Saturday, August 19, 2017

BARU BIAN: HDC SUIT AN OPPORTUNITY TO EXAMINE AUDITOR GENERAL’S REPORT IN DETAIL


PRESS STATEMENT
19 AUGUST 2017

One of the flats in PermyJaya which was said to have been painted last year
I refer to the statement by the Chairman of the Housing Development Corporation that they are likely to take legal action against me for allegedly distorting the facts of the AG’s Report 2016, thereby ‘aggravated the image of HDC’. I fully welcome this novel initiative by the Chairman, as the trial will provide full opportunity for all parties to delve deeply into the facts of the matter and examine in full the details of the unsatisfactory findings of the AG in the Report. We may be presented with the chance to request for better and further particulars of each instance of unsatisfactory finding.

Our Miri MP Dr Michael Teo and Wanita deputy chief Voon Shiak Ni had made numerous site visits to the flats in Miri mentioned in the report for which RM2.88 mil was paid for painting and repairing works found not executed, or carried out defectively or not done in accordance with the requirements of the job scope. The flats are in bad condition and some parts are even cracking up and chipping off. There are real problems on the ground and the Chairman should direct his energy towards rectifying these and improving oversight rather than threatening the opposition with legal action.

Interestingly, it was reported today that the MACC had arrested 2 HDC staff in connection with the failure to carry out the painting job. Obviously, the MACC must have had reason to believe that the HDC was implicated in this impropriety, otherwise they would not have carried out these arrests. Therefore, the Chairman is jumping the gun to protest the HDC’s innocence. On our part, we welcome the investigations by the MACC and stand ready to assist in every way possible.

The HDC’s challenge on firstly, the AG’s Report, and now, the MACC’s investigation, is an eye opener on the Housing Commission’s defiance of the statutory duties of the institutions clothed with the power to check on accountability and integrity of public spending, abuse and misuse of power and corrupt practices by the public authorities.

At the press conference on 3 August 2017, the findings of the AG that I pointed out had had also been highlighted by the media. The other items found to be unsatisfactory can be seen in pages xvi-xviii and 94-125 of the AG’s Report. I would request the MACC, if they have not already commenced doing so, to investigate every other item of unsatisfactory performance that is documented in this report, including but not limited to:

i.        No prior approval of the State Financial Secretary obtained for exemption from established financial procedures for several transactions;
ii.       An advance payment of RM16.80 million for Package 1 and Package 2 of the Jalan Utama upgrading project in Sibu without authorisation, resulting in the government incurring interest charges of RM1.77 million;
iii.       Payments amounting to RM33.40 million were made by HDC to suppliers without being verified by an authorised officer: supplier invoices for 3 progress payments amounting to RM10.33 million were not original but were unacknowledged copies; 4 progress payments amounting to RM2.30million not supported by suppliers invoices from the contractor; six payment vouchers amounting to RM20.77 million were also not supported by payment certificates.
(See pg xvii of the Auditor General’s Report)

In particular, with respect to the painting job paid for but not carried out or carried out insufficiently at RPR PermyJaya mentioned above, it was found that the performance of several items specified in the contract were unsatisfactory, ie:
i.          Jet-spray cleaning of external walls, posts and beams not carried out;
ii.         Repainting of cracks on external wall not carried out;
iii.       Applying one coat of primer and 2 coats of weather resistant finish on the rainwater drainage pipes and service pipes: no pipes installed for rain water drainage;
iv.        Replacement of sewerage, waste and vent pipes not carried out;
v.        Applying one coat of primer and 2 coats of weather resistant finish to outer walls, pillars, beams and walls: thin uneven paint applied. Walls on ground floor and parts of first floor staircase not painted;
vi.    Replacement of timber roof fascia and painting thereof: no replacement done, just painting of rotten/broken fascia boards.
(See Table 5.18 at pg 117 of the Auditor General’s Report)

We urge the MACC to investigate fully all these findings and bring those responsible to account if there is evidence of wrongdoing, especially since this involves a large sum of taxpayers’ money.

It is rather disingenuous of the Chairman to suggest, in the context of this threatened suit, that the HDC is merely in charge of opening tenders to contractors and disclaiming any responsibility for the highlighted shortcomings, and at the same time assuring the MACC and the public that the HDC is committed to upholding transparency and accountability, and pledging to assist the MACC in their investigations. Perhaps at the board meeting of the HDC, the board should obtain sound legal advice on the consequences of breach of statutory duties, misfeasance and breach of fiduciary duties before they make any decision. It would be best if their attempts at damage control be directed at their internal procedures and controls rather than at shooting the opposition for merely highlighting their shortcomings as revealed by the Auditor General.

The Chairman doth protest too much, methinks.

Baru Bian
Chairman, KEADILAN Sarawak / ADUN N81’ Ba’ Kelalan

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Dewan passes Poca amendments early morning

Bernama     Published     Updated
The Prevention of Crime Act (Amendment) Act 2017 was passed in the Dewan Rakyat early this morning.

The bill was passed at 4.05 am by voice votes after the third reading was made by Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed and seconded by Deputy Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Halimah Mohd Sadique.

Earlier when winding up the debate on the bill, Nur Jazlan said the amendment on the bill was aimed at expediting the decision-making process by the Crime Prevention Board in any case, besides facilitating the management of the board’s duties.

