Call for full
accountability of Petronas, Putrajaya Holdings, National Oil Reserve Fund
and funding of Mahathir’s retirement lifestyle
Speech (Part 6)
- in the debate on the Motion of Thanks for the Royal Address
by Lim Kit Siang
(Dewan Rakyat, Thursday): I recently visited Shanghai, China, in a private tour. I was very impressed by the extraordinary growth of Shanghai’s new economic zone, Pudong. The city of about 100 square kilometers is developed from almost nothing in 1990 to become the focal point of foreign investment and economic growth in China. It is predicted that the average income of Pudong’s residents would reach USD 10,000 in 2005.
The key to Pudong’s success lies not only in the government urban planners, but also the planners’ conviction that private sectors would be the catalyst for economic growth of a planned city.
I have no intention to deny the role of government in economic development. What I am trying to say here is that no government should bear the full cost of developing a planned city like Pudong, or for that matter, Putrajaya.
The success of Pudong makes Putrajaya looks extremely embarrassing. To date, the Federal government has poured in no less than RM 25 billion through various sources under its jurisdiction, particularly Petronas, which holds the controlling stake in Putrajaya Holdings. There is no sign that the Federal Government would recover any portion of the cost of developing Putrajaya in the foreseeable future.
Further, as far as public record is available, Putrajaya Holdings has issued at least RM 4.5 billion worth of bonds, which is a huge debt for the present and future generatons of Malaysians, to finance the megalomania of the former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad.
Today, Tun Mahathir is no longer the Prime Minister. It is high time for the new administration of YAB Abdullah Badawi to revisit the arrangements concerning Putrajaya.
As suggested by the Editorial of Utusan Malaysia (1st September 2003),
“Putrajaya adalah ciptaan Dr. Mahathir. Ia akan menjadi salah satu tinggalan beliau yang paling besar dan hebat.”
In order to break free from the megalomania of Tun Mahathir, the Abdullah Administration has to make it a priority to address the problems concerning Putrajaya.
Let me remind this august House that Parliament has never formally approved the building of the Federal Government Administrative Centre of Putrajaya, which is the biggest-ever public property project in this country.
There were two occasions Parliament came close to debating about Putrajaya, namely when the Perbadanan Putrajaya Bill 1995 and the Amendment to Constitution to make Putrajaya a federal territory were debated in August 1995 and December 2000 respectively. To illustrate how Parliament was ignored, at the first instance, the former Prime Minister attended the ground breaking ceremony of Putrajaya on 30th August 1995 before the Bill was debated in the Dewan Negara.
The justification of the government for not seeking the blessing of the Parliament was that Putrajaya was developed by the private sector. But this does not hold water.
Petronas owns 64.4 per cent of Putrajaya Holdings. The other two major shareholders are Khazanah Holdings and Kumpulan Wang Amanah Negara. The latter is an oil reserve fund set up in the late 1980s in the aftermath the then UMNO crisis between Team A and Team B. The fund is shrouded in secrecy since its inception. All three institutions are not private companies by any definitions.
They are GLCs, or Government-linked corporations. The term GLC has become fashionable recently, introduced to the Malaysian lexicon by the Prime Minister. While there have been a lot of discussions on the performance of various GLCs, not much has been said about Petronas or the national oil reserve fund corporation.
Petronas is probably the most cash-rich GLC in the country. It has funded most of the mega-projects of the Barisan Nasional government, including Putrajaya and KLCC.
Petronas is not only funding Mahathir’s grandiose projects while he was at helm of government, it is still funding Mahathir’s grand lifestyle after his retirement. Immediately after stepping down as Prime Minister, Tun Mahathir flew to Spain with his extended family on a Petronas executive jet. He was later appointed the Advisor to Petronas. I understand, subject to correction, that Petronas has bought or is buying a special jet for Mahathir’s personal use.
Petronas is also the major funder for the Perdana Leadership Foundation. Malaysian taxpayers are not told the cost of funding this “Presidential Library” of Mahathir, but according to news reports, the building cost of the Foundation’s grand complex itself costs RM 20 million.
It is time for the government to make Petronas, Putrajaya Holdings and all other GLCs (including the national oil reserve fund corporation) under the purview and scrutiny of Parliament. Parliament should be informed of the performance of those corporations. It should also be told of the cost of funding Mahathir’s lifestyle in retirment.
As the stake is extremely high, the Opposition should be consulted on the executive appointments of GLCs to ensure checks-and-balances. If the government is serious about appointing experts to helm GLCs, the first thing it should do is to review the chairmanships of Tan Sri Azizan Zainul Abidin at both Petronas and Putrajaya Holdings. Tan Sri Azizan was the principal private secretary to the former Prime Minister and was the KSU of Home Ministry when Mahathir launched Operasi Lalang in 1987 – which are not the best expertise or credentials for managing the national oil company and Putrajaya.
Putrajaya - Yang di Pertuan Agong’s Palace, the Prime Minister’s Residence and the DPM Residence
Seri Perdana Putrajaya was once a heated subject of this Dewan and a continuous concern of many Malaysians. It took three years between 1995 and 1998 to complete the palatial official residence of the Prime Minister. But it took Malaysians five years to uncover the full cost of the residence.
Parliament was first told in July 1998 that the “private” quarters of the residence costs RM 17 million. But the former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim accused the government of spending RM 200 million on it in an interview with CNBC immediately before his detention on 20th September 1998.
Since then, the government has been revising its own figures upward. The gap between the two figures was eventually “filled” when the Prime Minister department answered former MP for Kubang Kerian Husam Musa in a written reply that the cost of the residence was RM 201 million, one million more than the figure given by Anwar Ibrahim.
But the Malaysian public is still kept uninformed about the cost of constructing the official residence of Deputy Prime Minister. Anwar Ibrahim alleged that the DPM residence was initially proposed at the cost of RM 70 million. It was then revised down to RM 40 million but Anwar rejected the plan when he was DPM. The residence was built in 1999 when Dato’ Seri Abdullah Badawi was appointed DPM. The government should unveil the exact cost of the DPM residence to Parliament.
The DPM residence remains a subject of public concern because Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi is STILL staying there. As of 22 April 2004, when the wife of the PM Datin Seri Endon Mahmood was having tea with the Press, the First Family was seen comfortably staying at the DPM residence in Precinct 16, Putrajaya.
When Abdullah took over the premiership, the Prime Minister’s wife told reporters that the First Family could not move to the Seri Perdana Putrajaya due to Hari Raya Puasa last year. Now it has been months after the festive months.
I do not know whether the Prime Minister has moved into the Prime Minister’s residence in Putrajaya. If not, the question Malaysians are asking is: What is the point of having a Prime Minister’s residence without the PM residing there?
According to a written reply from the Prime Minister’s department to the Member of Parliament for Seputeh in the last session, the Istana Melawati, which is the non-official palace or Istana hinggap for the Yang di Pertuan Agong, costs RM 120 million. It is RM 80 million cheaper than the cost of Seri Perdana Putrajaya.
Article 32 (2) of the Federal Constitution stipulates that the Yang di Pertuan Agong takes precedence over all other persons in the Federation. Why then is the Seri Perdana Putrajaya taking precedence over the Yang di Pertuan Agong’s Istana in Putrajaya?
Tun Mahathir announced on 25th August 2003, two months before he stood down as the Prime Minister, that a new National Palace (Istana Negara) would be built in Jalan Duta to replace the current National Palace in Kuala Lumpur.
This is not a solution to the problem. I urge the Prime Minister to make a clear statement on the arrangement of Putrajaya to this Dewan.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader,
Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor & DAP National Chairman