds its general assembly and party elections in the cavernous convention hall of the Putra World Trade Center, challenges on the social and economic front are making it clear that the dominant United Malays National Organization (UMNO) will have to sacrifice some of its nationalist rhetoric to deal with changing realities.
Gathered delegates will also be wary of the unmentionable political challenge posed by recently freed former party stalwart Anwar Ibrahim, branded a traitor by the party’s youth wing on Wednesday. All such challenges are proving potentially tricky for UMNO to negotiate.
Basking in the limelight after a sweeping general-election victory in March and the feel-good factor following Anwar’s release, UMNO president and Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi presented his maiden speech as head of the party assembly on Thursday morning. He dug in for a confident performance and received a standing ovation.
His speech came a day after the UMNO youth election, in which delegates had jeered and booed each time the name of his son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin, was mentioned. The booing indicated unhappiness at the way Khairy, 28, had won the post of UMNO deputy youth head uncontested, in line with an understanding not to have contests for the top posts in each wing – supposedly to preserve party unity.
The Mahathir factor was also evident at Wednesday’s election. Former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad’s son Mukhriz won the highest number of votes in the youth committee, while another Mahathir loyalist, Rafidah Aziz, retained her position as uncontested head of the women’s wing.
At the party’s general assembly, Abdullah dwelt at length on the need for the majority Malays to come to terms with the challenges of globalization. Expounding on his concept of Islam hadari, or progressive Islam, he urged Muslims to equip themselves with greater knowledge while taking more interest in science and technology.
Muslims in Malaysia were called to integrate worldly development with preparations for the afterlife, as Abdullah promised to step up rural development to stem the rural-to-urban drift, especially among the Malays in kampongs (villages) who are lured by the bright city lights. It was rousing stuff, minus the stern lecturing and scolding of his predecessor, Mahathir.
But whether it hit the nail on the head of what ails Malaysia is debatable. Abdullah’s speech didn’t much probe the quality of the country’s educational institutions, which have a vital role in equipping Malaysians for the challenges of the knowledge economy and globalization.
Malaysia is increasingly feeling the pinch of regional economic competition, especially from China, where wage costs are lower. Nowhere is this felt more than in Penang, Malaysia‘s “Silicon Island” – although recent export figures appear rosy. Malaysia‘s economy has expanded, benefiting from soaring demand for computer chips and other manufactured goods, which account for about 80% of its exports.
Not everyone is euphoric. “Quite frankly, I worry about the future of Penang,” said one government official familiar with the electronics industry. Penang‘s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita used to be above the national level in 1995. By 2000, however, the state’s per capita GDP had fallen below the national average. Penang contributes more than 60% of the country’s electronics exports, a major revenue earner.
“There’s hardly any new FDI [foreign direct investment] coming into Penang,” the official said privately. This is worrying, he said, as the Penang economy, heavily dependent on electronics and tourism, is not as diversified as the national economy.
Penang – and Malaysia in general – is often seen as hub for low-end manual tasks such as assembly and testing, and not as much for high-tech design, development and high-end assembly work.
Analysts say simple assembly-line work will leave Malaysia vulnerable as electronics firms move out at the drop of a hat to countries where the labor cost is lower. Malaysia, they say, has to move upstream and start designing its own electronics products, beginning with chips, and eventually aim at creating clusters of collaborative factories, supplying one another while upgrading fabrication facilities.
But for that to happen, Malaysia needs knowledgeable workers with the right skills, creativity and analytical thinking – and that simply is not happening fast enough. “There is a gap between what the industry requires and what the universities are producing, even in technical courses,” said the government official. Attempts to bridge that gap have not been hugely successful.
There is a growing realization that Malaysia‘s education system is struggling to propel the country up the rungs of the knowledge-economy ladder. Faced with regional competition in the low-end electronics sector, workers in Malaysia are simply not ready to move up the tech ladder.
Not surprisingly, large numbers of graduates remain unemployed. Out of nearly 67,000 unemployed graduates, Malay and other indigenous graduates make up 49,000. More worrying, more than 90% of the unemployed graduates are from public universities. Many of these registered unemployed graduates are deemed to be lacking in communication skills (including English) and are not information-technology-savvy.
“Are we in limbo or what?” Associate Professor Zainal Abidin Kidam, director of corporate planning at Universiti Putra Malaysia, asked in a report published by the pro-establishment New Straits Times. There is not even one local university that really excels in either teaching or research and development, let alone professional consultancy, he said.
The report said one obvious reason for the current mediocrity of Malaysia’s universities is the lack of qualified lecturers: “Malaysia’s best brains are simply not interested in teaching because of poor wages and minimal incentives.”
What the report didn’t say was that many local universities have also suffered a brain drain after many more qualified lecturers, frustrated by a lack of recognition and promotion opportunities due in part to affirmative-action policies, drifted out of the public setup, with some even migrating abroad.
The lack of academic freedom, declining standards, rote-learning methods and the lack of emphasis on thinking and working independently have all stunted the development of creative and critical thinking, so crucial in propelling Malaysia up the knowledge ladder. Couple that with declining standards of English, and it’s not surprising that many graduates remain unmarketable – and unemployed.
Najib Razak, the new UMNO deputy president, noting that Malays are still not on par with non-Malays in all aspects, outlined an eight-point blueprint. Three of his points appeared directly aimed at dealing with the malaise afflicting the labor pool. He urged UMNO members to master knowledge and education, to embrace the culture of meritocracy, and to master foreign languages, notably English.
It’s all a far cry from the heyday of the UMNO nationalist struggle, when Malays looked to UMNO to defend their economic interests and saw no need to learn any other language apart from Malay. Najib, once a fiery – some saw him as chauvinistic – nationalist youth leader, has had to reinvent himself to take into account the changing economic realities facing Malaysia.
Others note the irony of UMNO leaders calling for meritocracy when the top leaders in each major wing – the main body, the youth, the women and the young women – have all been elected uncontested, ostensibly in accordance with the will of the delegates. “Such an innovative system has engendered certain consequences,” wrote political scientist Abang Benet in a commentary. “Chiefly, the UMNO system of democratic contest for [top] party positions, which was once the only system of democratic contest in the country, is now well and truly buried.”
The result is obvious. “In the process, political principles are overlooked, political performance is untested, political ideas are unexamined, political commitment to democratic civil society is unaccounted for, liberal democratic practices are cast to the wind, and intense dissatisfaction at the lack of internal party democracy is either ignored or contained,” wrote Benet.
In the absence of elections for the top two posts (party president Abdullah and deputy party president Najib have reclaimed their posts unopposed) the focus of attention now shifts to the vice presidents’ posts. Much attention will focus on dark-horse Shahrir Samad, who is widely seen as a “Mr Clean” and is one of seven candidates vying for three posts. His success or failure will indicate to what extent UMNO delegates have taken heed of Abdullah’s anti-graft rhetoric and whether they are serious about wiping out “money politics” (a euphemism for vote-buying), widely perceived as deeply rooted in the party.
