Ong vs Tiong – who’s lying?

Ong has publicly hinted that a powerful coalition of business and political forces is out to get him from outside MCA, while his deputy, Dr Chua Soi Lek, and supporters are trying to agitate for an EGM to dethrone him from within MCA. 

Sim Kwang Yang, Malaysian Mirror

The Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) seems to have become the black hole that swallows not only escalating astronomical sums of tax-payers’ money, but also prominent Malaysian personalities amidst revelations of irregularities and possible fraud involved in the mega-project.

The latest victims of the PKFZ black hole have been the MCA president and Transport Minister Ong Tee Keat and MP for Bintulu and BN Parliamentary Backbenchers Club chairman Tiong King Sing.

Tiong is also the CEO of Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd, the turnkey contractor for the PKFZ development project. On August 11, Port Klang Authority chairman Lee Hwa Beng had lodged a police report against Kuala Dimensi for possible fraudulent claims ranging from RM500mil to RM1bil.

ong-tee-keat-tiong-king-sing.jpgTiong has been suing everybody in sight for defamation whenever his company’s name is mentioned in connection with the PKFZ fiasco. His reaction to the police report lodged by Lee was his revelation that he had made a RM10mil loan (or donation) to MCA through Ong, while his (Tiong's) deputy disclosed that Ong had used Tiong’s private jet five times in the past.

Business tied to politics

In Malaysia, big business is often closely tied to politics. When business tycoons make huge donations to a political party, the natural question in the mind of cynical citizens like me is: what does he get out of it?

Ong has vehemently denied accepting such a donation and threatened to sue Tiong. Tiong turned around and questioned the legality of Lee's appointment as PKA chairman.

The open spate of accusations and counter-accusations is so ugly that the Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had to issue a gag order for the two to shut up, in order to protect the image of Barisan Nasional. This has drawn a sea of criticisms on the Internet that the DPM is trying to cover up the PKFZ scam.

Since then, Ong has organised a series of road shows to meet MCA grassroots, to shore up his position in the party.

Ong is the newly minted MCA president voted in on his platform of bringing reform to MCA. He has often declared his intention to restore integrity and transparency to politics, and that was why he had decided to investigate into the PKFZ scandal and make the findings public.

He knew the risks. The cost of developing the PKFZ had ballooned from slightly over RM1bil to well over RM12bil. We can only speculate as to the number of crocodiles grown very fat from the bloated projects. In a country where negotiated contracts are preferred to open tender, mega government projects are a short-cut to fairy tales of rags to riches overnight.

Face crocodiles from 10 directions

Now that the can of worms has been opened, Ong has to face crocodiles from ten different directions. Ong has publicly hinted that a powerful coalition of business and political forces is out to get him from outside MCA, while his deputy, Dr Chua Soi Lek, and supporters are trying to agitate for an EGM to dethrone him from within MCA.

Indeed, Ong sounds like a besieged man facing hostile ambush from ten different sides. Tee Keat is the direct opposite of his predecessor Ong Ka Ting, whose deadpan personality and low-key leadership style had kept him out of controversy during his tenure as MCA president.

Tee Keat has always been known as a combative and flamboyant character, and the Chinese intellegentia still remember fondly his public debate with Lim Guan Eng (now DAP secretary-general) in the 1980s when both were just budding political leaders.

He is also well versed in Chinese philosophy and literature, and he probably perceives himself as the personification of the scholar-gentleman ideal extolled by Confucius. Personally, I think well of him, though I disagree with his MCA brand of politics.

Now Tee Keat is on the war path with all his enemies from within the BN camp, while DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang is snapping at his heel every inch of the way. Tee Keat has warned his MCA grassroots during the KL briefing that he expects to be transferred out of the Transport Ministry, because he is not liked by Umno.

najib-2.jpgchua-soi-lek-2.gifThere is some basis in that claim. Soon after the MCA party election, Tee Keat has been marginalising his deputy, Dr Chua, an equally feisty character. But Prime Minister Najib Abdul Rajak promptly turned around and appointed Dr Chua to be the BN coordinator for states held by Pakatan Rakyat.

If you look at the long history of MCA, every time there is an internal factional fight – there are many such fights – the hidden hands of Umno will interfere at critical moments to tilt the balance of power, and MCA will be weakened a little after that. That is how Umno could accumulate their political capital within BN to the point where the party enjoy uncontested hegemony in the ruling coalition in the end.

Call me naïve, but I do have some sympathy with Ong’s sincere effort in reforming his party and his ministerial portfolio. That fact that he is sucked into a quagmire of controversies and subversion is not a surprise. In a political structure that is so mired in corruption and abuse of power, anyone attempting reform would be stepping upon many gargantuan toes that will not easily step aside without a fierce fight.

Does not auger well for BN

But what about the PKFZ controversy? Will it go away after some time, since voters have such short memory?

lim kit siang.jpgThe MACC has formed a 30-member panel to start investigations into the PKFZ reports lodged by various parties. They have even interviewed Tiong. In the wake of Teoh Beng Hock’s death, with the daily inquest hearing to keep alive memories of his demise very much in the mind of the rakyat, the integrity and professionalism of the MACC is very much in doubt in public perception. Whether the MACC can get to the truth of the PKFZ matter is a big question mark right now.

But the PKFZ is a monster too huge to cover up and hide from public eyes. Lim Kit Siang will work tirelessly to make sure the cover up will not happen. Compared to the PKFZ, the BMF scandal in the 1980s which Lim called the 'Mother of all Scandals' now looks like a small pie! Besides, unlike the time of the BMF scam, we now have the Internet.

In the hazy days ahead, we can expect more revelations about the PKFZ, as the drama plays on before a national audience. It does not auger well for the BN indeed.

SIM KWANG YANG can be reached at n [email protected] This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it