Sunday, November 26, 2017

Kuok's MSA break-up story incomplete without Francis Seow's account of the contrived conviction of Gerald Fernandez,former MSA legal adviser

by Ganesh Sahathevan

Robert Kuok on his term as chairman, Malaysia-Sinagpore Airlines (1969-1971)

Dr Goh Keng Swee, Singapore’s deputy prime minister, asked if I would serve as chairman of Malaysia-Singapore Airlines (MSA). The Malaysian Government had proposed Dr Lim Swee Aun, the former Minister of Commerce and Industry, who had failed to get re-elected in the elections of May 1969. “We do not like him,” said Keng Swee. “But he’s not a bad fellow,” I replied. “Oh, never!” thundered Keng Swee. I said, “No, no. I’m overworked and underpaid by my own company.”

I was joking, though it was true that I hardly had a moment’s rest in those days. I told him I couldn’t take the job, because I didn’t have the time to do it justice and didn’t know the airline business. I don’t think anybody had talked to Singapore Government leaders like that. They were already known to be very fierce. As I walked towards the door, Keng Swee said, “Well, you know there are hardly any links left between Malaysia and Singapore. If you don’t want to serve, then this link will also go.” It was just like a scene in a Hollywood film. Two steps from the door, I wheeled around and asked, “Are you telling me that if I take the job, that link will be preserved?” “Yes.” Again, I felt I had no choice. “If I agree to take the job, what do I need to do?” “Simple things. First, go to see Tunku Abdul Rahman and [Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Razak Hussein] and tell them we gave you an indication that you’re acceptable to us.” “You mean I have to sell myself to my own leaders?” When he replied in the affirmative, I said, “Give me time to think about it. This is getting very sticky.”

(Tunku) didn’t sound too enthusiastic about my taking on this role. He made some remarks about the problems he was having with Singapore. I kept quiet, since it was not for me to say anything. Then I prodded him a bit. “Sir, do you mind if we come back to the subject?” In the end, he said, “OK, Kuok. If you want the job, take it. It doesn’t matter to me.” So I accepted the position of Chairman of MSA.

Meanwhile, the Singapore Government, which was very good with its abacus, was analysing the economics of the airline industry. They began to realise that the Malaysian domestic routes were profitmaking, but looking into the future, they could not see such air travel as big-scale business. The international airport in Singapore, and the international traffic, was really the jewel in the crown of the airline industry in the Malaysia/Singapore region. So the Singapore Government felt it would be useful to break Malaysia-Singapore Airlines into two and let each country go its own way. The Board meetings grew increasingly acrimonious.

I made an appointment to see Goh Keng Swee to appeal to him to hold back his aggressive Singapore directors. I hinted that the game was getting very one-sided. I was acting as referee, but I was seeing the poor Malaysian directors slaughtered at every meeting because the Singapore directors had minds as sharp as razors. In fairness, I must say the contribution to running the airline properly and efficiently came almost entirely from the Singapore side. The Malaysian side was too subjective and often allowed their feelings to influence their comments.

Then see the matter of Gerald Fernnandez (c 1969-1971),as related by former Attorney General Of Singapore.Francis Seow,in his book to
To Catch a Tartar: A Dissident in Lee Kuan Yew's Prison:

Shortly before I was due to leave the service, a Geoffrey Fernandez, the secretary and legal adviser to the Malaysian Singapore Airlines (MSA), a two-nation air carrier, whose head office and main operating station were based in Singapore, was brought back to Singapore, after lengthy extradition proceedings in England, charged with the offence of criminal breach of trust of a paltry sum of $5,000. His more heinous offence, which was carefully muted, was that he had translated national airline company politics into a dangerous game of international politics by pitting the two governments against one another. Banking heavily on his presumed friendship with Tungku Abdul Rahman Putra al-Haj, the prime minister of Malaysia, Malaysian cabinet ministers, and other high Malaysian dignitaries, he had waged an indiscreet campaign of malignity against the prime minister (Lee Kuan Yew) himself and impugned the integrity of his bosom friend, the MSA’s chairman and now Chief Justice of Singapore, Yong Pung How. J.B. Jeyaretnam, now in private law practice, was retained as his legal counsel and saw me regarding bail for his client. My immediate reaction was that it was an impudent request. For, when he was released in Malaysia on a personal cognisance as a member of the Malaysian bar, he had jumped bail, skipped out of the country using his brother’s passport to boot, and fled to Ireland. While on an ill advised sojourn to England, he was arrested. The offence was ordinarily bailable, but, for the antecedents and the prime minister’s personal interest in the matter, it would take more than a manful judge to grant him bail. In all the circumstances, it was difficult to accede to such a request for bail unless there were compelling grounds.I perused the investigation papers, and noted that the case against him was not as strong as I had thought. It turned on a single witness whose evidence, if successfully impugned, would leave the prosecution without a leg to stand on.
He was jailed for 21 months and fined S$5,000 for corruptly receiving S$5,000 in order to show favour to insurance brokers Edward Lumley in connection with MSA affairs.

Readers can decide for themselves who acted in Malaysia's interest.
See also 

Surat Fernandez kpd Tengku pengarohi keputusan Mahkamah: MarshallBerita Harian, 12 February 1972, Page 10

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