I managed to buttonhole YBM Tengku Azlan*, the deputy minister of transport this morning but I didnt have time to spring him the RM64 question, or rather the RM$4.6 billion one about the PKFZ debacle. In any case, I doubted very much if he would have obliged since the matter is now under investigation.
The occasion was an MOU signing ceremony, which the deputy minister officiated, between Universiti Industri Selangor (Unisel) and Institut Kelautan Malaysia (IKMAL) of which I am a Fellow, at the new Carlton Holiday Hotel in Shah Alam. Unisel also inked MOU's with a couple of other institutions. The Unisel-IKMAL MOU is for collaboration in conducting Unisel's post-graduate programs in maritime logistics.
* YBM Dato Seri Tengku Azlan ibni Almarhum Sultan Abu Bakar is also the younger brother of a former MCKK classmate, Tengku Aziz.
My ancestors were Bugis pirates who terrorised the seas of the Malay Archipelago many years ago, but even they cannot match the modern day pirates now robbing this country blind. These bastards now hide behind the Official Secrets Act, Internal Security Act, the Sedition Act etc., and even vague assurances like, "Dont worry lah, the PM says its OK" ... knowing jolly well that not many of us can simply pick up the phone and ask the old man, "Betul ke?"
PKFZ Customs Gate
Not surprisingly, none of the mainstream English news media has mentioned a word about this latest PKFZ fiasco. However, yesterday's The Sun newspaper followed my earlier blog with this banner headline: "A RM4.6B LANDMARK FLOP". Columnist R. Nadeswaran has also listed a few juicy details I have only read about in a few surat layang or anonymous "flying letters" in the past:
> The land was first acquired by Kuala Dimensi Sdn. Bhd. in 1999 from a cooperative society of poor Malay fishermen in Pulau Indah for about RM96 million or about RM3 per sq. ft.
> About 3 years later, Klang Port Authority bought the land from Kuala Dimensi at RM25 per sq.ft. (or RM1.46 million per acre) totaling RM1.09 billion although the Securities Commission had earlier disagreed with the valuation.
(In other words, the poor fishermen of Pulau Indah have been had!).
> In 2005, Wijaya Baru Sdn. Bhd., a Kuala Dimensi related company, bought an adjacent piece of land of 381 acres for only RM130 million or about RM341,299 per acre. Compared to what the port paid them earlier, this is peanuts.
> The government could have easily acquired the land under the National Land Code for less than RM10 per sq, ft. as per government valuers which somehow the port authority chose to ignore.
> Originally, the whole project which was somehow awarded to Kuala Dimensi without a tender exercise, was estimated to cost only RM1.82 billion but the port has entered into supplementary agreements which have ballooned the costs to a staggering RM4.63 billion!
> It is quite apparent now that standard procedures have not been followed and approvals have not been sought at the highest levels.
As a former port employee who has spent his entire working life in the port, I am now sufficiently pissed off to want to strangle somebody. The ISA and the OSA does not scare me now that Port Klang's good name and sterling reputation in international shipping I had helped built painstakingly over the years have been severely compromised. Dammit sirs, someone has got some explaining to do.
Malaysiakini reported yesterday that "the cabinet has ordered the chief secretary to investigate whether the transport ministry had wrongly issued a letter of support to a private developer to enable the latter to raise funds for the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ)" in Pulau Indah, a project which was undertaken by the Klang Port Authority (KPA).
Many of my ex colleagues and I, former employees of the KPA have served for many years at low salaries so that the port can accumulate healthy reserves of about RM500 milion about ten years ago. We are indeed most distressed to learn that the port is now hugely in debt to the tune of almost RM 5 billion !
PKFZ Authority HQ
The PKFZ was started some time ago and was supposed to draw investments by the billions to make Port Klang the biggest free trade zone in the region. The Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority (JAFZA) in Dubai was roped in to provide management expertise but alarm bells began to ring early this year when its rep Noel Gulliver left and there was no replacement. Despite vague assurances by the port that it was just temporary, the JAFZA officially pulled out last week leaving the port up the creek without a paddle.
Questions are now being raised on the billions of ringgit in cost over-run and dubious land deals. A lot of money has already changed hands but the last time I visited PKFZ a few months ago, it looked like a ghost town. There was hardly any activity and even the approach roads were still in a mess.
Who approved the deals and who is going to be accountable for the massive cost over-run?
Will the Auditor General use his powers to conduct an audit and tell the rakyat how this cock-up was allowed to happen? Now that the port is in huge debt and bordering on insolvency, is the scene set for another bail-out?
Why was the port authority involved in such a mega project, when the government policy is to have more port operations to be privatised?
