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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Another Najib associate involved in Scorpene scandal

(Malaysiakini) Whistleblower website Wikileaks last month posted a diplomatic cable from the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur which listed the names of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's close associates.

Among them is Lodin Wok Kamaruddin, who heads the Armed Forces pension fund - the Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT).

French freelance writer Céline Boileau, in an investigation, found that Lodin Wok is Boustead Holdings Bhd deputy chairperson.

LTAT and Boustead control 20 percent Perimekar, while KS Ombak Laut Sdn Bhd holds the remaining 60 percent stake.

military malaysia navy french built submarine scorpene classPerimekar had acted as the go-between for the procurement of two French-made submarines by Malaysia's Defence Ministry, from which the company allegedly made RM534.8 million in commission.

Coincidently, Lodin Wok also sits on the board of Affin Bank Bhd - one of Perimekar's bankers.

"What would implicate Lodin Wok in the alleged 'Scorpene scandal' currently under probe in Paris is that the businessman is one of the five directors (in Perimekar) together with Mazlinda Makhzan, Rozana Abdullah Meili, Abdul Rani Mohd Hussin Abdullah and Mohd Hussin Tamby," said Boileau.

altantuya mongolian murder trial 200607 mazlinda rowenaMazlinda (right in photo), a former magistrate, is the spouse of political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda, a close associate of Najib, who was then deputy prime minister and defence minister, and was the minister in charge of the procurement of the submarines.

Abdul Razak was released from a 2006 murder charge of Altantuya Shariibuu, a Mongolian national who is believed to be a translator for the multi-million ringgit submarine deals.

Two of Najib's bodyguards have been found guilty of murdering her in a jungle clearing in Shah Alam, and her body blown up with C4 explosives. The duo have since been sentenced to death.

Najib has strongly denied any link to the murder and has taken an oath on the Quran in a mosque to prove his innocence.

Perimekar's sole purpose

Lodin Wok has nevertheless downplayed his involvement in Perimekar, arguing he was a director in the company as a representative of Armed Forces pension fund.

Furthermore, he reportedly told Boileau, he had resigned from the company board on July 1, last year.

This was the same time the company had completed its contract with the government upon the delivery of the two Scorpene submarines, said Boileau.

According to the French journalist, Perimekar is suspected of being created for the sole purpose of distributing a RM500 million commission between Malaysian and foreign beneficiaries.

razak baginda acquitted 311008 14"What was highly suspect was that the company, registered in 1999, defines its activity as 'marketing, maintenance and other activities related to submarines and surface vessels'," said Boileau.

Its financial statements, added Boileau, revealed that the Malaysian government as Perimekar's "single customer".

Last year, the company which had reportedly received millions of ringgit in commission posted huge losses, she said.

"Has the golden age of Perimekar gone?" queried Boileau.

Uneven financial performance

Boileau also discovered that the company registered an uneven financial performance from year to year.

For example, while the company reported a net loss of RM8.2 million in 2003, it declared a net profit of RM24.7 million the following year, she said.

In 2008, Perimekar also became a group with two small subsidiaries - Prima Laksana and Gagah Nirwana.

NONE"Between 2009 and 2010, while the submarines were being delivered, Perimekar's activity had (almost) tumbled down: the company has seen its net income decrease from a profit of RM19 million to a loss amounting to RM3.3 million," she reported.

"The turnover has plunged from about RM85 million to RM23 million - an amount still comfortable enough for its shareholders. They have been granted dividends of RM56.2 million in 2009 (66 percent of the turnover) and RM18.7 million in 2010 (81 percent of the turnover)," she added.

Between 2003 and 2010, the company received more than RM200 million from its contract with the government, noted Boileau.

However, the financial report last year stated: “The company's project with the government of Malaysia was completed on Dec 25, 2009, after which a downsizing exercise was done in a fair manner and the company was focusing on prospecting for other viable business opportunities.”

Support services

"But Perimekar is not the only Malaysian company being involved in the Scorpene deal," said Boileau.

Boustead DCNS Naval Corp - a 60-40 joint venture in 2009 between BHIC Defence Technologies and the French-based DCNS - was awarded by the Defence Ministry a RM532 million contract related to the Scorpene submarines, she said.

The company provides “support services” to Scorpene submarines from 2010 to 2015.

BHIC Defence is owned by BHIC (Boustead Heavy Industries Corporation), whose chairman is also Lodin Wok, added Boileau.

PSM sees fault in Vell Paari’s ‘slave rescue’

MIC is treating the symptoms without curing the disease, says Arutchelvan.
PETALING JAYA: Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) has criticised MIC’s plan to relocate the residents of Nigel Gardner Estate as a piecemeal solution that does not address the real plight of plantation workers.

PSM secretary-general S Arutchelvan lauded the move to rescue the Nigel Gardner families from their slave-like existence but described it as akin to treating the symptoms instead of curing the disease.

“The real problems plaguing plantation workers are low wages and exploitation by employers,” he said.

The situation at Nigel Gardner was exposed last week when MIC publicity chief S Vell Paari spoke to FMT about the poor families living there.

The estate is owned by tycoon Vincent Tan’s Berjaya Group and is part of the Hulu Selangor constituency, for which former MIC publicity chief P Kamalanathan is the MP.

Vell Paari said he was appalled by the living conditions there and pledged to start a fund to relocate the families to a place yet to be identified.

Arutchelvan suggested that MIC use its resources to come up with a comprehensive plan with clear objectives that would lift plantation workers out of their misery.

“In the early days, MIC used to tell estate workers to move to urban areas for a better living,” he said. “Recently, we had the MIC president asking Indians to move back into the plantations if they can’t cope in urban areas. MIC itself has got confused.”

MIC president G Palanivel made his call to urban Indians last March, after the government had agreed on a minimum monthly wage of RM700 for estate workers. The call drew flak from many quarters, including MIC Youth chief T Mohan, who said working in estates was not part of the path to a bright future.

Follow-up programmes

Arutchelvan urged Vell Paari to get government agencies such as the Welfare Department and the Health Ministry to investigate the situation at Nigel Gardner.

He added that PSM was willing to assist MIC in the best interest of plantation workers.

“However, I do not believe that relocating them will help them much,” he said. “Previously, when estate workers in Prang Besar were relocated to make way for the Putrajaya project, their lifestyle became worse and the community disintegrated.”

But lawyer KA Ramu, a DAP member who is familiar with conditions at Nigel Gardner, said relocating the residents was the best immediate solution for them.

“Right now, there is no national blueprint to protect the welfare of estate workers,” he said. “So, relocating them is the best alternative for them at this point in time.”

However, he added, there must be follow-up programmes to help them adapt to their new surroundings and make a better living.

“You cannot simply relocate people to an area without providing them with the necessary skills and motivation to cope with the new surroundings,” he said.

Among the most important programmes, he said, would be counselling, especially if they were moved to an urban setting.

“Without that, the community will falter and they will resort to crime for a living,” he said.

‘Manila feared Misuari would flee once deported’

A leaked US cable from 2001 highlighted the tug-of-war between Malaysia and the Philippines to wash their hands off Mindanao rebel Mur Misuari.
KUALA LUMPUR: The Philippines had hoped that it could force Malaysia to incarcerate former Muslim Mindanao governor Nur Misuari here in 2001 by linking him with terrorist group Abu Sayyaf and the kidnapping of 21 people from Sipadan island a year before.

To achieve this, Manila had shared intelligence on Misuari with Kuala Lumpur.

“A (Malaysian) foreign ministry contact said that Manila was now alerting Malaysian authorities to Misuari’s connections to Abu Sayyaf and the Sipadan kidnappings,” said a confidential US embassy cable to the US State Department in Washington on Nov 28, 2001.

The cable was leaked by whistleblower site WikiLeaks exclusively to FMT today.
US diplomats based in the US embassy here had named the Malaysian foreign embassy contact in the cable, stating that he was from the Southeast Asia Division of the ministry.

According to the cable, quoting the ministry official, Manila was feeding information to Malaysia “perhaps as a convenient way to keep Misuari incarcerated in Malaysia while the Malaysian police carry out what is sure to be a complex terrorism investigation”.

Misuari and six of his Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) followers were arrested by the Malaysian authorities on Nov 24, 2001 for trying to enter Sabah illegally.

They were fleeing southern Philippines after instigating a war between Manila and his armed supporters, resulting in as many as 200 people dead.

It was reported at that time that Malaysia was looking forward to send back Misuari to the Philippines as it did not want to handle Misuari and get involved in a complicated affair.

The Malaysian government had previously given refuge to Misuari and his followers during the Mindanao war in the 1970s. However, this time around prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad ruled out political asylum.

“This is an internal matter of the Philippines and Malaysia should not interfere by providing refuge to rebels from other countries,” he was quoted as saying in Bernama then.

Manila not confident of getting conviction

The Phlippines, however, was keen to let Malaysia handle Misuari. The then Philippine president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was quick to point out Misuari’s alliance with Abu Sayyaf and the Sipadan kidnapping, hoping that this would prompt Malaysia to take action against Misuari.