In August 2006 UMNO Supreme Council Meeting PM Abdullah expressed his worries about the implication of former Prime Minister and UMNO President Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad wishes to represent his Kubang Pasu UMNO Division at the November 2006 UMNO General Assembly, especially after the latter openly criticised his successor’s administration and decisions. Therefore, an instruction was given that Tun Dr. Mahathir should not be allowed to be voted as a delegate representing UMNO Kubang Pasu. On 9 September 2006 in Jitra, Kedah, former UMNO President and Kubang Pasu UMNO Chief for 30 years Tun Dr. Mahathir did not manage to get enough votes to represent UMNO Kubang Pasu at the November 2006 UMNO General Assembly.
UMNO Supreme Council met on 28 September 2006 and the details of the discussion to stop Tun Dr. Mahathir from being voted as UMNO Kubang Pasu delegate were included in minutes of meeting. PM Abdullah instructed the three pages containing the discussion and instructions be expunged from the minutes of the meeting, despite a protest by Dato’ Dr. Rais Yatim.
This scoop is taken from MyKMU.net:
Dikatakan dalam Mesyuarat MKT UMNO 28 Sept 2006, Presiden UMNO telah ‘mengarahkan’ Sekretariat untuk mengeluarkan 3 helai dari Minit Mesyuarat Asal MKT UMNO merakamkan dengan jelas bagaimana MKT UMNO membincangkan dengan terperinci dan mengarahkan YAB Dato’ Seri Mahadzir Md Khalid, Pengerusi Perhubungan UMNO Kedah dan YB Dato’ Johari Baharum, Ketua Bahagian UMNO Kubang Pasu, untuk menghalang dengan apa cara sekalipun usaha mantan Presiden UMNO YABhg Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad untuk menjadi berjaya dipilih sebagai Perwakilan UMNO Kubang Pasu kePerhimpunan Agung Tahunan UMNO 15-17 Nov 2006 diPWTC, Kuala Lumpur pada Pemilihan Perwakilan UMNO Kubang Pasu di Dewan Wawasan, Jitra, 9 Sept 2006.
Ahli MKT UMNO YB Dato’ Seri Utama Dr Rais Yatim telah menegur Presiden UMNO PM YDP Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi kerana ‘arahan’ tersebut adalah menjadi kesalahan moral dan etika, sebagai badan penguasa tertinggi UMNO. Namun begitu, PM YDP Abdullah tetap berdegil agar Minit Mesyuarat itu diubah. Dalam mesyuarat itu juga menyaksikan bagaimana Blogger Zahrin Md Yassin dipecat dari UMNO walaupun Lembaga Disiplin UMNO mendapat dan mencadangkan Zahrin hanya digantung keahlianya.
Sekarang ini apakah kesan tindakan MKT UMNO mengeluarkan dan mengubah Minit Mesyuarat MKY UMNO? Apakah akan berlaku, jika mantan Presiden UMNO, YABhg Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad atau wakilnya (mana mana ahli UMNO) membuat laporan kepada Lembaga Disiplin UMNO akan kesalahan ini, yang sudah tentu menyalahi Perlembagaan UMNO, yang sepatutnya MKT UMNO pertahankan dahulu dari kepentingan politik seorang pemimpin yang begitu insecure?
Sudah tentu tindakan Presiden UMNO ini akan dilihat sebagai membelkangkan kepentingan dan hak ahli, terutama mantan Presiden UMNO Tun Dr Mahathir, sehingga MKT UMNO sanggup membincangkan dan mengarahkan untuk usaha mengahalang beliau, terlaksana sehingga ingin menutup ‘jejak’ dengan sanggup pula mengubah Minit Mesyuarat MKT UMNO!
Persoalnya sekarang, mampukah Lembaga Disiplin UMNO mengheret Presiden UMNO PM YDP Abdullah ke meja tirbunal dan didengari kes ini dengan adil dan saksama, agar keadilan boleh diperolehi? Sanggupkah ahli ahli MKT UMNO bermula dari Timb Presiden UMNO YAB Dato’ Mohamed Najib Tun Razak, Setiausaha Agung UMNO YB Dato’ Radzi Sh Ahmad, ahli ahli MKT UMNO terutama YB Dato’ Seri Utama Dr Rais Yatim dan Setiausaha Kerja UMNO Brig Gen (B) Hussainay Hashim tampil kedepan memberi keterangan dalam tribunal khas itu? Bagaimana pula kedudukan MKT UMNO? Bolehkah seluruh MKT UMNO diheret kerana ‘bersekongkol’ dengan Presiden UMNO PM YDP Abdullah dalam dakwaan yang amat serious ini? Apa akan berlaku jika Presiden UMNO PM YDP Abdullah didapati bersalah? Apa akan berlaku jika keseluruhan MKT UMNO didapati bersalah kerana bersengkongkol?
Ada berpendapat Lembaga Disiplin UMNO boleh menjadi ‘pentadbir’ parti UMNO sementara Perhimpunan Agung Luar Biasa diadakan untuk memilih Presiden UMNO dan/atau MKT UMNO baru.
Yang nyatanya, perkara ini TIDAK PERNAH BERLAKU dalam 60 tahun sejarah UMNO. 5 orang YDP/Presiden UMNO sebelum ini TIDAK PERNAH mengarahkan dan/atau terlibat dalam usaha mengubah Minit Mesyuarat MKT UMNO. Tiada precedent dalam kes sebegini untuk UMNO.
Setelah mantan Presiden UMNO berjaya dihalang dari mewakili UMNO Bhg Kubang Pasu ke Perhimpunan Agung Tahunan UMNO kurang 11 hari dari sekarang, ianya tidak menghalang Tun Dr Mahathir dari terus bersuara lantang mengkritik Kepimpinan Tertinggi UMNO hari ini. Keadaan menjadi lebih intensif lagi sehingga ujud usaha untuk meredakan ‘persengketaan’ kedua dua Pemimpin Utama Negara itu, yang giat dipacu oleh Mubarak. Pertemuan diatur dan Tun Dr Mahathir menysusun 19 isu isu yang dibangkitkan selama ini kepada PM YDP Abdullah.
Selepas Pertemuan diadakan 22 Okt 2006, maka Tun Dr Mahathir masih lagi dilihat sebagai meneruskan kritikan pedas kearah Kepimpinan UMNO sehingga Menteri Menteri Kabinet dan beberapa Pengerusi Perhubungan UMNO memberikan reaksi amat keras kepada Tun Dr Mahathir, akhirnya PM YDP Abdullah juga bergerak kearah itu.
‘Permainan’ seterusnya ialah apabila pada Mesyuarat MKT UMNO 2 Nov 2006, Presiden UMNO mengumumkan bahawa Tun Dr Mahathir akan dibiarkan untuk terus mengkritik dan buat masa ini, MKT UMNO memutuskan TIADA TINDAKAN YANG AKAN DIAMBIL. Ramai yang melihat ini usaha PM YDP Abdullah dan MKT UMNO agar tidak lagi bersifat reaktif kepada kritikan yang dilemparkan. Ini sebenarnya hanya indah khabar dari rupa. Pada hari yang sama MKT UMNO ini, Ketua Pemuda UMNO Petaling Jaya Utara yang merancang untuk membuat sidang media mengecam usul memecat Tun Dr Mahathir oleh Ketua Pemuda Terengganu dan Kedah diberikan tekanan apabila Ketua Pemuda UMNO Selangor dan Naib Ketua Pemuda UMNO sendiri menelefon beliau agar membatalkan sidang media tersebut.
