DAP to launch an annual series of P.Patto Memorial Public Lectures on the great issues of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance beginning next year

- 1998 P. Patto Memorial National Conference

on "Forty Years After Merdeka -
The Economic Crisis and Malaysian Indians"
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Kuala Lumpur, Sunday): Beginning this year, DAP is  organising an Annual P. Patto Memorial National Conference on the great issues of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance for which Patto  had dedicated his whole life,  so that the spirit, sacrifice and selflessness of the late P. Patto can be the inspiration of the living.

The series of 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.

As another memorial for Patto, DAP proposes to inaugurate an annual P. Patto Memorial Public Lectures series by eminent personalities, Malaysian or international speakers on issues of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.

The inaugural P. Patto Memorial National Conference today   is  focussing in particular on the socio-economic, educational and  cultural problems faced by the Indian community although Patto memorial lecturers, 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 is  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.

In memory of the Patto’s fight for Malaysians regardless of race, religion or territory, the DAP has  also chosen today’s conference  to announce that a national conference would be held next month to finalise details for 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.

We are still in the process of finalsiing the composition of the EPF Watchdog Panel as well as the protem committee for the EPF Contributors’s Association and the application for the registration of the EPF Contributors’ Association under the Societies Act after the EPF National Conference next month.

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, is  an attractive target to those who are looking for sources of funding to bail out troubled companies with political connections.

Special Functions Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin’s  announcement of  the National Economic Recovery Plan (NERP) to be the Plan for Malaysia’s  economic salvation had  not brought any respite to the 14-month-long economic crisis, failing not only to kickstart the economy to effect a  turnaround but also failing to check the runaway deterioration of the economic crisis - with the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange  (KLSE) Composite Index (CI) falling by over 100 points to a 10-year low in the past three weeks since the public release of the NERP.

The  Malaysian ringgit  had also slithered in the past three weeks, falling to 4.22 against the US dollar two days ago.

But these were not the only bad news on the economic and financial front. One very serious bad news are  the  adverse reports by rating agencies  Moody’s  Investors Service Inc, Standard’s and Poor’s and Thomson Bankwatch’s three-notch downgrade of Malaysia’s sovereign credit rating to just above "junk bond" status, forcing the cancellation of the overseas trips by  both the Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and the Special Functions Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin, to raise  RM8.4  billion  in government bonds to revive  the Malaysian economy.

The government 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. If this was the case, then why was there a need for the original plan for Anwar and Daim to go round the world to sell Malaysian bonds to  international financial institutions in the first place?

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 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 captive Employees’ Provident Fund.

EPF spends RM25 billion in the stock market last year.  The Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange Composite Index (CI) had fallen by some 73 per cent since its height last year - which could  means a loss of about RM17-RM18 billion of the value of the EPF shares invested last year.

EPF bought a lot of shares which have crashed in value, whether UEM, Renong, MRCB or Kentucky Fried Chickern (KFC).  EPF contributors are entitled to ensure that when they reach retirement age, they would have no problem in drawing their entire EPF savings - rather than to be told that as a result of a very tight liquidity, EPF is giving out KFC coupouns instead!

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