In the Dewan Rakyat on Wednesday, PAS Youth leader and MP for Pokok Sena, Mahfuz Omar questioned why the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) was still holding 571.1 million shares in British American Tobacco on February 28, as well as 38 million shares in Genting and 16.8 million shares in Resorts World on April 20, besides 4.3 million shares in Guiness Anchor as at September 11, on the ground that it was inconsistent with the government’s claim that Malaysia is an Islamic state.
The reply from the Deputy Finance Minister, Datuk Chan Kong Choy is most shocking, conceding that Mahfuz had scored a point against the Barisan Nasional government’s claim that Malaysia is an Islamic state by declaring that the EPF had taken a stand not to make any more investments in such companies dealing in liquor, gambling and cigarettes.
Chan said EPF will withdraw its present investment in such companies when the share market improves.
He also told Parliament that the EPF board has also appointed consultants well-versed in syariah (Islamic) laws as advisers on the fund’s investment portfolios.
I find Chan’s back-down from the PAS query most unbecoming, especially as Barisan Nasional and MCA Ministers and leaders have been loudly proclaiming that the Prime Minister’s declaration that Malaysia is an Islamic state would not change one bit the existing political, economic, educational, cultural, religious and nation-building policies of the government.
Mahfuz had scored a point not only against Chan Kong Choy but also against Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad for the claim that Malaysia is already an Islamic state.
However, he had done so by scoring his own goal as he has also confirmed fears that the political Islam advocated by PAS is not compatible with political pluralism, social tolerance or a modern society.
Will PAS next suggest that the government should not touch the taxes on tobacco, alcohol and gambling, abolishing the so-called “sin taxes” altogether as being against the PAS concept of an Islamic state?
The stand taken by the MTUC secretary-general G. Rajasekaran questioning the government’s wisdom in stopping the EPF from investing in the so-called “sin” stocks is legitimate and proper.
The EPF Board should explain when it took the policy decision not to make any more investments in such companies and to divest all the existing “sin stocks”, who are the consultants “well-versed in syariah (Islamic) laws” who have been appointed as advisers on the fund’s investment portfolios and how much are they being paid.
The nine million EPF contributors should have a say as to whether there should be such a policy change in EPF funds investment policy and DAP calls on the EPF Board to fully consult the nine million EPF contributors before implementing any such policy change.