“It’s not right to identify Misuari (with the) MNLF anymore. It’s better to identify him with the Abu Sayyaf,” she was quoted as saying in newspapers.

The confidential US cable noted that Malaysian officials were aware that the Philippine government was “talking out of both sides of its mouth”.

The cable noted that while Arroyo was hoping for Malaysia to handle the Misuari problem, her foreign ministry, however, was sending a different message to Malaysia – that his deportation would be requested following the completion of Mindanao elections where Misuari’s successor as governor is to be elected.
“The Philippine government fears that putting Misuari on trial for rebellion will not only cause a popular backlash, but may not result in conviction,” added the cable, quoting the Malaysian foreign ministry source.

“The Philippine government was not confident it could secure a conviction, and worried that Misuari may ultimately slip away,” it added.

Arroyo had hoped that a conviction in a Malaysian court would be a “safer and more effective method of keeping Misuari group behind bars”, the cable stated.

“Personally, I want him to stay in (a) Malaysian jail,” CNN had quoted Arroyo just days after Misuari’s arrest in Sabah.

Deported after 44 days
 
The Malaysian police at that time had acknowledged that Misuari and his followers were investigated for links with Abu Sayyaf and the Sipadan kidnapping, which included the abduction of two Malaysians in the group of 21.

However, Malaysian politicians, including the then deputy prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, then Sabah chief minister Chong Kah Kiat and then Umno Youth chief Hishammuddin Hussein had all called for Misuari to be deported immediately to the Philippines.

The cable also noted that Hishammuddin had admitted being a friend of Misuari.

The ping-pong battle over Misuari between Malaysia and the Philippines finally ended when he was deported on Jan 7, 2002 – 44 days after he was arrested off the coast of Sabah.
He was charged and jailed for rebellion in the Philippines and was released in 2009.

Pegawai Kerajaan Juga Wajib Pegang Amanah Untuk Rakyat

Dari TV Selangor

Penasihat Ekonomi Selangor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim mengingatkan Pegawai Kerajaan Negeri Selangor termasuk di peringkat Pihak Berkuasa Tempatan (PBT) supaya melaksanakan amanah yang diberikan dengan jujur bagi kemudahan dan keadilan rakyat.

Malah kata Anwar, mereka tidak perlu merasa takut untuk menjalankan tugas yang diberikan biarpun ia dikatakan bercanggah dengan prinsip mahupun amalan kerajaan Umno-Barisan Nasional.
Anwar berkata demikian pada Wacana Ekonomi di Majlis Perbandaran Selayang hari ini.

Menceritakan pengalamannya sebagai Menteri Kewangan selama lapan tahun, Anwar memberitahu bagaimana Pegawai Kementeriannya bertindak mengikut arahan beliau sehingga menyebabkan kenaikan tol tidak berlaku ketika itu, walaupun didesak oleh menteri-menteri lain.

“Ini pegawai yang mainkan peranan. Pegawai di Kementerian Kewangan buat perkiraan beritahu tidak munasabah tol dinaikkan. Saya yakin perkiraan itu,”kata Anwar.

“Satu tindakan dari pegawai itu beri kesan kepada puluhan jika tidak ratusan orang. Ini tanggungjawab kita dalam bicara soal ini. Tetapi lebih dari itu, sebagai rakyat dan pegawai kerajaan, kita harus tahu apa kepincangan yang berlaku dan kenapa sebahagian dari kami termasuk kerajaan negeri beri kenyataan atau ketetapan yang bercanggah dengan Pusat,” tambah beliau.

Anwar dalam ucaptama wacana itu hari ini menyatakan perancangan dan dasar kerajaan negeri adalah untuk membela nasib rakyat yang tidak mendapat dokongan sewajarnya dari kerajaan Pusat.

Sebagai contoh, Anwar menyatakan perjanjian antara kerajaan dan Pembekal Tenaga Bebas (IPP) hanya memberi keuntungan kepada ahli perniagaan dan kroni yang rapat dengan pemerintah, sedangkan rakyat pula menanggung beban akibat kenaikan tarif elektrik.

Menurut Anwar, bekas Ketua Pegawai Eksekutif TNB, Tan Sri Ani Arope pernah menyatakan kepada umum bahawa beliau tidak setuju dengan harga yang terlalu mahal dikenakan oleh IPP kepada TNB.

“Berlaku tahun 96, kesannya sehingga kini.Sekarang naik lagi. Syarikat IPP untung sehingga RM 4 billion, rakyat harus bayar kos lebih. Ini soal dasar dan pentadbiran. Ini fakta yang tidak boleh dinafikan. Media Umno boleh padamkan tapi inilah kenyataan ketua TNB ketika itu, Tan Sri Ani Arope,” kata Anwar.