He said with the amendment, the board was empowered to urge officers investigating a case to speed up the preparation of the report for further action.

"At present, the existing law gives the investigating officer a maximum of 38 days to prepare the report, but with this amendment, the board can urge the officer to expedite the preparation of the report,” he said.
 
When tabling the bill, Nur Jazlan said it had 16 clauses which contained several proposals, among others, for action which resulted in the destruction and loss of electronic monitoring device (EMD) be made an offence.
He said the bill also proposed that destructive action and loss of other devices used in the handling of the EMD be also made an offence.

“The amendment is also intended to give power to the court to impose a jail sentence on a person who failed to pay damages or loss of EMD and other devices related to it.

“The amendment also proposed that members of the Board of Crime Prevention can be re-appointed for any period,” he said.

The Parliament sitting continues at 10 am today.

- Bernama

Watered-down LRA passed, 'unilateral conversion can't be solved yet'

Zikri Kamarulzaman     Published     Updated

PARLIAMENT | A watered-down version of the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act (amendment) Bill (LRA) has passed in the Dewan Rakyat.

The Bill was passed by a voice vote at 12.45am. The House had stopped the clock as proceedings dragged past midnight.

Notably missing from the passed Bill is a provision which would have barred unilateral conversion of children by a parent.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Azalina Othman Said said Section 88A, which was removed on Tuesday, would not have solved the problem of unilateral conversion.

"I don't believe Section 88A would use solved the conversion issue.

"This needs further and deeper discussions.

"But this does not mean it is the end of the story (of solving unilateral conversion)," Azalina told the Dewan Rakyat tonight.

The scrapped Section 88A is as follows:

"Section 88A. (1) Where a party to a marriage has converted to Islam, the religion of any child of the marriage shall remain as the religion of the parties to the marriage prior to the conversion, except where both parties to the marriage agree to a conversion of the child to Islam, subject always to the wishes of the child where he or she has attained the age of eighteen years."

"(2) Where the parties to the marriage professed different religions prior to the conversion of one spouse to Islam, a child of the marriage shall be at liberty to remain in the religion of either one of the prior religions of the parties before the conversion to Islam."

DAP lawmakers had argued for the section to be reinserted in the LRA.

PAS lawmakers, meanwhile, wanted the bill to be pulled in its entirety to be tabled at a later date, to resolve issues such as unilateral conversion.
 
Among the sections PAS was unhappy with was the amended Section 51 of the LRA which states: Where one party to a marriage has converted to Islam— (a) either party may petition for a divorce under this section or section 53;"
PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan had explained at a press conference earlier that this conflicted with state syariah laws, which Muslim converts would be subject to, upon embracing the religion.

The Islamist party has proposed that civil marriages ended through the conversion of one partner, be dissolved at syariah court first.

PAS had attempted to force a bloc vote to stop the LRA amendments from passing, but this failed as they did not have the 15 people necessary to support such a move.

~ Malaysiakini

Muslims converts do not suffer; the law will not permit this

    Published     Updated
“If you are a Muslim and you know that it’s un-Islamic and you are not voicing it out, you have done a great injustice and that is haram.”
- Jihad for Justice chairperson Thasleem Mohamed Ibrahim

COMMENT | PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan uttered the most odious defence of his religion here in Malaysia when he claimed “for the last 10 to 20 years, the 'muallaf' (Muslim converts) also suffered. It is the same thing" (as M Indira Gandhi). Really? Of course, he does not explain how their suffering is the same.

Let us take these examples, which are demonstrative of the worst excesses of the state and the state-sanctioned religion which has caused distress in countless non-Muslim lives.

Have Muslim converts had their children unilaterally converted to a religion which the child cannot renounce when he or she comes of age? Has the Muslim convert been denied justice in the civil courts? Has the Muslim convert had their child kidnapped and then had the state claim that they would not interfere because the ruling of the civil court conflicted with the syariah court?

Has the Muslim convert watched in horrified anger and grief over the years as the child is indoctrinated to a state religion which the child could never leave and if the child attempted to do so would be sent to a rehabilitation camp where more alleged abuse awaits the now adult child?

This is how S Deepa suffered, and also M Indira Gandhi. Has a Muslim convert ever suffered the same way? Let us unpack the statements made by Takiyuddin a little bit more. He said, "The amendment appears as if the Muslim convert will be forced to settle his marriage dissolution in the civil courts. It's a contradiction (with syariah jurisdiction).”

What does this really mean? The civil courts ostensibly apply to all Malaysians equally. This idea of conflict with the syariah courts is merely code for the reality that the syariah courts favour the Muslim. So, it is not justice that the Muslim is seeking but preferential treatment conferred by religion.

When in the S Deepa case, her allegedly criminal husband says that he embraced Islam so he could get special privileges, what this says is that he believed that he would get special treatment because he was a Muslim. This is exactly the underlying theme of the PAS secretary-general's objection to the proposed amendments.

What is sickening about Takiyuddin’s comment is that it implies that Muslims and non-Muslims are operating on a level-playing field. That if there were injustices, then the Muslim and the non-Muslim suffers the same. This is clearly not the case.

