FELDA WHITE PAPER reveals SHADY DEALS


 

These penyangak-penyangak left their marks … we are left to clean up. – Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad
Settlers were facing hardship, yet new cars were bought. – Datuk Seri Anwar IbrahimThese actions were not only irresponsible but criminal in nature. – Datuk Seri Azmin AliFelda only incurred losses after Pakatan took over the government. – Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan
 

The chairman held positions in as many as 39 Felda subsidiaries. Even more shocking is that billions were used to ‘buy’ political support and a stake in an Indonesian firm was acquired for 344% more than it actually costs. And the agency’s debts rose by 1,100% in 10 years

Video:

 ‘Irresponsible and criminal’

 

KUALA LUMPUR: The Felda White Paper was tabled in Parliament, during which the government accused the previous administration of, among others, shady transactions and conflict of interest.

The Dewan Rakyat was told that some RM2.7bil of Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) money was used to buy political support before the last general election in May 2018.

Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, in tabling the White Paper on Felda in Parliament yesterday, said it was “corporate malfeasance” that led to Felda suffering massive losses.

He also alleged that former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was implicated in “shady deals”.

“(Najib), who was known as MO1 and who was the finance minister at the time, was involved in the investment process. These actions were not only irresponsible but criminal in nature,” he claimed.

Azmin cited the purchase of Indonesian company PT Eagle High Plantations Tbk from PT Rajawali Capital at a higher market rate as an example of the abuse of Felda funds.

He added that as of March this year, the RM2.3bil investment was only worth RM500mil.

On Tuesday, Felda director-general Datuk Dr Othman Omar lodged a police report claiming that Najib had pushed it into investing US$505mil (RM2.07bil) in Eagle High.

In the report, he said the amount paid to acquire a 37% stake in the Indonesian company was 344% more than its actual value of US$114mil (RM466.9mil).

Eagle High is part of the Rajawali Group owned by Peter Sondakh, who Othman claimed was close to Najib.

In black and white: Azmin with (from left) Felda chairman Tan Sri Megat Zaharuddin Megat Mohd Nor, his deputy Senator Dr Mohd Radzi Md Jidin and Othman showing the Felda White Paper at Parliament.

Azmin added that Felda’s debts had drastically risen by 1,100% from RM1.2bil in 2007 to RM14.4bil by 2017.

He also said there was a conflict of interest by former Felda chairman Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad – referred to as FO1 – by holding positions in 39 other subsidiaries under Felda and Felda Global Ventures (FGV).

Isa, who was appointed as Felda chairman from January 2011 until January 2017, was FGV chairman as well as FIC chairman.

Later, wrapping up his reply to debate on the White Paper, Azmin said the government would adopt a new model in managing land under Felda which had been leased to FGV.

In his winding-up speech, Azmin acknowledged that it was difficult to return the land to settlers as Felda had leased it to FGV under a 99-year agreement.

“However, Felda is in the midst of reviewing the terms of the agreement with FGV so that it would benefit all parties, particularly settlers and Felda, although the land does not belong to them,” he said.

He added the White Paper on Felda would seek a new model to manage Felda land to ensure more profitable economic scale of return.

On claims by opposition lawmakers that Felda had made a loss after Pakatan took over, Azmin clarified that Felda’s true net value was only revealed after an impairment exercise was carried out on its assets.

He said the former Felda management had failed to carry out an impairment exercise to value its investment and kept quiet about it until 2018.

“They did not do the impairment exercise so the books would look good. If the management was honest, they would have carried out an impairment exercise between 2013 and 2016 to determine best value of the investment,” said Azmin.

He said when land was managed by Felda itself, it managed to obtain nett profit of RM1bil to RM2bil.

By Jagdev singh sidhu, martin carvalho, hemananthani sivanandam, rahimy rahim, and tarrence tan The Star

Planting seeds to a new Felda

 New beginnings: The new Felda aims to be run as a well-functioning corporation with better internal controls.

New beginnings: The new Felda aims to be run as a well-functioning corporation with better internal controls.

THE scale of malfeasance was staggering. The White Paper on the goings-on in Felda and its subsidiaries read like a litany of wrongdoings that breached proper governance standards that most companies have to prescribe to.

There were many reasons why the checks and balances within Felda failed, largely because there was none. The concentration of authority within the hands of a few individuals, with little exercise of fiduciary duty by other members of the board, meant a free hand for the few.

The forensic audit conducted by Ernst & Young detailed the collapse of internal controls and oversight in a number of deals done by Felda. Overpriced deals were made and in the end, it was the settlers that bore the brunt of the consequences.

Charges have been filed against former Felda chairman Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad, and given the scale of alleged fraud that had taken place, more police reports are about to be lodged in the days and weeks ahead. And more people are expected to face charges.

All of that will mean that justice to what had happened at Felda will be sought. That process will take time, but in the meantime, the main thrust of the White Paper, apart from detailing the cocktail of crimes, was what to do with Felda next.

The key take-away from the report was that there will be a new Felda. The old one, with its own legacy problems, meant that it will be best to start over again with a new focus.

The financial performance of Felda warrants the change as it has been losing money since its unit FGV Holdings Bhd was floated on Bursa Malaysia and its debt ballooned from RM1.2bil in 2007 to RM14.4bil in 2017. And its assets just about doubled. From those numbers alone, it was imperative that financial assistance from the government be extended to rehabi­litate Felda.

The government will inject RM6.23bil into Felda in stages in the form of grants, loans and guarantees and much of that money will actually go towards reworking Felda.

The agency’s debt will be taken care of and so will the settlers’ loans. Housing for second-generation Felda settlers will be built and RM480mil will be given to help pay for their living cost.

In changing Felda from what it is now to what it should morph into, the government will inject RM1bil for the settlers to plant new cash crops.

Relying on palm oil and rubber alone has been good, and the settlers and Felda benefited from that. But in today’s world, other cash crops have gained prominence over the golden crop of Malaysia.

With the price of food, which includes fruits and vegetables, along with livestock, having increasing value, the shift towards these crops is understandable and inevitable.

Settlers will be able to get more income from cultivating such crops and rearing livestock to go along with the lease agreement they can get by agreeing to allot their rights to their oil palm estates to Felda for a steady monthly return.

Felda can then use the economies of scale from the amalgamated lands and better productivity to generate higher returns. The use of modern technology in farming Felda land is also in the right direction.

The other steps put forward by Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali is to have better infrastructure in the areas within the scheme, improve development of human capital and a host of other measures that seek to revitalise the prospects of the settlers and their next generation.

The new Felda aims to be run as a well-functioning corporation. Governance, transparency and all the other buzzwords that mean better internal controls and eliminating corruption needed to be done.

Having professionals run Felda is the correct move and with all of this, it is hoped that Felda will shed its sordid past and return the agency to what the settlers and their kin have sacrificed for.

The overarching intention of the revamped Felda is to make sure that only the welfare of the settlers and the agency are taken care of.

It is also a political move to ensure that a key vote bank that helped swing the tide of the last general election remains intact. But beyond the politics, the revamp of Felda is a much-needed move that will only serve to benefit those involved in the scheme and the country.

It is the right thing to do.THE scale of malfeasance was staggering. The White Paper on the goings-on in Felda and its subsidiaries read like a litany of wrongdoings that breached proper governance standards that most companies have to prescribe to.

There were many reasons why the checks and balances within Felda failed, largely because there was none. The concentration of authority within the hands of a few individuals, with little exercise of fiduciary duty by other members of the board, meant a free hand for the few.

The forensic audit conducted by Ernst & Young detailed the collapse of internal controls and oversight in a number of deals done by Felda. Overpriced deals were made and in the end, it was the settlers that bore the brunt of the consequences.

Charges have been filed against former Felda chairman Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad, and given the scale of alleged fraud that had taken place, more police reports are about to be lodged in the days and weeks ahead. And more people are expected to face charges.

All of that will mean that justice to what had happened at Felda will be sought. That process will take time, but in the meantime, the main thrust of the White Paper, apart from detailing the cocktail of crimes, was what to do with Felda next.

The key take-away from the report was that there will be a new Felda. The old one, with its own legacy problems, meant that it will be best to start over again with a new focus. The financial performance of Felda warrants the change as it has been losing money since its unit FGV Holdings Bhd was floated on Bursa Malaysia and its debt ballooned from RM1.2bil in 2007 to RM14.4bil in 2017. And its assets just about doubled. From those numbers alone, it was imperative that financial assistance from the government be extended to rehabilitate Felda.

The government will inject RM6.23bil into Felda in stages in the form of grants, loans and guarantees and much of that money will actually go towards reworking Felda.

The agency’s debt will be taken care of and so will the settlers’ loans. Housing for second-generation Felda settlers will be built and RM480mil will be given to help pay for their living cost.

In changing Felda from what it is now to what it should morph into, the government will inject RM1bil for the settlers to plant new cash crops.

Relying on palm oil and rubber alone has been good and the settlers and Felda benefited from that. But in today’s world, other cash crops have gained prominence than the golden crop of Malaysia.

With the price of food, which includes fruits and vegetables, along with livestock, having increasing value, the shift towards these crops is understandable and inevitable.

Settlers will be able to get more income from cultivating such crops and rearing livestock to go along with the lease agreement they can get by agreeing to allot their rights to their oil palm estates to Felda for a steady monthly return. Felda can then use the economies of scale from the amalgamated lands and better productivity to generate higher returns. The use of modern technology in farming Felda’s land is also in the right direction.

The other steps put forward by Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali is to have better infrastructure in the areas within the scheme, improve development of human capital and a host of other measures that seek to revitalise the prospects of the settlers and their next generation.

The new Felda aims to be run as a well-functioning corporation. Governance, transparency and all the other buzzwords that mean better internal controls and eliminating corruption needed to be done. Having professionals run Felda is the correct move and with all of this, it is hoped that Felda will shed its sordid past and return the agency to what the settlers and their kin have sacrificed for.

The overarching intention of the revamped Felda is to make sure that only the welfare of the settlers and the agency are taken care of. It is also a political move to ensure that a key vote bank that helped swing the tide of the last general election remains intact. But beyond the politics, the revamp of Felda is a much-needed move that will only serve to benefit those involved in the scheme and the country.

It is the right thing to do.

By jagdev singh sidhu The Star

 

 

 

 

Taking Felda forward the smart way – Nation 

 

 


Police may summon VIPs for Felda probe

 

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Obscene HRDF, skill training for corruption !


 

HRDF officers had a gala time

There was even a ‘windfall’ bonus for some of the executives

Imagine receiving a 3,500% increase in bonus over just three years – besides pocketing astonishing sums in salaries. The ongoing Human Resources Development Fund clean-up also reveals top executives’ pay spiking just before GE14. The board knew nothing about it.

The ongoing clean-up of the abused Human Resources Development Fund revealed that a top executive and three deputies at the fund were lavished with salary increments and bonuses leading up to the last general election.

The four high-ranking officers had allegedly taken their share of a million ringgit “jackpot” at least two months prior to the general election last year.

The scale of the salary increases and bonuses paid out to the officers was staggering.

The executive’s individual bonus of RM616,000 for 2017 was more than triple the bonus received in 2016, which was RM191,000.

To put into perspective, the executive’s 2015 individual bonus package was RM60,000 and only RM17,000 the year before.

The 2017 bonus of RM616,000 translated to a growth of a whopping 3,524% in just three years.

The RM616,000 bonus was part of a package where the four pocketed RM1.25mil in individual performance bonuses for the year 2017.

The three deputies each received RM211,000, and these were on top of the corporate bonuses they received. The issue has been the exponential growth of the bonuses given out although employees of HRDF are entitled to bonuses declared and paid by the fund.

Apart from individual bonuses, employees also received a corporate bonus.

In 2017, the normal staff members of HRDF were only eligible to receive up to 5.75 months of bonus which comprised 1.75 months of corporate bonus and up to four months of individual bonus.

The executive and a deputy have left HRDF while the two remaining deputies are still with the fund. One of them was redesignated but still remains in the upper echelon.

Meanwhile, the executive also received a salary revision twice in 2017, from RM32,000 a month to RM47,000 a month in March and subsequently to RM56,000 a month just four months later.

This translated to a 75% increase in salary within a year.

This was following a “recommendation” by a consultancy firm that was engaged in November 2016 to review the executive’s salary, which was only slightly a year after the previous revision.

This is not the first instance where the board of directors was bypassed in decision-making.

While remunerations and bonuses were usually determined by HRDF’s establishment and benefits committee (EBC) and subject to the board of directors’ approval, the hefty bonus paid was allegedly approved by the Human Resources Minister.

Documents sighted by The Star revealed that Datuk Seri Richard Riot Jaem, who was the minister that time, gave the approval for the performance bonus on Feb 28 last year.

This was also approved by Riot and the EBC was not informed about it.

Under the HRDF Act, a minister may only give directives to the board, and not to bypass the board to give approvals.

In a letter to Riot on Feb 27 to request for the allocation of performance bonus, the HRDF said the board had approved a restructuring in HRDF, which involved more competitive salaries and new grades of service.

“This is to ensure that HRDF can scale greater heights in terms of competitiveness and productivity in assisting the Human Resources Ministry and the government to achieve its strategic goals and targets,” an excerpt from the letter read.It also claimed that a board meeting on Dec 21, 2017, approved for the chief executive to determine the quantum of bonuses for the deputy chief executives and that there should be a separate allocation for them.

The Star in January highlighted the purchase of a RM154mil pro­perty in Bangsar South which was done without the approval of the board of directors and investment panel.Approval was given for ano­ther property in the same area but HRDF went on to make payments for the Bangsar South pro­perty with some RM40mil alle­gedly paid before the tax invoice date.

The investment panel was only informed of the switch of property purchased five months after the first tranche of RM15.4mil was paid.

In November last year, Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran revealed that high-ranking staff members of HRDF misappropriated about RM100mil out of the RM300mil that was in the fund.

He also highlighted several wrongdoings such as abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and arriving at decisions without reporting to the board of directors.

HRDF is an agency under the Human Resources Ministry, which manages a fund comprising contributions from employers for the purpose of training and development.

There were also allegations of fraudulent training claims made by certain training providers and inflated billings were allegedly done in collusion with HRDF staff.

By Royce Tan The Star

 

Related News

 


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The persistent pipe dream: some politicians play religion and race cards ended up becoming rats themselves


It’s been more than six decades since Malaysian independence, yet, more than ever, some politicians continue to wield the race and religion cards to divide us.

PATHETIC and disgusting. That’s surely an understatement in describing the continuous racist slurs non-Malays have had to endure.

Using non-Malays – particularly the Christians – as bogeymen hasn’t ended, even more than six decades after independence.

The situation has probably worsened because social media has made things more evident and amplified them. Thankfully though, politicians selling venom to their target audience can no longer be a covert affair.

These chameleons used to stir the hornet’s nest of race and religion with the Malays, portraying themselves as champions of their community. And then, they have no qualms attending events at Chinese new villages, where they try to please the residents by professing to be one people. Just to add value to the “show”, even a calligraphy writing session is entertained.
Next on their “tour” – get on stage, put their palms together, and greet the people in Tamil, and then do the dance bit, of course. And we bought all that, believing they portrayed the real Malaysia.

Incredibly, some are still doing the rounds. For a fresh twist, the LBGT element has even been thrown in now, and despite the charade being recorded, clarification must be issued to say otherwise. You know, I didn’t mean it.

Someone has forgotten that it isn’t only the ghosts, drunkards and LBGT community who are still awake at 11pm and need to use the toll.

These commuters include nurses, doctors, policemen, security guards, hawkers, taxi drivers, restaurant employees, firemen, factory workers, food deliverers and of course, journalists too, and we often work the infamous graveyard shift.

Scoring points and teaming up with an equally repulsive partner to create suspicion against other fellows, with fictional threats of race and religion, is just unacceptable.

While we cringe over the thought of how there are listeners who buy their hate speech, we expect these politicians to at least rise above these nauseating tactics and convince the people that they can provide better governance and deliver more than the present government.

They should prove to the people that the new government’s failings include not fulfilling its election promises, allowing the cost of living to go up and watching the ringgit’s value shrink. And to add ammunition, highlight how some ministers have even failed their probation.

That’s what a fault-finding Opposition is supposed to do – ensure check and balance, and behave like a government in-waiting, but here we have opposition Members of Parliament who can’t wait to broker a deal by defecting to the government’s side of the fence.

There’s another distateful story. It’s about an Umno MP who crossed over to Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and had the gall to admit that he was doing it for the constituents.

So, we have an odd situation where opposition MPs mourned the defeat of the previous government even after almost a year, and now plot to join the new government. Not plot to topple, of course, not that again, but plot to join. Naturally, it’s in the interest of the people.

We believe you, well, some of us do. Most of us know it’s just a lie, but hey, we are in the era of malu apa …

Then, there are the “remnants”, who probably won’t be accepted by the new government, and figure that the only way for them to get back on the gravy train is to stoke the fires of racial and religious sensitivity. You’ve got to give it to this lot, though. They are, at least, fighting back, although their methods are pretty despicable.

