Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Year Greeting

(My old 'Dufferin' buddy Sudheer Chand sent me this message which I would like to share with everybody)

I wanted to send a season's greeting to you all. I must confess though, that taking such action worries me a little. It is in fact somewhat difficult in today's world to know exactly what to say without potentially causing offense specially in this sensitive forum spreading over a few generations. Therefore I had to seek lawyers advice and here is what I feel comfortable to say to everybody:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, non denominational, non political celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practised with the most enjoyable traditions of religious persuasion or secular practices of your choice with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated in recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2008, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make my country great and without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of their wishes.

By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms.

This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her/himself or others and is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.

Disclaimer: No trees were harmed directly in the sending of this message; however, a significant number of electrons were selectively rearranged.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Season's Greetings

Well, 'tis that time of the year again ...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

PKFZ - Abuse of Power

PKFZ (Click on chart to enlarge)

Malaysiakini reports that Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim yesterday revealed at a press conference that two transport ministers - Chan Kong Choy and his predecessor Ling Liong Sik - had abused their powers by sending letters of support committing the government as guarantor for any financial liabilities of the Port Klang Authority (PKA) for the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) project. He said both Ling and Chan wrote four letters expressing the government’s undertaking to subsidiary companies of the PKFZ’s turnkey contractor, Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd (KDSB).

The four subsidiary companies are Special Port Vehicle Bhd., Transshipment Megahub Bhd., Valid Ventures Bhd. and Free Zone Capital Bhd. Developer KDSB had raised funds for the RM4.6 billion PKFZ project through the issuance of bonds purported through such a guarantee.

Anwar, a former finance minister, said that such an undertaking can only come from the Finance Ministry or the cabinet. (Read his blog entry, here.)

I have said this before and I will say it again that the whole thing smacks of corruption and gross abuse of power. A full and independent investigative audit should be carried out to determine the extent of the Government’s liability, pinpoint existing weaknesses in the system of financial and accounting controls, and ascertain whether there is evidence of financial improprieties. Perhaps a Royal Commission of Inquiry should also be set up to get to the truth. To date, I believe the Attorney General has not yet been called by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to answer questions pertaining to the dubious land sale which led to the huge cost overruns thus requiring a bail-out for the PKA.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Adha

Muslims in Malaysia celebrate Aidil Adha or Hari Raya Haji tomorrow the 20th of December, a day later than in some parts of the world where it is also known as Eid ul Dzuha or Bakri Id, to mark the end of the Haj season in Mecca.

Here's wishing Selamat Hari Raya Haji to all Muslims and happy holidays to all. May the new year bring peace and prosperity to our beloved country.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Fatwa on ISA

Well, we saw this coming.

A government bankrupt of ideas have finally grabbed the 5 leaders of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) under the controversial Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows for detention without trial for a 2 year term in the interest of so called 'public order'. Sheeesh.

Nothing really justifies this draconian law as a 'necessary evil'. Government apologists will forever argue that the 'silent majority' of the rakyat gave tacit approval by returning the same government again and again. But people, this a baaad 'preventive' law. It may have served its purpose during its time but its now no longer necessary. There are other punitive laws in place so lets charge the 5 in a court of law, eh? Whats the matter, no credible evidences to make them stick? Come on, even the seemingly harsh Syariah Laws require credible evidences and witnesses before punishment can be meted out.

The Mufti of Sabah recently willy nilly issued a fatwa (religious decree) that declared all Buddhist statues haram (forbidden) in the state. This, I believe, is more dangerous to public order and threatens the very fabric of our multi racial and multi religious society. On 18th August 2004, a group of 22 ISA detainees challenged the Malaysian Council of Muftis to make a fatwa on the ISA, which ex detainee Saari Sungib argued, violates “principles of human rights and the rule of law enshrined in the Scriptures”. But somehow this was kept out of the mainstream media and nothing came out of it. No prizes for guessing why.

Perhaps its about time all the state Muftis, or even one of them to have the balls to sort this matter out once and for all.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Walking the Talk

(Source: Petpositive)

Fellow mariner Capt. Abdul Karim Stuart Russell, a regular commenter in my blog, is a man who likes to walk the talk. Although retired, he is still active as adviser to the Malaysian Animal-Assisted Therapy for the Disabled and Elderly Association (Petpositive) and Secretary for the Support Group Society for the Blind of Malaysia or Supporteam.

In recent letters to Malaysiakini and the NST, Capt. Karim wrote: "The International Day of Disabled Persons on Dec 3 was yet another wonderful opportunity to promote understanding and increase public awareness of disability issues, and to promulgate the importance of integration and the well-being of people with disabilities." However, he expressed disappointment that little is still being done to help them access facilities, transport, etc.

"Half-hearted action, lip service, discrimination and marginalisation will not help disabled persons in Malaysia live an independent, integrated, dignified, equitable, productive, and happy lives during which they can raise a family and contribute to the well-being of their family and the nation. Effective, well-thought out and wide-ranging legislation and strict enforcement outlawing the discrimination of persons with disabilities will be a concrete step forward," he added. "Malaysia," Capt. Karim asserts,"needs a comprehensive Disability Discrimination Act."

Way to go, Stu.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Battle Lines are Drawn

(Photo courtesy Tony Yew)

About a year ago, former PM Tun Dr. Mahathir claimed that Malaysia is a 'police state', a charge vehemently denied by the Inspector-General of Police himself. But on Sunday, it took about 500 men-in-blue to police about 100 marchers celebrating UN World Human Rights Day in KL. The peaceful morning march was stopped and several lawyers and human rights activists were arrested. Malaysia not a police state? Then why the overkill?

The battle lines have now indeed been drawn. It is quite clear to all and sundry that the Pak Lah government have begun a crackdown on dissent. Charges are being framed against organisers of protests and demonstrations that have rocked the country in recent weeks and they include some leaders of the opposition parties. There is also the dark threat of the ISA. Obviously, this is a move to cow the general populace in a run up to general elections expected to be called anytime soon in the next few months.

Malaysiakini has quoted the prime minister as saying that he will not "shirk his sense of accountability to the greater public, especially in the face of 'police intelligence' about planned violence by the rally organisers." Police 'intelligence'? Thats a classic oxymoron* for sure.

* This doesn't mean 'stupid cow' either ...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Book Signing

(Photo courtesy Mat Salo)

I must confess that I have this morbid distaste for blogs with a black background and small white fonts and have been avoiding them like the plague. A bit hard on me tired old sailor's eyes, you see. So I have been quite guilty of not faithfully following Awang Goneng's blog Kecek-Kecek but was very glad to have met him at the Kinokuniya book store in KLCC yesterday and got him to autograph my copy of his book Growing Up in Trengganu. The book is essentially a collection of his blogs or a 'blook' (?). (Read Elviza's review, here.)

(The pretty cashier at the book store had rolled her eyes when I asked for a 'senior citizens' discount. Sheeesh.)

