Media Conference Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Sunday, 21st June 2009:
Ong’s last chance to “tell all” about the causes and culprits of the RM12.5 billion PKFZ scandal to salvage his reputation even at the price of losing his Ministership
My three questions (No.67 to No. 69 on the 23rd day in the current series) to Transport Minister Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat on the RM12.5 billion Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal today are:
No. 1: Finally, the Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat is appearing in Parliament tomorrow to give an accounting on the RM12.5 billion PKFZ scandal, after absconding overseas to the Paris Air Show when he should have stayed behind to appear before Parliament when it started its meeting last Monday. It is a great embarrassment and shame that the MCA President has to be forced to appear before Parliament to give a ministerial statement on the PKFZ scandal on the directive of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
My first question today to Ong is whether his Ministerial statement would contain answers to the Five Questions on the PKFZ which I had posed to him on 9th April last year, viz:
1. Was it true that when the Port Klang Authority and the Transport Ministry insisted on buying the 1,000 acres of Pulau Indah land for PKFZ at RM25 psf on a “willing buyer, willing seller” basis, in the face of strong objection by the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the Treasury which had recommended that the land be acquired at RM10 psf, the Cabinet had given its approval subject to two conditions: (i) categorical assurance by the Transport Minister that the PKFZ proposal was feasible and self-financing and would not require any public funding; and (ii) that every RM100 million variation in the development costs of PKFZ would require prior Cabinet approval.
2. In the event, the first condition was breached when the PKFZ project ballooned from RM1.1 billion to RM4.6 billion requiring government intervention and bailout while the second condition was breached with the original PKFZ development costs of RM400 million ballooning to RM2.8 billion without any prior Cabinet approval ever sought for every RM100 million increase in development costs.
3. The Transport Minister had unlawfully issued four Letters of Support to Kuala Dimensi Sdn. Bhd (KDSB), the PKFZ turnkey contractor — to raise RM4 billion bonds, which were regarded as government guarantees by the market. The Transport Minister had no such powers to issue financial guarantees committing the government, as it could only be issued by the Finance Minister and only after Cabinet approval. The first Letter of Support was issued by the former Transport Minister, Tun Dr. Ling Liong Sik on May 28, 2003, which was Liong Sik’s last day as Transport Minister while the other three were issued by Kong Choy.
4. Whether it wasn’t true that in recognition that the four unlawful “Letters of Support” of the Transport Minister had nonetheless given implicit government guarantee to the market that the Cabinet in mid-2007 gave retrospective approval for the unlawful and unauthorized four Letters of Support by the Transport Ministers in the previous four years creating RM4.6 billion liability for the government in the bailout of PKFZ.
5. Why no action had been taken against the two previous Transport Ministers, both Liong Sik and Kong Choy, as well as the government officials responsible for the unlawful issue of the four “Letters of Support” - getting the government embroiled in the RM4.6 billion PKFZ scandal?
If Ong’s Ministerial Statement tomorrow does not give clear and unequivocal answers to these Five Questions, which I had posed in Parliament as far back as November 2007, then Ong’s Ministerial statement would have failed the test of fulfilling the most basic standards of ministerial responsibility and accountability.
Question No. 2:
On 3rd June, 2009 in Question No. 16, I had pointed out that the MCA leadership, through three Transport Ministers since 2002, viz Datuk Seri (now Tun) Dr. Ling Liong Sik, Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy and Ong, four MCA Port Klang Authority (PKA) Chairmen, viz: Tan Sri Dr. Ting Chew Peh, Datuk Yap Pian Hon, Datuk Chor Chee Heung and Datuk Lee Hwa Beng must bear responsibility for the national shame and colossal losses represented by the PKFZ scandal and asked, in particular why Chor has not stepped down or suspended from his present post of Deputy Finance Minister, as he had been named by the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report as one of those involved in potential conflicts of interest.
I now ask whether Ong agrees that the former MCA President Datuk Seri (now Tan Sri) Ong Ka Ting, should also join the seven MCA leaders named above to give an accounting of the role they played in the RM12.5 billion PKFZ scandal, as Ka Ting was Acting Transport Minister for a month from 29th May to 30th June 2003.
Will these eight MCA leaders who had variously occupied important positions as Transport Minister or PKA Chairman in the history of the PKFZ scandal come out with a Joint Memorandum on the role played by everyone of them in the “mother of all scandals”?
Yesterday, PKA Chairman Datuk Lee Hwa Beng denied the allegation in the website, http://pkfz.blogspot.com/ that his tenure as PKA Chairman had lapsed on 15th February 2009, and he lashed out at me for taking this blog allegation as “gospel truth” and alleged that I am guided by “half-truths and hearsay” in my statements.
To be frank, I had grave doubts about the allegation of the website http://pkfz.blogspot.com/.
This was because The Edge weekly (April 27 – May 3, 2009) which carried the cover story of “Total PKFZ bill – RM8 billion?” published a letter Lee responding to the Edge expose, saying that he was unable to respond to the report as his term as PKA Chairman “had technically expired on March 31 this year”.
This was why my media statement of April 28, 2009 posed this question to the Transport Minister:
“Can Ong explain his Ministerial inefficiency and incompetence in allowing the post of PKA Chairman to remain vacant from March 31, when he should have known that it is important to either re-appoint Lee or appoint a new Chairman so that no one could make the excuse that no decision could be made during the month of April on the publication of the PwC report on PKFZ scandal as the post of PKA Chairman is vacant!”
There was no answer from Ong but he promptly re-appointed Lee as PKA Chairman on April 29, 2009.
Lee said in his statement yesterday: “It is essential that there is no leadership gap at the PKA Board so that the smooth running of the Authority and the well-being of Port users are ensured.”
But there was a gap in the position of PKA Chairman left vacant for a month in the critical development of the PKFZ. Why was this so?
There was another reason why last Thursday, I had posed Question 59: “No. 2 – This website also made a very serious allegation – that Datuk Lee Hwa Beng’s tenure as Port Klang Authority (PKA) Chairman ended on 15th February 2009 and that until today the Yang di Pertuan Agong had never given consent to extend or renew Lee’s term, and that Ong is asking the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, to backdate Lee’s appointment. Is this true?”
As this website had achieved the scoop of uploading the exchange of letters to show that on 10th May 2009, Ong had written to the Prime Minister to approve RM1.2 billion payment as variation orders for the PKFZ project to its turnkey developer, Kuala Dimensi Sdn. Bhd, it has won the right for its question about Lee’s re-appointment as PKA Chairman to be properly answered or denied.
The second part of the question – the website’s allegation that Lee’s re-appointment had not been given the Royal consent and Ong is asking the Prime Minister to backdate Lee’s renwal, has not been answered.
I had given Ong a very friendly warning way back in April 2008, warning him not to be the third Transport Minister whose reputation “would be marred and tarred by the RM4.6 billion PKFZ scandal if he reneges on his pledge to ‘tell all’ soon”.
Ong would not be in the sorry plight he is in today if he had heeded my friendly advice. Although it is very late, it is not impossible for Ong to salvage his reputation, but his Ministerial statement tomorrow’s would be his last chance to come clean and tell all on the causes and culprits of the RM12.5 billion PKFZ scandal even if it means losing his Ministerial post!
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor