PRESS STATEMENT ISSUED BY PENANG HINDU ENDOWMENT BOARD
Wild allegations, half-truths and blatant lies by Suspended ED M. Ramachandran
On December 9, 2022, the Executive Director of the Penang Hindu Endowments Board (PHEB) M. Ramachandran was suspended on six allegations of serious misconduct.
He will be investigated as to be the truth of these allegations.
A domestic inquiry will be held soon.
Rather than patiently waiting to be investigated, he has launched a series of attacks against the chairman YB Prof P. Ramasamy, the commissioners and the Board itself.
In a press interview he raised a number of allegations against the chairman, the commissioners and the Board.
1) That RM250k was improperly allocated to the Penang Indian Association (IA). Since there were two IA members sitting on the Board there was conflict of interest. IA was referred to as a private club.
Penang Indian Association or IA is a century old organisation.
It’s a significant aspect of Penang Indian heritage.
Due to financial problems, they approached the Board for assistance.
There was fear that they might lose their property to the contractor if the sum owed was not paid. IA also reached out to the Penang state government for financial assistance.
The matter of assistance was deliberated in detail by the Board before assistance was rendered.The decision to assist IA was purely to save the IA as Penang Indian heritage site.
There was no element of wrongdoing nor was there conflict of interest.
The question is: the ED was at the meeting without even raising any questions about the decision.
Why wait until he was suspended?
2) That the funds approved for the Gelugor Temple, Penang
Gelugor Kaliamman Temple sought the assistance of the Board for their building fund.
It is normal for temples from Penang and elsewhere to seek assistance seeking from the Boardfrom PHEB, as it is only Hindu Board in the country.
The matter was deliberated in detail by the Board before a sum of RM100,000 was approved; RM50k was paid this year and the balance to be paid next year.
It was a collective decision of the Board with the presence of the ED.
Question: why didn’t he object to the decision to allocate funds. Why wait until he was suspended?
What is his hidden motive?
3) That it was procedural wrong to give funds to out of state temples and organisations
As the only Hindu Board in the country, it is normal for Hindu Temples / Organisations throughout the country to seek the Board’s help.
To help such organisations is not an issue, as PHEB didn’t closed it door for ‘out of states Hindus’ since 2008, and we will not limit ourself as such.
Although the Board is state agency, it still governed by the federal government.
Assisting temples and other Hindu organisations is in keeping with its purview under the federal government.
To date, the annual audit by federal agencies have not found this to be an issue. Every such application will be tabled in the full Board meeting, deliberated in detail before application is approved.
In fact, the suspended ED himself brought two such applications and strongly supported one application (PULAPOL Temple, KL) to be considered.
Why is he mum about this issue?
It was he who brought the application and supported it in the Board. Why this particular matter is controversial now and not before?
Is it because he has been suspended?
4) That the Board approved 50k for a lady for medical case. The ED claimed it was approved because the patient or her husband was the chairman’s friend.
The Board had assisted many families who had faced financial difficulties in paying their medical bills.
It was immaterial whether requests come from within or outside the state although priority was given to those in Penang.The Suspended ED it seems selectively highlighted this particular case.
In fact, the patient who has since passed away was his friend from his union days.
It was he who strongly supported his medical assistance for his long time friend.
It was not an unusual assistance; we have paid thousands to save people’s lives on deathbed.
It is Board’s policy to render that such kind of assistance.
A number of commissioners were consulted prior to the approval of the assistance.
5) That RM15k was paid to assist a Covid-19 case, a Muslim man
The man’s wife is a Hindu who approached the Board to save the husband from the deathbed in a private hospital (intensive care unit).
The husband had carried out a contract work under the instruction of the Suspended ED but was not paid for the work he carried out.
The wife sought to get the RM20K from the Board a sum owed to her husband.
When the Suspended ED was asked on this, he couldn’t answer but merely dismissed the matter as something he overlooked.
Only after this, it was decided that to render help to the husband.
After recovering the man thanked the Board saying that he will not take further action on his claim, out of gratitude to the Board.
Should he decide to sue the Board to reclaim his money, the Board would have ended up paying more.
6) That the Board’s chairman approved assistance without concern for procedures
It was Suspended ED’s modus operandi to ‘by-pass’ the commissioners to seek instant approval from the Board as he wish.
There were applications for education aid were not brought to the attention of the Chairman.
After this shortcoming was highlighted by the commissioners, in 2019 various subcommittees were formed to go to improve the system of governance in the Board.
These sub-committees headed by commissioners themselves were not the liking of the Suspended ED.
Upon realising that he needed to more accountable in his work, he started belittling the commissioners and the Chairman. Hindus especially those needing assistance often write to the Chairman either in his capacity as the head of the Board or as the Deputy Chief Minister.
It is nothing unusual for them write to him as the deputy chief minister seeking assistance from the Board. Similarly approvals were for state government assistance for those who apply to the Board.
It is not known what procedural improprieties that the Suspended ED talked about yesterday to the press. Even the ED was prone to by-pass procedures when seeking assistance for his friends and relatives.
Is it any wonder that he clandestinely approved projects to his relatives without going through the Board. He is currently being investigated for this among others.
The governing principle in the Board is simple as this. Without the approval of the sub-committees, whether applications for educational assistance or for projects would not be approved. The Suspended ED knows this very well, but pleads ignorance by shredding tears for good governance.
How can be talk about good governance when he misled the Board on a certain industrial court matter resulting in financial loss.
7) That the Board approved financial assistance for one of our staff to go for medical treatment in India
The Board has taken care of its employees, regardless of their status.
We have assisted our staff for welfare assistance in the past. In fact, the Board gave financial and other assistance to the Suspended ED too after when he was hospitalised after the machete attack.
It is Board’s duty to look after the employees welfare and well-being.
The ED raised the issue with this particular staff because has personal problems with him.
He tried his best not to renew the employment contract of the said staff but did not succeed.
Since then he has been belittling and smearing the good name of this staff.
That the Board approved 45 days medical leave for the staff
It is the same staff that had problems with the Suspended ED.
The Suspended ED was keen on removing this particular staff from employment.
When this particular staff’s contract was due, Board approved for 2 years extension. Despite the Board’s decision, the Suspended ED offered him only one year extension of contract.
With the intervention of the Chairman, this was rectified.
The staff required 45 days of leave to seek medical treatment in India.
The Suspended ED refused to approve this leave but with the Chairman’s intervention it was cleared on humanitarian grounds.
Subsequently, being a diligent staff, he returned to his work even before his medical leave expired.
It is more than clear that the Board’s step by step refutation of the lies and wild allegations of the Suspended ED Ramanchandran have laid bare the true intentions of the complainant.
He talks about the shrinking of the space for good governance in the Board, but it precisely because of the introduction of principles of good governance that hampered his bizarre and autocratic ways that led to his disenchantment with the Board.
It is this principle of good governance and accountability that exposed his gross and unpardonable misconduct against the Board.
The Board will call for a special meeting soon to decide whether the suspension is academic or not and whether a more severe form of punishment is necessary to stop once and for all the uncalled for attacks against the chairman, the Board and the commissioners.
Penang Hindu Endowments Board
December 11, 2022