The al-Bukhary story

By CT Ali

An embarrassment of business opportunities, political patronage and debts. The Syed Mokhtar al Bukhary story.

COMMENT

Syed Mokhtar al Bukhary is like a king? First it was FLOM and now it is SMIK? (Syed Mokhtar is King).What will our king have to say about this pretender to his throne who also happens to be a tycoon – something which our king is not.

All this came from that MP from Kinabatangan, Bung Mokhtar Radin.

The first question I want to ask of this Sabah Umno leader is why has he got his beady eyes trained on this Syed Mokhtar guy?

I am no fan of Syed Mokhtar but why is Bung Mokhtar breaking ranks with Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak in the same way he did with Shahrizat Abdul Jalil – and you know what happened to Shahrizat after that.

Or is Bung Mokhtar taking a position to the rear of Najib’s unprotected left flank ready to do battle against Najib?

Or has Syed Mokhtar done a Abdul Razak Baginda on Bung Mokhtar?

Remember what Razak Baginda did to Altantuya Shaariibuu? He did a runner on her once he was in the money! Did Syed Mokhtar not deliver on what he promised Bung Mokhtar?

There may be loyalty amongst thieves but amongst politicians it is a scarce commodity. Today Najib, tomorrow Muhyiddin Yassin. Today one wife tomorrow two. This is the stuff Barisan Nasional MPs are made of… deceit, duplicity, greed, arrogance, large doses of libido and a misplaced self worth.

But Bung Mokhtar’s life is just a little sandiwara as opposed to the operatic saga that is Syed Mokhtar’s. Is Syed Mokhtar too big to fail? I think the adage that when you owe the banks billions, your continued success in business is as much the banks’ interest as it is yours rings true with Syed Mokhtar.

Colossal debts

This is Halim Saad all over again. Shades of Amin Shah creeps into the picture while Tajuddin Ramli smiles at the irony of it all – another bumiputera businessman doing his national service the hard way – raking a debt of RM34.3 billion courtesy of his political masters aka Umno. There are countries in Africa that have gone comatose with debts less than that.

This all too familiar comedy of bumiputera businessmen doing business the Umno way is good for a laugh if not for the real tragedy that will befall our nation when they fail. And fail he will.

RM34.3 billion buys a lot of coconuts but what does he do with RM34.3 billion worth of coconuts? What do you do with RM34.3 billion worth of debt? And so Syed Mokhtar has a lot of troubled companies in his stable and counting. When does he stop, how does he stop and when will Umno allow their cash cow to stop accumulating debts?

When will Umno ever learn? Some very rich Malay now becomes richer as his political patron makes him richer in order for this very rich Malay to pay for his political patronage.

Very soon no political solution can be found to resolve the RM34.3 billion debt he has incurred. His ability to manage his political patron it is not matched by his ability to manage his RM34.3 billion debt. Soon the very rich Malay fades to obscurity… preferably somewhere abroad.

We have seen this comedy of errors enacted many times before in companies and businessmen linked to Umno. With very rare exception, the Chinese businessman who profited from political patronage goes from strength to strength and at times even from one prime minister to the next one.

Not the Malay businessman. He has an embarrassment of business opportunities thrown at him by his political masters. Even more than what he, his family, his relatives and friends can handle – even his driver too. The banks are tripping over each other in offering him more money then there are PAS supporters in Kelantan. And still in the end they all fail.

An embarrassment of business opportunities, an embarrassment of loans on offer and an embarrassment of debts – all too familiar a scenario with Malay businessmen who owed their fortunes to political patronage.

His debts are our debts

When they fail, the consequence of their failure is felt by you and me because it is our money and our opportunity to business that he has been playing with – not his. So his debts are our debts and we end up paying for it.

For good reason, we should remember Renong whose debts was about RM20 billion or 7% of loans in the banking system 14 years ago, far less than the risk posed by Syed Mokhtar’s business. Renong failed and Renong’s bankruptcy caused hundreds of millions in losses to investors, the collapse of the stock market and a RM10 billion government bailout!

Lunacy in any person is distressing but in our leaders it becomes distressing and at times dangerous. Is it not the height of madness to allow another Renong to happen?

Is it not the act of a lunatic to select Syed Mokhtar’s Seaport terminal to take the Finance Ministry- owned Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB) private when it’s owner, Syed Mokhtar, already has a total debt of RM34.3 billion?

It seems that again, this government has not learnt from past mistakes. We have!

CT Ali is a reformist who believes in Pakatan Rakyat’s ideologies. He is a FMT columnist.

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