The occasion was a get-together of a few bloggers to fête our fellow blogger cum now published author and his wife Kak Teh of Choc-a-Blog, hosted by an old friend Jaflam of Jaff Point. It was also the couple's 28th wedding anniversary. Also present were Mat Salo, Zawi, Zabs, Elviza and her little boy Luqman, Dr. Bubbles, Akmal et al.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A Nation of Retards

A couple of weeks ago, I told off a rude commenter in my blog who had accused others of behaving like retards, that he obviously was a product of the system which is now consistently making us all look like retards on the international scene. Perhaps I was not very far off with my assessment.

Recent reports of the intended appointment of Tan Sri Zaki Azmi as President of the Court of Appeal and therefore next in line for the post of Chief Justice is not really surprising. I have no problems if ex UMNO lawyer Zaki, who was 'helicoptered' into the system by the executive, is not the most senior or haven't done real time on the bench or have spent too much time in the corporate world. It is his private life which is seriously in question.(Read about it, here).

The judiciary should be a bastion of integrity, honesty, forthrightness and true independence. At the moment I believe judicial morale is also at a very low ebb. We need to sort out the judiciary and restore the full confidence of the rakyat. The powers-that-be should not be allowed to continue to opt for self serving political expediency and damn the consequences.

Fellow blogger Haris Ibrahim of The People's Parliament have started a petition to the Agong (read here), to try and stop the rot. Lets all give him our support. E-mail your full name and IC number to:

Lets not become a nation of retards. We will only have ourselves to blame.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

How to start each day with a positive outlook

Someone e-mailed me this little snippet which I thought was rather funny:

1. Open a 'new file' in your computer.

2. Name it, 'Pak Lah.'

3. Now delete it and send it to the 'trash' or 'recycle bin'.

4. Empty the 'trash.'

5. Your computer will ask you, 'Are you sure you want to get rid of 'Pak Lah?'

6. Firmly, click 'Yes.'

7. Feel better?

Next week we'll do Sammy Vellu ...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Happy days are here again?

(Source: The Star)

Yesterday's the Star reports (read here) that the worst is over for Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ). At the launching of PKFZ new logo on Thursday, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy (photo, right) said,"Investors, including big multinational names, are bringing in millions of ringgit and job opportunities are expected to increase by a hefty 2,252% by the end of next year."

Oh yeah? Job opportunities for whom? Who are these big multinationals?

"Although the Government is expected to provide Port Klang Authority with a soft loan amounting to RM4.6bil to develop the PKFZ, every sen of the loan would be repaid," Chan said."The life span of PKFZ is more than 50 years. It is long enough for repayment. Once the loan is settled, PKFZ will be a good income generator."

Hello, haven't you been listening? The issue here is how did a project which should only cost between RM1.8 to RM2 billion ballooned to RM4.6 billion? What happened to the RM2.6 billion? If the project was deemed very viable at the outset, why the need for a government soft loan, or to put it bluntly, a bailout?

I hear that to make it look good, rentals and leases are now being offered at very low rates. How to pay back the taxpayers money? Full repayment in 50 years? How is this price cutting affecting the local business market?

(Above photo also shows my former boss, a very happy Tan Sri Gnanalingam of Westport (center) who had pleaded poverty and paid me peanuts, but is now listed by Forbes as one of the 40 richest men in the country. Sheeesh.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Por qué no te callas?*

I met Cameron Highlands MP S.K. Devamany in Ijok during the run up to the April by-election (read my blog, here) and I am glad that he had the balls to break ranks in the august assembly to speak up for his people in reference to the Hindraf rally. I believe it didnt go down too well with his peers especially loudmouth Nazri Aziz who had the gall to call the marchers penyangak. Maybe Nazri should learn to put his brain in gear before he opens his big mouth. Or maybe he should just shut up.

The Sunday walk was, to my mind, for whatever reasons right or wrong, simply a cry for help. This government would be making a grave mistake to just ignore this or to pretend it didnt happen. Already many Indians in India and elsewhere are up in arms over this incident. (Read Malaysians Unplugged's report, here).

The Sun in its editorial yesterday said: "In this age of open communication on the internet and instant replays on TV, it would be prudent for the government to adopt progressive methods of engagement and democratic dialogue, lest it is perceived as an inflexible regime that is out of sync with the masses."

So why is the PM telling us all to shut up or else he will use the ISA on us?

And why don't I shut up?

Well, el tougho shito** mi compadres, it will be a cold day in hell before this old salt will pipe down and call it a day.

*"Why don't you shut up?" - King Juan Carlos of Spain to Venezuela’s President Chavez at a recent meeting, sparking a deep rift between the two countries.

Mexican marine for 'tough shit' (?) ...

Monday, November 26, 2007


(Source: The Sun)

Yesterday, some 20,000 Malaysians of Indian origin descended in downtown Kuala Lumpur, in defiance of a ban to join a rally organised by the Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF). They were determined to hand over a memorandum to the British envoy, to urge the Queen to appoint a QC to argue Hindraf's US$4 trillion class action suit against the British government for "neglecting the community's welfare after bringing their forefathers to Malaya as indentured labourers 150 years ago". On hand to meet them was the police and other para-military units armed with tear gas and water cannons equally determined to stop them in their tracks. (Read The Sun's report, here).

Although I had misgivings earlier about the rally and thought that perhaps the objective was a bit wishy-washy, I truly respect their right for freedom of assembly etc., and I do believe that some of their grouses are pretty legitimate. I also thought that their Gandhi-style peaceful 'civil disobedience' was a bit of a master stroke and they have indeed made their point loud and clear.

I am not a great fan of British writer Salman Rushdie, but in an article called "In Defense of Multiculturalism" soon after the October 2005 riots or 'civil unrest' by Muslims in France, he wrote: "The French riots demonstrate a stark truth. If people do not feel included in the national idea, their alienation will eventually turn to rage." Yesterday's demonstration was, to my mind, the second successful mass 'people power' rally in this country in recent months. So Pak Lah, Sammy Vellu and their ilk should perhaps wise up, take heed and be afraid.

Be very afraid.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Horsburgh - Malaysian version (Source: Singapore Straits Times)

I dont usually like to comment on an ongoing court proceeding but I am rather disturbed by news reports that the Malaysian legal team headed by our Attorney General has resorted to cheating at the International Courts of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. The Straits Times of Singapore has reported that Malaysia, " in an attempt to convey a subliminal message of proximity between Pedra Branca and the coast of Johor, produced a (plagiarised) photograph which was not an accurate reflection of what visitors to Pedra Branca would see if they were looking towards the Johor mainland ". (Screenshots also has the story, here).

Pedra Blanca or Pulau Batu Putih, we mariners have always referred to this tiny island in the middle of nowhere sticking out like a sore thumb, as Horsburgh - after the lighthouse built on it. I have sailed past Horsburgh many times and I dont recall seeing the Johor mainland up close as in above photograph.

