Rail link a huge economic boost, big news for small towns in Malaysia


 
Boom time is here for railway towns, little places that dot the route of the RM55bil East Coast Rail Link from Port Klang to Kota Baru. Not only will the link shorten travel time between the west and the underdeveloped east of the peninsula, it will also unlock huge economic potential, create thousands of jobs and bring down the country’s carbon footprint. And it could all happen sooner than expected.

KUANTAN: Exciting days are ahead for the many small towns that dot the route of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) from Port Klang to the Kota Baru.

A host of towns including Bentong, Mentakab, Maran, Kuantan, Cherating, Chukai, Dungun, Kuala Terengganu and Tok Bali and Kota Baru, all of which are designated as ECRL stations, are looking at boom times ahead.

The ECRL will also benefit freight transport as it will link key economic and industrial areas within the East Coast Economic Region such as the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park, Gambang Halal Park, Kertih Biopolymer Park and Tok Bali Integrated Fisheries Park to both Kuantan Port and Port Klang.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak called it “another milestone in the country’s land public transport history”.

With its slogan of “Connecting Lives, Accelerating Growth”, Najib said the project sets the tone for an economic spin-off effect and positive social impact for the east coast states.

“The ECRL is a high impact project that will provide easy access from the Klang Valley to Pahang, Terengganu and Kelan­tan.

“The 688km rail link will be a catalyst for economic equality between the west coast and east coast as it will stimulate investments, spur commercial activity, create ample jobs, facilitate quality education and boost tourism in the states of Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan,” he said at the ground-breaking ceremony here yesterday.

Najib also urged local contractors with capabilities and know-how to seize the opportunity to take part in the project.

“We have together with our Chinese counterpart agreed that Malaysian contractors will be involved in at least 30% of this high impact project,” Najib said.

“The viability of the ECRL is undisputed as it is estimated that 5.4 million passengers and 53 million tonnes of cargo will use the service annually by the year 2030 as the primary transport between the east coast and west coast.

“Comparatively, revenue from the operation of the ECRL project is projected to be obtained through a transportation ratio of 30% passengers and 70% freight.”

Najib said the project was long overdue as the east coast states of the peninsula had only been connected to the west coast via a network of roads, highways and woefully inadequate rail lines.

Najib also urged local contractors with capabilities and know-how to seize the opportunity to take part in the project.

“We have together with our Chinese counterpart agreed that Malaysian contractors will be involved in at least 30% of this high impact project,” Najib said.

“The viability of the ECRL is undisputed as it is estimated that 5.4 million passengers and 53 million tonnes of cargo will use the service annually by the year 2030 as the primary transport between the east coast and west coast.

“Comparatively, revenue from the operation of the ECRL project is projected to be obtained through a transportation ratio of 30% passengers and 70% freight.”

Najib said the project was long overdue as the east coast states of the peninsula had only been connected to the west coast via a network of roads, highways and woefully inadequate rail lines.

The railway line, with 12 passenger-only stations, three freight stations and seven combined passenger-freight stations, is expected to increase the gross domestic product of the east coast states by 1.5%.

China’s state-owned China Communications Construction Company has been appointed for the construction of the RM55bil project.

Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd is the special purpose vehicle under the Minister of Finance Incorporated tasked as the project owner.

Rail link a huge economic boost – ECRL project set to create over 80,000 jobs and promote businesses along its route

KUANTAN: The economic impact of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) is huge and critics who say it is not feasible are wrong.

“There will be a multiplier effect. When there are more business people, we can get more taxes and government revenue will increase,” Malaysia Rail Link (MRL) chairman Tan Sri Dr Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah said.

He said critics must also look at the development that would take place alongside the ECRL in the long run.

China Communications Construction Group chairman Liu Qitao said the ECRL project was of great economic significance.

“It will promote social development and improve the living standards of those along the railway line, especially in the east coast,” he said.

Liu said that the rail link was also expected to generate more than 80,000 jobs for Malay­sians during its construction period.

Another 6,000 jobs will be created during the rail’s operation and the Chinese government will also train more than 3,000 Malaysian students.

A total of 3,600 graduates will be trained in rail technology through the ECRL Industrial Skills Training (PLKI-ECRL) programme.

Its chief coordinator Prof Dr Rizalman Mamat said about 1,000 applications had already been received as of yesterday.

“The first intake of 50 participants will begin in September with the next intake of 250 scheduled in December.

The next batch of 700 trainees will be in April next year.

“The programme will be focused specifically on the socio-economic development of the east coast but this does not mean those in the west coast cannot take part.

Dr Rizalman said the training was open to graduates who majored in civil engineering, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering.

He added that Universiti Malaysia Pahang (UMP) had been appointed as the focal university for the implementation of the programme, with cooperation from Beijing Jiaotong University and Southwest Jiaotong University and other institutions of higher learning in Malaysia.

He said railway technology was developing rapidly and the programme was a stepping stone for UMP to develop rail engineering in the future.

The training under the programme will take four to six months, said Dr Rizalman.

China state councillor Wang Yong said ECRL was a landmark project for China and Malaysia.

“The team from our two sides have had productive cooperation. This is a full demonstration of the friendship between China and Malaysia and its efficiency,” said Wang.

MRL project director Yew Yow Boo said the railway would have 88.8km of viaducts mostly in Kelantan and Terengganu to bypass flood-prone areas.

Yew said the first phase would have a total length of 49km of tunnels at 19 locations with the longest being 17.9km connecting Bukit Tinggi and Gombak.

Source: The Star/ANN

Liow: Do not politicise the ECRL

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KAJANG: The East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) is created for the people and country, and should not be politicised or turned into a racial or language issue, says Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.

“I would like to emphasise that the ECRL is one of the most important projects for the nation.

“It’s a game changer for the east coast. It is for the country’s economic development and to help us reach greater heights.

“The theme is very clear, we’re pushing for connecting lines and accelerating growth,” he said after attending Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman’s 15th anniversary celebration at its Sungai Long campus here yesterday.

The RM55bil ECRL from Port Klang to Kota Baru, which is 534.58km long, is estimated to be completed in 2024.

Liow cautioned actions that could harm good bilateral ties between Malaysia and China were counter-productive.

 

Varsity pillars: (Standing from left to right) Utar founding president Tan Sri Dr Ng Lay Swee, MCA vice president Datuk Dr Hou Kok Chung, Dr Chuah, Dr Ling, Liow, Dr Ting, Chong and Utar Board of Trustees chairman Tan Sri Dr Sak Cheng Lum cutting Utar’s anniversary cake. 

“We must explain to the people that the ECRL is for them and the nation. They should not be misled by those out to create a controversy,” he said.

The ECRL was launched in Kuantan on Wednesday.

Certain groups had criticised the rail link launch, claiming that it was “too Chinese”.

Liow described the launch as a successful event, adding that the project was set to bring many benefits to Malaysians.

“We have received a lot of support for the project. We are looking forward to its completion,” he added.
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Reporting an offence is not defamation


Whistleblowers cannot be sued for libel or slander, rules Federal Court

 

PUTRAJAYA: A person who complains about an alleged offence to enforcement agencies cannot be sued for defamation for lodging those reports, ruled the Federal Court.

The court held that such reports to agencies such as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), the Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) and the Registrar of Societies (RoS) are protected with absolute privilege.

The unanimous decision was made during the appeal brought by former Selangor Chin Woo Athletic Association president Datuk Dr Low Bin Tick.

Justice Aziah Ali said the three authorities in the case shared a common feature in which they were statutorily empowered with investigative powers.

“The purpose (of lodging a complaint) is to notify these authorities of alleged unlawful conduct and to set an investigation in motion and, if appropriate, to take the necessary action against the alleged wrongdoer,” said Justice Aziah yesterday.

The Bench set aside the decision by the Court of Appeal and the High Court. The lower courts had ordered Dr Low to pay RM500,000 in damages to another former Chin Woo president, Datuk Chong Tho Chin.

Yesterday, the Bench also awarded RM150,000 in costs to Dr Low.

Chong, who was Chin Woo president from 1991 to 2001, had filed four defamation suits at the High Court in 2007.

Chong claimed Dr Low, who was president from 2001 to 2005, had made unfounded and defamatory complaints regarding him in the letters to the three authorities in 2005.

The Federal Court said Dr Low’s letters to the authorities had alleged probable misuse of power, breach of trust, fraud and negligence.

“The common vein in these letters is the request for the authorities to carry out investigations and to take action, if appropriate,” Justice Aziah said.

On republication of a police report, the court held the issue did not arise for their consideration since it was not raised in the appeal.

But she said a person who repeats another’s defamatory statement without privilege may be held liable for republishing the same libel or slander.

The five-man Bench was led by Chief Judge of Malaya Justice Ahmad Maarop. Apart from Justice Aziah, also in the panel were Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Justice Richard Malanjum and Federal Court judges Justices Hasan Lah and Ramly Ali.

Source: The Star by Nurbaiti Hamdan

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Malaysian MACC Act’s Sect.62 declared unconstitutional will be challenged by prosecution



Court of Appeal: Section 62 of MACC Act unconstitutional


PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal has ruled that Section 62 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009 is unconstitutional.

Justice Datuk Umi Kalthum Abdul Majid, who chaired a three-man bench, made the ruling after allowing the appeals by Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and businesswoman Phang Li Koon to declare Section 62 as unconstitutional in their corruption cases.

The panel held that Section 62 was ultra vires when read against Article 5(1) and 8(1) of the Federal Constitution.

Section 62 requires accused persons to disclose their defence statements to the prosecution before the beginning of the trial.

However, Article 5(1) states that no person shall be deprived of his life and personal liberty save in accordance with law, while 8(1) states for equal protection under the law.

“We allow the appeals and set aside the order of the High Court,” said Umi Kalthum, who heard the appeals with Datuk Ahmadi Asnawi and Datuk Abdul Rahman Sebli on Monday.

The Court of Appeal granted DPP Datuk Masri Mohd Daud’s oral application to stay the proceedings in the Penang High Court pending the prosecution’s appeal over the decision.

On March 7 this year, the High Court dismissed Lim and Phang’s application after ruling that Section 62 of the MACC Act was constitutional and valid as it did not impede the accused’s right to a fair trial.

Lim pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption in relation to the conversion of land from agricultural to residential and the purchase of a plot of land and bungalow at below-market value on June 30 last year.

Lim was charged with using his position as Chief Minister to gain gratification for himself and his wife, Betty Chew Gek Cheng, by approving the application for conversion of agriculture land to a public housing zone in south-west Penang to a company, Magnificient Emblem Sdn Bhd.

He allegedly committed the offence while chairing the Penang State Planning Committee meeting at the operations room, Level 28, Komtar building here, on July 18, 2014.

The charge under Section 23 of the MACC Act 2009 provides for imprisonment of up to 20 years and a fine of up to five times the sum or value of the bribe, or RM10,000, whichever is higher, upon conviction.

Lim faces a second charge of using his position to obtain for himself a plot of land and a bungalow located at No, 25, Jalan Pinhorn, George Town on July 28, 2015 from Phang for RM2.8mil, below market value.

The charge under Section 165 of the Penal Code provides for a jail term of up to two years, or a fine, or both, upon conviction.

Phang pleaded not guilty to abetting Lim in obtaining the bungalow at an undervalued cost.

She allegedly committed the offence at the same place and date.

The charge under Section 109 of the Penal Code read together with Section 165, provides for imprisonment of up to two years, or a fine, or both, upon conviction. – Bernama

MACC will appeal against ruling that Section 62 is unconstitutional


PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) will be appealing the Court of Appeal’s ruling that Section 62 of the MACC Act is unconstitutional.

The MACC stated in a statement on Tuesday that its prosecutors would be filing an appeal to the Federal Court “as soon as possible”.

“The MACC also wishes to clarify that this decision by the Court of Appeal does not affect the prosecution of Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and businesswoman Phang Li Koon,” it said.

On Monday, the Court of Appeal ruled that Section 62 of the MACC Act was ultra vires when read against Article 5(1) and 8(1) of the Federal Constitution, thus deeming it unconstitutional.

Section 62 of the Act requires accused persons to disclose their defence statements to the prosecution before the beginning of the trial.

However, Article 5(1) states that no person shall be deprived of his life and personal liberty save in accordance with law, while Article 8(1) states that all persons are entitled to equal protection under the law.

The ruling was made after allowing the appeals by Lim and Phang to declare Section 62 as unconstitutional in their corruption cases.

Lim currently faces charges for obtaining gratification for himself and his wife related to the conversion of land into residential development and another charge for using his position to purchase a bungalow below market value. Phang has been charged with abetment. – The Star

MACC: ‘Decision has no bearing’

PETALING JAYA: The Court of Appeal’s decision to declare a section of the Malaysian Anti-Corrup­tion Commission (MACC) Act as unconstitutional does not affect the prosecution of the Penang chief minister and a businesswoman, the graft busting body said.

