Saturday, March 29, 2008

We will 'pursue' Khir Toyol'

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Q&A:We will 'pursue' Khir Toyo
The new Selangor menteri besar vows to pursue the allegations of wrongdoing against his predecessor. However, Khalid Ibrahim stresses on the importance of facts, and not sentiments.

Malaysiakini: What are your short-term and long term goals for Selangor?
Khalid Ibrahim: Selangor has got opportunities as much as challenges. One of the challenges is how to accommodate the growth in population. In Selangor and Federal Territory, the Malaysian population is around five million, while the total number of people is about eight million. At least 1.5 million of these people are foreign labourers.
They bring in economic resources to the state as well as social issues. I thought that over the years, if Selangor is to progress, we have to find ways and means to reduce our dependence on foreign labour. That is one of our objectives.
To solve that, I think we should also tackle the issue of employment among youth - those between the ages of 22 and 35. I want to make sure that all the youth in Selangor are eventually fully employed. What I want to do is to have a skills training programme to enhance the quality of the youth so that they can work in higher-income areas and be, for example, artisans such as specialised welders.
Young ladies can train to become nurses, dental assistants, or work as assistants in surgery rooms, for example. Young men could become audio and computer specialists, and move from low-skilled jobs to higher skilled jobs.
After two to three years in our programme, our target is for these youth to earn at least RM2,000 a month. If that happens, and say there were 500,000 youths in this programme, we would have reduced the income gap while at the same time create more consumer demand.
How will I fund this project? If we have about 1.5 million foreign workers, I would like to propose that our employers in Selangor who hire foreign workers allocate RM9 a month per foreign worker. This money would go towards helping to train the youths. RM9 a month is equivalent to about RM100 a year. If there are 1.5 million foreign workers, I will be accumulating RM150 million which serves the purpose of funding for the training.
I don't think the employers will grumble too much, because they are investing in the future of the state. Due to the decreased dependence on foreign labour, there will be less crimes, less social problems, less dependency on facilities and medical, and so on. That is the tradeoff between the two. If I can do that, then I can move Selangor into the future.

So you're trying to reduce the dependency on foreign workers.
We need to. It may not be so in the short-term, but it should work in the medium term. I do not think Malaysia can afford such dependency for long. Foreign labour imposes demands on our infrastructure and other facilities such as medical treatment, schooling for their children, and so on.

Foreign labourers are causing these demands?
Yeah. People would say I'm unfair and discriminatory in this regard. We like foreign labour to live and work with us, but we also want to develop our own home-grown capacity.

But in terms of social problems and crimes, police statistics have shown that the majority of crimes are not committed by foreigners but Malaysians.
That could be true.
Within the next two weeks, the chief police officer of Selangor will brief the state executive council (exco) on the issue of safety in Selangor, crimes, and all that. We want him to guide us on how to reduce the crime rate. We are making safety a major thrust.
Maybe there are a lot of things the state government can do to help the police force be more effective in terms of fighting crime, making sure there are less illegal activities and so forth. We want to work with the police force in Selangor.

When we talk about reducing foreign workers, we also have to talk about transforming industry practices, and so on, right?
Yes. One exco member has been specifically tasked with resolving the problem of illegal factories, which is prevalent in Selangor. Not that we want them to get out of Selangor. We just want them to comply with the standards.
I know they are trying to reduce their costs of production, and all that, but not to the extent of neglecting their social responsibilities. Many of these factories are situated in what we call river reserves. The pollution created there affects the environment at an enormous cost to us in terms of cleaning the rivers, and so on.
That is the crux of the matter. These issues need to be tackled head on. That's one of the reasons we have one exco to tackle this issue. He's going to visit all the illegal factories, help them to become legal and conform to the required standards, and so forth. We are not trying to chase them away, we are just trying to reduce the corrupt practices. I'm told that some of the illegal factories survive by paying officials for their illegal existence. We want them to understand their problems and their issues they are facing.

You mentioned calling the state CPO to discuss with the exco about the issue of security, and so on. What are your other short-term plans?
There are two parts in terms of the plans by the menteri besar's office. One pertains to the administration. For that, I'm being supported by the excos, like on education, infrastructure, welfare, economy, and so forth.
The other part relates to government-owned corporations, like (Selangor state development body) PKNS, the investments by the Menteri Besar Incorporated, and the privatisation ventures.
I need to make sure we operate profitably while practicing accountability and good corporate governance. Selangor must achieve over RM1 billion in investments in order to sustain its growth.
Also, I'm trying to work to help the federal government to rehabilitate some of the investment projects that have been undertaken by the state that are not operating in the manner that we have wished for.
For example, there is the Port Klang Free Trade Zone (PKFZ). I have not seen the final figures, but I have heard that there have been over RM4 billion poured into that, and it is not operating in the manner that we wanted, so I'm going to request the federal government that we be allowed to operate it so that the state can make use of these assets and enhance the economic activities of the port, and so forth.
I'm also looking at the water privatisation projects and how I can work with the concessionaires to make sure that, this time, the Selangor public will not be shortchanged by the enormous profit being given to the concessionaire which as been translated into higher costs and charges to the customers.
That is my programme. I want to sort out all the government-linked companies (GLCs) and priviatisation projects, to uplift them to a more effective and successful venture. Overall, over RM2 to RM3 billion of state's investments have to be managed properly to provide returns.

PKFZ is currently a private entity, you want to take over?
It has already been bailed out. I thought the bailout is not enough... to solve the problems. We need to manage it, the Selangor government, because it is Selangor land and it is within the Selangor state. Given my experience as chairman of Kontainer Nasional. I was involved in the privatisation of Port Klang. I will be able to provide some ideas and ways of resolving this problem.
It is now under the Port Klang Authority (PKA) which is under the Ministry of Transport. The state did not invest in this. The state provided the land last time, and then they started building it and all that. They wanted to sell this to investors and nothing happened, and the story of the bailout came out. I'm looking at that story and studying it further. I want to approach the federal government instead of wasting this investment. Then I could have a revisitation.
A couple of years ago before they started the PKFZ, PKA was supposed to be doing quite well. The former general manager said when he left PKA had RM400-500 million in reserves. Since that time...
I was involved. They privatised Port Klang. There are two ports now: Westport and Port Klang. When they privatised, Kontaner Nasional was one of the concessionaires with PNO of Australia. Then we became the leaseholder of the wharf PKA. Then PKA was landed with huge sums of cash and profits from that. Then they had ideas of creating an inland, and they used these resources to invest in that. It became a failure. They not only lost the port, they also lost funds available to them.

How do you think the federal government will react?
They should react positively! How on earth can they waste taxpayers money and not react positively (to our request to take over)? They should react positively. Here is a group of people who are willing to help the government to make it better.
We will take it over at book value of RM1 or RM2, and then we can do better, 1,000 acres being wasted.

What about issues within PKFZ? Of claims of conflict of interest, of irregularities, and so on?
We can help solve them at the same time. I don't think we will not stop at that (taking over PKFZ), we will help to solve those problems at the same time. What are the things that make the problems arise?
We shouldn't stop only at solving the paper exercise, we also should operate the thing. Can you imagine 1,000 acres of real estate that has not been utilised properly. It's a lot. To the tax-payers.

If you do take over PKFZ, you won't be ignoring the issues. You will be taking action?
The federal government should also not ignore the issues.

But you're also going to look into claims of corruption, and so forth.
Yes. That's important. Who are the subcontractors? What are the costs involved in that? We can help unravel all the issues to correct the position. I think the least the public expects is that people who benefited out of this must pay for their sins or crimes that need to be resolved.
If you leave it alone, it becomes a ghost town. You know why Selangor is also interested in it? If it is not being managed properly, it will create safety issues and crime issues for the state.
You leave 10 or 20 buildings unattended, can you imagine who's going to stay there and the problems created as a result of that? There could be illegals going into the areas. Who's going to take care of that? It falls back to the state.

PKR has made accusations against former menteri besar Dr Mohd Khir Toyo. Will the current state government take any action against him?
I think we must first unravel the facts. What I have done is ask the relevant departments to give me a report on whether these accusations are real or just hollow accusations. Following that, we'll review them.
If there is a case for saying this is misappropriation or misuse of power or corruption, then the state will take necessary action. We are at the first stage, not the second stage. You ask me whether we will pursue it, my answer is yes. But we cannot pursue out of sentiments, we have to pursue with the facts.

Before the election, PKR candidates made a vow that they will expose all the wrongdoings of Khir Toyo.
Of course we will do it. Having said that, PKR has to give fairness to both sides. We have already experienced how injustice was done to PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim. It means that the facts must be clear.
We have to show an example to Barisan Nasional that the way we do it is professional and proper. It's unfair to say that this chap has done wrong without any proof or evidence. We have to gather the proof and evidence and move from there.

On Istana Zakaria, nothing has happened to that. Will there be any legal action taken?
Zakaria Mat Deroas has passed away, we must be very humane and give the family time to recuperate from the loss. At the same time, we are questioning this matter. One of the excos in charge of local councils is Ronnie Liu.
He has indicated to me that he will be looking at the facts again and we will have discussions with the Klang local council on the matter. Maybe then we will correct the situation.
At the local level, can you confirm if the Exco Village will be sold off or not?
This suggestion is the initiative of our state assemblypersons. They felt that the excos should live in this village in view of its luxury. But if you left the place without using it, it would be a waste. Some of them have proposed some extreme suggestions like selling it so that the state would get the money, and so forth.
But my view is that we have to look at it professionally. I think we shouldn't be in a rush to sell state assets, because property values do rise over a period of time if you believe the Selangor economy will grow.
Possibly, we can rent out the bungalows and earn over many years. Later, we can redesign the entire place and make it into a gated community so that the CEOs of major corporations residing in Selangor would be able to stay in this place. Of course, we have to charge them rental that reflects the quality of that real estate.
So perhaps there will not be a selling of the exco village but rental of the bungalows?
There are various options available. If you sell the assets, you are selling the land. But if you think that Selangor will grow much more, invariably real estate in the area will go up. Either the excos stay (there) or we rent it out to the appropriate people.
What are the chances of the excos staying there?
I will be talking to them, but I think they'll most likely be reluctant to stay there. But we must act quickly to find people to rent the place and give us the desired income.
What are your thoughts on the RM10 billion Pahang-Selangor raw water transfer project? Will it go on?
It must continue. The project is a major project, it will both give revenue to the state of Pahang as well as to cater to the future needs of water in Selangor.
But some quarters say the financial costs as well as the environmental costs are more than the benefits.
That they don't have to worry about. We will do the arithmetic and we will do it better. We will inform the public later once I declassify the contracts that are under the Official Secrets Act.
After we have declassified the information, from time to time, I will inform the public about the costs of this project, who are the beneficiaries, how much the Pahang government will receive, how much the pipeline costs, how much the treatment plant costs, how much it costs to bring water to Selangor and so on.
Won't whole communities of Orang Asli and Malay farmers - who are living and working in the land targeted for the Kelau Dam part - experience severe dislocation on account of the inter-state water transfer project?
We have to sit down with them to discuss adequate compensation.
What about the considerable environmental costs of the project? Hundreds of species of plants and animals are said to be threatened once the Kelau Dam is built and begins operations.
We have to take care of the environment. If it cannot be done, we have to find other options to do that. I have not reviewed all of the environmental impacts, but I must say that the previous state government and the federal government would have considered that issue, hopefully in the sensitive manner that we wanted.

On the issue of the deputy menteri besar...
I think that is no more an issue. The Sultan of Selangor wanted the menteri besar and excos to get down to work immediately rather than dwell on the issue of deputy menteri besar. Furthermore, the deputy menteri besar only advises the menteri besar and does not have full power. Therefore, the Sultan doesn't see the need for a deputy menteri besar. The previous menteri besar did not have a deputy.

Yesterday you spoke about how "effectiveness and cohesion" would demand that there not be a deputy mentri besar at the moment. What did you mean by that? What is the problem with choosing a deputy menteri besar?
One, it is about accommodating the demand between the various parties. In some states, you have two menteris besar. In all, therefore, you have three positions of menteri besar, which, under all management principles is not the way to do it.
Secondly, the Selangor state is not so big to warrant its CEO having a deputy.
The Sultan said that if we prove that we really need the services of a deputy menteri besar in a later period, then the sultan will hear our request. It doesn't mean he will agree. He will just hear our request.

There seems to have been some disagreement between the political parties as to who should be the deputy menteri bear.
Well, we have resolved it. I don't know about other states, but Selangor resolved it by having just a menteri besar. Other states resolved it by having two deputy menteris besar.

Can we assume that with DAP�s Teresa Kok as the senior exco, she is first in line for the position of deputy menteri besar?
Well, whenever that occasion arises. But that's not an issue at the moment.

(DAP�s former Selangor opposition leader) Teng Chang Khim was said to have been sidelined.
I cannot answer on behalf of DAP as I'm wearing the that of Keadilan (PKR). But we have 36 state assemblypersons within our group from which we have to select 11 (to form the state exco). The remaining 25 will ask why they were not selected. We have every reason also to select the other 25.
In this way, I think the issue will be prolonged (if we don't stop the issue now). I'm not talking just about Teng. Even within PAS, Keadilan and others within DAP, if you see the qualifications of the other leaders who were slated to be excos, they were eligible. But we have limited seats.
Based on the recommendations submitted by all parties, I tried to pick the best from Keadilan, PAS and DAP.

Will Teng be appointed Speaker?
The attitude of PKR and DAP is, if there is a possibility of him being appointed Speaker, we will do so.

The Penang state government has directed its leading government officers to declare their assets publicly.
We'll do it also. I think we've also made the same statement, but the timing of its implementation will take time.

Will they declare to you or directly to the public?
I'll have to ask my excos first. Some do not want to make their declarations public for family reasons.

Even the Barisan Nasional-led federal government is directing cabinet ministers to declare their assets publicly.
Well, it's up to my excos. If they feel they want to make it public, then we'll make it public. But there are reasons for this, because they say they do not want to show their shareholdings to the public.

Doesn't that raise questions regarding the excos' transparency?
No, no, no. They will give their details, but they do not want it to be public. There's a difference. In some countries they do that. But most likely, we'll make it public. I must get their agreement.

Who is it that may be declaring their assets?
The excos and the menteri besar.

On the 'zero squatters' policy of the previous menteri besar...
We'll continue to work towards that.

You'll continue with that policy?
Yes. I don't think we'll want to avoid not to continue in that area. At the same time, we'll have an exco in charge of squatters.

That policy has been very controversial, like in Kampung Berembang...
But you can't allow people to become squatters in a state. There's the balance that we have to abide by. In Kampung Berembang, they want to live... (in proper housing) They do not want to become squatters. The issue is, where will they be placed?

In many of the squatter settlements, the squatters claim they have a stake and an interest in the land they have settled and lived on for decades.
But there is also the question as to whether it is state land or the land is owned privately. For private land, the squatters will have to pay compensation for staying there based on market value.

The squatters have to pay compensation?
If they want that land, they have to pay compensation based on market value, because you are not being fair to the landowner. Of course, what the government can do is to have a cross subsidy in that the developer will build a place for the squatters to stay...

What about Kampung Berembang specifically?
We'll have a re-look, a revisit (of the issue) shortly. We want to accommodate the wishes of the squatters as much as we have to take into account the costs to the developer.

There have been considerable grievances expressed against this zero squatters policy.
Oh yes. And we will continue to hear these grievances.. . I do not foresee that we will have a plain sailing exercise here. But we have to do what we have to do. Just like the illegal factories issue, this is also going to be a big issue, but we are not afraid to face it. We have to face it.

Related to this is the demolition of temples ordered by the former menteri besar...
We will be looking at the list of all places of worship. How many places of worship are there in Selangor, like the suraus, mosques, temples, churches, and all that? Then, we'll announce it to the public. We'll give an undertaking that any demolition or replacement of these places of worship must be with the concurrence of the users.

