Maverick Sng, a bankrupt with a rich colourful past

By Dominic Tham


LONG before there was social media, an audio recording of a conversation between two individuals had sent political shockwaves across the country, not unlike the recent one purportedly featuring Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

It was 1998 and the recording of the conversation was played during Anwar’s first sodomy trial. It featured the then Barisan Nasional MP Datuk Sng Chee Hua and Ummi Hafilda Ali, the latter a key prosecution witness. The dialogue purportedly revealed that those in high office had allegedly conspired to oust Anwar as the Deputy Prime Minister.

Had the Internet then been as prevalent as now, more people would have heard the clip. This could have swung public opinion on the controversy surrounding the controversial sacking of Anwar and political developments could have panned out differently.

While much water has passed under the bridge since then, the episode is a reminder of just how well-connected and adept a political operative Sng was and probably still is.

Given his flamboyant reputation, the declaration by the Insolvency Department last month that the Sarawak ex-millionaire lawmaker Sng is now a bankrupt raises the prospects that there’s more than meets the eye.

According to his son and incumbent Julau MP, Larry Sng Wei Shien, the bankruptcy was due to a family dispute following legal action by Senior Sng’s brother. In other words, it was personal, not politics.

But Malaysians, particularly Sarawakians, are wont at taking such reasoning at face value, especially given Sng’s almost legendary shrewdness. Many find it hard to swallow the idea that a sibling feud could get in the way of a man known for pulling the levers of power behind the scenes in this country.

Some suspect it could be financial maneuvering on Sng’s part. While this remains a conjecture at best now, Malaysians especially Sarawakians have seen how “bankrupts” are still going about their lives as though nothing has happened.

A case in point was fellow Sarawakian, the late Tan Sri Ting Pek Khiing. Before he suffered a stroke, he too was declared bankrupt. Despite that, it was an open secret that Ting, who carved a reputation building the Bakun Dam, was still a prime mover in the corporate scene through companies linked to him, a close associate of ex-PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Incidentally, Ting and Sng are in-laws, with Larry having married one of Ting’s daughters.

No one knows for sure what cards Sng has up his sleeves but he has a track-record as a risk-taker, having hopped from one party to another during his long political career that has catapulted him to be a notable political operative.

In fact, his risk-taking streak extends outside politics when he was caught in 2017 for taking part in an illegal cockfighting competition. He paid a RM500 fine. Sng was also rumoured to be entangled with a deceased Cabinet Minister who was sued by an Australian casino.

Over the years, Sng has thrived on taking political gambles. He is now keeping his cards close to his chest on whether the bankruptcy declaration is his latest corporate gambit or the 74-year-old would make a political comeback soon.

For now, it’d be wise to put one’s money on Sng continuing to pull the strings in Sarawak and national politics. – April 22, 2021


Dominic Tham is a FocusM editorial contributor

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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