Five things from the PAC PKFZ report

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 5 — The 28-page report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) into the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal that was tabled in Parliament yesterday is an education tool for all Malaysians.

In fact, it should be required reading for all Malaysians, for it lifts the veil of secrecy surrounding the government and this scandal of all ages; and it tells us much about our leaders and the workings of the Cabinet.

Here are the five things learnt from the report.

1) Veteran Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang is prone to occasional bouts of hyperbole but he is spot on when he accuses the country’s top leadership of collusion in the PKFZ scandal and of being great actors.

More than 80 per cent of the current Cabinet knew of the problems related to the PKFZ long before the rest of the country got a whiff of the stench of wrongdoing, negligence, and incompetence. They knew that former Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy overstepped the boundaries by issuing three letters of support to facilitate fund-raising for the project.

Sure, he argued strenuously that the letters only amounted to letters of support but the Cabinet knew better. The ministers knew that the letters amounted to a government guarantee.

The Cabinet knew that the government had overpaid for the PKFZ land. It also knew procedures were overlooked and laws broken and in June 2007, even recommended that action be taken against guilty parties.

So the country’s top leadership cannot feign ignorance or exhibit any surprise at the disclosures made in the PAC report.

They knew all along. They were just counting on the PKFZ scandal to go away, just like all the other scandals in the country.

2) Let’s just say that we would not want any of the main actors in the PKFZ scandal to be in the trenches with us when the going gets tough.

Ministers, senior civil servants and other officials were either afflicted with the “he did it or she did it’’ virus or were hit with a sudden case of amnesia when they gave evidence before the PAC.

Former Port Klang Authority chairman Datuk Seri Dr Ting Chew Peh said “I don’t remember’’ to many questions from the PAC and passed the buck when asked about the implementation of the project.

“We were informed of the project, but I can’t remember. In our view, the project was actually an order from the minister and also from the cabinet, ‘‘ said the former minister.

3) Er, they may hold some of the top positions in the country but this is no warranty of quality. Nothing demonstrates this fact more clearly than Chan’s exchange with the PAC when he was asked on the letters of support he issued to two rating agencies in the country.

He was told that he had issued one of the letters to Malaysia Rating Corporation Bhd (MARC), instead of Rating Agency Malaysia.

Chan said that he had issued the letters to MRCB, the listed government-linked company. The PAC found out that the letters were sent to MRCB but the bond rating was provided by RAM.

4) Where is the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA), Royal Malaysian Police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) when we need you?

Hate to belabour this point but why is it that the ACA and its successor, the more powerful MACC only seems capable of handling small corruption cases, those say involving between RM2,000 and RM50,000?

The PKFZ scandal is the mother lode of scandals. It involves billions of ringgit, implicates ministers, senior politicians and everyone from the roti canai man to the fish monger know all the facts of the case by rote and yet Malaysia’s graft busters are still investigating.

Remember, the red flags surrounding the project were raised in mid-2007. Remember also that the PAC report is the third probe into the scandal.

All three reports have uncovered acts of wrongdoing. Yet, we have yet to see anyone being led into the courtroom with handcuffs.

5) Umno politicians have been tagged as the most corrupt and arrogant around and some of their most trenchant critics have come from the MCA.

But now the MCA will have to eat humble pie. The main actors in the country’s biggest scandal in decades are members of the Malaysian Chinese Association.

Can they even contemplate pointing fingers at Umno again? Can their politicians take the high road again?

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