By Aathi Shankar
The Najib-1MDB Trial has disclosed the real reason behind Tun Mahathir Mohamad’s malicious attacks on Datuk Seri Najib Razak over 1Malaysia Development Board for the past 6 years.
Mahathir’s constant attacks on 1MDB were merely to protect the interests of his cronies, the Independent Power Producers (IPPs), not to ‘Save Malaysia’ as he trumpeted during the campaign run-in for the 14th General Election (GE14).
Former 1MDB chief executive officer (CEO) Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi testified during cross-examination on Monday, October 7, 2019, that Najib got rid of the “sweetheart deals” engineered by Mahathir for the IPPs to resolve the long-standing lopsided TNB-IPP contract issue.
The 9th prosecution witness testified that acting on Najib’s directives, 1MDB’s subsidiary, 1MDB Energy Holdings Sdn Bhd, bought over IPPs like Tanjung Energy Holdings Sdn Bhd and Mastika Legenda Sdn Bhd to provide more competitive IPP tender deals to the national energy company, TNB.
Through the competitive TNB(Tenaga Nasional Berhad)-IPP deals, Najib saved billions in people’s money as energy cost and price became cheaper for TNB while cutting down the federal government’s power subsidy.
This angered Mahathir because Najib’s people-orientated policy had badly affected his cronies operating the IPPs.
Until then, Mahathir’s cronies were milking billions from their cash cows, IPPS, through lopsided power purchase agreements (PPAs) that were forced down TNB’s throat in 1990s by then the 4th Prime Minister (PM4) Mahathir.
Shahrol Azral revealed before Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah that Pekan MP Najib “had saved RM20 billion of public funds per year” for TNB and the federal government.
Until his government was ousted in GE14 in 2018, Najib may have saved nearly RM200 billion of public money by scrapping the TNB-IPP “sweetheart deals”, which were corrupted by cronyism and nepotism.
Shahrol Azral testimony was the clearest indication so far on what caused the bitter political feud between Mahathir and Najib.
An unimpressed Mahathir was determined to save his cronies, not the country as he claimed during the 14th General Election (GE14).
He launched relentless attacks on Najib over 1MDB to deceive the people by deception and led Pakatan Harapan to victory in GE14 to return at the helm as PM7.
Despite his election victory, Mahathir’s hatred against Najib did not recede.
Najib, 66, now faces four charges of using his position to obtain bribes totalling RM2.3 billion in the 1MDB fund and 21 charges of money laundering involving the same amount.
The Pekan MP allegedly perpetrated the offence at the AmIslamic Bank Berhad Branch, Jalan Raja Chulan, Bukit Ceylon here between Feb 24,2011 and Dec 19,2014 while for all charges of money laundering was between March 22,2013 and Aug 30,2013, at the same place.
Mahathir has also pressed corruption and income tax charges against Najib and other family members.
Ani Arope Revelation
Former TNB executive chairman, the late Tan Sri Ani Arope had openly opposed the creation of IPPs in the first place and stood his ground in 1995 rather than signing off the sweetheart deals, PPAs.
Under the PPAs, TNB has to pay for the extra power upfront, regardless of whether it is used or not. This means that TNB is paying substantially for the power it doesn’t use.
The first-generation IPPs, who were said to have got “sweetheart deals” at the expense of TNB, which had to buy up the excess capacity from them, is no more.
IPPs came into the picture following a near nation-wide blackout in 1992 and Mahathir was the man behind their rise.
Ani Arope revealed in his book published by the Fulbright Alumni Association of Malaysia that the landmark blackout was “deliberately engineered” in 1992 to paint a false bleak picture on TNB’s capability and capacity to supply enough power across the country.
The nationwide blackout was engineered for Mahathir to justify his corrupt policy to privatise the generation of electricity through the IPPs.
The federal government then forced TNB to surrender its plots of land in Paka (Terengganu) and Pasir Gudang (Johor) to a third party for power plants.
This started the IPP era of YTL Power Generation Sdn Bhd, then followed by a slew of other IPPs – Powertek Bhd, Genting Sanyan Power Sdn Bhd, Segeri Energy Ventures Sdn Bhd, Malakoff Bhd, Tanjung plc, EPE Power Sabah Energy Corp, Alpha Intercount’l Bhd, Sutera Bhd, Cergas Unggul Sdn Bhd and Ekran Corp.
Ani Arope had felt that the power purchase agreements with YTL for a period of 21 years – from 1994 to 2015 – were “too darn generous”.
He felt the deal was morally wrong and lopsided.
But he has pressured to ink the deal, which had been drafted by the Economic Planning Unit (EPU).
“If it is legal and not fair, I will not do it. If it is fair and illegal, I still won’t do it. It has to be legal and fair,” he stated.
“There was no negotiation; absolutely none. Instead of talking directly with the IPPs, TNB was sitting down with the EPU. And we were harassed, humiliated and talked down every time we went there. After that, my team was disappointed. The EPU just gave us the terms and asked us to agree. I said no way I would,” Ani revealed in his memoirs.
Ani Arope refused to sign the lopsided agreements and subsequently resigned.
GLC Transformation Programme
Ani Arope’s resistance paid off in 2005 during Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s premiership when under the government-linked companies (GLC) transformation programme, it was decided that all IPP licences were to be awarded on an open tender basis.
In 2005, during the GLC transformation, Datuk Seri Che Khalib Mohamad Noh, the former president and chief executive officer of TNB, had already said that TNB would suffer unless the PPAs were renegotiated.
The government announced that PPAs would not be renegotiated and would be replaced with a competitive tender focusing on the most competitive value propositions.
But only in 2011 under Najib’s premiership, that open tender award process for power plants started to work.
The Energy Commission was given the mandate to handle the awards based on a competitive process.
Najib’s government accrued some RM500mil derived from March 2013 when the PPAs were renegotiated for three IPPs.
Through 1MDB, Najib managed to break the monopoly of Mahathir’s IPPs.
In October 2012, first-generation IPPs Genting Sanyen Power Sdn Bhd and Segari Energy Ventures Sdn Bhd were awarded an extension of 10 years to their PPAs.
TNB Pasir Gudang was awarded a five-year extension to its PPA.
Through the strategic investment arm, 1MDB, Najib was focussed to stop wastage, corrupt practices and misappropriation of public funds.
But this upset Mahathir and his cronies.
He launched a successful anti-Najib campaign, tainted with malicious lies and half-truths, and captured Putrajaya in 2018.
Malaysians now can envisage why Mahathir attacked Najib over 1MDB since after GE13 in 2013.
If only Najib had not stirred the hornet’s nest, he may still have been the PM6.