I was in Ahmad Sebi Abu Bakar’s office that day when Vincent Tan rudely barged in without knocking. It seems Vincent Tan needs not make an appointment to see the then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad or Finance Minister Tun Daim Zainuddin. He can just walk in even if there is someone else in the room, foreign dignitaries included.
Anyway, the reason why Vincent Tan was summoned to meet Tun Daim’s henchman, Ahmad Sebi, who was at that time running TV3, was to discuss Sports Toto. They wanted Vincent Tan to take over Sports Toto. Dr Mahathir’s government called it privatisation. We in the Malay Chamber of Commerce called it piratisation.
One thing that the Chamber members were not happy about is that this so-called privatisation was not done openly or on a tender basis. So there was absolutely no transparency in how it was being done. The deals were done secretly and ‘under-the-table’ and benefited cronies of those who walked in the corridors of power — Malays, Chinese, as well as Indians.
(So in that sense the piratisation was colour-blind and non-racial — which means the New Economic Policy or NEP worked better for the non-Malays. For example, Dr Mahathir gave the Chinese RM3 billion and the Malays just RM500 million to bail out those who were facing bankruptcy during the 1985 economic crisis).