Parliament Session and the MAHB Issue

By Wong Chen

The second sitting of Parliament for 2024 has started and will end on 18th July, after 3 weeks of legislative deliberations. The first week of this sitting has been relatively quiet. Several minor legislations were passed. However, the Opposition has been making some noise on matters somewhat unrelated to the laws being deliberated. In particular, the Opposition has been trying to bring up the subject matter of the sale of MAHB at every single opportunity.

Last Tuesday, during Prime Minister Question Time (PMQT), the Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, engaged the Opposition directly on the MAHB sale. His explanations and reasoning were recorded in Hansards. The subsequent follow up questions from the Opposition were somewhat soft. So, it seemed that the government position on the controversial sale has been heard by the Opposition. Whether the Opposition agrees to the explanations given is up to them, but they don’t seem to be able to debate with him effectively. The Opposition was also taken aback and unable to answer to the fact that during their time as the government of the day, they too had substantial Blackrock investments in Malaysia.

However, after the PMQT session, the Opposition continued to give nonrelated speeches and interjections on the MAHB sale. When facing the PM, they were subdued. When the PM is not around in the hall, they continued championing the issue with renewed vigour. The Malay proverb, “Membaling batu, sembunyi tangan” comes to mind. I find these inconsistent political tactics to be unsavoury and does a disservice to Parliamentary debates.

In my entire career as an MP, I have been an Opposition MP in Parliament for eight years, and three and the half years as a Government MP. As an Opposition MP, the odds are always stacked against us, so we had to work harder and smarter with limited resources to craft our political narratives. Opposition MPs play the crucial role to provide checks and balances to excessive government powers.

Unfortunately, I find the performance of the current Opposition in Parliament for the last 18 months to be weak and inconsistent. The current MAHB issues are presented in theatrical and combative manner, often without substantial nor constructive proposals or suggestions. This is not good for democracy and accountability in Malaysia.

Yesterday, I received an invitation to be a panelist on live TV to debate the MAHB issue. I declined as I have a prior agreed engagement. However, I am happy to share my views on the matter in this article.

At the most fundamental level, the MAHB sale is a public stock offer to the minority shareholders of MAHB to sell all their shares to the new consortium of buyers. So, the valuation of the deal should be up to the minority shareholders to decide, whether to accept or reject the general offer.

That’s the free market working. I am also sure that as the deal moves forward in terms of completion, stock broking houses will also weigh in on valuation to advise their clients to accept or reject the deal. Some minority shareholders may also consider the Blackrock issue as a factor in their decision to sell. Also, if some feel strongly that GIP may not be a suitable partner for the new MAHB, then they can elect not to sell their stake. Having politicians giving expert opinions of the deal is novel but somewhat redundant as they have no say in the sale, unless they are actual shareholders of MAHB.