Isnin, 8 Julai 2013

Philosophy Politics Economics

Philosophy Politics Economics

Datuk Paul Low Fears PAC Abused for Political Mileage

Posted: 08 Jul 2013 06:19 PM PDT

Datuk Paul Low's trivialisation and politicisation of the Public Accounts Committee chairmanship confirms his BN partisanship and stains his reputation for transparency and accountability

The Pakatan Rakyat state government has made an offer for the Selangor Barisan Nasional (BN) opposition leader to chair the powerful Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to create a first world assembly, in the interest of check and balance, transparency and accountability.  The unconditional offer has been rejected by the Selangor opposition leader, Datuk Mohd Shamsuddin Lias.

I have written to implore the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak to instruct Selangor BN to accept the post to prove that he is serious about his transformation programme to make Malaysia "the best democracy in the world" and his pledge to ensure transparency and accountability.

I have made the call on the Datuk Seri Najib Razak to do so, regardless of whether he will offer the Parliament's PAC chairmanship to Pakatan Rakyat, although he should if he is serious about a first-world parliament.

However, the new Minister in the Prime Minister's department, Datuk Paul Low has been quick to the draw to dismiss the idea as unnecessary and unimportant.  He told the Malay Mail that because "Malaysia, unlike other Commonwealth countries, may not have the political maturity to have an opposition member chair its parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC)."

The Minister seemingly without any political affiliation now claims that "such positions could be abused for political mileage".

He said that "it depends on political maturity. To what extent can politicians give constructive criticism? Overseas, the opposition joins constructive and bipartisan discussions, so maybe they can do it there."  Low said that in Malaysia the opposition would have to note that the seat was meant to be used for constructive criticism and not just to condemn the government.

Datuk Paul Low's negative response only proves that he has completely shedded his impartial non-governmental organisation (NGO) skin and has fully embraced BN partisanship.  It appears that the former Transparency International President for the Malaysian chapter is now be more worried  about the government being condemned for its abuses and scandals, than about uncovering the wrongs of the abuses and scandals.

Datuk Paul Low is indeed correct to note that "overseas, the opposition joins constructive and bipartisan discussions".  But that is because in their parliaments, dozens of bipartisan select committees are set up to discuss the drafting of laws in the country.  Here in Malaysia, the BN government will not set up of any such committee to deny the involvement of opposition politicians in the law-making process.  BN treats the Parliament like a rubber stamp where whatever amendments sought by the other side of the fence, regardless of whether it is constructive or otherwise, gets rejected by the tyranny of the majority.

The Selangor Pakatan Rakyat Government, by Datuk Paul Low's own definition, obviously has greater political maturity compared to the BN Federal Government.  The state government welcomes criticism, positive or negative, constructive or political, from the BN opposition to improve itself further.  After all, if the state government is completely transparent and accountable, the PAC chairman will have no issue or basis to "condemn the government".
Datuk Paul Low further provided the flimsy excuse that "it was not imperative that an opposition member chair the parliamentary PAC, which already consisted of those from both sides of the political divide and with the chairman serving just as a facilitator".

His excuse not only trivialises the position of the PAC chairman who gets the say to set the agenda, the excuse doesn't make any sense.  If indeed the chairman is just a facilitator, then why not give it to the Opposition, why shouldn't BN accept the role in Selangor?

Malaysians had hoped that Datuk Paul Low will set new standards for transparency and accountability in the new Najib Cabinet.  Instead, as shown in the previous issues on the set up of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) and the declaration of assets by Cabinet Ministers, not only will no new standards be set, Datuk Paul Low has disappointingly become  the apologist for the BN administration to justifyt its opacity and abuses.

Home Minister and Inspector General of Police Should Stop Being Crybabies over EO

Posted: 07 Jul 2013 11:16 AM PDT

When the Emergency Ordinance (EO) was repealed in 2011, the Prime Minister Dato' Seri Najib Razak announced that it had to be done away with as "technological improvements has rendered exile less then useful a deterrent to crime".

In a speech to civil servants at the Razak School of Government in July 2012, he said that "in the old days, it was easy, if someone was bad, we just catch them and send them to places like Pasir Puteh, or maybe Jerantut.  But nowadays, it is useless as no matter how far you send them, with their cellphones, they can still do their work (commit crime)."

In fact the Prime Minister went so far as to call for the Malaysian police must now change they way they work.  He said that "now police must train themselves how to look for evidence."  Instead of just catching suspects and chucking them into EO detention, Dato' Seri Najib asked the police to now provide evidence to charge them in court.

Earlier in April 2012, Dato' Seri Najib also argued in his speech at the the installation of Sultan of Kedah Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah as the 14th Yang di-Pertuan Agong that "the Government believes that after more than half a century of practising democracy since Independence, Malaysians have reached a high level of maturity… In view of this, we are now ready to enter a new era where the function of Government is no longer seen as limiting freedom of the individual but, instead, of ensuring that the basic rights as enshrined in the Constitution are protected".

However, now both the Home Minister, Dato' Seri Zahid Hamidi and the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar are telling us that we need a return of the EO, or something similar to the EO with elements of detention without trial, in order to arrest rising crime in the country.

It appears that both Dato' Seri Zahid Hamidi and Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar are telling both the Prime Minister and Malaysians at large that the Royal Malaysian Police, after being "pampered" by the EO for the past 42 years, are completely unable to "look for evidence.. and provide evidence to charge [criminals] in court".

The Home Ministry appears to be fighting hard to reverse the political reforms put in place by Dato' Seri Najib, by claiming that the rising rate of crime nationally was due to the lack of preventive laws to tackle these criminals and insiting that "the police must be given enough power" to deal with these "criminals".

According to a Berita Harian report yesterday, Tan Sri Khalid also said that those who had criticised the police in its crime-busting capability should back this new law.

Malaysians are telling Tan Sri Khalid and all the supporters of the EO that criticising the police in its crime-busing capability is a call for them to improve their efficiency and professionalism.  It is certainly not a call to provide the police with unreasonable powers to detain "suspects" without those accused for crime a day in court.

There have been many case of abuse of the EO in the past where youths in their teens were first detained for 60 days and subsequently banished to Johor, Kedah and Pahang separately for two years, simply for alleged motorcycle theft.  These abuses and injustice occurs because the police force is so short handed in the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), that they banished most of them to various detention centres throughout the country without ever completing their investigations, or collecting the necessary evidence to charge these suspects in a court of law.  The police were in effect, a law unto themselves.

We must never let these incidents of injustice happen again.  The Home Minister have announced that Ministers in the Prime Minister's Department, Datuk Paul Low and Nancy Shukri will lead in the drafting of the replacement EO Bill.  We call upon both of these Ministers to strongly reject any attempts to insert vague clauses with allows the Police discretionary powers to detain a person for any period of time without a fair trial.

In this case, we strongly endorse the Prime Minister's call that "the police must now train themselves how to look for evidence… Instead of just catching suspects and chucking them into EO detention".  The IGP should stop whining incessantly about the inability to throw any suspect he likes into detention and start whipping the Royal Malaysian Police into shape, particularly by undertaking the reforms recommended in the 2005 Tun Dzaiddin Royal Commission of Inquiry Report.

BN Selangor Rejects PAC Chairmanship: An Abdication of Duty

Posted: 05 Jul 2013 11:13 AM PDT

For the second term running, Barisan Nasional (BN) state assemblymen are again abdicating from their duties to the rakyat to act as an effective opposition to check and balance the Pakatan Rakyat state government.

For this new term, the unconditional offer to chair the powerful Public Account Committee (PAC) has been offered to the state Opposition Leader, Datuk Mohd Shamsuddin Lias.  However the latter has indicated that he will not take up the position giving the ridiculous excuse that the offer was "politically motivated".

