Hannah Yeoh Accused Of Nepotism After Husband Lands Govt Project. Here Are 7 Facts To Know

Several politicians have accused Hannah Yeoh of contradicting the principles of good governance advocated by her party DAP.

Cover image via Focus Malaysia & Digital News Asia

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Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh and her party, DAP, are strong proponents of anti-corruption causes. They often criticised the unethical conduct of past administrations while they were in the opposition.

However, now that Yeoh and her party are in power within the unity government, she has been recently accused of nepotism — the very practice she opposed, as evident in her 2012 tweet.

To get you up to speed, here are seven facts you need to know about the controversy involving Yeoh, whose husband's company was appointed as a service provider for a Selangor government project:

1. Who are Hannah Yeoh and her husband?

Image via salt&light

Yeoh married Ramachandran Muniandy on 5 January 2008 when they were both 29 years old. The couple has two daughters.

According to a contributed article on a Singaporean community news site, Yeoh said he met Ramachandran at a church before the two joined DAP in 2007.

Yeoh served as a two-term Selangor state assemblyperson for the Subang Jaya constituency between 2008 and 2018. She won the Segambut parliamentary seat in 2018 and defended the seat in the 2022 general election.

She was the deputy women, family, and community development minister from mid-2018 to early 2020. She currently serves as the youth and sports minister.

Meanwhile, Ramachandran began his career in the information technology field before transitioning to leadership roles in managing companies and a church.

Today, he is the co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Asia Mobiliti, a company currently under public scrutiny.

2. What does Asia Mobiliti do?

Ramachandran Muniandy.

Image via Digital News Asia

Asia Mobiliti is a startup founded in 2018 by Ramachandran and Premesh Chandran, who is also Malaysiakini's director and former CEO.

According to Asia Mobiliti's website, the company was established to improve and digitalise Malaysia's public transport system by leveraging machine learning and the Internet of Things.

In November 2021, Malaysiakini reported that the company completed a pilot programme for a community ride-hailing service in Petaling Jaya. Its service, Trek Rides, allowed the public to book rides in larger-capacity vehicles, providing transportation between on-demand transit zones and popular locations.

The service is now called the demand-responsive transit (DRT) system, offering affordable last-mile solutions to customers.

According to Malay Mail, the Selangor state government announced the appointment of Asia Mobiliti and the second DRT provider, Badan Bas Coach Sdn Bhd, in June 2023.

The Selangor Mobiliti brand logo and its service coverage zone were unveiled during the Selangor Smart City and Digital Economy Convention in October 2023.

Below is a promotion video of the service by the state government:

3. Did Asia Mobiliti get the project through an open tender?

The project was granted to the two companies through direct negotiation, bypassing an open tender process.

Last Friday, 24 May, Selangor investment, trade, and mobility committee chairman Ng Sze Han said Asia Mobility and Badan Bas Coach were selected to operate the DRT system following their presentation to the state transport committee and their demonstrated experience in implementing their proof of concept, reported FMT.

Both companies received licences from the Land Public Transport Agency to operate a 'bus-on-demand' service in December 2022.

Defending the appointment, Asia Mobiliti argued that conducting an open tender for the project would have resulted in a monopoly in the state.

"This would have stifled competitiveness and robbed the state of the opportunity to pilot the service in a real-world setting and assess the service providers' performance over a reasonable period of time," it said.

It added that the awarded project was only for nine months.

"We regularly bid for tenders and, like any other competitive business, we are successful with some and not so successful with others.

"Being a highly transparent and ethical business, which is an extension of the personal values of our co-founders, we abhor collusion and anti-competitive practices by any party, especially government agencies and corporates," Asia Mobiliti said in the statement.

The company also said it is committed to addressing the recent allegations and asserted its plan to pursue legal action, denouncing the accusations as an "unsubstantiated assault on a Malaysian technology startup".

4. Is the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) planning to investigate Asia Mobiliti or Yeoh for abuse of power or conflict of interest?

MACC chief commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki.

Image via Bernama via theSundaily

MACC chief commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki said that the project was awarded to Asia Mobiliti by the Selangor state government, not Yeoh's ministry, reported Malay Mail.

"If a person is abusing his or her power then the person has to have some interest in that matter. But in this case, it is the Selangor menteri besar's decision and not her decision [to award the contract].

"So this is not an offence. Could it be a moral offence? I don't know, I'm not going to barge into that. MACC can't be involved in that matter. If the politicians think there is a moral offence, it's up to them. But I have to be clear about the facts," the anti-graft chief told reporters yesterday.

Azam added that Yeoh holds no shares in the company.

"So what do you want me to do? Do you want us to call Yeoh, her husband and the company and record their statements? Is this what you want? If this is what you want, will it be fair to them?

"Are you now saying her husband can't do any business and only take care of the children at home?" he asked.

5. Despite the MACC's position on the matter, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim stated that an investigation should be conducted if there is a report

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Image via Asyraf Hamzah/New Straits Times

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Anwar said he would leave it to the relevant authorities to investigate Asia Mobiliti.

"If there's a report, let the authorities investigate... It should be investigated in a transparent manner," the New Straits Times quoted the prime minister, whose government has a strong stance against corruption, as saying.

6. A former DAP member has urged either Yeoh or Ramachandran to step down from their positions to protect DAP's reputation

Former Penang deputy chief minister P Ramasamy.

Image via New Straits Times

Former Penang DAP strongman P Ramasamy is among the critics who condemned his former party member for being involved in the controversy, reported Malaysia Now.

"To prevent embarrassment, either Yeoh must resign as minister or Ramachandran quit the company," said the former Penang deputy chief minister of 15 years.

Ramasamy said the issue is not about Asia Mobiliti's competence in executing the project, but the fact that the project was awarded without an open tender.

"The question is how could the project be awarded through direct negotiations when the principal officer or the CEO happens to be Yeoh's husband?

"Yeoh is a senior leader of the DAP, a party that strongly advocates open tenders and transparency in the award of government projects," he said.

Ramasamy added that as a federal minister, Yeoh must be "above cronyism and favouritism".

"Even if the selection committee was not aware of the family links, Yeoh should have known better in advising her husband. She should advise him not to be involved in the project in the first place," Malaysia Now quoted him as saying.

7. A Selangor PAS member accused Pakatan Harapan (PH) of breaking its manifesto

Selangor PAS deputy commissioner Sabirin Marsono.

Image via Harakah Daily

Selangor PAS deputy commissioner Sabirin Marsono questioned whether DAP is exempted in PH's manifesto.

"[PH's manifesto] promised that no project through direct negotiations will be implemented when they are in power. Are special exemptions given to DAP and its cronies?

"It turns out that DAP and its leadership are hypocritical and have thrown all the principles they fought for — competency, accountability, and transparency — into the trash.

"Although it is acknowledged that the DRT is very beneficial for the people of Selangor, it does not justify the contract procurement procedure being violated in such a way by the greed and hypocrisy of PH and its leaders.

"The Selangor state government needs to take responsibility and do an immediate review and clarification on this issue," Sabirin said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Wanita DAP chief Teo Nie Ching has defended Yeoh in a statement today, 29 May, saying it is unfair to ask Yeoh to resign before any investigation establishes any abuse of power, reported Malay Mail.

SAYS has reached out to Yeoh and Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

[UPDATE] The government has responded to the issue:

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