Collapsing Governance Sparks Corporate Madness In Sarawak?

Collapsing Governance Sparks Corporate Madness In Sarawak?

Desperate Malaysians are starting to take their own lives in increasing numbers. Others are draining their old age pensions, encouraged by a government that seems to be on a perpetual holiday (with under-employed ministers like Nazri Aziz preferring to take themselves abroad completely).

Meanwhile the indicators all represent a glaring indictment of a government that seized illegitimate powers when faced with a loss of confidence (well deserved) back in January, by instituting a politically motivated state of emergency on the excuse of a pandemic that they were failing to contain.

What has been achieved since PN thus banned parliament, silenced the opposition, banned protests and imposed a crackdown on the population disguised as a medical lockdown? Malaysians know only too well.

Far from addressing, combatting or reducing Covid, the ‘Emergency’ has exponentially increased the spread of the disease.

This is above all because this bogus move has kept in office a failed prime minister who had already demonstrated his inability to govern honestly and effectively, and who comes surrounded by bickering, greedy, corrupted and self-serving political rivals none of whom are interested in the job of running the country or sorting the pandemic, only in advancing their own agendas.

Today Bloomberg provided a devastating snapshot of the economic consequences of that failure to tackle the political paralysis that should have seen a recall of Parliament and a change of government six months ago. In that very period (January to July) the paper has downgraded Malaysia’s pandemic performance from the median among the world’s 53 largest economies to number 51 out of 53.

It is not hard to see why. Deaths have escalated ten fold in that same six months of emergency government from 500 to over 5000 and the disease has spread shockingly throughout the country. This is DESPITE the horrors endured by ordinary folk under one of the world’s most stringent lockdowns where rural communities have been enclosed behind barbed wire fences and where for months ordinary economic and social life were strangled.

In other countries, periods of lockdown have delivered in terms of curbing the disease – providing a reward at least and sense of achievement for populations desperately awaiting the arrival of vaccines to end their misery. So, why not in Malaysia?

The answer is, of course, that the main purpose of the lockdown was to prolong PN power not to battle the virus. And whilst in power PN wanted to see PN friendly businesses continue – tens of thousands of licences have thus been granted to ‘special cases’ and factories receiving exemptions to the rules.

These ‘exemptions for necessary activities’ have been at the heart of the wildfire explosion of the disease that has achieved the exact opposite in Malaysia of what a genuine lockdown is designed to do.

Try to protest this outrage and you will be arrested for ‘contravening rules designed to counter the pandemic’. No wonder that desperate folk have been desperately ending their own lives instead, such has been the grief, the hunger and the frustration.

None of this has troubled those who imposed these illegal measures, because their rules have not applied to them. They have travelled fully vaccinated and free around the country and indeed the world, taking full advantage their opportunity to make bags of money – granting licences, relaxing rules, issuing contracts and handing out public sums to pet projects.

Nothing sums up the futility better than yesterday’s announcement in Sarawak (a place where many communities are racked with hunger) of a state government allocation of RM252 million to the tourism minister (the long-term GPS stalwart Karim Hamza) in order ‘to develop new tourism attractions’ in the state!

What tourism? Let’s not mention Karim Hamza’s inevitable eye on the upcoming election and the costs involved in the GPS world of ‘money politics’. Such characters, used to decades of corrupt office, no longer appear to understand how they abuse their positions by channelling state income to promote themselves.

It’s just how the money is always spent – but think how many vaccinations and food parcels such money could have supplied to the needy in Sarawak.

Corporate Chaos

Likewise, Sarawak’s corporate mess where the present power-mongers appear to have lost all understanding of what is acceptable and what is not. Take the ongoing saga at CMSB, where yet more board members have now resigned as this publicly quoted major company blatantly defies the rules to protect investors.

Abu Bekir Taib, of Sarawak’s notoriously corrupted ruling family (who are still major shareholders of CMSB) has been caught red-handed stealing from the company pot. Yet, having temporarily sacked him, the Chairman and those who remain on the board swiftly allowed him back, ‘exonerated’ – even in advance of a promised ‘objective external report’ into the entire affair.

In any normal business-friendly country such scandalous corporate mis-governance in a stock market company would have sparked huge outrage, investigations and suspension by the regulators, namely the MACC and Securities Commission.  However, under this government without a sitting parliament to raise such issues there has not been a whisper of criticism and not a hint of action to be taken.

After all, the Taib’s are key political allies PN, which depends for its survival on the continuing support of a coalition of Malaysia’s most entrenched political crooks and mafia businessmen to boot. So the ordinary investors, the honest board members, staff and a slate of pension funds can take a hike (two more board members just resigned) and investors can be grateful for what small amount is left them.

A similar state of affairs has arisen with a second Sarawak company namely Serba Dinamik Berhad, which has self-damningly taken legal action against its own auditors for getting too hot and bothered (in the company’s opinion) over staggeringly large sums of what appear to be misappropriated funds!

The nature of this case expresses in a nutshell how far gone so many of the country’s privileged elite are when it comes to distinguishing between right and wrong. Fittingly,  the company has hired the crooks’ lawyer of choice, Shafee Abdullah, to take time off his primary present preoccupation (postponing Najib Razak’s various appeals against conviction) to pursue their claim.

The complaint is that KPMG ought to have kept quiet rather than expressing their concern and tipping off the shareholders apparently.

The Chairman has publicly claimed with a straight face that the accountancy firm had “blown the audit issues out of proportion” when it had merely spotted discrepancies involving transactions to the tune of RM4.54 billion by the Sarawak based oil and gas company!

Serba Dinamik said KPMG’s red flagging has tarnished its corporate image. “It has portrayed that there are a lot of inappropriate things happening in Serba Dinamik.”

“As a result, the company’s market capitalisation has lost over RM3 billion. This is a big sum for an oil & gas company… shareholders have suffered,” said Mohamed Ilyas, who was appointed to the board as independent director last week. [The Edge]

Only in Malaysia and under this morally bankrupt regime could such an outrageous series of claims have been publicly made by a public company against its auditors without barely a flicker of concern being expressed in the political arena.

But again, there is no Parliament in which the matter could be raised and the man in charge is fiddling whilst the country burns. No wonder the rats are coming out to play and delay, and to attack the rules and the very regulators hired to supervise the situation, none of whom can do their job.

So it is that the collapse of governance in Malaysia is also bringing the collapse of the country’s economic life and its reputation as a place anyone could ever seriously invest in.

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