Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Conspiracy Theories

Raja Petra Raja Kamaruddin of "Malaysia Today" has often been accused of having a fondness for conspiracy theories, for clutching at straws in thin air; for spinning webs of intrigues at the corridors of power. His "Khairy Chronicles", perhaps the longest expose on power struggle, consolidation and corruption at the corridors of power, has transfixed many a reader. Replete with details of how the powerful Khairy, the son-in-law of the prime minister and a 'Oxfart' graduate, manipulates and takes control of the centre of power and national wealth, it is an incredulous story, yet inexplicably credible. His latest post, "Monsoon (Cup) winds of change" is yet another fascinating 'story' of the how Trengganu's oil and gas wealth has been siphoned off. How much of it is fiction and how much of it is fact? It may throw some light on the present politcal crisis in Terengganu and answer the question as to why the Sultan or 'Tuanku' as his Royal Highness is often reverentially referred to, prefers Mat Said to Idris Jusoh, as the Chief Minister. Anyway, I leave it to the readers to make their own judgment.

The setting: the state of Terengganu, rich in gas and oil that will be depleted after 2012. Who is in control of the 5% royalty or 'Wang Ehsan' which amounts to RM 800 million and increasing as a result of the increase in oil price?

The characters in this 'story':
  • The former Chief Minister, Idris Jusoh, whose appointment as the present Chief Minister is in jeopardy after the recent general election because the Terengganu Sultan prefers Mat Said.
  • Mat Said: the Chief Minister designate. The Sultan has appointed him in spite of the Prime Minister's choice, Idris Jusoh.
  • Khairy Jamaluddin: the son-in-law of the honourable Prime Minister.
  • Patrick Lim or Patrick Badawi as he is commonly known in blogosphere. A business tycoon and close business partner of Khairy Jamaluddin.
  • Eric Chia: the former CEO of Perwaja Steel Plant in Terengganu, who was brought to court for mismanagement and misappropriation of Perwaja funds.

It is a fascinating 'story'.


The Monsoon(Cup) Winds OF Change

Mat Said is a fighter. And even as a 'nobody' he stood his ground against an

outraged Eric Chia who was foaming at the mouth while screaming the Prime
Minister's name. No Chinese gangster or Menteri Besar or even the most powerful
Prime Minister could shake him. And that is the kind of Menteri Besar His Majesty
the Agong would like as head of his state government.

Raja Petra Kamarudin

Guano pulok puak-puak Amno ni bekeng sangat? Dah Tuanku amboh, amboh lah! Mende nak main paksa-paksa pulok? Bila menatang Cheena buat kacau kat Perak, bising. Ni, menatang Amno pulok nak tunjuk bekeng. Beso kemaluang Ganu kite.
That is probably what the Kuala Terengganu folks at the Pasar Payang wet market
are lamenting. When the Rulers keep quiet, the rakyat complain and question the
purpose of retaining the Monarchy if the Rulers do not earn their salary. However,
when they do act, the raykat complain and accuse the Rulers of getting involved in
politics. The Rulers must work for the people, argue the rakyat. The bottom line
is, the rakyat don't really know what they want.

In the 1990s, a well-known Malaysian business magazine reported that Terengganu is the second richest state after Selangor but its rakyat are the second poorest
after Perlis. The Kelantan Menteri Besar, Tok Guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat, retorted that
Kelantan may be poor compared to Terengganu, but its people are rich. “Kekayaan
Kelantan di tangan rakyat,” said Nik Aziz. Kelantenese, Nik Aziz stressed, do not
need to depend on the government. They will travel far and wide, even to Singapore, to earn their living. And they will send money back to the state to help prop up its economy. This is true. You can find a Kampong Kelantan in Singapore but not a Kampong Terengganu or Kampong Kedah or whatever. And Kelantanese will go back to Kelantan to pay their zakat (tithe) so that the money can go to the state and not to the federal government. And that is why the federal government attempted to nationalise the zakat collection -- they wanted to deny the state the money. But Kelantanese are stubborn and they are in fact proud that they can survive without federal funding and in spite of being squeezed of federal funding. Take their water supply as one example. Kelantanese are being denied clean water because the federal government will not give the state the money it needs to improve its water supply. Because of this many have died of cholera over the last two decades but the Kelantanese refuse to hand the state back to Barisan Nasional although by doing so they could then get clean water and would no longer suffer so many deaths. Kelantanese treat the high number of deaths and the loss of their loved ones as 'collateral damage' which one has to endure when opposing the federal government. Yes, they are sad that many have to die, but in any struggle people die and the struggle against the tyranny of the federal government overrides all other considerations.