Menurut Anwar hal itulah sebenarnya yang ditentang Pakatan Rakyat kerana dasar sedemikian menjadikan rakyat semakin terhimpit hanya untuk kepentingan pihak tertentu.

“Sepatutnya bila kita swastakan sepatutnya menjadikan ia sepatutnya lebih kompetetif. Samada ia jadi lebih cekap bila kita bayar harga sama, atau harga lebih murah.

“Untung berbilion harga tarif nak naik lagi. Ini perkiraan apa? Ini bermakna kita pelihara syarikat kaya tapi membebankan rakyat di bawah,” katanya lagi.

How MIC can help sidelined students

Give them places in AIMST, says PKR’s Rajendran
PETALING JAYA: A PKR leader today challenged MIC to reserve places in its own medical school for poor but bright Indian students.

G Rajendran, vice president of Malacca PKR, said it would be only logical for MIC to use its influence with the Asian Institute of Medicine, Science and Technology (AIMST) to help qualified Indian students sidelined by the government.

AIMST was set up about 10 years ago by MIC’s education arm, the Maju Institute of Education Development (MIED).

“Since Indian students have been sidelined from Public Service Department (PSD) scholarships, MIC, which claims to be the only caretaker of the Indian community, must provide at least 10 free medical seats every year,” Rajendran said in an interview with FMT.

Cowards and traitors

He accused MIC of failing to fulfil its role as the “Indian voice” in the federal government and to produce a comprehensive plan to solve the community’s problems, especially in educating their children.
He also blasted what he called the “Umno government”, accusing it of “persecuting” the Indian community.

“Every year, Indian students face the same problem; their names get axed from the scholarship list despite their excellent SPM results,” he said.

He called MIC leaders “cowards” for not speaking up against the PSD policy.
“They are cowards. They can only bash clowns like Ibrahim Ali and not the PSD director or the  Education Minister, who are the real traitors of the nation,” he said.

Cabinet offers extra 86 PSD scholarships


KUALA LUMPUR:  Caving into pressure, the government today announced that the Public Service Department (PSD) scholarships would be awarded to the extra 86 SPM top scorers who failed to receive grants for overseas programmes.

However, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz said the Cabinet decided this morning that the students would not receive financial aid for overseas programmes but be placed in local private colleges

This meant that the students would still have the opportunity to go for overseas courses through twinning programmes offered by local private colleges.

Nazri said the decision was made to be cost effective.

Sending the students for overseas courses would cost the government RM52.1 million. Sending them to local private colleges would only cost RM21.6 million.

“If we keep them here, it’s RM14.8 million. If we send them overseas, the cost will increase to RM52.1million but if we offer them places in local private colleges according to discipline requested it will only cost RM21.6million,” he told a press conference here.

Not a blanket policy

The Cabinet had also approved the appeals of other top students that qualified for PSD scholarships for local matriculation courses to provide them with majoring options while those with 8A+ grades offered grants for local diploma courses will be offered matriculation courses of their choices instead.

“The Cabinet has accepted these requests and the deputy prime minister (Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also the education minister) will order his ministry (to execute the orders),” said Nazri.

Cabinet approval to expand the overseas scholarships quota for the 86 students could set a precedent with wider implications for future distribution of grants which was limited to 1,500 spaces.

The move could be seen as a political strategy as BN geared up for snap polls. It is likely that future qualified students left out from the quota would use this year’s leniency as basis for appeal.

This was indirectly admitted by Nazri yesterday when he said that “expectations” for scholarships this year were high due to the issue being highly politicised.

The minister, however, made it clear that this year’s decision will not be a blanket policy for future PSD scholarship applications.

1MDB funds available

There was also a decision by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak that Nazri chaired a meeting with Barisan Nasional component party leaders who sit in the Cabinet to identify students outside the 9A+ and 8A+ categories for 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scholarships.

1MDB is a wholly-owned government sovereign fund introduced by Najib to promote developments and foreign direct investments.

“1MDB is ready to offer them 500 places and they will be sponsored,” said Nazri, adding that the meeting will be chaired on Monday.

The prolonged scholarship row was triggered by Deputy Education Minister Wee Ka Siong’s claims that 363 straight A+ students failed to get scholarships this year despite the promise made by Najib that all students scoring 8A+ and above will receive PSD scholarships.

The promise was made following a similar allegation of unfair scholarship distribution last year.
Wee also claimed that there were “little Napoleans” in the PSD who were directly acting against the Cabinet directive.

