Party Funding Scandals - UK vs Malaysia

The Conservative party’s biggest donor told colleagues that looking at Diane Abbott makes you “want to hate all black women” and said the MP “should be shot”, the Guardian can reveal.

Frank Hester, who has given £10m to the Tories in the past year, said in the meeting that he did not hate all black women. But he said that seeing Abbott, who is Britain’s longest-serving black MP, on TV meant “you just want to hate all black women because she’s there”….

… Hester, a businessman from West Yorkshire, runs a healthcare technology firm, the Phoenix Partnership (TPP), which has been paid more than £400m by the NHS and other government bodies since 2016, primarily to look after 60m UK medical records. He has profited from £135m of contracts with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in less than four years.

Hester gave £5m to the Conservatives in May 2023 and announced this month a further £5m donation, which had been accepted by the party from his company in November last year. With months to go before the next general election, a party spokesperson confirmed he was now its “biggest ever donor”.

Our comment

Obnoxious views aside, the emergence of Mr Hester as the largest ever donor to the Conservatives in the UK is reminiscent of much that SR has criticised in Malaysia.

Thankfully for electors in Britain, there are levels of transparency that make matters of such blatant concern more accessible for journalists to draw to public attention.

However, this does not negate the need to confront an apparent perception of over-inflated public contracts being recirculated to the party of government that presided over the issuance of those very contracts. That’s the sort of thing whispered for years in Malaysia.

According to the Guardian, Mr Hester’s wealth has derived from the enormous profits obtained by his company from contracts to supply software services to the publicly funded National Health Service.

Latest recored results show the Phoenix Partnership (Leeds), had a turnover of £75m, with profit before tax of £47m in the year to March 2022.

As the owner, Hester received dividends during the year of £10m on top of a salary of £515,000 which he pays himself as the director.

If Mr Hester is making such enormous margins from these public contracts the immediate concern is that they would appear to be over-inflated.  Competitors could surely have been found to perform the same work cheaper?

There is also a potential danger this flamboyant and opinionated businessman may have concluded that generosity towards the ruling party would secure further lucrative work.

Either way, there is a clear reform required to preclude companies in receipt of government contracts, or their owners, from making donations to the party whose ministers signed off on them for at least the duration of that parliament or contract.

If £10 million of public money is to be circled back into party political donations, the  money should at least be divided amongst all citizens equally to contribute to the party of their choice: not funnelled through one entity which has just benefitted from an overpriced contract.

After all, this is public money and the public have a right to decide through a majority who gets the most support.

Malaysia is starting its clean up from an even more questionable state of affairs and in order to do so major steps towardstransparency, which has regressed in recent years, should be addressed.

The CIDB website, which registers all awards of public contracts and has been made deliberately inaccessible since 2015, ought to be restored to public scrutiny as a first crucial step.

For now newspapers cannot even report on the sort of matters the Guardian has just shocked its readers with in Britain.

Selective Anti-Graft?

S’wak DAP chief calls for MACC to investigate Taib’s wealth.

Sarawak DAP chairperson Chong Chieng Jen has called on the MACC to investigate the assets of the state’s former governor Abdul Taib Mahmud.

“At least a request for asset declaration should be made by the MACC against them (Taib’s family) so that we Sarawakians know how much wealth has been collected throughout his administration.

“Therefore, I once again call on the MACC to take action. That’s our basic right to know,” the Stampin MP said in his debate on the royal address in the Dewan Rakyat today.

This comes amid the anti-graft agency investigating the family of former ministers such as Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Daim Zainuddin and ordering them to declare their assets to the MACC.


Our comment

Chong, now head of a beleaguered opposition knocked around by the misuse of misappropriated wealth, is right.

Taib’s corruption was an open book laid out before everybody’s eyes.  He was a salaried official who spent his entire career occupying positions where he was forbidden by the Constitution from other sources of income. Yet, he was as rich as Croesus, famous for his fleet of Rolls Royces and ostentatious living.

Much of the wealth was held at second hand, through his family. For example, Sarawak Report obtained the ownership documents for his North American property empire (that includes the key Northwestern HQ building of the FBI in Seattle).

The company, Sakti, was owned ostensibly between five children and brothers. However, a secret side-agreement displayed they in turn held 50% in trust for him, putting him in charge.

Insiders informed Sarawak Report that Taib kept a trove of such documents relating to his global portfolio of family assets locked in a domestic safe. Who controls those documents now? A ferocious court battle is now underway between a foreign second wife and Taib’s descendants.

A huge swathe of those assets were in the form of plantation licences and land titles (confiscated from native areas) handed to members of his extended family at nominal rates. Many have been subsequently sold for enormous profit.

He also bought grand properties for himself, including his residences at Demak Jaya and swathes of valuable development land in Sibu worth tens of millions of ringgit, that were re-gazetted under his name as recently as 2019.  All this is quite apart from the distributions of lucrative state contracts to his own family companies and the ‘privatisation’ of state assets under his own concerns.

The forces of law and order should first ascertain how these alienated public assets could legally belong to the Taib family in the first place, particularly since they are in danger of ending up in Turkish companies controlled by a Syrian lady who is accused of abusing her domestic powers by the family concerned.

If this government is willing to demand asset declarations of others from Taib’s generation of political plunderers, then why should the Taib family – the mentor to them all – be excluded simply, it would seem, for political convenience?

Sarawak’s present leadership is not tainted by Taib, so what prevents the cleansing broom from reaching in to East Malaysia in order to retain public assets that ought never to have been purloined?

"Absolute Power" Over The Environment?

Sarawak will have absolute power in managing its environment following another success in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) negotiations with the federal government, said Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He said the federal government is giving back environmental autonomy to Sarawak.

“In our MA63 negotiation with the federal government, we are going to have absolute control on environment as far as Sarawak is concerned – meaning, we manage our own environment,” he said when witnessing the exchange of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Malaysia LNG Sdn Bhd, Sarawak Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB), Bintulu Development Authority (BDA) and officiating the Sungai Plan restoration programme in Bintulu today.

Earlier, he mentioned that in Sarawak, several laws had been amended with the aim of preserving the environment, including those related to gas, carbon trading and preservation of natural resources.

“I hope what the state government has done will help cool down the climate we are facing today,” he said.

He pointed out Sarawak had taken bold steps to find solutions to the challenges posed by climate change.

“That is why under the Post Covid-19 Development Strategy (PCDS), we came up with a strategy of taking into consideration Sarawak’s ecosystem when developing the state,” he said.

Our comment

‘Absolute Power’ has become a popular term amongst Sarawak leaders seeking to maximise terms with a weak federal government.

However, it is a dangerous concept in the absence of full transparency and disclosure.

Where do the rule of law, native and civil rights and preservation of the eco-system fit into a declaration of ‘Absolute Power’?

Abang Jo expresses worthy sentiments about combating climate change and preserving natural resources as part of this vision for Sarawak.

Yet generating carbon credits also means taking care of biodiversity, not wreaking more rivers and forests to create ‘green energy’ for distant urban populations which has been the theme of so many recent announcements.

Indeed, none of Sarawak’s proclaimed ‘green’ initiatives deserve that label without full transparency throughout and an open disclosure on the environmental impacts.

Therefore, not only should the exact terms of this latest transfer of federal power be made wholly public, the state should also open up its own registers which have been kept disgracefully hidden for years from the very stakeholders who are most affected and whose NCR lands are being absorbed.

All applications, all licences, all concessions and all assessments underway should be notified to those who are likely to be affected, and moreover accessibly gazetted and made available online for all to see. For decades these have been kept secret which is a total disempowerment of the majority in favour of the few.

Indeed, the reality of Absolute Power in its worst form is nothing new in Sarawak, it is the present situation. For decades the recently departed Taib Mahmud exercised and abused untrammelled authority over the state’s resources, which he used to wreck the environment and native lives on an unparalleled scale.

Paltry industrialisation and lamentable levels of infrastructure were achieved during all that time (despite the slavish praise by hangers on) at an unimaginable cost to Sarawak’s most valuable and unique resources which were its forest base.

Taib’s system pertains till this day in Sarawak, whereby the first most communities hear of major plans and developments for their lands (invariably carried out by wealthy cronies in league with local YBs) is after the deals have been done behind closed doors.

Absolute Power over the environment should not belong to the handful of businessmen politicians, working together with Chinese mega-corporations to grab the state’s resources and turn rivers into personal income streams, it should belong to all Sarawakians.

Likewise all Sarawakians have a right to know the details of this latest arrangement with the federal government and of every proposal currently being considered on their lands.

Otherwise, these new claims of Absolute Power remain just a blatant expression of tin pot dictatorship: a phenomenon that Sarawakians now want to see in the rear mirror only for their state not as a prospect for their future.

It's Not The Minister's Fault, Ever!

Tourism Malaysia director-general Ammar Abd Ghapar was demoted to deputy director-general because he could not perform the given task of attracting tourists into the country, said Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Tiong King Sing.

He also said Ammar failed to live up to his expected standards despite being given many chances to do so.

“I have advised him many times and given him chances… to do the best for our country. I don’t know whether he does not have ideas, or does not know how to do (his job).

“If you don’t perform… I will transfer. I won’t terminate, I will just demote,” Tiong told reporters in Kuala Lumpur today.

Ammar recently confirmed that he received a notice from Tiong’s office that his last day as Tourism DG would be on Feb 26. The notice was dated Feb 22.

Our comment

Perhaps Mr Ammar Abd Ghapar was not sufficiently enthusiastic about bringing a seedy gambling joint into the heart of Borneo’s remaining natural regions to pollute the local people and environment?

This is clearly Mr Tiong King Sing’s idea of what would turn Malaysia into a wonderful family destination and a place for adventure travellers – or at least into a new Mecca for the debauched, dangerous and dubiously wealthy to play roulette and seek out hookers.

Maybe he could attract Jho Low back to play – but what point would there be, since Jho Low is reportedly no longer on Malaysia’s wanted list?

Be this as it may, the principle is clear it is the functionaries who are to be blamed for failing to attract increasingly nervous tourists back to Malaysia and not elected ministers who set the policies.

The buck stops here? Forget it!

Who knows who is behind Tiong’s seedy casino plans, but one thing any family person can tell the minister is that if you destroy a luscious and exotic rainforest and turn it into palm oil plantations there is nothing left for tourists to come and see, and gamblers are too drunk and money mad to care what’s outside the joint.

No one with money in their pocket is going to be impressed or attracted by tall ugly structures. This is what they have to put up with in their modern lives back home and they go on holiday to get away from all such things.

Turning Malaysia into another depressing ‘modern’ concrete jungle is the best way of turning off tourists. Yet, it seems ministers like Tiong and his GPS crowd don’t get it: they keep on chopping and building tall, then sack their underlings to take the blame.

[Tip: try playing up Malaysia’s unique and beautiful culture and natural heritage; invite tourists to enjoy open walls and rattan roofs in a longhouse setting next to a gorgeous and pristine river where they can plunge into the water and view nature up close.

Also, try natural jungle stir fry veg and sago dishes; glorious sweets and luscious fruits, all reached by a longhouse journey up river guided by the forest folk who know all the wise routes and things to see. Let them listen to unique native music and dancing for entertainment.

That is the way to find good, clean tourism dollars for Malaysia (lots). Leave the gambling dens and the vicious gangsters who come with them to the desert shoot outs of Las Vegas.]

Don't Make Malaysia A Joke

Police are investigating DAP leader Tony Pua under the Sedition Act 1948 over his Facebook posts criticising the Pardon Board’s decision to reduce Najib Abdul Razak’s prison sentence.

Inspector-General of Police Razarudin Husain said Pua’s remarks were seditious for criticising the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s power to give pardon and inciting others to hate the royal institution.

In a statement, the top cop said police have summoned the former Damansara MP to give his statement to investigators at the Bukit Aman police headquarters at 1pm tomorrow.

“Police confirm receiving reports regarding statements made by Tony Pua on Facebook that insulted the royal institution.

“Such statements were by nature seditious, inciting the public to hate and insult the royal institution over the sole discretionary power of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as per Article 42 of the Federal Constitution.

“Investigations are being carried out by the Classified Crimes Unit under the Bukit Aman Criminal Investigation Department, under Section 4(1) of the Sedition Act and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998,” Razarudin said.


Our comment

It appears the top cop has all but convicted a joke-cracking politician in advance of even getting round to charging him – this for an alleged very serious crime associated with conspiring and plotting to overturn a government, which is not what a joke is generally about.

(In days gone by, Kings would go so far as to hire Official Jokers to make light of issues such as this).

Such threats against free speech and comment are no laughing matter on the other hand; they put the reputation of Malaysia in danger, once again, of being treated as a joke.

Mr Pua merely issued a sly comment about the leniency of the revised sentence for Malaysia’s world famous kleptocrat, Najib Razak. In doing so he reflected the view of the vast majority of Malaysians who are well aware that anyone not well connected like Najib would be languishing in jail for decades for the crimes he has committed.

