(Penang, Friday): With the announcement
on Tuesday of the 16-month
power transition plan, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is set to be the fifth
Prime Minister of Malaysia when the powers and office of Prime Minister is fully
transferred by Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to Abdullah after the
Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) Summit in Kuala Lumpur on October 24
and 25, 2003.
What is significant about the power transition plan is that
Abdullah will for the first time,
as well as every time Mahathir is overseas and on leave in the next 16 months,
assume the office and powers of Acting Prime Minister since his
appointment as Deputy Prime Minister in April 1999.
The fact that Mahathir had never appointed Abdullah as
Acting Prime Minister in the past 30 months is the strongest proof that after
the sacking of Anwar Ibrahim as his heir-designate in September 1998, Mahathir
had never seriously groomed a successor as the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia.
As Acting Prime Minister probably for most of the next 16
months as Mahathir will be away from the country most of the time on his
overseas trips including a two-month leave, Abdullah has heavy responsibilities
and he must live up to public expectations.
Being an Acting Prime Minister is different from continuing
as Deputy Prime Minister, for as Acting Prime Minister, Abdullah
must take all the responsibilities and make all the decisions belonging
to the Prime Minister, without referring or waiting for the return of
Mahathir to the country.
As one of his early decisions as Acting Prime Minister, I
call on Abdullah to put the
RM1.02 billion Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR) project on hold until the fullest
public consultation and review, including a new social, cultural and
environmental impact assessment report.
Yesterday in Parliament, replying to the
adjournment speech of the DAP MP for Tanjong, Chow Kon Yew, the Works Ministers,
Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu said that the PORR concessionaire, Peninsular
Metro-Works Sdn. Bhd has been asked to carry out a social, cultural and
environmental impact assessment before the implementation of the PORR project.
He also said that the Penang State Government and the
concession company would be putting up for public exhibition for ten days the
latest proposals from the technical review of PORR, and that public
feedback would be considered by the government before the implementation of PORR
project is finalized.
This brings me to the second issue I want to highlight
tonight – especially in view of the public complaints by Barisan Nasional
elected representatives that they know next to nothing about PORR, and have to
depend on Chow’s statements and revelations to learn about the various aspects
This is a most disgraceful state of affairs. It is no use
MCA and Gerakan leaders in Penang going around
claiming that PORR is a burden unfairly imposed on the Penang State
Governemnt, Penang MCA and Penang Gerakan by the Federal Government and UMNO,
when they should be taking a strong stand to ask for a review of the PORR
project, not only with regard to the alignment and toll questions, but also the
re-bidding and a comprehensive transport masterplan to resolve the traffic
congestion nightmare on the Penang Island.
I call on Abdullah to support the proposition that the PORR
project must receive the approval of the Penang State Assembly before it could
be implemented, and furthermore, that there should be a re-bidding of the PORR
Samy Vellu had publicly rejected the DAP call for a
“re-bidding” of PORR on the
ground that “those fellows will only ask for more money”.
I presume he must be referring to the present concessionaire, Peninsular
Metro-Works Sdn. Bhd., although he did not name it.
I do not believe however that Samy Vellu is right that if
there is re-bidding of the PORR privatization, Peninsular Metro-Works Sdn. Bhd.
would be able to “ask for more money”, for it would not be a replay of the
original bid five years ago when nobody knew that the PORR concessionaire would
be given the unprecedented bounties of 30-yeadr toll concession, 31 ha of prime
State land and 202 ha of reclaimed land off Gurney Drive – estimated to worth
some RM5 billion!
Samy Vellu had said that the “public cost” of the PORR
project had been cut down to RM740 million as a result of “RM150 million
federal allocation, RM200 million in prime state land and the right to reclaim
200 ha for mixed development project to the concessionaire”.
As Acting Prime Minister, Abdullah should be able to ask
the Federal Government to bear responsibility for this RM740 million “public
cost” so that PORR would be toll-free, taking into account Penang’s
contribution to the Federal revenue which must be unmatched by any other state.
What is intriguing about Samy Vellu’s reply to Chow was
his claim that political considerations had nothing to do with the award of the
PORR concession to Peninsular Metro-Works Sdn. Bhd and his disclosure of the equity
ownership of the PORR concessionaire, constituting 55% equity stake by Nadi
Senandung Sdn. Bhd., 35% by Kumpulan Pinang Sdn. Bhd and 10% by Setegap Bhd.
As Chow has revealed, Nadi Senandung Sdn. Bhd. is a company
with RM100 paid-up capital without
track record in road-building, but a company with absolutely nothing to show –
no business, no account and no record whatsoever.
Furthermore, the equity structuring of Peninsular
Metro-Works Sdn. Bhd. as revealed by Samy Vellu yesterday
is completely different from the records of the Registry of Companies as
had been searched by Chow.
In January this year, the equity of Peninsular Metro-Works Sdn. Bhd. were held as follows:
Abdul Rahman Abbas 1
Abdul Rhim bin Saila 1
Kumpulan Pinang Sdn. Bhd 10,000
Setegap Bhd. 12,750
Favourite Force Sdn Bhd 11,000
ACUVEST Sdn. Bhd. 12,748
Sayang Pilihan Sdn. Bhd. 3,500
As of 9th February, 2002 there had been changes
in the equity ownership of Peninsular Metro-Works in the records of the Registry
of Companies, as follows:
Nadi Senandung Sdn. 27,250
Kumpulang Pinang Sdn. Bhd. 10,000
Setegap Bhd. 12,750
The numerous swift chop and change of the equity ownership
of the PORR concessionaire bears the mark of a crony company – and it is
scandalous that the Penang State governance had deteriorated to a stage where the
Penang Chief Minister had lost the ability to do what is right according to the
international best practices of good urban governance and public
integrity because of the involvement of a Penang UMNO
division leader in the PORR concessionaire.
As it is public knowledge that the Penang Yang di Pertua Negeri, Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas had disposed of his one equity share in Peninsular Metro-Works Sdn. Bhd after his appointment as head of state, the Penang people are entitled to know for how much he sold his one share in Peninsular Metro-Works Sdn. Bhd. – whether it was worth RM1 or millions or even tens of millions of ringgit like some one golden or “diamond” share worth all the other shares in the equity structure.