How to build a six million dollar house

Raja Petra Kamarudin

If there is one thing Sabah Chief Ministers feel is envy towards Sarawak Chief Ministers; the reason being, Sarawak Chief Ministers rule for life while Sabah Chief Ministers rule for only two years, slightly longer than the lifecycle of a butterfly.

But that was until quite recently. Now, Sabah Chief Ministers too rule for life, so they can do very much as they please since there is no longer any need for them to face the music once they leave office; basically because they will not be leaving office so soon and, by the time they do, whatever misdeeds they have committed will all be water under the bridge by then.

Singapore patriarch Lee Kuan Yew, who visited Malaysia last week, said one way to reduce, if not eliminate, corruption would be to pay those in positions of authority a huge salary. Then there would no longer be any need for them to take ‘under-the-table’ money since they already have so much cash in their pockets.

That, however, does not necessarily hold true in Malaysia. Many a tycoon has been sent to prison for corruption or criminal breach of trust; some for meagre amounts of a mere few thousand Ringgit; though they had hundreds of millions in their bank accounts. Tan Koon Swan is one example and Abdullah Ang, another; just to name but two of the many who were sent to jail not for necessity but for greed.

Then we have the recently installed Sabah Chief-Minister-for-life, Musa Aman. He was worth RM300 million the day he took office as Chief Minister two years ago, according to his own claim. Today, he is estimated to be worth three times that. But of course he is no longer boasting about how much he is worth because to do so would be like placing a noose around his own neck. And the tripling of his wealth in a mere two years could never have been achieved from his salary alone, so it can only be from dubious means. And Malaysia Today, over the last few months, has revealed just a few of his shenanigans which are but a tip of the iceberg. (ARCHIVES: Special Reports on Sabah). And the iceberg is not melting, mind you. It is getting bigger and bigger in spite of the heat Malaysia Today is generating.

Even Tengku Adnan bin Tengku Mansor, the Chairman of Syarikat Perumahan Negara (SPN) and Member of Parliament for Putrajaya, seems perturbed by Musa Aman’s blatant excesses. And if someone of the likes of Tengku Adnan can find Musa Aman unsettling, what more the man on the street?

Incidentally, to digress a bit, according to his Register of Birth number 100502, Tengku Adnan was born in the Melaka General Hospital at 6.10am on 20 December 1950 as Adnan bin Mansor. On 20 December 1962, at the age of 12, Adnan bin Mansor was issued an identity card number 4079409 in the name of Adnan bin Mansor. This identity card was reissued on 3 March 1969 when Adnan bin Mansor reached the age of 18, as required by law.

On 3 October 1972, Adnan bin Mansor changed his name to Tengku Adnan bin Tengku Mansor while he also changed the name of his father from Mansor bin Hj Baba to Tengku Mansor bin Tengku Hj Baba. With one swoop, three generations became members of the Melaka Royal Family; that is if Melaka does have a royal family.

On the same day, 3 October 1972, Adnan bin Mansor was issued a new identity card in the name of Tengku Adnan bin Tengku Mansor. Less than two years later, on 2 April 1974, his father too was issued a new identity card, number 3983336, in the name of Tengku Mohammed Mansor bin Tengku Haji Baba.

Any wonder Indonesians, Thais, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Filipinos and Myanmarans (or is it Myanmaris?), can easily obtain identity cards and vote for Barisan Nasional in the general elections (a prerequisite for becoming ‘Malaysian citizens’ and getting an identity card issued in your name)?

Anyway, back to the Sabah story: Syarikat Perumahan Negara allocated 30,000 units of low-cost houses to Sabah under the Rumah Mampu Milek scheme for the homeless and to resettle squatters whose houses are to be demolished. The State then formed a housing development company called Supernesa Sdn Bhd to manage the development of these 30,000 units.

Now, who is the Chairman of this new state housing development company? Why, Musa Aman confidante and crony, Datuk Haji Musbah Haji Jamli, of course — the Umno Kota Belud division chief who owns the six million Ringgit house which Malaysia Today featured last week. (Sabah homes of the filthy rich and infamous). Haji Musbah has given a whole new meaning to the term ‘six million dollar man’.

Recently, Syarikat Perumahan Negara was asked to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Supernesa Sdn Bhd giving Supernesa the sole rights for the development of the 30,000-unit low cost houses. Tengku Adnan was most displeased with the arrangement so he boycotted the signing ceremony and refused to grace the occasion.

And what is the amount of money involved? Roughly one billion Ringgit!

What is most disconcerting about the whole thing is the fact that any company that wishes to act as Supernesa’s contractor would have to pay a 13% commission to the state agency. Invariably, this will jack up the development cost of the houses and which Syarikat Perumahan Negara would have to bear. Then there is the mandatory ‘donations’ to Umno that the contractors would have to pay plus the customary ‘under-the-table’ money to Haji Musbah. And the under-the-table money must be large enough to cover the others as well as Haji Musbah cannot hope to ‘eat alone’ but would have to spread it out to the other decision makers as well.

Even before the project can get off the ground the contractors are already grumbling. They would have to pay at least 30% in various ‘commissions’ and ‘fees’, official and unofficial, so how could they carry the cost to build houses that would have to meet certain government-controlled prices. If they are not allowed to increase the contract price to cover this extremely large commission, then they would have to absorb the cost from their profits. But there is not much profit in building houses where the prices are controlled by the government.

Even Tengku Adnan finds this whole arrangement revolting. These rich Sabah tycoons would resort to anything to fill their pockets already bursting with millions of Ringgit plundered from the state?

Well, as I have said earlier, you cannot build a six million Ringgit mansion from your salary alone. You need a substantial amount of under-the-table money to pay for it. And this is just one of the many scams perpetuated by these people in power. But the sad reality of this whole thing is, come next general election, the voters would forget about all this and would still vote into office the government that is robbing them blind in broad daylight. And, in the meantime, Musa Aman’s wealth grows from RM300 million to RM600 million to RM900 million and, by 2020, you can expect this Sabah Chief Minister’s wealth to match the billions of the much envied Sarawak Chief Minister.

And that is how to build a six million dollar house: from the under-the-table money from building 30,000 houses for the poor and downtrodden.

I am certainly in the wrong profession.