KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 11 – A ruckus broke out in Parliament today when Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Chua Tee Yong refused to answer questions on the controversial state sovereign fund, 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB). Tony Pua (DAP-Petaling Jaya Utara) had asked Chua about Putrajaya’s letter of support for 1MDB as well as a land deal for the relocation of defence units from land marked for government development project, Bandar Malaysia.
“I want a firm answer from the government whether it will help to pay 1MDB’s RM9.6 billion bonds,” Pua said in reference to the contentious letter of support which Putrajaya had earlier denied existed. Last week, deputy finance minister Datuk Ahmad Maslan had said the government only provided a guarantee of RM5.8 billion of 1MDB’s debts.
Although Chua answered the query on the land deal, explaining that the relocation cost is high as it involves eight sites and the subsequent redevelopment, he sidestepped the question on the letter of support. “I don’t want to talk about other issues because a lot of assumptions have been made,” he said. This set off a shouting match, with Pua shouting and accusing the Barisan Nasional led government of being “a half past six government” and that it should be ashamed of itself.
Other opposition lawmakers including Anthony Loke (DAP-Seremban), Tian Chua (PKR-Batu) and G. Manivanan (PKR-Kapar) also stood up to voice their protests. The opposition MPs then called for bloc voting on the RM50.4 billion allocation for the Finance Ministry under the 2015 Budget. The allocation was passed with 57 votes for and 34 against.
Khalid Samad (PAS-Shah Alam) noted although BN won the vote, the fact remained that Chua did not answer the question posed. Pua added: “This is shameful, it’s a disgrace that the deputy minister does not know how to answer a question.” Looking across the aisle towards the Minister in charge of Parliament Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, he retorted that Chua should be taught to answer questions properly, prompting Shahidan to tick off Pua by telling him to “shut up”.
1MDB is Malaysia’s second sovereign wealth fund after Khazanah Nasional Bhd. Critics have long questioned the fund’s heavy debts, usage of funds and opaque operations. Among its staunchest critics is former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who had called on Putrajaya to explain how the fund had benefited Malaysians, especially since it had incurred a RM38 billion debt in just five years of its operations.
Earlier today, the statesman had said there is no need for 1MDB, saying that it had only served to add on to the country’s debt. “1MDB is said to be a sovereign wealth fund, but it is not. It is money that we have borrowed. When we borrow, we have to pay back. This is not wealth. “In my opinion, even if there is no 1MDB it would be fine,” Dr Mahathir was quoted as saying by a news portal after he was asked whether the fund should be shut down.