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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Is legalized robbery Malaysian culture?

That should be the questions people may ask when Abdul Karim Hamzah, chief political secretary to Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, has told Radio Free Sarawak (RFS) that it is only “fair” that Taib should accumulate wealth in public office. That is akin to saying legalized robbery is allowed in Malaysia although we are not sure if all the methods for that White Hair Rajah used to accumalate is legal.

However, it is at least a bit reassuring that there are still Malaysians who think that legalized robbery is not Malaysian culture. Witness the comments some of Malaysiakini's commentators have to say such as this one: "I couldn't believe the words spoken were so brazen and forthright that it could be viewed as standard operating practice for all politicians holding power in the current administration. Sarawakians must really be asleep while this thief plunder the spoils of the state.

Unbelievable, unforgivable and unforgettable

'If Taib wants to go into business for him and his family, he should not stand for public office. In his position, it's no longer 'willing seller, willing buyer'. It's corruption.'

'Unfair' to stop Taib from amassing fortune

Anonymous: The question is, does Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud want to serve the people or amass fortunes? I guess we know the answer now. The people are suffering and are hungry, and this man uses and abuses his power to make himself rich.

Ghkok: This interview is unbelievable, unforgivable and unforgettable. Abdul Karim is saying that it is okay to amass wealth in office. Well, we need to tell him "No, it is not okay!" It is a crime, no matter whether he is in office for one day or 100 years.

Whether businessmen are making tons of money is totally irrelevant. If businessmen are making tons of money illegally, then it is the job of the lawmaker to get them hunted down and prosecuted.

The only legally-allowed fortune for a politician is the fortune they legally obtain before taking office plus the salary and benefits they legally receive in office. It is surely illegal to "receive a piece of land at a cheap price" while in office. This is no different from receiving a piece of land for free.

Abdul Karim did not seem to dispute the allegations against Taib. Has the culture of corruption become so entrenched?

Habib RAK: So it appears that for the next Sarawak state elections, its immigration powers will be used to prevent politicians and NGOs from the Peninsula and Sabah to enter Sarawak. Taib's political secretary Abdul Karim Hamzah is getting bolder and more arrogant. He is challenging the society as though none can touch them. Isn't this a sign of despotism?

Wira: What kind of sick reasoning is that? If Taib wants to go into business for him and his family, he should not stand for public office. In his position, especially when so many resources in Sarawak are at his disposal, it's no longer 'willing seller, willing buyer'. It's either corruption or corruptible action.

Apa Nak Jadi: The morale of the story is, "you must be an idiot to be someone's political secretary, and you must behave like one and also talk like one".

FairMind: What Abdul Karim probably meant is that his BN counterparts from the Peninsula have amassed so much wealth and it is unfair for Taib not to amass wealth for himself. So it must be fair for him to pay a pittance to acquire the ancestral land from the poor natives of Sarawak to make millions of ringgit in profit.

Swipenter: Legalised thievery is fine and that is what Abdul Karim is saying. No wonder our elitist politicians are all living beyond their means through political patronage and rent-seeking activities.
I am sure one ex-PM of 22 years would agree wholeheartedly with this Abdul Karim because his sons are all multi-millionaires and a billionaire (for doing what?). Nobody in his/her right mind would deny anybody from making their fortunes ethically, but not at the expense of the people.

The AP (approved permits) system is one of the most blatant form of legalised thievery in the country with the excuse of protecting our car industry. Billions and billions of ringgit is sucked from car buyers to enrich a few and to protect Proton.

Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia: Abdul Karim Hamzah is so completely steeped in the culture of corruption of Taib Mahmud's personal fiefdom that not only does he not see anything wrong with embezzlement of public funds and corruption, he actually thinks it is a divine 'right' that the Taibs and their cronies should continue robbing the state of Sarawak.

Not Confused: I am absolutely speechless at the crass statements made by this boot polisher. So he claims that it is okay to use your position of power to enrich yourself and your family members? Unbelievable!
Ruben: "If you are a minister or chief minister, then somebody comes to you and wants to sell a piece of land at a very cheap price ... and then through the years, that value of land suddenly shoots up 1,000 times ... and you sell it off and make some money, is that tantamount to corruption?"

Of course, it is corruption because of the power that Taib yields. Dr Mohd Khir Toyo is charged precisely because of an similar action when he was in a position of power.

Not Confused: If he has amassed his fortune by the sweat of his (and his family's) brow, then so be it, but we all know that the majority of his fortune has resulted from "acquiring" land and other assets from the state government at knock-down prices.

His business empire is complex and is built on a network of companies, with proxies in charge, but all feeding back to him. At the same time, the Orang Asal have had their customary lands stolen and that land stripped bear for profit. It's an absolute disgrace.

Phra Ong Chao: Okay fine, so the children of the chief minister can be rich. But what about the secret agreement stating that some properties worth millions are held in the name of the CM, and the fact that the CM's own name appears as a shareholder and director of a company in the CCM (Companies Commission of Malaysia) register, holding millions of ringgit worth of shares?

Luke Skywalker: I just can't imagine how stupid our politician are willing to justify their greed and corruption. I don't have problem with rich people, but Taib is treating Sarawak like his 'current account' to buy anything, and for the state to pay for it.

ABIL: What to you mean "unfair" to stop Taib amassing wealth. It is only fair if he should have given up politics if he wants to amass wealth, he should not be doing when he has an advantage. It is only fair if he was not corrupt in amassing his wealth, here he was having the cake and eating it too.

He is a custodian of Sarawak's wealth, the minute he put his hand into the kitty, he is assume to have taken liberty of people's money and hence corrupt. In China it is death sentence to have pecuniary interest in the nation's wealth. Only in Malaysia, people are so corrupted that one can't draw a line anymore.

Friend of Sarawak: It's probably not stupidity. Abdul Karim Hamzah is speaking for Taib and his circle, which has apparently made the cynical calculation that the Orang Ulu who are listening to Radio Free Sarawak will actually believe it is "only fair" that the chief minister should take the opportunities of his office to become rich.

Sarawak is fast approaching being not only a banana republic but 'Adsurdistan' as well.

Sarawakian: To talk like that in public, the moron must have his brain damaged beyond redemption. If that's his attitude, then there's really no hope at all except to drag everyone of these scheming thieves by the collar put them behind bars. They have not an ounce of guilt or moral fibre left in them.

Rick Teo: This clearly shows how degenerated this human being has become - to say that being appointed and elected to the post of CM gives them the unalienable right to plunder the nation's coffers. They have been doing this for so long that such habit has been ingrained and appears to be justifiable. So much so the practice of enriching oneself in public office is their God-given right.

I couldn't believe the words spoken were so brazen and forthright that it could be viewed as standard operating practice for all politicians holding power in the current administration. Sarawakians must really be asleep while this thief plunder the spoils of the state.


And here is the piece that resulted in all the comments above:
'Unfair' to stop Taib from amassing fortune
Keruah Usit
Dec 8, 10

Abdul Karim Hamzah, chief political secretary to Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, has told Radio Free Sarawak (RFS) that it is only “fair” that Taib should accumulate wealth in public office.

In an interview with RFS, a shortwave station outside the control of the government, Abdul Karim dismissed criticism of the enormous wealth of Taib's family, as reported by the Sarawak Report website. He also discussed the controversial Sarawak Government White Paper on 'unhealthy political practices', proposed by Abdul Karim himself.
“Personally, I see there must be limitations to everything, you cannot have a free flow of everything... the freedom of speech, there are limitations. I mean to take up an action (for libel) is not as simple (as it seems)… sometimes it's better to just leave things as they are, because it will, after a while, quieten down.”

He brushed off the furore surrounding detailed descriptions on Sarawak Report of Taib's property fortunes in Europe and North America, and land acquisition schemes in Sarawak.

“The way I see it, it's not causing any problem, lah. What is the problem with Sarawak Report? Have they been saying something that is very defamatory or bad? I don't think it's wrong to be rich."

Asked how Taib and his children could have achieved their fabulous wealth based on his modest ministerial salary, he replied: “How can you use that salary as a yardstick, you know? I mean, you must give people an opportunity…I mean, if Taib is the chief minister, I don't think we should stop the children, (that) the children cannot be rich or the family cannot be rich.

“He has been in power for the last 40 years… he has been open to a lot of opportunities, whereby his children also can participate in business, and then, using the kind of networking that they can have, and then build up their riches.”

Asked what these opportunities were, Abdul Karim explained: “Well, opportunities to participate in business and things like that, you know? Take for example… if you are a minister or chief minister, then somebody comes to you and wants to sell a piece of land at a very cheap price… and then through the years, that value of land suddenly shoots up 1,000 times… and you sell it off and make some money, is that tantamount to corruption?

“If you use your position to secure certain businesses or certain contracts, then I would say that would be an abuse of power, but then that depends again, whether that is happening or not…”

He avoided the topic of allegations of Taib distributing contracts to companies under the control of his family members, including CMS and Naim Holdings.

Asked whether cronyism exists in Sarawak politics, Abdul Karim said: “You cannot, you must not equate Taib's family with himself… he has got a lot of 'cronies'. Everybody knows him.

“So, after 40 years in the government, don't you think he deserves to have some level of satisfaction, or some level of wealth that he could accumulate in the right way? Are you trying to tell me politicians must be poor? Only businessmen are allowed to be rich? That's very unfair!

“I mean, if that is how we look at it, then we are not practising democracy, because you are depriving a politician from… having a good way of life. Only the businessmen are allowed to be rich, to fly around, have holidays? The politicians are not?”

“The purpose of the White Paper is to… to… to… more or less define what are the… who are those people who are undesirable, I would say, who could be a threat to the... there are certain… certain quarters of people, whether they are politicians, whether they are NGOs, or whether they are from the media even, whether they are from Malaysia or from overseas, who seem to be wanting to break us up, who seem to be… I mean they couldn't be bothered, they don't have any love for us.

“That's why we want the state to set a proper guideline, who can be welcome and who should not be welcome, to identify what are the things that we can consider as a threat, who are those people who we know have blatantly tried to run down the government, tried to create instability, whether economically or politically, in the state.

“These are the people we should stop, whether they are from the government or not from the government, or whether they are from overseas or whether they are from Malaysia itself, or religious… this covers every angle, I would say.

“We have every right to look after our state… Immigration is in our hands, when we formed Malaysia… we have got that right, that immigration right.

“If we feel that they are not desirable to us, if they are known to be… who have been running us down, from their writing, from their blogs, I think if they are not a friend to Sarawak, I would say, then we stop them!

“The opposition always thinks it is against them, not realising that it is also against certain people in Barisan Nasional (BN).”

Abdul Karim declined to name those in BN who may be kept out of the state.

In response to speculation that the state government wants to muzzle websites like Sarawak Report, Abdul Karim replied, “We can't stop them from publishing, they can have their own right, because the world is free, you see… the Internet world, you can put anything inside there. But then when it comes to coming into our state, we do not want them.”

Abdul Karim concluded his RFS interview by alleging that US president Barack Obama, and British leaders like former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, are all “filthy rich”, and that Taib has done nothing wrong in accumulating wealth.

Source: Malaysiakini: 'Unfair' to stop Taib from amassing fortune

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