Indira Gandhi’s child, as was S Deepa’s, was unilaterally converted, now their grief is hijacked by this Islamic party, the Umno state and by Muslims who support this weltanschauung. These Islamists do this as a means of dismissing the grief, loss, and powerlessness of these two women to camouflage the injustice of how their religion, their “ketuanan” and their hegemony is inflicted upon Malaysians who are not Muslims.

Islam trumps secular laws

There are two important points I have made over the course of writing about the state-sanctioned ‘crime’ of unilateral conversion. These two points are the real issues. All the rest is just a diversion to hide the fact that the superiority of Islam trumps secular laws and that non-Muslims would always be at the mercy of an oppressive system that does not care about their rights which we are constantly reminded are enshrined in our constitution.

1. “What unilateral conversion does, and we should be clear that this involves Islam as the Islamic (sic) minister is wont to remind everyone, is rob the child of the right of his or her religious freedom. This has far-reaching consequences in Malaysia because race and religion have legal obligations along with the so-called special privileges that place a Muslim in the harsh glare of federal and state Islamic authorities.

2. “If an adult wishes to place himself or herself under such obligations, then it is their right to do so, but a parent unilaterally deciding to convert a child without the consent of their partner is not only morally reprehensible but should also come with legal consequences, preferably jail time with a couple of strokes of the rotan.”

So you see, the problem is really not unilateral conversion. If a parent, for whatever reason, chooses to convert the child to a specific religion, the remedy is that when the child becomes an adult, he or she is free to leave the religion that was imposed upon him or her. The problem here in Malaysia is that Muslims – even though they were unilaterally converted – cannot leave Islam. This means that they remain Muslims with all the obligations that come with professing the faith here in Malaysia.

Let me remind everyone that if the executive wanted to change the laws, it could do it easily. In fact, when it involves elections, especially where non-Muslims play an important role, the executive has stepped in and personally interfered in the administration of justice in this country. The Rooney Rebbit case is a prime example.

The words of Sabah Council of Churches president Reverend Jerry Dusing states the case plainly – “This turn of events clearly project two things - firstly, the NRD (National Registration Department) which is an administrative arm of the federal government has no regard and respect for our religious freedom guaranteed under the federal constitution and the Malaysia Agreement 1963. Secondly, that our exercise of religious freedom is subject to political interference.”

Therefore, when the government claims that it needs a two-thirds majority to remedy this issue, this is total horse manure. It is a big lie that these so-called defenders of race and religion propagate to deceive non-Muslims into voting for a corrupt regime which would impose their religion on the non-Muslim demographic and then claim that they are suffering as those (non-Muslims) who feel the boot of the state on their necks.

To answer DAP parliamentarian M Kula Segaran’s question, these extremists do not care if Tevi Darsiny is a Muslim or a Hindu. All they care about is in the eyes of the law, she is a Muslim. Her children will be Muslim. This is religious kidnapping. This is the ongoing agenda of cultural hegemony. This is a crime, and there is nothing you can do about it.

This is faith by fiat.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

~ Malaysiakini

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

BARU BIAN: WITHDRAWAL OF BILL TO PREVENT CHILD CONVERSION ANOTHER POLITICAL MOVE BY BN


PRESS STATEMENT
7 AUGUST 2017

The sudden removal of s 88A of the bill to amend the Law Reform (Marriage & Divorce) Act, which had been scheduled to be read a second time, is another slap in the face for people of non-Muslim faiths. There had been hope at the end of a dark tunnel for many that this Bill would see an end to the unilateral conversion of minor children of other faiths to Islam, but true to BN practice, there has been yet another major flip-flop on this Bill.

The de facto Law Minister Azalina Othman Said was reported to have expressed hope that this development would be seen in a positive light to preserve harmony in Malaysia's multi-ethnic and multi-religious society. How is it possible that this last minute flip-flop by the BN can be seen in a positive light?

In September last year, Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz had said that the Bill to be tabled in the October Parliamentary sitting would bring the issue in line with the Cabinet’s decision in April 2009 to require both parents’ consent for the conversion of a child under the age of 18. Nazri Aziz had said then (in 2009) that the cabinet had decided that in the event of any dispute, a child must be raised in the faith professed by both parents at the time of marriage, and “A child’s religion must be in accordance to the common religion at the time of marriage between the parents.”

The Bill was opposed by PAS and some Muslim groups, and this about turn by the BN government is seen to be a political decision taken in the fear of the loss of support by the Muslims.

Once again, non-Muslims are faced with the prospect of the unilateral conversions of minor children by the converting parent and we can expect more cases like the one of Indira Gandhi’s, with the hope of a solution now gone.

This change of mind by the BN government shows that the PM and his BN ministers driven by the fear of losing the GE14, and place no importance on protecting the rights of all citizens to freedom of religion and equal rights.

The question is whether the BN coalition partners MCA, MIC, Gerakan and the other BN component parties in Sarawak and Sabah were consulted about the withdrawal of this Bill. How can they in good conscience continue to support and prop up this government that has shown no respect and regards for the rights of people of other races and religions. What is their response to the withdrawal of the Bill? Are they going to betray their own party members by continuing to support the BN government?

It is high time Najib and his BN/UMNO people be voted out as they have shown once again that they are incompetent and incapable of good governance.

Baru Bian
Chairman, KEADILAN Sarawak / ADUN N81 Ba’ Kelalan

How can a child who married her rapist be 'doing fine'?

    Published     Updated

COMMENT | Imagine you have a 12-year-old daughter.

Imagine receiving a phone call at your workplace and being informed by your daughter’s caretaker that she is in trouble. Would you drop everything and head home at once, or would you ask the caretaker to wait until you return home because you are too “busy” at work?

Imagine reaching home some eight hours after receiving the phone call, and being told that your daughter who had left in the morning to go to school has not returned home in the evening.

Imagine having your neighbour’s daughter inform you that a man your daughter had befriended on Facebook three months ago had raped her inside a car. Would you rush to the police station in an attempt to find her, or would you wait for your daughter to return home, not knowing when that would be?

Imagine finding out that the man who raped your daughter was a married 40-year-old man with four young children of his own, not the 24-year-old bachelor he claimed to be when he befriended your daughter.

Imagine being offered RM10,000 as an inducement to withdraw the report lodged against him. Would you agree to give your daughter’s hand to her rapist, or would you instead beat the crap out of him for even suggesting that he marry a child he has violated?

When Rohani Abdul Karim from the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development said in Parliament recently that a 12-year-old girl who was made to marry her rapist in 2013 was now happy, healthy and doing well, living under the protection and care of her father and family, I flipped.

How can any child be well and protected under the care of an individual who has failed as a parent?

How can a child be well and protected living under the same roof as the man who accepted money as an exchange for her pride and dignity?

How can a child be well and protected living with a father who is no different from the people involved in the trafficking of young girls in the flesh trade?

A year ago, Rohani had this to say at the launch of an awareness campaign against child marriage: “My ministry does not condone child marriages. We have always been against early marriage or child marriage as it curbs the mental, physical and psychological development of a child.

“Let a child be a child and go through that phase before going to study and working because a good career is more important.”

I guess it is always easy to make statements – especially when you cannot imagine yourself having a 12-year-old child who has been raped.

Between 2010 and May 2017, there have been 13,272 cases of children being raped. In that time frame, there have also been 6,014 molestation cases, 1,796 cases of incest and 1,152 cases of unnatural sex.

Given that our country has a minister in charge of the wellbeing of women, family and community whose statements seem to be at odds with the wellbeing of women, family and community, we should not be surprised if more children become victims in the future.

FA ABDUL is a passionate storyteller, a growing media trainer, an aspiring playwright, a regular director, a struggling producer, a self-acclaimed photographer, an expert Facebooker, a lazy blogger, a part-time queen and a full-time vainpot.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

~ Malaysiakini

BN's complete betrayal of non-Muslims!

P Ramasamy     Published     Updated

COMMENT | It is indeed shocking to know that the leader of the MIC and current Health Minister Dr S Subramaniam would support the withdrawal of amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act of 1976.

Subramaniam said that it would be wise to focus on other amendments that would not require constitutional amendments as a way forward on the issue of the unilateral conversions that have plagued the nation.

Since the amendments involving Section 88A will go against the constitutional provision of allowing for a single parent to convert his or her child, such an amendment would require a two-thirds majority.

Minister of Tourism and Culture Nazri Abdul Aziz also remarked and even defended that withdrawal of Section 88A on the grounds that such an amendment, if tabled in Parliament, might not get the support of the opposition and would put the government of the day in a bad light.

If the amendments get rejected in Parliament by the inclusion of this controversial Section 88A, it would mean that the government of the day will lose its confidence.

BN politicians are suggesting that the non-inclusion of Section 88A in the amendments will be way forward as there are other issues that might bring relief to those families affected by unilateral conversions.

There are six other amendments that would not require changes to the constitution but will be nonetheless effective in addressing issues pertaining to unilateral conversions and their effect on families.

For instance, the amendments to allow for the dissolution of civil marriages, provisions for the seeking of custody of their children, distribution of assets and others might be a way forward for families.
Subramaniam and Nazri are trying to defend the BN government for withdrawing the bill on the grounds that the government might not get the necessary support and, what is more, the Section 88A contravenes the Federal Constitution.

However, both of them don’t realise, or pretend, that the key or fundamental issue in the bill to amend the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act of 1976 is the issue of unilateral conversion by one of the spouses.

Bill pointless without Section 88A

This is in accordance with the Federal Constitution, a provision that is the main cause of worry and misery of those families affected by the unilateral conversion. The case of Indira Gandhi and many others point to the fact that it is this provision that has emboldened the one-side conversion of the children.

Thus, rescinding this very relevant section from the bill makes no sense. Without Section 88A, it would be pointless to bring relief and comfort to families affected by the conversion of one spouse and the subsequent conversion of the children.

DAP, with its 36 Members of Parliament, are ready to support the government bill if reintroduced with the inclusion of the Section 88A. Without this section, the bill is empty and meaningless.

Having contemplated and discussed the bill for some time, the government cannot turn around to give the lame excuse that the bill might not get the support of the opposition.
 
It is not about getting the support or non-support but that the BN government, in facing the next general election, is afraid to offend Muslims in the country, particularly its new found friend, PAS.

BN non-Malay component parties are either silent or supporting the withdrawal of the bill by saying that it is better to "pluck the low hanging fruits" first. This is a complete nonsense and total betrayal of non-Muslims by political parties such as the MCA, Gerakan, MIC and other mosquito parties.

