Friday, August 20, 2004

Sabah Amanah Sabah (SAS) Shout And Shout

20 August, 2004
Yong: Bid to link SAS with Warisan deals will fail

SAPP President Datuk Yong Teck Lee said the attempt to link the Saham Amanah Sabah (SAS) debacle with the business dealings of Warisan Harta Sabah Sdn Bhd (WHSSB) in 1997 will fail.

He said his visit to the Saham Sabah Berhad (SSB) which manages the SAS had confirmed that the WHSSB composite share swap affecting several listed companies had nothing to do with the SAS, as claimed by Liberal Democratic Party President Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat.
“So what was reported today by the LDP President Tan Sri Chong in trying to link Warisan Harta and Saham Sabah is completely unfounded,” he told a press conference at the SAPP headquarters in Bornion, Luyang.

“I went to the SSB office first to get several prospectuses for my record and secondly to get clarification on the allegations, which were found to be not true,” he said.

In this respect, he said he had written a letter to Chong on the issue.

To a question, he agreed with Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman that the SAS or any other issues should not be politicised (but) “this is a written letter from me so I leave it at that we will see how it develops”.

Musa had called on the two parties headed by two former chief ministers to put an end to the bickering on who should be blamed for the fall of the SAS shares.

Yong contended that SAPP had been keeping quiet all this while, especially during the past two months, when the attacks on the party leaders by LDP leaders heightened.

“These latest series of attacks in the newspapers by LDP leaders on SAPP leaders has been on-going. Every other week there are statements and we have been keeping quiet until the last one week,” he said.

In his letter to Chong, Yong thanked the former for his statement as published in the newspapers, which he said exposed the falsity of the accusations made against him by Chong’s party colleagues that he was responsible for the Saham Sabah losses.

“Your party divisions, Secretary General (Datuk Anthony Lai), youth and other leaders have been repeatedly attacking SAPP and its leaders, including myself, for months on all sorts of issues,” he said.

Yong said although none was substantiated, this had painted an ugly image of SAPP and its leaders, while adding that he broke his silence on Aug. 8, after a LDP leader accused him by name as being responsible for the SAS losses.

Yong said he had thought that the LDP leader had made a genuine mistake when accusing him, prompting him to tell SAPP members not to be angry with LDP members since he believed that Chong could explain better the matter to them.

“As a Federal Minister, State Minister, former CM and now a DCM at all material times you must have known about the collapse of the stock market, currency controls and the functioning of the National Economic Action Council in handling the financial crisis of 1997-1999 coinciding with my time as CM.

All state unit trusts have suffered,” he told Chong in the letter.

Yong also asked Chong whether his comment on Aug 11 that “even a child knows who is responsible (for the SAS losses) shows that you know who the culprit(s) are but that (in the Chinese newspapers), you do not want to reveal the culprit because you “want to give him face” was referring to a former CM or then Finance Minister or any other official.

“Too many people have got hit by your vague allegation. My statement on Aug 17 was asking you to expose the culprits and not saying that you are the culprit,” he said.

“If you feel wrongly accused, then you should realise how other people feel when they are similarly wrongly accused,” he said.

Yong also criticised Chong for attempting to link SAS and WHSSB and “to put the whole blame on me is highly irresponsible and calculated to cause maximum damage to my reputation.

“How could it be that you (a lawyer) and your secretary general (an accountant and Chairman of Sabah Credit Corporation) do not know the difference between Saham Amanah Sabah and Warisan Harta Sdn Bhd?” he asked.

Yong said Chong in his press conference attended by LDP Supreme Council members still failed to name any person responsible for the SAS losses.

“The 55,000 SAS investors are still waiting for you to expose the culprits who caused the SAS losses. If, as you said, every child knows who the culprit is, then why not name him? Whose face are you trying to save?” he asked.

On Chong’s demand that Yong explain the composite share swap involving NBT/Sugar Bun and MISC shares held by WHSSB, he said he had already done so on Jan. 16 1998 when the issues first arose.

