(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): It is most shocking that three weeks after the highly controversial purchase of the three million North Borneo Timber shares by Sabah State-owned Warisan Harta, the Sabah Chief Minister, Datuk Yong Teck Lee, who is also chairman of Warisan Harta, has still been unable to give a satisfactory public accounting of the deal.
Last Saturday, Yong said an explanation would be given to whoever wants it "but it should not be done out of force".
Yong should not create a red herring. As Sabah Chief Minister of a government which had as one of its main platforms in the last Sabah state general elections a clean, honest, accountable, transparent and incorrupt administration, the question of anyone applying force on him to do his duty does not arise. Otherwise, we will have Sabah Barisan Nasional leaders going round the state declaring that they do not want to do good because they are being pressurised into doing good! The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, should restrain Yong from becoming Chairman of both the Sabah State NEAC and the State Integrity Committee until he could give a satisfactory public accounting of the Warisan Harta/NBT scandal.
The explanation which had been given by the chief executive officer of Warisan Harta Sdn. Bhd., Datuk Matiasin Surai on new year's eve on the NBT scandal is not satisfactory at all.
Matiasin said the NBT deal was a normal business transaction and that the RM31.50 paid for each NBT share was the opening price on Dec. 23, when the counter was requoted on Dec. 23 after a brief suspension.
What is astounding is that Matiasin could claim that Warisan Harta had "made a profit from the purchase of NBT shares following the completion of a number of transactions", for if this is the case, why can't the Sabah State Government put the whole Warisan Harta-NBT controversy to rest by publicly spelling out how the Warisan Harta and the Sabah State Government had profited despite the collapse of the price of the NBT in the stockmarket.
Matiasin said "Warisan's interest is adequately protected even if the share price falls below the purchase price". Again, if this is the case, why is Matiasin or Yong Teck Lee finding it so difficult to explain to Sabahans and Malaysians how such "adequate protection" of Warisan's interest has been written into the NBT deal.
The Kuala Lumpur stock exchange had a very strong rally yesterday and this morning, rebounding by 26.32 points yesterday to 503.89 and gaining another 30.74 points to 534.63 points at the close of this morning's trading. NBT, which had reached the dizzying height of RM58.50 per share in November last year, opened at RM3.56 and closed in the morning at RM4.62.
Having paid RM31.50 per share for the three million NBT shares, this would have involved a loss of over RM80 million at the price of the close of trading this morning.
If as Matiasin claims, Warisan's interest is adequately protected even if the share price falls below the purchase price, it could only mean that Warisan Harta has the right to abort the deal.
If this is the case, then Yong Teck Lee should immediately abort the Warisan Harta-NBT deal to protect the interests of the people of Sabah.
The question, however, is whether Warisan Harta has such a right to abort the deal, and this is why Yong must show his commitment to an open, accountable and transparent government by making public the Sale and Purchase Agreement for the NBT deal so that all the terms and conditions of the deal are available to the people.
All that has been reported so far is that on 22nd December 1997, 15,500 lots of MISC shares belonging to Warisan Harta were used in the NBT deal, that the deal was carried out in tranches with the first tranch involving the purchase of 15.5 million MISC shares at RM5.70 per share by Suniwang from Warisan Harta and the purchase by Warisan of three million NBT shares from Suniwang at RM31.50 per share.
In this first-tranch deal, as at today's price at the close of trading this morning, Warisan has lost over RM80 million from buying the three million NBT shares and made RM12.2 million for the sale of 15.5 million shares to Suniwang (a profit of 79 sen a share, as price of MISC at this morning's closing is RM4.96 as compared to the sale price of RM5.70).
On balance, the Warisan Harta has still lost over RM68 million.
Yong should confirm whether it is true that there is a provision for Suniwang Holdings to make a cash payment of RM50 million to Warisan Harta as part of this deal, and if so, whether this RM50 million cash payment has been made.
However, even if this RM50 million cash has been made, the state and people of Sabah is still at the losing end by over RM18 million.
Yong should not procrastinate any further in giving a full and satisfactory accounting of the Warisan Harta/NBT deal.