Anwar dispels party storm over Talam debt acquisition

(The Edge) – Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today played the peacemaker in a tiff between party leaders over the Selangor state government’s plan to acquire debts owed by property developer Talam Corporation Bhd to subsidiaries of several state agencies.

Anwar told reporters that PKR was satisfied with Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim’s “initial explanation” on the transaction’s core issues.

“In the interest of transparency and accountability, Khalid assured us that the transaction would remain open to public scrunity,” Anwar told a press conference in parliament today.

In the same breath, the opposition leader also defended PKR secretary-general Datuk Salehuddin Hashim who reportedly questioned, in a “strongly-worded” email to PKR representatives, why Khalid had kept the party in the dark over the matter.

“At the outset, we respect and defend the right of any party leader to raise and question policy matters of any state government, including states governed by Pakatan Rakyat,” Anwar said.

He said Salehuddin’s email expressed the latter’s personal views and was meant only for internal circulation.

“The secretary-general (Salehuddin) neither alleges fraud or impropriety on the part of the menteri besar or state government,” Anwar said.

Salehuddin’s dissatisfaction came after the Selangor state assembly on Nov 9 approved a supplementary budget of RM392 million for the state’s investment arm, Menteri Besar Incorporated (MBI), to buy over debts owed by Talam.

Khalid had explained that the move would enable MBI to recover the debts from Talam.

The RM392 million was owed to subsidiaries of Selangor Development Corporation (PKNS), Kumpulan Darul Ehsan Bhd (KDEB), Permodalan Negeri Selangor Bhd (PNSB) and Yayasan Pendidikan Selangor.

Khalid’s move also drew criticism from Barisan Nasional (BN) assemblymen at the Selangor state assembly sitting.

When asked, Anwar said he had not begun work as newly-appointed Selangor state economic adviser but quipped that he would “try to do tomorrow”.

Adopting a more serious tone, Anwar revealed that while he was appointed with immediate effect, the menteri besar had plans to officially welcome Anwar to the position.

Anwar said the official welcome would likely be on Dec 2, adding that Khalid also intended to brief government and government-linked companies’ officers on the new position.