Monday, July 20, 2009

Fare thee well, ye Ancient Mariner

Dear readers,

It is with deep sadness for me to inform you on the passing of the Ancient Mariner. Our father, Capt. Muhammad Yusof b. Haji Ahmad, passed away peacefully in his sleep yesterday on July 19. He was laid to rest next to his dear mother (and our grandmother) in Linggi yesterday afternoon.

We have read all the postings and condolences conveyed by many in the various blog sites. We extend our most deep gratitude to the many blogger friends who had posted the news earlier. Thank you Rocky Bru, Syed Akbar Ali, Haris Ibrahim, Tok Mommy, Pak Ngah Bakaq, Pasquale, Little Brother Amir Hamizi and A Voice.

Our father took to blogging like fish to water. Even we, were pleasantly surprised of his witty and yet eloquent writing skills. He was an intensely passionate man who loved his family and friends, the sea, Bossa Nova and Keroncong.

He will be deeply missed.

We will be holding tahlil prayers after Maghrib tonight, July 20 (today) and July 23 (Thursday night) at Surau An Nai'mah, near our home.

Once again, thank you for reading our father's blog.


On behalf of our family,

Nurasyikin bt. Muhammad Yusof (eldest daughter)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Al Fatihah

I lost my dear mother Hjh Latifah bt Hj Md Hussain, at about 3.30 a.m. yesterday. She has been on a life support system at the Seremban GH for the past week and doctors have listed the cause of demise as Type II respiratory failure 2° severe community acquired pneumonia.

We laid her to rest in the afternoon after zohor prayers, near my father's grave at our kampung in Linggi, Negeri Sembilan. She had outlived him by about nine years.

Many kith and kin came from near and far for the funeral, including my blogger buddies Nuraina Samad and Ahirudin Attan a.k.a. Rocky's Bru. We thank them most copiously, also to those who sent condolences and salam takziah. Due to the very short time frame we had for making funeral arrangements, I must have missed informing many. To them, my very sincere apologies.

Al fatihah.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tardy Me

Sorry folks have been too busy to update my blog.

For the past week, I have been making daily shuttles to and fro Seremban General Hospital (which must be one of the most user-unfriendly hospitals in the country) to visit my mother who is quite ill. She's 84 and her condition is still critical.

More later.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

PKFZ: Who will take the rap?

Banker Mohd. Hashim Shamsuddin was the last Malay and non-politician chairman of Port Klang Authority (PKA). As executive director of Bank Bumiputra, he took the rap for the RM2.5 billion Bumiputra Malaysia Finance (BMF) fiasco in Hong Kong and was imprisoned for more than 6 years in the then British colony. He is now believed to be living in the U.K.

In 1986, a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) headed by former auditor-general Ahmad Noordin established that what was going on in BMF was just "the tip of the iceberg", implying that bigger hands were at play. But the so called "bigger hands" were never implicated or named.

After Hashim, the chairmanship of PKA was then passed through several MCA politicians beginning with veteran Michael Chen who really did a stellar job seeing the port go through the privatisation process. However, his lesser known successors who didnt really have much to do except to play landlords and collect rent, somehow went off the well beaten track to play towkays.

With the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ), we are now staring at a possible RM12 billion hole in the rakyat's pocket. Who will take the rap? Were "bigger hands" at play here too? How come no Royal Commission of Inquiry? Will the true stories behind the BMF and PKFZ scandals ever come to light?

Another About Turn

The Port Klang Authority (PKA) has reversed an earlier decision to withhold a RM660 million payment due to contractor Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd (KDSB) for the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) project. Read the Malaysiakini report, here. This about turn was due to instructions from the Treasury and in consideration of appeals by the bondholders trustees.

"PKA has received instructions from the Treasury that the board should be mindful of the implications that might affect the confidence of investors, local or foreign, in the Malaysian private debt securities market," said PKA chairman Lee Hwa Beng.

Lee (photo) said that the board has made RM360 million payment to KDSB yesterday and has until the end of the month to pay the balance.

The PKA board got into this mess by "taking instructions" from all and sundry when they should be using their brains and their conscience to do the right thing.

Now you will understand why I did not vote for this man for the Kelana Jaya parliamentary constituency during the last general election.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

About Turn

The Malaysian Insider reported yesterday, here, that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) will summon the transport minister, his two predecessors and the attorney-general to testify over the RM12 billion Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal, in an investigation which could have serious political consequences for MCA and the Barisan Nasional administration.

PAC Chairman Azmi Khalid said that all of them, including Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd (KDSB) CEO and BN Backbenchers Club (BBC) chairman Tiong King Sing (photo), will be called in to testify in two weeks’ time. This was after announcing a couple of weeks ago that four key players in the debacle, which include the 3 MCA politicians, have been let off the hook and will not be called in for questioning.

Quite obviously, public outcry and constant lambasting from the Opposition parties must have played a major part in this about turn and also the decision to withhold payment of monies due to KDSB by the Port Klang Authority.

My fervent hope now is that none of them, unlike a former prime minister, will choose to do a Ronald Reagan: I don't remember.

Meanwhile, other MPs have yet to receive complete copies and appendices of the PriceWaterhouse Cooper report on PKFZ despite the exertion of pressure on the Dewan's secretariat and the Transport Minister to do so. They are expected to receive copies only after PAC has completed its investigation on the matter.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sue lah but no moolah

Malaysiakini today reports, here, that the Port Klang Authority is ready to face litigations by withholding RM660 million due to Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd for the Port Klang Free Zone project. PKA chairperson Lee Hwa Beng said the amount would not be paid to Kuala Dimensi until a full review has been done by a task force established on June 10.

The PKA was supposed to have paid RM660 million - alleged debts in the words of Lee - to Kuala Dimensi's Special Port Vehicle Bhd, Transhipment Megahub Bhd, Valid Ventures Bhd and Free Zone Capital Bhd in four parts this and next month. A total of RM330 million is due to be paid to KDSB by today (June 30) while a further RM300 million will be due in July.

An audit report by PricewaterhouseCoopers has revealed that Kuala Dimensi had so far received total payments of more than RM1 billion from PKA since 2007 for the PKFZ project. But KDSB's Faizal Abdullah was reported to have said that they have received only RM300 million or thereabouts. So in the words of my friend Shar101 ... what gives?

The following are the payment schedules obtained from a DAP website::

2007 - RM510 million
2008 - RM660 million
2009 - RM660 million
2010 - RM772 million
2011 - RM487 million
2012 - RM733 million
2013/2016 - RM170 million per annum
2017 - RM179 million

Total - RM4,681 million.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

KDSB to Sue

The Malay Mail yesterday quoted Faizal Abdullah (photo), the deputy CEO of Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd (KDSB), that the turnkey contractor of the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) has decided to set the record straight by taking the Port Klang Authority (PKA) and Transport Minister Ong Tee Keat to court three weeks from now.

He said the suit would be filed on the basis that PKA and Ong had allegedly painted "a bad picture" of the company that "damaged its credibility" despite it having delivered its end of the deal. Read about it, here.

The company also claimed that the PwC report insinuated that KDSB had colluded to defraud the government in the sale of land and the development of PKFZ.

Bully for you, Faizal.

To the uninitiated, Faizal is Kapar UMNO division youth head and son-in-law of my old friend Onn Ismail, the permanent chairman of UMNO and who at one time was both in the PKA board and chairman of the Pulau Lumut Development Cooperative, the original owner of the PKFZ land. Also in case everyone has forgotten, "Cikgu" Onn was also well known for having discharged his pistol in the air trying to quell a particularly boisterous UMNO division meeting in Port Klang some years ago ...

Never a dull moment, eh wot?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Bloggers Anonymous

I have always been somewhat "uncomfortable" with anonymous bloggers and commentors who hide behind pseudonyms, unless I happen to know them personally. Although I respect their rights and reasons for privacy, especially in the case of whistle blowers, I have always felt that it is rather unfair to us bloggers who are very transparent and stand by what we say and write about. The very damaging proliferation of faceless "cyber troopers" who spread lies and hatred with impunity in the internet is a case in point. Baling batu, sorok tangan* as we say in Malay.

Recently however, the expoof the true identities and photographs of some very controversial local bloggers leave a very bad taste in the mouth.

There is a rich history in the United States of protecting anonymous free speech. In attempting to maintain their anonymity, bloggers there have always claimed protection under the First Amendment. However, a High Court in London has ruled that bloggers have no right to privacy under British law since blogging is essentially a "public" rather than a "private" activity. Read about it, here.

Of course, certain aspects of free speech, like libel and defamation, are not protected anywhere. So to all my venomous anonymous blogger friends and acquaintances, clear the decks and watch your step.

* (Lit.) Throw stone, hide hand.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

MACC Chief No Show

In a breaking news, The Edge today reports, here, that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meeting on the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) affair was called off after Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief’s no-show today.

Despite getting a near-full quorum of 13 members of Parliament, PAC chairman Azmi Khalid decided to postpone the meeting to June 23 after MACC decided to send its investigation director instead of chairman Ahmad Said Hamdan.

On Ahmad Said’s absence, Azmi said that he probably has more "important things to attend to".

