Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Trust, deception and betrayal in Selangor

With all the issues in Selangor, Pakatan Rakyat strategists know that the numbers don't look good. Pakatan Rakyat will want to avoid State Elections now.

Lim Kit Siang is right when he said that the day PAS Central Committee members meet on Aug 17 to decide whether or not to support Khalid Ibrahim as MB Selangor, it is actually D-Day for Pakatan Rakyat's future.

If PAS supports Dr Wan Azizah, then Pakatan Rakyat will avoid State Elections but if PAS supports Khalid Ibrahim, State Elections can happen with the help of Barisan Nasional and DAP's Hannah Yeoh.

Yes, it is true. PAS, BN and Hannah Yeoh.

Recently, PKR's Saifuddin Nasution and DAP's Tony Pua said Khalid Ibrahim no longer had the support to continue as MB. They want Khalid Ibrahim to prove that he has the support of the majority of the assemblymen. Perhaps Saifuddin and Tony should ask themselves if they are sure that Khalid has lost the support of the majority of the assemblymen.

DAP has 15 seats, PKR 13, PAS 15, BN 12 and of course 1 independent (Khalid Ibrahim himself).

Do not forget, DAP's ADUN Hannah Yeoh is also the Speaker of the State Assembly. The Speaker of the House cannot vote unless there is a tie. Even if Saifuddin and Tony are both confident that their ADUNs like Teng Chang Khim will toe the line, there are only 27 votes against Khalid Ibrahim (14 from DAP and 13 from PKR).

Both Saifuddin and Tony know that PAS has yet to decide whether or not it would support Khalid as MB. PAS will only decide on August 17. What will PAS do? If PAS agrees to back Dr Wan Azizah, Khalid Ibrahim's career is over. This way, Pakatan Rakyat will remain in power and Selangorians will have to wait for GE14 in 2017/18 to punish Pakatan Rakyat.

But if PAS decides to go with Khalid Ibrahim, then BN must think carefully if they want to team up with PAS and Khalid Ibrahim. BN has nothing to gain and much to lose. Unless of course, BN wants to gamble and hope that Hannah Yeoh will resign to force Khalid Ibrahim to dissolve the State Assembly.

Let us assume that Khalid Ibrahim, BN and PAS do form an alliance.

PAS, BN and Khalid Ibrahim will have 28 votes out of a maximum possible 55 votes in the State Assembly (Speaker can't vote). That should be sufficient for Khalid to command the confidence of the majority of the State Assemblymen (28 vs 27, Speaker stays out).

But the drama doesn't end here.

The fate of Khalid Ibrahim and Pakatan Rakyat then lies in the hands of Speaker Hannah Yeoh.

If Hannah Yeoh resigns as Speaker of the House and return to the DAP bench, DAP - PKR will have 28 votes vs the 28 votes from the PAS - BN - Khalid Ibrahim alliance. This is a 'hung assembly'.

Not only that, Standing Order 3 states that "whenever there is vacancy in the office of Speaker whether as the result of a dissolution of Assembly or otherwise the Assembly shall, as soon as a quorum is present, proceed to elect a Speaker".

The State Assembly must choose a new speaker in the next State Assembly meeting.

Both sides are expected to nominate one candidate each to replace Hannah Yeoh but neither is likely to win. When that happens, the State Assembly's Standing Order 4 (6) (c) comes into the picture. The rule states that "Where at any ballot between two candidates the votes are equal, another ballot shall be held and if at such subsequent ballot the votes are equal, the determination shall be by lot which shall be drawn in such manner as the Clerk shall decide".

Whoever wins will not command support from the other side and we are back to square one.

There is no way Khalid Ibrahim will see his "legacy" go down to this political impasse especially in the State Assembly. The State Government is at risk of facing a shutdown especially when the State Budget is coming up in November. I doubt the Palace will allow this to happen.

Khalid Ibrahim will have no choice but to dissolve the State Assembly and his career is as good as over. Of course, he will also drag Pakatan Rakyat down with him.

Pakatan Rakyat will have to face the full wrath and fury of the Selangor voters for the political circus and issues that have been haunting us for years.

Now, do you think Hannah Yeoh will resign for these to happen? What will DAP tell her to do?

Interesting days ahead and one thing is for sure, politicians have the ability to display the finest art of trust, deception and betrayal.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Why spend RM1.3 bil on EDL, YB Wong Shu Qi?

The Eastern Dispersal Link (EDL) is an 8.1km expressway that connects the end of the North-South Expressway (NSE) at Pandan Interchange to the new Bangunan Sultan Iskandar, Custom, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) in the city centre. From Pandan Interchange to Bakar Batu Interchange, is a 4.1km dual three lanes at-grade, and from Bakar Batu Interchange to the CIQ, is the elevated 4km dual three lanes with wide shoulders.

The total construction cost of RM1.3 billion did not receive any public funds, except for a few reams of paper and printing ink that were incurred by the Works Ministry and the local authorities which shouldn't exceed RM1000.