However, the hate speeches will likely work in some constituencies, where, like oil, it burns the minds and hearts of angry voters who are already struggling to put food on the table for their families.

Still, it’s the pits when someone like Barisan Nasional secretary-general Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz resorts to claiming that having a non-Muslim Attorney General is not “lawful” since he took oath without swearing on the Quran. Nazri, of course, is bluffing, but he’s like those snake oil peddlers who will say anything to make a sale.

Nowhere in the Federal Constitution does it state that an AG needs to take an oath using the Quran. And surely, we won’t expect the likes of Nazri to concede that in the history of Malaya, there were six British AGs.

Cecil Sheridan, who died aged 88 in 2000, was the last British Attorney-General of Malaya and helped in drafting the constitution of its successor state, Malaysia.

When Malaya attained independence in 1957, Sheridan was promoted to Solicitor-General and in 1959, became the country’s Attorney-General. He also helped in the preparations for the formation of Malaysia in 1963 and in the process, worked closely with Tunku Abdul Rahman, the Prime Minister of Malaya, Tun Razak Hussein, its deputy Prime Minister, and Lee Kuan Yew, of Singapore.

True, the eight subsequent successors were Malays, but there’s no race and religion criteria in the appointment of the top-ranking public prosecutor of the country.

The first Lord President of Malaysia – now renamed Chief Justice – was a Scot named Tun Sir James Thompson, who assumed the post in 1963 when Malaysia was formed. He held the post until 1966.

Likewise, after independence in 1957, Malaysia’s first two finance ministers were ethnic Chinese – Tun H.S. Lee and Tun Tan Siew Sin. However, from 1974 until very recently, the post had been held by Malays.

So, what we are effectively saying is that our founding fathers had no issue with the ethnicity of these important posts such as chief judge, attorney general and finance ministers. However, as six decades have worn on, we have become more degenerate, insisting on focusing on race and religion, instead of qualifications, credibility and integrity as the main criteria?

Certainly, these men, who held the loftiest positions, did well then, and many of us can accept that they didn’t collude with individuals to loot the wealth of this country and the Malays – who make up the bulk of Malaysians.

The harsh reality is that the pilfering and corruption are shamelessly executed by those claiming to fight for their race and religion. They shouldn’t blame anyone else or try to fan the flames of racial discontent to save themselves. Malaysians are tired of such perversion, so we can’t allow such incorrigible politics to proliferate in our beloved country.

One Chinese Finance Minister, a Christian Chief Justice and an Indian Attorney-General aren’t going to be able to control a country of 31 million people, where Malays and the indigenous people make up 61.7%, compared to the the shrinking Chinese (20.8%) and Indian (6.2%) population.

As for religion, according to a 2010 estimate, Muslims number most at 61.3%, Buddhists 19.8%, Christians 9.2%, Hindus 6.3% with Confucianism, Taoism and other Chinese practices at 1.3%, others 0.4%, no religion 0.8%, unspecified 1%.

As for the 1.6 million civil servants – the then-Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim told Parliament that as at December 2014, the ethnic composition of the civil service was as follows: 78.8% Malays, Bumiputera Sabah (6.1%), Bumiputera Sarawak (4.8 %), Chinese (5.2 %), Indians (4.1 %), other Bumiputera (0.3%) and others (0.7%).

As for the police force, then-Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said non-Malays only made up 5% of the 133,212-strong force.

“Of the total, 80.23% or 106,871 are Malays, while Chinese make up only 1.96% (2,615), Indians 3.16% (4,209), Punjabis 0.21% (275) and others 14.44% (19,242),” he said in replying a question by Raja Kamarul Bahrin Shah (Amanah-Kuala Terengganu).

And we haven’t even counted the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and the Malays holding key posts in the Cabinet, and of course, the overwhelmingly Malay armed forces, numbering 420,000 personnel. It’s downright contemptible for our politicians to make fictional claims of non-Malays gaining control of the country, when the facts and figures clearly speak for themselves. For most rational Malaysians, we just want to see a clean government and civil service, which can safeguard our national interest, regardless of race and religion.

The late Chinese premier Deng Xiaoping famously said that it doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white, so long as it catches the mice.

Wong Chun WaiOur recent history has showed that our big fat cats didn’t catch the mice but ended up becoming rats themselves.

Wong Chun Wai

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now editorial and corporate affairs adviser to the group, after having served as group managing director/chief executive officer.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current

issues in The Star.

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For the love of our troubled nation in full parade


Casting whining and whinging aside, it’s time we pull our socks up, put our best foot forward, and show the world what Malaysia is all about.

IT’S time for Malaysia to change its narrative. For a start, our leaders must end the hyperbole of how the previous Barisan Nasional government stripped and looted the country’s wealth.

We generally know enough about the financial crime of the century, the hunt and arrests of those implicated in the cases.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, are facing a barrage of corruption and money laundering charges, and they are expected to spend the next five years in court.

The main character, the infamous Jho Low, and his family, are on the run, and it’s a given fact that the long arm of the law will eventually reach them.

A corrupt government has collapsed, and it’s now coming to a year since the new federal leaders took charge.

Malaysia can’t continue telling the world how we’re a troubled country with a deep financial hole, and neither should we keep contradicting our stand.

We can’t be saying we’re near bankrupt one day, and the next, concede that our economy is in good shape.

The Pakatan Harapan government marks its first year at office in May. So, its ministers can’t still be whining about inherited problems of a 60-year-old government forever.

Many of the current leaders, including the Prime Minister, were part of the system, and in the case of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, he was at the helm for 22 years, lest we forget.

Admittedly, an eye-watering amount of money has been pilfered, so, the government needs to retrieve what’s stolen.

Ironically, PH was elected to fix these problems.

