DAP reiterates a nine-year call for Royal Commission of Inquiry into the RM11 billion Perwaja scandal to ensure that it does not become another BMF scandal of “a heinous crime without criminals”
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): In the first hundred days of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as Prime Minister, the question uppermost in many minds about his pledge for a clean and incorruptible government is why the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) has not caught any of the “big fishes”.
The arrest of former Perwaja Steel managing director Eric Chia by the ACA and his being charged at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court today with criminal breach of trust amounting to RM76.4 million for dishonestly authorizing its payment to a non-existent company, Frilsham Enterprises Inc, in Hong Kong on Feb 18, 1994 will redound to Abdullah’s credit in his anti-corruption image in public eyes – with one proviso.
If the arrest and the charging of Eric Chia should be regarded as to the credit of Abdullah, shouldn’t the judiciary’s denial of bail and appeals by former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim against conviction and sentence be adverse reflections on the Abdullah administration – when both the judiciary and the ACA are supposed to be at arms’ length relationship with the government.
Under our criminal system of justice, a person is innocent until proven guilty. Without touching on the guilt or innocence of the charge which has been preferred against the former Perwaja boss, Eric Chia cannot really qualify as a “big fish”. He is not a “small fish” but at most a “middling fish”.
Eric Chia’s arrest and being charged in court raises two questions:
Firstly, will the ACA proceed to nab the “big fishes” in the country? Many reports had been lodged with the ACA against “big fishes” - including former and current Cabinet Ministers.
Secondly, the RM76.4 million payment to a non-existent company, Frilsham Enterprises Inc, is only one episode in the ocean of a RM11 billion Perwaja scandal.
In London in February 2002, the then Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad publicly admitted for the first time that “we have lost RM10 billion in Perwaja”.
In his police report in July 1999, Anwar Ibrahim, who was at the relevant time the Finance Minister, said that the Ministry of Finance had to appoint Price Waterhouse as independent auditors into the Perwaja scandal in early 1996 soon after being alerted that Perwaja was almost insolvent and would require massive injection of funds from the Government.
Anwar said that the appointment of auditors had to be done because several earlier attempts to obtain detailed information from the then management, particularly its Managing Director, Tan Sri Eric Chia failed as he repeatedly claimed that his actions had the support and under the directions of the Prime Minister. Anwar said that Eric Chia’s claim was further substantiated with letters written by the Prime Minister himself.
Is Anwar right in his allegation of the implication of Mahathir in the Perwaja scandal?
DAP reiterates our nine-year call for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the RM11 billion Perwaja scandal, as the Malaysian public are entitlted to full accountability as to what actually happened and the lessons that must be learnt about the RM11 billion Perwaja scandal, and not just a court trial about a RM76.4 million Perwaja payment to a non-existent firm.
The first biggest financial scandal in Malaysian history, the RM2.5 billion Bumiputra Malaysia Finance Scandal, was described by Mahathir as “a heinous crime without criminals”. We do not want the biggest financial scandal in Malaysian history, the RM11 billion Perwaja scandal, to also end up as another bigger “heinous crime without criminals”.
At least, there was a comprehensive and thorough investigation into the BMF scandal by the three-man Ahmad Nordin Commission of Inquiry, whose report was made public and debated in Parliament. The least Abdullah should do is to institute a royal commission of inquiry into the RM11 billion Perwaja scandal, where former Finance Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, can be a star witness.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman