KUALA LUMPUR(March 17): All guarantees on financial instruments and letters of comfort which could burden the people with debt should be tabled in parliament, says Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah
"As Members of Parliament, it is our duty to ensure all guarantees on the financial instruments and letters of comfort which burden the people with debt should be tabled in the chamber. This is to ensure that we can evaluate it with full responsibility whether the people should be burdened by it," Tengku Razaleigh said in his debate in parliament today.
He said not tabling guarantees by the government in parliament was a new practice, as during his years as Finance Minister, everything was tabled.
"As I remember it, this is a new practice. We always tabled everything, all letters of guarantee, letters of comfort, letter of support," he said in respond to a question by Pandan MP Rafizi on the letter of support for 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB)'s RM5.8 billion bond.
The longest serving MP said this after 1MDB, a wholly-owned unit of the Ministry of Finance, became the talk of town as it was found to be burdened with a whopping RM42 billion debt. The government has admitted last week that a RM950 million standby credit was given to 1MDB to temporarily ease its cash flow problem, of which RM600 million has been spent.
Tengku Razaleigh also said MPs should ensure the government's revenue was used for the people's interest and not to pay interest to debtors and bond holders. The MPs and the people have the right to know the real status of the nation's debt, he added.
When asked at the lobby whether he was referring to the debt-laden 1MDB, Tengku Razaleigh or fondly known as Ku Li, said, "Faham faham aje. (It's understood)."
The Gua Musang MP also asked the government to postpone the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax(GST) as the people were already suffering from high household debts, which has risen to 87.4%.
"The people have the right to know whether the GST starting this April is going to benefit the country or if it is only to pay interest to debtors and bond holders. The reason to implement GST should not be kept a secret," he said.
Tengku Razaleigh also wants Finance Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to reveal the financial status of the Employees' Provident Fund (EPF) and Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (KWAP) and their investments in financial institutions burdened by loans.
"This bring us to the issue of good governance which is important to the financial management of the country. The prime minister and finance minister should not in anyway be in a situation of conflict of interest. This is a serious problem and has long been deemed not good by the Dewan Rakyat," he said.
It is worth noting that SRC International Sdn Bhd, wholly-owned by MOF, has taken a loan of RM4 billion from KWAP to invest in Mongolia.
One way to solve the problem of conflict of interest, Ku Li said, is for the cabinet ministers, MPs and public and private sectors' decision-makers to declare their assets.
"The declarations should be made periodically, to be maintained by an independent body established under the Parliament Act," he said.
The veteran also asked MPs from both sides to put the people's interest before party interest and to act according to their conscience.
"Yang Berhormat, you should make a decision whether you want to fulfill the vow you've made when you were sworn in as an MP or relinquish your right as an MP to the force outside of the Dewan Rakyat.
"... This will be a historical moment to all the Yang Berhormat to choose whether you want to serve and bow to the people's wishes or to be with the party's leader," he said.
He also urged the MPs to have the courage to approve or reject any proposal in the interest of the people, even if it meant going against the party's will.