BN has also rejected the PAC chairmanship offer in 2008, after initially accepting it then.  However, after being firmly entrenched to the state opposition with fewer numbers for the second term, it is time for them to accept their role and perform their functions dutifully.

There is no point in the BN opposition making all sorts of wild allegations against the state government when the Pakatan Rakyat are giving the PAC chairmanship to BN on a silver platter.  As the chairman of the PAC, he will be able to set the agenda for the PAC meetings, review alleged misconduct and controversies, secure all relevant documents and interview any officer involved including State Executive Councillors.

Hence we find it completely inexplicable that BN is rejecting the position for the second time, unless the rejection is "politically motivated".  BN is rejecting the position because it does not want to endorse the practice of transparency and accountability.

Despite the slew of rhetoric and slogans in the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) to increase transparency and accountability, the BN government led by Datuk Seri Najib Razak has consistently refused to accept the first world parliamentary best practice of an opposition leader leading the PAC.

Hence even though the unconditional offer of the PAC chairmanship is to promote first world legislative assemblies, Datuk Seri Najib Razak has instructed that the position not be accepted because it will make him look bad in the Parliament.

It appears that Datuk Seri Najib Razak will not be able to live down the fact that a Pakatan Rakyat government accepts a BN PAC Chairman, while he is unable to practise what he preach in the Parliament.  The Prime Minister obviously fears a Pakatan-led PAC in Parliament which will be more pro-active and meticulous in uncovering various abuses, scandals and corruption in the BN government.

We call upon the Ministers in-charge of GTP, Datuk Idris Jala and Datuk Paul Low to play their part to push the Government to not only accept the PAC chairmanship in Selangor, but also to offer the Parliament's PAC chairmanship to Pakatan Rakyat.  Datuk Seri Najib Razak must realise that he lost the trust of 51% of the rakyat in the last general election due to a poor record in transparency and accountability.  By offering the PAC chairmanship to Pakatan Rakyat, he will be able to prove that he is indeed walking the talk about fighting corruption and abuse of power.

However, regardless of whether the Parliament's PAC chairmanship position is offered to Pakatan Rakyat, Datuk Seri Najib Razak must at the very least instruct Datuk Mohd Shamsuddin Lias to accept the Selangor state assembly's PAC chairmanship, to act its role as a responsible opposition in ensuring transparency and accountability.

There is no more valid excuses that Selangorians can accept in the rejection of the role.  In fact, the failure of accepting the role will only permanently cement BN as the opposition in Selangor for the 14th General Election.  The rakyat will be able to tell that Pakatan Rakyat governments practice what we preach, while the BN Governments led by the Prime Minister is only good with the song and dance, with no earnest effort in making real transformation.

Tan Sri Rozali Ismail Deserves RM33.4 million Pay-off?

Posted: 04 Jul 2013 11:09 AM PDT

Was the Puncak Niaga Minority Shareholders Watchdog Group joking when they claimed its Executive Chairman Tan Sri Rozali Ismail fully deserved the RM33.4 million in fees despite the company's losses in recent years?

I nearly fell off my chair when I read in the news reports that the Puncak Niaga (PNHB) Minority Shareholders Watchdog Group (MSWG) chairperson, Muhammad Imran Abdullah claimed that its Executive Chairman, Tan Sri Rozali Ismail fully deserved his RM33.4 million payout.

He told reporters that "it was tabled at the PNHB's annual general meeting, we approved it" and added that "we are only concerned with our dividends and returns", without elaborating further.

This group, which was interestingly formed coincidentally only 1 week ago, did not seem to notice that Puncak Niaga is under serious financial stress and has not performed well over the last 5 years.

On paper, PNHB recorded a net profit of RM233 million for the financial year 2012.  However, it should be highlighted that PNHB achieved profitability only because it recognised a RM1,024 million "water tariff compensation" from the Selangor State Government.

