Yesterday, the three-day-old business news portal KiniBiz carried the report “Syed Mokhtar eyes Malaysia Airlines” by Jose Barrock, reporting that Syed Mokhtar Albukhary is proposing to the federal government to take over national investment arm, Khazanah Nasional Berhad’s 69.3 per cent equity interest in Malaysia Airlines which includes as part of the deal a long-term fuel subsidy by the government for as many as 60 years.
Malaysians await the full disclosure of this latest development in the byzantine government-corporate nexus, with a “source close to Syed Mokhtar” denying that there is such a proposal to take over MAS with “two separate sources” confirming that such a deal is being contemplated.
This report has, however, brought to the fore as priority issues in the impending 13th General Elections public concerns about good governance in Malaysia whether about past financial scandals arising from privatisation as a whole and specifically about the ailing national airline; Syed Mokhtar’s far-flung business empire and his mega-debts creating genuine fears whether they will require a massive bailout using taxpayers’ money and the history of corruption, cronyism and abuses of power in the long list of bailouts of Umnoputras at the public expense in the past few decades.
The 13th General Elections is the most appropriate time to revisit these issues of public concern about accountability, transparency and good governance.
Although the the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, has given priority to accountability, transparency and good governance in his Government Transformation Programme (GTP) and National Key Result Areas (NKRAs), they remain at the level of sloganeering and lip-service as nothing has basically changed in these areas or Malaysia’s corruption ranking as reflected in the annual Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) under Najib would not be the worst as compared to all the previous five Prime Ministers – Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak, Tun Hussein, Tun Mahathir and Tun Abdullah.
The continuing Malaysian Airlines System (MAS) scandals under Najib’s premiership is a case in point.
Up to now, Najib has failed to give a frank and honest answer whether Malaysians are still paying for the RM100 billion financial scandals perpetrated in the 22 years of Mahathir premiership with the decision by his government in 2011 to write off Tan Sri Tajuddin Ramli’s RM580 million judgment debt in a “out-of-court” settlement between Danaharta and other GLCs with Tajuddin with regard to all suits pending between them.
Before the “out-of-court” settlement for the Malaysian Government to write-off Tajuddin’s RM580 million judgement debt, Tajuddin had claimed in affidavits in court that former premier Mahathir had made him buy MAS in 1994 to help bail out Bank Negara after the central bank suffered massive foreign exchange losses due partly to speculation in foreign exchange markets as a “national service” with an “Overriding Agreement” to indemnify him against any losses suffered.
Although this has been denied by Mahathir, it has still to be established who is telling the truth – Mahathir or Tajuddin; an answer which is relevant and pertinent to the question who must bear responsibility not only for some RM10 billion MAS losses – RM1.8 billion losses resulting from the government’s buy-back of Tajuddin’s 29.09 per cent stake in MAS at RM8 per share representing a premium of RM4.32 or 117 per cent over the market price at RM3.68 per share when the deal was signed on 20th December 2000 followed by MAS police reports from 2002 that Tajuddin had caused the national flag carrier to suffer losses in excess of RM8 billion.
I had estimated in Parliament two decades ago that Bank Negara lost a colossal RM30 billion from the Bank Negara foreign exchange scandal under Mahathir’s premiership. But Bank Negara claimed RM10.1 billion loss in 1992 and RM5.7 billion in 1993 while former Bank Negara Deputy Governor Dr. Rosli Yaakop estimated last year at a public forum that Bank Negara lost between USD27 to USD33 billion, which was five times more than its foreign reserves and its entire assets of USD20.7 billion in 1992.
What is the truth?
Barry Wain, in his book “Malaysian Maverick”, estimates that Malaysia lost RM100 billion just in four financial scandals during Mahathir’s premiership.
In the forthcoming general elections, Malaysian voters should not only pass a verdict on Najib’s non-transformation in the past four years, but also pass judgment on Mahathir’s 22 years of authoritarian and corrupt policies when he was Prime Minister from 1981 – 2003, as with Mahathir campaigning even more conspicuously than Najib in the run-up to the next general elections, both Najib’s policies and Mahathir’s legacies have become central issues in the 13GE.
I am on public record as sayin that if Pakatan Rakyat is to capture Putrajaya in the 13GE, we should re-open investigation not only on the RM30 billion Bank Negara forex scandal of 1992, there should be a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the RM100 billion losses suffered by the country in the financial scandals of the 22-year Mahathir era.
Let the 13.3 million voters in the 13GE decide whether they endorse the proposal to have a wide-ranging public inquiry into Mahathir’s financial scandals in 22 years which have cost the country RM100 billion of losses and for which the present generation of Malaysians are still paying the price – although there is totally no accountability and transparency about these glaring instances of corruption, cronyism and abuses of power for more than three decades.
Let me assure Mahathir that I do not want to see him suffer the fate of Mubarak or Gadafi.
I do not even want to see Mahathir in jail but there must be full accounting for the RM100 billion losses from the financial scandals during the 22-year Mahathir era, a dark era in Malaysian history which saw key national institutions in the country like the Judiciary, the civil service, Attorney-General’s Chambers, the Police, the Anti-Corruption Agency , the Election Commission compromised and subverted to serve the behests of one man, the Prime Minister and from which disaster Malaysia has not yet fully recovered.
Only then can Malaysia start afresh on a new page – to build a great Malaysian nation which is united, harmonious, competitive, progressive and prosperous.