This project had some challenges and high costs along the way. It wasn't so straight forward. A total of 146 lots covering about 59 hectares had to be acquired to make way for the project. The land acquisition cost incurred by the concessionaire, MRCB Prasarana Sdn Bhd, was approximately RM254 million.

To avoid any potential Excel error and further embarrassment to DAP, I must help Shu Qi to calculate this. The average land acquisition cost per hectare is RM4.3 mil. Break it down further, that is approximately RM40 per square foot.

But that's not all. There were villagers and squatters which MRCB had to manage. There were 424 families who were affected. MRCB allocated RM13,680 per family that was sufficient to cover some rent for a couple of years. On top of this, the families were also given a one-off RM2,000 in moving out expenses. That's another RM6.65 million added on to the project cost. I know that's not much to DAP. So, let’s laugh it off, shall we, Shu Qi?

From what I understand, the EDL project which costs RM1.3 billion has two liabilities – senior sukuk at RM845 mil and junior sukuk at RM199 mil. The monthly loan repayment should be approximately RM 10 mil per month. I stand corrected on this but let’s assume that it is true for argument’s sake.

Assuming that the annual toll-able traffic is 11 mil vehicles and they all pay an average of RM15 (both ways), the toll revenue collection should be approximately RM165 mil.

Less annual debt repayment of RM120 mil and O&M costs of RM10 mil (assume), EDL should be earning approximately RM35 mil per annum only.

I was told that the Service Concession Asset (SCA) of EDL is now valued at RM1.32 bil. If that’s true, with my limited accounting knowledge, the return on SCA is just 2.6%.

The ratio will drop if the toll-able traffic in EDL falls but of course, that’s not the Government’s problem since it is a private entity.

Should the Government buy EDL?

In 2012, the Government made an announcement that they are in the negotiations stage to take over EDL from the concessionaire, MRCB Prasarana Sdn Bhd. The Prime Minister said that there is a possibility that EDL will be a freeway.

They wanted to but clearly they have abandoned it. Question is, why?

If you are the Finance Minister, Shu Qi, will you approve RM1.3 billion to benefit 50,000 people who use the EDL to work in Singapore and earn Singapore dollars? That’s an average of RM26,000 per person.

If one can afford to drive a car all the way into Singapore, the incremental toll rate of RM13.60 (from RM2.90 to RM16.50) is less than the cost of a plate of chicken rice in Singapore. If you are taking the bus, the incremental cost is just RM11.00 per bus or RM0.42 per pax (both ways) in a 26 seater bus.
We are better off spending the money elsewhere and I am sure the users of EDL will understand this too

In his article - “Who is to blame for Selangor water woes?”, YB Khairy Jamaluddin said “Under the recent MoU, signed on Feb 26, the Federal Government agreed to provide a sum of RM9.65bil to acquire the water companies and release all water assets to the Selangor Government to operate.”

Don’t you think the RM1.3 billion is better spent in helping Pakatan Rakyat to resolve the water crisis in Selangor? Perhaps, that’s where the money really went to but you and I will never know, Shu Qi.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Pak Lah, Najib are better leaders than Anwar

When I read that YB Liew Chin Tong and Datuk Zaid Ibrahim said Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was a better PM than current Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, I felt that the comparison was a lame one. YB Liew Chin Tong and Datuk Zaid Ibrahim must not be shy to compare Pak Lah and Najib with Anwar Ibrahim whose record is like a blank sheet of paper.

Datuk Zaid Ibrahim said that Pak Lah’s administration was better than Najib purely because of the lack of racial religious rhetoric. This is wrong. Pak Lah and Najib are bankruptcies when it comes to racial religious rhetoric. Only one man was not part of this rally for a moderate Malaysia.

Let me begin with education.

In July, 2009, when PPSMI was scrapped, Najib said the Government was aware how important it was for Malaysians to be proficient in English. When asked if the PPSMI was dropped to uphold the use of Bahasa Malaysia as a national language, Pak Lah said the previous policy had not achieved the desired results and he hoped the people would also accept the alternative steps planned by the Government to strengthen students’ command of the English language.

Race was not a determinant in the BN Government’s education policy for school children.

In the run up to this policy decision, do you know what Anwar said? On Jan 15, 2009 in his blog post “Pakatan Rakyat Komited Mansuh PPSMI”, Anwar Ibrahim wrote “Acapkali saya tekankan betapa mereka yang bertindak meneruskan hatta menyokong PPSMI adalah kalangan yang khianat kepada perjuangan Melayu. Justeru bagaimana mereka yang tegar menyokong PPSMI diteruskan saban waktu mengaku pejuang melayu tulen?”

That was in 2009. Are you surprised?

