Saturday, September 02, 2017

Laws that can send Prime Ministers to Jail - dereliction of duties, malfeasance, failing to prevent corruption?

 ...Yingluck faces a possible 10-year prison sentence on charges of malfeasance, or dereliction of duty, over the rice scheme. She has not been charged with corruption, but with failing to prevent it, in her capacity as prime minister and as chair of the National Rice Policy Committee. - BBC, 24/8/2017

MAS (Malaysian Airlines) suffered a lot of losses, and it saw the Malaysian government shutting down this government controlled (later 100% owned), and passing off the airline business to a new fully owned Government Company. Malaysians put in a lot of money, but the whole exercise resulted in the loss of employment for about 6,000 employees.

1MDB, again a Malaysian government owned company, under the Finance Minister(also the Prime Minister), where Najib Razak was also the Chairman of its advisory board. Well, that company and related companies allegedly suffered losses.

Now we have the FELDA matter, and Felda Global Ventures, ...

Should the Prime Minister and/or Minister in charge be liable criminally and/or otherwise for the losses? If the losses, that affects Malaysian peoples' money, should these Ministers be made liable. Should the liability only be doing things contrary to the law, or should it also extend to negligence? 

Remember in government owned or controlled companies, it is the government of the day, i.e. the Prime Minister and/or the Finance Minister who 'decides' on who will be the Chairman of the Board of Directors, Directors and even CEOs - so, if he did or did not do something, should not the Prime Minister and/or Ministers responsible be also criminally liable....There is cause of action in law for professional negligence - lawyers, doctors, engineers, etc - what about the Prime Minister, Ministers, Chief Ministers, State Exco members - are they totally free to do as they please?

Well, in Thailand, if you did something 'negligently' resulting in loss to the country, irrespective of whether you wrongfully made monies for yourself, your family and/or your cronies, you can still be charged, tried and sentenced even to imprisonment...Let us consider the case involving Thailand's former Prime Minister, Yingluck...what was the 'wrong' that she did...

Ms. Yingluck is charged with mismanaging a rice subsidy initiative while in office, costing the country $8 billion. A conviction could effectively ban her from political activities for life.
Six years later Ms Yingluck faces a possible 10-year prison sentence on charges of malfeasance, or dereliction of duty, over the rice scheme. She has not been charged with corruption, but with failing to prevent it, in her capacity as prime minister and as chair of the National Rice Policy Committee. - BBC, 24/8/2017
What was this government rice subsidy initiative - known also as the rice pledging. When it comes to the time when the rice is harvested, there is a lot of rice and prices of rice may be low. So, what the government does, is to pledge a slightly higher than market value to farmers - with the hope farmers will 'store' their excess rice temporarily with the government, and later take it back when rice prices rises and sell it. This initiative helps farmers - who can store rice to be sold later at higher prices. If the farmer, do not take back the rice, then the government will have to pay the farmer the price the government pledged. 

At times, the market price of rice do not rise higher than the 'government pledged price', and the government will have to make do with their 'pledges'(promise) and pay the farmer the pledged price. The government will then have to sell this rice on their own. Hence, if the 'government pledged price' remains higher than the market price - the government will incur losses. There is thus, a great need for government to place great care in fixing the 'government pledged price'. 

Yingluck's government set a 'pledged price' that was too high - and market price for rice did not match or go above the 'pledged price'. So farmers did not take back their rice, and the government had to pay the pledged price. Then, the government had to sell the rice at a loss. It must be noted that rice is a perishable commodity - so, the option of keeping it in storage for too long is not really an option.

For, this Yingluck was charged for 'breach of statutory duty and nonfeasance' -  

Rice pledging was introduced more than 30 years ago to help cash-strapped Thai farmers.

In theory, the farmers would "pledge" their padi with the government at a certain price when the harvest season began - when surplus stock depressed prices - and then redeem it for sale on the open market at the season's end, when prices surged.

The Puea Thai party-led government, however, offered farmers some 50 per cent above the market price and put no limit on how much padi it would buy.