And I do hope that he was just being sarcastic ...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Hybrid-Malay Woes

(In response to Shanon Shah's recent article about Dr. Farish Noor's "The Hybrid-Malay Malaysian Dilemma" in the The Nut Graph, here, my old friend, retired ambassador Dato Kadir Deen, sent this thoughtful note to his son Umran in London. Umran had asked, "Aren't we all hybrids?")


Many, if not most of us are. Our family is definitely hybrid. Farish's story reminds me somewhat of my own circumstances when I was growing up.

I was born smack in the middle of Chinatown in Ipoh, spoke Cantonese (and swore!) as fluently as any Cantonese child and lived there until my teens. My mean Chinese neighbours (but most were good ones and you know some that I'm still friends with even today) used to call us "chee san" (pig worshippers because we don't eat pork) and a whole lot of other things. First school I attended was a Malay school, where I was called a "Mamak" or "Bengali" because of my skin colour and features (we are hybrids you see!).

I later went to the Anglo Chinese School (ACS) and in my class of 40 there were only 4 Malays. We were often picked on until we made some good Chinese friends who helped us defend ourselves. In fact I became a bit of a thug myself, captained the school rugby 1st. team when I was in Form 3 and not many would dare pick on me. I remember a Chinese teacher who didn't like me who once said to me: "You stupid Malays shouldn't come to school, like elephants you belong to the jungle!".

Later when I went to university in England I also experienced racism. Even when I worked as a diplomat in 8 different countries I would come up against racists. So my experience in life tells me that no one race has the monopoly of racism, we are all exposed to it.

Like Farish I would like to see a Malaysia where every Malaysian child, irrespective of race or religion, can aspire to be the Prime Minister.

Love always...

Friday, June 12, 2009

No PAC Probe

Malaysiakini reported late yesterday, here, that the four key players in the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) debacle have been let off the hook by the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and will not be called in for questioning.

The four are former PKFZ general manager OC Phang, former Port Klang Authority chairperson and current Deputy Finance Minister Chor Chee Hueng and two former Transport Ministers Ling Liong Sik and Chan Kong Choy. The reason? Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is the rightful authority to probe the four. "We feel it is unnecessary," said PAC chairperson Nazri Khalid.

Which passeth all understanding.

At the recent DAP forum PKFZ: Will Heads Roll? I had vowed that if nothing comes to naught with these high profile probes etc., I will take it upon myself, together with a few former Klang Port Authority colleagues, to initiate a class action suit or public interest litigation or whatever to see justice done. We believe that perhaps we do have some measure of locus standi as concerned citizens and former employees of the port to start both criminal and civil proceedings for breach of trust and to recover the monies from those involved in this heinous crime.

Not that we have much faith in the judicial system either.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

PKFZ: Will Heads Roll?

In 2007, the Ministry of Finance has already extended a RM4.6 billion soft loan at 4% interest rate to Klang Port Authority to salvage the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) project. Now it appears that they will have to extend an additional RM3.56 billion loan to cover the cash flow deficit over the next 20 years! As projected by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC), this restructured financing will cost an additional RM5 billion in interest costs over the next 42 years!

The question now is, will heads roll over Malaysia's record bailout scandal, especially with existing Barisan Nasional leaders implicated by the project? Should the government continue to support the project with up to RM8.56 billion in tax payers' monies or should it cut losses and make better use of the funds for the rakyat in other more productive means?

I have been invited to speak at a forum organised by DAP Malaysia to discuss the above and to shed some light on the issue. Panelists will include DAP Parliamentary Leader Lim Kit Siang, Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua, DAP Economic Advisor Teh Chi Chang and Transparency International's Tan Sri Dr. Ramon Navaratnam.

Date : Wednesday 10 June 2009.
Time : 8 pm.
Venue : 2nd floor, The KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, No. 1, Jalan Maharajalela, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (See map below)

All are welcome.

View Jalan Maharajalela in a larger map

Saturday, May 30, 2009

PKFZ Conspiracy Theories

In the loo of the Subang Lake View Club recently, a well known journo friend who was at the forefront of the expoof the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal, told me how put off he was at the talk of "conspiracy theories". I agreed with him. The RM12 billion fiasco was simply driven by one word: greed.

Now that the MSM and online media have gone to town with the story, there are calls to probe the big-time "puppet masters", sell off the PKFZ "black hole" etc., and the developers of the project are also threatening to sue. The latter I find very amusing since this will be akin to thieves suing a house owner for calling the cops!

My immediate concern is for the fate of my young former colleagues in the Klang Port Authority, especially now in the government search for scapegoats. Many were forced to do things which were against their principles and had signed cheques under protest etc. A few had resigned in disgust thereby losing their pension benefits.