Walaubagaimanapun, sudah timbul ura ura bahawa beberapa Pengerusi Perhubungan UMNO Negeri yang mungkin melibatkan Pulau Pinang, Kedah, Perak, Negeri Sembilan dan Melaka sedang mengatur (secara sulit) Perwakilan Perwakilan yang akan berucap dalam Perhimpunan Agung Tahunan UMNO 14-17 Nov ini diPWTC akan mengusulkan bahawa mantan Presiden UMNO YABhg Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad diambil tindakan, TERMASUK DIPECAT dari UMNO. Apabila ini berlaku, semangat yang akan dijana oleh pelbagai spin sementara PAT 11 hari lagi oleh “spinmaestroes” akan sampai kemuncak dan perasaan akan dimainkan dalam masa PAT itu, oleh Perwakilan Perwakilan terpilih. Maka dengan itu, tindakan akan dimabil keatas Tun Dr Mahathir atas desakan Perwakilan dan ini akan dirakam sebagai kehendak Perwakilan UMNO dan bukan MKT UMNO, termasuk Presiden UMNO atau wakilnya.
Ini muslihat jahat yang amat cilik yang dikatakan sedang diusahakan oleh orang orang tertentu yang hendak sangat melihat Tun Dr Mahathir diam!
Mungkin kesan Mesyuarat MKT UMNO 28 Sept 2006 akan berangkai untuk mengheret UMNO kepada keadaan negatif yang lebih buruk lagi. Persoalanya sekarang, mampukan Perwakilan UMNO mengahalang usaha jahat ini (jika benar dirancang dan akan dilaksanakan) atau mereka akan leka di’main’kan dengan pelbagai spin dan ‘gula gula’ yang akan ditawarkan?
Siapa sebenarnya Iblis, sekarang ini????
Blogger Zahrin Md Yasin, who is Bandar Tun Razak UMNO member, was sacked in the same Supreme Council meeting for criticising PM Abdullah, despite the Disciplinary Board only recommended him being suspended.
PM Abdullah promised to eradicate money politics from UMNO. It was clearly shown when Minister of Federal Territory Tan Sri Mohd. Isa Abdul Samad, who is also UMNO Vice President was handed a suspension conviction in 2005. However, there were no other money politics practictioners were charged, especially involving high profile personalities were convicted through party committees after that. This include PM and UMNO President’s Head of Policy Unit at the Prime Minister’s Office, Ahmad Zaki Zahid, who was Putrajaya UMNO Youth Head got away with a warning for his ‘money politics’ charges. On top of that, the allegations of six UMNO Kubang Pasu branch delegates were given RM 200.00 in the 9 September 2006 UMNO Kubang Pasu AGM not to vote former UMNO President Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad were found baseless and no actions were taken.
Pro UMNO Portal MyKMU.net discussed the injustice for the stern action taken against Zahrin Yasin and yet UMNO Kubang Pasu Chief Dato’ Johari Baharom went scot-free:
Majlis Tertinggi UMNO hari ini (28/09/06) bersetuju sebulat suara untuk memecat Setiausaha UMNO Bahagian Tun Razak, Saudara Zaharin Md Yassin, kerana kesalahanya mengkritik Kepimpinan UMNO dan bersekongkol dengan Pembangkang, dalam menaja dan/atau menjadi sebahagian dari penganjur Majlis Dialog Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad bersama Media Alternatif, Kelab Century, Taman Malawati, Akhir Jun lepas.
Ini adalah sebahagian dari 22 tuduhan yang dikemukakan Lembaga Disiplin UMNO ke atas seorang veteran aktivis Pemuda UMNO dizaman Dato Suhaimi Kamaruddin dan Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim itu.
Difahamkan, Lembaga Disiplin UMNO mencadangkan bahawa keahlian UMNO Zaharin digantung. Selepas meniliti keputusan Mesyuarat Pengurusan UMNO, Majlis Tertinggi UMNO mengambil keputusan memecat keahlian UMNO beliau. Juga difahamkan Zaharin HANYA layak untuk membuat rayuan selepas tiga tahun. Menurut PM YDP Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Presiden UMNO yang mempengerusikan mesyuarat Majlis Tertinggi UMNO petang tadi, tindakan ini diambil kerana tuduhan keatas kes Zaharin ini AMAT SERIOUS dan PERLU TINDAKAN KERAS.
Ini berikutan amaran Kepimpinan Tertinggi UMNO bahawa laman web dan blog yang sering mengkritik Kepimpinan PM YDP Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Kerajaan dan Kepimpinan UMNO akan diambil tindakan, sebulan dahulu.
Yang menghairankan, Majlis Tertinggi UMNO hari ini mengambil tindakan keras keatas seorang ahli UMNO yang membuat laman blog sendiri untuk menyuarakan pendapat, secara ulasan pengarang. Kejadian lain dimana seorang Ketua Bahagian UMNO, YB Dato’ Johari Baharum, MP Kubang Pasu merangkap Timb Menteri Keselamatan Dalam Negeri, berkempen negatif dan secara terang terang, mengesa Perwakilan Cawangan UMNO Kubang Pasu agar JANGAN UNDI keatas mantan Presiden UMNO, YABhg Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Jumaat 8 Sept 2006 1030 malam diKelab Golf Darulaman, Jitra, Kedah. Kesalahan ini dibuat bersama sama YBhg Tan Sri Osman Arof, ahli Lembaga Disiplin UMNO dan mantan Menteri Besar Kedah dan Timb Ketua Bahagian Kubang Pasu dan YBhg Dato Saad Man, mantan Naib ketua Bhg UMNO Kubang Pasu yang dikini diGANTUNG keahlian kerana kesalahan salahlaku politikwang, jelas menunjukan bahawa pemimpin pemimpin ini melakukan usaha yang AMAT TIDAK BERETIKA.
NAMUN begitu, pemimpin yang menyalahi etika dan moral kemanusiaan dibiarkan TANPA TINDAKAN, TETAPI pemimpin kecil yang mengkritik, di HUKUM SEBERAT BERATnya! Inilah nilai “Jangan berkerja untuk saya, tetapi bekerjalah bersama saya” dan “Islam Hadhari” yang Kepimpinan Presiden UMNO cuba terapkan keatas seorang veteran Pemuda UMNO yang dikatakan menganjur Majlis Dialog dengan mantan Presiden UMNO, yang sering dihalang untuk bercakap didalam paltform UMNO kepada ahli akar umbi UMNO sendiri!
Apakah budaya baru yang PM YDP Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Presiden UMNO dan Kepimpinan Majlis Kerja Tertinggi UMNO cuba tunjuk dan terapkan, secara tersurat dan tersirat dengan KEPUTUSAN KERAS MEMECAT KEAHLIAN UMNO Zaharin Md Yassin ini????
PM Abdullah introduced the concept of ‘Islam Hadhari’ to the Malaysian Muslims. So much have been said. However the penetration and wholesome understanding, let alone implementation is low. As the Prime Minister, Dato’ Seri Abdullah assumed the role of the lead introducer and propagator of the progressive and wholesome lifestyle of Islam Hadhari, to make Malaysian Muslims closer to God and contribute more for the betterment of mankind and fellow citizens.