Was there any proper study done to find out whether free zones will still be relevant in the near future?
Questions, questions and in the meantime we wait with bated breath.
I got this photo from a Singapore website. It shows a crack(pot?) Singapore army Red Beret trooper playfully pointing his deadly assault rifle at a little boy during their National Day parade rehearsals recently.
As a parent, I don't think this is funny. Apparently some people do.
My friend Raj a.k.a. Capt. T. Rajkumar in Chennai, may his tribe increase, likes to tell about "tribal storytellers", who I believe were somewhat akin to our own "penglipur lara" of old. He quotes from a 1989 book by Max DePree, 'Leadership Is an Art', on the subject:
"Dr. Carl Frost, a good friend and adviser to our company, tells a story of his experience in Nigeria during the late sixties.
Electricity had just been brought into the village where he and his family were living. Each family got a single light in its hut. A real sign of progress. The trouble was that at the night, though they had nothing to read and many of them did not know how to read, the families would sit in their huts in awe of this wonderful symbol of technology.
The light-bulb watching began to replace the customary gatherings by the tribal fire, where the tribal storytellers, the elders, would pass along the history of the tribe. The tribe was losing its history in the light of a few electric bulbs. This story helps to illustrate the difference between scientific management and tribal leadership. Every family, every college, every corporation, every institution needs tribal storytellers. The penalty for failing to listen is to lose one’s historical context, one’s binding values. Like the Nigerian tribe, without the continuity brought by custom, any group of people will begin to forget who they are.
In a difficult and fractured and complex world, in problems of failure and stories of success, but especially in the joys and tragedies of our personal lives, we touch each other. This “touching” is at the heart of who we are.
Tribal storytellers, the tribe’s elders, must insistently work at the process of renewal and preserve and revitalise the value of the tribe."
Many of us bloggers have for the most part become modern day tribal story tellers of sorts. This is especially now that the mainstream media people have begun to lose their credibility, sound like broken records or whatever.
Blogger Nathaniel Tan of jelas.info seemed a bright and personable young man when I met him at a gathering of bloggers in Subang Jaya a couple of months ago. I was shocked when I found out this morning that he has been detained by the police (read Rocky Bru's and Nuraina Samad's take on this, hereand here) yesterday evening. Malaysiakini also reported that "A four-day remand order has been obtained against Nathaniel Tan who is being investigated under Section 8 of the Official Secrets Act 1972" and that Tan's laptop and home desktop computer had been seized as well. This makes Nat Tan the first blogger to be arrested under OSA.
It must be noted that Harvard graduate Nat Tan is also a Parti Keadilan Rakyat man and Anwar Ibrahim's secretary for work related to the Foundation of the Future, an international NGO of which the PKRchief is president of.
What gives? Is this country becoming a police state? Or is this just a plot to strong arm and intimidate opposition politicians? Well, I'm pissed off enough to know who I am going to vote for in the next GE. No two ways about this.
A distinguished old friend and not-so-ancient fellow mariner has started his own blog: Jaff Pointjust to keepTampin Linggiand me company, he says. He also wants to "keep my key moments and views alive and safe for future reference and remembrance." Hopefully many of our mutual ex seafaring friends who are now reading this will want to follow suit and jump in the bandwagon. I am pretty sure they all have many interesting stories and anecdotes to tell.
Welcome to the bloggers' world and happy blogging, Jaff.
PS: My apologies if I have been a bit tardy and sluggish with my blogging. I have been otherwise engaged.
I first set foot on the enchanting islands of the Philippines some 40 years ago. My ship was then loading rice in Cebu and later in Davao del Sur in the south. Those were idyllic times, I was young and carefree and there was she with the dancing eyes and flowers in her hair. I was to visit the islands again several times many years later to attend port seminars, conferences and even a senior management program at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) in Manila.
Fast forward until last week, I was in Angeles City, some 90 km north of Manila with a rather noisy bunch of about 50 lower-rung MIC politicians from Klang. They were there for a bit of R & R, compliments of the party bosses for a job well done. Boy, you will never believe the intense hypocritical lobbying and the back stabbing that went on even amongst this lot. I was to discover that 'caste' politics is also very much alive in MIC, something that other BN component parties or the opposition have never had to worry about. There was also a very strong undercurrent of discontent which if not put right may spell trouble in future.
Not very long ago, Salman Rushdie wrote an article called 'In defense of Multiculturalism' soon after the October 2005 riots or 'civil unrest' by Muslims in France. I have never been a fan or read any of Rushdie's books but I still remember his argument which has haunted me ever since: "The French riots demonstrate a stark truth. If people do not feel included in the national idea, their alienation will eventually turn to rage."
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