COMMENT | It is the season for royal commissions of inquiry (RCIs). With the ongoing inquiry into the country’s foreign exchange losses, there’s a clarion cry for one more on the Memali incident.
There has been rhetoric from government leaders – minister included – made mostly for political expediency. While critics are cynical and question whether only one man – former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad – made the decisions on these issues, there are many who believe that “everything including the kitchen sink” will be thrown at him.
While some may be looking at other “Made by Mahathir” decisions in their efforts to demonise him, let’s look at a serious issue which has cost taxpayers billions of dollars and it happened under the watch of three prime ministers.
The Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) started during Mahathir’s term, developed during Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s tenure and finally completed under Najib Razak. Major efforts were made to cover up the scandal and prevent publication of the sordid facts which made it the biggest financial scandal until the emergence of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
It took a courageous transport minister, Ong Tee Keat, to convince the cabinet to commission an independent investigation. The voluminous report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) must now be gathering dust in the filing cabinet at the Port Klang Authority (PKA).
As if the authorities were keen in nailing the culprits, flurries of activities were initiated in the aftermath of the PwC report. A task force headed by Skrine & Co lawyers Vinayak Pradhan and Lim Chee Wee was set up to look at the criminal elements in the case.
A Committee of Corporate Governance co-headed by the then Transparency International Malaysia president Paul Low and Malaysian Institute of Accountants president Nik Mohd Hasyudeen Yusoff was also set up. The former also drew up the PKA’s whistleblowers’ policy.
The Transport Ministry set up an executive committee headed by the then PKA chairperson Lee Hwa Beng and finally, an 11-man “Super Task Force” headed by the then chief secretary to the government Mohd Sidek Hassan.
The contents of the PwC report provided several gems of mismanagement, misuse and abuse of power and money, and criminal offences. A confidential dossier on the probable and possible offences was present to Najib by lawyers acting for PKA.
Najib appointed Mohd Sidek’s “Super Task Force” to inquire into the dossier but nothing came of it. He retired soon after and nothing was heard from his successor or any of the other members.
Coincidentally, Mohd Sidek is currently chairing the RCI on the forex losses.
Charges were brought against several people including two past transport ministers – Ling Liong Sik and Chan Kong Choy. All were cleared of wrongdoing.
So, where did the money go? The government guaranteed and gave letters of support for the bonds issued to the turnkey contractor of the project – Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd. Why was it done? Do ministers have the power to commit the country by issuing such letters without cabinet approval...