Thank you to all donors!

Thank you to all who purchased tickets and helped out for tonight’s The Avengers movie fundraiser.

The funds raised tonight (estimated RM10,000) will be used to cover our constituency office expenses which is about RM150,000 a year. We run an office of 3 full time staff doing Parliamentary policy research and community work. We also have internships to support; last year we had about 12 interns.

For tonight’s The Avengers movie premier, we will be in TGV Cinema at One Utama from 7 pm onwards. The movie starts at 8pm, so please collect your tickets and make payment (if you haven’t) from 7 to 7.45 pm. YB Hannah Yeoh will also be there to say hi. So do come early, collect your tickets and have a chat with us before the movie starts.

My office will run 2 more fundraisers later this year. In total, our aim is to raise RM50,000 from public donation. We receive RM50,000 from the Selangor government and the balance RM50,000 will be paid by me.

We do not solicit donations publicly via facebook but through a discreet e-mailing list of potential donors. So if you are interested in our future fundraising events, please forward your email to gillian.wongchen@gmail.com and we will add you to our potential donors list.

avengers

1MDB falsified bank statements

If this report is true, then the new 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda is in a sh**tload of trouble for presenting falsified bank statements to the BSI bank in Singapore. The BSI bank then subsequently informed the Singapore regulatory authorities that the document was a false statement and did not originate from the bank itself!

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/…/1mdb-gave-false-docume…

The Cross Incident in Taman Medan

Ok, let’s talk about the cross incident. My office faced a similar issue last August in my ADUN constituency of Seri Setia. In that matter, the residents were against the construction of the church, wholesale. Not just the cross.

Anyway, I invited all the parties (the church pastor, local imam and residents chairman) to a round table talk. My Zone 24 councillor Halimi and a MBPJ officer were also there to explain the approval process of the church. After 2 hours of differing views, they left with each others’ telephone numbers and promised to have an open communication and to avoid any more conflicts.

The church has all legal rights to build on the plot and the residents will just have to accept and try to get along. I asked both the pastor and imam to invite each other for functions and gatherings. I also ask both to communicate more to keep noise levels low and not to indiscriminately park on the roads. If there is any dispute, my office will mediate before protesting. So far, so good.

On a lighter note, here is a very funny piece from Malaysiakini.

http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/296022

SATIRE As a concerned citizen observing the social issues in the past couple of days, I am very perturbed that someone may die or get upset soon. I am now writing to the relevant parties to quickly take action on these:

1. Request the distributors of Alfa Romeo to voluntarily remove their emblem.

I heard a commotion from some youngsters on my Whatsapp messenger and seeing that they were getting rather agitated, as a senior member of the society, I agreed to mediate on their behalf.

After all, Malaysia is a particular religious majority country so it’s only reasonable to ask the distributors to remove part of their emblem to pacify the marauding crowd. Imagine if every morning these 13 people wake up and look outside their window and see the offensive 100-year-old emblem, how do you think they will feel?

We know these 13 are young and lack religious conviction so, despite the emblem having been established for more than a hundred years, we urge the distributors (even better if we can get the manufacturer to make special emblems for us) to remove the emblems voluntarily.

Don’t worry, the head of the national emblem enforcing agency is my brother so he will support whatever I say even if the minister says otherwise. Nobody will be punished for ripping out such offensive emblems as long as brother is in power.

You can even threaten to burn the emblem, it is okay as long as you don’t actually do it. Go ahead, threaten to slap the distributors too for RM1,200.

2. Remove the “cross” junction road signages immediately

Upon being awoken at 5.19am by the neighbourhood alarm clock, I and my 16 Hindu friends who were also awoken the exact same time, went for a weekend drive to a temple facing away from Putrajaya.

We were horrified to note that there is a sublimal conspiracy to convert the drivers on the road to a particular religion. On the trip from Bangsar to Taman Medan alone, I saw at least 13 signboards with the offensive crossed “T” symbol.

As someone who respects the religious majority’s right to proselytise (and definitely not vice versa) their religion, I cannot tolerate the exhibition of this particular signboard. I call upon the ‘wakil rakyat’ to resign because she allowed such a brazen attempt to convert people with weak religious upbringing.

Henceforth, I urge that all such signages (and the junctions) be converted into “roundabouts” so that everyone can go round in circles to reach their final destination.

However, the blood sucking vampires who were previously terrified of the “cross” sign, may now demand that all T-shape emblems be removed so that they can wreak havoc without impunity.

By the way, as proof of this sublimal brain-washing, all 16 of my friends wanted to have hot cross buns for breakfast instead of 1Murtabakh. That made my mamak very cross indeed with his daily rantings to expose our shenanigans now.

3. Change the proverbs in English language

I call upon the Ministry of Education to urgently review the teaching of English in Malaysian schools. Now that we have an almost Oxford-level tertiary education system with our 21,243 straight A graduates, we can easily re-write the 1,200-year-old English language as we had successfully rewritten the 1,958 years of Malaysian history.

In fact, I want to tell Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad that he is not alone in throwing out the English system from Malaysia. Look how successful we are now: Our Proton is as good as BMW, without pawning quality our police force is the most Internet savvy in the world with 122,000 surfing the web daily, foreign journals have commended us for the TwitCop, our crime rate statistics keep coming down annually, two of our 61 universities have made it into the top 1,002 in the world, our Elections Commission is the most un-flaccid in the world, we have so many original creations like Terang Boelan and Bah Kut Teh (oops, not sure if this is seditious to say), we have unlimited “cinema quality” DVDs at 10 percent of the actual price, we can settle most matters easily and many more.