However, this photo which appeared in the Moonsoon Cup official website in December 2006, where the widowered Malaysian Muslim Prime Minister cordially and social carress the bare shoulders of another woman (who was engaged to the celebrity Ferrari Boss), in public, was really counter productive to his own spiritual agenda.
In 2006 also saw the revamp and restructuring of Malaysia Airlines and the ‘Airline Industry Rationalisation Plan’, which saw the rapid expansion of AirAsia’s domestic operations, at the expense of the needs and wants of the Malaysian consumers and Malaysia Airlines control and history of domestic air travel, since 1972.
In November 2006 also saw the incorporation of two significant and highly ambitious landmark in the history of Malaysian economy; the launch and creation the South Johor super corridor of Iskandar Development Region (IDR) and the merger three major plantation based conglomerate, namely Sime Darby Bhd., Kumpulan Guthrie Bhd. and Golden Hope Plantations Bhd., into the largest palm oil plantation company in the world.
The Edge Biznews has the story:
01-12-2006: Synergy Drive merger impact on GHope
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The recently proposed merger of three Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB) controlled plantation companies under Synergy Drive Sdn Bhd heralds the largest Malaysian corporate merger and the creation of the world’s largest plantation company. What is in it for Golden Hope Plantations Bhd’s (GHope) shareholders?
The restructuring exercise
On Nov 27, Synergy Drive, a special purpose vehicle set up by the CIMB Group to facilitate the exercise, unveiled a proposed merger involving Sime Darby Bhd, GHope and Kumpulan Guthrie Bhd (Guthrie) and their subsidiaries, which will be housed under Synergy Drive.
Synergy Drive will acquire all assets and liabilities of eight listed companies, based on their pre-suspension share prices plus a 5% premium. They are Sime Darby (offer price: RM6.46), Sime Engineering Services Bhd (RM1.57), Sime UEP Properties Bhd (RM3.95), Guthrie (RM4.27), Guthrie Ropel Bhd (RM4.46), Highlands & Lowlands Bhd (RM5.09), GHope (RM5.46) and Mentakab Rubber company (Malaya) Bhd (RM1.96). The exercise will also trigger a general offer for Negara Properties (M) Bhd at RM2.29.
As purchase consideration, Synergy Drive will issue redeemable convertible preference shares (RCPS), convertible into ordinary Synergy Drive shares or redeemable for cash. Each RCPS (and effectively each ordinary share) is priced at RM5.25.
There is a deadline of Dec 27, 2006 for the various companies’ boards of directors to accept Synergy Drive’s offer. The offer is conditional upon all the other offers being accepted, and acceptance from PNB. If successful, the exercise will be completed in the fourth quarter of 2007 (4Q07).
What’s in Synergy Drive?
Post-merger, Synergy Drive will be the world’s largest listed plantation company. It will have a landbank of over 600,000ha in Malaysia and Indonesia, 5%-6% share of global palm oil output, annual revenues of over RM26 billion and estimated combined net profit of RM1.4 billion.
It will be the fifth largest listed company with a market capitalisation of RM31.4 billion, based on the reference price of RM5.25 with 5.98 billion shares issued.
Assuming all shareholders accept the share offer, PNB and state funds will emerge as the biggest shareholders with a stake of over 45%, followed by the Employees Provident Fund with about 10%.
Synergy Drive will have six main divisions — energy and utilities, property, plantations, automotive, heavy equipment and non-core activities. It is not a pure plantation play, but a large conglomerate with 40% of assets in plantations. We do not discount another restructuring later to streamline its other assets.
There is substantial room for profit improvements as production costs here are high relative to private sector peers like IOI Corporation Bhd and Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd. CIMB has estimated that a 1% drop in the merged entity’s cost would raise pre-tax profit by 10%. With over 107,000 staff, separation schemes appear inevitable, particularly for administrative and head office staff.
The positive macro picture aside, there are also some risks to consider. One is whether the companies and PNB will agree to the exercise. Given the strong political will, chances are it will succeed. The others are execution risks — particularly for a merger of this size, and whether substantial merger benefits can be derived, and how long that will take.
There is room for production costs to be lowered — for example through bulk purchasing of fertilisers, consolidation of administrative functions and higher utilisation of mills.
However, plantation estates generally offer few merger benefits unless they are located close to each other and can share infrastructure, harvesting, milling and transportation facilities.
Impact on GHope
Investors looking to buy into Synergy Drive will have to buy any of the eight listed companies and undergo the restructuring exercise. There are no arbitrage opportunities as the take-over offers are all based on market prices, not net tangible assets (NTA). We expect the stocks of these companies to trade around their respective take-over offer prices.
Synergy Drive’s offer price is RM5.46 per GHope share, priced at a 5% premium to its pre-suspension price of RM5.20. If the take-over offer goes through, minority shareholders will be offered 1.04 RCPS priced at RM5.25 per share. They can then exchange them for 1.04 Synergy Drive shares, or RM5.25 in cash. Or they can sell their shares in the open market.
What should GHope shareholders do?
Some of the factors one needs to consider are:
• Business focus. Investors who bought GHope for its pure plantation exposure (particularly after the streamlining exercise with Island & Peninsular Bhd) are likely to be disappointed. The new entity is a diversified conglomerate with plantations likely to account for 40% of assets and around 50% or so of earnings. One is effectively buying a larger version of Sime Darby.
Given the current rally in palm oil prices, earnings growth prospects for pure plantation plays are better than diversified conglomerates. But with GHope and Guthrie having low levels of foreign ownership, we do not expect an exit of investors for this reason. Rather, there should be an influx of new investors looking for exposure to a large conglomerate with stronger plantation earnings, higher indexation and stock liquidity.
Over the longer run, Synergy Drive will offer investors a more diversified earnings base and is more buffered against cyclical commodity swings. Apart from likely merger cost savings and efficiency gains, there is also the potential for value creation should the group divest its non-plantation business at a later stage.
For a large diversified conglomerate with potential for longer-term efficiency gains, Synergy Drive’s shares are not too expensive, and are in line with the broader market’s valuations. At RM5.25, the estimated forward price-earnings ratio (P/E) is around 15-16 times, according to most consensus estimates. Its trailing pro-forma P/E is estimated at around 22 times.
• Dividends. GHope has traditionally been one of the market’s highest dividend yielding stocks. We had expected gross dividends of 25 sen and 27 sen for financial year June 2007-08 (FY07-08), respectively, with gross yields of 4.8%-5%. This will now be capped by the exercise.
It is unclear what Synergy Drive’s dividend policy is, but shareholders may have to settle for lower yields as the merged group will need to absorb Guthrie’s large debts of over RM2 billion. Guthrie has a gearing ratio of 46%, compared with well under 10% for GHope and Sime Darby.
• Timing risks. With the exercise likely to be completed in 4Q07, there is timing risks involved. Shareholders are compensated for the time value of money by a proposed 5% dividend from the RCPS. Those opting to exchange their shares for the RCPS will be holding on to a non-listed instrument, as Synergy Drive’s shares will be listed only when the exercise is completed. Between that time, there are risks that could change the valuation of Synergy Drive — such as palm oil prices, operating conditions of Sime Darby’s other businesses or general market and economic conditions.
GHope’ shares have fared well as investors re-rated the plantation sector upwards. The Synergy Drive exercise is likely to cap Golden Hope’s share price at around the takeover price of RM5.46 for the time being.
