Dermod Travis: Meet B.C.'s new LNG dance partner Malaysia

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      What's being called the “Scandal that ate Malaysia” has been in the news in B.C. recently. In Malaysia, it's been in the news too, but for about a year now.

      Broad strokes to the scandal: Malaysian investigators are looking into allegations that US$700 million was siphoned off from state-owned 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and somehow ended up in the personal accounts of Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak.

      Malaysia's Petronas—the proponent behind Pacific Northwest LNG—is also “state-owned” or, as we would say in B.C., a Crown corporation.

      And it seems in its headlong rush to the altar with any ready and willing LNG proponent, the B.C. government may have skipped over a few best practices, one of them being due diligence.

      So what exactly was unfolding in Malaysia as photo-ops were being staged in B.C.?

      On the very day Premier Christy Clark was signing a memorandum of understanding with Pacific Northwest LNG in Vancouver, Zulkiflee Anwar Haque was in a Malaysian courtroom facing nine charges of sedition.

      The charges stem from a series of comments Zulkiflee tweeted following the sentencing of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to a five-year prison term.

      Zulkiflee is Malaysia's Raeside, an editorial cartoonist who signs his work Zumar. If convicted on all counts, he faces up to 43 years in jail.

      And while most Canadians won't recognize opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's name, in 1998, he was Malaysia's deputy prime minister and finance minister until he was sacked and charged with corruption and sodomy.

      It might have passed unnoticed in Canada had it not been for then finance minister Paul Martin.

      Martin knows Anwar well and was forthright in his 1999 appraisal: "Mr. Anwar is a respected colleague and a man of integrity...An erosion of confidence in the rule of law in Malaysia not only threatens democracy in that country but also raises questions about the current government's respect for human rights and good governance."

      Despite Martin's intervention, Anwar was convicted.

      Anwar Ibrahim is currently serving a five-year prison sentence.
      IMAGEMAKER / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

      In 2004, Malaysia's Supreme Court overturned the convictions and released Anwar from jail. In 2008, he was charged with sodomy again.

      This time, Martin teamed up with former International Monetary Fund chair Michel Camdessus and former World Bank president James Wolfensohn in releasing a joint statement: “We would like to reiterate our full confidence in (Anwar's) moral integrity, as a man who has demonstrated, in the discharge of his national and international responsibilities, the highest ethical standards of leadership, fighting for international justice, peace and development.”

      Although acquitted in 2012 on what The Economist called “trumped-up charges,” the Malaysian government appealed and won. This past February, Anwar was sentenced to a five-year prison term.

      In a statement following the conviction, the U.S. State department said: “The decision to prosecute Mr. Anwar, and his trial, have raised serious concerns regarding the rule of law and the independence of the courts.”

      Malaysians tweeting their disapproval, however, risked charges of sedition, as Zulkiflee Anwar Haque can attest to.

      A few weeks after signing that MOU with Pacific Northwest LNG, the B.C. government released its first LNG project development agreement on the same day that economy.com (part of Moody's Investors Service) published an article headlined: “Corruption Plagues Malaysia’s Government.”

      And when the B.C. legislature was passing the Liquefied Natural Gas Project Agreements Act, Singapore police were freezing two bank accounts linked to that investigation into 1MDB funds being transferred to Prime Minister Najib’s personal accounts.

      So why should any of this matter to B.C.?

      To put it in a local context: the B.C. government is providing unprecedented tax breaks to what effectively is a foreign Crown corporation, where the prime minister is suspected of siphoning off US$700 million from one of its other Crown corporations to his personal bank accounts. Doesn't inspire confidence.

      And there's the tiny matter of who's actually benefiting from B.C.'s largesse.

      In 2014, the dividend from Petronas accounted for 12.8 percent of the Malaysian government's revenue. And B.C. was supposed to be the winner in the deal.

      Commenting recently on another LNG proponent—Woodfibre LNG's Sukanto Tanoto—B.C. Liberal MLA Jordan Sturdy said: “The government tends not to get into the business of vetting ownership.”

      No kidding. It might want to start.

      Latest explanation for that US$700 million by the way is that it was a political donation to the prime minister.

      Comments

      8 Comments

      Anonymous

      Aug 7, 2015 at 4:37pm

      LNG prices are projected to be low at least until 2040.

      BC LNG can not be economically viable unless subsidized by the BC Govt., and therefore us.

      Why are we subsidizing a Foreign Islamic State owned nationalized Oil Corporation?

      Contrast that with the Norway's Oil & Gas sector with it's Trillion Dollar surplus.

      In Canada Alberta & others have opposed a Canadian nationalized Oil & Gas sector.

      Alberta now has a structural deficit over $10 Billion, Norway a Trillion Dollar surplus.

      The irony is that today the Canadian Oil & Gas sector is nationalized by for foreign Countries.

