The subject of my departure from PETRONAS in 2009 had been a favourite point of attack by Umno activists lately. I was allegedly sacked from PETRONAS on account of fraudulent claim.
I actually did not want to respond, because it was a cheap shot. They could not find anything to run me down with, so they had to create a story on misappropriation so that it tarnishes my credibility. Tarnishing that credibility, in their miscalculation, will dilute the credibility of my past, present and future exposes on corruption scandal.
It came to a point that I feel a continued silence ignoring the slander is not in the best interest of the truth.
I did not get sacked (as most people can testify and know), I resigned.
I was promoted early in my career, entering PETRONAS as a manager straight away when I came back from London (after my 3+ year stint in an accountancy firm to qualify for my ICAEW). After serving at the PDH plant/MMSB in Gebeng for nearly 2 years, the corporate centre decided to move me back to the HQ in the Twin Towers.
So, at the age of 27, I was promoted to a post of Senior Manager (apparently it was unprecendented and I was told I was the youngest to be appointed to such a position) to oversee the overall business, operational and technology planning for PETRONAS’ petrochemical business, given that supposedly I had both the accounting and engineering qualifications.
Two years later, I was moved to head the finance function of the international upstream at Carigali, to draw from my previous work on taxation since PETRONAS needed to put its taxation in order all around the world at the time when governments begin to use tax non-compliance as an excuse to interfere with production sharing contacts.
By the time I reached 31, I had covered the oil and gas at management level quite extensively. I had been in the plant, at the corporate centre, worked in downstream and upstream. It would not be long before I was promoted to the next level. At that junction, I was faced with a dilemma. If I stayed on, most probably I would end up in the oil and gas forever because with the money and senior position, it would be too comfortable a life to switch. I didn’t want to be a one field professional, life has always been an adventure of learning for me, so the idea to continue beyond my 7-year bond in PETRONAS weighed heavily.
By fate, in January 2008, Adlan Benan Omar – a dear friend, a mentor and most importantly the single most important influence in my life (apart from my parents) up to that point, passed away after prolonged illnesses. When we were in school in MCKK in the early 90s, we made this foolish promise that we would make a difference to the country when we grew up. He was serious, I just played along because he was a super senior and my debating captain. I was the ever obliging junior.
Being silly, we held dear to that promise. He went to Cambridge, set up the United Kingdom Executive Council for Malaysian students (UKEC) and dragged me with him. I had always been a workaholic, so my presence was handy because I could turn his idea into workable events and programs.
When Dato’ Seri Anwar was sacked and humiliated in 1998, both of us went through a political awakening of sorts. Ben (as everyone called him) plunged into partisan politics to become the early pioneers of KEADILAN, and again he dragged me with him.
He passed away 2 months before the political tsunami of March 2008. On his death bed in early January 2008, it dawned on me that if he were to pass away, someone had to carry on so that he didn’t die in vain. Finishing the task of getting rid of BN and establishing a 2-party system (as how we always dreamt as youth) became personal to us – when he died, I knew my comfortable life in the corporate world would come to an end somehow.
So, by 2009, I somehow had made a career decision to move on. I never had any plan to enter politics even at that time, I just wanted to go out of my comfort zone. And tested how much, as a chartered accountant, my worth was outside.
On 30 April 2009, I tendered my resignation.
In the next 3 months, I settled all my obligations with PETRONAS including paying RM31,499.89 for the 6-month remainder of my scholarship bond, so that I had fully repaid every single sen of what was invested on me by PETRONAS. I also paid cash a sum of RM41,091.80 for the balance of my car grant, given to management level and above.
Fortunately, my curiosity to find out how much I was worth outside PETRONAS paid off. I had a much better offer outside PETRONAS and in August 2009 joined Pharmaniaga as a general manager, with a combined role of overseeing its pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Bangi and the finance functions of the group.
I was supposed to start at Pharmaniaga on 10 August 2009. Fate had it that on 8 August 2009, I went back to Kemaman to see my parents and co-incidentally Dato’ Seri Anwar was in Kemaman for his grand ceramah. So I was asked to become the MC for the night.
Ever obliging, so I went. Dato’ Seri Anwar was quite shocked to see me there, because the last time we met about a year before that (during a discussion in preparation for the debate on fuel price), I was not at all interested in politics and kept repeating that I would stay in PETRONAS.
He enquired what I was doing, I briefly told him that I was no longer in PETRONAS and about to start at Pharmaniaga. The rest, as they said, was history.
From that encounter, Dato’ Seri Anwar requested for a quick meeting and we met twice at Parliament. He asked me to come back to the party (I was in the youth leadership line up until 2004), twice he asked and twice I said no. Until at one point, he said to me that “you need to stand up and be counted, stop being an armchair critic” – he bruised my ego.
While I never plan to do what I am doing now, somehow I have peace because I have a promise to keep. And that promise Ben and I made when we were young is close to being fulfilled. What happens after I keep that promise is a different thing. Some people said I was so foolish to hold on to a childhood promise, but that promise keeps his memory alive.
Going back to the part on PETRONAS, I had a wonderful career in PETRONAS. It has given me so much that most of what I am now professionally, I acquired from my time in PETRONAS. And PETRONAS returned my diligence with the quickest promotion – a result of an evaluation of my career is attached just to prove how fruitful the partnership with PETRONAS was.
My resignation from PETRONAS was abrupt. A lot of people did not understand why I should leave a career when I seemed to be destined for better things in PETRONAS.
A lot of them tried to persuade me, including Datuk Mohamad Medan Abdullah, Senior General Manager of the Group Corporate Affairs (who was my boss at Carigali at one point).
He tweeted on 21 August 2012 to reflect how he tried to persuade me from resigning, and how there was no indication that I was planning to plunge into politics.
I hope this clears the air once and for all.
I refuse to be dragged into it before because it was a personal choice. It related to a death of a dear friend and it brought sadness to revisit that life changing decision. It was a private matter and I prefer to keep it there.
This is my first and last non-legal response on this matter. If this persists, I will resort to a legal action.