In effect, GHope’s own valuations — and those of the other seven listed companies — are not likely to matter anymore, as its valuations will be driven by expectations of Synergy Drive’s outlook and how much its shares are expected to be worth when it lists next year.
Given this scenario, we are downgrading our recommendation for GHope from “BUY” to “HOLD”. We think investors should hang on to their shares and undergo the merger
Malaysian Foreign Policy Shift
Malaysia’s foreign policy showed significant shift at the ASEAN Head of Government Summit, Kuala Lumpur, November 2005 when as the host nation, Kuala Lumpur lead the pressure for Myanmar’s ‘democratization’ process. This is against the principle of ‘non-inteference on domestic affairs’ upheld by ASEAN members and Malaysia was a founding member for the grouping.
This move is very much in ‘flavour’ with the West, especially United States and United Kingdom, which have been pushing for Myanmar’s ’democratization’ so that a pro-West leader can be elected and open their resource rich closed economy for US and British firms to explore and exploit. It will be another ‘re-colonization via economy’.
Strangely, Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was a Foreign Minister for eight years during the premiership of Dato’ Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and the latter was known for a staunch anti-West ‘re-colonization’ and protector of the ASEAN principles.
Singapore is the other pro-Myanmar ‘democratization’ promoter and very well known as a US ally in the region.
It was also popularly believed that the issues about BSA Tahir and Scomi was a major item discussed when PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi hastily met with President George W. Bush at the Malaysian Embassy in New York, September 2006, just after relinquishing the Chairmanship of the Non Aligned Movement in Havana, Cuba. Moreover, after the CEO and several senior executives of Mitutoyo Corp. were arrested by Tokyo Police on 26 August 2006, as reported here, here and here, for the sale of precision equipment to Scomi Precision Engineering (SCOPE) Sdn. Bhd. in connection of the centrifuge manufacturing and export.
Read also Iaionnis Gatsiounis’s story on the shifting of foreign policy.
PM Abdullah also chose to have a very close and cordial relationship with the Singaporeans, something his predecessor kept at bay during his 22 1/3 year administration. It was said that PM Abdullah is very impressed with the Singaporeans, that they were consulted and given much concession such as the sale of Telekom Malaysia shares to SingTel, Temasek Holdings were allowed to take over and managed Alliance Bank Bhd. and the Singaporean officials are part of the IDR working task force, set up in May 2007, after the two Prime Ministers met in Langkawi.
Utusan Malaysiahas the story, dated 16 Mei 2007:
Malaysia-Singapura tubuh jawatankuasa khas WPI
Oleh Marhaini Kamaruddin dan Muhd. Nizam Abd. Hamid
LANGKAWI 15 Mei – Malaysia dan Singapura bersetuju menubuhkan sebuah jawatankuasa khas peringkat menteri khusus untuk Wilayah Pembangunan Iskandar (WPI) di Johor yang antara tugas awalnya adalah memperincikan penggunaan kad pintar bagi memudahkan pergerakan keluar masuk orang ramai dari republik itu ke wilayah berkenaan.
Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi berkata, jawatankuasa tersebut akan dianggotai oleh menteri tertentu dari kedua-dua negara mengikut isu atau bidang kerjasama yang hendak dibincangkan dan dilaksanakan.
“Menteri terlibat akan memperincikan keputusan-keputusan yang dibuat semasa perbincangan dua hala. Misalnya, dalam isu kad pintar ia perlu meliputi pelbagai aspek termasuk siapa yang akan menggunakannya dan bagaimana memastikan ia tidak mudah diklon.
“Apa yang penting, kita mahu kad pintar itu mudah digunakan dan dapat mempercepatkan urusan keluar masuk bagi kedua-dua negara,” katanya pada sidang akhbar di sini selepas mengucapkan selamat jalan kepada rakan sejawatnya, Lee Hsien Loong yang berlepas pulang petang ini.
Perdana Menteri Singapura itu berada di pulau legenda ini sejak semalam untuk pertemuan tidak rasmi selama dua hari yang dimulai pagi ini dengan sarapan pagi empat mata, mesyuarat delegasi, sidang akhbar bersama, jamuan tengah hari di atas kapal Star Cruises di Terminal Star Cruise Awana Porto Malai dan diakhiri dengan acara menikmati durian yang dibawa khas dari Balik Pulau, Pulau Pinang. Abdullah mengulangi bahawa langkah mempermudahkan pergerakan keluar masuk dari Singapura itu merupakan satu daripada insentif kepada pelabur dan pelawat ke WPI yang bertujuan melancarkan urusan imigresen.
Beliau turut menjelaskan bahawa kemudahan itu bukan bermakna pengunjung asing bebas keluar masuk WPI tanpa pasport seperti yang dilaporkan sebelum ini, sebaliknya urusan mereka dipermudahkan dengan penggunaan kad pintar tersebut.
Selain itu, Perdana Menteri memberitahu, antara bidang lain yang akan diberi tumpuan oleh jawatankuasa khas berkenaan ialah kerjasama pelancongan seperti memasukkan kunjungan ke taman tema yang akan dibuka di WPI dalam pakej pelancong asing yang melawat Singapura dan mempercepatkan urusan di Kompleks Kastam, Imigresen dan Kuarantin (CIQ).
Terdahulu dalam sidang akhbar bersama dengan Hsien Loong, Abdullah berkata, Malaysia menyambut baik minat yang ditunjukkan oleh Singapura untuk memainkan peranan aktif dalam pembangunan WPI.
Perdana Menteri memberitahu, Singapura turut menawarkan bantuan dalam projek alam sekitar seperti kerja-kerja pembersihan sungai di kawasan selatan Johor.
Abdullah turut mengambil kesempatan daripada pertemuan itu untuk memaklumkan kepada Hsien Loong tentang projek-projek ekonomi yang akan dilaksanakan di negara ini seperti Koridor Utara dan Timur serta WPI bagi melihat potensi kerjasama antara kedua-dua negara.
“Kita mahu melihat WPI berjaya dan pembangunannya berjalan lancar agar setanding dengan Hong Kong dan Shenzen di China,” katanya sambil berharap peluang itu akan diambil oleh pelabur dari seluruh negara termasuk Singapura.
Mengenai isu-isu tertangguh antara kedua-dua negara, Abdullah bersetuju dengan Hsien Loong bahawa ia merupakan isu lama yang sukar untuk diselesaikan.
Justeru, beliau berkata, Malaysia dan Singapura tidak mahu menjadikan isu-isu tersebut sebagai penghalang dalam menjalin kerjasama dalam bidang lain yang cukup penting untuk dilaksanakan oleh kedua-dua negara.
Menurutnya, perbincangan antara pemimpin kedua-dua negara akan diteruskan malah Hsien Loong juga telah mempelawa beliau datang ke Singapura bersama beberapa menteri kabinet bagi melihat kerjasama yang boleh dilakukan dan mengeratkan lagi hubungan dua hala.
Dalam perkembangan lain, beliau berkata, kedua-dua negara menyatakan komitmen terhadap pembentukan Piagam ASEAN yang dijangka dimuktamadkan pada Sidang Kemuncak ASEAN di Singapura Julai ini.
