MALACCA POLITICAL CRISIS – A WAR FOR PROJECTS WAGED BY THE CORRUPT – FROM RM43 BILLION MALACCA GATEWAY TO RM100 BILLION WATERFRONT ECONOMIC ZONE

Melaka Political Crisis – The War For Projects, From RM43 Billion Melaka Gateway To RM100 Billion Waterfront Economic Zone

Following the collapse of Melaka state government on Monday (Oct 4), Governor Ali Rustam swiftly agreed with Chief Minister Sulaiman Md Ali, who had effectively lost his majority support, to dissolve the state legislative assembly. This means a state election must be held within 60 days. But the way Mr Sulaiman lost his power is both interesting and hilarious.

The chief minister was actually toppled by his own comrades after four lawmakers pulled their support for him. The leader of the rebellious team was none other than Melaka former Chief Minister Idris Haron, with the remaining 3 assemblymen being Nor Azman (UMNO) Hassan, Noor Effandi Ahmad (Bersatu or PPBM) and Norhizam Hassan Baktee (DAP-turn-independent).

This is the second time the state administration collapsed in two years. In March 2020, the Melaka state government under Pakatan Harapan (PH) also collapsed after defections of four assemblymen. PH won the state of Melaka for the first time in history during Malaysia’s May 2018 General Election, clinching 15 seats out of the 28-seat state assembly.

However, thanks to traitors Muhyiddin Yassin and Azmin Ali, who betrayed their respective Bersatu and PKR party at the federal level by forming a backdoor government – Perikatan Nasional – with defeated Barisan Nasional coalition and extremists Islamist party PAS, the chain reaction of the collapse of democratically elected PH quickly spread to Melaka.

Describing himself as “Hulk”, the disgraced Norhizam Hassan Baktee won his seat under DAP (Democratic Action Party), but he switched sides the moment his party lost power. He was formerly an UMNO member before joining DAP in 2006. Likewise, Noor Effandi Ahmad defected and joined forces with Barisan Nasional in Melaka, following Muhyiddin’s betrayal at national level.

Eventually, United Malays National Organization (UMNO) managed to reclaim Melaka in March 2020 when two Bersatu assemblymen and “Hulk” Norhizam Hassan Baktee along with PKR assemblyman Muhammad Jailani Khamis joined the defeated 13 UMNO lawmakers. That left Pakatan Harapan with only 11 seats compared to 17 on the other side.

However, Idris Haron, who had been the 10th Chief Minister of Melaka from 2013 until the defeat in the 2018, was not returned as the chief minister in March 2020. Instead, fellow UMNO Sulaiman Md Ali was installed as the new chief of the state. So, it was all about power grabbing, backstabbing, betrayal and whatnot between two UMNO chief ministers. It was UMNO-Malay vs. UMNO-Malay.

Behind the scene, Sulaiman was chosen as the Melaka chief minister because he was a bigger supporter of Muhyiddin than his own party president – Zahid Hamidi. On the other hand, Idris was a strong supporter of former PM Najib Razak, who happens to be a political rival of Muhyiddin. In fact, Idris once said he will not support any move to put Bersatu in charge of the state.

After Muhyiddin lost power, forced to resign as prime minister in August due to Zahid-Najib’s betrayal, Idris saw an opportunity to make a comeback. Of course, the naughty opposition Pakatan Harapan, in its attempt to drive a wedge between the two power-hungry Melaka UMNO leaders, as well as to create havoc between UMNO and Bersatu, has conveniently lent support to the rebel leader Idris Haron.

Even Zahid was agreeable to Idris’ coup when he recklessly recommended a snap state election to resolve the latest political crisis in Melaka. As UMNO president, he could solve the internal power struggle quite easily. But he had a cleverer plan, or so he thought. Mr Zahid wanted to use the state election as a testing ground to prove that UMNO can win on its own.

If UMNO-led Barisan Nasional can win Melaka in a three-corner contest against Muhyiddin’s Perikatan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan, not only will Zahid show off his great leadership, but the gamble might see a demoralized Bersatu disintegrates. It could see all former UMNO assemblymen and MPs, who had defected to Bersatu, return to UMNO in droves.

More importantly, if UMNO goes solo and succeeded in winning Malacca state election, it also means it could win the next 15th General Election – without Bersatu or PAS. However, Zahid’s wishful thinking did not get very far. Prime Minister Ismail Sabri poured cold water, telling all and sundry that Melaka (Malacca) crisis is Zahid’s problem. The general public is also against an election at this time.

Apparently, nobody wants to be held responsible for another wave of Covid-19. Turtle-egg Sabri was smart enough to understand how power-hungry Muhyiddin lost power largely due to the Sabah state election, which sparked the third wave of Coronavirus pandemic since September 2020 and never ended even on the day Muhyiddin resigned in August, just 2 months ago.

Zahid quickly made a U-turn, saying it is dangerous to hold snap elections in Melaka. Now, he suggested a State of Emergency, like what was done in Sarawak. But Sarawak’s state assembly was not dissolved when an emergency rule was declared. Melaka Governor Ali Rustam obediently and hastily dissolved the state assembly the moment Zahid suggested a snap election.

