Corrected on 31 May 2009 at 10am
KLANG, 29 May 2009: The government should freeze the bank accounts of everyone implicated in the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) controversy, while those who are also holding government positions should be suspended pending the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) investigations into the scandal.
DAP Klang member of parliament (MP) Charles Santiago, who made the call today, urged Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to immediately take these necessary actions against politicians, former and current Port Klang Authority (PKA) officials, and any other figures embroiled in the fiasco.
“We welcome the release of the PKFZ report…However, it is clear that laws have been broken, there were conflict of interests, and politicians were involved in this fiasco,” said Santiago in a press conference today.
The four politicians named in the report are Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Chor Chee Heung, Sementa assemblyperson Datuk Abdul Rahman Palil, Backbenchers Club president Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing and Federal Territory Umno treasurer Datuk Seri Azim Zabidi.
Santiago also took domestic regulators particularly the MACC, Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), and Attorney-General’s Chambers to task for the many failures and breach of regulations brought to light by the report.
“This (report) is nothing new. MACC’s predecessor, the ACA (Anti-Corruption Agency) had interviewed PKFZ officials and carted documents away from PKA under (then PKA general manager) OC Phang back in 2007. They already have this information then, what were they doing all these while?” Santiago said.
He added that PAC’s probe into PKFZ also ended abruptly with the exit of its former chairperson Datuk Sharir Abdul Samad.
“Why did the investigations end with his exit? Is the PAC truly serving as a watchdog of the public accounts or merely posturing as one?” he questioned..
He said the Attorney-General’s Chambers should have been instrumental in revealing the ballooning costs of the PKFZ and the financial viability of PKA to undertake the project in its early stages.
“Could the Chambers not have done more? How far did [it] go to ensure that legal procedures, provisions, practices and standards were adhered to? Were there no steps taken once it was determined that [these were] by-passed by PKA officials?” said Santiago.
In addition, he took to task the Ministry of Finance, Bar Council and Bursa Malaysia for not playing an active role in probing the possible breach of regulations in the project.
“Why didn’t they do something? Were they intimidated? Did politician(s) exert pressure on them? Or were they working together with the politicians?”
Santiago pointed out the failure of these regulators would affect the country’s ability to attract foreign investments: “Would foreign investors come if they can’t trust our regulators?”
Lastly, he urged PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to stand by their report and questioned their rationale for not allowing the public to arrive at any conclusion from the report. (PwC had agreed to make the report public on three conditions, one of which is “the reader is not authorised to use or rely on the report to arrive at any conclusion”.)
“What is the point of the report if you can’t arrive at any conclusion from it?” asked Santiago.
Meanwhile, MCA urged all government departments to be accountable and more stringent in their operations, management and approvals given.
MCA Information and Communication Bureau chairperson Lee Wei Kiat said the PKFZ controversy is a wake-up call to Malaysians on upholding integrity, transparency and accountability, particularly since enormous amounts from taxpayers’ funds were involved.
“Any suspicions of questionable practices should be reported, and thoroughly investigated without fear or favour even if it involves high-ranking senior government officials, well-known corporate figures and even politicians,” said Lee in a statement today.
The 405-hectare PKFZ transhipment hub, which has warehouses, office blocks and a four-star hotel, has been dogged by controversy and allegations of mismanagement over its ballooning development costs.