Malaysia can’t seem like an attractive business proposition with our troubled nation in full parade, especially when investors have many countries to choose from.

The country’s economy for the next two years will be turbulent, but forming the Economic Action Council is a good start to indicate that we intend to tackle the issues together, with public and private participation.

The Prime Minister has made the right move, but the EAC must run fast to come up with confidence-building measures.

Against the backdrop of a challenging environment for global equity markets and a US-China trade war, Malaysia has continued to tread on a steady economic path. It’s slower than we want to, but at least a recession isn’t looming.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng must continue his positive tones, as he has finally been doing, to renew confidence both locally and internationally.

The idea of revenue through taxation should be canned, but grumblings among the small base of individual taxpayers is ringing out loud.

It’s unfair to keep scrapping for crumbs from these taxpayers. A more progressive tax regime should be in place. Give it a name if necessary, but importantly, a firmer consumption tax is required because it will be fairer. It’s simple, if you don’t spend, you don’t pay.

In a way, it needs to be balanced out since individuals can’t be paying both income tax and consumption tax.

Lim has taken the right direction to keep selling the messages of how Malaysia has introduced policies and measures to invigorate the capital market.

“Our stock market has remained resilient in comparison with our peers in Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong and China.

“Amidst large capital outflows among emerging markets and Asean countries this year, the FBM KLCI benchmark index registered a year-to-date decline of 5.8% as at end-November, compared with other Asian markets that have experienced declines ranging from 9.1% to 22.7%.

“And, we are the second-best performing stock market in the Asia Pacific region,” he said recently.

There is other good news which we’ve yet to shout out loud enough for, like Malaysia currently ranking 15 from 190 economies in its facilitation of commerce, according to the latest World Bank annual ratings.

Malaysia’s ranking improved to 15 in 2018 from 24 in 2017. Ease of Doing Business in Malaysia averaged 18.18 from 2008 until 2018, reaching an all-time high of 24 in 2017 and a record low of 6 in 2013, it was reported.

Although we may have lost crucial time, we still have a year to make Malaysia look good because two major events take place next year.

Highlights for 2020 include Malaysia celebrating Visit Malaysia Year, and hosting the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) leaders’ summit, some 22 years after doing so for the first time.

Let’s do it right and make Malaysia proud. It’s not just an occasion befitting Dr Mahathir, but all Malaysians as stakeholders.

The government’s proverbial tale of empty pockets isn’t an excuse anymore. It just doesn’t work that way. If we need to spend, we need to find the money, because we expect a return on investments.

We need to finance-telling a good story internationally, it’s that simple.

However, the lack of momentum to galvanise the nation hasn’t been motivational.

The world doesn’t want to keep hearing our negative stories and neither do Malaysians.

Tell the world we have fixed it and now we’re on the road again.

Come May, and it’ll be crunch time for underachieving ministers.

Everyone invariably tries their best, but those who are unfit just shouldn’t get the nod. After all, the last thing PH needs is painting a picture of a failed administration, but the coalition should be wary of many Malaysians believing the Barisan government fared better.

It’s unfair how some ministers are passing the buck to the PM because they lack the confidence to decide or are just indecisive because the responsibilities of their portfolios exceed their ability.

Visitors to Dr Mahathir’s office have noticed the growing mountain of uncleared documents, which is surely too much a task for anyone, what more a 93-year-old man.

We need to take advantage of the new Malaysia to construct a fresh national narrative which emphasises Malaysia and Malaysians.

There is a need to build national pride over the coming years, one which makes trust and integrity its main framework.

A shared vision beyond 2020 is crucial. Also, to bring Malaysians together and not let race and religion hijack the national discourse.

The question now is, do our leaders have the gumption for this, or will they just let New Malaysia be another piped dream?

By the time world leaders take the stage in KL, Malaysia should be ready to display a new sense of direction, purpose and plan.

Wong Chun WaiWong Chun Wai

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now editorial and corporate affairs adviser to the group, after having served as group managing director/chief executive officer.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.

chunwai@thestar.com.my https://twitter.com/chunwai09 http://www.wongchunwai.com/

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Integrity should be no compromise! Malu apa, bro! Queries over credentials, Wee presses on quizzing Lim


Weighing in: (Clockwise from top left) Ramon, Marina, Hassan, Anas and  Marimuthu
‘There should be no compromise on integrity’

Honesty and integrity should take centre stage in the debate that is swirling over the legitimacy of certain university degrees of politicians.

Asli’s Centre for Public Policy Studies chairman Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam said good political leaders need not be graduates but some academic credentials would be an asset to them.

“What we need are politicians with keen critical thinking, dedication and sincerity to serve the rakyat,” he said yesterday.

Ramon said that politicians who had “cheated” should confess and let the people decide if they still want them to carry on serving or quit their posts.

Several politicians have come under fire after their academic qualifications were questioned by the public.

Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Marzuki Yahya found himself in hot water following the controversy over his “Cambridge University” degree.

Others included Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu, Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin, Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian and Perak state executive councillor Paul Yong Choo Kiong.

Several Barisan Nasional leaders too had their qualifications scrutinised in the past. Among them were former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Richard Riot.

Former UiTM vice-chancellor Emeritus Prof Datuk Dr Hassan Said said in other countries, leaders would have been asked to resign or they would voluntarily quit if they were found using dubious credentials.

“Honesty and integrity values are more important to those who are dealing with public trust and responsibility.

“The nation will collapse if its leaders are not honest or have integrity,” he said.

Educationist Prof Tan Sri Dr T. Marimuthu said politicians must come clean about their academic credentials as they are serving the public.

“Otherwise, how else can you serve the people?

“If you ask someone to write your thesis for you or use dubious ways to earn your credentials, you are just being dishonest to yourself and the public,” he said.

Moderation advocate Anas Zubedy concurred, saying that there should be no compromise when it comes to leadership and integrity.

“No matter how brilliant, knowledgeable or successful you are, a lack of integrity disqualifies any and all talent for any leadership position. We must check their track record for any propensity to lie, practise double standards, or to say one thing and do the other.

“New Malaysia must not compromise on integrity,” he said.

Writer and social activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir said it was better to own up in not possessing a degree than to pretend to have one.

“No, it’s not a crime nor is it essential to serve in the government but it’s a matter of trust. If you can misrepresent this, what else can you misrepresent?” she asked.

G25 group of eminent Malays said it is best to be honest about one’s academic credentials so that doubts are not raised on their integrity.

“A politician who lies about his personal details to win an election or get a ministerial position will raise doubts about his integrity. He will also create a bad image for the government and the country,” it said in a statement.

Najib asked whether it was the national news agency Bernama or officers of the ministers that had misrepresented the academic credentials of Pakatan Harapan ministers.

“But what is more strange is that the false news that the ministers were graduates came from the biodata published from Bernama in its infographics and was spread when they were appointed as ministers about nine months ago.

“As far as I know, normally Bernama would request the biodata from the special aides or the press secretaries of ministers when they are appointed to be published in its reports,” he said on Facebook.

Reports by Star team: TARRANCE TAN, HEMANANTHANI SIVANANDAM, RAHIMY RAHIM, NURBAITI HAMDAN, RASHVINJEET S.BEDI and SARBAN SINGH

Malu apa, bro!

WE seem to be heading towards a dangerous edge. There is now an emerging culture of shamelessness.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak may have been slapped with countless charges of corruption and money laundering, but his campaign, Malu apa, bossku (“Why the shame, boss?” in Bahasa Malaysia), has surprisingly attracted millions of likes on social media.

The scandal-smeared former prime minister has traded in his tailored suits, impeccable English and political elite-aristocratic crowd for the Mat Rempit and Malay working class.

As part of his makeover, he is now decked in black parka, black jeans and black sneakers.

He is even hanging out with the young Mat Rempit and posting wefies with them. He is also happily showing off a black-and-red Yamaha Y15ZR 150cc moped that is all the rage with the youths of today.

And the registration plate on his bike is 8055KU, which insinuates “BOSSKU”, and to these newfound supporters, Najib is called Boss kita! (Our Boss.)

The key phrase here is Malu apa bossku, and while many learned Malaysians are cringing over this new culture, it barely seems wrong for our embattled former PM, who is basking in it and promoting the malaise.

But a similar show is also surfacing on the other side of the political divide.

One Pakatan Harapan leader after another is having his or her dubious education credentials exposed after Deputy Foreign Minister Marzuki Yahya was questioned over his.

Johor Mentri Besar Osman Sapian’s education history has come under the spotlight with the allegation that he didn’t obtain a degree from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), as claimed.

Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin’s social science degree from the National University of Singapore (NUS), as reported when she became a minister, has also come into question. Now, she’s washed her hands of ever having had one.

DAP Assemblyman from Tronoh Paul Yong Choo Kiong claimed to have a masters in business administration from Akamai University – an alleged degree mill in Hawaii – among his academic qualifications.

None of these politicians have apologised for not correcting these errors when they were revealed, but now, they have conveniently shrugged off the news reports, claiming no knowledge of such revelations.

Worse, Marzuki passed the buck to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, saying it is now up to his boss to decide. The Johor MB chose to remain silent, hoping that the storm would blow over.

The central issue here isn’t whether an elected representative should have a tertiary education – the point here is, should we put our trust in anyone who lies to themselves?

If some of these individuals buy dubious online diplomas, they are only cheating themselves. Worse, the electorate has also fallen for this charade hook, line and sinker.

Instead of working hard, like most university students, these individuals apparently chose the easy way out. Are we expected to believe them when they talk about accountability and integrity from now on?

What’s worse is, most Pakatan leaders have chosen to look the other way or have lamely justified these dishonest transgressions.

If they were in the private sector, the sack would be a foregone conclusion, but then they are “Yang Berhormat”, despite these dishonourable acts.

Apa nak malu, YB! Aku ada SPM aje, bro!

And of course, that’s not the end. PAS leaders have found themselves in unfamiliar waters.

With their turbans and goatees, they like to appear pious and holier than thou. However, they are now seeing their names flying on social media, associated with a taste for sports cars and bikes, and not just under their names, but those of their children and spouses.

A report filed with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) over allegations of PAS leaders getting RM90mil from Umno under the previous administration involved “a list of expensive cars”, properties, high-powered motorcycles and “the purchase of number plates at exorbitant prices”, it has been widely reported.

According to the report, several PAS leaders were accused of using these funds to acquire the cars and properties.

The cars include BMW, Mini Cooper, Toyota Vellfire, Range Rover, Porsche Cayman, Audi Q7, Audi A6, Toyota Camry, Toyota Fortuner, Volkswagen Passat, Mercedes Benz, and a BMW motorcycle, according to a report.

“As for the properties, this includes a bungalow in Bangi worth RM3mil,” says a report. The only item missing is camel ownership.

PAS Mursyidul Am (spiritual leader) Datuk Hashim Jasin has admitted to owning a Porsche Cayman, but said his son was the real owner, who was entitled to an Approved Permit (AP) when he served as the Arau MP between 1998 and 1999.

Every one of them has branded these accusations as part of some grand political conspiracy, pleading innocence and insisting they are virginal and pure instead.

But we are sure they will be okay, and they will continue to preach accountability and transparency, and possibly continue to look – invoking race, religion and God – to their faithful followers, who will readily give away their savings and, brave the rain and scorching sun to support them.