Terengganu, however, is not like Kelantan. The people of Terengganu are not so
stubborn or resilient. 'Ganu' means rainbow and 'terang' means bright. Kelantanese
used to refer to the land south of their state as 'bright rainbow' and that is how
the state eventually became known as Terengganu. Terengganu, of course, has gold
and the English say that at the end of the rainbow you will find gold. But there is not that much gold really. Sure you can find some, although it may not be that economically viable to mine it on a large-scale or commercial basis. But what it
lacks in yellow gold it more than makes up for in 'black gold'. And that is why Terengganu is the second richest state, because of its black gold. But in spite of its black gold and in spite of it being the second richest state, its citizens are the second poorest and even Sabah, Sarawak and Kelantan are far ahead. That is what the popular Malaysian business magazine reported in the 1990s.

In 1999, the Terengganu voters decided to give the state to the opposition for a
change. A few months later, the federal government punished Terengganu by
withdrawing its 5% oil royalty that it was entitled to under the Petroleum
Development Act 1974. The money, which at that time came to RM800 million a year,
was handed over to Idris Jusoh, the head of Umno Terengganu, to manage; and from
2000 to 2004 he managed the money as his personal petty cash.

The Terengganu voters realised that they could get their hands on what had now
grown to RM1 billion a year only if they gave the state back to Umno. And they did just that in March 2004 and Idris Jusoh was installed as the new Menteri Besar. But while the state went back to Umno, the RM1 billion a year did not go back to the state. The money remained in the hands of the Prime Minister's Department and control of the money shifted from Idris Jusoh to Wan Farid Wan Salleh, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's Political Secretary, and Patrick Lim, whom Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad calls Patrick Badawi.

So it was no different then. Whether Umno or the opposition rules the state, the
RM1 billion a year will still not go to the state but would instead be in the hands of two or three individuals, to be used and abused as they see fit.

On 8
March 2008, the Terengganu people wanted to hand the state back to the opposition. Umno knew this and what was at stake was not just control of the state but control of the RM1 billion a year that came with it. So thousands of Bangladeshi voters were 'imported' into Terengganu to ensure that Umno would be able to make a clean sweep of the state. And the hundreds of bus-loads of voters were escorted into
Terengganu by police and army trucks to ensure that the opposition supporters
would not be able to make any 'citizens' arrest' of phantom voters. And so Umno,
yet again, swept the state like it did four years before that in March 2004.

But one thing that Umno could not control is His Majesty the Agong who is also the

Sultan of Terengganu. Tuanku knows what is going on and Tuanku also knows how the cheating is being done to perpetuate Umno's rule in the state just so that the RM1
billion a year can continue to be manipulated, exploited, and abused. And Tuanku
sought legal advice on what the Federal Constitution of Malaysia and the
Terengganu State Constitution have to say about the appointment of the political
head of the state government. And so Tuanku rejected Abdullah's choice of Menteri
Besar, Idris Jusoh, and instead made his own choice, Ahmad Said. And a few well known lawyers are ready to spring into action to defend Tuanku if the federal
government decides to challenge Mat Said's appointment in court.

Mat Said is no pushover. When Eric Chia was heading Perwaja, he embarked on a
housing project and started building the houses even before the Kemaman local
council could approve the project. Mat Said stepped in and issued a stop-work order. Eric Chia was outraged. He complained to Menteri Besar Wan Mokhtar Wan Ahmad and said that he reported direct to the Prime Minister and has carte blanche to do what he likes. But Mat Said would not back down, Prime Minister or no Prime Minister. He even went against his own direct boss, Wan Mokhtar. The law is the law and even the CEO of Perwaja, the Menteri Besar of Terengganu, and the Prime Minister of Malaysia are not exempted from obeying the law. This was just a YDP of the Kemaman local council but he took on the giants and refused to back down and finally won when the all-powerful Eric Chia was forced to halt construction until all his papers are in order.