On 18 December 2006, former Executive Editor of the Malay Mail turned celebrity blogger Ahirudin “Rocky” Attan, brought the Malaysian internet savvy attention of a RM 30 million gullet being built in Turkey for the Prime Minister Abdullah:
Monday, December 18, 2006
The Cobra Queen (right)
The Cobra King (left)
Pak Lah’s Cobra Sultan will be ready in a year, probably just before the general elections. Will there be a Cobra Sultanah after that?
[pls leave comments in earlier posting The PM’s RM30 million yacht here]
In January 2007, the Malaysian internet savvy attention was focused on the expose’ about a RM 200 million A319CJ VIP Jet was being delivered by Airbus and being fitted out with all the luxury fittings and trimmings in Switzerland, for the exclusive use of the Prime Minister.
The scoop is taken from MyKMU.net:
PM Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi telah membeli sebuah pesawat VIP ACJ 319 keluaran Airbus, bernilai antara USD 55-60 juta. Pesawat yang dibina dikilang pemasangan Airbus diToulouse, Perancis kini difahamkan berada diSwitzerland, kerana ubahsuai dalaman dan proses perlengkapan perkakas bersesuaian dengan pesawat yang menjamin keselesaan dan kemewahan penerbangan VIP.
Pesawat ini adalah model asas dari A320, tetapi mendapat modifikasi dan mampu terbang sejauh melebihi 6000 batu nautika atau 11000 km (jarak antara Kuala Lumpur dan London tanpa berhenti mengisi minyak). Keluasan 800 kaki persegi ruang dan jika sebagai pesawat kommersial, mampu membawa 140 penumpang. Ianya satu kelas dengan pesawat VIP Jet Boeing BBJ, yang sedia ujud dalam perkhidmatan TUDM. Pesawat ini mampu membawa antara 10-50 penumpang (bergantung kepada susunan tempat duduk) terbang sehingga 41000 kaki dengan segala keselesaan dan kemewahan perjalanan udara moden.
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Antara pemasangan yang dibuat pada waktu ini ialah ruang duduk, ruang santai, meja makan, kamar peribadi, bilik air dan kemudahan mandi dan mungkin pejabat. Ini termasuk alatan kommunikasi seperti SATNAV, telefon, fax, pemain DVD, TV satelit dan kemampuan mengunakan internet. Alatan lain seperti dapur lengkap termasuk ketuhar mikrowave, pembasuh pinggan dan peti sejuk juga biasanya dipasang sebagai memenuhi keperluan penumpang VIP.
Difahamkan VIP Jet ini akan diletak dibawah kelolaan Squadron No.2 “Bayan” TUDM (yang berpengkalan diTUDM Subang) dan pemilik sebenar pesawat ini ialah Penerbangan Malaysia Berhad (PMB). Buat masa ini TUDM mengendalikan pesawat Boeing BBJ, Bombardier Global Express, Falconjet 900B dan F28 untuk kegunaan VIP.
Samada pembelian ini menepati keperluan Negara, itu menjadi tandatanya kerana TUDM sedang mengendalikan beberapa pesawat VIP yang canggih canggih dan sudah cukup menepati keperluan Pemimpin Negara. Sebagai contoh, BBJ itu dibeli dari Malaysia Airlines dan pertama kali digunakan semasa DYMM SPB Yang DiPertuan Agung Almarhum Tuanku Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah menghadiri sukan Olimpik diSydney, Australia tahun 2000. PM YDP Abdullah mengunakan pesawat BBJ sediada ini apabila pertama kembali ke Kepala Batas setelah dilantik menjadi Perdana Menteri Malaysia pada 1 Nov 2003.
Secara kebetulan (?), pesawat ini dipilih sebagai pesawat VIP Kerajaan Malaysia terbaru tatkala flavour masakini syarikat tambang murah AirAsia juga menempah 150 buah pesawat A320 yang sama, berbanding trend penggunaan BBJ yang lebih popular dikalangan penguna penerbangan VIP global.
Sebenarnya penulis merasakan wang ini sepatutkan dibelanjakan untuk membeli pesawat lain, yang lebih bermenafaat untuk Negara. Pada masa ini, TUDM memerlukan pesawat pesawat Airborne Early Warning/Command (AEW/C) dan Martime Patrol Aircraft/Anti Submarine Warfare (MPA/ASW) bagi melengkapkan pertahanan Negara, iaitu sebuah negara maritim yang mempunyai keluasan air antara Semenanjung, Sabah dan Sarawak yang amat luas dan kawasan zon ekonomi eksklusif (ZEE) yang amat perlu diawasi, tanpa menimbang keperluan pengawasan trafik laluan laut antara terpenting didunia.
Persoalan sekarang, apakah Kerajaan Malaysia lebih minat memperlengkapkan TUDM dengan pesawat pesawat mewah untuk kegunaan segelintir berbanding pertahanan dan kepentingan Negara???? Sebagai contoh, pesawat helikopter S 61N Nuri yang digunakan semenjak 1968, menjadi tulang belakang operasi TUDM dan Tentera Darat dan baru baru ini bencana banjir diJohor, kini amat uzur keadaan dan amat diperlukan diganti terlebih dahulu, berbanding pesawat VIP.
Apakah ini corak kepimpinan wajar dan bijaksana PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi selaku pelopor Islam Hadhari?
The aircraft was originally registered as a German but later re-registered with a Malaysian pennant number and being placed under a private company for its operation and maintenance.
All the while, PM Abdullah has been associated with the ‘Agenda Melayu’ by so many intellectual Malays from the 70s era, especially after second Prime Minister Tun Razak made him the Director of Youth and later the pioneer of Biro Tatanegara Negara, which diligently brought the message of ‘Perjuangan’ amongst the Malay youths.
The Malays, who had been the primary supporter of UMNO power base through BN were particularly uneasy and uncomfortable with these 24 items that involved the Prime Minister and UMNO President, the de facto leader of the Malays. Despite the strong thunderous mandate the Malays given him in the March 2004 General Elections, based on the confidence the Malays had on him, with the factor that he was a son of a highly respectable Islam cleric in North Penang, slowly it has started to diminished, even in the Malay hinterland.
