• Disclose Salary and Income of Top Civil Servants and Top Executives in Government Owned Companies

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 20th of August, 2015

    Disclose Salary and Income of Top Civil Servants and Top Executives in Government Owned Companies

    On Tuesday, 18th of August, 2015, the Institute of Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) organized a seminar and exhibition[1] on Open Government Partnership (OGP), a multilateral initiative to secure concrete commitments from governments to “promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.”[2]

    One of the commitments made by the UK government as part of the OGP initiative is the disclosure of the salaries of the top civil servants and senior officials in departments, agencies and non-departmental public bodies earning £150,000 and above. The list of names and salaries can be downloaded here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/senior-officials-high-earners-salaries. The 2014 list has 315 names including the top executives in the 100% government owned UK Green Investment Bank.

    The UK Green Investment Bank was capitalised with an initial £3.8 billion of public funds to finance green projects.[3] On its website, it also lists down the remuneration of its top executives as well as the salary ranges of its staff at various levels of management.[4]

    The UK government even provides a list of special advisers to the government who earn more than £58,200 per annum.[5]

    This kind of transparency is sorely needed in Malaysia.

    For example, even if we can know the salary scale or band for civil servants, we do not know the exact income of the top civil servants including income from allowances and fees as directors of statutory bodies and government owned companies. According to a parliamentary reply I received, the monthly allowance of a chairman of a Ministry of Finance Incorporated Company is between RM8,000 to RM10,000 a month with board meeting allowances between RM2,500 to RM3,000 and committee meeting allowances of RM1,300 (See Table below).

    Table: Allowances for Directors of Ministry of Finance Incorporated Companies (except for Development Finance Institutions)

    Type of Allowance Chairman Board Member
    Monthly Fixed Allowance RM8000 to RM10000 RM2500 to RM3000
    Board of Directors Meeting Allowance RM2500 to RM3000 RM1500 to RM2000
    Committee Meeting Allowance RM1300 RM1000

    Source: Parliamentary Reply, 2nd session, 2015

    The Secretary-General of the Treasury, Tan Sri Dr. Mohd Irwan Serigar bin Abdullah is listed as a director of 25 companies at the end of 2014 (See Appendix A below). In the interest of transparency, the total salary of top civil servants such as Tan Sri Dr. Mohd Irwan Serigar should be disclosed publicly.[6]

    The salary of CEOs and top executives of government agencies such as PEMANDU should also be disclosed. The yearly salary, allowance and bonus of agencies such as Agensi Inovasi Malaysia (AIM) (RM830,500), SPAD (RM480,000) and TalentCorp (RM420,000) was only disclosed through a reply to my parliamentary question in 2013.[7]

    When I asked for the salaries of the CEOs of MRT Corp, Prasarana, 1MDB and Khazanah via a parliamentary question in November 2013, the reply was that this information is private and therefore cannot be disclosed. I find this to be unacceptable given that all these companies are 100% owned by the government and therefore should be subject to disclosure and public scrutiny.

    Even EPF, which has high quality disclosure and corporate governance by Malaysian standards, only disclosed the combined emoluments of the CEO and his 3 Deputy CEOs which totalled approximately RM4 million for the year 2014.[8]

    The practice of disclosure of salaries should not be restricted to those at the federal level. The Penang and Selangor state governments can show the way by disclosing the salaries of the top executives in companies which are controlled by the respective state governments such as the Penang Development Corporation (PDC) and other companies owned by the Chief Minister Incorporated (CMI) and the many companies that are majority owned by the Menteri Besar Incorporated (MBI).

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    Appendix A: List of Directorships of Secretary General of the Treasury, Tan Sri Dr. Mohd Irwan Serigar bin Abdullah

    [1] http://ideas.org.my/events/18-august-2015-open-government-partnership-seminar-and-exhibition/

    [2] http://www.opengovpartnership.org/about#sthash.3M5EQhyg.dpuf

    [3] http://www.greeninvestmentbank.com/about-us/

    [4] http://www.greeninvestmentbank.com/media/44598/gib-salaries-2014.pdf

    [5] http://data.gov.uk/dataset/special-advisers-list

    [6] I would assume that the maximum allowances top civil servants like Tan Sri Dr. Mohd Irwan get from directors fees and allowances would be RM27,000 per year as per the government circular on the matter last updated in 1993: http://docs.jpa.gov.my/docs/pp/1993/pp021993.pdf

    [7] http://ongkianming.com/2013/10/29/press-statement-the-prime-minister-should-walk-the-talk-by-cutting-expenditure-in-the-prime-ministers-department-and-by-not-creating-new-expensive-agencies/

    [8] http://www.kwsp.gov.my/portal/documents/10180/5382689/6.OUR_ACCOUNTABILITY.pdf

  • Is Idris Jala really throwing down the gauntlet or is he just covering up for Najib?