Okay, I digressed a little. I know we can re-create English to suit Malaysia because the deputy education minister said that our proficiency is number one in Asia. Personally, I have no doubt that we speak better English than the Laotians, Bhutanese, Kyrgystanis and Mongolians although the Bangladeshis may give us a run for the money.

With such prowess in English, as seen in the distressing Tourism Ministry’s advert recently, I am confident that we can do it. What am I clamouring for? I am deeply offended that we are teaching our children to “dot the i’s and cross the t’s”.

Oh Lord, what if they get converted by doing that? My godless friends are horrified that up to now, we have not reinvested a proverb to replace this British trick. To glocal-ise this phrase, I propose that henceforth, we say “tetek the i’s and potong the t’s”. Truly Malaysian.

4. Ban the cross-bar spanners

As I watched my mechanic Ah Loy work the cross-bar spanner while unscrewing the bolts from my car tyre, I realised how deep the conspiracy has spread. He kept chanting “Oh my God, Oh my God” (and some other Cantonese expletives) while twisting the cross-bar spanner.

Can you imagine, some 200,346 Chinese boys are profiteering by using this covert religious symbol daily and being secretly converted? I am not kidding, Ah Loy lives in Taman Medan and just recently, WhatsAapp-ed his new profile name, Roy (or maybe Ah Roy) to me. Isn’t this enough proof of what the female wanna-be ‘wakil rakyat’ had claimed?

From now on, I urge the Ministry of Consumer Affairs to ban the usage of this religious tool and strictly enforce the “L spanar” so that only these crooked tools can henceforth be used to screw the rakyat’s nuts.
Having long given up on common sense to prevail, RAMESH RAJARATNAM thinks that he is not the only one.

TPPA Interview

On the subject of TPPA, here is an interview that I gave, one and a half years ago in August 2013. Despite developments in the negotiations since 2013, I still hold on to these views.

TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT – a trade initiative led by the US and designed to boost US business interests?

1. TPPA – Background
Q, What is the TPPA? Is it another free / preferential trade agreement?
• I wouldn’t call the TPPA a normal FTA. This is an FTA++.
• Free / Preferential Trade Agreements usually have about 5 to 10 issues that strictly deal with market access and run of the mill trade matters.
• The TPPA has 29 chapters; it covers many areas which are not traditionally trade related matters including policy encroachments. What worry me most are the policy encroachments.
• If negotiations are concluded and all substantial American demands are met, the TPPA risks being an instrument to influence and even supplant our industrial and economic policies.
• Specifically, if we sign on the TPPA with the standard American terms and demands, we may be nudged into an American economic model of deregulation, small government and free marketism (both economic & social). The TPPA will influence our Asian economic model and work towards replacing it with American style free marketism; profit-driven, independent and innovative (GE, Citibank, Google etc).
• On the cards are no more protection for GLCs and no more NEP. It is arguable whether this will prove to be a good thing or not. Politically however this will be a very hot issue in the very near term.

Q, Are there conflicting economic concepts at play?
• The East Asian economic model believes in “developmental state”; i.e. govt’s role in guiding and actively building the economy; Zaibatsus (Japan), Chaebols (Korea), SOEs (China) and GLCs (Singapore, Malaysia).
• Malaysia practices a kind of developmental state model but has serious systemic issues on corruption, transparency and basic good governance. We can and must improve, but you don’t need an external agreement such as the TPPA to push us to reform.
• Many Malaysian Chinese businessmen are tired of the race based policies and also of systemic corruption. However, to look to the TPPA as an external savior is somewhat foolhardy. A policy change can only happen via engagement with Bumiputera business community and tweaking to improve affirmative action policies. It must be done internally, in good faith and by the electoral process; not by an external trade agreement.
• A word of caution in embracing American laissez faire. Post-2008 Global Financial Crisis, unbridled American free marketism is considered dangerous and destructive. Printing money (quantitative easing vs. budget cuts and restructuring imposed during the Asian Financial Crisis) is destabilizing global values and economies. So when the Americans seek to impose their model via the TPPA, we have to be careful and give the same proper critical and in depth analysis. More long terms strategic thinking is required.
• Since 2008, NGOs and anti globalization campaigners can no longer be dismissed as fringe pressure groups. Their concerns are real. The free market has invaded our societal values. Prominent economists, like Joseph Stiglitz has spoken strongly against the TPPA.
• From the American perspective, the TPPA’s goal is primarily to help American business interests. There is nothing wrong with that, but if we want to negotiate, we Malaysians too must be equally prepared to defend our positions. We too need an army of good lawyers, academics and policy wonks involved.
• What is totally unacceptable is the current approach adopted by MITI and government, that the “Government knows best” and “trust us, we know what we are doing”.
• Until very recently, even Members of Parliament are being completely stonewalled. The people need to know what policy issues are at stake. We need to know the cost benefit computations. We don’t have to see the negotiating texts, that is just a red herring issue. The texts are evolving but these are more or less available online in the form of US FTAs.
• Compared to other TPPA negotiating countries, in particular, New Zealand and Australia, public engagement in Malaysia levels have been very poor.
• I attended the Kota Kinabalu TPPA event recently and we were given an hour of Q&A with Chief Negotiators from 11 countries. It’s a great public relations coup for MITI but none of the negotiators gave any substantive answers. To be fair, the negotiators are akin to lawyers. They cannot answer substantive matters on behalf of their ultimate clients who are the government policy makers. So this so called “public engagement” in fact is flawed from the very start. We don’t want to question the lawyers. What we truly want are answers from policy makers. Where is PM Najib on this matter?