Taken from the article “Era Baru Persahabtan Dr. Mahathir-Ku Li“:
Secara kebetulan, kebelakangan ini terlalu banyak isu isu sering dirungutkan akar umbi umat Melayu, dimana banyak keputusan Kerajaan Persekutuan dan Kepimpinan UMNO tidak memihak dan memberikan kepentingan kepada Bangsa Melayu. Keputusan keputusan Kerajaan dan UMNO dewasa ini seperti:
1. Lambakan AP sehingga menjejaskan Proton (satu agensi membangunkan kepakaran teknologi anak Melayu)
2. Hubungan dengan Singapura apabila dasar ‘berbaik baik’ sebagai strategi menanangi apa apa permasalahan dengan Republik itu
3. Cara menangani kes “Ketuk ketampi dalam lokap polis” dan membiarkan perjalanan episode ini hingga timbul gesaan pihak seperti DAP mengujudkan IPCMC untuk memantau pihak polis
4. Kenaikan harga petrol dan diesel secara mendadak
5. Memorandum 8 Menteri Bukan Melayu kepada Perdana Menteri atas itu perhubungan antara ugama dan “Artikel 11”
6. Syarikat GLC Avenue capital diambil alih dalam keadaan “mencurigakan” oleh syarikat kewangan yang jauh lebih kecil dan bukan sahaja dikuasai Bukan Melayu, tetapi keluarga Perdana Menteri mempunyai kepentingan
7. Membatalkan projek Jambatan Indah mengantikan Tambak Johor kerana menjaga perasaan Singapura dan membelakangkan kepentingan strategik Malaysia. Kemudian Perdana Menteri memberi alasan bahawa “rakyat Johor tidak mahu projek tersebut”
8. Penjualan sebahagian saham dalam GLC seperti Telekom kepada Singapura dan terbaru, pengumuman Khazanah bahawa kepentingan Kerajaan dalam GLC akan dikurangkan, berperingkat
9. Perlantikan personaliti Bukan Melayu sebagai CEO kedalam syarikat GLC seperti MAS dimana begitu banyak kedudukan strategik yang selama ini dipegang anak Melayu digantikan dengan Bukan Melayu dan MAS sebagai national carrier dibiarkan dipinggir untuk membenarkan syarikat swasta (dibawah penguasaan Bukan Melayu) berkembang pesat dan maju
10. Perdana Menteri berbohong dalam temuramah khas oleh stesyen TV kerana menegaskan keluarganya tidak mendapat dan dimanafaatkan sebagai kontrak dan peluang perniagaan oleh Kerajaan atau mana mana agensi
11. Presiden UMNO mengarahkan mantan Presiden UMNO yang ingin bertanding sebagai Perwakilan Bahagian dihalang dan minit mesyuarat MT UMNO yang merakamkan arahan dan perbincangan arahan itu disiat sebelum minit itu disahkan
12. Setelah lebih enam bulan laporan dibuat dan kenyataan diambil berkenaan salahlaku politikwang keatas Ketua Bahagian UMNO dalam menghalang mantan Presiden UMNO bertanding sebagai Perwakilan Bahagian, tiada apa apa keputusan diambil termasuk Lembaga Disiplin UMNO. Salah seorang yang berceramah diKelab Darul Aman malam sebelum mesyuarat ialah Tan Sri Osman Arof, ahli Lembaga Disiplin UMNO
13. Pengumuman anak syarikat CIMB, Synergy Drive Sdn. Bhd. tentang pengabungan dan pengambil-alihan syarikat perladangan tersenarai bawah skima ASB/ASN-PNB iaitu Sime Darby Bhd., Guthrie Bhd. dan Golden Hope Bhd.
14. Pembatalan skima bantuan buku sekolah kepada pelajar yang rata ratanya terdiri dari anak Melayu yang bergantung subsidi ini
15. Kerisauan terhadap rundingan FTA dengan Amerika Syarikat
16. Isu berkenaan kes pembunuhan wanita Mongolia, dikaitkan perhubungan itu dengan Timbalan Presiden UMNO
17. Kenaikan bayaran tol dengan mendadak
18. Dalam keadaan bencana besar melanda dan begitu ramai terjejas, Perdana Menteri memilih untuk menyambung percutian keluar Negara
19. Perhatian rakyat keatas pembelian kapalterbang mewah oleh PMB, untuk kepentingan Perdana Menteri dan penjelasan apabila ditanya
20. Kepentingan orang orang Melayu dalam Wilayah Pembangunan Iskandar dibiarkan terabai apabila DEB dikawasan itu ditarik dan tidak diguna-pakai
dan paling tidak dilupakan sekali episod melibatkan Media Prima:
21. Isu media yang dibenarkan bawah kawalan Kalimullah dan Media Prima, yang telah menunjukan bagaimana kepentingan orang orang Melayu terabai, termasuk bagaimana isu karikatur menghina Rasulullah S.A.W. ditangani
22. Cadangan mengabungkan NST dan Utusan Malaysia; ikutan bagaimana Singapura konsolidasi semua media bawah Singapore Press
23. Semua media elektronik dikonsolidasi dibawah Media Prima dan pelabur Yahudi Amerika Syarikat L.P. Harris & Associate membeli blok pegangan saham Media Prima sebagai 22.6%, satu jumlah yang cukup substantial
24. Episod dimana Kalimullah sebagai Pengarang Eksekutif NST sengaja dibiarkan berbohong apabila menyiarkan ruangan pengarang mingguanya mengatakan Tun Dr. Mahathir beriya iya ingin bertemu PM Abdullah semasa mereka diTokyo, tetapi sebenarnya ia sebaliknya, Jun 2006
dipersetujui dan mendapat keperihatinan dan perhatian kedua dua pemimpin termuka Bangsa Melayu ini. Oleh demikian, mereka berdua sepakat tentang isu isu yang sering diperkatakan oleh orang ramai dimana mana sudut.
The Conspiracy To Stop Tun Dr. Mahathir
The much talked about former UMNO President Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s intention to be voted as a delegate in the November 2006 UMNO General Assembly, representing his former constituency of Kubang Pasu, was systematically denied, through a ‘democratic’ process, gave a blow to the statesman’s face and degrade UMNO. Many delegates in the Kubang Pasu UMNO Division AGM on 9 September 2006 in Jitra were paid a mere RM 200.00 to deny Tun Dr. Mahathir that seat.
MyKMU.net has the analysis of this humiliating defeat:
The way I see it – UMNO and Malays are like spouses with domestic problems: You can’t love him without hating him and you can’t live with him nor can you live without him.
No matter how sick we are with the politicians, we still love UMNO and we want UMNO to survive in order for us, Malays, to survive.
Kubang Pasu result was no surprise to me. I have always doubted the ability of most of UMNO members (I mean those with positions – no matter how small the posts are) to decide or act according to what is right when they are being distracted by power or money. However, there was one thing that surprised me though, that is the number of those who did what was right was actually quite impressive (227 voted for Tun M). The number woke me up a little and gives me a newly-charged hope on UMNO and the Malays.
Frankly, I expected that at least three quarter of the voters would be easily bought by anybody for an even lesser price than RM200.00. That is how low most of these people are, at least from my point of view. Forgive me people, I mean the 227 voters, I salute all of you for being man enough, patriotic enough and Islamic enough to stand for what is right. Not many, including and especially those in higher posts, possess these qualities.
Because of my prejudice mind (I admit) towards these people, I was not so disappointed when the result was announced. For me, whatever the result would be, Tun M has already won 3-0 when: 1. Khairy had to sell his shares in ECM Libra almost as sudden as the announcement of the increase of price of petrol, and 2. when Khazanah had to buy back Pantai and also 3. when Pak Lah and Utusan Malaysia played the ‘Apologizing Game’ about Scomi’s business matters. And whoever is in the wrong here, the reply is “No, we don’t accept your apology”.
Tun M’s strategy to fight for G7 should be clear to Pak Lah by now. Tun M was merely trying to test Pak Lah’s own words about transparency and at the same time, he wanted to see how far Pak Lah would go in order to stop him from exposing the misdeeds of the government. And Tun M had actually won this round also (4-0) when 4. Pak Lah and the gang had proved to us that Tun M is right all along about the bullshit-transparency Pak Lah is promoting when all sorts of direct, indirect and dirty attempts were and being made in order to stop Tun M from talking to the outside or inside UMNO whether using proper or ‘improper’ channels. Pak Lah had lost in terms of increasing curiosity and suspicion over his action and now, even the people who are not in the know of anything are already questioning: ‘WHAT IS IT THAT TUN M IS DYING TO SAY THAT PAK LAH IS DYING NOT TO LET US HEAR?’
