DAP to announce the details of the EPF Watchdog Panel and the EPF Contributors Association at the Patto Memorial National Conference in Kuala Lumpur on August 16

- P. Patto Memorial Meeting

by Lim Kit Siang  

(Bagan, Tuesday):  I want to thank Sdr. K.  Raman of Jalan  Assumption DAP Branch for organising the first Penang DAP State P. Patto Memorial Meeting to honour the memory, contributions and sacrifices of Sdr. P. Patto, whose untimely death three years ago had deprived the Penang state and the Malaysian nation a great warrior for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.

Sdr. Raman was assigned the task by the Penang State DAP to organise the first Penang DAP State P. Patto Memorial Meeting as  Jalan Assumption Branch under his leadership had organised memorial events in the last two anniversaries in memory of the late P. Patto.

Beginning this year, the Penang State DAP will organise annual P. Patto memorial events, either by asking the  DAP branches in Penang to organise the series  by rotation or in some other form so that the spirit, sacrifice and selflessness of the late P. Patto can be the inspiration of the living.

At the first P. Patto Annual Memorial Forum in Ipoh on July 24, 1998  on the great issues of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance for which Patto  had dedicated his whole life, the DAP made a policy announcement that it would spearhead the establishment of an EPF Watchdog Panel and EPF Contributors Association to protect the rights and interests of the nine million EPF contributors, whose total funds are in the region of  RM160 billion with a RM1.2 billion monthly increase of EPF contributions  and to demand EPF accountability and transparency.

As another memorial for Patto, DAP will also organise an annual P.Patto Memorial National Conference to deal with national and international issues which have always been closest to the the heart of Patto during his lifetime.

The first P.Patto Memorial Annual Conference will be held in Kuala Lumpur on August 16,  where the details of the EPF Watchdog Panel and the EPF Contributors� Association would be announced.

The P. Patto Memorial National Conference next month  will focus in particular on the socio-economic, educational and  cultural problems faced by the Indian community but Patto memorial conferences, forums and meetings will not be solely confined to problems of the Indian community in Malaysia, as Patto had never limited himself to fight for the rights of one community only, but for all Malaysians.  This was why Patto�s untimely demise was a loss not just to Malaysian Indians, but to the Malays, Chinese, Ibans, Kadazans and all other minorities in Malaysia, as Patto had always been a Malaysian first and last.

This is why the DAP had chosen the interests and rights of the nine million EPF contributors to associate with Patto�s memory, for Patto would undoubtedly be in the vanguard of this movement to safeguard the RM160 billion EPF funds with an monthly increase of RM1.2 billion EPF contributions  if he is still with us.

At a time when the country is faced with a crisis of liquidity of funds,  the cash-rich EPF with its vast funds of RM160 billion, increased monthly by RM1.2 billion, will be an attractive target to those who are looking for sources of funding to bail out troubled companies with political connections.

Last Thursday, the Special Functions Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin, announced the National Economic Recovery Plan (NERP) prepared by the National Economic Action Council (NEAC) which is to be the economic salvation for Malaysia after one year of the worst economic crisis in the nation�s history.

However, the NERP had not brought any respite to the economic crisis in the past six days, failing to stimulate the market or restore confidence, with the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange  (KLSE) Composite Index (CI) making unprecedented plunges for four consecutive trading days  to plumb the  lowest levels ever registered in the year-long economic crisis.

Last Thursday, for instance, KLSE CI, fell  to its lowest level of 415.40 points in the year-long economic crisis and although it recovered by 3 points to 418.40 on Friday, it again  slided to an all-time low on Monday,  falling by 7.47 points to close at  410.93 points.

Today,  KLSE CI crashed below the 400-point psychological barrier,  touching a new low of 398.88 points at 10.45 a.m., and although it recovered slightly it still ended at another record low for the KLSE CI, 402.78 points or 5.26 points lower than the close of trading yesterday.

The  Malaysian ringgit in the past six days has not been uplifted by the announcement of the NERP,  reaching a new low level in the past week when it dipped to 4.1613  against the  US dollar this morning.

But these were not the only bad news on the economic and financial front. One very serious bad news is the  rating agency  Moody�s  Investors Service Inc�s three-notch downgrade of Malaysia�s sovereign credit rating above "junk" status, a rating normally reserved for risky corporate ventures,  last Friday.

As a result of the adverse downgrading of Malaysia�s credit ratings, both the Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and the Special Functions Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin, have postponed indefinitely their fund-raising trips overseas in the government�s latest plan for a RM8 billion  sovereign bond issue aimed at reviving the Malaysian economy.

The government meanwhile is trying to put up a brave front at the deepening gloom surrounding the Malaysian economy, with Anwar  and Daim claiming  that there are sufficient domestic funds to finance the government�s RM60 billion economic recovery programme, begging the question as to why, if their claim is true,  both of them should be scheduling intensive overseas trips seeking to sell Malaysian bonds to  international financial institutions.

The biggest question in the minds of Malaysians is where the RM60 billion for the Assets Management Corporation to eventually bail-out companies, the recapitalisation of banks and  the RM12 billion for development and infrastructure projects, is going to come from. The biggest fear is that a lot of the funding would be coming from the Employees� Provident Fund.

The National Economic Action Council has proposed that the government issue RM20 billion worth of long-term bonds to EPF, Petronas and Insurance Companies - and I will not be surprised if the EPF would be required to take some RM10 billion of these government bonds.

 Last Saturday, the EPF Chairman, Tan Sri Sallehuddin Mohamed said in Ipoh that there is no truth in the allegation that  EPF has been using contributors� money to bail out ailing companies.

I am not impressed by Sallehuddin�s statement, which cannot have much credibility when Sallehuddin dared not  meet DAP MPs to discuss EPF investment policy and decisions, whether in shares or mega-loans.

Sallehuddin had also said that most of the loans given out by the EPF were to companies involved in infrastructure projects to ensure good returns for contributors.

He said: "If the loans are secured by the Government or banks and good rates are guaranteed, there is no reason for stopping the loans.

"Why should the EPF ignore a chance to earn extra income for the members?  It is more profitable than putting the money in fixed deposits." (New Sunday Times 26.7.1998)

This is most unconvincing. Recently, EPF granted a 16-year  term loan facility of  RM1.56 billion to the new Kuala Lumpur International Airport Bhd. (KLIAB) at 8.75  per cent interest per annum, which is well below the current money  market rates.

This is why the nine million EPF contributors should organise themselves to demand a new culture of responsibility,  accountability and transparency by the EPF to the contributors on the stewardship of the RM160 billion EPF funds and the monthly increase of RM1.2 billion in contributions.


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