Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Khalid Ibrahim Wears UMNO Clothes

Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim’s days are numbered.
I know it and he knows it too. That was why, on Thursday, he mocked us by turning up at an UMNO Selangor "buka puasa"  function. He didn't give a damn as he cavorted with the enemy. Even better, he managed to win praise from another of the guests – Prime Minister Najib Razak.
That is just one in a long list of provocations and screw-ups.
Khalid (above pic) is not what he appears to be. Who knows maybe he has sold his soul to UMNO?
I am still smarting from Khalid’s November 27, 2013 decision to give himself, the state speaker and deputy speaker, state executive councillors, as well as assemblypersons, colossal salary hikes by up to 400 percent to mark Selangor’s healthy finances.
I was alarmed when he cut a deal with Bank Islam on payments for a loan he took years ago to buy shares in Kumpulan Guthrie Berhad, of which he was once chairperson. Bank Islam had sued him to recover the money and after years of litigation, the matter was settled amicably out of court this year. Khalid, the lawyers and other people who brokered the deal have kept their mouths tightly shut.
[Here’s the background to this story, if you want to know. In May 18, 2007, Khalid initiated a suit against Bank Islam seeking damages from Bank Islam for alleged wrongful sale of his shares in Guthrie. Six days later, the bank filed a counter suit to recover RM66.67 million claiming that Khalid’s failure to repay his loan. Twice the High Court ordered Khalid to pay the said amount in summary judgments obtained by Bank Islam. Persistence paid off for Khalid when upon his appeal in March 2010, the Court of Appeal set aside the judgment and ordered a full trial of the issues. And then this year, Bank Islam withdrew its legal challenge to recover the whole enchilada from Khalid to allow for an out of court settlement. Accordingly, The Malaysian Insider reported on February 13, 2014 that it understood that the settlement was for an amount much lower than RM66.67 million].
I was disturbed when after nearly five years of strident opposition, Khalid signed a deal with the federal government on Selangor water restructuring. Why the change of heart?
Sure, water supply has become an important issue but the RM7 billion Pahang-Selangor interstate water project – that includes the building of a 45-km water transfer tunnel through the Titiwangsa mountain range, the building of a dam and a pump house in Pahang, and a water treatment plant in Selangoris probably benefiting Pahang rather than Selangor.  
Putting aside the massive outlay required, this project is just a stop-gap measure because critics are saying the Langat 2 water treatment plant can only provide water capacity until 2025, and the government would require more plants and dams to be built after that to cater to the country’s most densely populated area.
The government should look into water conservation and rainwater harvesting as alternative solutions instead. Don’t forget that more projects just mean the taxpayers will have to bear the burden of underwriting the deals, while politically-connected companies show gargantuan profits.
I shook my head in disbelief when I heard about Khalid’s Tropicana land deal where he was caught in a foxy scheme devised by wily people who are well-known as the preferred business partners of BN. In April 2013, a vast swathe of land, covering 1,172 acres – that lies close to Kota Kemuning, Putra Heights and Bandar Rimbayu with accessibility to four major highways: Lebuhraya Shah Alam, Lebuhraya Kemuning Shah Alam, South Klang Valley Expressway and Expressway Lingkaran Tengah – was acquired by Tropicana Corp Bhd (then known as Dijaya Corp Berhad) when its subsidiary, Saphire Index Sdn Bhd (SISB), signed a sale and purchase agreement with Permodalan Negeri Selangor Bhd (PNSB). The S&P guarantees PNSB a minimum return of RM1.297 billion, payable over a period of 20 years, but a clause in the agreement effectively compels PNSB to surrender its power of attorney over the land to SISB.
Last January, Tropicana through its subsidiary Sapphire Index Sdn Bhd sold a portion of the land (308.72 acres) to Eco World’s Prominent Stream Sdn Bhd for RM470.67 million cash. Up to that point, the only payment it had made to PNSB was a deposit of RM50 million.
Therefore, with the Eco World deal, it made a gross profit of RM170 million or RM120 million net – based on price per sq foot as per in the agreement signed between SISB and PNSB – by selling land it had not yet paid for in full.
On March 29, Khalid requested accelerated payment from Tropicana for the sum of RM844.2 million. The sum is yet to be paid.
And I have questions. Why has the state given power of attorney to SISB? Why are the land price (RM11.50 per sq ft) and the interest rate charged (5% per annum) much lower than the industry norm? Why is PNSB’s entitlement over the deal payable over 20 years? What happens if Tropicana goes belly up before the 20 years are up?
Lo and behold, one of the Eco World’s movers and shakers is Abdul Rashid Abdul Manaf, chairperson of SP Setia between March 1997 and October 2012 and now a director with Eco World. BTW, he also happened to be the lawyer brokering Khalid's out-of-court settlement with Bank Islam!
I was upset when Khalid abdicated his responsibility in the case of the Malay and Iban language Bibles that were illegally seized by JAIS (Selangor Islamic Religious Authority) on January 02, 2014. The confiscation of the Al-Kitab and Bup Kudus was an assault by the Selangor state authorities against the rights of the Christian community in Selangor.
Khalid as the Menteri Besar of Selangor has to take responsibility. Passing the buck to the Attorney-General is an act of cowardice.

I was fuming mad when my friend Michael Kum talked to me about KIDEX (Kinrara-Damansara Expressway). This is another clear betrayal of the trust of the people of Selangor, in particular Petaling Jaya. 
Can Khalid still remember our GE13 mandate to him and Pakatan Rakyat on promises that included their stand against tolled highways? Is he not going to honor them?
I am not sure if he passed his Maths in school but Damansara Utama state assemblywoman Yeo Bee Yin did him a big favour when she showed him the calculations. The DAP lawmaker had revealed KIDEX figures, alongside a detailed comparison with costs of all other existing tolled roads. And guess what? KIDEX is set to be the most expensive at RM161 million per km with a total distance of 14.9 km.
Do we really need KIDEX? I give you the answer echoed by many Selangor citizens a resounding nay.
To wound us even more, Khalid's approval of the federal highway project will mean that the family of former Chief Justice Zaki Azmi and UMNO lawyer Hafarizam Harun benefits because they were awarded the lucrative project. Other unanswered questions include potential adverse environmental impacts and doubts cast on the developer's claims on the merits of the RM2.42 billion project. And Khalid had the cheek to dismiss these concerns.
The above-mentioned catalogue of calamitous complaints does not bode well for Pakatan Rakyat unless Khalid is taken care of. If you carefully consider every one of the issues I had presented above, it would appear that Khalid Ibrahim wears UMNO clothes.
It's time for him to say goodbye!

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