Tabung Haji land purchase – Lack of integrity, good governance and transparency

Trouble with ‘from left pocket into right pocket’

COMMENT On one account, Prime Minister-cum-Finance Minister Najib Abdul Razak should be lauded for helping Tabung Haji to make good returns overnight.

There is no doubt that once Tabung Haji floats its prime land in the open market, there will be a number of bidders, be it cronies or true investors, especially since land in the Federal Territory is scarce.

The Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) land that the debt-ridden 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) had sold to Tabung Haji for RM188.5 million will undoubtedly help the latter to make millions in return, when a private developer decides to purchase the prime land even at market prices.

To Tabung Haji, it is a windfall which Najib assures us that the capital gains would immediately silence his critics, in particular former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Both 1MDB and Tabung Haji are government-linked bodies set up for different purposes. One is now allegedly laden with debts that it is unable to service, while the other is hard-earned money that Muslims have contributed over the years in order to fulfil their pilgrimage obligations.

Where the problem lies

It is a matter of lack of integrity, good governance and transparency that we see in the entire episode involving the people who were supposed to safeguard the country’s finances. This is where the problem lies, not about making a windfall or good returns overnight.

If Tabung Haji took up the advice from the prime minister to immediately dispose of the land following the recent expose, it is only obvious that the board is not fulfilling its fiduciary obligations as an independent party. It will not absolve any party of the allegations made by the 1MDB critics.

After all, as the funds’ chairperson Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim had openly said, this is a political battle – therefore, all the more reason he should not drag Tabung Haji further down the path, but let Najib alone to face the brickbats from his nemesis, Dr Mahathir, and others.

Following the manner in which Najib had ‘advised’ Tabung Haji to dispose of the land, there is also no reason for the rakyat not to believe that the purchase of the land had also been done in the same manner.

In the first place, why was prime land owned by the government sold at a mere RM70 per square foot (psf) to 1MDB, when it should have been worth so much more if floated in the open market? Who approved the government’s decision to sell the land in the first place? Was it a decision made by the cabinet?

Integrity, please. Does this amount to ‘under-declaring’ the real market value of the government’s land bank? The government should have earned millions more, and the money could have gone into the coffers for the welfare of the rakyat such as building a hospital for the state of Perlis.

But, what irks most people the most is the billions of Ringgit that have allegedly gone missing in 1MDB, which have not been accounted for yet. Am I right in asking why did it have to sell the land if it had all the money to service the loans?

May 11, 2015 – Malaysiakini
Trouble with ‘from left pocket into right pocket’


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