DAP to move a motion of urgent, definite public importance in Parliament on the UEM-Renong deal if Anwar Ibrahim does not make a Ministerial statement tomorrow as promised by the Deputy Finance Minister, Datuk Affifuddin

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Sunday): DAP will move a motion of urgent, definite public importance in Parliament on the UEM-Renong deal if the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, does not make a Ministerial statement on the UEM-Renong deal tomorrow as promised by the Deputy Finance Minister, Datuk Dr. Affifuddin Omar.

During the winding up of the debate on the Finance Ministry during the committee stage of the 1998 budget on Thursday, I had asked the Deputy Finance Minister to explain what were the "national interests" considerations which prompted the Foreign Investment Committee (FIC) to give a waiver on November 5 to United Engineers Malaysia (UEM) not to extend the mandatory general offer to all shareholders when it acquires 33 per cent of Renong, as provided for under the Mergers and Takeover Code.

Although eventually UEM acquired only 32.6 per cent of Renong, it is clear that there could be no "national interest" consideration for the FIC to give such a waiver, when the UEM-Renong deal is in fact a national catastrophe, plunging the country to a new stock market crisis.

It is not only a catastrophe to UEM and UEM minority shareholders but to the entire investing public in the country. In four days, UEM had lost RM1.294 billion from the Renong deal, as it bought the 723 million Renong shares at an average price of RM3.24 per share whereas the closing price for Renong on Friday had fallen by 54 per cent to RM1.49 per share.

It was also chiefly instrumental in causing the most precipitate collapse of the stockmarket, wiping out some RM70 billion of the investors’ savings.

In response to my query, Affifuddin had said he did not know what were the "national interest" considerations that prompted the FIC to grant the waiver, but agreed to my proposal that a Ministerial statement on the UEM-Renong deal be presented in Parliament in the coming week.

In the Ministerial statement, Anwar should also explain how the UEM-Renong deal, which is a catastrophe for the two stocks concerned as well for the general investing public, would affect the government’s review of the increase of North-South Expressway toll rates.

On November 7, the Works Minister, Datuk Seri Samy Vellu said that the toll hike for the North-South Expressway, scheduled to go into effect on January 1, may be put off as the government wants highway concessionaire Project Lebuhraya Utara Selatan (PLUS) to reconsider it.

With the UEM’s disastrous foray into the stock exchange, would this mean that the motorists would definitely have to pay for the toll hike, whether directly through increased toll rate on January 1 or indirectly, by way of government compensation to PLUS for the shortfall in toll revenue if the government did not allow a full increase as demanded?

The Ministerial statement should also refer to the government’s decision to take over the RM13.6 billion Bakun dam project, as it was the second factor causing a plunge of investor confidence in the stock market but which came too late for parliamentary notice or debate on Thursday.

The Government had said that it had saved about RM100 billion from the privatisation process, i.e. RM7 billion annually in management costs and nearly RM80 billion in developments costs since 1983.

However, if the government is going to establish the principle that it has to take over the deferred mega-projects and even to pay compensation, then all these RM100 billion savings could be easily wiped out as the deferred mega-projects mentioned by Anwar Ibrahim in his 1998 budget speech totalled some RM65 billion.

Malaysians are entitled to a full say in deciding the future of the Bakun dam project, whether it should be cancelled altogether or be implemented by the Government at a later stage.

The people also want full transparency and accountability on the question of compensation to Ekran. Before the government agrees to any sum of compensation to Ekran, the compensation proposal should first be submitted to Parliament for approval so that the Malaysian public can be given full assurance that the government take-over of the Bakun project is not a bail-out for Tan Sri Ting Pek Khiing and Ekran Bhd.

In presenting the Ministerial statement on the UEM-Renong deal and the government take-over of the Bakun project, Anwar should agree to allow a full debate on it.


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong