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Sakmongkol ak 47

Tuesday 29 December 2009

An afternoon with the Oracle of Syed Putera-Part 2

I have elected to narrate the story on an afternoon with the Oracle of Syed Putra ala dialogue style. My questions and thoughts appeared as normal lettering while the answers and thoughts of the Oracle appeared in italics.

Part 2.

Just I was allowing my thoughts to ponder over the questions; The Oracle entered the waiting area.

When did you come to KL?

This afternoon, O Oracle.  I quickly got up to greet the man. He, who has walked the corridors of power; one who has entered, walked and exited, undiminished.  A personalized version of "Veni, vidi, vici", I thought.

I extended my hands to shake the Oracle's and in accordance with the customary Malay practice, brought his hands to be kissed.

As if on cue, the Oracle seated himself on the middle sofa with the seat pillow.

After some brief exchange of pleasantries, it's all business. The Oracle seems upbeat this time. He is a picture of health. He is dressed in his usual cotton short sleeved shirts and  Dockers. He appears to be completely at ease.

I have read the questions that you sent- but let's not confine our session to those. I prefer to talk freely.

Thank you very much, O Oracle.

Maybe you can find out this story. The Oracle began.

It may just be rumors. People tell me disturbing news about the handling of the 1 Malaysia fund. If the rumors are true, they will be reflect badly on the PM. He has started on a good footing. The gains he has accumulated can be cancelled out.

Have you heard of the 1Malaysia Malaysia Development fund? I want you to find out more. Now, I am not saying it is true. Who knows? Rumors in Malaysia somehow emerge bearing some truth. But the story does raise some consternation, if there is some truth in them.

I could detect the Oracle stressing the importance to establish the veracity of the story. He is clearly troubled. It has wide implications. Not only for the country.  It will also for the PM, personally.

I quickly realized that whenever you have a discussion with the Oracle, you will need to update yourself with current events and knowledge. You have to- because as I have discovered thus far in several of my encounters with The Oracle, he speaks in a staccato manner- short unfinished sentences which require you to know how his short statement ends. He is not going to explain to you more than necessary. He assumes and indeed expects you to have some background reading on current and topical issues.

You have to be attentive to know the drift of the conversation. You can only do this, if you update yourself with current knowledge. And he is a voracious reader. You certainly don't want to appear inadequate before The Oracle to sustain his interest in you.

Indeed I have. O Oracle. I knew that the Fund is now managed by an authority known as 1Malaysia Development Berhad. 1MDB. I suppose, the fund it manages should be known as 1Malaysia Fund.

You know, this fund was originally  for Terengganu. You know, the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Terengganu?  The one that was supposed to be managed by the Terengganu Investment Authority? (TIA). Now that it has become a federal concern, it will be known as 1Malaysia Fund. No longer handled by TIA but by 1MDB. It was restructured and is said to have the blessings of the PM.

I am worried over the handling on the 1 Malaysia fund. I hear disturbing news.

How so, O Oracle?

Who is controlling the Fund? During Pak Lah's administration, we had this person. Good looking fellow of mixed parentage. People call him Pat. I suppose that is his name. He was said to be very close to Pak Lah. Very influential.

We were told he was able to control the application of Wang Ehsan Terengganu. So, you have crystal mosques, exclusive holiday homes amidst weather beaten Kampong dwellings, Monsoon Cup- all that glitter which is not exactly gold.

Imagine that- one person can create so much havoc. His presence and interference in the end, proved to be detrimental to Pak Lah.

Picture this. One Pat was damaging enough. What if you have 3 or 4 Pats now, during PM Najib's time? You literally have 4 daggers pointing to PM's heart. That means, it's 4 times detrimental. Not politically healthy, you understand.

There's this young guy who feted his friends in New York recently- he seems to be very influential. He spent what? USD 170k for a party? He has proven to be a smooth operator. He meets up the PM and says, the King commanded me to see you. He goes over the King and says, the PM asked me to see you. The ease, by which he does this, indicates this fellow is a mover.

My mind flashes back. Yes I remember reading about this fellow. Said to be in PM Najib's inner circle. More probably DS Rosmah's several advisers. He is no longer another low-profile businessman. He was said to be a key architect of a multibillion-ringgit sovereign wealth fund established by the state of Terengganu.

His name is Low. Jho Low. Probably shaken, not stirred.

He is from Penang. He is said to be an adviser to Malaysia's King, Sultan Mizan, and has close ties with several Middle East investment funds. Hey- how come all Rasputin-esque advisors all seem to come from Penang?

Anyway, I don't know what he says, but he has certainly sold the idea to have a 1Malaysia fund whose applications are not exactly clear yet. The fund is slotted to have a capital of RM 5 billion. But this RM 5 billion will be in the form of bond issue. A bond is essentially an IOU. Who guarantees the bond issue? The Federal government. That means, the government underwrites the liability.

I am disturbed when our government goes into bond issuance guarantee. You know…you have the PKFZ thing. Over in your state, you have your own Tanjung Agas which you are worried of. And rightly so. At the end of the day, if anything goes wrong, our government steps in.

I was thinking in my mind. Oh no, not another Patrick Lim. Who else can it be who is called Pat? There was this guy who was very influential over Pak Lah. He was reputed to be so powerful that he was able to commandeer the wang ehsan meant for Terengganu.  This time, there is another copy cat Patrick Lim in the present administration? 