Transport Minister Ong Tee Kiat has vowed that any "any decision on the PKFZ project will be made in the interest of the people." Lets hope that the decision will not jeopardise the interests of these little people.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

PKFZ: Report to be Released

In a breaking news, Malaysiakini reported yesterday, here, that the government has given the go-ahead for the controversial Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) audit report to be released in its entirety.

Klang Port Authority chairperson Lee Hwa Beng would be calling a press conference at 3.30 p.m. today to reveal the report, an independent audit done by PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC).

In his latest blog posting, here, Transport Minister Ong Tee Kiat suggested that he had fought a hard battle in his quest to get to the bottom of the controversy. “That journey does not end with the release of the report, which I have now directed Klang Port Authority to do so as soon as possible, once everything is in order."

"We have a lot of work to do to make sure that the findings of the report are acted upon and the interests of the people are protected,” he added.

Now this I have got to see.

UPDATE on Thursday May 28 2009 at 2000hrs:

The PwC report can now be viewed, here.

As the appendices are voluminous, they will only be made available for public viewing during office hours at Port Klang Authority at Jalan Pelabuhan, 42005 Port Klang for 2 weeks till 10th June, 2009.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Malay Rights

My old MCKK classmate Dr Nik Azam in Kelantan sent this interesting take on "Malay Rights" to our alumni website which I think is certainly food for thought:

It cannot be wrong to say that we are in our present position because of the above. Every country has its uniqueness and peculiarities, Malaysia is no exception. Many in the world will find it odd that the majority group in Malaysia has special rights above other groups. This came about due to incidents in Malaysian history.

It is a basic human trait that every individual will always want something more than the next individual. This urge for empowerment is a bigger drive than just seeking simple survival. Man had fought duels, battles and wars and in the process he died young. He would have survive longer if he did not fight in the first place, but surviving and living under what terms?

The non Malays now clamour for the abolishment of these rights. Rightly so for them, they also seek empowerment. As a group we have to find smart ways to keep on to these rights but at the same time not to be seen as unfair. Our generation had benefited from them, it is our duty that our beloved ones who come after us are not deprived because of our follies. Do not read special rights here to mean just simple rent seeking.

America, Britain, Japan all have what they call as their foreign policies and strategic interests and the military muscle to back them up. They speak of equality of opportunity and equal rights but the basic is they want more for themselves and to safeguard what they already have.

All of us here are very Malay, is not our old school, the Malay College. So this subject cut across political party affiliations. We have to see that the present politicking do not affect Malay Rights. Party Keadilan is open to all races but 60% of voters are Malays, so they have to give leeway to this. Our classmate is not going to be the future PM if he does not come out with something clever on this issue.

UMNO by its very name is the party of the Malays and should champion our rights. But in the last general elections they received less than 50% of Malay votes. Very strange and food for thought for all of us and UMNO. The reasons are well known, UMNO to the majority of Malays is no longer the champion of the ordinary Malay, but are self serving for themselves. There had been so much wastage of the resources of the country. The non Malays shout that their children with strings of As do not get scholarships, but there are also Malay students with strings of As without scholarships. After the recent political setbacks, UMNO in the name of liberalisation had been giving away what in an indirect manner may touch on what before were considered as Malay Rights. In business and finance about 30 such changes were made, Hindraf leaders had been freed. They were the people who accused Malays of practicing apartheid.

The latest political happening in Malaysia, the Court of Appeal decision on the Perak DUN had been a victory for UMNO and BN, but is there any thought given to how the majority of Malaysians and Malays think about it. Are they not the voters who will decide future elections. The victory may prove costly in the long run.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Causeway to Remain

Prime minister Najib has proposed to his Singapore counterpart Lee Hsien Loong, a new 'straight' bridge to link Johor and Singapore in his first official visit to the island state. The bridge, which will be built on the eastern side of Johor, will be the third link between the two countries.

Najib said the third link will help bring development to the eastern side of Johor, in areas such as Pengerang and Desaru. This will also mean that the Causeway will remain as it is and the controversial crooked bridge will not be pursued further. Lee has even suggested that the Causeway be widened and the rail link improved to further ease traffic movement. Read the Malaysiakini report, here.

Read also my earlier posting: "Stupid Bridge", here.

This must surely come as a slap in the face of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir who has been pushing for a 'dog-leg' or crooked bridge to replace the Causeway. During the recent Bloggers Universe Malaysia 2009 (BUM 2009) dialogue in Subang Jaya, he had wisecracked that 'everyone' in Johor Baru wants his crooked bridge except for former minister Shahrir Samad.