Mat Said is a fighter. And even as a 'nobody' he stood his ground against an
outraged Eric Chia who was foaming at the mouth while screaming the Prime
Minister's name. No Chinese gangster or Menteri Besar or even the most powerful
Prime Minister could shake him. And that is the kind of Menteri Besar His Majesty
the Agong would like as head of his state government.

Terengganu has only about four years left. According to Petronas, after 2012 there
will be no more oil in Terengganu. Four years at RM1 billion a year is merely RM4
billion. This RM4 billion will disappear in four years if Idris Jusoh is installed as Menteri Besar. And, in 2013, Terengganu will revert to being just a fishing village like what it was in 1973 before they discovered oil.

Yes, it was a great 40 years. But the 40 years which started in 1973 will end before 2013 is out. Terengganu can choose to allow Idris Jusoh to run the state and therefore allow the RM4 billion to finish by 2012 or they can instead ask Mat Said to run the state and ensure that the RM4 billion will last till 2020. His Majesty would rather choose the latter.

Seven of the eight Umno divisions in Terengganu support Mat Said. Thus far, 20 of
the 32 State Assemblymen have confessed that they also support His Majesty's
choice of Menteri Besar. Why then did 23 of them declare that they support Idris
Jusoh? They allege that they were 'locked up' and forced to sign the letter of
support so they had no choice but to do so. Since seven of the eight Umno
divisions want Mat Said and since more than half the State Assemblymen also
support His Majesty's choice, then it is in compliance with the State Constitution
that Idris Jusoh be rejected in favour of Mat Said.

The same thing happened in the State of Perlis. When two of the three Umno
divisions and ten of the fifteen State Assemblymen rejected Shahidan Kassim,
Abdullah's choice of Menteri Besar, the Raja of Perlis acted within his Constitutional right by rejecting Shahidan. Anyway, this so-called 'Constitutional Crisis' was expected and had been looming over the horizon for quite some time now. Malaysia Today had in fact addressed this awhile back but, as Tun Dr Mahathir is fond of saying, Melayu mudah lupa. To those who have already lupa, allow us to refresh your memory. We re-publish below an article which was published before this and which addresses what the real issue is really about, the 'crisis' which the mainstream newspapers are trying to pass off as, kononnya, a 'Constitutional Crisis'.


One thing that Malaysia Today would like to raise is the matter of Terengganu's
oil royalty which we hope Mahathir will address on 28 July. Since the mid-1970s,
Terengganu had been enjoying a 5% royalty on all the oil and gas extracted in the
state. That is what is provided for under the Petroleum Development Act. In fact,
not only Terengganu, but any state in Malaysia where oil and gas is extracted they
would enjoy the same. However, in 2000, this royalty was withdrawn and converted
to Wang Ehsan (goodwill money). Suddenly, the RM800 million or so a year that
Terengganu was supposed to get as its 5% share of the oil and gas revenue was
transferred out of the state and into the hands of one man, Idris Jusoh.

Malaysia was then already suffering from an outbreak of JE. But in Terengganu it
was JE of another kind, Jusoh Enterprise, Idris Jusoh's family business. Jusoh
Enterprise or JE was suddenly flush with funds, RM800 million a year to be exact.
Then, in 2004, Umno, under the stewardship of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, won back the state from the opposition. But the state did not win back its 5% oil royalty. The
Wang Ehsan continued and Idris Jusoh, who now became the Chief Minister, continued to single-handedly manage the fund. Even the State Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) and the Terengganu State Economic Planning Unit (UPENT) were left totally in the dark. One man, Idris Jusoh, decided how the money was spent, and it is a lot of money.

But the new Prime Minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, would not tolerate one man

managing the state's coffers. He wanted Idris Jusoh's hands out of the RM800
million a year cash box. However, to revert to the 5% royalty only meant that the
money would come directly under state control. That would not serve their purpose.
They wanted direct control of the RM800 million. Now it is under the control of the Prime Minister's Department but passed down to Idris Jusoh's hands. What they
needed to do was to get Idris Jusoh's hands out of the equation.