The proof of that popular opinion was reflected in the two recent general elections where Najib’s party UMNO has sunk towards oblivion in the popular vote. Tony Pua has therefore reflected a public disgust – he has not suggested the toppling of the government or head of state.

Meanwhile, those same UMNO supporters of Najib expressed their own profound disappointment at the decision of the Pardons Board, as headed by the former King, in that it did not let their wealth-laden former leader off entirely.

Najib has come out with the same complaints, articulated by his petulant daughter.  Yet only UMNO have gone running off to file police reports arguing that whilst their own moans and groans are somehow not critical of the king’s decision, those who are unhappy for the opposite reason are being ‘seditious’.

The pardons board devised a compromise that left few people happy, few compromises do. However, under the laws of Malaysia, happy or not, the decision will prevail – no one has suggested otherwise.

In a free country anyone should feel free to moan, criticise or crack a joke about a public matter such as this. It goes without saying that to urge rebellion is completely different, but no one has on either side.

The job of the police in such a situation is to handle childish behaviour in the manner it deserves, not to indulge in it as well.

What's The Back Story On Taib's Apparent Secret Removal From Office?

DEWAN Negara president Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar has tendered his resignation to assume the position of the eighth Sarawak governor, as indicated in his resignation letter seen by The Malaysian Insight.

It is understood that he will get his letter of appointment soon and then take the oath of office later, succeeding Abdul Taib Mahmud, who has held the position of Sarawak governor since March 2014.


Our comment

Sarawak chat groups are now in meltdown following the brief revelation published just a couple of hours ago by the Malaysian Insight.

The news is based on a leak of a letter from Junaidi apparently tendering his resignation from his role as President of the Dewan Negara in order to BECOME THE NEW GOVERNOR!

This before anyone had been told the old governor had resigned – if he has.  Indeed, was  he capable of officially doing so and has he merely been secretly removed from office?

Everyone has known that Taib Mahmud has not been capable of performing his basic official role for months, given the obvious effects of his considerable age and ill health that has been progressively apparent for years.

Yet, he was been allowed to return to his post at the start of the year, following extended medical treatment in Turkey, and his ambitious young wife has persisted in uploading pictures of the plainly dazed old man onto the internet as if he was heading to the office each day, performing official functions and attending social events.

Everyone knows he he was not performing that role. He even missed the state’s major 60th Anniversary Independence Celebrations in the middle of last year.

So, it is right that he has been replaced, but wrong it has happened in this way and without a proper official announcement before inevitable leaks occurred.

In a democracy people have a right to be informed if their representatives are not able to carry out their role, just like a boss expects a sick note and doctor’s explanation when you take off work.

While the questions fly, Sarawak Report can add some inside information about the present circumstances of the ailing now former governor, whom many have started to speculate might even have passed away.

According to our sources, the indefatigable Ragad, his younger second wife who is now in outright battle with  Taib’s family over the old man’s billion dollar fortunes, has once again whisked him back to Turkey.

He is assumed to be again receiving treatment there for the complications of long-term cancer. However, insiders have told SR “he’s totally inaccessible to his own family”.

Their lament is that Ragad has cut her debilitated husband off from all contact from his children and siblings since the recent court cases emerged, accusing her of stealing their inheritance.

At the centre of the ongoing legal disputes are alleged signatures by the elderly political tycoon on documents which suddenly signed over major shareholdings and assets to his wife as his health plummeted.

One assumes meanwhile that Taib is getting the world’s best medical attention and is surrounded by all the support and comfort that money can buy.

Premature Announcements Create Premature Opposition!

The proposed cascading dam projects, including in Sungai Totoh Baram, are in a preliminary state in the Sarawak government’s plans with its implementation contingent upon a comprehensive feasibility studies (sic) examining technical and commercial viability, as well as obtaining consent from local community through engagements and consultations.

Deputy Minister in the Premier of Sarawak’s Department, Gerawat Gala [said] responding to concerns and opposition raised by several quarters including Senator Abun Sui Anti, the non-profit organisation Save Rivers and affected local communities.

“Those reported to be against the building of cascading dam should not jump the gun and start campaigning against the proposal before the start of the feasibility study and the final decision-making process.

“Wait for the right information to be communicated during engagement sessions to be conducted and to express your views, concerns and suggestions at that time.  Keep an open mind and be rational instead of getting agitated and emotional prematurely”, he said in a statement today (!!)


