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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Is Naam another 'Maika Holdings'?

COMMENT Can the New Affirmative Action Movement (Naam) Foundation’s be rescued and placed in the hands of the Indian community? Is it going to be another financial disaster to the Indian community?
Can we know what happened to the RM19 million that Naam obtained from the Prime Minister's Department?
M Saravanan, Deputy Youth and Sports Minister, said it was due to his generosity that he placed the allocation of RM19 million from the Prime Minister's Department under his Youth and Sports Ministry to be channeled to the foundation in 2014.
What was brought out in Parliament this week by Ong Kian Ming, DAP Member of Parliament for Serdang, was something that had been carried in the Tamil dailies for some time.
However, the question of conflict and how Saravanan could transfer funds amounting RM19 million from the Youth and Sports Ministry to a MIC-linked organisation called Naam needs a serious probe by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
This revelation comes in the wake of a recent controversy in the Youth and Sports Ministry that funds amounting to RM100 million were siphoned off or misappropriated by some of its officials. Currently, the ministry is being investigated by the MACC.
When the matter of RM19 million was brought up in the Parliament, Saravanan was quick to dismiss the allegations.
He said that there was nothing fishy about Naam as its accounts are audited by the ministry. He then challenged Ong to visit Naam's office to verify the accounts. Ong has accepted the challenge.
In the beginning, there was some support amongst Indians for the projects undertaken by Naam. Indian youths lacking funds realised that they would be able to get funds and could partake in the programmes organized by Naam.
The chilli agricultural scheme obtained the most attention. Genuinely many showed interest to participate during Saravanan nation-wide tours. Even some opposition politicians were seen mingling with Saravanan during public meetings.
However, the initial fervour associated with Naam dissipated. Intense politicking within the MIC, the slow but sure erosion of support for Naam's activities and lately, Saravanan's defeat in the MIC elections for the post of the deputy president slowed down the momentum of Naam.
It was just a matter of time before the real truth of Naam was revealed to the public. It came to be regarded as organization that was meant for the political rise of Saravanan. Its projects were not meant for the well-being of Indians but served as a cover for the real political objectives of its political leaders.
It was this political slant of Naam that killed off the enthusiasm of Indians to be involved in the programmes.
However, this was not the only problem.
Absence of transparency in the use of funds, the failure of some project to take off as planned, the manner in which participants were chosen and not least the conflicting and contradictory information disseminated to the public particularly on the chilli agricultural project created internal tensions and doubts.
It is not that politicians cannot organise projects for their own respective communities in the country. But unfortunately, the MIC's record on this is not very good.
It had an opportunity in the past. But almost all schemes or projects started ambitiously by the MIC or some of its related organisations for the well-being of the Indian community failed miserably.
Greed and lack of transparency
Greed, lack of transparency and the problem of giving primacy to political survival were the main reasons why MIC politicians failed to make impact in terms of improving the lives of Indians in the country.
As one member of PKR said, Naam has all the potential to become another ‘Maika Holdings’. In other words, if there were no urgent official scrutiny of Naam at this particular stage, it would be another financial disaster for the Indian community.
Surely, Saravanan might not be the loser, but the poor ordinary Indians in the country.
Maika Holdings was a major investment arm of the MIC in the 1980s. However, it failed under the leadership of S Samy Vellu, the former MIC president. Eventually, its shares were sold off to a private company. The real losers were ordinary Indians who had invested about RM100 million by selling their land, cows and pawning their jewelry.
Is there another major disaster awaiting Naam? Who is going to account for the RM19 million that was given for the benefit of the Indian community?

P RAMASAMY is Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang and the DAP state assemblyperson for Perai. -Mkini

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