P RAMASAMY is Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang and the state assemblyperson for Perai.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

~ Malaysiakini

Suhakam to probe disappearance of Pastor Koh and others

Published     Updated
The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) will conduct a public inquiry in October into the disappearances of Pastor Raymond Koh, social activist Amri Che Mat, Pastor Joshua Hilmy and his wife Ruth Hilmi.

"In accordance with Suhakam's mandate, the inquiry will consider, among others, whether these cases are cases of enforced or involuntary disappearances, as defined under the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED)," the commission said in a statement today.

ICPPED defines enforced disappearance as the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the state or by persons, or groups of persons, acting with the authorisation, support or acquiescence of the state.

The instrument was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2006. Malaysia is not a party to the ICPPED.

Suhakam said the inquiry would also consider whether the authorities, specifically the police, have taken adequate steps to investigate the disappearances. 
 
"Suhakam will continue to gather information from all stakeholders, including the police and others who have been cooperative towards finding some truth on the matter," the commission said.
Suhakam believes the disappearances to be a public interest issue and thus warranted investigations.
Koh was abducted by masked men in broad daylight on Feb 13. Che Amri, Joshua and Ruth reportedly went missing on Nov 24 last year.

Last month, the police announced that they had made a breakthrough in Koh's case, claiming they now believed that a group from Southern Thailand was linked to the abduction.

~ Malaysiakini

Sunday, August 6, 2017

BARU BIAN: UNNAMED CONTRACTOR OFF THE MARK IN SHOOTING EXERCISE


PRESS STATEMENT

6 AUGUST 2017



I refer to the report on page 3 the Borneo Post today in which an unnamed contractor accused me of not checking the facts before making allegations against the company.



Firstly, I am surprised that anyone would hold a press conference but instruct the press that his identity is not to be disclosed. I am equally surprised that the press complied. If this person is truly blameless and wishes to refute the facts in the Auditor General’s report and in the ‘misleading viral', he should not be hiding behind anonymity. What is there to hide if one is truly innocent of charges made against one? How does one clear one’s name without identifying himself?



In addition, this nameless contractor should know that in my statement to the press, I merely cited the findings of the AG’s report without going into the specific details. At no instance did I utter any names of persons or companies named in the report. I have been falsely accused of tarnishing a nameless company and an equally nameless contractor, and I cannot even sue for defamation as they do not have the honour and the courage to own their identities. This is cowardice at its worst.



The Auditor General’s audit has set processes, which are followed when they carry out their work. If the contractor’s name, whatever it may be, is cited in the report, I am sure that he would have been given an opportunity to present his case to the AG during their investigations. If he is saying that due process was not carried out and the AG’s report was inaccurate, then he should take issue with the AG. Perhaps he should consider suing the AG for defamation.



As the Minister of Local Government and Housing has indicated that his Ministry will probe the shortcomings in HDC, perhaps it may be better to hand over the matter to the MACC to investigate. The involvement of the MACC may be warranted as huge sums of money are involved and the people of Sarawak will be better assured if an independent party is tasked to carry out thorough investigations in this matter.



It is a sad reflection of the decaying morals of man and society when individuals hide behind anonymity to make false accusations and portray perceived innocence, and that they are given space to do so in the most widely circulated newspaper here.



Baru Bian

Chairman, KEADILAN Sarawak / ADUN N81’ Ba Kelalan












BARU BIAN: CANCELLATION OF PETRONAS PACIFIC NORTHWEST LNG PROJECT ANOTHER FINANCIAL BLOW FOR MALAYSIA


PRESS STATEMENT
3 AUGUST 2017

As if Malaysia does not already have enough financial losses to deal with arising from the 1MDB fiasco, we have recently heard that Petronas is not going ahead with the USD29 bil Pacific NorthWest LNG Project.

The losses incurred by 1MDB were estimated by the Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4), to be RM39 bil. The project cost of USD29 is far greater than RM39 bil. The question to be asked here is how much Petronas has lost in the aborted LNG project in Canada.

Why did Petronas make the decision to invest in Canada in the first place without taking into careful consideration all factors including opposition to the project by the indigenous community, environmentalists and local politicians, and the possible change of government together with the stringent conditions placed by the Canadian government.

The money that Petronas so carelessly throws into these overseas projects belongs to the people, and most likely a large part of it comes from Sabah and Sarawak’s resources. There needs to be more accountability from the board of Petronas than the short statement they released last week.

It is shocking and disappointing that news of such a huge failure is taken so lightly, with no questions asked or explanations forthcoming. What has happened is but a symptom of what ails Malaysia – the lack of competency, accountability and transparency. This is why we have been calling for Petronas to be accountable to Parliament instead of to the Prime Minister.

On our part, the Sarawak government must take firm measures to claim our rightful share in our natural resources and achieve meaningful participation in the O&G industry. The losses incurred by bad investment decisions made by those decision makers in the Twin Towers must not be repeated. We urge Petronas to provide full disclosure of the money lost in this project.

