By Steven H.S.

It is interesting to follow the recent controversy over a supposed donation of COVID19 vaccines by as proposed by a company to supply 2 million doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine to the Penang state government.

Penang’s DAP Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow and his predecessor Lim Guan Eng, who is also the party’s secretary-general, had  some harsh words for the federal government after the Health Ministry rejected Penang's application in March for the Sinovac vaccines.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Lim had remarked: “This is a crime committed by the PN government. Political donations can, but vaccine donation cannot. Kepala otak dia. I am sorry to say this but I am very angry.

How can this happen? If we have two million doses of vaccine, all frontliners, senior citizens and high-risk groups can be saved, many lives can be saved.”

Both of these seasoned political veterans were extremely sure of themselves, apparently having placed full trust in the person and company making the offer.

It is a scam and it is bogus.

All this prompted Malaysia's Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, who is also the coordinating minister for Malaysia's national COVID-19 immunization, rescinded the next day with a press conference of his own where he revealed:

The letter, he said, was from a man, a certain Yong Chee Kong who claimed to be a Malaysian working for Xintai Development Enterprise, which is allegedly based in Hong Kong.

The man claimed he was willing to pay a US 2 million deposit and had been in touch with Sinovac Biotech international sales head Coco Chang.

Khairy said after investigating further, there was no such application made to Sinovac Biotech in China and Coco Chang confirmed that she had not been in contact with anyone about the matter.

A search for the company Xintai, he added, also yielded no results.

"We found that this offer is not genuine. It is a scam and it is bogus," he said.

Worrying lack of due diligence

Having seen the letter purportedly sent to the Chow, it is indeed laughable how both the and Lim, who is a former federal Finance Minister, could have been taken in by it, considering its amatuer style, lack of supporting documents or even a letterhead.

A simple due diligence, a simple investigation would reveal that something is wrong with this offer. Remember that Khairy had also received a similar letter with a similar offer to the for the state government of Sabah but decided against it after talking to Sinovac, something which the Penang state government should have done as well.

Could it be that Lim and Chow were taken for a ride? How do we expect such individuals who cannot sniff out something like this to head a state government, much less a federal one? Do they know what they are doing? How many other letters have they given credence to without conducting the basic legitimacy tests?

For the record Chow has appealed for the company to come forward to clear its name after Khairy’s press conference.

Of course Malaysia, having the lively rumour mill that it has, is already seeing claims that this was an “operation” designed to smear the good name of the Penang government. Could it really be that easy? Well by the look of it, it is. Or perhaps it was some attempt to move money into the country ahead of the expected 15th general elections? Ridiculous indeed but stranger things have happened in Malaysia.

Let this serve as a lesson, a reminder and a warning to those seeking political mileage at a time the country is buckling under the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no room for such nonsense and lack of basic common sense.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of INS.