MCA’s attack on the Selangor government spooks party veterans.
He was referring to the allegation of abuse of public funds in the Talam affair and the fact that BN did nothing about the company’s debts when it ruled Selangor.
Other party veterans are similarly embarrassed by what one of them called the “ill-planned blitz” on Selangor Pakatan Rakyat that was spearheaded by Chua Tee Yong, who heads the party’s Young Professionals Bureau and who happens to be party boss Dr Chua Soi Lek’s son.
Chua Junior apparently smelled a major scandal in the state’s exercise to recover debts owed to it by Talam Corporation Berhad (now known as Trinity Corporation Berhad) and went to town with it without checking his facts, which gives the lie to his father’s glowing endorsement of him as a bright young fellow.
In the wake of DAP’s exposure of Tee Yong’s misplaced bravado, what are we now to make of Chua Senior’s description of his son as a competent chartered accountant and a worthy former CEO of a government-linked company?
Veteran party leaders are not the only ones who are spooked. Many rank-and-file members are reportedly scrambling to find dark corners where they can hide their faces until, hopefully, the storm of shame blows over.
Colourful Chinese sayings are being used to depict the unfortunate situation into which Tee Yong has put his already embattled party.
“He has already dropped a stone on his own foot,” lamented a veteran of Selangor MCA. “If he is allowed to continue, he might drop a huge rock on MCA’s head.”
“Mayi ken gutou—an ant desperately gnawing for meat on a dry bone,” said another veteran.”
“Perhaps,” said another, “the hat Tee Yong is wearing is too big for his head, covering his eyes so he can’t see. Is that why he’s stumbling all over the place?”
Not a bailout
DAP’s Tony Pua criticised Tee Yong for his inability to distinguish between “buying” and the “taking over” of assets as part of the Selangor government’s debt recovery exercise.
Pointing out that Talam had to give up assets worth hundreds of millions of ringgit in order to settle its debts, Pua also questioned the wisdom in Tee Yong’s choice of words when he described the exercise as a “bailout”.
But what was most damaging to MCA in Tee Yong’s publicity blitz was that he indirectly revealed that nothing was done to those debts under BN rule.
What was MCA doing as part of the erstwhile Selangor administration? Did it not play its role as a watchdog to ensure transparency and accountability? Or was it just a mad dog constantly barking at the opposition?
A former MCA secretary-general questioned Tee Yong’s competence in the task of demonising Pakatan Rakyat in view of his junior position in the party. Indeed, asked the veteran, would he even have been considered for his position of Deputy Agriculture Minister and his appointment as one of the three trustees of the party’s assets if he had not been the party president’s son?
“The first day of his press conference, he was already fumbling over facts and figures and he seemed to be barking at the wrong tree.”
The former secretary-general wondered aloud why the task of attacking the Selangor government was not entrusted to Donald Lim Siang Chai, who is MCA Selangor’s chairman as well as Deputy Finance Minister.
“Chua Junior should focus on agriculture, like following up on pig farmers’ problems, instead of treading on unfamiliar ground,” another party member said.
Many others, while conceding that it was normal and a legitimate political move for MCA to question the performance of the Pakatan Rakyat-led state government, said they were worried that the current leadership might not be fully conscious that the party lacked the moral ground from which to launch its attacks.
Indeed, the attack over the Talam issue follows on the heels of another attempt at demonising Pakatan Rakyat—Malacca MCA’s allegation that Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had an extramarital affair. This prompted DAP chairman Karpal Singh to question why the Attorney-General had neglected to charge Chua Senior with engaging in unnatural sex, to which he had confessed.
MCA veterans have expressed disgust at such “below the belt” attacks. They fear that it would create a backlash and generate sympathy with and goodwill towards Pakatan.
Some party insiders are nervously biting their fingernails because they think the huge publicity being given to Tee Yong is not going to make it any easier for MCA to dismiss allegations that the party practises nepotism.
Is there a hidden agenda to promote Junior’s political standing as the general election approaches?
“Why was Donald Lim not entrusted to spearhead this task (of attacking the Selangor government) or even enlisted to assist Tee Yong?” a party insider asked.
“I am sure that as Deputy Minister of Finance he has better human resources and experts to scrutinise the issues at hand.”
A party man who is familiar with Talam Corporation’s history said Tee Yong, instead of succeeding in scoring political mileage for MCA, had exposed how small-minded he was by nit picking on insignificant facts and missing the big picture.
“Everybody knows that Talam was already facing financial problems during the BN rule in the state, but nothing was done to recover the debts,” he said.
Tee Yong in fact seemed ill prepared for his press conference, telling reporters he was waiting for more information in the Talam case. This was despite the ready availability of relevant information on Bursa Malaysia’s website.
“Tee Yong seems to be surrounded more by shoeshine boys than corporate experts,” said a corporate leader and party member as he gestured towards photographs from the press conference that The Star had splashed on its pages.
“Without knowing the true facts of the case, Tee Yong is using all the wrong transaction terminologies like ‘bailing out’ and ‘selling’, which imply exchanges of cash and properties when in fact there were probably more complex approaches in the debt recovery exercise.
“Let’s not forget that the debt recovery was conducted and approved by several relevant authorities and under the watchful eyes of the shareholders.
“Tee Yong should not have come out with guns blazing without a proper focus.”
All that noise from the haphazard shooting has managed only to draw out more worms from the BN woodwork. At his press conference, Tony Pua challenged Tee Yong to investigate an allegation that Umno’s Tanjong Karang division in April 2002 paid only RM130,244 for 1.2 hectares of commercial land worth more than RM3 million.
“Or can Datuk Chua (Tee Yong) demand accountability and transparency from the former BN state government for alienating another piece of land to Tanjong Karang Umno division for only RM47,039 when the 0.437-hectare land is worth more than a million ringgit based on the state’s own valuation?” Pua added.
Since Big Brother Umno is involved, Pua’s challenge may be too tough for Chua Junior to meet. Perhaps he should instead find out how long it has been since MCA Headquarters last tabled its accounts at the party’s annual general assembly, as is required by the party constitution. For instance, were party members duly informed of the details of the transactions involved in MCA’s purchase of Wisma Multipurpose Holdings Berhad?
Stanley Koh is a former head of MCA’s research unit. He is now a FMT columnist.