To make matters even worse, there are now four of them? Is this the dreaded Sign of Four? It reminded me of Sherlock Holmes's encounter with the 4 convicts who made a pact over the stolen treasure. It's eerie. Life does imitate art.

And I was also thinking- I though this style of playing off one person against another was the modus operandi of an ex DPM.

Where will we invest the fund? Remember you have to service the interest. There were suggestions that the fund could be pumped into new oil and gas explorations. With that much of fund, why not invest in an ongoing oil and gas venture? You know, oil exploration takes a long time to bear results.

Buying into an ongoing project is better. That is more sensible right?

The disturbing thing is, even at its conception, there's already RM300 million gone. That's bad governance. You have already leaked RM 300 million before determining where you are going to invest.

You are going to pay 200 million a year in interest and it carries a coupon rate of 5.75 percent and if you don't have portfolios to invest, you will fritter away the I Malaysia fund.

Here is the problem. You have a massive fund which you can operate. Possibly make money. If the fund is intelligently applied. But you must have good people running it. You cannot run the Fund by having 3 or 4 people on the outside tinkering with the operations.

Three or Four? I thought. It's true. There are more Patrick Lim copycats.

I hear the board of trustees is made up of good people. At least in the initial stages. You have people from FELDA, from LTAT, from Tabung Haji and so forth. Trustees with credible records. But you can't function with professional integrity if you have a young person always overseeing and maybe countermanding you. The chairman has left the board.  The trustees have gone to the PM and explained what's going on. The PM is very aware of these developments but have yet to act decisively.

What's the significance of all these O Oracle?

The significance is this. PM Najib has started on a good slate. People are giving him their support. Tun Dr Mahathir is on low gear. You have favorable winds to sail.

But can PM sustain this with the shenanigans coming out? The goodwill and support can easily be eroded if the PM is made to look careless and reckless over the governance structure of the 1Malaysia fund. Even worse, he will be found wanting if he doesn't exercise control over the Fund. Don't shoot yourself in the foot.

In the previous administration- it was easy. We can blame it on the 4th floor boys. We can crucify Patrick Lim. Even call him Patrick Badawi. I am not sure whether he's the Pat people tell me about. They became easy and convenient targets. You have a Patrick Lim and other boys to be the Mexican Pinata.

In my mind's eye, I can see, those clay pots suspended from ceilings being whacked with sticks and canes until the innards become disemboweled. In Mexico the children will sing as they whack the piƱatas;

"Dale, dale, dale, no pierdas el tino,
Porque si lo pierdes, pierdes el camino."

Hit it, hit it, hit it, don't let your aim go astray,
Because if you lose it, you lose your way.

I am thinking. The PM doesn't hit it, we lose the plot, and we lose our way.

  Now, you have other young boys running around. They work overtime on ingratiating themselves to people very close and intimate to the PM. That makes life not easy for the PM. These young people certainly know which levers to push.

When you have these young people exploiting the relationship they have with people closest to the PM.  It is a cause for worry. With that kind of perceived patronage, they can prevail over the decisions of others. Others get intimidated you know.

You have a sizeable fund such as 1Malaysia Fund slowly being turned into a private piggy bank whose contents therein are being applied in ventures of dubious merits.  What's the most worrying aspect?

The fund is controlled by a few boys with powerful patronage. The PM will become ineffectual. Not good.

It's the economy. How we manage the economy. People want that. People want to see good governance in operation. Allowing interference in the management and application of this huge fund isn't good.

Wanting to expand on a grand concept- that's ok. So you have 1 Malaysia. DR Mahathir had his vision 2020. Pak Lah had Islam Hadhari. We can understand and relate to that. But don't lose sight of the economy. One must provide leadership there.

My thoughts quickly went back to what Lee Kuan Yew said many years ago. ".. People want economic development first and foremost. The leaders may talk about something else (I Malaysia, having chicken rice now or whatever), what is it they want? The right to write an editorial as you like? They want homes, medicine, jobs, and schools. …..there's no question about it".


Anonymous,  29 December 2009 at 17:22  

hurm.... i bet he is TDZ..
Whoever he is, i do enjoy this article, hope to c more article on d oracle

Anonymous,  29 December 2009 at 22:15  

Ku Li , maybe ??

dua sen,  29 December 2009 at 23:57  

Sir, with due respect. During TDM's time, it was Oracle of Syed Putra who controlled the distribution of our country's wealth to a select few. It is a known fact that the TDM/Oracle Syed Putra partnership works on 2 fronts. Former was battling the political field and the latter was looking after his kitty.

Today our economy is suffering from 'income trap' due to their partnership. What are their legacies ? 1-sided toll concession agreement, PPA, Proton, disfunction education system, under utilised Putrajaya, etc

Our income is stagnant but the cost of public utilities like electricity, toll, other cost of living keeps going up.

To me Oracle of Syed Putera has no locus standi to raise this matter. Don't get me wrong, I applaud you for highlighting all the misdeeds. It would be different if this matter was raised by, say Ku Li.

What I deplored is his hypocritical behaviour but I truly enjoyed your essay!

Payeik 5 February 2010 at 00:41  

dua sen, im totally agreed w u

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