Pending rep threatens to drag cattle-breeding station issue to MACC

Yong addressing the press on SEDC’s acquisition of the A$20 million cattle breeding station at Carmor Plains, Darwin.

By Geryl Ogilvy

KUCHING, June 27: Pending assemblywoman Violet Yong will not hesitate to lodge a report with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) if Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) remained tight-lipped over its A$20 million acquisition of the cattle breeding station in Carmor Plains, Darwin, Australia.

The Democratic Action Party (DAP) lawmaker said the public has the right to know why SEDC spent an exorbitant sum of RM58 million to acquire the station, which is deemed as above market value.

At 41,500 hectares, she deemed the cattle station as small when compared to the bidding price.

She added that SEDC had yet to disclose the full details nor answer her query on the purchase, whether the transaction was by cash or through a loan.

If the deal was made through a loan, Yong asked how much was the total sum, interest and instalment plan. If the purchase was made by cash, she said SEDC must reveal how the money was channelled out.

Considering the big investment, the corporation should have carried out due diligence and evaluation studies, she added.

“We can conclude that SEDC has bought the facility at such a high price but they remained quiet on the matter. If this is not true, then it is a serious allegation that SEDC had spent taxpayers’ money lavishly through foreign investment.

“In this regards, Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) would have been quick to rebut the statement, yet they keep quiet.

“I am giving SEDC a chance to come forward, be transparent and give a sufficient reply. MACC will be the last resort,” she told a press conference at DAP headquarters here today.

Yong said Australia’s ABC News, on May 22, reported that SEDC paid A$20 million for the property and that some top-end cattle industry players were surprised with the price tag considering that it was sold for A$2.8 million in 2001, the last time it changed hands.

The report also quoted one industry player as saying that it would be difficult for SEDC to make a profit from this investment.

SEDC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Husain, on May 28, defended the purchase of the Carmor Plains cattle property in Australia’s Northern Territory as a strategic investment to complement its existing Rosewood Cattle Station in Western Australia.

Abdul Aziz said Carmor Plains facility would be used as a feeding and fattening centre for the 32,000 cattle at Rosewood Station. Its close proximity to Darwin would also make it easier for full-grown cattle to be shipped for export.

SEDC estimated it can make an extra A$1 million (RM2.9 million) more this year on top of A$2.5 million (RM7.26 million) in profits from Rosewood.

“SEDC has been involved in cattle farming for 37 years when it bought the station in Rosewood in 1982. However, did it benefit Sarawakians? Did we enjoy cheaper beef price? It only seems that the fresh beef market has been monopolised by SEDC,” Yong said.

She also claimed that SEDC had been importing fresh beef from Australia at a higher market price of A$4.40 per kg when compared to A$3 per kg in the Australian market.

She urged SEDC to review the pricing. It is not right to charge the subsidiary an extra A$1.40 per kg to bring the fresh beef to Sarawak, as this would only affect the people. — DayakDaily