It would be a crying shame indeed if we were to lose Pulau Batu Putih due to cloak and dagger chicanery and ineptitude of our team.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


(Poster courtesy Michelle's blog, The Meesh Experience)

At Tok Mommy's MRT (Mee Rebus Tuesday) yesterday, Rocky gave me a gratis copy of the above latest bumper issue of TELL (News Unglossed) magazine. It is a very interesting magazine started by friends and fellow bloggers and meant for you and me. It costs only RM8.90 (Semenanjung) and RM9.90 (Sabah and Sarawak).

Its now available at newsstands, so get yours today.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Mayday for Justice

This morning I attended a press conference given by the long suffering* former DAP MP for Bukit Bintang Wee Choo Keong (photo) at his Malaysian Democratic Party (MDP) office in SS 2, Petaling Jaya. Also in attendance were about 30 members of the local media and bloggers.

The conference was held to make public two police reports made earlier in March this year by one Thirunama Karasu a/l Kandar Velluppilai, who is now believed to be in hiding fearing for his life, against his own brother lawyer VK Lingam of the now infamous 'Lingam tapes' affair. The shocking reports gave names and allege mind boggling corruption and abuse of power by top figures in the country's judiciary and police, past and present, which would have made a truly incredible Bollywood movie script since the main characters in the plot also involved other siblings in the Lingam family. (For details of the police reports and press statement, read fellow bloggers Rocky and Haris' reports on the press conference, here and here. Malaysians Unplugged Uncensored also has the full reports, here).

It was emphasised by Mr Wee that there was no connection between the police reports and the video tape as revealed by the former DPM Anwar Ibrahim. To date, however, no action have been seen forthcoming by the police and/or ACA.

It is good that Pak Lah has finally given in to the mounting pressure to appoint a Royal Commission of Inquiry to look into the 'Lingam tape' affair and the panel should be given all the powers and TOR it may require. This should be a good start since it has been many years and there is indeed a dire need to restore confidence in our much maligned** judicial system. So lets not dilly dally but go full speed ahead, as we mariners say, and steady as she goes ...

* Read why, here.

** "If by definition a judiciary means an independent, incorruptible and neutral judiciary, then we don't have one" - former Lord President Salleh Abas in today's Malaysiakini.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

On the Run

Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang wrote in his blog, here, that he had posed a question in Parliament on Monday – “Why is the government-on-the-run on the RM4.6 billion Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal?”. He did not get a satisfactory answer from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Finance Ministry, who had asked that he be allowed to answer by way of written reply, but no firm date was given.

Personally, I have no quarrel with the PKFZ project if it had cost only between RM1.8 to 2 billion. But RM4.6 billion I simply cannot accept. I believe it is terribly important to hear the Attorney General's take on this sordid affair. After all, it was AG's chambers and the Treasury who had objected strongly and recommended that the land be acquired at RM10 psf instead of RM25 psf. Why they were ignored is something I am sure everyone is keen to find out. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have surely got their work cut out for them.

But we will have to wait. I believe the AG is now still in Europe trying to get back Pulau Batu Puteh from the Singaporeans.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Yellow Wave

Yesterday afternoon I was part of a 40,000 strong rally of the people, many dressed in yellow, who marched to the palace in the rain to hand a memorandum to the King to demand free and fair elections. I had started early by LRT to Pasar Seni to meet fellow bloggers. There were all there, young and old, makciks and pakciks with walking sticks and even the handicapped in wheelchairs who were not at all intimidated by the presence of thousands of riot police in battle gear and equipped with water cannons and helicopters circling above.

It was a very peaceful march and the only violent incidents I hear occurred near Masjid Jamek where dozens were tear gassed and pepper sprayed by the police, including foreign journalists covering the event. A number of people have been arrested. (Read fellow bloggers' take on the march here, here and here.)

It was basically a case of the rakyat exercising their right to freedom of assembly to petition their sovereign and a lame duck prime minister trying his damnedest to stop them. Sheeesh.

(Above photo with blogger Anu Radha a.k.a. Galadriel, who upon noticing the letters 'KL' on my cap promptly dubbed me 'Kepala Lanun"...!)

P.S: To "Melayu Lelaki" who has been trying to rile me for the last couple of days: Go get a life. I wonder if your mother knows what you do for a living.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Today's the day.

In solidarity with today's march for free and fair elections organised by BERSIH at 3pm, I wanted to paint my blog yellow but just couldnt figure out how. Sheesh.

Er, folks, me old sea legs are really meant for pacing the decks of ships and certainly not for city streets or hills and vales, but will try to make it this afternoon if I can get a ride.

See you all there.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


To all my Hindu friends, near and far: A very Happy Deepavali or Diwali.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Is he or isnt he

"Court of Appeal President Datuk Abdul Hamid Mohamed has been named as Acting Chief Justice following Tun Ahmad Fairuz Abdul Halim's retirement /STAR". Many thanks, Zorro for the Star's SMS news alert. (My friend and fellow blogger Rocky also has the story, here.)

It is interesting to note that Judge Abdul Hamid Mohamad was also head of a three-judge panel that overturned the former Deputy PM Anwar Ibrahim's sodomy conviction on 2 Sept 2004.

As a former Anwar classmate, many people have asked me,"Is he or isnt he?". Now let me put this to rest. Since we grew up together as 12 year olds eating the same nasi kawah and bathing naked together in the open shower stalls of the Big School, Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK) more than 40 years ago, we his friends would have noticed or known if he had such 'tendencies'. You cannot really hide these things at that age unless you are an Oscar winning child actor or something. And besides, we sailors can usually smell these types a mile away.

Next question.

Monday, October 29, 2007


You may have noticed that I have been saying sheeesh a lot lately. Actually, this is just a bastardisation of the above four-letter word which means crap or dung or whatever we old sailors often use in polite company. Perhaps we can be forgiven for taking liberties with the language when other "normal" people would not.

Someone sent me a light-hearted e-mail some time ago giving the supposedly true origin of this rude word as a nautical term, used when transporting manure as fertilizer deep in the holds of old sailing ships. The message claims that when manure gets wet, it produces methane gas, which can collect in the hold and blow up the ship when someone lights a candle or lantern. To prevent this, crates or sacks of dung were marked S.H.I.T., meaning "Ship High In Transit" to avoid contact with sea water. But I believe that this is also a lot of ... you-know-what.

My friend and fellow mariner Capt. Leibbrandt (you may have seen him playing colonial mat salleh types in some local made-for-TV movies) have confirmed that the word is indeed derived from the Olde English scitte and probably related to the Dutch word schijten, which means "diarrhoea'. Or the Malay equivalent cirit birit.

We are a little mealy-mouthed these days about the word, one of those classic Anglo-Saxon four-letter words, even though it is among the most common expletives known. When it first appeared, though, I believe there were no negative or vulgar associations or connotations about it and indeed some have even claimed that it is a truly pukka original golf term!


Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Truth Hurts

Fellow mariner Capt Karim Stuart Russell e-mailed me yesterday a copy of an interesting article by Michael Backman, a columnist from the Age of Australia - a favourite holiday destination for our jetsetting politicians, lawyers and judges. Thanks Stu. Read the full article here. (Fellow blogger Jeff Ooi of Screenshots also has the story, here.)

Here are excerpts from the article which caught my eye:

"The third incident relates to an ongoing scandal at the Port Klang Free Trade Zone - Port Klang is Malaysia's main shipping port. Essentially, the port authority was forced by well-connected individuals to buy far more land than planned for the free trade zone and at highly inflated prices, even though it could have compulsorily acquired the land, literally saving billions. This and development costs, and "professional fees", blew out the total cost for the zone from 1.845 billion ringgit to 4.2 billion ringgit. It is a scam of outrageous proportions and is just the sort of thing that is turning foreign investors off Malaysia in their droves."

"Malaysia is truly at a cross-road. It has many good people with great potential but it is slipping beneath the waves of mediocrity, weighed down by officials intent on an orgy of plunder while the ship's captain stands idly by."

Who made this bum captain?

Unless Pak Lah is fast asleep, I believe he cannot afford to ignore damning reports like these by foreign correspondents or else we can kiss foreign direct investments (FDI) goodbye, and thats fair dinkum*, mate.

* Aussie slang for 'the real truth'. I used to think this means 'nice kangaroo' or something ...

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Much has been written and blogged about the 'Lingam tape' biznes and I believe this is getting a bit out of hand. Malaysiakini today reports that former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim who has insisted on a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) has said 'no way' to the Anti-Corruption Agency's demands that he hands over the original full version of the tape or face imprisonment. This will effectively put him out of the race for the next general elections. Sheeesh.

As for the recent Seagull Express ferry mishap, fellow mariner Capt. Karim a.k.a. Capt Abdul Karim Stuart Russell asserts that "superficial investigations are only scratching the surface, there must be a web of malpractices awaiting exposure and there will be many others who should be thoroughly investigated for possible criminal neglect, dereliction of duty, bribery and corruption, and even other even more serious offences like manslaughter." As such, short of a Royal Commission of Inquiry, a truly professional and " independent Marine Accident Investigation Board should be established to properly investigate the ferry disaster and all other marine accidents."

I fail to understand the government's morbid fear of RCI's or any other independent and all-powerful inquiry panels to get to the bottom of things, but we can all have a pretty good guess, eh?

Footnote: Above photo taken at Anwar and Azizah's 'open house' on Sunday. Besides meeting other former MCKK classmates, I also bumped into Lim Kit Siang, fellow blogger Nathaniel Tan and an old friend and former Penang Port Commission chairman Dato Zaharin Hashim.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

PAC visits PKFZ

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) led by chairman Dato Shahrir Samad visited the scandal ridden Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) in Pulau Indah today. Watch above Malaysiakini video from You Tube. (Click on arrow to play).

PAC could not have seen much development taking place and I can gather from Shahrir's tone of voice that he wasn't very impressed although he must have been told that everything was peachy and according to plan, i.e. mengikut perancangan. There is also the Attorney General's testimony in the offing about procedures and questions about the land procurement.

Was the bail-out oso 'according to plan', meh?

Monday, October 15, 2007

That Sinking Feeling

(Source: the Star online)

Today's newspapers and Malaysiakini reports of a maritime disaster off Mersing where "survivors of a Malaysian ferry fire which left four dead and four injured described a terrifying scene as the ageing vessel filled with smoke, forcing them to hurl their children into the sea". The Star reports of the ferry Seagull Express that "On Saturday, 4 passengers of the ferry drowned while 99 others, including 3 crew members, were plucked out from the sea after the vessel caught fire while on its way to Pulau Tioman. Three other passengers are still missing."

Sheesh. I have always thought that this sort of thing can only happen in places like the Philippines or Indonesia where they are very relak about safety standards. But here in Malaysia? Obviously heads must roll and as usual the Ministry of Transport will just await reports which will take some time coming.

Fellow mariner Capt Karim comments in my previous blog about the possibility of criminal negligence on the part of authorities and recommends the setup of an independent professional Marine Accident Investigation Board tasked to investigate all marine casualties. This is especially so as in the past, "maritime incidents have been poorly investigated and shortcomings have been simply swept under the carpet. In many cases the guilty were not punished. Innocent lives will continue to be lost at sea if the typical Malaysian lackadaisical 'tiada apa' attitude continues unchecked."

I do concur. Only when innocent lives are lost are the wheels of government usually set to turn. Here I was told that in the case of the PKFZ debacle or the current mess in the judiciary and unlike the Hong Kong BMF scandal where someone, an accountant I believe, was murdered, we can forget about Royal Commissions of Inquiry. Unless someone gets bumped off first, that is.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Eid Mubarak

I used to send out greeting cards by the hundreds, or rather my secretary did, but stopped doing so when I went into early retirement some years ago. I have also not received any since, well maybe a few, at about the same time. Its not that I am a cheapskate or something but somehow greeting cards have never really meant much to me. This is probably a throwback to my sailing days when we seamen will usually receive our mail after many days, even weeks after the fact when we reach a main port of call. A bit of a dampener you will agree.

So here's wishing everyone Eid Mubarak or Selamat Hari Raya Idilfitri as we say it here in Malaysia. To all those driving balik kampung, remember that you may be the best driver in the world but its the nut on the other side of the road you will have to worry about.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Time Out

Sorry folks that was a long time out indeed.

Its just that after a half a century of fasting during Ramadan, you realise that you are no longer a spring chicken and it takes a toll on you. You are not really your usual sweet self. You lose a few kilos which you will undoubtedly put on again after a couple of weeks and try as much as you like to kick your nicotine fix habit, the last stick puff after sahur is still the best yet.

Ah well, still a couple of days to go.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Whither PAC?

OK, so I was wrong.

I must confess I was greatly encouraged at the outset by the fact that a couple of senior members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) appeared convinced that there was no way that the perpetrators in the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) debacle could escape what was coming to them. Suffice to say that I am very disappointed now though I am not that naive to have expected anything much. Quite evidently there were greater forces at play. Also in question is the lack of political will and precise terms of reference for PAC to make it truly effective so as to provide the necessary checks and balance for the whole system.

So Shahril, before you expose yourself further as a liar and a cad (in the holy month of Ramadan too) and a poor excuse for a chairman of PAC, please get the Attorney General to explain why the PKFZ land was acquired at such an exorbitant price. We are quite sure now what his learned answer will be, beyond any shadow of doubt.