In the previous demolitions, like in Rimba Jaya, there were excesses recorded, such as instances of the enforcement officers themselves throwing stones (towards temples targetted for demolition). ..
We hope that will not be repeated. We'll have a dialogue with the people.
One thing I must say, when you are dealing with 100 people, you may face 100 different opinions. I don't think you will please everybody. Just like my selection of 10 excos will not please the remaining 25 excos, inevitably, I have to make a decision, and the decision will take into account the needs of the people, but it doesn't mean you have to please all the people.
I have talked to the police about the so-called human rights issue of people having the right to voice their opinion, and all that. Now that we are in government, and there were groups of people who protested against (Penang DAP's statements about) the NEP, we didn't ask the police to go and chase them away. We said they should be given their adequate right to voice their opinions. We don't do that.

So people will be allowed peaceful gatherings.
Yeah, yeah. We should allow for peaceful demonstrations.

So if there's any police action against an assembly or gathering, it's not on the directive of the Selangor state government?
The state government will ensure that it does not happen. Unless they go and beat the police. The state government will also ensure that adequate permits are acquired. I have now the attitude that if people want to get together to voice their opinion, rather than going by the roadside, they can gather at the stadium provided they can take care of it... I'm willing to give the Shah Alam stadium for the people to gather.

But some people are of the opinion that there should be the right to voice one's views in the streets. Bersih, for example, had abut 40,000 people on Nov 10....
No, no, no. Bersih was also willing to go and voice (its opinions) in a stadium in view of the traffic problem (the procession would have caused), the complaints by the hawkers and the residents. The best compromise is to gather where you can voice your opinion while not disturbing the public.

But if people do gather in the streets, you're not going to order their dispersal...
No, but it will have to be within a short period of time. If not, we'll have a major problem of traffic and the safety of the commuters.

Among the grievances against the previous state government is the issue of hillside development. What's the state government's take on this?
We'll have a re-look at that issue. This morning, I had a discussion with our exco on local councils, who will go to Ampang (for example) to discuss with the local council chief on how we can resolve this issue of hillslope development there (in the Ukay Heights area).

Will there be a moratorium on such developments?
If it is found to be dangeroua to the environment, then we'll have to decide on how we could do it.

It's not a general moratorium, but a specific one for Ampang?
We have to go side by side. I don't think we can do it for everything. Mind you, the developer who has gone in, they have already gotten the approval of the state. We have to understand why the approval was given and how we can be assured that the hillslope development protects the environment and the people.

The problem, however, is that in some cases, approvals were issued for projects despite the danger that they pose.
We have to study it. I'm not going to be close-minded about the issue. If it's a danger to the community and a hazard, then we'll have to stop it. But that has to be on the advice of professionals. As you know, in property development, we have professional consultants like architects, engineers and quantity surveyors. We cannot ignore them. But if they themselves are not adhering to the ethics of their profession, they will lose their jobs and their business. For Ampang, I'm going to approach the professionals and ask why they recommended the project to proceed? How did they assure the people the safety of the community and that the quality of the environment will be maintained.
It will take some time... Of course, we'll also talk to the developer.

Any possibilities of you stepping down from the Bandar Tun Razak parliamentary seat to make way for Anwar Ibrahim?
Not really, not really. I don't want to be part of the speculation. Whatever the timing, Anwar will decide. His decision is a political decision. We also don't want to identify the place where, if ever, Anwar will contest, and this is obviously for strategic reasons. If they know Anwar will contest in Bandar Tun Razak, a lot of people will prepare (early).
So we have to have 15 to 20 places where Anwar may contest. A by-election is a very focussed thing and Anwar will have to find a place where the chances of a swing (against PKR) will not undermine his chances of victory.

You're ruling out stepping down as Bandar Tun Razak MP?
I'm not ruling it out. I'm just saying we're not going to identify the place because Umno, MIC and MCA will start canvassing which is not going to help Anwar in his objectives.

What's the status of the investigations into the shredding of documents that were alleged to be important documents pertaining to irregularities committed during the previous state government?
They've done the report. We're waiting for the exco to meet and discuss this.
The report is completed?


Daripada Abu Umarah iaitu al-Bara' bin 'Azib radhiallahu anhuma, katanya: "Kita semua diperintah oleh Rasulullah s.a.w. untuk melakukan tujuh perkara, iaitu meninjau orang sakit, mengikuti janazah, menentasymitkan orang yang bersin, menolong orang yang lemah, membantu orang yang teraniaya, meratakan salam dan melaksanakan sumpah."

(Muttafaq 'alaih)

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