Beware of red herrings


I knew it was RM35 million. I wanted them to confirm that it was RM35 million. And I wanted them to remain silent about the amount of money collected and about the status and details of the land. So they swallowed the bait and told us what I wanted them to tell us and remained silent about all the other allegations. Their silence was the ‘proof’ that I needed to support my allegation.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Eight years ago, back in 2004, I received information from some contacts in Umno Sabah regarding its new headquarters building. Yes, even back then I already had contacts in Umno Sabah and some of these people are amongst the group that is leaving Umno to join Pakatan Rakyat.

Anyway, they are leaving Umno Sabah because they are not going to be selected to contest the coming general election seeing that they have been wakil rakyat since the days when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was the Prime Minister. The Chief Minister, Musa Aman, feels it is time for some new faces.

I was told they plan to field at least 50% of the candidates from the younger generation to ensure that they garner support from the young or first-time voters, many who are clamouring for reforms. Or else how can Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak claim that his government is a reform government if they field candidates who are relics from the Dr Mahathir era?

The problem I faced, though, was that the information, as is the case most times when I receive information, is by word of mouth with no tangible evidence or supporting documents. Hence how do I prove the allegation?

The information that I was given was that Umno Sabah was going to build a RM35-RM50 million headquarters building. And Musa Aman was suspected to have collected RM60-RM100 million from various businessmen to fund the construction of this building.

But that is not the main issue. The bone of contention raised by these Umno Sabah Deep Throats of mine was that the money that Musa Aman collected did not flow into Umno Sabah’s bank account. Umno Sabah’s bank account did not reflect the RM60-RM100 million nor show whatever money was paid out for the building. And this was what they were sore about.

The second bone of contention was regarding the land. The land was a piece of government land alienated to Umno Sabah. But the land was not registered in Umno Sabah’s name even though Umno was supposed to be the owner. Furthermore, only part of the land was being used for the Umno headquarters building. So what happened to the balance of this very expensive prime land in the ‘Golden Triangle’ of Kota Kinabalu, which the government ‘sold’ to Umno for a song?

I needed Umno to prove this allegation. But if I wrote exactly what I was told above they would just deny it and call me a liar. I needed to throw them a red herring and make them come out and admit this allegation.

So I spun a story that Musa Aman had collected more than RM100 million from various businessmen to finance the construction of Umno’s headquarters building that cost more than RM60 million and that the money had gone into Musa Aman’s pocket. This was of course not quite accurate. Umno Sabah then excitedly jumped in to prove me a liar. I was wrong and they ‘caught’ me telling a lie.

Rahim Ismail, the Umno Sabah Information Chief, then issued a press statement that was carried in Malaysiakini saying that the building cost only RM35 million and not RM60 million. However, they made no mention of how much money they had collected from the businessmen or offered any details regarding the land. They were so happy that they could prove me wrong regarding the cost of the building.

I knew it was around RM35 million or slightly more. I wanted them to confirm that it was RM35 million. And I wanted them to remain silent about the amount of money collected and about the status and details of the land. So they swallowed the bait and told us what I wanted them to tell us and remained silent about all the other allegations. Their silence was the ‘proof’ that I needed to support my allegation.

If they had remained silent totally then I would have had a problem. What proof do I have? But the fact that they came out to confirm the existence of that building plus the real cost of that building means my story is confirmed. And the fact that they remained silent about the money collected and about the land also confirmed what I said is true.

If they can reply to the cost of the building why not also reply to the other allegations regarding the money collected and the land?

Anyway, some reports on this matter can be read below, which were plucked from Malaysia Today. My point of this article is: beware of red herrings! When I expose something you never know whether this is an expose or whether it is bait to get you to say something. And sometimes it is not what you say but what you do not say that I am interested in. Your silence could be worse than your words.

And that is all I wish to say about what R. Sivarasa said in his press release: Raja Petra does his lies again!


The mystery of Umno Sabah’s new building

(Malaysiakini, 15 December 2004) – Umno Sabah is presently building its new headquarters in Karamunsing, Kota Kinabalu. No one in Umno Sabah seems to know the construction cost of the building though. There has been no building committee formed to oversee the construction of the building and no meetings have ever been held to either discuss details of the building or seek approval from Umno Sabah’s main committee.