Baru Bian
Chairman KEADILAN SARAWAK / ADUN N81 BA’ KELALAN

BARU BIAN: UNSATISFACTORY AUDITS IN AUDITOR GENERAL’S REPORT CONCERNING


PRESS STATEMENT
3 AUGUST 2017

Certain portions of the Auditor Generals Report that has been recently released raises serious questions that must be answered by the relevant bodies named, the most critical being the Sarawak Housing Development Corporation.

The Sarawak Housing Development Corporation (Perbadanan) was found to have paid out RM2.88 million to 2 contractors for paint jobs which they had not done. Certain procurements made were not done in accordance with the provisions of the applicable rules. There was advance payment of RM16.06 mil without authorisation for an upgrading project in Sibu, resulting in the government incurring interest charges of RM1.77 mil. Payments of RM30.40 mil were made without verification by the officer, while payments amounting to RM20.77 mil were unsupported by Payment Certificates.

These finding point to serious mismanagement issues and poor financial oversight. This body is tasked with providing affordable housing for the rakyat but it has seemingly been completely irresponsible with the state’s money and resources. Has there been misappropriation of funds? Or leakage? What action is the government going to take as a result of the AG’s Report? Someone has to be held responsible, and I hope that this revelation will not go the way of other past AG’s reports where there is little or no action taken to address the problems or to hold the relevant persons to account.

The management of the construction of the new wing of the Riverside Majestic Hotel, under the purview of the SEDC, was also found to be unsatisfactory. Besides failure to complete despite 7 extensions amounting to 758 days, the project’s cost was found to have increased by RM8.07 mil, an increase of 13.5%. In addition, liquidated and ascertained damages were not imposed for work which was delayed by 148 days, which if paid would have been in the amount of RM2.09mil.

Again, the project cost overrun needs to be explained, and the reason for not imposing the LAD charges.

The financial management of the Sarawak Museum and the DUN were also found to be less than satisfactory. With the building of the new museum complex, it is even more crucial that financial transparency, accountability and competency be maintained without exception.

The MACC has announced that it will be studying the AG’s Reports and investigating possible corruption and abuse of power where warranted. In all these cases, taxpayers’ money is involved, and the MACC must be thorough in its investigation. It is unfortunate that these bodies singled out as being less than satisfactory in performance are or were under the purview of the Chief Minister in his roles as the Minister of Housing and Urbanisation and the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, except for the DUN.

It is the even more crucial that investigations be carried out impartially and transparently so that there can be no allegation of cover-ups or sweeping under the carpet. The Chief Minister, with his strategic plans for the development of Sarawak including the proposed LRT, digital economy initiatives, dam-building etc, all of which invole huge sums of money, must take steps to reassure the people that the management of the state is in good hands and that his strategic initiatives will not suffer the same fate as these bodies named by the Auditor General.

Baru Bian
Chairman, KEADILAN Sarawak / ADUN N81 Ba’ Kelalan








Thursday, July 27, 2017

BARU BIAN: TRUSAN DAM GO-AHEAD A BLOW FOR ADENAN’S LEGACY


PRESS STATEMENT
26 JULY 2017
  
The announcement by the Chief Minister that the government is giving the go ahead for the Trusan Dam to be built came as a surprise to many, even the SEB Chairman. We did not expect that the government would still plan to build more dams, especially since its previous policy was not to pursue any more dam-building now that Sarawak has Bakun Dam. The late Chief Minister Adenan Satem had said categorically that there is no need for more big dams, and his statement was widely reported. It appears that the words of the late Adenan carry little weight now, and the assurances made by his government count for nothing.

In the November 2014 Dun sitting, when I asked about the status of the then-proposed Lawas and Trusan 2 Dams, Minister Awang Tengah replied that ‘both dams are still in the feasibility study stage. When the projects reach the next stage full Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) will be conducted.’ To my surprise, I read yesterday that SEB Chairman Hamid Sepawi had said that the feasibility studies for the Trusan Dam were completed 4 years ago.

I would be interested to know what the actual situation is with regard to how the decision was made to build the dam, and what sort of studies had been done in the past. When even the Chairman of SEB expresses surprise, one wonders whether it was a decision made on impulse without consulting other stakeholders and experts.

In the event that the project is to go ahead, the government must ensure that proper and thorough surveys are carried out, including the EIA and SEIA statements after full consultation with the people affected.

Where there are NCR claims, the government must assure the people that they will be properly compensated. Compensation must not be based on the government’s narrow view of temuda, but on the adat of the people, which extends NCR to pemakai menoa and pulau galau.

The state government should also guarantee that the whole of the Lawas and Ba’ Kelalan areas will be supplied with grid power supply and proper infrastructure, including good tar-sealed roads.

Unfortunately, in the resettlement areas of the Bakun Dam, the displaced people have been complaining of unkept promises and many are unhappy with their new lives. The government needs to do better in looking after the interests of our rural communities.

Baru Bian
Chairman, KEADILAN Sarawak / ADUN N81’ Ba’ Kelalan






Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Lack of diversity in high judicial office

    Published     Updated
COMMENT | The appointment of the present chief justice and president of the Court of Appeal to continue in their posts after the mandatory retirement age of 66 years, plus a further six months allowed by the Federal Constitution, has understandably generated a great deal of controversy in legal circles as well as the public.

Many question the constitutionality of these appointments.

It is unfortunate that we have the highest levels of our judiciary embroiled in a constitutional crisis, when it is the apex Federal Court that routinely deals with constitutional matters.

