Friday, March 11, 2011
Blackberry for MARA Council members
Back in my days in a boarding school in Seremban, we had a school administrator we used to call Uncle. He loves to pun the acronym MARA as "money always run away" in his talk with the students.
It turns out he was collecting commission from one Chinese school suppliers. At the end of his life, he had to face his redemption from the ill gotten gains. .
It seems that acronym of MARA remains till to-date.
Reliable sources coming from that pathetic looking blue tiled building along Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman that was designed by one former Mara Director General, Dato Redzuan are saying MARA had issued a brand new Blackberry Torch 9800 to each Council Member recently.
One wonder where do such needs arise since de facto Board of Directors of MARA are not involved in operations. But this was their justification: to facilitate communications between them and MARA senior management.
Is this the practise of other statutory bodies to issue mobile phones, let alone a RM2,000 plus brand new Blackberry to the members of their Board of Directors?
However, the issuance of the sophisticated mobile phones is the least of MARA's list of asset expenditure problems and controversies.
But it was a sufficient lead to signal that MARA Council members are losing perspective and busy doing dealmaking that would make Tengku Zafrul look like entry level officer.
Hotel in London
It seems MARA via a recently formed conduit, wholly owned subsidiary MARA Inc. Sdn. Bhd. is dwelling on the proposal to buy and operate a hotel in London.
Why would they want to buy and operate a hotel in London when few years ago, they closed or sold MARA Hostel in London?
If my memory did not fail me, Putera Hotel in London was not profitable and had to be sold. A distance family was working there.
The rationale or more accurately justification is for MARA as a statutory body to have some degree of financial independence. The acquisition of the hotel is supposed to bring returns for MARA.
Going into hospitality industry is something so foreign to MARA, especially in the literal sense. The fact still remain; MARA has NO experience what-so-ever in the operation of a hotel for them to own and operate a hotel.
Worse of all, it is in London. The complicated and eccentric laws which include local authorities, be it the borough of Westminster, Chelsea and Kensington or Middlesex still poses so many uncertainties.
Risk is something we should not even thread on!
One need to only recall how MARA failed miserably when they ventured into properties. In the late 80s to early 90s under the Chairmanship of the then Yang Berhormat Mohd. Tamrin Ghafar, MARA ventured into property development project at Bukit Rahman Putra.
NO one in MARA had neither the experience or exposure, nor the understanding of the business. And yet, they acquired 100 acres of mixed development land for almost RM30 million, coupled with 500 membership of Kelab Rahman Putra membership.
No different from this hotel hare-brain scheme via MARA Inc., it was forced onto MARA's throat via MARA Holdings Sdn. Bhd. The acquisition of the golf memberships at almost RM 60,000 each made MARA the laughing stock of Klang Valley's property market.
The deal snowballed MARA later into a financial conundrum, which was resolved only by the stroke of luck during the 1995-7 property boom.
Teaching Hospital Business
Before pursuing the London Does the MARA Council members ever read the MARA Act, thoroughly cover-to-cover?
The act which was placed into force in 1966 as a direct result of the first Bumiputera Economic Congress resolution, made NO provisions for MARA as a statutory body enacted to develop the Malays to invest in strategic businesses and commit themselves into high stake investments such as property.
Didn't MARA learn from the ordeal they had to undergo for Yayasan Pelajaran MARA that was established in contravention with the Act?
More over, if the volatility of the business is rather erratic. That is without the risk of the business in another country, 7,000 miles away. Sovereign risk is not considered at all!
Then there is this proposal that MARA also ventured into the teaching hospital business.
MARA is said to be in the midst of considering to invest in the Malaysian branch of the John Hopskins University Hospital, as a minority partner to Tan Sri Dr Mohan Swami's controlled Sitt Tatt Berhad.
The rationale is not clear but the Prime Minister's name has been bandied around constantly to by-pass rationale, justification and as 'catalyst' for closure for the deal. The PM is interested to have the project rolled out in Malaysia as a proof to the success of his visit to the Unites States last year.
If these deal go true, MARA will again be the laughing stock of not just the property practitioners but the whole business community for being gullible and looking amateurish.
Do thorough homework and background check before negotiating any deals. If you are not sharp and experienced in making deals, do not dream of cutting deals with corporate players. With the capacity of the Ketua Pengarah, Haji Ibrahim, MARA will be swallowed alive!
Tan Sri Dr Mohan Swami was synonymous with Chase Perdana Sdn Bhd (which used to be a PLC). Back in 2001, he was charged on two counts of breach of Securities Industry Act in connection with a rights issue for disclosing false information.
The presiding judge, now Dato Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah is the same judge presiding over Anwar's Sodomy II. The prosecution withdrew the charge in exchange for him paying compound.