Perhaps the only way out of this wayang kulit farce is to press for the setting up of more independent Royal Comissions of Inquiry (RCI) but then again, past experience has also shown that RCIs are really no guarantee as panacea for the country's ills. But it is a start and definitely a step in the right direction.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A Right Royal Mess

There comes a time in a man's life, when faced with such a right royal adversity and a right royal mess in the country's law making institutions, he may just say what the fish, why do I givashit, maybe I should just roll over and play dead.

I salute the country's lawyers for saying "enough is enough" and demanding the set up of an independent Royal Commission of Inquiry to sort out the mess in the judiciary. This is probably the only way out for all of us to get to the bottom of things, including the RM4.6 billion Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) fiasco.

After the latest Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing, I have reasons to believe that some PAC members may now want to scuttle the PKFZ issue. (Malaysiakini reports that chairman Dato Shahrir Samad is set to retire, so dammit sir, here's a chance for you to do a last decent thing before you go and sail away into the sunset). But some interesting points have now emerged:

> Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority (JAFZA) carried out the 'study' for the project.

> It was Jebel Ali's suggestion of '1,000 acres". (I believe and some maintain that Jebel Ali actually mentioned two phases.)

> On 3 November, 1998 Bintulu MP Dato' Tiong King Sing acted as sole land sale representative of Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd..(A damn right royal sinister situation here, old bean. More on the role of the so called Foo Chow Mafia later, and guess who is the numero uno Foo Chow in this country?)

> The government Valuation Department did four separate valuations on different lots of the 999.27 acres.

In Nov 98, the Department's valuation was RM 17 psf,
in May, 2000 RM 18 psf and
in Sept 2000 RM 21 psf.
But in August, 2001, the valuation for acquisition was only RM 10.16 psf.!

> The Attorney-General will be invited by PAC to give his version of the proposal to acquire the land. Had the Selangor State more power than the Federal government, so much as that it could insist on the purchase of the land? When the Federal Government acquired the KLIA land in Sepang, the State Government could not or did not veto. (Some may recall at one time the site of the PKFZ in Pulau Indah was also considered for the new KLIA. Go figure).

A right royal mess indeed, and we also truly need an independent Royal Commission of Inquiry to sort out of this quagmire.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Letter to PAC

22 September 2007

YB Dato’ Shahrir Samad

Public Accounts Committee.

All Members,
Public Accounts Committee.

YB Dato’,


As a concerned citizen I strongly believe that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has a moral responsibility to the rakyat to seriously look at the massive cost overrun that has taken place in the development of the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ). I also strongly believe that PAC should rightfully address the issue of possible Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT) on the part of the officers given responsibility to carry out this project and not restrict themselves as to whether the project is indeed a ‘bail-out’. The issue of a bail-out has become that of public concern due to the commitment given by the Prime Minister when he took over office. One should not however forget as to why this bail-out comes about. I have reasons to believe total mismanagement with intention to cheat the Government and to amass ill-gotten gains seems the reason for the massive cost overruns. All issues from the very beginning to the final commitment to a tune of RM4.6 billion were carried out without moral responsibility, accountability and good governance towards the organization and the nation.

2. In this regard, I would like to appeal to the Committee to seriously take into consideration the various issues under two sub-headings that have been raised in the attached document. One is related to bail-out. The next which I believe is more serious, is the issue related to a CBT. In my opinion this is a serious matter as this has become a point of contention among Malaysians. If this is not addressed and the culprits brought to book, what will become of rules, regulations and procedures? I am certain that if these are not adhered to, it will lead to a total collapse of the Government machinery.

Best regards,

Capt. Yusof Ahmad
The Ancient Mariner

Thursday, September 20, 2007


I get the feeling I may have started to sound off like a broken record to some with my seeming 'obsession' and single minded pursuit of this Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) thingy, but what the fish, I reckon I do have some measure of locus standi or whatever since I am a former employee of the port. My simple objective is to see justice done and to throw the book at the crooks involved in this blatant cheating of the rakyat, without fear or favour.

This morning, together with a couple of former port colleagues I went to meet veteran politician and MIC vice president YB Tan Sri Dato Dr. K.S. Nijhar (photo) at his office in Bangsar. The YB is also MP for Subang and a member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which will meet again next week on the 25th and 26th September for another round of inquiry into the PKFZ debacle.

The meeting was very cordial and I briefed the YB about points which I have raised earlier in my blogs. I also emphasized the need to call a couple of very important Lembaga Pelabuhan Kelang (LPK) officials who were somehow inadvertently left out during the first inquiry. The main issue is simply to find out why government procedures on matters involving huge sums of money were not followed, which led to the port being saddled with a massive debt and have to be bailed out with a dubious 'soft loan'. The rakyat must be told if there were deliberate attempts by certain quarters to mislead the government for monetary gains and hence they should all be guilty of criminal breach of trust (CBT).

We also discussed the powers and limitations of the AG and PAC and where do we go from here, etc., etc.

Footnote: Above photo is from the Malaysian Parliament website. I had brought my camera but Tan Sri Nijhar politely declined to be photographed with me lest he be accused of trying get publicity to gain political mileage. Sheeesh.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

PKFZ in Fairplay

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chaired by Dato Shahrir Samad will meet again on Tuesday 25th for another round of probing into the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal. Despite an almost complete blackout of all news on the subject by our newspapers, the international shipping weekly Fairplay, a more than a century old publication of the influential Lloyd's Register of London has again picked up this story of our national shame and featured it in a recent edition:

Fairplay International Shipping Weekly
06 Sep 2007

Klang a microcosm of Malaysia’s malaise
A scandalous land deal involving Port Klang Authority escapes public scrutiny. Jaya Prakash reports that the backlash is likely to affect coming elections.

AN EMBATTLED Port Klang Authority has escaped public scrutiny for cost overruns of more than $1Bn that have been incurred in operating a free-trade zone. The case appears to be a microcosm of a deeper malaise that runs through Malaysian business.

Port managers have spent several months battling media and public hostility over the controversial – some say scandalous – decision to acquire a land holding tagged at $7 per square foot from Malaysian company Kuala Dimensi. The same company had earlier bought the same plot at an unbelievably low price of $0.86/ft. Kuala Dimensi is headed by Azim Zabidi, who is a politician in Malaysia’s ruling United Malays National Organisation.

There have also been ethical issues involving high-ranking Port Klang Authority executives contracting work from companies in which they had pecuniary interests. This work was directed toward developing 500 warehouses in a 400ha of land in Pulau Indah. Any prospects for a full disclosure of the circumstances leading to the free-zone deal appear to have evaporated on 27 August, when Ramli Ngah Talib, speaker of Malaysia’s parliament, opposed an ‘urgent motion’ by Lim Kit Siang, leader of the country’s political opposition, for a debate on the free-zone issue. Lim spoke to Fairplay about the conflicts and stressed the importance of bringing “culprits to book”.

