Time For Answers Over Sarawak’s 1MDB

DAP Assemblyman Ting Tiong Choon (above) has continued his rightful campaign to get answers from Sarawak’s so-called ‘great and good’, who have presided over the disgraceful dissipation of funds belonging to Native Land Rights owners, leaving the half billion ringgit Amanah Saham Sarawak (ASSAR) fund ringing empty save for a few remaining coppers.

It was Sarawak Report that first dubbed this disaster as Sarawak’s 1MDB when we exposed the scandal way back in 2016. At that time only 17 sens in the ringgit remained of the money that the native land owners had been forced to ‘invest’ in the state government controlled fund – their pitiful compensation in return for lands alienated by the self-same state and concessioned off to crony timber and logging concerns.

Now, according to YB Ting, there remains merely 2.9 cents. Unbelievably, more is being spent each year in ‘management fees’ than remains in the fund!

The fund was described as being set up to ‘educate’ rural people into the ‘shareholding economy’.  It was considered ‘irresponsible’ to just pay them money for their lands as they would (it was considered) just naively spend it, instead of saving it and investing it to provide income in later life.

Well, look who have turned out to be the irresponsible ones.  YB Ting’s speech (below) lays out in devastating tones the names of the so-called guardians of this fund and the list of august positions held in the state by each and every one – they are in short, Taib’s key henchmen.

When one considers the economic mega-mess perpetrated by these grandiose gentlemen on the funds belonging to Sarawak’s most disadvantaged and dispossessed people it becomes all the easier to understand why Malaysia’s Finance Minister last week described the finances of the state as being on the point of going bust.  After all, we are talking about the same people in charge.

Interestingly, until they cut and ran from Sarawak back in 2014, the trustees of this lamentable and disgracefully managed outfit were the global bank HSBC. The ASSAR scandal, more than any other, explains the hasty departure of this sanctimoniously self-promoting global bank (board any plane on the planet and you will be repeatedly and relentlessly informed of their alleged environmental and socially responsible credentials).

The truth is that ASSAR’s board and executives owe a 360 degree explanation for their record in having lost every single ringgit ever invested in the fund they were paid to manage on behalf of tens of thousands of native landowners, who were given no choice by this state government but to hand their money to them in trust.

Insiders have informed Sarawak Report about crony deals and conflicts of interest as the money from these people’s savings were handed out to friends and family… never to be returned, let alone with interest.

What better microcosm of the way the state has been managed by the plundering pals around Taib Mahmud for the past four decades?

Due diligence teams working for the fund, together with the Auditor General have asked over the years for a full explanation as to the apparent ‘conflicts of interest’ associated with the investments of this fund and the appalling ‘losses’ incurred.  So far, no answer. Hence the validity of the remarks below of YB Ting.

An MACC investigation should be launched immediately

(Debate Speech by YB Ting Tiong Choon on the debate of Motion of Appreciation in the Sarawak State Legislative Council)

Tuan Speaker, I have previously comment in this house the viability of the Amanah Saham Sarawak, but the Minister has ignored the concern. Two weeks ago, I was given this Interim Report of Amanah Saham Sarawak dated 8th of February 2019 and signed by Tan Sri Datuk Amar Haji Bujang Mohd Nor and Dato Haji Idris Haji Buang.

Amanah Saham Sarawak is a Sarawak government linked investment holding company. It was set up in 1993 with the aim of providing opportunity for Bumiputera Sarawak to enter main stream cash and equity economy collectively. And I believe most unitholders are from rural Dayaks communities where cash compensation for compulsory acquisition of NCR land were channelled to Amanah Saham Sarawak for long term “growth and income fund”.

For the information of the house, there are currently 62,361 unitholders of Amanah Saham Sarawak, holding a total of more than 457 million units. Each of this unit is guaranteed the par value of RM1 by Sarawak Government.

As on 31st December 2018, the net asset value for one unit of Amanah Saham Sarawak is a mere 2.9 cents, and Sarawak Government is liable for the rest 97.1 cents for each unit as guarantor.