I didnt think it was funny. I also thought that it was bloody presumptuous of him and most unfair to Shahrir, a long time Member of Parliament for JB who should be in a better position to gauge the opinions of his constituents.

Lets hope that this is going to be the last time that we will hear of the stupid bridge, but I am not taking any bets here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

PKFZ: Cabinet to Decide

And I thought it has already been decided by the previous cabinet to make the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) audit report on the RM12 billion Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) fiasco available in its entirety to the general public!

Unless of course this is going to be just another merry here we go round the mulberry bush.

News reports has it that transport minister Ong Tee Kiat seems to be the only government official who is adamant that the report is made public without any more delays. If this is true, then I will have to take back everything I have said about him.

Minister Ong, I do humbly beg to apologise.

The Klang Port Authority (KPA) board meets this morning to deliberate on general manager Lim Thean Shiang 's sudden resignation. Rumour has it that Lim has gone to meet Najib to retract his letter but Ong, who has accepted Lim's resignation last week has already appointed 2 new GMs to fill in both the KPA and PKFZ posts.

Meanwhile, the rakyat waits and waits ...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

PKFZ: Day of Reckoning

My sources tell me that Lim Thean Shiang (photo), the young general manager of Klang Port Authority (KPA) who took over from the controversial O.C. Phang barely a year ago, has tendered his resignation to the KPA board. A lawyer by training, Lim is also executive chairman of KPA subsidiary Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) Sdn Bhd. But unlike former transport minister Chan Kong Choy, I bet his hasty departure cannot be because of "health reasons" but certainly over the RM12 billion PKFZ scandal which has necessitated a government bailout.

I believe PKFZ will feature prominently in tomorrow's cabinet meeting. As such, I wouldnt be surprised if no action will be taken and more excuses be found to further delay or even stop the release of the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) audit report in its entirety to the general public. PwC has asked KPA for indemnification of the report and this seems pretty reasonable to me under the circumstances.

It is believed that the PwC audit has uncovered practices contrary to rules and regulations, gross abuse of power, conflicts of interest, no accountability or transparency etc. etc. The culprits allegedly include politicians, members of the KPA and PKFZ boards (which unfortunately include my former boss Gnanalingam of Westport who was a member of both!) and also the then Minister of Transport.

It boggles the mind that the KPA board apparently was unaware of the agreements to form a subsidiary company for the land purchase! Neither was it aware of "corporate advisory services" for the 405-hectare PKFZ project until it was handed a RM130 million bill by a local consultancy firm recently.

Now dammit sirs, this isnt funny.

Other sources have also informed me that independent quantity surveyors have confirmed that the cost for the 4-star hotel in PKFZ should only be RM50 million instead of the RM90 million claimed by the contractor.

There is also a major dispute between TNB and KPA over the building of a sub station in PKFZ costing many RM millions. It seems that TNB has refused to cooperate, claiming that it should be only for less than half the cost!

Pray tell, what the bloody hell is going on here?

In view of all the above, I would like to urge the government to release the PwC audit report immediately, including all the appendices. I would also strongly recommend that steps are taken to initiate criminal and civil proceedings for breach of trust and to recover costs against all those responsible for this shameful episode.

Anything less would be simply unacceptable.

UPDATE on Wednesday May 20, 2009 at 0930hrs:
Read also the report from today's the Sun, here.

(Photo source: Business Times)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

B.U.M. 2009: The Event

As a member of the organising committee for Bloggers Universe Malaysia 2009 (BUM 2009) Dialogue, in conjunction with World Press Freedom Day, I shared chairperson Desiderata YL Chong's concern that we may not be able to fill in the limited 200-seat capacity at Subang's Lake View Club yesterday. This was especially with the Man U vs Arsenal match being telecast live on TV at about the same time. But our fears quickly dissipated with the arrival of our special 'surprise' guest, popular blogger and former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir (TDM) a.k.a. Che Det (photo, right) and the national press corps turning out in full force.

Aside from pushing for his controversial crooked bridge to Singapore again, among other things TDM spoke about in his 30-minute speech was the fact that during his long tenure as PM, he never imposed censorship on the mainstream media (MSM) or curtailed press freedom. He suggested that perhaps the MSM practised self censorship because it tried to 'second guess' what government leaders want.

Read reports from Malaysiakini, here and The Malaysian Insider, here. On the other hand, perhaps as a measure or indication of this 'self-censorship' he was talking about, I couldnt find anything about our event in today's NST or the Star online.

P.S: TDM also admitted at a press conference later that he has stopped reading the NST, so perhaps this is something we do have in common!