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 15th of August, 2015

    Is Idris Jala really throwing down the gauntlet or is he just covering up for Najib?

    Even though I have often disagreed publicly with some of the strategies and policies of the Economic Transformation Program (ETP), I respected PEMANDU CEO, Dato Seri Idris Jala, as a man of integrity who genuinely wanted to make a positive contribution to the country.

    As such, I was shocked to read his latest blog post in the Economic Transformation Program (ETP) website entitled “Throwing Down the Gauntlet”[1] where he not only sounded like a BN apologist but also made it sound as if the opposition were the main stumbling blocks towards undertaking reforms on political financing.

    Instead of speaking up for MACC officers who were being investigated and questioned by the police and the two MACC officers who were initially transferred to the PMO a day after meeting opposition politicians, he tried to defend the RM2.6 billion “donation” to Prime Minister Najib by writing:

    ‎”I consulted a senior legal expert for clarification on a few points of law concerning the issue of political donations. Generally, it is not illegal for anyone to donate money to political parties. Secondly, there is no law in our country that makes it illegal to remit political donations either into a bank account of an individual or a political party. However, it is illegal when donations are directly linked to corruption.”

    Idris Jala’s deafening silence vis-à-vis the attacks on MACC’s independence is even starker given that strengthening the MACC is (or perhaps was) one of the cornerstones of the anti-corruption NKRA. In describing the anti-corruption workstream, the 2013 GTP Annual Report had this to say:

    “This workstream aims to build and establish Malaysia as a fair and just place to live, work and play. A key component towards this end is to ensure that the MACC becomes a world-class institution, armed with the resources it needs to operate independently and effectively to investigate and take action against cases of corruption”

    So while the independence of the MACC is under severe attack, Idris Jala has decided to defend his boss and leave the MACC officials to fend for themselves.

    But perhaps worse than this was the classless attempt by Idris Jala to write as if BN was in favour of political financing reform while Pakatan was against it. Idris wrote:

    “In 2014, when for the second time our Prime Minister had called for the regulation of political financing, senior Barisan party members argued that to be fair, it should be implemented in tandem with Pakatan. We felt positive about this because at least one side (Barisan) accepted our proposal and the other side, Pakatan may perhaps have been keen to jump on this bandwagon given their stance on governance and transparency. Again, we ended up with no voluntary takers. Clearly, there was no appetite for such a reform at the time.”

    I can only repeat what my other colleagues have said which is that the DAP has never been consulted or asked by PEMANDU or any other government agency to agree to any proposal or legislation on political financing in Malaysia. And the DAP has never objected to any political financing reform or bill. So I am aghast that Idris Jala would write as if the proposal for political financing was only accepted by one side i.e. the BN but not by the other side i.e. Pakatan. How could we reject what was never offered to us in the first place?

    In fact, I would like to remind Idris Jala that the opposition MPs were much more open to working with PEMANDU on the anti-corruption NKRA initiatives compared to the BN MPs. As far as I know, this has not been previously reported so I will list down the sequence of events in detail.

    Under the GTP 2.0, the anti-corruption NKRA proposed that Members of Parliament would undergo training to enhance awareness and knowledge of corruption / abuse of power / malpractice. (See Initiative 19 below).

    The NKRA team had approached the president of the BN backbencher’s club, Tan Sri Shahrir Samad to conduct this training in parliament on a bipartisan basis but he wasn’t interested. In order to fulfil their year-end KPI, PEMANDU approached the Institute of Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) to organize this anti-corruption training. Despite the best efforts of IDEAS, only opposition MPs attended this training. To emphasize, NOT A SINGLE BN MP showed up for this training which was conducted in Majestic Hotel by Tan Sri Abu Kassim, the head the MACC as well as Tan Sri Ambrin Buang, the Auditor General. This integrity training for MPs was reported in the GTP’s 2013 Annual Report (see below). The Annual Report stated (or rather understated) the fact that “Not all MPs attended the inaugural anti-corruption training session, and the Anti-COR team will work on improving attendance going forward” without mentioning that no BN MPs showed up. The picture in the GTP’s 2013 Annual Report shows that only opposition MPs were in the photo together with the Minister in the Prime Minister’s department, Paul Low, who is in charge of governance and integrity. This should be a clear enough sign of which side is really serious about reform to reduce corruption and I hope it will serve as a timely reminder to Idris Jala.

