Israeli Navy won’t stop ‘Freedom Flotilla’ for Gazans’ sake

'Rachel Corrie' with some of the activists/volunteers, which include PGPO's Matthias Chang and Shamsul Akmar Musa Kamal

London   14 May 2010   At 22:45 Irish time last night, the MV Rachel Corrie, a 1200-ton cargo ship, part of the eight-vessel Freedom Flotilla, set sail from Ireland on its way to the Mediterranean Sea. There, ships from Turkey and Greece will join her, then sail to Gaza.

This past week reports from Israel have indicated that the Israeli authorities will not allow the Freedom Flotilla to reach Gaza with its cargo of much-needed reconstruction material, medical equipment, and school supplies. According to Israeli news sources, clear orders have been issued to prevent the ships from reaching Gaza, even if this necessitates military violence.

The Free Gaza Movement, which has launched eight other sea missions to Gaza, confirms that Israel has tried these kinds of threats and intimidation tactics before in order to try to stop the missions before they start.  They have not deterred us before and will not deter us now,  said one of the organizers.

Ship to Gaza — Sweden, a Freedom Flotilla coalition partner, together with parliamentarian Mehmet Kaplan (Green Party) yesterday asked for an audience with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden, Carl Bildt, to discuss what measures the Swedish government and the European Union will take to protect the Freedom Flotilla s peaceful, humanitarian voyage. Earlier this week during a meeting with the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza   another coalition partner, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyib Erdogan expressed his support for  breaking the oppressive siege on the Gaza Strip…which is at the top of Turkey s list of priorities.

Coalition partners, Ship to Gaza   Greece and the Turkish relief organization IHH, stressed that the ships, passengers, and cargo will be checked at each port of departure, making it clear that we constitute no security threat to Israel.

Israel s threats to attack unarmed civilians aboard vessels carrying reconstruction aid are outrageous and indicative of the cruel and violent nature of Israel s policies towards Gaza.  The Freedom Flotilla is acting in line with universal principals of human rights and justice in defying a blockade identified as illegal by the UN and other humanitarian organizations. Palestinians in Gaza have a right to the thousands of basic supplies that Israel bans from entering, including cement and schoolbooks, as well as a right to access the outside world.

The Freedom Flotilla coalition calls on all signatories to the Fourth Geneva Conventions to pressure Israel to adhere to its obligations under international humanitarian law, to end the lethal blockade on Gaza, and to refrain from attacking this peaceful convoy.

Published in: on May 15, 2010 at 18:02  Leave a Comment  

Sabre slicing Sime

The recent marathon 13 hour board of directors (BOD) meeting of Sime Darby Bhd. which saw the ‘admission of guilt’ and decisive decision of making Group CEO Dato’ Seri Ahmad Zubir Mursyid to “go on leave of absence” till his contract ends in November is somewhat commendable. Chairman Tun Musa Hitam announced that steps are being taken to fully understand the situation and restructuring being made, to operations, control and the physical structure itself.

When asked about anymore ‘dismissal’, his response is that “We need to understand the situation thoroughly and who is involved. It is still too early to tell whether exist any criminal intend actions”. He is proud that the BOD was unified in solving the issue. Even PM Dato’ Seri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak was unusually every quick to commend Sime Darby’s action which he regard as “Decision is inline with corporate governance”.

However, in the true spirit of ‘corporate governance and accountability’, inadvertently more should be done. Even at this moment where thorough investigations are being carried out. For starters, those amongst the current BOD who were part of pre-Synergy Drive Sime Darby Bhd. BOD, like Tun Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid, Tan Sri Ahmad Tajudin Ali and Dato’ Mohamad Sulaiman should resign or be ‘retired early’.

72 years old Tun Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid, has been in Sime Darby BOD for over 15 years

Former Chief Secretary to the Government and later became PNB Chairman Tun Ahmad Sarji has been in pre-Synergy Drive Sime Darby Bhd. BOD since the 1990s, is the most longest serving member. He assumed as pre-Synergy Drive Sime Darny Chairman when former Bank Negara Governor Tun Ismail Mohd. Ali passed away in 1998 and remained till Tun Musa Hitam was appointed in the tri-conglomerate being consolidated in 2008.

Tan Sri Tajudin Ali

Professional engineer Tan Sri Tajudin has been in pre-Synergy Drive Sime Darby since 2002 and being a former Executive Chairman of TNB Chairman, director of UEM Bhd. and Director General of Sirim, he gave ‘thumbs up’ for Bakun. He was also the BOD member who was looking into energy business, which spearhead the Qatar Project (QP) and Maersk Oil  Qatar (BOQ) projects. Tajuddin was also former BOD of Sime Darby Engineering, which undertook the much gloated QP and MOQ projects.

Dato' Seri Mohamad Sulaiman

Certified public accountant Dato’ Seri Mohamad was a veteran member of  Sime Darby management. His last job was Managing Director Consolidated Plantations Bhd. Before that he was Managing Sime UEP Bhd. from 1985-90. Besides Zubir, Mohamad was very familiar within the Sime Darby systems, reporting, controls and values and philosophy.

This is because the original Sime Darby Engineering was then Sime Sembawang and the Qatar Project (QP) was initiated and pitched during their time. Unlike the Bakun Dam project which suffered “Cost over run” for a “National service project ‘forced down their throats’ back in 2002” as an excuse, the Qatar Project and Maersk Oil Qatar  (MOQ) were about poor planning, risk management failure, poor project management and probably problematic procurement processes and control. The senior managers of SDE then who are still around within the post Synergy Drive Sime Darby should also be unceremoniously booted out, the same way Zubir was.

According to Musa, it is still too early to say any criminal conduct was attributed to the losses incurred.

The BOD and management have a moral obligation to deliver a project they (or the team under their stewardship) initiated and pitched intentionally, according to budget and time.  They also should have a proper reporting system and nip-the-problem-in-the-bud and not wait till being snowballed into catastrophic proportions. They have to assume full responsibility for the failure of the reporting system (which include internal audit and cost control), which something the ‘market’ already been talking about widely and at sundry.

Many believed that the BOD were either “misled” or “tried to sweep the problem under the carpet”. Of course any of the senior managers who were part of Sime Darby Engineering when they planned, pitched, executed, procured materials and services and delivered the QP and MOQ contracts should immediately resigned or be terminated. This is part of ‘accountability and  collective responsibility’.

That resignation must be completed even higher on the hierarchy in the ‘chain of command’ of the conglomerate which employs 100,000 people.  The ‘sabre slicing’* is really necessary, to show that Sime Darby as the largest plantation conglomerate in the world is  ready to take drastic action against their own people for the in-competencies and failures.

Most importantly, the BOD must assume full responsibility for the wholesome ‘system failure’.  The BOD, especially those from pre-Synergy Drive Sime Darby failed to question why the Bakun project was behind time and keep incurring more cost, right from the start (since 2002). In the QP and MOQ projects, it is unacceptable that Sime Darby BOD allowed the failure to take into consideration items like ‘country risk’ (when the project faced problems as the Iranian contractor appointed is bound by economic sanction against Iran) and poor project planning and management and deficient contract management, like the attempt to acquire vessels within a short space of period and without proper procurement processes. BOD members, especially who have been since pre-Synergy Drive Sime Darby are expected to be very familiar with the systems, controls, reporting and  values and philosophy, on top of the major business ventures. More over projects such as Bakun, QP and MOQ were pitched since pre-Synergy Drive Sime Darby.

Another point is that Sime Darby BOD took pride of the QP and MOQ when the industry was making a mockery of it. What was baffling that the BOD and management were completely oblivion on something that big, “Dead elephant in the room”, and failed to raise the alarm as they went along. That is without doubt negligence and poor conduct of duty, especially since these BOD members are very seasoned corporate figures.

A conglomerate that have been in business in this nation since 1821 must take bold actions to restore public confidence, especially punters in the capital markets. Hence the very least the resignation of the pre-Synergy Drive Sime Darby BOD members is a manifestation of a true ‘conglomerate that is decisive in corporate governance attitude and practice and ever willing to accept collective responsibility’.

*Sabre is a weapon used by cavalry units and the slice whilst charging on horseback will bring swift kill to the target

Published in: on May 15, 2010 at 12:15  Comments (17)