The net asset of Amanah Saham Sarawak has reduced by 62% in 2018, from RM35 million to RM13 million ringgit. Most of the asset in Amanah Saham Sarawak is in cash or bank deposit or non-trading stocks. The fund has lost RM4.3 million in the last 6 months, and most of these losses were due to ludicrous management fees.

Sarawakians entrusted their government to manage the State resources and the successive BN/GPS governments have performed poorly in the past 55 years. In Amanah Saham Sarawak, the real monies of Sarawak Bumiputera unitholders and the Sarawak government were virtually disappeared in front of their eyes.

Mr Speaker, I want to spend a few minutes regarding the operation of Amanah Saham Sarawak, which I think is the 1MDB of Sarawak.

Amanah Saham Sarawak has recently changed the fund manager to Amanahraya Trustees Berhad.

There are 3 Board of Directors:

1. Dato Sri Ahmad Tarmizi Bin Haji Sulaiman

He is our State Financial Secretary since 2004.

He was the CEO of Amanah Saham Sarawak Berhad between 1993 to 2002 He is also the Chairman of Sacofa Sdn. Bhd.

2.DatukAbangHajiAbdulKarimBinTunAbangHajiOpeng,aprominentcorporate figure in Sarawak.

He is the President of the Sarawak Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) He is the Chairman of Brooke Dockyard and Engineering Works Corporation

A Senior Director of Ta Ann Holdings Bhd.

A member of Sarawak Islamic Council and the President of Sarawak Bumiputra Chamber of Entrepreneurs

3. Ambrose Anak Enturan

A prominent Dayaks leader in PBB

Current member for N64 Katibas since 1991

He was Assistant Minister of Resource Planning, Assistant Minister of Finance and Assistant Minister of Rural Development and Public Utilities.

A Board of Director of Ta Ann Holding Berhad

The Executive Director of Hornbill Skyways Sdn Bhd.

We have the 3 of the most qualified persons in Sarawak sitting on the Board of Directors for Amanah Saham Sarawak and yet the Trust is now in danger of zero net asset within a year.

There are 2 other people in Amanah Saham Sarawak Berhad:

1. Pengerusi Tan Sri Datuk Amar Haji Bujang Mohd Nor

The Director of Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation The Executive Chairman of Harwood Timber Sdn Bhd

The Acting Governor of Sarawak on 2 separate occasions

2. Pengarah Dato Haji Idris Haji Buang

A member of this August House for Mara Tuang Senator for Dewan Negara between 2005 to 2008 Group Chairman of Hock Seng Lee Berhad

Director of Sarawak Energy Berhad

The Information Chief of PBB, and

A member of the Sarawak Public Account Committee.

The total asset of the fund is now only RM31.8 million (80% in cash) and it is inconceivable that ASS will able making profit again. The income for the fund is now minimal and yet the management fee is in excess of RM7 million a year. The management fee is exorbitant because the management fee of 1.5% of managed fund include the guarantee of RM444 million by Sarawak Government. So Amanah Saham Sarawak paid an extra of RM6.66 million to the fund manager for doing nothing. WHY?

It is also interesting to note that Amanah Saham Sarawak has a current liability of more than RM18 million to the fund manager as on 31 December 2018. In another word, the fund manager has not been paid for more than two and a half years.

In fact, this Fund’s expenditure has been consistently more than its income for the past few years. In 2019, the cost for managing Amanah Saham Sarawak is going to be more than 50% of the unit value and that is certainly not viable.

Tuan Speaker, has Amanah Saham Sarawak been operating while insolvent over the past few years? I predict Amanah Saham Sarawak would have no net asset before the end of the year. I would assume anyone with common sense would redeem their units immediately.

Amanah Saham Sarawak has asset of more than half a billion 25 years ago is now basically worthless to the unitholders if not guaranteed by Sarawak people. Tuan Speaker, if 5 calibre leaders mentioned above who are mainly from PBB if not all, are not able to safeguard our asset, how can Sarawakians expect GPS to preserve our resources and to protect our rights as Anak Sarawak.

Tuan Speaker, how many cases like this in Sarawak? How much public assets are mismanaged by the government? How much assets were trashed like this? Are there endemic in the Administration? I would recommend PAC to do a full investigation on Amanah Saham Sarawak before the case is taken up by MACC

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