Is it not apparent that the time is long overdue to appoint the most qualified judge from East Malaysia to fill the post of chief justice?

And is it also not equally apparent that it is long overdue for a lady judge to be elevated to the position of one of the office-holders in the judiciary? It is imperative to address the lack of a gender balance in the top echelons of the judiciary.

There are highly qualified women who are now Federal Court judges, who richly deserve the right to be considered for these posts.

Siti Norma Yaakob was the last and only lady judge of the Federal Court appointed as chief judge of Malaya from Feb 8, 2005 to Jan 5, 2007. This was more than a decade ago.
 
The judiciary, above all others, must uphold the Federal Constitution in word and in spirit.

It must reflect, in its appointment process to high judicial office, the salutary Article 8 that, all other things being equal, there shall be no discrimination on the grounds of “religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender”.

While preparing this statement, it was announced that Baroness Hale will be the first female president of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. A timely reminder for our judiciary from this fresh breeze from afar.

AMBIGA SREENEVASAN is president of the National Human Rights Society (Hakam).
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

~ Malaysiakini

Malaysians do forget easily

R Nadeswaran     Published     Updated


COMMENT | Dr Mahathir Mohamed recited a sajak (poem) entitled ‘Melayu Mudah Lupa’ (Malays forget easily) at the 2001 Umno General Assembly. After 16 years, is it still appropriate or does one word need to be changed?

Replacing “Malays” with the “Malaysians” would better describe how events and scandals of yesteryears have been consigned to the burial grounds and entombed.

But even the dead can be awakened for political expediency. After 30 years, the ghost of the foreign exchange market (forex) losses, said to run into billions of ringgit, has arisen from the grave – with hopes of it demonising the leading opposition figure, Mahathir.

So, a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) has been set up and will soon start the proceedings, in the hope of establishing a host of facts.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with this – perfectly legal. Using provisions provided in the Federal Constitution, the system allows Joe Public to have privy and access to the reasons for decisions to the commitments made by our leaders and their reasons for doing so.

But what can RCIs do? What does our government do with the findings? What happens after the findings? Will they bring about changes or will they be consigned to gather dust in some steel cabinet in Putrajaya?

There have been many, but let’s look back at just two. The first was on the VK Lingam video and the other was the RCI on illegal immigrants in Sabah.
 
In 2007, a five-man panel chaired by the former chief judge of Malaya, Haidar Mohamed Noor, examined a video clip allegedly of lawyer VK Lingam (photo) being involved in the manipulation of judicial appointments.

Subsequently, Lingam was barred from practising in 2015, but he has since challenged the decision of the Bar Disciplinary Committee, which found him guilty of interfering with judicial appointments. The case is scheduled to be heard next month.

In 2013, the former chief judge of Sabah and Sarawak, Steve Shim, chaired a five-man panel to investigate “Project IC”, in which citizenship was allegedly given unlawfully to illegal immigrants in Sabah during the Mahathir administration for electoral support.

'Project IC probably existed'

After hearing 211 witnesses and recording more than 5,000 pages of evidence, the panel concluded that “Project IC” probably existed. It recommended the formation of a permanent secretariat, along with either a management committee or a consultative council, to address the issue of illegal immigration in Sabah.

But the immigrant problems still continue to prosper across the porous borders between the two countries.

Against such backdrops, what would yet another RCI bring about? For a while, the proceedings will be the talk of the town, after which, it will enter into a sleep mode to be awakened when yet another scandal surfaces on our shores.
 
Can someone update Malaysians on the National Feedlot Corporation (NFCorp)? On July 25, 2013, NFCorp chairperson Mohamad Salleh Ismail (photo) told a press conference that Japanese company, Kirimitonas Agro Sdn Bhd, had agreed to purchase its entire shares and related companies, and accordingly take over all the assets and liabilities, including the RM250 million loan with the Malaysian government.

Two weeks earlier, the then Finance Minister II Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah, told Parliament that the government had recovered RM79.9 million from the RM250 million it loaned NFCorp.

Ahmad Husni said the government also sealed NFCorp’s assets worth RM23.3 million - two pieces of land in Putrajaya, two units of real estate in Menerung Township Villa and three plots of land in Gemas.

“Out of the RM250 million, close to RM80 million has been received and RM170 million is yet to be received,” he said when winding up the debate for his ministry on the motion of thanks for the royal address in the Dewan Rakyat then.

Ahmad Husni said the Finance Ministry took three steps to resolve the NFC project controversy, namely bringing the case to court, taking over or getting back the amount owed and the assets, and finding a new company to continue the project.

And they drive around in their Porsches...

What happened to the real estate that was seized? Can someone give Malaysian taxpayers a status report on the case? After all, RM250 million belonging to the people was given in loans and surely, the least we can expect is some decent, truthful answers. No need for an RCI to tell us how the money for cattle breeding was used to buy luxury condos and property.

Almost two years ago, Mara, its associated companies and senior officials were caught with their hands in the cookie jar. They were involved in a multi-million ringgit scandal where buildings (student accommodation) in Melbourne were bought at inflated prices and the difference filtered down to some people’s pockets.

