(Petaling Jaya, Sunday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has directed Mentris Besar and Chief Ministers a month to form state integrity committees to stamp out corruption, criminal breach of trust, abuses of power and other irregularities in the state governments.
According to the Prime Ministerís directive No. 1, Year 1998 issued on Thursday, the Mentris Besar and Chief Ministers would be the chairmen of the respective state integrity committees.
The State Integrity Committees would be more effective and credible if they are headed by independent and respected retired government servants, to send out the clear signal that in the campaign to ensure state government are models of probity and integrity, the Mentris Besar and Chief Ministers are also prepared to be subject to scrutiny by the state integrity committees just like all other public officers.
It is no use forming state integrity committees if they cannot command public confidence or credibility.
For instance, how can the Sabah state integrity committee headed by the Sabah Chief Minister, Datuk Yong Teck Lee have any public confidence or credibility when Yong is embroiled in the North Borneo Timber (NBT) scandal in his stubborn refusal to act with impeccable accountability, transparency and integrity by giving the people of Sabah and Malaysia a full and satisfactory explanation of the Sabah state governmentís inexplicable acquisition of three million NBT shares causing the people of Sabah to lose over RM86 million since its purchase on Dec. 23 last year?
NBT, which 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 last year, was suspended for one month and upon re-quotation on Dec 23, NBT shares crashed to just RM4.60 by the close of the year and it went down further to RM3.02 on last Friday's close.
Yong has refused to date to explain why the Sabah state government investment arm, Warisan Harta, of which he is chairman, "invested" in NBT by buying three million shares at RM31.75 per share, on the first day of trading after its suspension. With this extraordinary purchase, the Sabah State Government has lost RM86.19 million in 17 days.
The people of Sabah and Malaysia are entitled to know who made this RM86.19 million at the expense of the Sabah state government and people.
Unless the Sabah Chief Minister is prepared to give a full and satisfactory public explanation for the NBT scandal, the Prime Minister should at least make an exception in the case of Sabah and direct that the Sabah State Integrity Committee should not be chaired by the Sabah Chief Minister.
It would be most unfortunate if State Integrity Committees come to be regarded as State Cover-up Committees, and this is why the State Integrity Committees in each state should not be headed by the respective Mentri Besar or Chief Minister, but by independent and respected retired civil servants.