This compensation is never agreed to by the state government because PNHB and its subsidiary, SYABAS has failed to fulfil its obligations under the water concession agreement.  The failure includes but is not limited to SYABAS's failure to repair and replace aging pipes, and consequently to reduce the percentage of non-revenue water in Selangor.  In fact, the "compensation" is being disputed in court and hence should not be recognised as "revenue" for PNHB in the first place.

Without the compensation payment, PNHB would have made massive losses of up to RM791 million.

For the previous financial year 2011, PNHB made net losses of RM83 million, despite recognising RM458 million in "water tariff compensation".  Hence the total losses without the "compensation" would have been as high as RM541 million.  The above figures are found in the PNHB Annual Report 2012, on pages 150 and 198 respectively.

Going back further, PNSB made losses of RM92 million (2010) after recognising "water tariff compensation" of RM419 million (2010).  The above figures are summarised in the Table 1 below.

Table 1: Puncak Niaga Holdings Bhd Profits & Water Tariff Compensation 2008-2012

2012 2011 2010
Net Profit/Loss after Tax 232,680,075 (83,130,994) (91,589,556)
Water Tariff Compensation 1,023,940,987 458,150,923 418,717,266
Estimated Net Loss without Compensation (791,260,912) (541,281,917) (510,306,822)

Therefore, without recognising the disputed and highly controversial "water tariff compensation" from the Selangor state government, the losses in PNHB in 2012 would have been RM250 million worse than in 2011.

As such, PNSB has been making consistent losses in recent year and only managed to eke out a profit in 2012 purely because of a massive increase of recognised "water tariff compensation" from less than RM500 million in prior years to a massive RM1,024 million in 2012.

Given such underlying performance in the company, does the MSWG really believe that Tan Sri Rozali Ismail fully deserves the RM33.4 million payoff?  In fact under normal MSWG circumstances, they should logically be calling for the company's top management to be axed, and not in this case, lucratively rewarded!

Or is the MSWG which was only hastily formed last week meant to serve the interest of PNHB's largest shareholder, and its executive chairman in the light of an impending takeover of PNHB by the Selangor government?

The RM33.4 million payout to Tan Sri Rozali Ismail is a serious issue because it involves Puncak Niaga and its subsidiary, Syabas, which have been awarded monopolistic concessions by the Barisan Nasional governments to operate water treatment plants and to distribute water in the state of Selangor.  Water is an essential basic utility for every single Malaysian and we are completely flabbergasted that these concessions have been abused to outrageously enrich inidividuals who are cronies of the BN regime.

Therefore Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Air Negara (SPAN) must investigate this payout immediately and take all necessary actions to protect the interest of Malaysians.  In fact, the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water must immediately stop all extraordinary and non-operational payouts in the water concessionaires pending the restructuring exercise, particularly if these companies still owe billions of ringgit to the Federal Government.

RM33.4 million Golden Parachute for Tan Sri Rozali Ismail?

Posted: 03 Jul 2013 11:06 AM PDT

Is the outrageous RM33.4 million payout to Tan Sri Rozali Ismail a pre-emptive golden handshake in anticipation of the Selangor state takeover of water concessionaires in the state?

Right-thinking Malaysians are completely outraged by the shocking RM33.4 million remuneration package for the executive chairman of Puncak Niaga Holdings Bhd and its subsidiary, Syarikat Bekalan Air Selanagor, Tan Sri Rozali Ismail.

Malaysians are outraged because Tan Sri Rozali's companies have been awarded monopolistic concessions by the Barisan Nasional governments to operate water treatment plants and to distribute water in the state of Selangor.  Water is an essential basic utility for every single Malaysian and we are completely flabbergasted that these concessions have been abused to outrageously enrich inidividuals who are cronies of the BN regime.

As a comparison, the remuneration package of the Chief Executive Officer of Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB), the country's biggest utility is only RM7 million. For the financial year 2012, TNB recorded a revenue of RM35.85 billion compared to only RM2.5 billion of Puncak Niaga Holdings Bhd.

