(Petaling Jaya, Monday): Today is another abysmal day for Malaysia, when the Malaysian ringgit crashed another psychological barrier, exceeding RM4 to the US dollar.
By 5 p.m. today, the Malaysian ringgit plunged to record low to 4.0650 a US dollar from Friday's close of 3.975 a dollar - the ringgit's lowest ever since it was floated in 1973.
It is no consolation for Malaysia that the Indonesian rupiah and Thai baht also plunged to record lows, with the Indonesian rupiah tumbled to 6,750 a dollar while the Thai baht fell to 50.70 a dollar.
Now the RM4-a-dollar psychological barrier has been broken, Malaysians worry whether the RM5 could also be broken in the not too distant future. With the ringgit crashing another psychological barrier exceeding RM4 to the US dollar, the time has come for full transparent national and corporate governance in Malaysia.
If the country and people are to suffer acute pains and hardships with the deepening and worsening economic crisis, then let the people at least have the satisfaction to see all the wrongs in national and corporate governance put right and a firm basis laid for transparency, accountability and integrity for the good of the nation.
It is therefore most shocking that after all the economic crisis and corporate scandals, 1997 could not end without another corporate and government scandal, affecting the Sabah state government's purchase of the listed company, North Borneo Timber (NBT).
NBT almost became the biggest market winner when its share price rose from a low of RM7 ringgit in March to a dizzying RM58.50 in November. Upon re-quotation on Dec 23 after a one-month suspension, NBT shares crashed to just RM4.60 by the close of the year and it went down further to RM3.50 on last Friday's close. Today it ended at RM4.50 at close of trading.
The great public interest question is how the share price of NBT could rise so sharply in the first place?
The Securities Commission and the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange should investigate and explain to the investor public why the price of NBT shares moved so sharply.
But there is another great public interest question, why the Sabah state government investment arm, Warisan Harta, -- chairman Dato' Yong Teck Lee -- "invested" in North Borneo Timber by buying three million shares at RM31.75, on the first day of trading after its suspension. At today's close of trading, this would mean a loss of RM81.75 million to the people of Sabah.
The arrogant and haughty attitude of the Sabah Chief Minister, Datuk Yong Teck Lee, in refusing to give a proper accounting to queries about the NBT purchase reflects most adversely on the commitment of the government leaders to openness, accountability and transparency and could only add both a sense of outrage and despair to the people of Sabah and Malaysia unless the highest authorities concerned are prepared to take urgent steps to put things right.