My dear leaders, we are not as idiotic as you all are. You can deny and you can apologize but “we will never forgive and will never ever forget”. Our generations to come will surely be told and reminded again and again about how and who are the persons responsible that led Malaysia down the drain.
Moral of the story: There are two things in life that you can’t afford to make mistake:
1. Choosing a leader,
2. Choosing a life partner.
These are mistakes that you can’t simply undo and expect everything to turn back to normal again. There will be prices to pay and consequences to bear – and perhaps, all your life.
Too much happened during these last four years. Many tend to believe that PM Abdullah was ‘grossly information-insulated’ and was kept oblivion of most of the significant issues that many within the Malaysian public rampantly talked about. The ‘roller-coaster’ ride that he made Malaysians go through these last four years has reached the brim of the pot.
Attempts To Correct Situation
Former Prime Minister and predecessor Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad also reached the limit to stommach all these. Two days before Hari Raya Aidil Fitri last year, PM Abdullah and Tun Dr. Mahathir met in a four-eyed-meeting at the Seri Perdana Complex in Putrajaya where the former Prime Minister highlighted 19 points to his successor, which was felt detrimental to the country, administration and party.
Its been a year now and it seemed nothing really progressed from the much hoped and anticipated meeting. The Malaysian public was neither explained on the 19 points raised by Tun Dr. Mahathir, which is very much concerned by the Malaysian public as well.
The Malaysian public expectations were bullish when PM Abdullah with his “Mr Clean”, son-of-an-Ulama’ and grandson-of-a-sufi image stepped up to replace Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, someone who was plagued by all sort of negative connotations such as “draconian”, “dictatorial” and “cronyism”. These feelings and expectations were very much translated in articles such is this, which was published by BBC.com on 7 February 2004 :
Malaysia PM’s ‘100 days’ test
By Jonathan Kent
Sunday marks 100 days since Malaysia’s Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi took office.
The new leader has a reputation for being a “clean pair of hands” and a man who cares about ordinary folk.
Abdullah was appointed, not elected, and needs to win convincingly
When Mr Abdullah – whom Malaysians affectionately call Pak Lah – took office last October, his late mother was just about the first person whom he went to see.
Kailan Hassan, who died last week, reminded the new leader: “Don’t forget the people at the bottom.”
Mr Abdullah seems to have taken her words to heart.
He has already started to distance himself from some of the excesses of his predecessor Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Expect no repeats of mega projects with which the spendthrift Dr Mahathir littered Malaysia – the formula one circuit, the outsized international airport in the middle of nowhere, the world’s tallest buildings, the empty stadia, the disused film village, the ostentatious new city of government in Putrajaya, and the multimedia super corridor that’s yet to lead anywhere much.
Dr Mahathir enjoyed nothing more than to lecture the world from the stage that he had built for himself; in contrast Mr Abdullah prefers to do things quietly.
There are few better illustrations of this than the dramatic thaw in relations between Malaysia and its sibling neighbour Singapore.
For the first time we’ve had a prime minister speaking about the things that affect ordinary people
Andrew, Malaysian voter
The two have been trading insults since they split in 1965, and Dr Mahathir happily kept the war of words going.
Mr Abdullah prefers diplomacy and in January paid a low key visit to his Singaporean opposite number Goh Chok Tong.
Within weeks Mr Goh popped over to Malaysia to celebrate Lunar New Year, and the next day the two men were playing golf together.
There’s not much sign of any improvement
R Sivarasa, human rights activist
The former Singaporean High Commissioner to Malaysia, Kesavapany, says the new PM’s first 100 days have been “marked by goodwill and rapprochement”.
“Hopefully the leadership on both sides of the Causeway will make use of this moment in history to rebuild ties and build a solid foundation for the future,” Mr Kesavapany says.
Such a rapprochement is long overdue for in truth Singapore and Malaysia each benefit from the other’s success.
At home, Malaysians are waiting for a sign that the autocratic rule of Dr Mahathir is being replaced with a gentler touch.
Corruption grew largely unchecked under Dr Mahathir
“There’s not much sign of any improvement on that front,” says R Sivarasa, director of the Malaysian human rights group, Suaram, and an opposition politician.
“The police have continued to restrict opposition attempts to hold rallies,” Mr Sivarasa says.
“And the country’s former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim still languishes in jail – serving 15 years for abuse of power and sodomy charges that few here believe him guilty of.”
Mr Abdullah is unlikely to take any chances before a general election he’s expected to call within weeks.
He was appointed, not elected, prime minister and he needs not just to win, which is a virtual certainty, but to win well so that he can claim a strong personal mandate.
So he’s busy rallying support for his coalition National Front government.
He’s wooing Malaysia’s ethnic minorities – Chinese, Tamil and tribal – telling them that Malaysia is as much for them as for the Malay majority.
He’s even let it be known that he is one-quarter Chinese – like Malaysia itself.
It’s a striking departure from decades of Malay ethno-nationalist rhetoric under Dr Mahathir.
Mr Abdullah is also out to persuade the rural Muslim Malay voters who deserted his party at the last election in 1999 to return.
So he’s putting their concerns – small businesses, agriculture and rural development – at the top of the political agenda.
“This is an electorate that the Mahathir administration had neglected in the past,” says Terence Gomez, one of Malaysia’s leading economists.
“By responding to their needs so actively this is an avenue for him to draw support from this electorate and at the same time address a serious problem that needs to be rectified within the economy,” Mr Gomez says.
Before Mr Abdullah took over I gathered a small group of Malaysians together to get their views.
They were sceptical. Pak Lah was a “yes” man, they said, weak, just a puppet of his former master Dr Mahathir.
Three months on they’ve changed their tune.
“For the first time we’ve had a prime minister speaking about the things that affect ordinary people,” says Anthony, who works with disadvantaged groups.
Even his friend Andrew, who back in October expressed little faith in the new man, said he was impressed.
Their main concern however is corruption.
If Mr Abdullah is to keep his promise to fight it he’ll need a very strong mandate at the polls because he’ll be taking on some very powerful people.
Corruption grew largely unchecked under Dr Mahathir.
It stops government from functioning effectively, deters business, frightens away foreign investors, and really angers the people.
Mr Abdullah has above all else set himself up as its enemy – and he’s probably the only leader Malaysia has, or is likely to have for a generation, who seems to have the will to tackle it.
If it doesn’t happen now then the country may find itself eclipsed, as other East Asian nations, not least China, race ahead.
Mr Abdullah has already started on the “ikan bilis”, or the small fry, among the police and civil servants.
But Mr Sivarasa is still waiting to be convinced that the new leader is as good as he seems.
“If he’s serious about corruption he’ll go ahead and deal with those in his government that Malaysia’s former head of prosecutions said should face charges,” Mr Sivarasa says.
“Then we’ll decide.”
Now that four years have passed, does Malaysians, especially the internet savvy who had never been dependent on mainstream media have the same feeling and bullish expectations to man who had all the ‘right image’?
God help us all!