Malaysia won’t be bankrupted: Reveal Petronas accounts

We take umbrage to Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s statement which was reported in the NST on 31 December 2007. He was quoted as saying, “The country will go bankrupt if the government reduces oil prices, which are sky-rocketing in the world market. It is not possible for the opposition to bring fuel prices down. It simply does not make sense…they are just trying to fool the people.

“We can use Petronas’ profits to reduce fuel prices, but only if we forego development projects like building schools and universities.”


It is truly regrettable that Najib did not provide any facts and figures to give credibility to his statement that “the country will go bankrupt if the government reduces oil prices”. Without these statistics it will be well nigh impossible for ordinary citizens to believe that Najib himself is not “trying to fool the people”.

Facts and figures are far more persuasive in convincing people to accept the line of argument that Najib is promoting. Mere rhetoric will not persuade people to believe that “the country will go bankrupt” if the opposition were to reduce fuel prices when they form the government.

What is Najib’s basis in claiming that “the country will go bankrupt”? Why should it go bankrupt? How does he come to this conclusion?

Instead of employing scare tactics as an election ploy to garner support for the Barisan Nasional, he should table Petronas’ detailed accounts in parliament to substantiate his claim. He owes a duty to Malaysians to provide the detailed accounts so that the people can be convinced that he is justified in claiming that the “the country will go bankrupt”. In the absence of the detailed accounts, Malaysians have a right to dismiss his claim as an extreme exaggeration of a politician who is unable to counter an argument with truth.

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When we talk of Petronas’ revenue we are talking about the income generated by our national assets. Our national wealth must be accounted for in a transparent manner. We need to know how much is earned by Petronas and we know in detail how this acquired wealth is being managed and spent. We need to know how much those in the ranks of hierarchy are being paid and how they are rewarded. What kinds of bonuses do they receive? How much is their gratuity when they retire?

This and much more have to be answered honestly.

Why must the earnings and accounts of Petronas be kept away from Malaysians? Why is parliamentary scrutiny into the accounts denied? What is the problem? Does this information fall under the ambit of “national security” that it cannot be divulged? Why should the Prime Minister alone be privy to the details of how this colossal wealth is being managed?

If answers to all these cannot be made public, then Najib should stop fooling the people.

If Parliament cannot exert its authority to demand that the accounts of Petronas be tabled for scrutiny by the elected members of Parliament, then it should stop pretending to be the legislative authority of the Federation. To safeguard its own image “as the source of governmental energy and the seat of national power”, Parliament must act “as the main channel of democratic impulses”. It shouldn’t play a subservient role to the executive and be seen and accepted as doing the biddings of the executive. It shouldn’t strengthen the hand of the government by surrendering its own authority to the executive through insidious legislation.

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Najib’s statement that “we can use Petronas’ profits to reduce fuel prices, but only if we forego development projects like building schools and universities” cannot be taken seriously. This must be a derisive comment. If indeed the profits were used for developmental purposes like building schools, can Najib please explain why 1,555 national schools in the rural areas are without toilet facilities and 794 schools are without electricity as revealed by the Minister of Education last year?

Would the cost of providing such basic amenities to these schools run into billions of ringgit making it impossible to achieve all these years? Does it mean that Petronas has not made that kind of profit all these years to provide such facilities to the poor pupils in rural areas? How can Najib justify such cruel and callous neglect of the most deserving people in the rural areas in a country that is richly endowed with wealth and the means to rectify such deprivation?

It is a widely held belief that the absence of accountability and transparency over the income and expenditure of Petronas has led to an unbelievable squandering and plundering of the nation’s wealth.

To preserve our dignity as a nation and to justify ourselves as a democracy, we must be ethical in all that we do. Foremost in that we must be transparent and accountable in all our dealings concerning the wealth of our nation. This demands that the accounts of Petronas must be subjected to parliamentary scrutiny.

P Ramakrishnan

President

3 January 2008

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