Perimekar: Chronicle of a death foretold?

New documents show that the company which acted as the go-between for the French submarines deal was specifically set up to push through the purchase.

By Céline Boileau
PETALING JAYA: Businessman Lodin Wok Kamaruddin has recently been cited by WikiLeaks as one of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s close friends.

What WikiLeaks didn’t reveal is that Lodin Wok was also one of the directors of Perimekar Sdn Bhd until last year.

Last year too, the company registered huge losses.
Perimekar had acted as the go-between for the procurement of two French-made submarines by the Malaysian Defence Ministry. In the process, the company made RM534.8 million in commission.

A simple line, buried in a mass of documents, is sometimes enough to cause an avalanche of surprises.
The US diplomatic cable from the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur revealed by WikiLeaks on May 19 contains a list of friends of Najib.

One of them is “Lodin Wok Kamaruddin, Chief of the Armed Forces Fund Board”, an institution also known as Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT).

Due to the various companies in which Lodin Wok has held positions of responsibility, the businessman may find himself involved in the case of “Scorpene scandal”, currently under probe in France.

Thus, in addition to his position in LTAT, Lodin Wok is deputy chairman of Boustead Holdings Bhd. These two companies hold 20% each of Perimekar shares, through the holding KS Ombak Laut Sdn Bhd. The remaining 60% is held by KS Ombak Laut.

What is less known is that according to Perimekar financial statements, Lodin Wok is one of the five directors of Perimekar, alongside Mazlinda Makhzan, Rozana Abdullah Meili, Abdul Rani Mohd Hussin Abdullah and Mohd Hussin Tamby.
He also sits on the boards of Affin Bank Bhd,one of Perimekar’s bankers.
These string of “coincidences” could place the 61-year-old businessman in an difficult position regarding the submarines deals.

When contacted for comment, Lodin Wok said he had resigned from Perimekar board on July 1, 2010 after the company completed its contract with the government upon the delivery of the two Scorpene submarines. He added that he was a director in the company as a representative of LTAT.

Ups and downs of Perimekar

Besides, it appears that Perimekar has been declining since last year. Suspected of being created for the sole purpose of distributing a RM500 million commission between Malaysian and foreign beneficiaries after the sale of the submarines, the company, registered in 1999, defines its activity as “marketing, maintenance and other activities related to submarines and surface vessels…”.

The financial statements report that Perimekar has a single customer: the Malaysian government.
They also show that the company has a wide range of financial performance from year to year. For example, while the company has reported a net loss of RM8.2 million in 2003, it declared a net profit of RM24.7 million the following year.

In 2008, Perimekar also became a group with two small subsidiaries (Prima Laksana and Gagah Nirwana).
Now, has the golden age of Perimekar gone? Between 2009 and 2010, while the submarines were being delivered, Perimekar’s activity has (almost) tumbled down: the company has seen its net income decrease from a profit of RM19 million to a loss amounting to RM3.3 million.

The turnover has plunged from about RM85 million to RM23 million – an amount still comfortable enough for its shareholders.

They have been granted dividends of RM56.2 million in 2009 (66% of the turnover) and RM18.7 million in 2010 (81% of the turnover).

Between 2003 and 2010, the company received more than RM200 million from its contract with the government.

However, the financial report of 2010 stated: “The company’s project with the governement of Malaysia was completed on Dec 25, 2009, after which a downsizing exercise was done in a fair manner and the company was focusing on prospecting for other viable business opportunities.”

The second company

According to Dr Kua Kia Soong, director of Suaram and author of the book “Questioning arms spending in Malaysia”, the rise and fall of Perimekar sounds like a convenient story to hide from the investigation into the Scorpene deal.

“We would like a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate how Perimekar disbursed 114 million euros (RM500 million) for apparently ‘coordination and support services” in those six years,” he said.

“Looking at the financial accounts of the company, Perimekar did not have the means to undertake such a contract,” he added. From 2003 to 2004, the company declared a revenue from 0 to RM67 million.
But Perimekar is not the only Malaysian company being involved in the Scorpene deal.

Boustead DCNS Naval Corp, a 60:40 joint venture between BHIC Defence Technologies and the French-based DCNS, started in 2009, was awarded by the defence minister a RM532 million contract related to the Scorpene submarines.

The company thus undertakes service support of Scorpene submarines from 2010 to 2015. BHIC Defence is owned by BHIC (Boustead Heavy Industries Corporation), whose chairman is Lodin Wok.

Céline Boileau is a freelance writer based in Paris.