But this is not all that is happening. More perplexing is the choice of site.

Umno Sabah actually owns a five-acre piece of prime land close to the Bank Simpanan Nasional building in the swanky neighbourhood of the Sutra Resort. For all intents and purposes, this piece of land can be considered a ‘gold mine’.

But the new Umno Sabah is not on Umno’s own land. Instead, it is being built on an alternative piece of land in which someone has a vested interest in. What is the size of this land, whether the entire piece of land or just part of it is being used for this building, and how much has this piece of land been valued for has not been revealed and no one in Umno Sabah knows the details.

The signboard says that the building owner is Badan Perhubungan Umno Negeri Sabah. However, below this is another name, Accodon Sdn Bhd, which is listed as the developer of the building. Who then, is the owner of this new Umno Sabah building, Umno Sabah or Accordon? This is not clear.

What is clear is that Umno Sabah does not own the land. The party that does own it appears to be Accordon. But what is the relationship between Umno Sabah and Accordon? No one in Umno Sabah seems to know.

If Umno Sabah was the owner of this piece of land – or the building – then it would have had to register it in the names of the trustees. And those who are authorised to act as trustees would have to be named and approved by Umno Sabah’s main committee. As it stands, Umno Sabah has never met to discuss this matter nor has it authorised anyone to act as its trustee.

In short, Umno Sabah has entirely no interest in either the land or the building and its name is just being used for purposes best known to those behind this entire scam.

But why is Umno Sabah’s name being used? For two reasons.

First of all, a piece of land of this size and location would attract a hefty premium. However, since the land is now allegedly owned by Umno, then the premium can either be reduced or waived altogether.

Whoever, therefore, owns this land can get it practically for ‘free’. All they have to do is use part of this land to build the Umno Sabah building, get an exemption on the premium, and the balance of the land would be theirs for free.

This is actually not a new tactic. They did this with the former Selangor Turf Club land in Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur. Ananda Krishnan built the Twin Towers there. He then sold one of the towers to Petronas for the price it cost to build both towers plus the cost of the land thrown in.

He therefore ended up getting the second tower free, paid for by Petronas, or rather the Malaysian taxpayers. And this is what is happening with the new Umno Sabah building.

But in Ananda’s case he had to fund the purchase of the land plus the construction of the towers before he could sell off one of the towers to Petronas. With the Umno Sabah building, it is even better. Not only can the landowner get the land for free, but the building is being built not with Accordon’s money but with donations from the public.

As it is now, no one in Umno Sabah seems to know how much the construction cost of the new building is. But donations are being collected left, right and center (and probably behind as well) from all and sundry.

The donation box is overflowing as it is, yet money is still being collected. No one knows how much money has been collected because there is no committee, meaning no accounts or reports need to be tabled at any meetings.

Questions, questions and more questions that beg for answers from Sabah Chief Minister and Umno head Musa Aman. Is he not worried someone may question him?

Well, Sabah has been adopting the ‘rotation of chief ministers’ system for some time now. Musa Aman is supposed to retire soon. But now they are abolishing the rotation system and Musa Aman feels he is going to be chief minister for life. Maybe the two-year rotation system is good after all for it keeps the chief ministers straight and clean.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi should address this matter. If it is proven that there has indeed been an element of corruption behind the Sabah Umno building, then action should be taken against those guilty.

Only then will Pak Lah be seen as serious in combating corruption. If not, he would only be seen as just another ‘talk-only-no-action’ man.

And if the Umno Sabah building exercise is above board, can we please see the accounts?


More questions on Umno Sabah’s new building

(Malaysiakini, 12 January 2005) – Umno Sabah, being a political party, speaks like a politician – it talks a lot but says nothing. And this is what it has done to ‘explain’ the scandal behind its new building being built in Karamunsing in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

Umno Sabah’s so-called explanation is as clear as the skies above Kuala Lumpur during an outbreak of haze as a result of an Indonesian forest fire.