Our comment

The Sarawak State Government appears by this statement to have stepped back from its over-hasty and premature announcements that no less than three so-called “Cascading Dams” were to be built along rivers in native areas, without so much as a by-your-leave to those who stand to be affected.

This is the right thing to have done in response to the predictable public outrage over the past few days as teams hired by the Land & Survey Department pitched up unannounced at kampungs in the target areas, trying to measure up so called perimeter surveys with the clear purpose of extinguishing native land rights where they plan to flood the land.

A hastily organised petition over the weekend pointed out to the authorities that there had been none of the legally required consultation and very little public information about these dams, likewise over the perimeter surveys.

Deputy Gerawat Gala now concedes that very point: according to his own words the plans are at a preliminary stage, feasibility studies have not been started nor has there been any consultation with the local communities.

So why on earth has this government been spewing out announcements over the past few weeks stating its intent to build not just one but three sets of these multiple hydroelectric dams and laying down bills to amend the state laws to push them through?

Why are teams turning up in villages to measure up their land in accordance with these premature plans?

Why did the Premier himself state the Green Light has already been given?

All this has been done on the excuse of permission having allegedly been obtained from local communities, when ‘Gigawatt’ Gala now admits it hasn’t.

So, if anyone has been ‘jumping the gun’ it is clearly the State Government which has been caught red-handed trying to steamroller through these mega-projects without proper due process or consent and alleging community consent that has not been gained.

Some Cheek!

Having been forced to back down over the false claims, it therefore behoves the Deputy to be a little more gracious in his language towards those who rightly called out these half-baked plans.

What cheek to patronise native constituents telling them to “be rational instead of getting agitated and emotional prematurely” after dams were announced for their rivers and government agents turned up in their villages to measure out the land.

And what cheek to instruct them “to wait for the right information to be communicated”  when that is exactly what villagers are asking for, instead of the untrue public statements about their consent being given and the projects being “Given the Green Light”.

It is the Sarawak State Government that has been premature to act in this matter and they deserved the prompt and timely rebuttal that they got.

Fossil Fuel Giant vs Jewel Of Natural World


Deputy Premier Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian describes the towering flagpole at Dataran Ibu Pertiwi here as a gift to the people of Sarawak, thanks to a collaborative effort by petroleum industry giants Petros, Petronas and Shell Malaysia.

He said that the emergence of the landmark in the heart of Kuching is a grand gesture of celebration for the 60th anniversary of Sarawak’s Independence.

“The newly named Dataran Ibu Pertiwi proudly hosts the tallest flagpole in Southeast Asia, standing at an impressive 99 metres.

“This monumental structure is now officially recognised as the highest flag pole in South-east Asia,” he added in a post on his official Facebook page on Monday night.


There’s a new record for the tallest tree in the tropics, and the scientists who found it say it could add to our understanding of how and why some trees grow so tall.

A survey from an airplane in 2014 of the forests of Danum Valley Conservation Area in Malaysian Borneo helped University of Nottingham geographer Doreen Boyd and her colleagues pick out the sky-scraping tree that they’re calling Menara, the Malay word for “tower.”

But it wasn’t until Unding Jami, a local tree climber with the South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership, or SEARPP, hoisted himself into the canopy of the yellow meranti (Shorea faguetiana) and lowered a measuring tape back to the ground that they were able to confirm the tree’s height at 100.8 meters (330.7 feet).

Our comment

Tall Cylindrical structures are generally associated with a certain manifestation of the male ego.

Competing fossil fuel interests have apparently Shelled out the money to build this record tall cylindrical monument to ingratiate the Sarawak state leadership for reasons that can be divined.

What is does for hungry rural folk crying out for utilities and jobs is less apparent.

Perhaps it will entice tourists to view the tallest flagpole in Southeast Asia?

Or might such folk, who have just rediscovered the joys of post-pandemic travel, choose instead to to visit an even taller object of wondrous living nature that was discovered just before Covid at the Danum valley nature reserve, namely the tallest recorded tropical tree on the planet?

Dubbed the ‘Menara’ it stands as straight and higher at 100.8 meters.


Johor Makes Bid For Absolute Monarchy, Resents Being A "Rubber Stamp"?

Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar has said that among his focus when he takes on the duty as the 17th Yang Di-Pertuan Agong is to stop corruption.

In an exclusive interview with the Singapore Straits Times, he said ensuring there is no disunity in the country will be his biggest challenge.