Police reports were made; the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission briefly detained a couple of people, and the Mara chairperson was replaced. So, what happened to the investigations? Have the crooks been brought to book? Some of them are driving around their Porsche cars, acting as if nothing ever happened.

The construction of the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) was the biggest financial scandal in the country prior to the emergence of an entity called 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB). Six people were charged and all were acquitted. But, if no one is guilty, then the question is: Where did our money go?

The government continues to service the loans taken by the developer. Even as this is written, the Port Klang Authority (PKA) owes the Treasury billions of ringgit. By the year 2051, PKA’s commitment will accumulate to RM12.4 billion. How is it going to get the money? As a regulatory body, its revenues are meagre. Did anyone think about an RCI to get to the bottom of the issue? Bottom line: The loan will be written off and we, the people will have to bear that burden.
 
There are dozens of other instances or issues that may not be of the magnitude of the forex losses but have made headlines that require some form of inquiry. The obvious one is the 1MDB, which has made headlines all over the world for the wrong reasons.
But does the government have the political will and determination to get the bottom of all these, especially the Mother of all Scandals?

R NADESWARAN is an award-winning veteran journalist who writes on bread-and-butter issues with one agenda - a better quality of life for all Malaysians irrespective of colour, creed or religion. He can be reached at citizen.nades22@gmail.com.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

~ Malaysiakini

Monday, July 24, 2017

Parliament rejects more than 30 1MDB-related questions

Zikri Kamarulzaman     Published     Updated
PARLIAMENT | Efforts to get the government to answer parliamentary queries related to 1MDB were derailed today when the Dewan Rakyat rejected more than 30 questions on the matter.

The questions ranged from whether the government would table a White Paper on foreign intervention in the 1MDB case, to the government's stance on the US Department of Justice (DOJ) 1MDB-linked lawsuits.

The Dewan Rakyat also rejected a question on whether the government would accept the return of money and assets, including jewellery, seized by the DOJ.

The mood in the House was tense when opposition MPs stood en masse to voice out their frustrations.

Gobind Singh Deo (DAP-Puchong) said Parliament cannot simply reject all questions on the matter, including his request for a status update on investigations into 1MDB.

"You can't cover up (the 1MDB scandal) by stopping us from asking questions!" Gobind said.
Fauzi Abdul Rahman (PKR-Indera Mahkota) asked why his question on the government's efforts to correct negative perceptions brought on by the DOJ suits was deemed to be offensive.

"This question was deemed menyakitkan hati (hurtful to feelings). Whose feelings does it hurt?" Fauzi asked.

His question was rejected under Standing Order 23(1)(c) which states that "a question shall not contain any argument, interference, opinion, imputation, epithet or misleading, ironical or offensive expression nor shall a question be frivolous or be asked seeking information on trivial matters".
 
BN lawmakers responded by harping on Lim Guan Eng's (DAP-Bagan) bungalow scandal.
Bung Mokhtar Radin (BN-Kinabatangan, photo) said his question about the bungalow had been rejected because it was sub judice.

"But I made no noise because I accept that the speaker’s decision is final," Bung Mokhtar said.

Deputy speaker Ismail Mohamad Said told all lawmakers who were dissatisfied that their questions were rejected to file a motion to seek a review.

However, such a move has thus far proven to be unfruitful, with previous efforts to seek a review not making it to the House floor.

Previous Dewan Rakyat meetings had seen certain questions related to 1MDB rejected, but not wholesale as was the case at today's session.

1MDB is the subject of multiple overseas investigations.

The DOJ, for example, is seeking to seize more than US$1.7 billion in assets it claims were purchased using funds allegedly misappropriated from 1MDB.
 
At a press conference in the Parliament media room later, Pakatan Harapan MPs revealed that questions related to former 1MDB subsidiary SRC International were also among those rejected.

The following are some of the rejected questions and the reasons for which they were rejected.

Rejected questions
Ko Chung Sen (DAP-Ipoh) asks the prime minister:
Was he was informed beforehand on the civil forfeiture suits filed by the US DOJ to seize assets linked to 1MDB; and
Did he make an official complaint to US President Donald Trump or the US ambassador to Malaysia if the US is considered to have interfered in the affairs of this country and what was their response.

Reason for rejection
Standing Order 23(1)(g): A question shall not be so drafted as to be likely to prejudice a case under trial, or be asked to any matter that is sub judice.

Rejected question
Gooi Hsiao Leung (PKR-Alor Setar) asks the prime minister to state specific details on how our country has cooperated with the US and other international authorities that are investigating misappropriation and laundering of 1MDB funds, as he personally said the country would do so during his trip to Germany on Sept 27, 2016.

Reasons for rejection
Standing Order 23(1)(c): A question shall not contain any argument, interference, opinion, imputation, epithet or misleading, ironical or offensive expression nor shall a question be frivolous or be asked seeking information on trivial matters; and
Standing Order 23(1)(f): A question shall not seek information about any matter which is of its nature secret.

Rejected question
Gobind Singh Deo (DAP-Puchong) asks the prime minister to state the status of investigations into 1MDB and SRC and what action will be taken.

Reason for rejection
Standing Order 23(1)(h): A question shall not be asked for the purpose of obtaining an expression of opinion, the solution of an abstract legal case or the answer to a hypothetical proposition.

~ Malaysiakini