According to a report in The Star: ‘Sabah Umno is of the view that everything is in the clear for its new RM35mil, 11-storey headquarters now under construction in the city’.

Well, so it is now confirmed, the building costs RM35 million. That is what we wanted to know. We had estimated it could be anything between RM30 million to RM50 million. What is most interesting is that key people within Umno Sabah themselves do not know the actual figure. Now, of course, they do.

‘As far as Sabah Umno is concerned, I can assure you that everything is above board,’ Rahim Ismail, Umno Sabah’s information chief, said.

‘Above board’? What exactly does Rahim mean by ‘above board’? Was the figure of RM35 million confirmed at any Umno Sabah meeting prior to Umno Sabah embarking on construction of the building? Was a building committee set up? Was a finance committee set up? Was a Board of Trustees appointed?

The answer is no to all the questions. In that case, how can the whole thing be ‘above board’? How can one man decide everything on his own, on behalf of Umno Sabah? Is Umno Sabah a private family enterprise just like the provision shop on the corner or is it a legally registered association – a political party – owned by many members?

And there is still no answer as to why Umno Sabah decided to build its new building on a 0.48 hectare site in Karamunsing which belongs to someone else, instead of Umno Sabah’s own two hectare land in Sembulan.

And what Rahim Ismail conveniently did not explain is who is paying for this RM35 million building? Is Umno paying for it or is it too (just like the land it is being built on) being paid for by donations from ‘friendly parties’ and rich benefactors who share Umno’s ‘perjuangan’ (struggle)?

No one in Umno Sabah seems to know and if Umno Sabah is paying for the building’s cost, then this is news to the senior Umno Sabah officials.

And what about all the donations collected so far? How much has been collected? It is estimated that between RM100 million to RM200 million has been collected to date. And why is the donation drive still going on? Who were the ones who donated the money? Are all these donors companies and businessmen that have benefited from state jobs and contracts? And who is keeping the money collected? Why have no accounts been tabled at the Umno Sabah meetings?

Umno Sabah has confirmed that the land was ‘donated by a private company, with the full knowledge of the party leadership’.

Okay, since we are talking about being ‘above board’ here, can Umno Sabah then please confirm which company donated the land?

Is the donor Accordon Sdn Bhd? No? Then what about the following companies?

Pembinaan Kekal Mewah Holdings Sdn Bhd

Pembinaan Kekal Mewah Herbal Sdn Bhd

Pembinaan Kekal Mewah Trading Sdn Bhd

Pembinaan Kekal Mewah Engineering Sdn Bhd

Pembinaan Kekal Mewah Aquaculture Sdn Bhd

Pembinaan Kekal Mewah (Kota Kinabalu) Sdn Bhd

Pembinaan Kekal Mewah (Kota Marudu) Sdn Bhd

Pembinaan Kekal Mewah (Beaufort) Sdn Bhd

Pembinaan Kekal Mewah (Keningau) Sdn Bhd

Pembinaan Kekal Mewah (Tawau) Sdn Bhd

Pembinaan Kekal Mewah (Sandakan) Sdn Bhd

Pembinaan Kekal Mewah Sdn Bhd

Pembinaan Kekal Mewah Realty Sdn Bhd

Pembinaan Kekal Mewah Resorts Sdn Bhd

Did any of these companies donate the land to Umno Sabah? And, if so, what did they get in return? What about Rentak Hasil Sdn Bhd? Is this company the one that donated the land?

Another scandalous act that is yet to become public knowledge is the aborted paper and pulp project that has already swallowed hundreds of millions of ringgit. The Chinese partner that was supposed to have a joint venture with Yayasan Sabah decided to pull out after they smelt a rat.

What is puzzling is that although the project has been put to sleep, logging at the 300,000 hectare site is still going on. Why are they logging the site if there is not going to be a pulp-and-paper mill after all? Someone is definitely getting rich selling logs that were supposed to be turned into paper.

And why is Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi still prepared to risk his career and make a mockery of his Islam Hadhari by reappointing Musa Aman as Sabah’s chief minister with all this mismanagement going on in broad daylight?

Is Abdullah just naïve or is he turning a blind eye knowing full well what is going on?