SC chairman axed, will Ranjit be investigated?

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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 1 – The purge of people appointed to head government agencies and government-linked companies (GLCs) under the previous government continues.

The latest casualty is Securities Commission chairman Tan Sri Ranjit Ajit Singh who will be leaving his post this month, two years prior to the end of his contract.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) announced that lawyer Syed Zaid Albar will be the new SC chairman effective October 15.

In August, several publications had speculated on Ajit’s departure, with Utusan Malaysia naming managing director and chief executive of SJ Securities Datuk Ahmad Azman Abdul Manaf as the leading candidate, and The Edge suggesting it would be Syed Zaid.

The latter is the younger brother of former home minister Syed Hamid Albar, who had recently confirmed that he was now a member of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), having left Umno in June.

“Syed Zaid has over 38 years of experience in the legal field. He previously served in Skrine & Co and has established his own law firm, Albar & Partners,” the PMO said in a statement.

The PMO added that his expertise cuts across various sectors, including corporate law, capital market, sukuk, as well as Islamic and conventional banking.

Change of government sees many heads fall

Ranjit, who had served the SC for close to 25 years, was first named SC chairman in 2012 and his term was renewed for another three years in April 2017.

However, following the fall of Barisan Nasional and with the new Pakatan Harapan government in place, he seems to have fallen under the axe like many other heads of government agencies and government-linked companies.

Most of the affected individuals left on their own accord well ahead of the end of their terms.

First to go was Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Muhammad Ibrahim, who tendered his resignation on June 6 and was replaced by Datuk Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunos.

Permodalan Nasional Bhd chairman Tan Sri Abdul Wahid Omar, a former minister in charge of the Economic Planning Unit, left on June 29 and he was replaced by former Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz.

Then in July, the board of Khazanah Nasional resigned en bloc, allowing the government to place a new team headed by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad  at the helm  .

Khazanah managing director Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar, who was due to retire next year, also resigned and has since been replaced by Datuk Shahril Mohd Ridza, who had previously helmed the Employees Provident Fund.

In August, Petronas chairman Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hasan retired from his post together with another another director Datuk Mohd Omar Mustapha, who had served as an aide to former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Will Ranjit be investigated?

Question remains whether Ranjit will be put under the microscope by the authorities for his role in helping the previous government rule lawlessly.

The SC is one of the approval body for bond issuance and its compliance but they had been keeping silent about the 1MDB RM5B Islamic Medium Term Notes (1MTN) bond issued by 1Malaysia Development Berhad in 2009.

It was alleged that such money from 1MDB had been transferred to Good Star, a company linked to PetroSaudi International Limited as well as Jho Low.

Will the new SC Chairman right the wrongs?

NMT had also previously questioned Ranjit’s selective prosecutions in helping the Barisan Nasional government putting fears to supporters of the then oppositions. Some of the charges are seen to be politically-motivated.

Dato’ Vincent Leong Jee Wai was charged in May 2017 for insider trading of shares of Maxbiz Corporation Berhad (Maxbiz) between 2010 and 2011. Vincent was seen to be supporting the opposition parties.

Dato’ Norhamzah Nordin of Kosmo was acquitted in 2016 of a charge for furnishing false statements to Bursa Malaysia Securities Berhad, but the SC revisited the case in May this year. Norhamzah was seen to have switched his political allegiance from UMNO to Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.

Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman spoke out on Astro Awani about the directors of Supermax, namely Dato’ Sri Stanley Thai and wife Datin Sri Cheryl Tan were prosecuted with insider trading by the SC as part of Barisan’s culture of fear against supporting opposition parties. Stanley had openly supported the Pakatan Rakyat parties in the running of the 13th General Election in 2013.

Will these cases be reviewed by the new leadership? It is unfair for anyone to be going to prison for supporting the opposition.

Ranjit and his Prosecution & Civil Enforcement Deputy Director, Shanti Isabelle Geoffrey are seen to be selectively prosecuting several cases against supporters of the opposition parties whilst closing their eyes on multiple transactions done by BN-friendly companies that are more blatant in nature, in terms of insider trading and conflict of interest.

More on this later, exclusively on NMT.