Malu Apa Bossku? Tatap Sokong Boss (as the Sabahans will say).

by Wong Chun Wai

 

Queries over credentials

 

DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER DATUK MARZUKI YAHYA

It was reported by Bernama that Marzuki pursued a Bachelor’s degree in business administration, majoring in logistics via a long-distance learning programme at the University of Cambridge.

Response: “When I was asked by the media, I clearly said that I was from Cambridge International University (CIU) in US and not the University of Cambridge in UK.”

FINANCE MINISTER LIM GUAN ENG

MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong questioned Lim’s credential as a qualified professional accountant

Response: Lim’s political secretary Tony Pua rebutted the allegations by producing Lim’s degree certificate from Monash University, Australia on April 11, 1984, together with a copy of his “Certificate of Membership” in the Australian Society of Accountants dated Feb 21, 1984.

DEFENCE MINISTER MOHAMAD SABU

Accused of faking a degree in culinary arts.

Response: “Some people say I have a degree in culinary arts. I never said that. Truth is, I never completed my studies at UiTM. They kicked me out.”

But Mohamad was quick to add that despite this, he was still a “good cook”.

HOUSING AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT MINISTER ZURAIDA KAMARUDDIN

A Twitter user claimed he could not find her name on the National University of Singapore’s online degree verification portal.

Response: “I have never claimed or held myself to be a graduate of NUS and I have never authorised anyone else to do so,” she said.

JOHOR MENTRI BESAR DATUK OSMAN SAPIAN

A Facebook page questioned the validity of his UPM Bachelor in Accounting obtained in 1985.
Response: He has yet to comment on the matter.

TRONOH ASSEMBLYMAN PAUL YONG CHOO KIONG

Yong was questioned over his Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from Akamai University, United States by MCA’s Dr Wee.

Response: Yong said he felt calm and had nothing much to comment as his certificate is real and he had a convocation 16 years ago.

“My main interest now is to do the best for my voters,” said Yong.

FORMER PRIME MINISTER DATUK SERI NAJIB TUN RAZAK

DAP highlighted a video circulating online alleging that Najib never completed his studies at UK’s Nottingham University in the 70s.

Response: “Of course my degree is legitimate.”

FORMER HUMAN RESOURCES MINISTER DATUK SERI RICHARD RIOT

Riot was questioned in 2013 over his Bachelor of Business Administration from the Chartered Insitute of Business Administration (Ireland) and a Masters in Business Administration from Preston University in the United States.

Response: “As (former) prime minister, he (Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak) has used his wisdom to find out whether I am fit to be a minister, and that includes my academic qualification, by tasking me to be in charge of the human resources portfolio, which is a very a challenging ministry with 13 agencies.

“There is a difference between fake degree and qualifications from unrecognised universities. I worked very hard for it because I believe in life-long learning”, he said.

Wee presses on quizzing Lim

Wee: No evidence showing that Lim ever worked in any accounting firms.
Wee: No evidence showing that Lim ever worked in any accounting firms.

KUALA LUMPUR: Despite threats of being sued, MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong continues to raise questions on Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng’s credentials as an accountant.

Dr Wee said that “Lim is far from even being a certified or a chartered accountant”.

The Ayer Hitam MP, while referring to documents released by Lim’s political secretary Tony Pua yesterday, pointed out that Lim’s membership into the Australian Society of Accountants on Feb 21, 1984, merely stated that he was admitted as a provisional member.

A provisional membership, Dr Wee said, was one of the steps required to enrol into programme modules and examination in order to qualify as an accountant, and to qualify for a full membership into the Australian Society of Accoun­tants.

Therefore, a provisional membership is far from being a fully certified chartered accountant or even an accountant.

“You cannot call yourself using either designation,” said Dr Wee in a Facebook posting yesterday.

The Australian Society of Accoun­tants is now known as CPA Australia (Certified Practicing Accountant).

Checks online showed that a full membership is only awarded to individuals if they have successfully passed the CPA examination – which also requires a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a year of supervised working experience under a CPA licence holder.

At the same time, Dr Wee, in the same Facebook posting, pointed out that Lim was quoted by news portal MalaysiaKini in a report on March 2012 as saying that he was a failed accountant and had spent less than a week in an accounting firm in Malaysia before he was sacked.

Dr Wee said there was no evidence showing that Lim ever worked in any accounting firms, or having enrolled for any necessary education requirements to qualify as a certified accountant or a chartered accountant.

“In fact, online checks with the Malaysian Institute of Accoun­tants (MIA) does not show Lim as being a member.

“In Malaysia, you cannot misrepresent yourself as an accountant unless you are a member of MIA.

“It is a criminal offence under Section 25(e) of the Accountants Act 1967 for any individual or organisation to call himself or herself an accountant unless he or she is registered with the MIA,” said Dr Wee.

At the same time, Dr Wee said that a report by New Straits Times in June 2018 also pointed out that Lim had claimed to be a former accountant.

Meanwhile, Dr Wee also said that DAP’s website had misrepresented Lim as a certified accountant.

“Neither MCA nor myself have any interest in pursuing this matter any further as the declining economy right now is a more important issue to address.

“We leave it to DAP and the rakyat to judge if a legal offence has been committed,” said Dr Wee.

Lim’s qualification in accounting is the latest to come under scrutiny after a series of alleged false education credentials involving Pakatan Harapan leaders, including Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Marzuki Yahya, Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian and Tronoh assemblyman Paul Yong Choo Kiong. – The Star.

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‘Degree and awards-buying show poor character and stand to lose credibility’


Under scrutiny: A photo of the Cambridge International University and logo taken from its website.

https://content.jwplatform.com/players/MHCRopSi-dBiC3tzP.html https://youtu.be/x90SmWqP2V4

Politicians having degrees and certificates from questionable higher learning institutions make for bad optics and show poor character, say political analysts.

However, many do it to raise social standing or to win over the masses.