He said a stable government must be consistent, with a sustainable policy that is needed to fix the economy.

A key cause of political instability, he said, was “sour grapes” by those at the losing end…..

“From my great-grandfather, we were great hunters. I make sure when I go hunting, I bring back nice game. But when I’m in KL, it’s a concrete jungle, so what do I hunt? I’m going to hunt all the corrupt people. I make sure I bring results,” he was quoted as saying.

He also suggested that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission report directly to the Agong, instead of to Parliament as it does now.

“If it comes to the Agong, it means you are not under the influence of anybody from the executive. Even Petronas shouldn’t be under Parliament, report directly to me,” he said, referring to the state oil giant.

He also suggested that judicial appointments must “be separated from the executive — they must be independent”.

Judges are appointed by the king, on the advice of the prime minister after an appointment panel recommends candidates.

“We only get the list (from the Prime Minister’s Office) during the Conference of Rulers. Why don’t you bring the name down (to us) before you appoint? We are not a rubber stamp,” he reportedly said.




Our comment

The Sultan of Johor will surely take a refresher course on his upcoming role in the Malaysian Constitution before he steps into his five year tenure as Agong in January.

This will doubtless remind him of the strictly limited role of a constitutional monarch as the head of state in a democratic country. His job is to preside over a system of checks and balances designed to uphold the rule of law and to protect individual citizens from the abuse of power in any quarter.

The King therefore is not in a position to choose judges, run the key investigation agencies or “go after” people he disdains using such critical instruments of power.

He is certainly not entitled to chase after people as if they were a big game sport, such as entertained his forefathers who engaged in killing animals in the jungle, subsequently felled largely to fill royal coffers and to create the ‘concrete jungle’ where he hopes to pursue his new sport – namely human targets.

As for his vow to ‘end disunity’ in the country, which he claims is caused merely by ‘sour grapes’ among those who lost elections, he appears to show an intention to intervene in politics to silence opposition parties in the name of national harmony. The job of an opposition is to hold the government to account and that role should continue to be protected, whilst the role of the Agong is to remain above such politics.

There are likewise questions over his proposed solution to perceived problems in the economy as well, i.e. that he should directly take over all the major sources of the country’s income. “Even Petronas shouldn’t be under Parliament, report directly to me”.  

It is not in Malaysia’s constitution that the King of five years should control the country’s economy nor that he should subvert the independence of the judiciary by choosing all the judges, whom he resents having to appoint from a selected list of suitable candidates.

This reduces him to a mere “rubber stamp” he complains.  Yet, the role of a constitutional monarch is exactly that. It is to be a rubber stamp/the last signature on the legislative process and a last check on the abuse of power from quarters beneath him.

In this lofty, well pampered role It will be for him to uphold the dignity of Malaysia and in so doing to remain strictly above the political fray, the daily economy and day by day administration of the law.

That is the constitution, however noble his stated intention might be to prevent kickbacks and corruption.

Stability is the Status Quo

Proclaiming his new agenda the incoming occupant of the Astana has proposed such changes as if they were minor and that placing the courts and corruption police under the direct control of himself as King would make them “independent”. Likewise the control of Malaysia’s oil reserves.

Indeed, he assumes that it is taken for granted that he as a wealthy royal, and presumably all his family and hangers on are somehow regarded as uniquely incorruptible and uncorrupted. Therefore, the pursuit of corruption can be left safely in his unsullied and disinterested hands along with absolute power over the country and its judicial process.

Unfortunately, such a perception cannot exist and the confidence and safety of the population can only be maintained in accordance with the constitution that is carefully framed to avoid any one person getting too much power, however confident the Sultan appears to be in his own capabilities and judgement when it comes to appointing the right people.

It does not help that in the recent past there have been so very many corruption scandals involving his own state or that the former prime minister, who was the longstanding ex-Menteri Besar of Johor and close ally of the Sultan, is now also mired in charges of corruption and a suspected history of dubious practice.

The Sultan ought instead aspire as King to keep to his prescribed important role as the head of state above the daily conduct of government, administration and politics. He should support the government in performing its allocated tasks, encourage the pursuit of honest administration and fair justice that he craves to see, but without interfering in all these spheres.

He can likewise look towards righting the situation regarding corrupted practices in his own state, which includes a very long list of self-interested contracts and concessions that have even benefitted his own royal household.