    Finally, the statement which showed that Idris Jala is either political naïve or purposefully ignorant:

    “In retrospect, I believe if both parties had accepted the recommendations back in 2010, we would not be in the current conundrum, with the entire nation suffering a protracted political battle.”

    Does the good Senator really think that the whole 1MDB scandal would not have taken place if the BN and Pakatan had agreed to the political financing agreement proposed by PEMANDU? Should I remind Idris Jala of the fact that Prime Minister Najib signed the Transparency International’s Electoral Integrity Pact in February 2013[2] and one month later, in March 2013, almost US$700 million made its way into PM Najib’s private AMBank account?[3]

    With these kinds of statements, I question the credibility of Idris Jala to play an effective role as the deputy chairman of the recently announced ‘national consultative committee on political funding’.[4] Will Idris Jala and the chairman of this committee, Paul Low, use this as a means of distracting the public from the larger problems affecting Najib and the source of the money which went into his personal Ambank accounts in 2013, 2014 and 2015?

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    [1] http://etp.pemandu.gov.my/Transformation_Unplugged-@-Throwing_Down_the_Gauntlet.aspx

    [2] http://timalaysia-electionpledge.org.my/

    [3] http://www.sarawakreport.org/2015/07/sensational-findings-prime-minister-najib-razaks-personal-accounts-linked-to-1mdb-money-trail-malaysia-exclusive/

    [4] http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/najib-unveils-new-committee-to-develop-political-funding-laws#sthash.M1tRfbby.dpuf

  • Strongly Urge US Secretary of State, John Kerry, to raise the possible presence of North Korean forced labor in Malaysia in his discussion with his Malaysian counterpart, Anifah Aman

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 2nd of August, 2015

    Strongly urge US Secretary of State, John Kerry, to raise the possible presence of North Korean forced labor in Malaysia in his discussion with his Malaysian counterpart, Anifah Aman

    I read with interest a recent newspaper report stating that the US Secretary of State John Kerry will press Malaysia to improve its efforts to combat human trafficking in his upcoming visit to Kuala Lumpur.[1] Recently, Malaysia was upgraded from its previous Tier 3 status under the US State Department Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report 2014 to its current updated Tier 2 Watch List status in the 2015 TIP report.

    Earlier last month, a group of 19 Senators, led by Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, wrote a letter to Secretary John Kerry expressing their concern of a premature upgrading of Malaysia’s status in the TIP report.[2] Their concerns were validated when Malaysia’s status was indeed validated in the 2015 TIP report. It should also be noted that Senator Menendez was the author of an amendment to the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation – or better known as ‘fast track’ – that would have disallowed the US from making any trade deals with a country with a Tier 3 status on the TIP report. This obviously would have affected Malaysia’s inclusion in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement.

    I strongly urge Secretary Kerry to bring up an issue that was ignored in the Malaysian section of the 2015 TIP report which concerns the possible presence of North Korean forced labor in Malaysia.

    The issue of forced labor involving North Korean workers was highlighted in the country reports for Russia, China and Mongolia in the 2015 TIP report. But no mention was made of the possible presence of North Korean forced labor in Malaysia, even though reports by the Asian Institute for Policy Studies[3] and the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights[4] had reported that there were approximately 300 North Koreans working in Malaysia.

    The presence of North Koreans working in Malaysia was reported in the local press in November 2014 when a deadly mine explosion in Sri Aman, Kuching, claimed the lives of 3 miners (out of whom 1 was North Korean) and injured a further 29 (out of whom 7 were North Korean). It was further reported that a majority of the 119 workers at the mine were from North Korea.[5] A visit by two local journalists indicated that the mine was not only hard to find but that it did not seem to be run and managed professionally.[6] I note that this accident occurred before the March 2015 cut off date for the TIP 2015 evaluation.

    The presence of North Korean workers in Sarawak was confirmed by the then Deputy Minister for Home Affairs, Wan Junaidi, shortly after the coal mining accident was reported.[7] It was also confirmed to me in a parliamentary reply dated on the 17th of June, 2015, that 3 companies involved in construction and 1 in mining had received approval from the Human Resources Department in Sarawak to employ a total of 348 North Korean workers, out of which 287 permits had been used at the time of the parliamentary reply.

