The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, said yesterday that the 49 per cent stake in Perwaja Steel Sdn. Bhd. held by the Federal and Trengganu State Governments is still open to interested parties including the Lion Group.
The question is whether Lion Group, which had rejected an earlier offer of 30 per cent stake in Perwaja, would now be interested in a 49 per cent stake - where 51 per cent stake and therefore management control had been given to Syarikat Maju Holding Bhd.
The Government should present a White Paper in the March Parliament on the four proposals by Lion Group, Renong Bhd., Syarikat Maju Holding Bhd. and Wing Tiek Holding Bhd. on their respective rescue plan for Perwaja.
This is particularly pertinent with the announcement by Mahathir that the government would assume responsibility for the RM2.9 billion losses and RM6.9 billion liabilities of Perwaja so that Maju Holdings Sdn. Bhd., the bumiputera group now undertaking the rescue and privatisation of Perwaja, could start on a clean slate.
Malaysian public taxpayers, who have finally to bear responsiblity for the colossal Perwaja losses of RM2.9 billion and liabilities of RM6.9 billion, are entitled to know whether the government had received any proposals which are better than that proposed by Maju Holdings Sdn. Bhd involving less financial burden on the Government as well with greater promise of success in terms of having “sound capital and experience in the steel industry”, and if so, why these proposals had been rejected.
In other words, has the Government received any proposals to rescue Perwaja where the Government would not have to bear the full burden of taking over RM2.9 billion losses and RM6.9 billion liabilities?
In this connection, the accident at Perwaja Steel Mill in Gurun, Kedah yesterday where two workers, Azhar Ismail,30 of Sik, Kedah and Lee Heng Kiang, 50, of Bukit Tengah, Prai, were killed on the spot when the cover of one of the rolling stands at the mill crashed on them, is most shocking, and raises the question of the safety records and standards of Perwaja Steel.
Ample compensation should be paid to the families of Azhar Ismail and Lee Heng Kiang, and there must be a thorough investigation to ensure that the safety and lives of workers at Perwaja are not compromised in any manner in the Perwaja rescue operation.