Q. Short history. What happened to the WTO?
• WTO is stuck at a stalemate due to American intransigence over its massive agricultural subsidies and the resistance of a bloc of developing countries (with big agricultural sectors and rural populations), led by India and Indonesia.
• The Americans are clever and industrious. They are bypassing the WTO by offering asymmetric bilateral FTAs with individual countries.
• The TPPA is a new model: multilateral and multi-faceted FTAs.
• They want an alternative option to the WTO route. The WTO in particular incorporates the principle of helping developing countries catch up with the developed countries. American FTAs do not have this principle in mind; they are primarily driven by corporate lobbyists to promote the exports of American goods and services.

Q. Who is not part of the TPPA?
• In the Pacific region, most notably absent are South Korea, Indonesia, Taiwan and China.
• These strong Pacific economies represent a long term challenge to American geo-political interests; especially China and the up and coming technologically savvy Koreans.
• China and Indonesia have sizeable population to feed its internal markets and is therefore less motivated to take part in the TPPA negotiations. TPPA works best for highly trade dependent countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand.
• Japan recently joined the TPPA, under the “Abenomics” economic revival push. It could be a right wing hence geo-politically driven move to check China and South Korea. I don’t know enough to comment more.

2. TPPA – Core issues and considerations

Q. What are the key TPPA issues?
• Most NGOs and activists focus on obvious niche issues: pharmaceutical prices and Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS).
• My views are slightly different. Having been a corporate lawyer for 20 odd years, I can understand why big pharma wants to extend their IP rights. There are compelling arguments for and against. On ISDS, I take the view that lawsuits are always the final and last option. For any corporation seeking market share, suing a government under ISDS is akin to a kamikaze attack. You hurt the government and get your pound of flesh but you will burn all bridges to develop your market share. Even then, after lawsuits are initiated, a settlement is more likely than not, will occur. As such, I do not see ISDS to be the primary concern.
• What worries me are the considerable policy and sovereignty encroachments from the TPPA.
• If the TPPA is concluded on substantial American terms, we may see the following policy space restrictions:

Wong Chen on key Policy Making encroachments by the TPPA:

1 TPPA will curb our ability to impose export taxes
• Under TPPA, no country will be allowed use export tax/restrictions as a policy tool to spur downstream industries. See the Peru US FTA Article 12.
• Illustration: Under TPPA, a timber company can export round logs directly to America without any export duty/export restrictions.
• There will be no more export duty policy to force the local company to pursue downstream activities such as the manufacture of timber flooring and wood furniture.
• Most companies will always take the short cut to profits; i.e. sell round logs rather than process goods.
• This will cause some wood based factories to close, hundreds of thousands of jobs are at stake. Banks financing downstream activities will also suffer.
• Key export sectors affected will be Petrochemical, palm oil, rubber and timber.
• Malaysia will risk regressing from an industrial to a simple commodity exporter.

2 GLCs and State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) will no longer be protected.
• Currently, GLCs bonds are guaranteed by Malaysian Government, hence getting a good rating of AAA-. RM170 billion of these bonds have been issued to date.
• Under TPPA, GLCs must stand on own two feet and the practice of govt guarantees will stop.
• What will happen to our future bond issuance by GLCs and the overall prospects of our bond/sukuk markets?
• Other imposition: no more cheap land sale, no more grants, no more tax breaks for GLCs. Principle of “competitive neutrality” will be enforced.
• Competitive neutrality is good internally, so to level the playing field for Malaysian companies.
• The problem with competitive neutrality is you are also pitting our small companies with American multinationals and tell them to fight fair. In this scenario, David will not even have his slingshot going into battle with Goliath.
• The Americans also want to define an SOE as company with more than 5% govt holding. Our negotiators may be holding out for a higher percentage. Either way our key companies that have Khazanah as a substantial shareholder will be deemed an SOE (i.e CIMB) and as such will have to abide by certain competition policies.
• My simple question is this; has CIMB been consulted, do they know all the risks? CIMB should send in at least 5 lawyers to help MITI and Bank Negara to negotiate their concerns.

3 Capital controls will be restricted
• Bank Negara’s powers to roll out monetary policies will be reduced.
• Under TPPA, hot money can flow in as “investments” and such “investments” must be accorded protection and allowed to flow out freely. With QE1, QE2 and QE3: hot money could cause financial havoc to our economy.
• Capital controls is a last policy card that can be used in event of a catastrophic economic crisis. When Singapore negotiated their FTA with US, Singapore requested for capital control as an option. This option was watered down to one year for hot money and 6 months for real investments.
• Since we invented “capital controls”, are we willing to let this go?

4 Service and Banking sectors opened up
• Local legal, accountancy, professional services will be opened to foreign operators. Impact on local economies must be assessed.
• Local banks will be forced to compete with international banks.
• More often than not government controlled banks in Malaysia are used to provide national services; as tools for economic growth. What will happen to this arrangement if our banks fail to compete with the likes of Citibank?
• Will foreign banks be allowed to peddle all sorts of dodgy financial instruments, products, derivatives and accumulators? Will TPPA open up the gates for financial weapons of mass destructions?

5 Government procurement policies curtailed
• For govt infrastructure projects, a USD7 million limit is being negotiated. Above that sum, foreign TPPA companies can openly compete with locals. No transfer of technology, no local/bumi content, no need of partnerships.
• For govt procurement of services: USD200,000 is the negotiated limit.
• I personally do not have an issue with open tenders, but how open is an open tender if you have rich multinationals competing against smaller locals?
• Most worrying is the following policy impediment. In times of great economic distress, a government will try to pump prime the economy by pursuing infrastructure projects. This is where my main worries are. If foreigners secure the bulk of these infrastructure contracts on competitive open tenders, the pump priming will have limited impact on the local economy. What is better in times of grave economic crisis, is to have open tenders amongst the local companies, so that we retain 100% of the investments in Malaysia.

6 Floodgate and Loss of Sovereignty
• If we sign the TPPA with substantial concessions to American demands, the EU will request and demand the same terms. Then the rest of the world, BRICs will ask the same from us. Our policy making powers will then be tied to these rules indefinitely.
• Dare we risk severing our FTAs and become a hermit country? There is no space for “let’s sign first and if we don’t like it, we can pull out”. This kind of attitude makes us look like a banana republic Mickey Mouse country that does not respect the sanctity of contract. Do your homework now, don’t sign until you are absolutely certain but there is no dishonor in not signing.
• The most important point I want to stress is this: BN and Pakatan Rakyat may differ in policies but at least we are all Malaysians, elected by the rakyat. If we sign the TPPA, our sovereign right to use economic tools and pursue policies will be supplanted by foreign interests. Why empower foreign multinationals to decide our future?

3. TPPA – what will Malaysia gain?

Q. What will Malaysia gain economically from the TPPA?
• According to US think tank the Peterson Institute, Malaysia will increase our exports by USD40 billion a year.
• Do the math: if the profit margin is a generous 10%, the profits gained by Malaysian companies are USD4 billion. Note: the 10% margin I used is very generous, bearing in mind most of our exports are making 4% to 6% profit margins.
• In terms of government revenue (at a tax rate of 25%) the net gain to Malaysian coffers is a mere USD1 billion.
• My question is: what are we willing to forego for this gain of USD1 billion a year? Where is the cost benefit analysis?
Q. Can Malaysian trade negotiators do a good job?
• 400 US companies with their lawyers are actively involved in the TPPA; which is based on past US FTAs (and improved upon for US interests, from US business experiences in these other FTAs).
• How many Malaysian industries and companies have done their research and impact analysis; and are they on board with MITI’s negotiations? Where is our army of lawyers? Where are our economic professors to crunch game theory models?

4. TPPA – must Malaysia sign? Does Malaysia have no choice?

• We should by all means, negotiate and take part. By negotiating, we will at least understand the other partners’ positions. Work with Australia on the ISDS terms. Work with Peru on IPR terms. Work with Singapore on Financial Services. Leverage on each other when dealing with the US. However always be aware that other countries have their own interests and motivations. They will cede some clauses to gain on others. No two countries are the same.
• The key is not to rush to sign unless we are absolutely certain we will benefit overall. Not merely benefit the businessmen on some short term basis of gaining more market access or joining the international supply chain. It is not all dollars and cents. We must weigh in the social and political concerns too. Labour, human rights, the environment and health issues are equally important. The TPPA studies should essentially be conducted by policy academics and not guided by merely by businessmen interested in making more money.
• I see some value in being very good in making say a 1% component of an Apple product. Perhaps the TPPA will allow us to do that, to be part of the new manufacturing norm of making highly specialized components. But the long term policy that we must adopt must be a 20 year industrialization policy which will transform us into competitive innovators of products like Apple. Not merely help Apple, but to replace Apple. This means focusing on transfer of technology and R&D; essentially the Taiwanese SME path. The TPPA does not help the development of these, in fact, there is a real danger that it may impede these.
• Judging from other USA FTAs, I am pessimistic that we will be able to gain substantive concessions.
• On the balance of things, and unless MITI discloses a proper cost benefit study which convincingly shows that we will come up tops, I would prefer that Malaysia continue to pursue bilateral FTAs with the normal trade provisions.
• So far 63 countries have negotiated with US, only 20 (32%) have signed. Not signing should always be an option. However, blindly singing should never be an option.

“Fast tracking” TPPA

Now, some news on the TPPA. The US Congress will start considering today to give Obama “fast track” to finalise the TPPA. A vote on fast track authority will take place either end of this week or next.

Obama is “strangely” very pro TPPA and this is contrary to mainstream democrats ideology. But then again democrats of today is not of the old, they too are in the pockets of multinational and Big Business. Such is American politics today, whichever side gets elected, the bankers and industrialists win.

http://www.nytimes.com/…/obama-fast-track-pacific-trade-dea…

What does it mean to us in Malaysia?

Obama says that America is going to win big on this deal. What he means is American Big Business is going to win big. If America wins big then surely Malaysia will lose big. There is no win-win in trade. Someone has to win and the other has to lose.

The fight against TPPA has roots in America. Traditional democrats like Elizabeth Warren believes the low income workers in America will lose big because more American factories will close and move to other countries. But Obama doesn’t seem to care, as long as Big Business wins big.

Here is a simplified scenario: American big business will move low tech factories to Malaysia to increase their market presence. They will close down their low tech factories in US, making millions of poor income Americans jobless. Is this good for Malaysia?

If we want low tech employments, then yes it is good for Malaysia. But who will get these jobs? Indonesians and Bangladeshis. And what impact will this have on our own low tech factories? They will face fierce competition from American companies and goods. Inevitably, some of our companies will in turn, close our factories. This will be a lost to our national income.

Some liberal neo-cons will say that is good, to have competition to ensure survival of the fittest. That the TPPA is some form of “tough love”. But you can’t pit an ant against an elephant and say, may the best man win. All industrialised country in the world today built their market dominance on basic protectionism. Now that they have reached a dominant state, they now speak of “free trade” to increase and cement their global dominance.

Are we ready for TPPA? Ask yourself how great the Malaysian economy is today compared to 1995. Shouldn’t we first reform internally and strengthen ourselves. Why sign the TPPA when we are at our weakest?

Saturday’s Events: PAS and MPSJ

Yesterday, MPSJ conducted their first ever Mayor turun padang meeting with leaders of JKP zone 1 to 5. This is a very good thing. I met the new mayor Dato Nor Hisham 3 months ago and I like his no nonsense style. He listens and he acts. The most important task he has to do is to improve on enforcement activities. It is time for all to note that MPSJ will be firm on compliance of municipal laws.

This morning I am at the PAS Kelana Jaya AGM. It is very nicely done with good planning. PKR cabang needs to learn from them in terms of organisation.

pas2

pas

The proposed PKNS Development Issue

15 April: Following my revelation last Friday on the existence of a PKNS agreement with Bayu Melati Sdn Bhd on Sports City, I have been in touch with the ADUN YB Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, the Speaker YB Hannah Yeoh, councillors (present and ex) and leaders of residents of ss7. I was also asked by several reporters on the matter.

Two days ago, I wrote to PKNS to request a copy of the agreement dated 28th January 2011. I will reserve my comments until I have seen the agreement. But rest assured, there will be no cover up and I am determined to get to the bottom of this mess in my constituency. This mess started in 2010, before my time as MP but I will see its finality.

I note that Citizen Nades have written an article on the matter too. See below:

http://www.thesundaily.my/node/304862

Citizen Nades – Lift the lid on govt land deals
Posted on 14 April 2015 – 09:29pm
Last updated on 14 April 2015 – 10:52pm

R. Nadeswaran

IN JULY 2012, the three-hour session in the hallowed chambers of the State Secretariat listening to the evidence presented was enough to conclude that it was the largest land fraud in the country.

The then Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) member Derek Fernandez took the Selangor Select Committee on Competency, Accountability and Transparency (Selcat) panel through the events in which irresponsible officers of the council changed the local plan to cause substantial increase in the land value.

Using the controversial change in status of the PKNS field in Kelana Jaya as an example, he said as recreational land, it would fetch about RM20 per square foot but as commercial land, it can go as much as RM500 psf – a 25-fold increase.

The “confessions” at the hearing made everyone sit up and wonder how the MBPJ conducts its affairs. Its assistant director in the Town Planning Department Faiwos Abd Hamid charged that she made changes to the local plan on the instructions of her then boss – Noraini Roslan.

Subsequently, instead of being censured, Noraini was promoted to head the Kuala Selangor district council – which has been the norm in a system where anyone and everyone gets rewarded for dereliction of duties.

One would have thought that the re-zoning would be termed illegal and planning permission on development of the land would no longer be an issue.

But no! The then PKNS general manager Othman Omar defended the plan to redevelop the sports complex.

PKNS referred the matter to the Appeals Board and it upheld the decision to keep the land as recreational.

Two months ago, when everyone thought that the development plan was dead, buried and entombed, a resurrection of sorts took place. News broke that the development would take place. Once again, the stakeholders protested.

On Friday, Kelana Jaya MP, Wong Chen dropped a bombshell – PKNS had entered into an agreement with Bayu Melati Sdn Bhd on Jan 28, 2011, on the assumption that the land was zoned commercial.

That’s not all. In a letter to Wong, a copy of which was made available to theSun, PKNS had given an undertaking that it would get the necessary approvals failing which the developer can sue PKNS for “loss of profits”.

On the matter of the PKNS field, I had two meetings with Othman but he never revealed the part of the agreement or if a written agreement existed. All he said was that it was a “joint-venture” project.

To put on record, Othman invited me to speak at the annual integrity conference in 2013 where he said that PKNS had seen a rise in the number of bidders and companies that have shown interest in working together due to the transparency level it implements.

Since the corporation had signed the corporate integrity pledge and integrity pact, he said, it has been an added advantage for PKNS to attract more bidders, both locally and internationally.

With all that verbiage on integrity, questions arise as to who approved the decision to enter into such an agreement. Was it done surreptitiously or was it presented to the PKNS board headed by the then mentri besar, Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim? Did they take legal advice before signing the agreement? Did the board members agree to the terms of the agreement?

It is their turn to explain. How could they ensure that PKNS would get the approvals from the various authorities?

MBPJ is the sole authority in issuing development orders in the city and PKNS is just another state-owned company which does not have any powers of legislating or changing the status of land.

Any change in the land status can only be done by the state executive council and it is mandatory that owners of neighbourhood properties are consulted.

So, it’s going to be another legal wrangle which will involve money belonging to the state. Could it have been avoided? Yes, of course.

Shouting “I have signed the integrity” pledge and issuing media statements do not count. It is the “doing” that actually matters.

That is why there is a need to put into practice what PKNS had preached about integrity.

That is why this column has asked for transparency from the government and its agencies.

And that’s why the “secrecy” or “confidentiality” clause in many agreements they enter into should be removed so that Joe Public will know how the deals affect him.

In the public interest, it will be interesting to ask of PKNS and other government agencies to make public all the agreements that they have signed.

This will also dispel any notion or perception that lop-sided and rotten deals have resulted in someone making a pile.

R. Nadeswaran says misappropriation of land for private benefit appears in many guises and it is for the public to put an end to the menace. Comments: citizen-nades@thesundaily.com

16 April: 

So this morning I got down to do some research work from home on the PKNS Sports Field.

I noted that Bayu Melati Sdn Bhd is a wholly owned subsidiary of Melati Ehsan. Melati Ehsan is a listed company, as such any major agreements must be in Bursa Malaysia. After 2 minutes of search, sure enough, here it is: http://www.bursamalaysia.com/…/listed-companies/comp…/539573

Any lawyers out there who wants to give their opinions and comments on the agreement can write to me at wongchen.pkr@gmail.com.

The PKNS issue is covered by the Malaysian insider: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/citynews/greater-kl/article/dismantle-agreement-to-develop-pkns-field-says-group

Quick Observation no.1 on the PKNS agreement:

The parties to this JV did a lot of planning before signing. They designed a masterplan detailing how many units of apartments, office, mall, sports complex etc. The look and shape of the development were all sorted out. They even calculated the gross sales and costs of building. This is not a one week hatched project but probably the work of at least 1 year of detailed planning.

Since the JV agreement was signed in January 2011, it means that the plan to develop must have happened in 2010. It is now crucial to get all the PKNS minutes and notes and verify when their first engagement with Melati Ehsan happened.

pkns5

Interview on POTA: Part III

Part 3 on Malaysian Parliament, 9 March – 9 April 2015 session: On anti-terrorism, sedition, bloc voting, missing MPs and more. Q&A with Wong Chen, Parti Keadilan Rakyat Member of Parliament for Kelana Jaya, 11 April 2015.

Q. People are angry with opposition MPs who did not turn up for the vote. What is your opinion on this?

Every MP is responsible for his/her own action, or in this case absence. They should face their constituents on this matter – their constituents have a right to question them and to know the truth. I got a lot of calls from reporters asking me to state who were absent. I got many postings on facebook asking me to reveal the absentees. I also got hammered for no reason too.

I did not keep a list but I know for certain about the presence or absence of those seated near me. Some of the lists being circulated on the internet are clearly wrong. Raja Bahrin of Kuala Trengganu was definitely there for the vote and throughout was instrumental in the POTA fight.

Some lists reflect who were there for the day but in fact were missing for the actual vote. Only Parliament records can confirm the vote list. I wouldn’t venture to make a list from my memory but I will vouch for those seated near me.

Q. Were they properly alerted to these crucial matters (POTA and Sedition Act amendment), so they could come back to vote?

Yes, we have a dedicated WhatsApp group for Pakatan Rakyat MPs. So, they would have received notices. The Chief Whips would have also SMS-ed them. For those overseas or outside KL, they probably could not come back in time to vote.

Q. But why not rush back? Why even be outstation or overseas in the first place? The POTA bill were on your desks a week beforehand. Don’t all MPs plan to be at all the Parliamentary sittings? How many days do you have each year for this?

Look, I cannot speak on behalf of those absent. Whatever reasons they have for being outstation or overseas they need to answer to their own constituents. We are in Parliament for roughly 80 to 90 working days a year, divided into three sessions.

Q. Your observation – what are typical reasons for being missing from their seat in Parliament (other than being sick)?

They may have important “official engagements”, who knows? That’s the most overused excuse. It’s a bit like “melawat sambil belajar” (a study trip). But I don’t believe anyone had official engagements at 2.30 am. I believe Parliament must be a priority, especially so when debating legislations. During question time and less significant policy level debates, you can arguably take some time off. These events are when ministers answer your questions. In most cases, the ministers actually try very hard not to answer your questions.

However, you should never ever be absent when legislations are tabled, especially so involving crucial legislations such as POTA and the Sedition Act. My own practice is to decline any invitations when Parliament sits. I enjoy my Parliamentary work with fellow MPs and at this time, I am quite happy to leave my staff, who are very competent in helping with all the sundry complaints of potholes and clogged drains.

Even during legislative work, of course, you cannot sit there in your chair every second of the sitting. It is common to sometimes take an hour or two off during a full day’s legislative sitting especially if you’re not scheduled for debate or not an expert on a particular subject. Most will hang out at the Parliamentarian’s lounge or head out for a meal as the food in Parliament can be quite awful. Importantly, we also have out of chamber things to do like discussions with others MPs, work with our researchers, drafting and so forth. But all these activities should be done in premises of Parliament.

For instance, when I debated on the Securities Commission Act amendment, a somewhat specialised matter, a lot of MPs took breaks and the hall was three-quarters empty. But MPs should always be nearby, to rush back to vote. It is practice for MPs who want to push the matter to a vote, to give other MPs at least one hour’s notice beforehand. When the vote comes, there is a two minutes warning by a bell to alert MPs back into the chamber.

Q. You clearly have no answer for your missing brethren. OK, so, how can the opposition ever defeat a contentious UMNO/BN bill?

That’s not quite fair. But I can understand people’s frustrations.

How can you defeat a legislation? You can never defeat the UMNO-BN administration in a straight vote as they have 60% of the seats in Parliament. They only need 51% to pass any legislation. They need 66% to amend the constitution, which is why they are stuck on the issue of electoral boundary redelineation.

