Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A good man he may be, a good leader he's not

A good man he may be, a good leader he's not
Charles Hector
Feb 6, 07 6:32pm

It is shocking how Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the government of the day continue to keep ‘secrets’ from the people, your ‘bosses’. Responses like ‘we know what’s best’ when confronted with these concerns, no longer appeases the oppressed rakyat of Malaysia.

Let us not forget that we are the rakyat and you are our elected representatives, elected to govern the nation on our behalf in a manner that will serve the best interest of all the rakyat. This governing must be done in an open transparent and accountable manner.

In fact all agreements, be it the highway building and toll agreements, the water agreements and all privatisation agreements must be made available to the rakyat. It should at the very least be available on the respective government websites for all to access and see.

Our government has also signed many memorandum of understanding and other treaties - and again they are not available for the concerned rakyat to peruse and be aware of our nation’s current obligations.

Once elected, our government behaves as though the rakyat has given them a ‘blank check’ to do anything and whatever it likes without the necessary obligation of transparency and accountability to the rakyat. Sadder still, is when these documents/agreements get revealed to the rakyat, the government goes after those who have revealed it.

As a nation, we are almost 50 years old and our government still treats the ‘rakyat’ like little children. We, the rakyat, are adults with intelligence and maturity, and we want to know everything the government has done (or is going to do) on our behalf - no more hiding things from the rakyat.

The time came long ago for greater transparency and accountability by our government. The time has also come now for the immediate repeal of the Official Secrets Act, and the introduction of a Freedom of Information Act. Acknowledging that there may be military and police matters that may still have to be kept secret for security purposes but surely not all these privatisation agreements, MOUs and other treaties.

The deputy minister in the Prime Minister's Department Abdul Rahman Suliman, in Parliament, recently revealed that since 1983 when the privatisation scheme was launched, 490 projects had been privatised. We have not seen the list of what these 490 privatised projects are and who got it, let alone have seen these relevant agreements. Does the government still have full control of the companies that got these privatised projects with regard to policy and priorities? Are these companies still wholly Malaysian, or have they been taken over by foreigners?

In December 2006, in the Dewan Rakyat, it was also revealed that the government spent more than RM11 billion in taxpayers' money to bail out failed privatisation projects. Of this RM11 billion, it was reported that RM3.256 billion was for Star LRT, RM4.486 billion for Putra LRT. Now, apparently these two projects is under a new company, one Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd.

This RM11billion was also utilised for the following purpose:

  • RM2.802 billion for Malaysia Airlines System Bhd

  • RM142 million for Seremban-Port Dickson Highway by Projek Lebuhraya Utara Selatan Bhd.

  • RM135 million for Bandar Kuching Prison with the Public Works Department taking over from a private company.

  • RM192.54 million for the National Sewerage Scheme from its previous concessionaire, Indah Water Konsortium.

  • RM8.3 million for the Muslim Food and Consumer Goods Research Unit, which now comes under the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim).

We, the rakyat, do not want to just be informed about how much of our money has been paid out to certain companies - those that had been awarded privatised projects before. We want to know what happened, and why is the government now paying out monies to ‘privatised’ projects and companies that were awarded these privatised projects.

The government, in the person of the prime minister and his cabinet, should be made accountable and responsible for the bad choices and the bad agreements they made which now costing the rakyat money. They should be made liable for the rakyat’s money that has now been used to bail out some of these projects and companies. We want to also know whether the directors and these companies are being penalised for their failures.

I believe that it is most likely that some of the directors and shareholders of these affected companies have long ago made their money from these projects. They have probably managed these projects badly, knowing always that at the end of the day the government will happily inject more funds, if need be. The very idea of injecting rakyat’s money into projects already privatised goes against the whole object and notion of privatisation.

It is sad that the government so easily spent RM11 billion on these already privatised projects that have failed, but when it comes to things that benefit all rakyat like petrol costs, toll charges, water and electrical rates, to name a few, the government seems not so bothered about increasing prices resulting in the increased suffering of the rakyat. This RM11 billion would have been better used to keep petrol, water and electrical charges low.

Now, when the suffering rakyat protest these hikes in prices, our government comes down hard with the police, water cannon and make arrests.

At one time, many Malaysians believed that when Abdullah became our new premier after the 22-year reign of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, things would get better. But alas our new prime minister has just been continuously increasing the burdens and sufferings of the rakyat as time goes by. A good man he may have been but obviously the task of governing the nation for the benefit of the rakyat seems to be beyond him.

Many now feel that it maybe time for our prime minister, our deputy prime minister, our works minister and all those other members of the cabinet who are responsible for those ‘failing privatised projects’ and the increase of charges/rates should just honourably step down.

The prime minister should resign, and maybe the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong should just appoint some member of parliament and/or senator, whose name has not been linked to any scandals or ‘allegation of corruption’ and someone who is not in the present cabinet as our new prime minister.

This new prime minister must then appoint a totally new cabinet, and maybe then Malaysia and the rakyat may be able to come out from this mess that Malaysia is in now.

If this not happen, maybe we should all seriously consider voting out the Barisan Nasional in our upcoming general elections. Looking at the state of the nation, after 50 years of Barisan Nasional (before that the Alliance), under the leadership of Umno, MCA and MIC, maybe it may not be too bad an idea for us to consider a change.

An alternative government cannot do any worse that the present government - and perhaps it may even be able to bring Malaysia out of this rut we are in today.

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