The free-zone issue is a test case of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi’s 2003 pledge that the government would not bail out failing companies, declared Lim. He added that now that a bailout has indeed happened, the government’s move amounts to a “U-turn” of Badawi’s pledge. The debacle only scratches the surface of something deeper and more sinister, he continued. “It has to do with the entire system,” he warned, leaving few in any doubt that the issues go wider than just the managers at Port Klang Authority.

In 2003, the port authority was declared “financially insolvent” by the country’s auditor-general. Despite the finding, however, no investigations have ever been commissioned to get to the bottom of the Klang crisis.

In statements given to Fairplay, Transparency International Malaysia spoke of serious repercussions for Malaysia. TI-M president Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam said: “The absence of investigation could raise serious concerns over the apparent lack of good governance. In Malaysia, we have a lively parliament with a significant opposition, and we hope the debate will continue and the electorate will follow the debate.” Navaratnam added that TI-M is prepared to help combat corruption alongside a newly commissioned Public Accounts Committee, which is to investigate Port Klang Free Zone.

Fairplay first reported on investigations into the free-zone issue in May, parallel to reports by Malaysia’s fiercely independent political portal Malaysiakini, among others. The effective closure of public debate will now push the discussion underground, which could prove costly for Badawi’s administration in an election year. He has already bailed out other failing corporations.

A letter to Malaysiakini last month slammed the transport ministry for denying any instance of fraud, irregularity or malpractice in Port Klang Free Zone. If allegations to the contrary are correct, the writer surmised, the only conclusion to be reached is that the port’s managers were simply incompetent and showed no organisational ability and hardly any knowledge about management.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Shock After Shock

This was The Star's front page headline yesterday. While we can emphatise with the Indonesians for experiencing yet another devastating earthquake, I believe we poor Malaysians are really no better off with our own man made calamities. This is the same newspaper which front paged photos of screwdrivers to highlight the Auditor General's shocking recent findings a few days ago but relegated news about the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) to the inside pages. Perhaps this was because the latter involved an MCA ministry? A cheap shot, if you ask me, and a rather juvenile and pathetic attempt to divert public attention.

I had a post iftar (buka puasa) supper with a few of my ex Klang Port Authority mates a couple of nights ago and they include a couple of senior officials from PKFZ. Some very interesting if not shocking points have now surfaced:

> The RM15 million a year 15-year management contract with Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority (JAFZA) included a clause which stipulated JAFZA will continue to be paid if the contract is terminated for any reason by either party. Thats RM225 million down the drain. Who drew up this half past six contract?

> A contract for laying a 20 km cable pipeline was priced at a shocking RM500 million, which comes to RM25 million per km. (If you recall the land was also priced at RM25 per sq ft. and they obviously must have a preference for this magic number). Is there any limit to man's greed?

Well, as they say, watch this space for more after shocks.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Human Suffering

'Budget Day' has come and gone. The authorities would call it a 'painless budget' to reduce suffering for the rakyat. But then again, what is 'suffering'?

An old friend once asked how is it that one citizen of the USA seems to suffer more deprivation during a freak storm like the Katrina than a whole city of Indians in flood-hit Mumbai who have never had running hot water, or a steady supply of food? Some of the people in the newspapers and on TV seem not to be the poorest citizens who are usually the colour of the street - dressed in rags. Yet even these "well dressed" Indians seem to endure the mess they find themselves in without fists raised in slogan shouting. They do not take good health or safety for granted, and do not demand these things. The poorest don't even get a mention - no-one knows how they feel or what they think.

Or maybe this is just me romanticising Asia and Asians. There are many people in the US and Europe too, who must endure terrible pain and suffering.

I know it is necessary to try to get rid of as much suffering as possible, but also how to learn to deal with it without pointing fingers and blaming others. It is necessary to embrace suffering also... work through it, and learn its lessons.

Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran once wrote:

Your pain is the breaking of the shell
that encloses
your understanding.

Even as the stone of the fruit must break,
that its
heart may stand in the sun,
so must you know pain.

And could you keep your heart in wonder
at the
daily miracles of your life,
your pain would not seem
less wondrous than your joy ...

In a few days the fasting month starts. One of the terms of reference of the ibadah is to experience the hunger and suffering of the poor. So lets also take time to reflect on where we are, where we are going and whether we have the correct aptitude and moral courage for it. Some of us are now approaching an age where the little aches and pains manifest themselves, and as we become much more aware of the pain and sufferings in life, lets hope we will all be able to face it with courage and even wonder ...

Selamat Berpuasa.

Friday, September 07, 2007

PKFZ - Shahrir O Shahrir

Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman Dato Shahrir Samad (photo) was one year my junior and my brother Kassim's classmate in MCKK more than 40 years ago. I dont really remember him being particularly outstanding in school but as reported by Malaysiakini yesterday, he must have outdone himself when he declared that the PKFZ problem "may be bigger than what was reported in the media."

I say brudder dont we all know that already.

After PAC's handling of the ECM Libra-Avenue Capital issue, not everyone is holding his breath when PAC called Lembaga Pelabuhan Klang (LPK) officials for an inquiry into the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal yesterday. Now's probably a chance for them to redeem themselves. Shahrir also told reporters after the meeting in Parliament that it resulted in more questions than answers. "We will be meeting LPK officers again during the fasting month to further clarify issues surrounding the PKFZ,” he said. The next meeting will also see the participation of the Valuation Department and Securities Commission.

OK, so now we are getting somewhere. It must be borne in mind that these people are above all, civil servants. A probable stock answer must surely be the same used by Nazi generals at the Nuremberg trials: Saya menurut perintah.

So who gave the orders?

Is it true that port officials were forced to sign cheques and documents against their will and had to do so under protest?

The inquiry will be conducted during the holy month of Ramadan. So boys and girls remember that kalau bohong nanti berdosa tau? Remember that God will be watching and the rakyat will be watching.

The whole bloody world will also be watching us now.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

PKFZ - Points to Ponder for PAC

(Photo courtesy Capt. Hj. Tasripin)*

Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang spoke about the PKFZ scandal again in parliament yesterday. Public Accounts Committee (PAC) headed by Datuk Shahrir Samad will meet on Thursday 6th September to discuss the issue. My regular early morning brisk walk companion Dr. Tan Seng Giaw, who is the committee's vice-chairman has raised many probing questions with me on this matter. Here are some broad pertinent points and irregularities I hope PAC will probe and that they will not leave any stone unturned:

1. Why did Lembaga Pelabuhan Klang (LPK) get involved in an operational activity, when Government decided with privatisation, all such operational activities be carried out by the private sector?

2. If it was, as said, to be self-financing and profitable, why did Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd. not do it themselves?

3. If Kuala Dimensi’s excuse is that they lacked experience, expertise and finance, was it not the same with LPK?

4. Why did Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority (JAFZA) terminate the lucrative RM15 million per annum management contract with the PKFZ? Is what has been said in the newspapers true? What actually took place?

5. With no working knowledge of port/logistics/free zones etc., the GM of LPK has not only had terms extended 3 times in office but also made chairman of PKFZ. Why? Is she protecting vested interest of certain parties?

Meanwhile, Malaysiakini reports that my old MCKK classmate and former DPM Anwar Ibrahim has remarked that the PKFZ scandal is one of betrayal, involving the rich and powerful in the government, here.

* Above photo is of yours truly with an old friend and LPK general manager Datin Paduka O.C. Phang, taken at the 4th Asia Maritime & Logistics Conference organised by the Malaysian Shipowners' Association (MASA) about a year ago. I was a member of the organising committee.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

PKFZ - Some Unanswered Questions

PKFZ - satellite photo from Google Earth

That the Speaker would shoot down Lim Kit Siang’s bid to introduce an emergency motion to debate the PKFZ issue in parliament was a foregone conclusion. There have been a number of statements made by the Ministry of Transport but some questions remain unanswered:

> Lembaga Pelabuhan Klang (LPK) bought the land at RM25 psf when parcels of reclaimed land were going at between RM12 - RM15 psf depending on the size of the parcel. How did LPK arrive at the figure of RM25 psf? Who carried out the valuation of the property? Normally, the Government Valuers would have been called in to value this. Why were they not called? Is it true a Valuer linked to Kuala Dimensi Sdn. Bhd. carried out this valuation?

> LPK paid Kuala Dimensi Sdn. Bhd. RM1.088 billion for 999.5 acres of land at RM25 psf as against the advice of the Attorney-General and the KSU of the Ministry of Finance. Giving the benefit of the doubt, if we add RM3 psf for infrastructure, etc., the cost will be RM18 psf. This would have cost RM784 million minus encumbrances and LPK must have paid RM305 million extra!

> Free zone facilities such as warehouse, office complex and Customs complex - Nobody develops such ready-made facilities in Free Zones. One cannot pre-determine the needs of clients. Why were all these facilities built without knowing the needs of the clients?

> It is understood that the Board decided to develop the first 500 acres and gave the turnkey job to their friends, Kuala Dimensi Sdn. Bhd. for RM400 million. Who was the expert to decide as to what is the type of facilities to be developed i.e. the size of warehouses, business complexes, etc. Was there a survey done from the potential clients as to the needs? If there is a report on this, can it be made available? Everyone in the construction and engineering consultancy business know that turnkey projects cost 30% above open tender prices. Did LPK pay RM100 million more than it should?

> To add insult to injury, it was decided to proceed with the second 500 acres development. The cost ballooned to RM1.85 billion. It is understood this includes professional fees of 10% amounting to RM180 million and Variation Orders of 20% amounting to RM360 million. At the original cost of RM400 million for the development of the first phase and giving the benefit of escalation in price for the 2nd phase amounting to RM600 million, the total cost inclusive of professional fees should only be RM1 billion. What happened to the RM850 million?

> Assuming that the above figures are far from the truth (and I stand corrected), let us give the benefit of the doubt and add another magical 30% for miscellaneous costs which obviously must have included exotic cars for those who matter. Which means we are adding RM600 million to the total project cost which now hits RM2.65 billion. So what has happened to the RM2 billion?

> A little bird tells me that the general manager of LPK’s appointment has been extended for the third time past her retirement age - surely without precedent in the civil service. The same little bird tells me that the GM is also the chairman of the Free Zone. Takde orang lain yang sesuai lagi ke?

Monday, August 27, 2007

PKFZ - the DAP Factor

I met Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang and his small entourage from the Democratic Action Party (DAP) for a quick chat before he left for Ipoh yesterday. The venerable Yang Berhormat has been following my blogs and wanted to hear my views straight from the horse's mouth before he tables a motion to debate the RM4.6 billion Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) debacle in the Dewan Rakyat today.

Mr. Lim has no pretensions that he will be stopped in his tracks by the Speaker of the august house as has been done many times before, but he will plod on nevertheless. He has promised to keep bringing up the subject in the parliament at every available opportunity to force the issue out in the open.

I suppose as commented by Mr Bojangles in my previous blog posting: ".... if we let them know what we genuinely think of them in their stuffed faces, since they all seem to be in lala land like their big boss, it may hopefully engender some accountability - and make us less of hypocrites to boot."

Update: Malaysiakini reports Dewan Rakyat speaker Ramli Ngah Talib rejected the ‘urgent motion’ put by Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang to debate the RM4.6 billion bailout of the troubled P. Klang Free Zone as Parliament resumes today.

Friday, August 24, 2007

PKFZ - Bail Out! Bail Out!

Lets call a spade a spade, eh?

After keeping mum all this while, NST, the Star and other mainstream press today finally gleefully headlined a 5 page statement handed out by the Ministry of Transport in Pulau Indah which glossed over the entire sickening RM4.6 billion affair. Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) new general manager for business development K.L. Chia, who happens to be an old friend of mine and barely a couple of months in his hot seat, had to do the honours while the minister and other Lembaga Pelabuhan Klang (LPK) officials were conspicuously absent.

PKFZ Convention Centre

It boggles the mind that the Ministry of Transport has deftly side stepped the issues of accountability and good governance but instead hinted darkly that the Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority (JAFZA) which had cut short its 15 year management contract, was mainly responsible for the huge cost overruns. It would be interesting to hear what JAFZA will have to say about this. From what I hear their parting of ways was far from amicable and that the 'strategic' reasons JAFZA purportedly gave is a lot of bull crap.

TheSun newspaper today also questioned why didnt Kuala Dimensi Sdn.Bhd. develop PKFZ itself if the project was seen to be viable and a potential goldmine. The rakyat must be told who are the people behind all this. The fact that LPK is now bordering on insolvency and has to be bailed out with a dubious 'soft loan', the terms of which are still fuzzy leaves much to be desired. This will surely be the nation's biggest bail out to date.

It appears it is now left to the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to act and call for a probe into 'possible' corruption in the entire sordid affair. Malaysiakini also reports that Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang will make it the first order of business when the Parliament reconvenes on Monday to discuss the bailout, if he has his way that is.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

PKFZ - An Open Letter

I am very honoured indeed to have received a copy of an open letter today from my former boss Datuk M. Rajasingam, former General Manager of the Lembaga Pelabuhan Klang (LPK) or Klang Port Authority. His letter traced the history of Port Klang and the many trials and tribulations every port worker went through the last couple of decades, leading to the port becoming one of the top 20 container ports in the world. He has also expressed his unhappiness over the financial mismanagement of LPK and the sad state of affairs vis-à-vis the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ).

Since his retirement in 1997, Datuk Rajasingam has been busy providing consultation services on port operations and management on behalf of the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and several other institutions in many countries including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, S. Africa and elsewhere.

To read his letter, click here.

Update: Malaysiakini reports that PAC chairman Dato Shahrir Samad has called for a probe on corruption on the PKFZ RM4.6 billion bailout, here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

PKFZ - Inelegant Silence

Singapore newspapers and other media have been going to town with the story. The parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is now worried that the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal may affect the confidence of foreign investors, in particular from Singapore and Dubai in the Johor Iskandar Development Region (IDR). But I believe we can kiss the IDR goodbye. We will face funding problems now that our reputation sucks big time.

I had asked a retired former port colleague of mine who is now a consultant to a major logistics company and a number of other organisations, to do some number crunching for me and he has sent me this very interesting email :

Capt, here are some figures for you to chew on.

The PKFZ total land area is 999.5 acres, purchased at RM25 per square ft.
Hence total cost of land is 999.5 x 43,560 x 25 = RM 1,088,455,500.

Assuming that only 80% of the land can be gainfully deployed, the average cost per acre is RM 1,360,570 or RM31.23 per sq. ft.

Say that one wants to lease the PKFZ land to construct a warehouse
Utilizing 3 acres of land would cost 3 x 1,360,570 = 4,081,710
Building a 60k sq.ft Whse at RM 100.00 per/sq.ft = 6,000,000
total RM = 10,081,710

Assumptions of 'holding cost'
i. interest at 8% p.a.
ii. repayment 8% of cost
iii. basic O/heads 4 % total 20% or RM 2,016.342 per/year
or RM 168,028 per/ mth
or RM 2.80 per sq.ft / mth

Compare, say with Northport Free Commercial Zone (FCZ) warehouse rental is RM 1.50 to RM 2.00 p.sq.ft/mth. Please bear in mind that the inter terminal transfer (ITT) cost to the PKFZ is said to be RM180.00 per TEU and in Northport it is only RM85.00 per TEU. Hence if one handles say 6,000 TEUs a year (or 500 boxes a month), the difference will be RM 570,000 !

On the other hand, if the total cost is spread out to the 800 acres of land available, then each acre would cost RM 5,750,000 or some RM132 per sq.ft! (Even the lots in Persiaran Raja Muda Musa sell for only $100 per/sq ft !)

Assuming that a 3 acre-plot is already inclusive of a 60,000 sq. ft warehouse,
The total cost would be 3 x RM 5.750 million = RM 17.250 million
At this cost, using the 20% factor, the 'holding cost ' per year would be RM 3,450,000.
Again based on the 60k sq ft warehouse, cost per sq. ft/mth would be RM4.79 ! So looking from all angles, the projected cost is definitely beyond current commercial rates, unless of course if Klang Port Authority wants to subsidize this project until doomsday.

It is note worthy to compare the project cost announced by Sembcorps of Singapore who has indicated that the cost to develop 750 hectares of land for similar purpose in Vietnam is only US$ 103.5 million or approx RM 357.075 million or an average of RM 192,264 per acre which equals RM 4.42 p/sq. ft.. Of course , it was not reported what was the land cost, but common sense will tell it won't be RM132 per sq.ft!

How do one expect our local company to compete say, in regional logistics hub with such a price tag?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Where's the fire?

To quote an old friend, in simple language, if you see something which needs to be done, something which affects you, your family, and even your country, you are not going to think, ah, what will the neighbours or your friends think. You are just going to do it. And when you see your child drowning in the water, you do not tell him, hold on, I will telephone the bomba, they are the right people; nor are you going to tell him, this is divinely ordained, qadak and qadar, and I do not want to interfere in your destiny, I respect your freedom to drown! No, you are just going to dive right in.

(Likewise, if si Luncai, whatever his faults, were to terjun dengan labu labunya in the water, I for one cannot say, "Biarkan, biarkan!". Under the International Laws of the Sea, I am obliged and duty bound to rescue him!)

OK, so where is the fire?

More than 2000 years ago, Plato the Greek said, "One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors." Hmmm. Perhaps he was being a little harsh and elitist here, but there is much to be said about this quote. Of late we are seeing the country going to the dogs with greedy politicians, corrupt police and judiciary, racial disintegration, religious bigotry and worse, an apathetic and a very gullible citizenry. Our founding fathers must surely be turning in their graves right now.

So all hands on deck for we cannot remain on the sidelines forever, on the outside looking in, nor can we just engage in ad hoc fire fighting. The proverbial ball, as they say, is in our court. The time and the place, my friends, is here and now ...

Friday, August 17, 2007

PKFZ - PAC Hearing

PKFZ Business complex

With the complete embargo on news about the PKFZ by government controlled newspapers, the Sun reported yesterday that the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) will call for a hearing on the debacle. It quoted the chairman Datuk Shahrir Samad who said that news reports about the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) has raised serious questions. PAC will look into two concerns:

> Will it involve any government bailout; and

> Will it affect foreign investors' confidence in other projects in Malaysia, like the Iskandar Development Region (IDR) in Johor and other developments?

"The IDR encourages domestic and foreign investments. Although the IDR is not a free zone, I am worried some foreign investors might pull out following the fallout (between JAFZA and PKA)," Shahrir told the Sun. It is interesting to note that a total of RM4.3 billion under the Ninth Malaysia Plan has been allocated to develop the infrastructure and facilities for the IDR, while RM4.6 billion has already been spent on the PKFZ with nothing much to show.

(By coincidence, Shahrir Samad was one year my junior and my younger brother Kassim's classmate at MCKK. His PAC vice chairman, DAP's Dr Tan Seng Giaw also happens to be my regular early morning walk companion at a public park near where I live. Perhaps apologies are in order for this rather shameless and constant name dropping on my part, but what the heck, I reckon I might as well tap on my 'old boy' network if this can get things moving ...)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

PKFZ - Damage Control

Now why wasnt I surprised.

Malaysiakini reported yesterday that " the minister of transport evaded questions of the scandal ridden Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) today, saying 'a statement will be issued soon' ”. I bet there are many now in Putrajaya and Port Klang having sleepless nights trying to do damage control*, finding excuses and looking for scapegoats.

I was at the Perdana Leadership Foundation in Putrajaya yesterday to listen to a talk by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir (TDM) to bloggers and writers, organised by the Majlis Prihatin Malaysia (Prima). (Read fellow blogger Big Dog's take on the talk, here. Malaysia-Today also carried a report by Singapore's The Straits Times correspondent Hazlin Hassan, here).

I have never really been a great fan of TDM. There is also this stark realisation that perhaps many of the nation's current ills are just part of his legacy and he is now busy trying to do some damage control himself. I would have dearly loved to ask him during question time what he thought of the PKFZ debacle and the goings-on in Pulau Indah and Westport, which was his 'baby'. But I didnt have the opportunity since there were too many others with very frivolous and even personal questions, including a nut who came all dressed up in songkok and baju melayu, claiming to be a long lost rightful heir of the "Sultan of Singapore".


* From Wikipedia: Damage control is the term used in the Merchant Marine, maritime industry and navies for the emergency control of situations that may hazard the sinking of the ship. (The italics are mine).