Side Views

Another Saturday with The Oracle of Syed Putera — Sakmongkol AK47

February 14, 2012

FEB 14 — Malaysian Indians are back with BN. The Oracle appeared pleased when he told me that. Who told you I asked? Nong Chik. Does the boss (Tun Daim) feel the same way? He does, said The Oracle.

Hmm… this was an unusual slippage on the part of Daim , I said to myself. Usually he takes statements and information as preliminary “noises”. He will then investigate further by sending out the Baker Street Boys or the Baker Street Irregulars like Sherlock Holmes did. It was unusual of Daim to accept what Raja Nong Chik tells him. Daim must be fatigued.

BN must be really desperate. They have resorted to reading tea leaves and, in some places, chicken entrails. Some whispers here and there are taken and read as signifying real and substantial progress. Hence, for example, some casual and insouciant intimation that Indians are coming back to support BN is treated as orgasmic news.

What are we to make of these innocuous remarks? Should they be taken seriously? The Indians are coming back into the fold of BN. Yes indeed, there are so many of them.

The PPP says it has one million members. That’s the figure from the Kaveas faction. Murugiah says he commands 600,000. The MIC says they have two million Indians. The IPF (Pandithan’s) says it has another 700,000. Then we have the number claimed by the newly-minted Senator Nallakarupan.

Geez! I am thinking, these parties must have counted those Malaysian Indians still in the womb. Even worse, even the Indians in the glint in the cowherd’s eye are also counted. Otherwise, how do you account for so many of them?

These encouraging numbers must have in turn encouraged and motivated Najib to participate as a devotee in this year’s Thaipusam. Amma! I asked some Indian friends how do I write “you help me, I help you” in Tamil. I am still waiting.

This was also the information passed on by Raja Nong Chik to Tun Daim. And where does Raja Nong Chik get his source of information? From Bangsar Bala, friend to RPK and resident politician at Plan B, in Bangsar village.

Yes indeed, the same Bangsar Bala who mobilised thousands of Indians to press palms with Anwar Ibrahim when he came over to Brickfields the other day. The same Bangsar Bala who organised a large number of Indian NGOs to meet Tengku Razaleigh. The smart cookie Bala is hedging his bets. And what Bala says is taken as significant by Raja Nong Chik.

Tun Daim Zainudin spoke at a function organised by Lembah Pantai Umno. It was a smart move I thought for Raja Nong Chik to bring on a real firepower. It can serve as an endorsement from the elusive Tun Daim for him.

In 2008, no one batted an eye lid about what Tun Daim said. Indeed many said he is senile and a spent force and one past-shelf-life politician. The man whom he recommended as Selangor MB described Tun Daim in disparaging terms. That man has since been convicted on a corruption charge. It was some sort of a comeuppance for that chap.

In 2008, Daim cautioned the government. It will lose five states. When he said those things, Umno people lambasted and derided him. After the elections, BN lost five states and its seats in Wilayah Persekutuan were almost decimated. After that, people sit upright and at attention whenever Daim speaks. Indeed, people are now desirous at wanting Daim to say something energising about BN.

Daim, who is rarely seen and heard, has now acquired the status of a political bomoh and medicine man. Occasionally he does give speeches like the one he did at TAR University. Otherwise he is most happy counting his money. My first reaction when Daim attended the function organised by Umno Lembah Pantai, with its overt political connotations, is that Daim is looking out for his business interests that can be affected by the decisions of the FT minister. Such as his property business in Malaysia.

I wanted to ask about this when I met up with the Oracle on February 11, 2012. The Oracle is the extension of Daim and he has spoken of many things. On the whole, the prognosis on Umno and BN’s health is dismal and life affecting. I recalled The Oracle of Syed Putra saying that PM Najib should show he means business in tackling the scourge of corruption. The Oracle was echoing what Daim told him. How? By herding in this former Selangor MB, because that is how you deal with the stubborn and obstinate.

I also recalled The Oracle quoting Tun Daim as saying that PM Najib should show he upholds the rule of law by arresting those MACC officers who interrogated Teoh Beng Hock. That is necessary because only some people believe in the fairy tales about Beng Hock wilfully jumping to conceal some minor corrupt practices.

Heck, Daim told The Oracle many things. Najib has lost the plot to manage the country. Najib is scared of three fellows in Malaysia — Mahathir, Rahim Tamby Chik and the diminutive Isa “Beria” Samad.

That’s Lavrenti Beria who served Stalin, folks. Isa is reported to have spent RM350,000 of Felda money on his open house. But even that is small compared to the cost of redoing his Felda office room. But that would be OK since there is this general assertion that Felda’s money is Isa’s to spend as he absolutely wishes. In a term which is current, Isa NFC’d the money.

As to Daim, now it’s a different scenario. The MSM are eager to lap up to what Daim says. He is the media darling, if they can get to him, that is. Fortunately through my friendship with The Oracle of Syed Putera, I am beating them to it.

So I found myself at The Oracle’s office on Saturday to exchange notes. One of the things we touched was Tun Daim’s rare excursion into Lembah Pantai.

What was Daim doing in Lembah Pantai, I asked The Oracle. It seems Raja Nong Chik’s people had invited Tun Daim to participate in a panel discussing social and political issues. Raja Nong Chik was also on the discussion panel. Clever I thought.

The Oracle wasn’t enthusiastic to speak about the event and was initially parsimonious in giving me more details about the event. I don’t think this reluctance to speak with candour is because I have joined the DAP. This is my second visit to him after joining the DAP. In the course of our one-hour free-ranging discussion, we will know Daim’s thoughts on several things. That will be later.

The first question I asked was: if Tun Daim were the finance minister today, would he agree to use the EPF as the lender of last resort? If everything else fails, use EPF.

If the money is managed right, the use of the EPF funds will be OK. The government has always used EPF money for some desired objectives.

Yes, but this time they are lending to future no-hopers. You know, we can’t collect from the house buyers.  When I was ADUN, people don’t even pay when it’s only RM90 per month.

Technically, they are lending to a SPV formed by the FT minister. So, it’s not lending to individual buyers. Two, the government is guaranteeing the loan. Three, the value of the property will appreciate. The value of the portfolio will rise.

Why the semantics, I asked. The government is knowingly agreeing to a scheme where it will end up footing the bill by bailing out the SPV created by Raja Nong Chik. Already public debt is RM456 billion and the off balance sheet spending amounts to almost RM100 billion. In effect public debt is reaching RM600 billion. This will bankrupt the country, not the subsidies going to poor people.

This isn’t the question of building affordable homes for the poor. That is already taken by the PPRT homes and its equivalent in urban centres in the form of high-rise flats. How did the FT Ministry finance the construction of urban PPRTs before?

So why the need to borrow from the EPF?

It’s not comforting being told that the EPF has committed only RM300 million for now. EPF doesn’t say it will NOT go up to RM1.5 billion as stated by the FT minister. The announced lesser amount does not confer a right of indiscriminate spending and investment by EPF. And because the amount, or any amount for that matter, is going to be guaranteed by the government, the loan then raises the issue of prudence on the part of the government. Government guarantee is not a licence for profligacy. That is suggestive of bad governance. It’s not an excuse to be reckless.

Suppose the loan is defaulted, the money has got to come from somewhere right?

Why go the indirect way of directing the EPF to lend money to an SPV and that SPV then lends money to people who otherwise couldn’t qualify to get loans? Why doesn’t the government sell bonds and then set up their own SPV to lend to potential defaulters? The potential defaulters are all sub-prime borrowers.  It’s all semantics describing the SPV is credit worthy even though in actuality the end buyers may not. So, we all chorused saying the EPF lends to a credit worthy entity and that falls within its terms of reference.

Bull, at the end of the day, the buyers will default; the government is too scared to foreclose and ends up bailing the SPV. Money has to be taken out from somewhere.

But is there really a political agenda? The political agenda may be Raja Nong Chik’s. He wants to give houses to his supporters in Lembah Pantai so that he can win Lembah Pantai and kick out Nurul Izzah. So, he wants to build homes to give to his supporters who will in the end get free homes. The rest of the public will be asked to refrain from making noises otherwise we are made out as objectors to building homes to the poor.

We don’t help out the poor by giving them homes financed by unconscionable emptying off the till. That would amount to abuse of government. When a government thinks it can do as it pleases in plain disregard of the checks and balances on absolutist rule, we have a democratic tyranny.

It’s a good portfolio investment since the property will increase in value. In the long run, the property will of course inflate in value. But what’s the use of having property that you can’t collect? You can’t foreclose because of the political ramifications. You can persuade the owners for the time being to cash out then, make some money and move elsewhere. Move where? Isn’t the political agenda is to increase Malay voters in city areas. If they move out into the rural areas and to the fringes, urban areas will be lost forever.

Umno as custodian of Malay interests isn’t thinking on this thing properly. When the property inflate in value, who are the likely buyers? Those vegetable sellers, pork sellers at Selayang and Jinjang and so forth. They buy because they have the money. We can’t fault them for having money and buying into the property.

So, Nong Chik is really not looking at the bigger picture. He is looking out for his immediate interest which is to win Lembah Pantai and send the anak mami packing. — sakmongkol.blogspot.com

* Sakmongkol AK47 is the nom de plume of Datuk Mohd Ariff Sabri Abdul Aziz. He was Pulau Manis assemblyman (2004-2008).

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.