Then Khairy Jamaluddin, Abdullah's son-in-law cum adviser, came out with a
fantastic new 'umbrella concept', better than even Mahathir's. They wanted control
of the RM800 million a year. But they did not want to get it out of Idris Jusoh's
hands by putting it into the hands of the state. That would merely be a case of out of the frying pan, into the fire. They wanted direct control of the money without Idris Jusoh deciding on how the money is spent. And this is how they did it. First they appointed Wan Farid, Khairy's 'running dog', as Abdullah's Political Secretary. Then they appointed Wan Hisham, Wan Farid's brother, as the State Exco Member in-charge of tourism. Then they gave Patrick Lim, Khairy's business partner, the sole monopoly of all state tourism projects. Now the network is intact and Idris Jusoh has been cut off.

Patrick Lim's job is to create all sorts of state tourism projects at hugely inflated prices. He would then propose these projects to Wan Hisham, the man incharge of tourism. Wan Hisham would then pass them on to his brother, Wan Farid. Wan Farid would then pass them on to Khairy. Idris Jusoh would of course be left out of the loop and he would only know about them when it was a fait accompli -- as the Malays would say, "Nasi sudah jadi bubur."

They built 30 houses at RM1 million each on an island in the Trengganu River . They launched a RM300 million a year yacht race called the Monsoon Cup. Hundreds of millions a year is being spent to 'attract tourists to Terengganu'. It seems this year the amount of Wang Ehsan has shot up from RM800 million to RM1 billion -- so there is even more money to play around with. To ensure that Idris Jusoh keeps his hands out of the cash box, Abdullah himself chairs the state meetings though he is the Prime Minister and not the Terengganu Chief Minister. Of course, Idris Jusoh, being the Chief Minister, is allowed to sit in on these meetings though he has no say on what they propose. Patrick Lim, though he is not in the government, is also allowed to attend these meetings. Abdullah would then propose all sorts of tourism projects conjured by Wan Hisham, Wan Farid and Khairy. Details are of course not discussed; only the gist of things and the amounts involved. Whenever Idris Jusoh raises any questions, he would be told to 'leave it all to Patrick Lim who knows what to do'. Idris Jusoh is not to involve himself in the details.

After a while Idris Jusoh got quite pissed and tried to resist. One project that he
knew nothing about was placed before him and he was told by Patrick Lim to sign
the papers. But how could he sign the papers when he knew nothing about it and
would eventually have to bear responsibility for it? Patrick Lim walked out of Idris Jusoh's office and phoned Wan Farid who complained to Khairy. Within an hour Idris Jusoh received a phone call from Abdullah who ordered him to sign the papers, which he of course did straight away.

Patrick Lim's hold on Abdullah was apparent to all but somehow not to Idris Jusoh.
One day Abdullah visited Terengganu to chair the regular meetings on how to spend
Terengganu's RM800 million (which is now RM1 billion because of the increase in
oil prices). Idris Jusoh fetched Abdullah from the airport but before his car could move Patrick Lim's car cut in front of Idris Jusoh's car and Abdullah got out of Idris Jusoh's car and got into Patrick Lim's car. Idris Jusoh should have realised then who really runs Terengganu.

Yes, RM1 billion a year is a lot of money. This money, which should belong to
Terengganu, is not going to the state. It is going to Wan Hisham, Wan Farid,
Patrick Lim and Khairy. And Abdullah chairs the state meetings to decide how the
money is spent. And Wan Hisham, Wan Farid, Patrick Lim and Khairy help spend the
money. And they spend it all. And Idris Jusoh has no say in how it is spent. And
if he refuses to sign the papers he will get a phone call from Abdullah.

Now do you know who runs this country? Abdullah says he and not his son-in-law
runs this country. Idris Jusoh however will tell you that Khairy runs this country. And Khairy also runs Terengganu and manages its RM1 billion a year through Wan Hisham, Wan Farid and Patrick Lim. And Abdullah chairs the Terengganu State meetings on behalf of Khairy and according to the plan on how Patrick Lim wishes to spend the RM1 billion a year.

And now do you know why Mahathir is so pissed? And he has every reason to be
pissed. In fact, I too am pissed. And that is why I agree that Mahathir stays pissed with Abdullah and his son-in-law. The Terengganu issue alone is enough for me to get pissed. And rest assured that Terengganu is but the tip of the iceberg. Yes, it is nice being able to walk in the corridors of power. And much can you do when you walk in the corridors of power. And RM1 billion a year is nice to manage if you have that power to do so. And when you walk in the corridors of power you would of course have that power.

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