Universiti Malaya law lecturer Assoc Prof Dr Azmi Sharom said that knowingly getting degrees from dubious institutions displayed a lack of confidence in oneself and a lack of good character.

Dr Azmi: ‘Maybe the politicians feel the need to justify their intelligence to the public by having some sort of degree.’
Dr Azmi: ‘Maybe the politicians feel the need to justify their intelligence to the public by having some sort of degree.’

“To actually purchase your degree from these places, then to show off about it, for me it’s not a crime but a sign of poor character.

“Maybe the politicians feel the need to justify their intelligence to the public by having some sort of degree,” said Dr Azmi.

He was commenting on remarks by Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Marzuki Yahya who said his degree was from the Cambridge International University in the United States, after previously saying he had a degree from the University of Cambridge.

Dr Azmi said he did not believe that Marzuki should lose his job over this matter but that it was done in poor form, adding that people cared more about politicians holding public office doing their job well rather than what certificates they possessed.

“It’s not necessary to have a degree to be a politician, but it would inspire confidence in the public if ministers were academically qualified in the field that they were working on.

“For example, the current minister in charge of environment (Energy, Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin) is very qualified in her field and it is very reassuring to know that,” he said.

However, Dr Azmi added that having a degree for a minister was not a “be all and end all” as they could still learn on the job.

Universiti Sains Malaysia political analyst Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian said politicians buy dubious degrees because they felt that this was important to boost confidence and trust among the masses.

Prof Sivamurugan: ‘Some who are interested to become politicians feel it’s a disadvantage without a higher education.’
Prof Sivamurugan: ‘Some who are interested to become politicians feel it’s a  disadvantage without a higher education.’

“Some quarters of the public think they will be served better by having lawmakers with education credentials.

“In fact, some who are interested to become politicians feel it’s a disadvantage without a higher education.

“For those who don’t have one, they are willing to go to the extent of finding a dubious degree without realising the consequences in this new information world,” he said.

Prof Sivamurugan believed that politicians with dubious degrees should come clean or voluntarily resign to avoid further damaging the party’s image as the new Malaysia was about integrity.

“However, Marzuki’s case must not be politicised and his party must give him a chance to defend himself,” he added.

In 2017, there were suggestions to the Higher Education Ministry to vet lawmakers with fake credentials, said Prof Sivamurugan, adding that it showed that this was nothing new in Malaysian politics.

UiTM Sabah political science lecturer Mohd Rahezzal Shah said the people will question future decisions made by Marzuki as well as his character and integrity if it was proven that he knowingly bought a certificate from a degree mill.

“If knowing full well that these institutions are degree mills, yet they still get degrees from these places, then it really shows their characters.

“People will judge him (Marzuki) based on that and they will judge his judgment as a leader in the future,” said Rahezzal.

Marzuki, who is also a senator and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s secretary-general, also stood to lose credibility if he claimed that he did not know that the Cambridge International University was a degree mill as a simple Google search would have raised a lot of questions, said Rahezzal.

“As a deputy minister, he is involved in decision-making processes everyday. If he can’t even get the facts right for his degree then he will lose credibility,” said Rahezzal.

He added that many of those who have in the past been caught with dubious degrees were from among prominent businessmen and politicians who wanted to raise their social standing.

“They need to have degrees from foreign countries and the easiest way is to buy them,” he said. The Star

Profile photos of faculty members in question

Under scrutiny: A photo of the Cambridge International University and logo taken from its website.
Under scrutiny: A photo of the Cambridge International University and logo taken from its website.

Checks on the US-based Cambridge International University from which Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Marzuki Yahya obtained his degree in business administration have raised more questions on its legitimacy.

The faculty members on the website listed one “associate professor”, Dr Patricia Powell, whose profile picture bears the watermark of international online dating site AnastasiaDate that predominantly features East European women.

The profile pictures used for five other women in the adjunct faculty members’ list also looked suspiciously like that of fashion models.

One “Mrs Josephine Fernandens” posed with a pout against a green backdrop while a “Dr Teressa Jane Bright” had bare shoulders and eye makeup fit for the runway.

Other faculty and adjunct faculty members also bore suspiciously low resolution profile pictures.

Attempts by The Star to email multiple faculty and adjunct faculty members for clarification failed when the mail delivery subsystem noted that these email addresses could not be found or the server was unable to receive mail.

The response from the remote server read: “550 No Such User Here”.

With 150 programmes offered, the institution, which claimed to have existed since 1990, only had 12 faculty members and only 13 adjunct faculty members listed on the website.

A Google search on the names of each faculty and adjunct faculty member turned up nothing, neither a LinkedIn profile nor research papers published under them.

Marzuki, who previously said he had a degree from the University of Cambridge pursued through a distance learning programme, admitted on Wednesday that his degree was actually from the Cambridge International University in the United States.

Since that admission, the institution has come under intense scrutiny and increasing suspicion that it is a “diploma mill” that awards degrees with little or no study.

According to higher learning websites, indicators that an institution may be a diploma mill: it is not accredited; doesn’t have a physical address or location listed on the website; admissions entirely depend on a valid Visa or MasterCard; and the website not having an (.edu) web domain.

On its website, Cambridge International University admits it has not been accredited by an accrediting agency recognised by the US Secretary of Education, adding that “accreditation is a strictly voluntary option in the US”.

“There is no mandate by federal law for a school, college or university to be accredited. Many good schools are not accredited,” it said.

There was also no physical address or location of the institution’s office listed on the website, which also does not have the (.edu) domain.

Cambridge International University has no affiliation with the prestigious University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

The US-based institution only offers “distance learning” programmes with degree courses costing as low as US$5,000 (about RM20,000) with fees payable via PayPal. Read more at https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2019/02/08/profile-photos-of-faculty-members-in-question/#0QSzO6Txyv7Bz2zo.99

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