Saturday, June 7, 2008

Petronas Must Reveal Its Secrets

I was on Malaysiakini a few minutes ago, reading a story headlined "Sabah politicians warn PM over fuel hike." Clearly, the BN government's preposterous increase in the price of fuel has stirred up a hornet's nest of anger, incredulity and resentment. This paragraph, in particular, struck me as extremely significant:

In a statement issued in Kota Kinabalu yesterday, [the DAP MP for Kota Kinabalu Dr Hiew King Cheu] described the latest fuel price increase of 40 percent for petrol and 60 percent for diesel as unreasonable and unacceptable, citing the fact that Malaysia is an oil-producing and exporting country.

He also questioned if there was something that the government was not telling the people concerning the nation's crude oil sale.

"Is it true that our crude oil is being sold at a 'fixed price' without any fluctuation allowed in the selling price for a set number of years?" he questioned.

Around the time when the last fuel price hike was inflicted on the public, a well-connected friend whispered in my ear something that I have to date been unable to ascertain - simply because Petronas is accountable to only the reigning Prime Minister. This means very few are privy to its international dealings, which makes any leaked information virtually impossible to verify - except by court order or royal command.

Anyway, at the risk of being labeled a spreader of unfounded rumor, I feel duty-bound as a Malaysian to reveal what I was told by my informant, who shall remain nameless (mainly because I have actually forgotten who it was!)

What I heard was that Dr Mahathir, in his infinite wisdom, had signed a secret pact with the Japanese to supply Malaysian crude oil at the fixed rate of USD30 a barrel - until the year 2012! Apparently, this occurred sometime in 2002 when the price of oil was around USD20 a barrel.

If there is any truth is this - and the DAP MP for Kota Kinabalu seems to have heard a similar rumor - then Dr M's business acumen certainly has to be reassessed. Personally I have never been greatly impressed by the man's much-vaunted intelligence (in my opinion it's more accurately described as "rat cunning"). Indeed, I can recall many instances when Dr M's dubious navigational skills caused the nation to lose billions as a result of bad gambles. Take the BMF scandal, for instance, which cost us RM2.5 billion in 1984 (today that amount would be easily worth RM11 billion). And then there was the hastily covered-up currency trading disaster, and an even bigger financial calamity involving an attempt to monopolize the tin market.

I do hope there are a few former Petronas executives who might be in the know about this alleged act of monolithic stupidity on Mahathir's part - and that they will be granted immunity from prosecution under the OSA should they decide to blow the whistle on this story. Think about it: if Petronas is bound by contract to keep selling Japan our crude oil at pre-Iraq invasion prices, Malaysians have been subsidizing the Japanese since Abdullah Badawi took over from Mahathir! Is that why the Japanese are so happy to finance Malaysian dams like the monstrosity proposed for Kelau, in Pahang?