When Anwar was Education Minister, what did he do? I was still learning how to walk at that time but according to former Information Minister Datuk Seri Zainuddin Maidin, the term Bahasa Malaysia was introduced by Tunku Abdul Rahman after the country's independence to inculcate a Malaysian identity and no one asked for a change until Anwar Ibrahim became the Education Minister. Bahasa Melayu became the official term for our national language.

In 2007, under Pak Lah, the Government decided that Bahasa Malaysia will replace Bahasa Melayu as the official term to be used to refer to the national language.

Clearly, Pak Lah and Najib are leaders of Malaysians first and politicians second.

If you remember, when Pak Lah was acting Prime Minister in 2003, he lifted the ban on the Bibles that were published in the indigenous Iban language. Back then, Pak Lah said "I was told that the word has been used by the community as a reference to God for a very long time. Since the word is found in the Iban Bible only, I don´t see the reason why it should be banned." Pak Lah was attentive and listened to the views of all religious leaders.

Under Najib, the Government is committed to the 10-point solution. Bibles in all languages can be imported into the country, including Bahasa Malaysia, and Bibles can also be printed locally in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak.

When Pak Lah and Najib were needed as Malaysian leaders, they delivered.

Look at Selangor today. Issues remain on the table but solutions are nowhere to be seen. The Kajang Move and endorsing the missus as Selangor’s new Menteri Besar are not solutions. That is more of a romance story at the public’s expense.

As Prime Ministers, Pak Lah and Najib are poor when it comes to racial religious rhetoric but consistently rich in their vision and leadership for a moderate Malaysia.

To know that YB Liew Chin Tong has closed both eyes on Anwar Ibrahim’s record really breaks my heart.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

The end is near, Pakatan Rakyat

In the Barisan Alternative's manifesto in 1999, the Opposition pact included a call to end BN’s Oppression, Corruption, Cronyism and Nepotism. In this manifesto, Barisan Alternative said "From the 1980s, the NEP has been an excuse to practise cronyism and nepotism in business and politics. Corruption, cronyism and nepotism under the BN government has served to cripple our economic competitiveness and mortgaged our future".

This was despite the fact that when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was in office, none of his children held any positions in the government or in the party. Dr M was strongly against his family members from pursuing a career in politics when he was the Prime Minister and Finance Minister.

In the recent 13th GE, there was no mention or use of the word "nepotism" in Manifesto Rakyat. Why? Is nepotism endorsed and accepted as a political culture in Pakatan Rakyat?

Say what you like but look at UMNO again. The party did not accept the combination of Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Khairy Jamaluddin in Government at the same time. Pak Lah faced a series of attacks and resigned to make way for Datuk Seri Najib Razak to be Prime Minister. Najib did not appoint Khairy to any Government positions until the recent 13th General Election. Today, KJ has risen from the ashes with a firm grip as MP of Rembau and he is popular in urban areas with youths.

Clearly, UMNO has demonstrated maturity in politics with no room for patronage and nepotism.

Nepotism is intolerable.

When Greek MP Byron Polydoras used his brief tenure as Parliament Speaker to make his daughter a permanent employee in the Speaker's Office, there was uproar in Parliament and the public.

In France, when former President Nicolas Sarkozy's son Jean Sarkozy was in line for a job in a GLC that manages a major financial district in Paris, the Opposition and public were outraged and cried nepotism.

Last year in Germany, when Bavaria's State legislature released a list of 79 lawmakers who employed siblings, spouses or children as staff at public expense, criticism was loud and clear. In fact, Georg Winter from the ruling Christian Social Union had to step down from his post as chairman of the budget committee because he employed his wife and her salary was paid by the State Parliament.

Historian Patrick French's book India: A Portrait has some interesting data on Indian politics. In India, more than 65% of the MPs below 40 are hereditary MPs. He classified 27 MPs as hyper hereditary including 19 from the Congress Party. Patrick French concluded that if this trend continues, there is a possibility that India will return to where it started, with rule by a hereditary monarch and assorted Indian princelings. In the recent elections, Narendra Modi’s BJP Party was voted into power to replace the Congress Party. After he was sworn in as Prime Minister, Modi was stern in his message to his BJP MPs – avoid nepotism.

Today, the Selangor MB tussle has exposed a series of criticisms on Pakatan Rakyat, the loudest of all is nepotism. In DAP, Lim Kit Siang and the late Karpal Singh’s families are firmly in power. In PKR, Anwar Ibrahim and family holds the top 3 posts in the party.

UMNO has seen a change of leadership 6 times (3 times since Anwar Ibrahim entered politics), MCA is currently with its 10th President (5 Presidents since Anwar Ibrahim entered politics). And today, we are still talking about democracy and principles with Anwar Ibrahim and family?

The voters are not blind. Direct nepotism that involves immediate family members is a subtle form of corruption and it must not be taken lightly.

The end is near, Pakatan Rakyat. Nepotism is intolerable and if UMCEDEL’s polls that support for Pakatan Rakyat Selangor is at 35% only, then Pakatan Rakyat’s mandate in Selangor will not go beyond two terms.