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Awise: Game Over?
By Andrew Ho
13/1/2002 3:39 pm Sun
[Dalam politik, Mahathir kerapkali mengorak langkah melantik orang 'baru'
(seperti Khir Toyo dan Musa Muhammad) yang tidak berapa dikenali tetapi kini
menjadi terkenal pula dengan skandal dan masalah-masalah baru. Malah
mereka ini lebih dikenali kerana masalah yang mereka bawa.... Tentu kita
masih belum lupa ungkapan 'mandi darah' oleh Khir Toyo dan bermacam kes
yang menggegarkan muncul di kementerian pendidikkan Musa.
Kini dalam bidang perniagaan kita dikejutkan oleh orang 'baru' yang tidak
begitu diketahui juga. Seperti politik, mereka yang naik begitu tiba-tiba selalunya tidak akan dapat bertahan lama. Apabila wang dan pelbagai masalah
kronik mula mencekik mereka, mereka akan lingkup dengan tiba-tiba juga.
Tetapi jatuh mereka disambut dan tidak dikenakan tindakan apa-apa. Yang
terkena adalah rakyat Malaysia yang terpaksa menanggung kerugian mereka
di hari muka.
By Andrew Ho, AsiaWise
The hasty departure of Daim Zainuiddin, the ex-finance minister,
was never really understood. Daim left his post on 1 June last year
and since then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has held the
Speculation of widening disagreements between Daim and Mahathir
has bubbled since the beginning of 2000, mostly over the direction
of restructuring Malaysia's politically linked distressed companies.
Since Daim's departure, we've seen the government take UEM
private. Halim Saad, a corporate poster boy for a zippier age, and a
Daim protégé, saw the UEM/Renong group wrested from him - a
move sensible people welcomed.
Corporate groups like UEM/Renong and Malaysian Resources Corp.
Bhd. (MRCB) hogged the limelight since the Asian crisis, for political
as much as for financial reasons. But one company that fell into the
shadows as a result has jumped back in the news lately and might
explain the mystery behind Daim's departure.
Multi Purpose Holdings Bhd. (MPHB) had been in the eye of a storm
which broke out after the 1999 jailing of former Deputy Prime Minister
Anwar Ibrahim. MPHB, formerly controlled by Lim Thian Kiat (TK
Lim), was long viewed as a proxy for the Malaysian Chinese
Association (MCA), the ethnic Chinese-based party that holds up
one end of Malaysia's governing coalition.
MPHB was formed by the MCA in 1975 and listed on the Kuala
Lumpur Stock Exchange in 1982. It was developed as a Chinese
corporate bulwark at a time when most of the businesses in the
community were relatively small. It was the MCA's corporate
counterweight against the United Malays National Organisation
(UMNO)'s expanding business ventures. In earlier days, MPHB was
headed by rising entrepreneur Tan Koon Swan, who later became
When recession hit much of Southeast Asia in 1985-86, MPHB went
into a tailspin, weighed down as it was by debts accumulated in the
early '80s - thanks largely to aggressive expansion plans, which
included a foray into the shipping business. That recession
coincidentally saw the infamous collapse of Koon Swan's Singapore
listed vehicle, Pan-Electric - and Koon Swan's political and
corporate career; the Singapore Stock Exchange pursued him and
won a conviction for stock manipulation.
By 1989, receivers were evaluating takeover bids for MPHB, a
process that became intensely heated. The Hong Leong group, one
of the more promising bidders, was accused of having links to
UMNO, and an offer of RM562 million from the then-unknown TK Lim
won the day. Ironically, Lim's family company, which operates a toll
concession, was also perceived to have close ties with the UMNO
leadership - especially then rising star Anwar Ibrahim.
Under Lim, MPHB was restored to health. He disposed of non-core
assets, including some plantations, and added a bank along the
way. However, the cash cow and main earnings driver remained
Magnum, the country's largest numbers game operator.
If TK Lim's entry into MPHB in 1989 dominated the business pages,
his departure was noted with only a barely audible squeak - an
official notice to the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange (KLSE) that he
had resigned all his various posts. The market laid his demise to
After Lim's departure, Akhbar Khan and his nephew, Mohamed
Moiz Ali Moiz, moved in to the 40th floor headquarters at Menara
MPHB. There, rumor has it, Akhbar and Moiz hatched plans to
de-link MPHB from its related companies -- Malaysia Plantations
and Kamunting. Nephew Moiz, no time waster, subsequently
acquired Bandaraya Developments, the property development arm of
MPHB. Then Chan Chin Cheung, through his wholly owned Quantum
Aspects, acquired 31% in MPHB from Kamunting. Chan was
instrumental in acquiring control of the then obscure Renong Bhd.
and subsequently turning it over to Tan Sri Halim Saad in the late
1980s -- Renong going on to be the giant corporate vehicle of
UMNO before hitting a brick wall three years ago.
Then Chan Chin Cheung, through his wholly owned Quantum Aspects, acquired 31% in MPHB from Kamunting. Chan was instrumental in acquiring control of the then obscure Renong Bhd. and subsequently turning it over to Tan Sri Halim Saad in the late 1980s -- Renong going on to be the giant corporate vehicle of UMNO before hitting a brick wall three years ago.
This is where we pick up pieces on Daim's part of the story. Both
Akhbar and Chan are believed to be close allies of Daim, regarded
as the real mastermind behind creation of Renong.