There are basically three key ways to defeat a bill. One, is to win BN backbenchers over to go against the Najib administration. This very rare event happened last November last year, when the BN backbenchers asked the government to withdraw the bill on MPs pay. They regarded Najib’s proposed pay rise as insufficient, since it was lower than the pay of a state assemblyman. Many backbenchers were furious and as such Najib had to withdraw the bill.

Second, is to get external people to pressure the government. For instance, last year, in the investment panel issue, I provided information to the media, rating agencies, academics and the business community on Najib’s bill. They in turn pressured Najib to drop his plan for an investment panel within the income tax department. So we achieved a positive result. The contentious investment panel clause was removed. Many regarded it as an unusual and dubious thing. My office and I worked very hard on this issue.

Third, is to convince the Speaker that the Najib administration has failed to follow procedures of the Standing Order, hence the bill cannot procedurally, be tabled. We tried the third move on the Sedition Act amendments but the Speaker rejected Gobind’s sub judice argument and instead supported the Najib administration.

Q. What other important bills were there in this sitting?

In addition to POTA and the Sedition Act amendments, there were two other significant bills presented to us during the sitting: the KWAP bill deals with the civil servants pension fund; and the bill on the creation of a Malaysian Aviation Commission.

These two bills saw the consolidation of the Prime Minister’s powers. He will have a lot influence over the decisions that these two bodies make. In the KWAP bill, the Bank Negara Malaysia (central bank) representative was removed from KWAP board for reasons unknown. The type of investments KWAP could make, were broadened to include derivatives and unlisted entities (these offer less transparency).

In the Aviation Commission bill, which decides on licensing for the operation of airlines, ground maintenance and aerodomes (in my estimation a RM 20 billion industry since Air Asia is valued at RM 6 billion and MAS at RM 4 billion). The commission allows for nine members on the board, with one appointed by the Ministry of Transport and the other eight appointed by the Prime Minister. Najib has powers to decide everything about the Board including selection of its members, their remuneration and their sacking.

Q. It’s been a long interview, any last words?

Many people feel a loss of hope as they see all the odd things happenings at the top. Some people grow used to these abuses by UMNO BN and now believe there is no other way. When several Pakatan MPs failed to do their job in Parliament, it compounds that sense of hopelessness.

Many are already upset with the stagnant economy and the fall of the Ringgit. GST comes along. Then draconian laws passed in Parliament. It is all very sad and sickening. People keep asking how much lower we can go. People even stop me on the street to ask if they should leave Malaysia for good. I just shrug and then say we must stay and we must continue our fight for democracy.

Interview on POTA: Part II

Part 2 on Malaysian Parliament, 9 March – 9 April 2015 session: On anti-terrorism, sedition, bloc voting, missing MPs and more. Q&A with Wong Chen, Parti Keadilan Rakyat Member of Parliament for Kelana Jaya, 11 April 2015.

Q. Was the POTA legislation rushed? What’s with the 12 hour debate until the wee hours?

POTA was not only rushed. It was bulldozed through. Apparently, Malaysia is about to be attacked by terrorists. That’s what the IGP said a week ago. Therefore, BN need it, and they need it now. The bills was so needed that it had to be passed at 2.30 a.m.
The Malaysian Parliament isn’t anything like many other Parliaments in the Commonwealth and other legislatures elsewhere. There is little use of bi-partisan select and standing committees. There is almost no consultation with experts on draft bills. No public hearings. The bills just pop up on our tables at Parliament just days before the debate. At the so-called committee stage, there is in fact no committee; it is just another round of floor debates where questions and opinions are often greeted by more heckling.

For POTA, the Pakatan MPs were determined to record our objections to key problematic clauses of POTA in the Hansard. We mounted a strong challenge at the policy level and also at the committee stage debate. On my count, the debate went on for 12 hours.

What was also disappointing was the fact that the two MPs of Gerakan (part of BN) voted for POTA. One of Gerakan’s main pillars was its stance against ISA. But their two MPs voted for it.

Q. Were any BN MPs concerned about the POTA provisions?

In my opinion, overall no. Not from the content of their speeches.
The BN MPs argued a simple line: we need these extensive powers to fight terrorists. And then they promised not to abuse it.

People ask me, can you trust their promises? Najib’s administration has so far arrested 150 under the Sedition Act within the space of a year. Others point to other examples of empty promises – the ISA. The ISA was created to fight communists by the British and UMNO-BN kept it on. Out of the 10,000 odd people arrested under it, the majority of detainees were in fact non-communists but political opponents of the government.

As far as I’m concerned, the MPs from BN failed to demonstrate any deep understanding or real concerns about human rights. They probably voted out of blind loyalty, and they voted as a bloc. I suspect a good many who did not take part in the debate are unaware of the real substantive issues. I was particularly upset with the senior members of the backbenchers – all the BN Tan Sris and Dato Seris – for they should know better. They should be the seniors defending the constitution. You shouldn’t be an MP for three or more terms and pretend that legislations such as POTA and the Sedition Act are okay and acceptable.

During the debate, we also tried another strategy. By pointing out obvious flaws in the drafting. But these guys must have some sort of shame deficit, they rammed the legislation through anyway; warts, flaws and all included. From their actions, I’ll say that the BN MPs also couldn’t care if the world laughed at how bad the drafting was.