What makes the RM33.4 million award to Tan Sri Rozali Ismail is the fact that Puncak Niaga is heavily laden with billions of ringgit of debt, and had to be bailed out by the Government repeatedly in the last few years.

Because Puncak Niaga and Syabas was unable to repay their RM1.3 billion and RM2.9 billion respectively and these debts were "taken over" by the Federal Government in 2011 in order to prevent these companies from defaulting.  Based on the 2012 Puncak Niaga financial statement, the Group has RM937 million in near-term loans and borrowings, and RM4,719 million in non-current loans and borrowings.

What is more, Puncak Niaga carries in its books a RM304 million debt to the Government due to soft loans given the its group of companies to carry out its concession obligations in the state of Selangor.  This does not include the fact that the Federal Government has also provided grants amounting to RM726 million to Syabas, including the latest RM120 million granted in January this year.

For the Selangor residents, the excessive remuneration package for Tan Sri Rozali is rubbing salt on the people's wounds as Syabas has failed to consistently provide quality water supply and services to its consumers particularly over the past 2 years.  This year, Syabas has admitted that it has received a staggering 4,186 complaint calls daily since the start of the year as a result of constant water disruption, usually relating to poor pipe and reservoir maintenance.

We would like to question the company and the Federal Government if this RM33.4 million payout is a pre-emptive "golden handshake" payment to the Executive Chairman of Puncak Niaga in anticipation of the impending Selangor state government's take over of water concessionaires in the state.

Since the last general election where the people of Selangor voted overwhelmingly in favour of Pakatan Rakyat despite BN using "water" as its key campaign message, it appears that the Federal Government may concede to the wishes of the people to return to water management rights to the state government.  The Selangor Menteri Besar, Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim has announced in the Selangor State Assembly earlier this week that he has received a letter from the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak that the latter has finally agreeed for the state to take over water concessionaires, although details are still lacking at this point of time.

We call upon Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Air Negara (SPAN) to investigate this payout immediately and take all necessary actions to protect the interest of Malaysians.  In fact, the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water must immediately stop all extraordinary and non-operational payouts in the water concessionaires pending the restructuring exercise, particularly if these companies still owe billions of ringgit to the Federal Government.

At the same time, the Selangor State Government must deduct all inapppropriate and "unapproved" expenses, such as this RM33.4 million "durian runtuh" for Tan Sri Rozali Ismail by these concessionaires from the proposed acquisition cost of these companies.  Cronies of Barisan Nasional must not profit unfairly beyond what they have already earned to date, at the expense of the rakyat, especially under Pakatan Rakyat's watch.

Menteri Pengangkutan Tidak Mengambil Berat Skandal RM4 bilion KLIA2

Posted: 02 Jul 2013 11:04 AM PDT

Jawapan Menteri Pengangkutan kepada soalan skandal RM4 bilion KLIA2 menonjolkan sikap tidak kesah ke atas isu ketirisan, kebertanggungjawaban dan pembaziran dalam projek kawalan kementerian

Dalam soalan lisan saya bertarikh 1 Julai 2013, saya telah meminta Menteri Pengangkutan menyatakan tarikh baru KLIA2 akan disiapkan dan impak kos kepada MAHB atas kelewatan projek tersebut.

Menteri Pengangkutan telah menjawab bahawa walaupun tarikh pembukaan KLIA2 telah ditunda ke 2 Mei 2014, "kelewatan KLIA2 tidak langsung menjejaskan keuntungan MAHB kerana ianya tidak ada kesan langsung pada urusan perniagaan syarikat MAHB".

Menteri juga berkata bahwa "kelewatan tersebut juga tidak menjejaskan operasi dimana syarikat masih mengekalkan "Triple A" rating… berdasarkan agensi penarafan RAM Rating Services Sdn Bhd.

Jawapan yang ringkas di atas, terhadap skandal KLIA2 yang kos telah meningkat dari peruntukan awal sebanyak RM1.7 bilion ke anggaran RM4 bilion sekarang menunjukkan bahawa Menteri Pengangkutan langsung tidak mengambil berat atau serius untuk mengatasi masalah ini.  Apatah lagi, projek gergasi ini telah ditunda berkali-kali sejak tarikh siap bina asal yang dijadualkan pada September 2011.

Kalau benar-benar "kelewatan KLIA2 tidak langsung menjejaskan keuntungan MAHB", maka biarlah pembinaan KLIA2 mengambil masa 3 sehingga 4 tahun lagi.  Apa perlunya kita nak tergesa-gesa menyiapkan lapangan terbang "kos rendah" yang baru ini?  Jawapan Menteri adalah langsung tidak masuk akal dan menyifatkan sikap tidak bertanggungjawab ke atas pelaburan dan perbelanjaan syarikat milik kerajaan.

Walaupun saya bukan Menteri, saya boleh senaraikan beberapa impak yang serius ke atas keuntungan MAHB.  Jika kos pembinaan KLIA2 terus meningkat akibat kelewatan projek, keuntungan MAHB tak mungkin tak terjejas.  Adalah perlu ditekan di sini, bahawa Menteri juga telah mengelak daripada memberikan sebarang jaminan kos tidak akan melebihi RM4 bilion seperti yang telah diumumkan sebelum ini, walaupun beliau disoal.

Kedua, MAHB telah pun mengambil pinjaman sebanyak RM3.1 bilion untuk menampung kos pembinaan KLIA2 dan mereka perlu membayar faedah tiap-tiap tahun kepada pihak peminjam.  Tanpa pendapatan daripada KLIA2 yang telah ditunda pembukaannya melebihi 2 tahun, ini sekali lagi menjejaskan secara langsung keuntungan MAHB.

Ketiga, oleh kerana LCCT sekarang hanya mampu menampung pengguna seramai 15 juta orang, MAHB juga kehilangan peluang untuk meningkatkan keuntungan syarikat daripada berjuta-juta pihak pengguna yang baru melalui peningkatan jumlah kapal terbang yang boleh menggunakan kemudahan baru di KLIA2.

Keempat, kelewatan dan peningkatan kos pembinaan KLIA2 hanya akan memberikan kesan negatif kepada rancangan kerajaan untuk menjadikan Kuala Lumpur sebagai hub penerbangan kos rendah di perantauan Asia.

Akhir sekali, MAHB dapat mengekalkan "Triple A" rating bukannya kerana MAHB berada di "kedudukan kewangan yang baik" tetapi kerana agensi-agensi penarafan faham bahawa, jika ada apa-apa kekurangan dari segi kewangan, pihak kerajaan Malaysia sudah tentunya akan memberikan bantuan "bailout" kepada MAHB.  Tambahan pula, walaupun kos KLIA2 telah meningkat secara mendadak, kos ini hanya akan "dipindahkan" kepada pihak pengguna dengan "airport tax" yang lebih tinggi. Sebenarnya, cukai lapangan terbang telahpun meningkat sebanyak 28% pada November 2011 dari RM25 ke RM32 di LCCT untuk menanggung kos pembinaan KLIA2 yang meningkat.

Menteri Pengangkutan mesti bertanggungjawab ke atas skandal KLIA2 ini, terutamanya sebab Setiausaha Agung Kementerian Pengangkutan, Datuk Long See Wool merupakan Pengarah syarikat MAHB selama ini.  Sekali lagi, kami berharap Menteri Pengangkutan yang baru, Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein tidak akan bertidak serupa dengan bekas Menteri, Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha yang tidak memberikan keprihatinan langsung kepada projek ini, dan menyebabkan KLIA2 terus bermasalah.  Kami menyeru supaya Datuk Seri Hishamuddin akan menubuhkan satu jawatankuasa siasat yang bebas untuk memberikan kebenaran kepada rakyat Malaysia yang cukup kecewa dengan kedudukan KLIA2.

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