Frankly Speaking

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Kudos to Tee KeatThis newspaper has been very critical of the scandalous way in which the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) project was conceived, approved and implemented. We have written numerous articles and commentaries on it since 2003. In last week’s issue, our cover story reported that the final cost to taxpayers — Port Klang Authority (PKA) is after all a government entity — could come up to RM8 billion and not RM4.6 billion as the public was assured by then transport minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy in 2007.  We also criticised the delay in the release of the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report on the matter considering that it was completed more than two months ago.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat called us media “snipers” and accused us of making baseless accusations.

We will not respond to his accusation. But we  applaud him for keeping to his promise and directing the PKA to release the report in its ENTIRETY by Wednesday, May 6. We stressed the word ENTIRETY because we know that  there are  people representing some powerful figures who are trying to stop the full release of the report, including appendixes, despite the fact that Ong has said everything will be made public.

We also commend the minister for saying that he was contemplating submitting the PwC report to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission. We hope he will, as we believe that he shares the same view as us, that is, that there must be full accountability for what happened. This is also in line with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s commitment to a government that is transparent and accountable.

We look forward to what the PwC report will tell us about this shameless and audacious plunder of taxpayers’ money.The task before NajibChange has to come to Umno if the party wants to retain its lead role in Malaysian politics. This is the reality that the dominant member of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition has to accept in the light of the 12th general election of March 8, 2008, when voters’ dissatisfaction with the status quo resulted in an unprecedented setback for the BN.

It is refreshing therefore that prime minister and Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak has asked Umno to become an inclusive party and not an elitist one, as he said in an address to its Cheras division last Monday. Umno, he says, must not resist new ideas that may emerge as it engages in its work.

For Umno, the time for reassessment is past. In his message, Najib acknowledges the erosion of support that the party has suffered:

“If we want Umno to be strong, we have to be open to all groups so that they love Umno and this will show the importance Umno places on inclusiveness,” he says.

“By being the champion of both the non-Malays and the Malays, we will get the trust of the people,” Bernama quotes him as saying.

Openness. Inclusiveness. Oneness. This is the language Umno leaders need to use consistently in order to build a united nation. Of course, this message must be matched by actions that nurture the social, cultural and economic well-being of all its people before they reciprocate by putting their trust in the BN.

It is only when all Malaysians are comfortable with the notion that their welfare will be promoted by the ruling coalition that will they throw their support behind the BN, as they have done for a long time, until recently.

Najib’s message is, therefore, very timely. The task before him is also abundantly clear. As the leader of the premier party and the ruling coalition, he should put all his energy into rejuvenating the fellow feeling that all Malaysians must have in order that they will pull together as a nation.This is the need of the hour, and failure is not an option. Who will bear responsibility?Officials of Lembaga Tabung Haji must be heaving a sigh of relief. A knight in shining armour in the form of Sime Darby Bhd has arrived to help ease their woes at fabricator Ramunia Holdings Bhd.

The investment in Ramunia Holdings Bhd  has clearly turned awry for the pilgrims fund. If current levels of business persist at Ramunia, it could fall into the dreaded Practice Note 17 (PN17) category, a classification for companies with negative shareholders’ funds. This would have dire consequences for Tabung Haji.

While Sime Darby’s interest in Ramunia is understandable as the latter has a gem in its 36ha fabrication yard — the country’s largest — Tabung Haji’s entry into the fabricator is puzzling.

The pilgrims fund bought into Ramunia at a time when the share price was much higher than its present level of under 70 sen. It accumulated Ramunia shares aggressively amid anticipation that MISC Bhd would buy out the fabricator. The MISC deal, however, fell through.

In stark contrast to its high-flying days, Ramunia closed at 61.5 sen on Friday after gaining strongly over the week. It had languished at the 25 to 30 sen band for long periods.

However, despite the entry of Sime Darby, the fund’s equity in Ramunia is likely to be diluted, which in turn will adversely impact the recovery of its investment in the fabricator.

While Ramunia may now avoid falling into PN17 status, many questions still remain unanswered. Why did Tabung Haji buy into Ramunia in the first place, a business it has no knowledge or expertise in? What motivated the purchase at such steep prices?

Tabung Haji, in its defence, has justified its move as a pertinent investment in the oil and gas sector.The question that begs to be answered is, who will bear the responsibility for its losses in Ramunia?

This article appeared in The Edge Malaysia, Issue 753, May 4-10, 2009