Dispute over 1MDB grant to co-op should not diminish the work it has done and continues to do in aiding the underprivileged.
“IN the Kojadi dispute, who is right? A colleague asked me this after reading news on the disagreement last week over the handling of a 1MDB-linked RM15mil grant given in 2012 to the MCA-linked cooperative.
Weeding out the drama and details, the story began with Ng Peng Hay – chairman of Koperasi Jayadiri Malaysia Bhd (Kojadi) – wanting to hastily return the remaining unused grant totalling RM8mil to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
He pre-empted this move after the MACC sent out civil forfeiture notices some two weeks ago to 41 recipients of 1MDB funds from the personal bank account of former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak who is facing more than 40 corruption charges linked to 1MDB.
Though Kojadi was not one of the 41 named, Ng feared that it could be next on the list.
The former state assemblyman from Malacca also claimed that he had been directed by the Kojadi board to repay the money, but this had been denied by the other board members.
Ng, who also sits on the board of several listed companies, had stated Kojadi’s interest could be hurt if the future list included Kojadi.
However, before Ng could go to MACC last Friday, MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong directed him to consult lawyers and meet with MCA first before going to MACC.
This directive caused Ng to react strongly. He dropped a bombshell accusing Dr Wee of interfering in the “day-to-day management of Kojadi” in a media release.
And “in protest”, the MCA veteran quit the party but kept his Kojadi chairman’s post.
On Sunday, the miffed MCA president told his side of the story.
While denying he had interfered with Kojadi’s daily operation, the Ayer Hitam MP made his stand clear: he supports the return of the grant if the MACC instructs Kojadi to do so.He substantiated by saying he had supported the decision of the 15-member Kojadi board in December 2018 to write to the MACC informing it of the existence of the grant.
In its reply to Kojadi, the MACC said funds linked to 1MDB were under investigation. It did not ask Kojadi to return the fund.
Dr Wee argued that “there is nothing wrong for me as MCA president to show concern for developments in Kojadi” as the cooperative was the brainchild of the party in 1981.
“Is there anything wrong if a father shows concern for his son? When Kojadi had problems in the past, it came to MCA. When it was under attack by the DAP, the MCA spoke up in defence of the cooperative.”
Indeed, many members of Kojadi were and are members and former leaders of MCA.
Kojadi was set up in 1981 primarily to provide low-interest loans to poor students to pursue higher studies when the implementation of the New Economic Policy (NEP) was at its peak.
The Kojadi education loans have benefited thousands of families, not only from MCA but also the general public.
But the RM15mil from Yayasan 1MDB, a government investment fund then, was aimed at helping small industries and traders under a socio-economic micro-credit scheme.
Dr Wee said this fund was treated as “income” and it had no link with Najib’s bank account.
His statement was supported by Najib, who revealed that the grant came from both Yayasan 1MDB and other corporate sponsors.
“Which is why till now, MACC has not demanded that Kojadi return the grant,” he said in his Facebook posting.
The former leader added that if Kojadi had to return the grant, this meant taxi drivers, fishermen and others who were given financial aid from Yayasan 1MDB should also return the money they had received.
While Ng has said his intention to meet MACC was to safeguard Kojadi’s interest, Dr Wee sees Ng as having a “political agenda” in making “false” accusations against him.
Dr Wee has warned Ng not to drag MCA through the mud: “It is okay if you dislike Wee Ka Siong but MCA has not ill-treated you, and you have no right to hurt MCA. No way, I will not allow anyone to hurt MCA. Remember, it is because of MCA you are where you are.”
While Dr Wee’ insists that legal opinion should be sought, the Kojadi grant has won support from other Kojadi board members, and it is unsure if there are more sparks to fly from within the party.
Not surprisingly, the DAP has capitalised on the situation.
Last weekend, some low-ranking leaders lodged a police report against Kojadi, ignoring the plight of 1,264 small enterprises that had taken loans disbursed from the grant.
Whatever politicians do, they should be reminded that in their craving for political mileage and publicity, the interest of the people should not be compromised.
Like it or not, Kojadi is now a professionally-managed cooperative serving the needs of the lower segment in society for 38 years, and its meaningful role should not be undermined.