Furthermore, this guy went to Tabung Haji with the same deal and was rejected. If penyamun like CEO Dato Ismi rejected this guy, MARA must be nuts to be in business with Mohan Swami.
Let's not challenge us to dig up this guy's past and other dealings (MARA should know that this MARA product is infamous for).
Don't tell me that the MARA Counsel members are impressed with Swami Mohan for his parade of titles of Tan Sri, Datuk and Doctor. Even taiko of organised crime can obtain Tan Sriship. One is Tan Sri Tan Kim Ya and another is Tan Sri Robert Phang.
MARA Council members including few politicians and professionals will sure look like market idiots for closing a deal with such conniving liars.
Human capital service sector
Not with standing controversies, MARA is said also to be talking about investing into services sector, particularly, in human capital.
MARA is said to be toying the idea of having investment in Innovation Associates (IA), specifically in Agensi Pekerjaan Career Xcell Sdn. Bhd. (Career Xcell).
Readers of ABITW should know be familiarise with IA as the firm owned by NEAC member Datuk Dr Hamzah Kassim is a partner and Executive Director and infamous for their "propose and plough" scheme.
Career Xcell is a 100% subsidiary of IA.
If this is turned out to materialise, then it is no mystery why the COO of Career Xcell Cik Czarina Ali binti Abdul Razak is appointed as MARA Council member recently. She is supposed to facilitate the discussion of the proposal and follow it through.
A little bird told us that MARA is supposed to be a 30% shareholder of Career Xcell and is not a hare-brain scheme recently concocted.
As far back as early 2008, they were in serious discussion on the acquisition. This is the time where MARA was under MECD Minister Dato' Seri Khaled Nordin and Hamzah is a very close associate.
Let us not forget that it was the time when Institut Darul Riduan Bhd CEO, Aminuddin Hashim was the Associate Director of IA and he proposed re-strategising and eventually re-structuring MARA.
Coming back to Career Xcell, the same woman is the person said to be the real player behind Talent Solution Sdn. Bhd., which is actively pitching for human capital projects in Perak via the elusive and mysterious IDR.
Cik Czarina's name is clearly featured in reports despite her being neither a director of Talent Solutions. She is the COO and de facto CEO of Career Xcell, which is sanctioned by the Perak State Government and is under the radar scope of Menteri Besar Dato' Seri Dr Zambery A Kadir.
For a recap, re-read the Cronyism creeping in silver state.
Where all these is going is uncertain. Your guess is as good as mine. Now that all these have been uncovered, the issuance of brand new Blackberry Torches no longer seem that bad after all.
Nevertheless, it is a matter of principle. If MARA could issue sophisticated mobile phones, then what is stopping them from giving away iPads? How about iPad IIs, which should appear in Malaysian market soon after two weeks from today? iPad 3 has just been launched.
How about MARA leasing if not buying brand new Proton Inspira 2.0 GTs to each of them? Why stop there and not consider a Volvo S80s instead?
The core of all these point towards the top of the heap, MARA Chairman Dato' Seri Idris Jusoh.
In this electoral term, he was refused appointment as Menteri Besar of Terengganu by His Majesty Seri Paduka Baginda Yang DiPertuan Agong Tuanku Sultan Mizan Ibni Al Marhum Tuanku Sultan Mahmood despite BN retaining more than 2/3 majority in DUN Terengganu and he is the State UMNO Liaison Chairman.
His association with sleepy-head Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi and ability to 'follow instructions' from Khairy Jamaluddin and his notorious 'Level Four Boys' was the primary blame.
Still, his leadership in Terengganu is plagued by cronyism. The Crystal Mosque, Moonsoon Cup permanent structures and most embarrassing, the collapse of the recently built stadium should all be tagged whenever Idris Jusoh's name is barely mentioned.
And now, MARA is rationalising themselves with 'thinking outside the box' phrases for these hare-brain and inadvertently high risk investments also point towards cronyism.
No doubt Idris is very innovative (apparently, its the 'core' calling-sign of IA) in his ways. However, Idris as a former Deputy Minister in charge of MECD must observe the dos and don'ts and reflect on the MARA Act, even though its silent on certain issues.
MARA is a bastion agency and de facto custodian of the Malay Agenda. Idris so far failed to 'clean up' the processes and human capital development programs within MARA itself. To go bold and courageous with risky ventures without cleaning up the house would simply spiral MARA into far worse position it is at the moment.
The Malays no longer have time, space, other resources nor the opportunity to ride on another botched socio-economic experiment concocted by ambitious politicians like Idris.
All of these, would simply translate to PM Dato' Seri Najib's hardwork being taken back a few step backwards, to greedy people taking advantage to the fullest of their position and clout.
It's time for MACC to come in.
It's about the Malay Agenda. The Malays can no longer afford anymore risk and crazy experiments in any forms.
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