Ali Rustam was one of the most corrupt UMNO warlords during his office as Melaka Chief Minister between 1999 and 2013. After he lost twice in the 2013 and 2018 General Election, he was promoted, a comical tradition in UMNO, as the 7th Governor of Melaka on June 2020, replacing Mohd Khalil Yaakob (another corrupt UMNO politician) who ended his sixteen-year tenure as the Governor of Melaka.

But what is so rewarding about the Chief Minister of Malacca that Sulaiman and Idris fought tooth and nail for the position? The short answer – China’s BRI (Belt and Road Initiative). The long answer – kickbacks from multi-billion-dollar mega projects in the “Historic State” that was once conquered by Portuguese in 1511 due to its strategic location in the Strait of Malacca.

When “Malacca Gateway”, a whopping RM43 billion project, was launched in Feb 2014 by then-Prime Minister Najib Razak (after a visit to Beijing), it was witnessed by then-Chief Minister of Melaka Idris Haron. The controversial port project off the coast of Melaka was touted as being the largest in the region when ready – even overtaking Singapore.

Apart from the giant deep-sea port, Melaka Gateway was designed to include business district, an international cruise terminal, bungalows with a private marina, condominiums, hotels and theme parks. The ambitious project on a 546-hectare land, spanning four artificial islands, would transform the otherwise boring historical state to a modern, booming, economic powerhouse.

Heck, there were supposed to be a giant “Malaysia Eye” Ferris wheel and a seven-star hotel. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang even visited the project in 2015, giving it his stamp of approval. By 2016, little-known Malaysian company KAJ Development, the master developer of the project, revealed its three Chinese partners – Shenzhen Yantian Port Group, Rizhao Port Group and state-owned Chinese energy firm PowerChina.

Yes, Melaka Gateway was just one of Najib’s many asset sales to China in order to cover up 1MDB debts after tens of billions of Ringgit was siphoned by the despicable prime minister and his partner-in-crime Jho Low. To cover up the 1MDB scandal, Najib sold national strategic assets such as power plants, lands like Bandar Malaysia and projects like ECRL to China in exchange for kickbacks.

The U.S.-DOJ investigation results says that over US$4.5 billion was misappropriated from the 1MDB fund, with some of the money used to finance Hollywood films, and buy hotels, private jet, luxury Equanimity superyacht, Picasso paintings, jewellery and real estate. More than US$700 million (hence the infamous RM2.6 billion) from the fund landed in Najib’s bank account.

However, when Najib administration stunningly lost the 2018 General Election, the new Pakatan Harapan government puts a stop to almost all Chinese projects, including the Melaka Gateway. In retaliation, KAJ sued the government for RM139 billion in damages on March 13, 2019. Two months later, the Transport Ministry allowed the project to proceed, prompting KAJ to drop its lawsuit.

But the Pakatan Harapan government only survived for 22 months. On March 2020, traitor Muhyiddin was installed as the new prime minister. Along with newly crowned Melaka Chief Minister Sulaiman, the Melaka state government subsequently scrapped the Melaka Gateway project in Nov 2020, accusing the developer of failing to complete the reclamation works after 3 years as contracted.

Like any previous mega projects, the Melaka Gateway became yet another “white elephant”. All the Chinese partners had actually left the venture before the project was scrapped. Interestingly, months before the cancellation, Chief Minister Sulaiman had already started a new larger mega project than his predecessor – the RM100 billion M-WEZ, or Melaka Waterfront Economic Zone.

Described as Malaysia’s version of Australia’s Gold Coast, Sulaiman proudly introduced the M-WEZ project, which spans 25,000 acres (10,117ha) that will take 15 years (2035) to complete. The plan to establish a “maritime hub of Malaysia” would see Smart Logistic Nucleus, Melaka Harbourfront, Digital Satellite Township, Central Eco Business Park and Trade Nucleus New Township.

In reality, Sulaiman’s M-WEZ project (RM100 billion) is just a second version of Idris’ Gateway project (RM43 billion), but on a larger scale to ensure bigger kickbacks. And you can bet your last penny that M-WEZ will also fail like Gateway. But the juice of the projects was the land reclamation, which in the case of M-WEZ, involving coastline as long as 33 kilometres from Umbai to Sg Udang.

That explains why former Chief Minister Idris, in his justification to overthrow the Melaka state government, has exposed the monopoly, corruption, thievery and cheating of sands royalty involving Chief Minister Sulaiman and his cronies. Even two months before M-WEZ was unveiled, Sulaiman had introduced another land reclamation project involving 180-hectare worth RM1.5 billion.

It’s by design, not coincidence, that Idris made his move to topple Sulaiman less than a month after the disgraced Najib Razak told Reuters in an exclusive interview that he may seek re-election to Parliament in the next general election, despite his conviction. Najib was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined RM210 million for abuse of power, criminal breach of trust (CBT) and money laundering.

Last month (September), Mr Najib floated the idea of bringing back the GST (goods and services tax), Bandar Malaysia and even Kuala Lumpur-Singapore HSR (high speed rail) project. Clearly, former chief minister Idris Haron is preparing to also bring back the Melaka Gateway project in anticipation of the return of Najib as de-facto leader, if not prime minister, of Malaysia.

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