The MACC said in a statement that its pro­secutors would be filing an appeal to the Federal Court “as soon as possible”.

“The MACC also wishes to clarify that this decision by the Court of Appeal does not affect the prosecution of Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and businesswoman Phang Li Koon,” it said.

On Monday, the Court of Appeal ruled that Section 62 of the MACC Act was ultra vires when read against Article 5(1) and 8(1) of the Federal Constitution, thus deeming it unconstitutional. Section 62 requires accused persons to disclose their defence statements to the prosecution before the trial begins.

But Article 5(1) states that no person shall be deprived of his life and personal liberty save in accordance with law, while Article 8(1) states that all persons are entitled to equal protection under the law.

The ruling was made after allowing the appeals by Lim and Phang who sought to declare Section 62 as unconstitutional.

Lim currently faces charges for allegedly obtaining gratification for himself and his wife related to the conversion of land into residential development and another charge for allegedly using his position to purchase a bungalow below market value.

Phang has been charged with abetment.

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Recalling Bank Negara’s massive forex losses in 1990s


The government is moving ahead to investigate whether there were any wrongdoings in the massive foreign exchange losses suffered by Bank Negara some 25 years ago. Many people today may not have a good recollection of what happened, while many others probably had no knowledge of it until it became news again recently as the sitting government took aim at this nasty episode under Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s rule.

I was a reporter with Reuters then and had covered the losses that surfaced when the central bank released its annual reports for 1992 and 1993 in March 1993 and March 1994, respectively. I recall that those losses first puzzled me and others because bank officials did not come forward to talk about them at the press conference nor was the information contained in the press release. They were, however, disclosed in the last few pages of the 1992 report on the bank’s financial statement, which normally do not attract attention, as reporters would focus on the earlier parts that touched on the performance of the economy and banking sector.

But that year, we took a cursory look at those back pages and spotted something odd. Bank Negara’s financial statement showed its Other Reserves had plunged from RM10.1 billion in 1991 to RM743 million in 1992, or a loss of RM9.3 billion. There was also a Contingent Liability of RM2.7 billion.

When we asked about this, I recall that both then Bank Negara governor, the late Tan Sri Jaafar Hussein, and his deputy, Tan Sri Dr Lin See Yan, said it was nothing serious, as they were mere paper losses that could be recovered later. We were not convinced, but we were unable to challenge them, as we did not under stand the manner in which Bank Negara presented its accounts.

The next day, however, the market was abuzz with talk that the bank had lost billions in foreign exchange transactions and I remember writing stories on this for the next week or so. But nothing more came of it, although opposition MPs led by Lim Kit Siang continued to press the Ministry of Finance and Bank Negara for answers.

The matter really blew up a year later when Bank Negara tabled its 1993 report and disclosed another forex loss of RM5.7 billion. Here is what Jaafar said:

“In the Bank’s 1993 accounts, a net deficiency in foreign exchange transactions of RM5.7 billion is reported, an amount which will be written off against the Bank’s future profits. This loss reflected errors in judgment involving commitments made with the best intentions to protect the national interest prior to the publication of the Bank’s 1992 accounts towards the end of March 1993. As these forward transactions were unwound, losses unfolded in the course of 1993. In this regard, global developments over the past year had not been easy for the Bank; indeed, they made it increasingly difficult for the Bank to unwind these positions without some losses. For the most part, time was not on the Bank’s side. Nevertheless, this exercise is now complete — there is at this time no more contingent liabi lity on the Bank’s forward foreign exchange transactions on this account. An unfortunate chapter in the Bank’s history is now closed.”

Jaafar took responsibility for what happened and resigned, as did the bank official directly responsible for its foreign exchange operations, Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop.

How did Bank Negara lose the billions?

Jaafar said the losses were owing to commitments made to protect the nation’s interests. He was referring to the bank’s operations in the global forex market to manage the country’s foreign reserves and, obviously, something went wrong in a big way.

Forex traders and journalists who covered financial markets in the late 1980s knew that Bank Negara had a reputation for taking aggressive positions to influence the value of the ringgit against the major currencies. When the bank is not happy with the direction of the ringgit, up or down, it makes its intentions known by either selling or buying ringgit.

One question I had always asked forex dealers when writing market reports for Reuters was, “Is Negara in the market today?”

Bank Negara has always maintained that its market operations were to prevent volatility and undue speculation. Its critics, on the other hand, said it also did so for profits, which it enjoyed for years.


What went wrong in 1992?

That was the year George Soros and other hedge funds bet heavily against the British pound on the basis that it was overvalued. The Bank of England (BOE) fought back by buying billions of sterling while Soros and gang shorted the battered currency.

As it did not want to deplete too much of its reserves to defend the fixed rate of the pound within the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, BOE capitulated by withdrawing from the ERM on Sept 16, 1992, since called Black Wednesday.

It was widely believed then that Bank Negara had bet on the wrong side of the fight between BOE and the hedge funds. It never thought that central banks could lose against specu lators, but BOE lost and Soros was said to have pocketed at least US$1 billion.

Bank Negara has never confirmed nor denied that this was indeed what happened but the evidence, although circumstantial, points to this as the reason for the loss of RM9.3 billion in its 1992 accounts and the subse quent loss of another RM5.7 billion in 1993, bringing its total loss to RM15 billion.

Was the loss more than RM15~30 bil?

Former Bank Negara assistant governor Datuk Abdul Murad Khalid was reported as saying recently that the losses were actually US$10 billion. That would work out to RM25 billion at the then exchange rate of RM2.50 to a dollar. Murad also alleged that there were no proper investigations into the matter.

Following his allegations, the Cabinet has now set up a task force led by former chief secretary to the government, Tan Sri Sidek Hassan, to investigate whether there were wrongdoings that caused the losses, whether there was a cover-up on the size of the losses, and whether Parliament was misled.

So, who should the task force call up as part of its probe? I am guessing the following:

  1. Tun Mahathir, who was the prime minister then;
  2. Tun Daim Zainuddin, who was the minister of finance from 1984 to 1991 when Bank Negara was active in the forex market;
  3. Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who was the minister of finance when the losses surfaced in 1992 and 1993;
  4. Dr Lin, who was deputy governor of the central bank then;
  5. Tan Sri Ahmad Don, who succeeded Jaafar as governor;
  6. Murad, who made the allegations; and
  7. Nor Mohamed, who was head of forex operations.


Who is Nor Mohamed?

Nor Mohamed is the man who lost billions for Bank Negara and resigned along with Jaafar in 1993. He then kept a low profile with short spells at RHB Research Institute and Mun Loong Bhd.

In an ironic twist, the man who lost billions for the country was later credited with helping save the ringgit from currency speculators in 1998.

Frustrated by the year-long failure of governments and central banks to fight off speculators, who had devalued Asian currencies (the ringgit plunged to as low as 4.80 to the dollar), Tun Mahathir turned to Nor Mohamed for help. The doctor did not understand how the currency market worked and Nor Mohamed took him through it in great detail. The two men then confidentially devised the plan that shocked the world — the imposition of controls on Sept 1, 1998.

Widely criticised at the time (Ahmad Don and his deputy Datuk Fong Weng Phak resigned in protest), some now say the move helped bring an end to the crisis, as speculators feared other affected countries would do the same.

Nor Mohamed’s star shone again and he later became Minister of Finance 2 under Tun Mahathir and Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. He is now deputy chairman of Khazanah Nasional.

But now, a ghost from his past has been dug up as fodder for the political contest between Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his biggest nemesis, Tun Mahathir. The objective is obvious. Tun Mahathir has attacked Najib incessantly over 1Malaysia Development Bhd. The current administration is fighting back by saying billions were also lost under Tun Mahathir’s watch. Tun Mahathir says there is a 1MDB cover-up and his foes are accusing him of doing the same.


Will the task force unearth anything that is not already known?

The task force needs three months to complete its work, so we will just have to wait for the full picture before we can come to any conclusion that can bring closure to something that happened 25 years ago.

Perhaps, one day, we will be lucky enough to also have the full picture of the affairs of 1MDB. Current Minister of Finance 2 Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani did say this month that no action had been taken against anyone in Malaysia over 1MDB because we have only “half the story” so far.

In that case, should we not have a task force on 1MDB as well so Malaysians can have the full picture?

By: Ho Kay Tat

Ho Kay Tat is publisher and group CEO of The Edge Media Group

This article appears in Issue 772 (March 27) of The Edge Singapore which is on sale now.

RCI can shed more light on forex losses

 Figures could be even greater than what had been disclosed, says STF chairman

KUALA LUMPUR: A Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) can reveal more details on the foreign exchange (forex) losses suffered by Bank Negara (BNM) in the 1980s and 1990s, said Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan.

The chairman of the Special Task Force (STF) to probe the forex losses said the figure was greater than what was disclosed.

However, the STF was unable to scrutinise further due to the limitations that it had, he said in an interview on Friday.

“As a task force, we have limitations. We were established on an administrative basis and not under any legislation.

“As such, the STF had no power to coerce anyone to come forward for any discussion or to give any information,” he said, adding that it only had access to documents that were available to the public, such as BNM’s annual reports and consultations between the central bank and the International Monetary Fund.

“We also cannot compel anyone to come forward. Even if you ask them to come and they don’t want to come, there is no issue about it.

“And even if they came and we questioned them, and they refused to answer, we cannot do anything about it.

“And it was not under oath. Even if they answered, we don’t know if that was the truth.

“So, that is why the RCI is better, although it is safe to say that the STF has reason to believe that the actual loss is different and much more than the figures given earlier,” said Sidek, a former Chief Secretary to the Government.

He added that the RCI could have access to documents relating to the forex losses, for instance from the Finance Ministry or BNM.

On Jan 26, former BNM assistant governor Datuk Abdul Murad Khalid revealed that the central bank suffered US$10bil (RM42.9bil) in forex losses in the early 1990s, much higher than the figure of RM9bil disclosed by BNM.

Subsequently, a seven-member STF headed by Sidek was formed in February.

Sidek, who is Petronas chairman, said the STF focused on the three points in the terms of reference, one of which was conducting preliminary investigations into losses by BNM related to its speculative fo­­reign currency transactions.

It also investigated whether there was any action to cover up the losses and whether the Cabinet and Parliament were misled and it had to submit to the Government recom­mendations for further action, including the establishment of an RCI.

On June 21, the STF submitted its findings, concluding that it found that a prima facie case to merit in-depth investigations by establishing an RCI.

Explaining the process of the investigation, Sidek said 12 people, including former BNM governor Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz, were interviewed by the STF, and all coopera­ted well.

Among the others who were summoned by the STF were PKR adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang, and former Finance Minister II and BNM assistant governor at the time Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop.

Asked on the need to investigate something that happened about two decades ago, Sidek said though it took place a long time ago, it had been revealed that the losses were huge.

“I feel that the people need an explanation on the matter, and the Government had decided to conduct an investigation.

“Therefore, an RCI is the only way for a complete understanding. If this is not done now, the matter will prolong.

“Five or 10 years from now it will crop up again.

“With a full investigation through an RCI, there could be closure to this,” Sidek said. — Bernama

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Ex-Johor exco man, son and consultant face 21 counts amounting to RM36m


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JOHOR BARU: Former state executive councillor Datuk Abd Latif Bandi, his eldest son and a property consultant have been charged with a total of 21 counts of money laundering amounting to RM35.78mil in connection with the massive Johor land scandal that broke out in March.
The former state Housing and Local Government Committee chairman was charged with 13 counts of money laundering amounting to RM17.59mil.

His son Ahmad Fauzan Hatim, 25, and Amir Shariffuddin Abd Raub, 44, were charged with four counts each involving RM735,000 and RM17.46mil respectively.

They are said to have committed the offences via cheque transactions at five major banks around Johor Baru between November 2013 and December 2016.

Abd Latif, 51, pleaded not guilty to seven counts under Section 4(1) (b) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities 2001 (AMLA) (Act 613).

If found guilty, he can be sentenced to 15 years in jail and fined five times the amount or RM5mil, whichever is higher.

He also claimed trial to six counts under Section 4(1)(a) of the same Act, which carries a jail term of up to five years and a maximum fine of RM5mil, if convicted.

Ahmad Fauzan and Amir Sharifuddin also pleaded not guilty to four counts each under the Section 4(1) (b) and Section 4(1)(a) of the same Act, respectively.

Sessions Court judge Mohd Fauzi Mohd Nasir set bail at RM500,000 for Abd Latif, RM200,000 for Ahmad Fauzan and RM400,000 for Amir Shariffuddin in one surety each, to run concurrently with previously charged offences.

He was referring to the 33 counts of graft that Abd Latif and Amir Shariffuddin had claimed trial to on April 19 for allegedly converting bumiputra lots to non-bumiputra lots involving a total of RM30.3mil in Kota Masai, Tebrau, Kulai, Kempas, Nusajaya and Johor Baru.

The judge also fixed July 5 for next mention.

Abd Latif and Ahmad Fauzan were represented by a five-man legal team led by Datuk Hasnal Rezua Merican while lawyer Azrul Zulkifli Stork stood for Amir Shariffuddin.

The case was prosecuted by Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) DPP Mohd Asnawi Abu Hanifah.

Earlier, the three accused arrived clad in orange lockup T-shirts and were escorted by MACC officers into the court at around 8.40am.

The Star by kathleen ann kili

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Penang Chief Minister may have too much on his plate, be fair when sharing power


 

CM may have too much on his plate

GEORGE TOWN: Penang Gerakan has questioned the efficiency of Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng as the chairman of numerous state-linked agencies and departments.

Its publicity bureau chief Ooi Zhi Yi said that besides being the chief minister, the Bagan MP and Air Putih assemblyman chairs 11 agencies and departments.

“He was recently also appointed chairman of the Penang Stadium Corporation And Open Spaces at the state assembly sitting,” he said.

Ooi asked what had happened to the DAP’s decentralisation of administration and power-sharing policy which it claimed to advocate?

“Is Lim able to handle various responsibilities in different agencies and departments simultaneously?

“Why can’t the state government identify any state executive councillor or assemblyman to hold some of the posts?” he further asked at a press conference at the Gerakan headquarters yesterday

The 11 state agencies and departments which Lim heads are the Penang Development Corporation (PDC), PBA Holdings Bhd (PBAHB) and its unit Perbadanan Bekalan Air Pulau Pinang (PBAPP), Penang Global Tourism (PGT), Penang Hill Corporation (PHC), Penang Convention and Exhibition Bureau (PCEB), George Town World Heritage Inc (GTWHI), the Penang State Museum, investPenang and two subsidiaries under PDC namely the BPO Premier Sdn Bhd and Premier Horizon Ventures Snd Bhd.

When contacted yesterday, Wong Hon Wai, who is Lim’s political secretary, said it is a customary process for a state leader to hold important positions in all the government statutory bodies.

“It is similar to how the Prime Minister and Mentri Besar chair important government bodies,” he explained. – Tbe Star

‘Be fair when sharing power’‘

GEORGE TOWN: The MCA wants the Penang government to create a check-and-balance to counter the Chief Minister’s influence in 19-state linked agencies, statutory bodies and government subsidiaries which he helms.

Penang MCA organising secretary Dr Tan Chuan Hong said the mechanism must include NGOs such as the Penang Forum, Consumers Association of Penang and Penang Heritage Trust.

He said the NGOs should have the right to oppose and express their views whenever needed.

He said Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had in a written reply to Sungai Dua assemblyman Muhamad Yusoff Mohd Noor at the recent state legislative assembly sitting revealed that he was the chairman of 19 bodies.

“This is not only shocking but also contradicts the CAT principles of Competency, Accountability and Transparency which the DAP-led state claims to practise.

“Where is a person’s credibility if he holds all positions which are closely associated with his position as chief minister. And what about the power-sharing principle advocated by the state government?” Tan asked.

He said since Lim ‘monopolised’ most of the chairman positions, state exco members such as Chow Kon Yeow, Danny Law and Jagdeep Singh seemed to be given merely supplementary roles to play.

Among the bodies helmed by Lim are the Penang Development Corp (PDC), Penang Global Tourism, PICEB Sdn Bhd, PGC Strategies Sdn Bhd, Penang Water Supply Corp Bhd (PBAPP), PBA Holdings Bhd, Penang Hill Corp, Invest Penang and the state museum board.

He gets an annual RM10,000 allowance as PDC chairman, RM3,000 monthly allowance as PBAPP chairman and RM500 monthly allowance as PBA Holdings Bhd chairman.

Lim also gets allowances which range from RM250 to RM500 per meeting that he attends in some of the statutory bodies and subsidiaries that he helms. – The Star

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Arrest decline in productivity and competitiveness in Malaysia


COINCIDENTLY, two major reports were released on June 1 on the decline of our national productivity and competitiveness. The first was our own Productivity Report 2016/2017, which was launched by Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamad (pic) and the second one was the World Competitiveness Yearbook WCY issued by the Institute for Management Development.

This coincidence in decline is understandable since both productivity and competitiveness are closely inter-related. Lower productivity leads to lower international competitiveness.

Productivity

Our labour productivity fell short of our 11th Plan target of 3.7% growth by 0.2% to 3.5% last year. This is a small decline and has been rightly explained with confidence by the Minister of Trade in positive terms when he said that Malaysia was “on track”.

I think he will agree that we must be concerned enough to ask what are the causes and whether this is just a mere slip or could it be the beginning of a trend.

We have to take this fall as a wake up call, in case this decline happens again next year and later on. We have to review many recurrent and uncomfortable issues like brain drain and unemployed graduates – who could number over 200,000 – also reflect the low productivity of many graduates who are newly employed. The lower productivity can be attributed to our low use of automation, high employment of unskilled foreign and cheap labour and the new challenges of the digital economy.

The Minister’s proposal for the Government and private sector to “join forces to embark on initiatives” to improve productivity in nine sectors “of lower productivity”, is most welcome. The private sector has to make profit unlike the Government. Hence it has a greater sense of urgency in wanting to improve not only labour productivity but productivity from all factors of production, including good governance and integrity and quality services to the public. Thus it will be very interesting for the public to be made fully aware of the productivity improvements that should materialise not only in the private sector, but for the Government as well. For instance government departments can learn from the private sector how to provide better or excellent services in the fields of health and education and counter services at police stations, Customs, Immigration, etc .

Productivity in both the private sector and the government machinery should improve to raise our total national productivity. Only then will our nation be able to compete much more efficiently and effectively in the global economy.

We can have the best Productivity Blueprint like that which was launched on May 8 but our productivity can continue to slip and even slide, if we do not ensure that the blueprint is fully implemented and its progress diligently monitored and improved along the way. One way to seriously pursue our goal to raise productivity would be to increase the small sum of only RM200mil for a new Automation Fund. Modern machinery and equipment are expensive but the returns in terms of higher productivity can be very significant. So let’s go for higher productivity with greater automation and not approach the challenge on an ad hoc and piecemeal basis. The Treasury would need to support the Productivity Blueprint much more productively!

Competitiveness

Malaysia registered its lowest ranking in five years in the WCY.

This reflects our decline in productivity as competitiveness is the other side of the coin. However, I am surprised that the relationship is so sensitive. Just a drop of 0.2% in productivity can cause a drop in our international competitiveness ranking from 19th place to the 24th!

What this could show is that while we are sluggish in our productivity, other countries are much more aggressive in improving both their productivity and competitiveness.

There is thus no point in taking pride that we scored better in our ranking compared to the industrial countries like Austria (25th) Japan (26th) and Korea (29th). They are highly developed countries which enjoy much higher standards of living and a better quality of life that we do. They have reached the top of Mount Fuji and other mountains, while we are still climbing up from a lower economic base.

The drop in our competitiveness is significant and we have to take this decline very seriously. Malaysia slipped in all four sectors, that is, economic performance, business efficiency, government efficiency and infrastructure. That is why it is essential to investigate in depth into all these major falls in performance and tell the public what is being done to improve our rankings and ratings.

It is appreciated that Malaysia Productivity Corp’s Director General Datuk Mohd Razali Hussain has established Nine Working Cluster Groups to examine these poor indicators and report on improvements that must be made expeditiously.


Conclusion

It is good that we have these reports on productivity and international competitiveness to benchmark our national performance against them. We have to take advantage of these annual indicators and ensure that we keep improving rather than falling in productivity and competitiveness .

Our efforts to improve will be watched closely by our domestic and particularly international investors and international competitors .

We can only hope that these declines are not just coincidental but are also not developing declining trends. This could spell pessimism and falling confidence in our socio-economic management.

Instead we should take these set backs as warning signals and rededicate ourselves to a greater commitment to higher competition, more meritocracy and building a better socio-economic and political environment in Malaysia.

TAN SRI RAMON NAVARATNAM

Chairman Asli’s Centre of Public Policy Studies


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