Hwa Beng's book set to ruffle feathers

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PETALING JAYA: There are bound to be several nervous individuals today when Datuk Lee Hwa Beng launches his "tell-all" book 'PKFZ: A Nation's Trust Betrayed'.

The former Port Klang Authority (PKA) chairman's 218-page biography of the nation's biggest financial scandal — the RM12.5 billion Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) fiasco — sets itself apart from other books on this topic because for the first time, it comes from an insider.

The book will be launched in a private ceremony by Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat, the former transport minister who had appointed Lee as PKA chairman in 2008 to oversee the unravelling of the scandal.

To date, PKFZ has seen two former ministers and a former PKA general manager, among others, charged with criminal breach of trust and cheating.

Lee's book reveals how things had been run in the PKA before his time, where he claimed that when O.C. Phang was informed that apart from being replaced as PKA general manager, she was also being replaced as general manager of PKFZ Sdn Bhd (PKFZSB), she told Lee it was not for the board of directors to decide but for the tansport minister.

Lee told The Malay Mail he felt that writing a book would be an extension of his role as the PKA chairman.

"Since I was not allowed to investigate all the way, the book is a way for me to tell the public the truth," he said.

An excerpt from the book reads: "I felt that obstacles were being put in our way to delay or maybe even prevent the rest of the truth from being exposed."

Lee said his problems in exposing all the players and shenanigans in PKFZ were hindered after Ong was dropped from the Cabinet. He accused Ong's sucessor, Datuk Seri Kong Chor Har, of being a hindrance.

Lee said he was upset at being outvoted when he pushed for suing all 26 ex-PKA directors for breach of fiduciary in facilitating the fiasco by their inaction.

Only Lee and independent director Datuk Ng Mann Chong voted "aye" while the other five directors, including general manager Kee Lian Yong, had voted against.

"Kee argued that the role of government appointees and representatives was to merely be obedient. All they expected to do was transmit instructions from their ministers or superiors," Lee said.

"Kee also said they had no obligation to exercise independent judgment so it would be unfair to penalise anyone for being just a communication channel."

He said that despite advice from two government-appointed legal firms to sue the former directors, the board maintained that it should not make past directors liable.

One of Lee's more damning allegations in his book is that the government had instructed that the PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Report, which revealed the shenanigans and weaknesses in the project, be withheld although,it was already announced that it would be released on May 6, 2009.

"The report was delayed three times," Lee said.

Lee also questioned the motives of Phang's successor, Lim Thean Shiang, in revealing the PwC Report to the Backbenchers Club, of which KDSB CEO and Bintulu MP Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing is the chairman — even before it was presented to the prime minister.

Lee goes on to reveal that Ong had instructed him to accept Lim's resignation a month later — although it was Ong who had vouched for and appointed Lim.

"The minister was angry with him for giving the BN Backbenchers Club briefing without his knowledge," Lee wrote.

No love lost with ex-boss

IN HIS book, Datuk Lee Hwa Beng reveals his disdain for Datuk Seri Kong Chor Har who took over from Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat as transport minister in 2010.

Lee said he was furious with Kong for instructing PKA to pay turnkey contractor Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd (KDSB) RM222 million, although the case was still pending.

He said Kong gave him verbal instructions to do so which he had first refused.

"But I had insisted on written instructions," Lee says in the book.

He said he had only met Kong once when he took opver as Minister.

After that, Lee claimed Kong refused to see him, preferring instead to communicate with Port Klang Authority (PKA) general manager Kee Lian Yong on all port matters.

To add insult to injury, Lee said he found out about being replaced by Datuk Teh Kim Poo from a radio news broadcast.

Lee also said one of his lowest moments was losing his ally on the Board when Datuk M. Rajasingam was not renewed as independent director.

Lee said this was unfathomable as Rajasingam was the only port man on the Board — and moreover was the general manager who had left PKA RM450 million in its kitty before he was succeeded by O.C. Phang — the central character in the PKFZ scandal.

Lee added that a string of events seemed to him a message that the government was reluctant to take firm action.

Lee also reveals that he was first asked to take on the chairmanship from Datuk Yap Pian Hon in 2006 by then Minister Tan Sri Chan Kong Choy who is now facing charges along with Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik for the PKFZ fiasco.

However when then MCA president Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting learnt about it, he asked Lee not to accept the offer.

However, after the 2008 Elections, Ka Ting had offered the post to him again.

"My job was to uncover the what happened in PKFZ," Lee wrote.

Lee said Ka Ting told him: "As long as it is not settled, MCA cannot rise again."

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