The tragedy and farce that is the PKFZThis is a fact of Malaysian political life: apart from the government's favourite target Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, all other ministers or former ministers have never seen the inside of a jail.
There will be a few near misses here – one that comes to mind is the 1982 murder of an Umno politician – and there but no one pays the ultimate price for whatever they did while in office.
Today, former MCA president and retired minister Tan Sri Chan Kong Choy joined the long list of former ministers who were spared incarceration when prosecutors dropped three cheating charges against him in connection with the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) project.
The project was initially tagged at RM1.1 billion when it was first mooted in 1997, but more than quadrupled to RM4.6 billion by 2007. The final cost to taxpayers has been estimated at RM12.5 billion.
No one has yet been punished for the scandal.
An independent investigation of the PKFZ farce showed that the former MCA president was among a few who had committed serious breaches that had ballooned the project's cost and led to billions of dollars in losses.
The PricewaterhouseCoopers report in 2009 had singled out Chan, Madam O.C. Phang, the former general manager of the Port Klang Authority and board directors of the port agency for not carrying out their duties with adequate care.
But perhaps the case had to have an abrupt ending.
Otherwise it could have been embarrassing for Tun Abdullah Badawi, the then prime minister who would have had to explain why certain decisions were made by his government; why his signature was on certain agreements and whether his cabinet colleagues were even in the loop when some critical decisions on the PKFZ were made.
In short, Chan would not have been the only one on trial.
Abdullah, his Cabinet colleagues and a few politicians, including one from East Malaysia who was recently given a plum assignment by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, would have also had to answer a clutch of questions.
Like, how land bought in the 1990s for RM96 million or roughly RM3 per sq ft was later sold in 2002 for RM1 billion, or roughly RM25 per sq ft.
And why the vendor was given sole rights to develop the free trade zone without an open tender.
And how it managed to raise funds through the issuing of bonds that were backed by so-called “letters of comfort” from Malaysia’s Transport Ministry.
But the prosecutors have come to save the day. And another person in the PKFZ scandal walks away free. No one is left holding the baby except Malaysians – who will see their tax money being poured down another black hole.
Karl Marx was right. History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. That really sums up the PKFZ scandal. – January 13, 2014.