Q. Do opposition MPs ever vote to support UMNO-BN legislation?

No, not that I can recall. In my two years as an MP, probably not even once. But we do not have a blind loyalty bloc vote policy, not in PKR and not as Pakatan Rakyat. We have room to agree to disagree. We are expected to think for ourselves, whilst bearing in mind our common policies and visions for Malaysia. These policies are set out in our Manifesto and also in our annual Alternative Budget.

For instance, 2 days ago, I debated on the matter of the Securities Commission bill. I praised the appointment of Ranjit Singh as Chairman. I saw this as an example of meritocracy. I said that the fact that the SC has financial independence is a big contributing factor to its success. I also said I had no problems with most of the proposed amendments. But, I asked for two changes. One to ensure that any external experts or advisors to an SC meeting shall first declare their interests and if they do have, then obviously they shouldn’t act as an expert. The second change I wanted, was that after declaring an interest in a matter, a member of the SC must not be in the meeting and must not vote. Nothing political about my reasonable suggestions. But the UMNO-BN bloc voted against my suggestions. In turn, I could not support the legislation without my changes. As such, supporting or opposing a legislation it is not always a clear cut, black and white matter.

Q. So what about the Sedition Act – what are issues with this piece of legislation?

The amendments to the Sedition Act were put in at the very last minute and we were all caught by surprise. The bill was presented on our tables at 9am, two days before the debate. Two days! That’s an ambush. You can’t morally legislate such an important bill with two days notice.

On the fateful day, I was first in Parliament at about 8.45 am. On my desk, staring back at me was the Sedition bill amendments. I took photos and WhatsApp the same to Pakatan MPs. There was a particularly nasty clause: the Najib administration wanted to disallow bail for anyone charged under this act. They sought to remove the discretion of judges in granting bail. They tried to transfer that discretionary power on bail to the attorney general. It was just so wrong on so many levels. YB Rafizi Ramli, who is facing 4 sedition investigations, was mildly shock when I informed him of the clause.

This means that if you’re arrested by the police for sedition and if the attorney general is of the opinion that you are a threat, you will be detained in police lock-up until the trial is over. Effectively, you could be in jail until trial completes in 2 to 4 years. UMNO-BN wanted to elevate the crime of sedition to a non-bailable offence. Do you know what crimes are not bailable? Kidnapping and murder. Come on, is criticising the government on the same league as murder? We immediately alerted the Bar Council, International Commission of Jurists and the United Nations on this issue.

My research officers and I then went into an emergency meeting with several MPs and started planning our next steps to try to stop the bill. YB Gobind Singh came up with a brilliant idea, arguing that the amendment to the Sedition Act is sub judice because the legality of the entire Sedition Act is currently under consideration of the Federal Court. To avoid sub judice, we asked UMNO-BN to at least defer the amendments until after a Federal Court makes a decision.

We then informed the three Chief Whips (PKR, DAP and PAS) of our plans and asked them to quickly contact the Speaker and the Minister to try to convince them to withdraw the amendment bill. In the meantime, we devised a strategy to buy more time for more bi-partisan discussions.

Several MPs approached the Sabah and Sarawak BN backbenchers. Apparently, we got support from some. To our surprise, Bung Mokhtar spoke against the bill. He is the wiliest of all BN backbencher. For instance, last week he was sympathetic of “Sabah Sarawak Keluar Malaysia” (a Sabah and Sarawak secessionist group) and this week he called them “Orang Gila” (crazy people) and asked the police to arrest all of them. By nightfall, we heard that the Minister had agreed to withdraw the most onerous elements of the bill. To be safe, we nevertheless filed our own committee stage changes to the bill.

The next day, we were informed that the Najib administration had indeed removed the clause on “no bail” but they retained many more terms which are clearly abhorrent. I was particularly upset about their refusal to remove the clause on youthful and first time offenders. The Najib administration pushed through a clause that says youthful offenders (aged 18-21 years) and first time offenders cannot be shown any leniency by the courts. Therefore, they must serve a minimal jail term of 3 years up to 20 years for sedition, if found guilty.

Whereas POTA has been packaged as a bill against terrorists, the Sedition Act has no such pretense, it is clearly aimed against citizens who want the right to exercise reasonable free speech and or carry out peaceful rallies.

This amendment bill was pushed through at 2.30 am after some 12 hours of debate. I lost my temper with several UMNO leaders and berated them over declaring war on Malaysian youths. I reminded them that we were all 18 years old at one time, and we’ve all been rebellious over something. As such, youths should be given special dispensation and not face the full weight of the law. I asked them if they knew what they had just voted for, to which I got blank faces. I asked them if they had children or grandchildren and to think of them.

Q. Some people ask if this the end of democracy in Malaysia (such as it is)? What do you say?

In my honest opinion, I’ll say it’s moving towards the end. We don’t have a free mass media other than the internet. But we are used to living with that. However, when they pass draconian laws, I’ll say that we are 70% to the end. Thank God we still have some good judges and some professional policemen.

There is a joke going around in the halls of Parliament that PM Najib has finally fulfilled his “1 Malaysia” dream. SOSMA was introduced after the Lahad Datu incident – sending a strong message to the people of Sabah and Sarawak. Then, he introduced PCA or the Prevention of Crime Act – targeted at so-called triads, essentially sending a strong message to the Chinese community. With POTA, he sends another strong message to the Malays and the Indians. It is Najib’s “1 Malaysia” dream fulfilled, Malay, Chinese, Indian, Iban and Kadazan all living in fear, semua sama-sama akan kena.