      1. Alberta Tar Sands, Nexen, owned by the Government Communist China,

      2. Alberta Tar Sands, Petronas / Progress owned by the Government of Malaysia,

      3. BC LNG, Petronas / Consortium owned by the Government of Malaysia,

      4. Alberta tar Sands & NewFoundLand Oil & Gas Projects, some Projects by Stat Oil of Norway.

      5. The trend in the Canadian Oil & Gas sector is ownership by Sovereign Funds and/or Corporations,

      6. Newfoundland Oil & Gas Projects, The Government and people of Newfoundland own 10 to 50% of some of their major Oil & Gas projects, this type of ownership is totally absent in BC/AB.

      So in effect Canada's Oil & Gas sector has become nationalized by Foreign Governments.

      They benefit by taking the profits to their Country leaving us with the environmental clean-up bill and huge structural Deficits.

      Canada ought to follow the Norway model nationalize the Energy sector get at lerast a 50% ownership in the current Foreign national owners of our resource.

      Implement the Norway model to pay for Canadians and future generations Health Care, Education and investments into a Green Energy future.

      Or we can let the Foreign nationalized oil Corporations own our Canadian Oil & Gas sector.

      Giving any BC resource subsidized by us to Malaysia and company like Petronas is stupid.

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      Sub

      Aug 7, 2015 at 7:13pm

      Interesting points from 'Anonymous' but Malaysia is NOT an Islamic state by any means...... it is a multi-ethnic multi-religious society with a slight (~55%) Muslim majority. (no, I'm not from there either!!)
      But the real issue is, if NFLD can own 10-20% of shares in their projects, why AB cannot do that?

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      At Sub

      Aug 7, 2015 at 8:03pm

      61.4% are Muslim, Islam is the Official Religion, they have Sharia Courts, they are an Islamic State.

      Nothing wrong with that per se it is what is is, Officially there is supposed to be religious tolerance for minorities in practise quite the opposite it is firmly an Islamic State.

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      Mona Benge

      Aug 8, 2015 at 10:33am

      Another excellent column from Dermod Travis. Premier Clark smiles in photo op after photo op with third world leaders that have the worst of reputations both in business and the environment. Jordan Sturdy, my MLA dismisses any obligation our representative government has to investigate who our elected representatives choose to do business with. Deals are sweetened with subsidies, regulatory changes and weakened environmental assessments. Public safety concerns, protection of the environment and park boundaries are ignored. Anything to get a signature on an LNG deal. Our representative government is not only concerned, it seems with special interests in the industry sector but we can fight back by voting them out in the next election.

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      TCee

      Aug 8, 2015 at 12:08pm

      This BC Government under C.Clark, backed by her whimpering minions, is a disgrace. What it is doing to the environment and the economy, through its headlong rush into irresponsible if not crooked LNG deals, is reprehensible, irresponsible, and definitely not beneficial to BC in the immediate short term or over the longer term. If they want to get into bed with dogs with fleas, they will arise with fleas, but why do we have to bear the costs of cleaning up everything they have contaminated with fleas and even lice? Jordan Sturday has no inkling of what he is talking about or getting us (BC citizens and taxpayers) into when he blithely says "the government tends not to get into the business of vetting ownership". If the government is going into business with LNG or any other sector, like any good business, it should be closely vetting the ownership, if it doesn't want to see its business go belly-up due to corruption, crookedness, improper shananigans, mishandling of assets, etc. It should know clearly what it is dealing with and that means including knowing the personnel it is working with, and whether or not they are reputable, honest, not corrupted, etc. If it doesn't, then it is equally responsible for the abuses and corruption of those corporations and their actions. Bottom line - why should taxpayers pay for cleaning up those messes because Sturday and Clark can't be bothered to check into the backgrounds and credentials of the people they are dealing with and closely monitor their actions? Again, we come back to fleas - who in the BC Government is ultimately going to arise with a cargo of fleas?

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      Malaysia isone of the most corruption nations

      Aug 9, 2015 at 11:14am

      Malaysia is notorious for bribery and corruption and even stiffing Africa on taxes owed. It kinda makes you wonder what was in it for the premier who unlike the Malaysia PM does not have to account for what is in Clark's financial portfolio.
      Clark's government does everything in its power to keep prying eyes from the facts as loose lips sink ships and greedy politicians. Malaysia PM closes down local papers for reporting on corruption allegations. Clark is so desperate she had fiance minister fly to Malaysia to beg for the deal, now that is just pathetic.

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      Country most likely to take short cuts

      Aug 9, 2015 at 12:54pm

      Malaysia has been ranked as one of the most corrupt nations and listed as a country which is most likely to take shortcuts to meet targets when economic times are tough, according to a recent survey by Ernst & Young, signalling that the government's Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) has failed in its role to transform the economy. - See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/malaysia-one-of-the-...

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      Big coroprate welfare dream

      Aug 10, 2015 at 1:31pm

      C. Clark should just resign . I don't want to be represented by such incompetence. We deserve better and yes we need Honest, Responsible ,Leaders not a bunch of crooked pansies.

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