The takeover of MPHB, which controlled the Magnum betting cash
cow, did not go down well with the Chinese community. Magnum,
despite some problems encountered during the crisis, generates an
annual RM 400 million cash flow and letting MPHB come under
control of a proxy of UMNO -- or even a perceived proxy - risked
dooming Mahathir's coalition. The Chinese vote, after all, proved
very helpful in last year's general election and the poll might have
gone very differently had appearances not been tended to.
So, to soften the blow of the takeover, six Chinese businessmen, led
by MWE Corp. boss Lau Kim Khoon (also known by his Thai name
Surin Upatkoon) took a 85% stake in Quantum Aspects -- while
Chan's stake was reduced to 15%. One longtime follower of the
MPHB saga called this a move to 'dilute' the fallout from the original
takeover, although Kim Khoon's arrival was not enough to put out
this fire because the deal still had Daim's modus operandi written all
In November, five months after Daim's departure, two relative
unknowns, Tan Kok Ping and Hamzah Zainuddin, sought and won
seats on MPHB's board at the behest of unidentified folk "at the
highest levels of government." Though they don't own an MPHB
share between them, their "backing" proved enough to win them
seats there - and on Magnum's board as well by November.
The changes on MPHB's board signal a change in shareholdings,
say some observers. Tan purportedly has a note from a senior
government official in support of their MPHB board appointments -
and advice that Quantum Aspects should sell them some shares from
their 31% stake in MPHB.
Very little is known about the two, except that there are shareholder
factions within Quantum Aspects that support them. Their political
proclivities are unclear at this point; the surest bet is that the MCA is
unlikely to cede control of MPHB.
MPHB may not be the last politically connected stock to go through
gyrations in Malaysia - but it may be the one that proves the
undoing of Malaysia's system of business by political gamesmanship.
The Incompetent Mr. Musa Muhammad Must Go!
Throw the book at the guilty if segregation charge is true
By Ashraf Abdullah firstname.lastname@example.org
IN recent months, the Education Ministry has been making the
news for anything but the best of reasons.
The latest involves allegations that pupils of Sekolah
Kebangsaan Pelabuhan Kelang are being segregated according to
race rather than academic performance.
Just a month ago, 5,000 Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia Modern
Mathematics II answer scripts went missing when the Toyota Prado
in which they were being transported was stolen in Kuantan.
It was negligence by two officials who, for reasons best known
to them, chose to leave the vehicle unguarded when they went to
Earlier this year, the Ministry came under fire when many
students claimed that they failed to secure places in the local
public universities although they had performed better that some
of those who were admitted.
Education Minister Tan Sri Musa Mohamad later explained that
besides academic performance, participation in co-curricular
activities was taken into consideration for the placement
He could have spared himself the trouble of explanation, mostly
via the media, if he had ensured that his officers and teachers
had informed students beforehand.
The allegation that schoolchildren are being segregrated
according to race is a serious one.
If investigations by the Selangor Education Department find that
the claims are true, then those responsible should be punished
to the limit of the law.
The matter is made worse by claims by the National Union of
Teaching Profession that more than 200 secondary and primary
schools in the country practise racial segregation.
NUTP secretary general Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam said he would
soon give the ministry the full list of schools allegedly
Schools should not use the excuse of differing timetables for
Pendidikan Moral and Agama Islam to segregate students. For many
years, schools have worked around it. There is no reason why
they can't do it now.
If Siva Subramaniam's claim is indeed true, then NUTP should
also be taken to task for failing to raise the issue earlier.
Why wait until the various parties have brought up the issue
before making a big hue and cry? On the part of the union, this
is a dereliction of duty.
It does not take the wisdom of Solomon to comprehend the
importance of racial harmony in a multiracial country like
Surely, the minister is aware racial unity has been the backbone
of Malaysia's success story.
Respect and tolerance for one another should be instilled from a
tender age. They should be carefully nurtured so that the
children, as they grow up, will look at one another as fellow
If they are segregrated as primary school students, there's very
little hope for a Bangsa Malaysia.
The paranoia of racial conflict, lurking like gremlins in the
darkest corridors of our history, will continue to haunt us.
The Ministry should take cognisance of the fact that its plans
to mix the various races in university dormitories met with
resistance. The move failed due to strong objections from
students and parents.
The ministry should not take on a contradictory approach to
foster closer inter-racial relations.
The entire objective will be defeated if in the universities it
tries to encourage sharing of dormitories, while in primary
schools the students are segregated by race.
If they are encouraged to mingle as primary school students,
then as adults they would have no problem sharing dormitories
with students of different races, each respecting the other's
different beliefs, culture and customs.
The statement by Musa that the allegations against Sek Keb
Pelabuhan Klang will be investigated is not enough. If it is
found true, action should follow.
The crime is serious enough - undermining the Government's
policy of promoting racial harmony.
In order to correct negative public perception of the ministry,
action taken against guilty must be made public, especially in
cases that attract public interest.
If the allegation by Siva Subramaniam that there may be elements
out to undermine the Government is true, then it means these
educationists are deliberately working against the aspirations
of the Government.
Such activities are tantamount to sabotage and if that can be
proven, the ministry can redeem itself if it acts swiftly by
exposing these people and weeding them out of the system.
The longer the ministry waits, the more entrenched they become
and the greater will be the public dissatisfaction, first with
the ministry, and then the Government. Furthermore, such
elements ought not to be allowed to fester for they will not
only betray the nobility of the teaching profession but will
also destroy the faith parents have in them.
The Education Ministry does attract a lot of public attention, simply because millions of parents around the country have children in school. As it is being watched closely, it should not tolerate inefficiency, or any kind of wrongdoing.