Farmers ramped up production, leaving state warehouses with some 18 million tonnes of padi by the time the government was ousted by a coup in 2014. - Straits Times, 25/8/2017

Why write about this? Well, the main purpose is to consider whether Malaysia too should have similar laws, which I believe, will prevent Prime Ministers and Ministers from doing things not in the best interest of Malaysians - The have to do what is right, and cannot even be negligence - Their decisions, and people under them, are the PM's responsibility - and when the PM fails to stop corruption, abuses, etc not just in government, buat also government owned or controlled companies. Beware, you may end being charged in court for a criminal offence...and, there may also legal suits that can take your money and assets to compensate for the losses suffered under your Premiership. Such laws will certainly ensure that those in political power will behave professionally, and will act for the best interest of all Malaysians, not just selected persons or companies.

In the earlier post about Abhisit's case, not that his case was dismissed for a technicality - not because he committed no crime - Thai Court did not say Abhisit(fromer PM) not guilty on crackdown on protest that killed about 90?

Yingluck Shinawatra: Huge security effort as court decides criminal case against Thailand's former PM

Ousted former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra greets supporters.

A special court in Bangkok will announce its verdict against former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra today in a case that could deepen political divisions in Thailand.  

Yingluck is charged with negligence of duty for a rice subsidy scheme that is estimated to have caused losses of $15 billion. 

If found guilty she could be jailed for up to 10 years and given a lifetime ban from politics.

"The driving force behind this Yingluck saga is politically motivated, because they want to get rid of the Shinawatra family from politics," said Puangthong Pawakapan, associate professor of international relations at Chulalongkorn University.

Yingluck was elected prime minister after her brother Thaksin Shinawatra fled the country to avoid corruption charges, and openly acted as his proxy.

She was ousted from office in 2014 by a military coup, which has pursued multiple cases against her.
"I believe she will be [found] guilty," Ms Puangthong said.
"I don't think she will get a jail term but … maybe a suspended sentence," she told the ABC.

After today's verdict by the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Political Office Holders, both sides have the chance for one last appeal.

In a separate case, the military junta is demanding Yingluck pay back some of the damages — worth $1.1 billion — and last month froze her bank accounts.

All week police have been trying to stop Yingluck's supporters — mainly from the north and north-east of the country — from travelling to Bangkok to gather outside court.

Authorities have sectioned off an area near the court for several thousand supporters.

Almost 4,000 police officers will be deployed to control the crowds, with dozens of new security cameras installed.

On Thursday, Yingluck urged her supporters not to attend court in case of trouble by third parties.

What is 'rice pledging'?

The rice subsidy run by the Yingluck administration was an extreme version of a policy that has been used by generations of Thai governments to control prices around harvest time and boost support amongst farmers.
During the main harvest, rice floods the market and prices drop.

Former Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra arrives at the Supreme Court Photo: Yingluck gestures outside the Supreme Court in Bangkok. (Reuters: Chaiwat Subprasom, file)

So governments offer rice pledging deals, in which farmers mortgage their rice to the state in exchange for loans, later buying back the crop when the price increases.
Yingluck's administration took the idea much further.

Between 2011 and 2013, her administration bought millions of tonnes of rice at double the market value, a gamble that was popular amongst farmers, her core constituency.

When the global rice market tanked, the government was left with warehouses full of overpriced crop.
Unscrupulous millers and others sold, swapped, and stole the stockpiled rice, while some simply rotted.
The public prosecutor alleges Yingluck ignored repeated warnings that the scheme was being exploited.

The bigger picture

While Yingluck has already been ousted from power, impeached and banned from politics for five years, a guilty verdict today could signal the end of her political career.

"Her trial, the rice scheme corruption case is part two of a continuation of the coup d'etat of May 2014," said Ekachai Chainuvati, vice dean of the Faculty of Law at Siam University.
Protesters hold up signs against the military coup that ousted Ms Yingluck. Photo: A military coup in May 2014 ousted Yingluck as prime minister. (Reuters: Erik De Castro, file)

He said it was important the court justify its decision on strong legal grounds to avoid the appearance of acting for the junta.

"That would be the judicial branch deciding on behalf of the executive branch … and that would hurt Thai democracy," Mr Ekachai told the ABC.

Thailand has not seen much democracy lately.

Elections have been promised — and postponed — every year since the coup.

Even if a vote is held, Mr Ekachai said the Yingluck case could lead to future governments being too scared of future prosecution to enact risky policies.

Those rules do not apply to the current military government.
"They have this so-called absolute super power under Article 44, it's still in effect even after the [post-coup] constitution has been enacted," Mr Ekachai said.
"So they have this blanket immunity … in the past and in the future." - ABC, 25/8/2017

No comments: