KUALA LUMPUR, May 12 – The DAP today accused Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak of “cronyism” for awarding a sports betting licence to tycoon Tan Sri Vincent Tan without an open tender process and has urged him to retract his decision.
DAP national publicity secretary Tony Pua said the move only marked the demise of the “New Economic Model” where the prime minister had emphasised that the government would be more transparent and competitive.
“Malaysians are shocked because the Prime Minister has been harping on the new model of doing business in Malaysia and he has even promised Malaysians that he will no longer tolerate rent-seeking and patronage.
“Yet, just two months of its launch, Najib has sounded the death knell to his own NEM by thrashing it into the rubbish dump and awarding the most lucrative multi-billion concession of the year to a well-known associate of the Barisan Nasional top leadership, Vincent Tan,” said Pua in a statement here this afternoon.
He questioned why the government had failed to call for an open tender or auction before awarding the licence and said that this practice of “cronyism” only further proved that the NEM had become “utter bunkum”.
“The practice of cronyism, rent-seeking and patronage to vested interest parties is continuing in broad daylight with complete endorsement by Najib.
“On what merit was Tan awarded this multi-billion gambling concession which will not only enrich him but impoverish the rakyat by encouraging more gambling?” he said.
Pua cited other examples of alleged “cronyism” by the BN government like the award of the project to Naza TTDI to build a RM628 million exhibition and convention centre in exchange for a piece of land worth nearly RM1.5 billion, the likely award of a 3,000 acres piece of land to MRCB and the RM320 million 20-year interest free unsecured loan to SYABAS.
“The rakyat are angry because they are being taken for a ride by the Prime Minister who has promised many changes but he has instead shown that the Barisan Nasional government is completely incapable of change,” he said.
Pua pointed out that with legalised sports betting, the people, especially those already addicted to gambling, would only be plunged deeper into debt.
“The non-Muslim community are already extremely unhappy with the excessive number of ‘special draws’ by the existing gaming companies, including Berjaya Sports Toto. Now, we will only be faced with greater social problems,” he said.
He called on the BN to immediately withdraw the award to Berjaya Group and instead, set up a Parliamentary Select Committee to renew the impact of sports betting on Malaysians.
“If and only if approved, then an open, transparent and competitive tender or auction must be called to ensure transparency and best “value for money” for the government and Malaysians,” said Pua.
Last week, Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Dr Awang Adek Hussin had told reporters in Parliament that the government was considering legalising football betting in order to contain the spread of illegal betting activities during the World Cup season commencing next month.
According to news reports, Najib had issued the licence to Tan’s Ascot Sports which is expected to be acquired by Berjaya Group, which is also controlled by the tycoon.