Any incoming King of Malaysia is reminded that theirs is a temporary post within a system where this balance of powers (together with a military that knows its role is to protect and not to interfere) has worked for over half a century to provide Malaysians with a rare stability in the region.

What is destabilising and divisive is to frighten people by using the language of dictatorship, violence and permanence in office: also promoting a major centralisation of fundamental powers under the auspices of the titular monarch as if it was a minor organisational re-jig for efficiency purposes.

Sarawak Report "Misleading" On Sabah Land Issue?

There is no “cheap sale” of the troubled Sabah Forest Industries Sdn Bhd (SFI) land to anyone, as claimed by Sarawak Report, says a lawyer [Fuad Ahmad] who represents the Sabah government’s interests….

“The article concerning land previously owned by SFI is misleading, inaccurate and contains a number of factual errors,” he said in a statement on Tuesday (Sept 5).

The article claimed that a private operator received assistance “from the top” to have the land for only RM256mil – which the article claims to be a fraction of its market value – for the 280,000ha of forest land. The article also claimed that when SFI was first put up for sale in 2017, the same individual had agreed to pay RM1.2bil…

“Indian company Ballapur Industries Ltd who owned 90% of SFI, mismanaged both SFI’s timber concession and its pulp paper mill, causing operations to cease in November 2016.

“In 2017, SFI’s receivers and manager (R&M) – Grant Thornton Consulting Sdn Bhd – put the assets of SFI up for sale by tender.

“SFI’s assets consisted of the integrated timber complex machinery and an Acacia Mangium Forest area situated on 15 parcels of land amounting to approximately 12,000 ha,” he said, adding that the tender exercise did not include SFI’s timber concession licence as under the license terms, the concession cannot be sold.

He said that in August 2022, the Sabah government acquired the 15 parcels of land from the insolvent SFI under the ‘Sustainable Forest Timber Utilisation, Processing, Management, Conservation Research and Development Scheme, District of Sipitang’ (Public Purpose Scheme)…..  The sum offered was RM256mil.

“The basis of valuation, among others, recognised the fact that SFI’s buildings, structures and facilities were poorly maintained and in a hopeless state of disrepair.

“Moreover, the Acacia Mangium Forest areas were not maintained and properly managed, resulting in trees rotting, over-growing and suffering from disease. Also, SFI – having ceased operations in 2016 – cannot be valued as a going concern.

“The acquired land now vests absolutely in the Sabah government and will be developed in accordance with the Public Purpose Scheme by the Sabah government in conjunction with its various agencies and GLCs.

“That the R&M failed to mention this demonstrates bad faith on their part,” he said.

CM's decision having earlier granted the concession

CM’s decision having earlier granted the concession

Our comment

Lawyers will eventually battle this matter out in court arguing the points from either side.

However, what is clear is that the mismanagement of the SFI rescue sale owes to the decision by Sabah politicians back in 2018 to hand over ownership of the entire business valued at RM1.2 billion to Malaysia’s best-known crony capitalist, Syed Mokhtar, on the basis of a 10% deposit.

The timber concessions were included in that agreement.

However, Mr Mokhtar did not complete on the payment as the hunt got underway to find a joint venture partner that was actually qualified to run the business.

Despite a renewal of the arrangement by the present CM to give an extended deadline (which included a commitment to include the timber concessions which it seems that Fuad Amad seeks to claim could not be included) Syed Mokhtar instead tried to knock down the price.

It was the CM himself who intervened before the deadline expired on this arrangement to withdraw the timber license and thereby scupper the re-sale by devaluing the bulk of SFI’s key assets (that swathe of concessions).

Here is his signed letter to that effect – see opposite. This was in defiance of a commitment by the state attorney general (viewed by SR) that should Mr Mokhtar not deliver on his chance to meet the extended deadline the receivers would be able to re-tender the SFI package – including those timber concessions.

It was also the CM who, according to Sabah Hansard of 24th May, confirmed to Shafie Apdal that under the proposed ‘Sustainable Forest Timber Utilisation, Processing, Management, Conservation Research and Development Scheme’, by which he had now confiscated SFI’s timber license, “We decided to give the concession to Tan Sri Mokhtar Al-Bukhary’s company“.

Hence, while thousands of dwellers of Sipitang have lost their livelihoods owing to the years of delay by Mr Mokhtar in fulfilling his commitments, Mokhtar himself has gained control of the area without paying more than a fraction of the initial RM1.2 billion which he originally promised.