“Under oath in a court of law, in March 2001, I took the witness stand to explain this matter in open court. Would I be so fool hardy to do so if my conduct could not withstand public scrutiny? Whether I am to be believed or not is for the people to decide,” Yong said.

According to Yong, Warisan Harta made profits and declared a dividend of RM7 million, which, he said, could be proven by looking at the WHSSB audited accounts before the end of his tenure as Chief Minister.

Yong claimed that Chong had been selective in releasing information to the 55,000 investors for the SAS losses and even told “my deputy Datuk Tham Nyip Shen that I have eaten the coffin money of the investors”.

Yong said he had no ill feelings towards those raising the Warisan Harta/NBT issue previously since the full facts were not available to them.

But, he contends Chong had access to all relevant documents during his tenure as Chief Minister and that furthermore, the agreements between WHSSB and Suniwang Sdn Bhd were prepared by Chong’s law firm.

“If there were anything wrong, you would have known much earlier. The big question is “Why only now?”” he said, claiming that Chong’s reference to the RM50 million cash was twisted to confuse the public as the RM50 million was paid to WHSSB, not the other way round.

Yong also stated in the letter that he did not believe that Chong was not researching the Warisan Harta issue to look for “evidence” to implicate him.

He said he assumed this by the “direct threats” allegedly made by Chong on him when Yong went to see him on Sept. 28, 2001 at Wisma Innoprise to discuss the gambling issue.

“I was there to state my party’s policy on gambling, which has been established ever since 1994, it was nothing against you”.

But, Yong said Chong responded that he would take action against him (and other ex-CMs) for so-called past wrongs and offences.

“It is a threat that reminds me of another more lethal threat made by the then Acting Prime Minister (former DPM in 1997).

On June 15, 1997 at the Sandakan Renaissance Hotel, (the former DPM) threatened myself and other State Ministers with actions unless the State Cabinet approve a gambling licence for operation in Sabah,” he said.

Yong said the property to explain the performance of SAS is the SSB itself.

“I believe that no CM or Minister or other politician, presently or in the past, are involved in SAS’ investment and management,” he concluded.

Also at the press conference were Vice President Datuk Wong Yit Ming, Secretary General Richard Yong and Supreme Council members.

20 August, 2004
Blame it on mart: SAS

Kota Kinabalu: Saham Sabah Berhad (SSB) the fund manager of the Saham Amanah Sabah (SAS) said its share price plummet had nothing to do with Warisan Harta Sabah Sdn Bhd (WHSSB) or anyone else for that matter.

SSB Chief Executive Officer Datuk Hj Hassan Hj Otoi said if anyone was to be blamed for the estimated RM400 million losses that the 55,000 investors incurred, it should be the share market itself.

Everyone knew about the economic turmoil that hit this part of the region resulting in the downturn which affected not only the SAS but other State-owned trust funds.

At that time, he said a vacuum was created in the share market since there were no buyers at all and only sellers who were willing to sell at any price.

Met at his office after he met Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) leaders led by President Datuk Yong Teck Lee on Thursday, Hassan said investment of the SAS funds was made in accordance to strict procedures.

He said the investments were regulated by the Securities Commission (SC) and Investment Committee apart from the SSB external auditors, “therefore there was no room for any hanky panky.”

According to SSB Senior Investment Manager, Hassan Abbas so strict was the regulations that despite being a state-owned trust fund, SSB was not obliged to follow instructions even from the Chief Minister on which portfolios to invest.

The law and regulations set by the SC binds fund managers.

He said even in the SAS prospectus, it was clearly printed informing potential investors that there were elements of risk involved when they invest in SAS.

“In any investment, there is risk involved and even in property investment due to depreciation of value.”

Yong met Hassan at his office in CPS Tower Centre Point when they went there to get the SAS prospectus.

“He was kind enough to see us,” said Yong who was accompanied by Vice President Datuk Wong Yit Ming, Information Chief Norbert Chin and a Supreme Council member, Benny Low.

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