Perwaja Scandal: RESIGN MAHATHIR!
By: Kim Quek - 27.02.2002

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has flopped completely in his explanation for the Government's failure to crack the longstanding RM 10 billion Perwaja Steel scandal.

He admits to mismanagement and frauds as reasons for the Perwaja fiasco, but disclaims responsibilities for failing to nail the culprits by putting the blame squarely on the Swiss authorities' reluctance to unveil a Swiss account holding RM 76 million, which was siphoned off fraudulently from Perwaja Steel.

Mahathir's explanation is totally unacceptable

Firstly, it runs afoul of the statement by the former Director of the Anti Corruption Agency (ACA) (Ahmad Zaki Husin) a year ago, when Zaki disclosed that he was on the verge of a break-through in the Perwaja investigation through impending unlocking of the Swiss account with the anticipated co-operation of the Swiss Government. However, Zaki's disclosure was followed soon by an abrupt announcement of the non-renewal of Zaki's service in ACA. Since then, nothing was heard of this case from Zaki's successor, who is a former police officer, and whose role as ACA Director has been so low profile that he is hardly visible or audible. (The reason for Zaki's sudden cessation of service at this critical juncture of the Perwaja investigation will be apparent from the paragraphs appearing below).

Secondly, the RM 76 million in the Swiss Account is pittance, compared to the RM 10,000 million losses that the people of this Country are burdened with (all liabilities of the failed Perwaja are taken up by the Government). What happens to the numerous multimillion dubious deals that have contributed to the mountain of debts that Perwaja has found itself laden with? Surely, it can't be true that all these improprieties were not transacted by Perwaja personnel and did not take place within this Country! Then, how is it possible that ACA could not land up with a single prosecution, with a staff of thousands, and after 7 long years of investigations?

It must be obvious that either ACA is hopelessly incompetent, or the government is covering up the scandal. Common sense tells us that the latter is the case, and this is borne out by the following facts.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim (now jailed), in his report to the police on 22nd July 1999 (Report No 19625/99), accused Mahathir point blank as the man who directly controlled then Managing Director Eric Chia whose stewardship of Perwaja was the cause of this investigation. Anwar stated in his police report:

"He (Eric Chia) in fact repeatedly claimed that his actions had the support and under the directions of the Prime Minister Dato Seri Dr. Mahathir. And this is further substantiated with letters written by the Prime Minister himself. With the socalled mandate, the Board was sidelined, tender procedures were blatantly ignored and there were questionable, 'unsatisfactory'payments made to certain parties."

Through this police report, Anwar had practically accused Mahathir as the head of the Mahathir-Eric Chia axis which caused the Perwaja disaster through improprieties. These surely were accusations of the gravest nature directed at the head of a government, by the former deputy head of the same government, made through the foremost lawenforcing agency (the police), and involved the biggest financial scandal in the country's history (the losses are equal to one tenth of the national budget).

Lim Kit Siang, then Opposition Leader, had rightly and promptly attempted to move a motion in Parliament to debate this issue and called on the Prime Minister to give his account there. As could be expected, Lim's motion was barricaded from Parliament by the "dutiful" Speaker, who rejected the motion on the ridiculous ground that it was "not urgent".

Until today, Mahathir has not answered these accusations. Neither is the police (or ACA) known to have taken any action on Anwar's police report.

If Mahathir has been innocent, wouldn't he have welcomed the opportunity of a parliamentary session to declare his innocence and wouldn't the police or ACA have promptly acted to expose the accuser (Anwar) as a terrible liar?

The conspiracy of silence among the principal himself (Mahathir), Parliament, police, ACA and the evercompliant press and broadcasting stations in the face of such serious tainting of PM's reputation can only mean one thing ¡V the principal is guilty.

There is only one honourable way out for the Prime Minister, and that is to resign. For, even in the unlikely event that he is not personally entangled in this scandal, he is still guilty of unpardonable negligence, for as the Cabinet Minister directly in charge of the ACA, he must take full responsibility for ACA's utter and inexcusable failure to come up with any meaningful result on such a colossal scam, after investigating it for such a long period.

- Kim Quek

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