    The use of North Korean forced labor abroad has been well documented. I hope that the exclusion of the possible presence of North Korean forced labor in Malaysia in the latest TIP 2015 report was not because of political expediency to allow Malaysia to enter into the TPP agreement at the end of this year.  If this was the case, then it would call into question the accuracy of the TIP report and the commitment on the part of the US State Department to combat trafficking of persons in Malaysia and around the world.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    (Please find original and translation of the parliamentary reply attached)

    [1] http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/kerry-to-press-malaysia-on-human-trafficking-not-scandal

    [2] http://www.menendez.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/071515%20Letter%20to%20Kerry%20re%20Malaysia%20TIP%20Upgrade.pdf

    [3] http://en.asaninst.org/wp-content/themes/twentythirteen/action/dl.php?id=30324

    [4] http://nkdb.org/en/library/Books_list.php

    [5] http://www.thestar.com.my/News/Nation/2014/11/23/Sarawak-mine-blast/

    [6] http://www.thestar.com.my/News/Nation/2014/11/23/Mine-has-no-signage-and-is-difficult-to-find/

    [7] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/24/-sp-north-korea-malaysia-mine-labour

  • Malaysia’s ranking on the Money, Politics and Transparency study on political financing shows that we are in dire need of campaign finance reform

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 21st of July, 2015

    Malaysia’s ranking on the Money, Politics and Transparency study on political financing shows that we are in dire need of campaign finance reform

    On the 16th of July, the Money, Politics and Transparency (MPT) project, a joint initiative between the Sunlight Foundation, Global Integrity and the Electoral Integrity Project, released a new dataset comprising of their findings on elections law and elections spending.[1]

    Out of the 54 countries in the study, Malaysia was ranked at position no.50 scoring 19 points out of a possible 100. Malaysia’s score was lower than that of Indonesia (47 points), Bangladesh (41 points) and Nigeria (29 points). Malaysia’s poor score on this study is consistent with other studies which looks at the electoral process in Malaysia. The Electoral Integrity Project (one of the initiators of the MPT project) had earlier ranked Malaysia 114 out of 127 in terms of electoral integrity.[2]

    In the MPT study, the oversight over campaign finance was describe as follows:

    “The Electoral Commission is responsible for overseeing political finance. In law, the Commission is not granted investigatory powers. Its appointees are not appointed based on merit, and their independence, in practice, is not fully guaranteed. The body does not conduct investigations, lacks the capacity to do so, and never imposes sanctions on parties or candidates who violate the law. In Malaysia, not only is the regulatory framework fairly weak, enforcement is less than rigorous.”[3]

    The lack of political independence of the Election Commission and weak enforcement on elections spending in Malaysia is all the more glaring in light of the allegations put forward by the Wall Street Journal that funds related to 1MDB transactions were channelled into certain accounts for the purpose of elections expenditure during the 13th general election in 2013[4] including personal accounts under the name of Prime Minister Najib.[5]

    The issue of transparency in elections expenditure and political financing is not something new. It was one of the 8 demands of Bersih 2.0.[6] Transparency International Malaysia has also been consistently advocating for political financing reform and published a comprehensive book with concrete proposals for political financing reform in Malaysia.[7] The Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU) has been talking about political financing reform since 2012.[8] Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Datuk Paul Low, has also been advocating for greater transparency in political financing since he became a member of the cabinet.[9] And of course, one cannot help but remember the signing of the Elections Integrity Pledge by Prime Minister Najib, just prior to the 13th general election in 2013.[10] What a farce that has become.

    In view of the Wall Street Journal allegations and also Malaysia’s poor performance in various elections related studies, I call upon the Prime Minister to remember the pledge he signed up to prior to GE13 and to carry out a comprehensive review of the elections system in Malaysia including political financing and elections related expenditure. There are many examples from other countries which Malaysia can adopt as part of the larger process of electoral reform. What the country is severely lacking now is the political leadership and the political will to start and carry out these much needed reforms.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament of Serdang

    Attachments from the Money, Transparency and Politics Study:
    Rankings, Brief, Key Findings and Full Methodology

    [1] http://moneypoliticstransparency.org/

    [2] https://sites.google.com/site/electoralintegrityproject4/home

    [3] http://data.moneypoliticstransparency.org/countries/MY/

    [4] http://www.wsj.com/articles/fund-controversy-threatens-malaysias-leader-1434681241

    [5] http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10130211234592774869404581083700187014570

    [6] http://www.bersih.org/about-bersih/bersihs-8-points/ (under stopping corruption via vote buying)

    [7] http://transparency.org.my/category/what-we-do/reforming-political-financing/

    [8] http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2012/03/08/pemandu-to-work-on-guidelines-for-political-funding/

    [9] http://english.astroawani.com/politics-news/political-financing-one-thing-bn-and-pakatan-can-both-agree-upon-36477

    [10] http://transparency.org.my/what-we-do/election-integrity-pledge/prime-minister-signs-transparency-international-malaysias-election-integrity-pledge/

  • Reasons why the postponement of the SCKL Marathon is important

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 15th of July, 2015

    Reasons why the postponement of the SCKL Marathon is important

    With the 1MDB scandal and the Low Yat police investigations still ongoing, why should we pay attention to the postponement by one week of a running event in Kuala Lumpur?

    Here are some reasons why the postponement of the Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon from Sunday, 4th of October, 2015 to Saturday, 10th of October, 2015 at the request of the Minister of Youth and Sports, Khairy Jamaluddin, so that it coincides with the National Sports Day, matters more than you think.

    Reason 1: Khairy Jamaluddin is supposed to be one of the more progressive and open-minded UMNO leaders

    KJ has been touted as one of the more open minded, intelligent and progressive UMNO leaders who is media savvy and supposedly more in tune with the thinking of the people, especially the younger generation. He himself is also a runner, after having participated in the 10km run in last year’s SCKL event. If a supposedly progressive and open minded leader like KJ can unilaterally and without considering the well-being and convenience of the participants, change the date of a major international sporting event in the country just to fulfil some meaningless KPI for the National Sports Day, what does it say about the state of leadership among the current group of BN leaders?

    Such an action should give us good cause to doubt the sincerity and credibility of the other BN leaders, including the Prime Minister, when the supposedly progressive Youth and Sports Minister can attempt such an inconsiderate and ill thought out ‘stunt’ like this.

    Reason 2: This episode shows that Ministers in Malaysia have way too much power in their hands

    Imagine if the Obama administration had asked the organizers and main sponsors of the Chicago Marathon or if the David Cameron administration had asked the organizers and main sponsors of the London Marathon to shift the date of their events to accommodate a government sponsored celebration of some sort. I am quite sure that the organizers will ask the Obama or the Cameron administration to get lost, albeit using more polite and formal language. Of course, neither the Obama nor the Cameron administration would ever dream of such a request knowing the political backlash they would face if the dates of either event were to be changed at their request.

    But in Malaysia, the organizers and main sponsors of the SCKL Marathon seems powerless to say no to the request of the Minister to shift the date in order to coincide the National Sports Day, even though the Ministry of Youth and Sports is neither the main sponsor nor the main organizer of the event.

    This episode is a microcosm of a much larger problem in Malaysia, which is that Ministers have way too much power in their hands. Not only can they exert pressure using their own ministries but they can also count on the support of various other ministries and government agencies. For example, the Ministry of Youth and Sports could ask DBKL to withhold support and funding for the SCKL marathon if the organizers did not agree to the change of date. I do not know what transpired in the background but I won’t be surprised if various governmental levers were pulled in order to ‘encourage’ the organizers of the SCKL Marathon to change the date.

    Reason 3: This episode shows an utter disregard for the public feedback after the date change was announced

    If Khairy was really in tune with the running community, he would have anticipated the public backlash that would follow resulting from the change in date from the 4th of October, 2015 to the 10th of October, 2015. Flight tickets would have been booked in advance, dates in the running calendar set, holiday plans would have been made for a weekend in KL.

    Standard Chartered KL Marathon’s Facebook page has been bombarded with over 1000 comments, an overwhelming majority of which are negative and which criticized the decision.[1] Khairy’s own Facebook has been similarly bombarded with messages criticizing this unilateral decision.[2]

    A Facebook page entitled “Bring SCKLM Back to October 4: Stop Politicising Sporting Events” that was created on Monday, 13th of July, just after the date change announcement was made, has already garnered over 3000 likes.[3] A petition that was set up on Tuesday, 14th of July, has already reached 1500 signatures.[4]

    Despite the overwhelming negative feedback, Khairy, who is normally an active social media user, has been ‘missing in action’ for the past two days and has not come out to explain to the running community why he needs to hijack the 35,000 runners to fulfil the arbitrarily set KPI for the National Sports Day.

    He probably thinks he can get away with it and he’s probably right. There will be some people who will withdraw and ask for a refund. But there will be others who will be willing to sign up for the event especially for the shorter 5km and 10km distances (the event was sold out in 4 days which shows that the demand is there) But just because Khairy can get away with it doesn’t mean that it is right, or that the voices of the many unhappy people can be ignored.

    Reason 4: Malaysia’s international reputation has been tarnished

    The Standard Chartered KL Marathon is an international marathon which means that participants from all over the world will specially make plans to come to Malaysia to take part in this marathon. International marathons such as Berlin, London, Boston, Chicago, New York and Tokyo attract international participation at the elite and non-elite levels. While the SCKLM is nowhere near the level of the World Major Marathons[5], it is one of two major international marathons in the country (the other being the Penang Bridge International Marathon). This unilateral change in date will affect not just the reputation of SCKLM but also of other major running events in Malaysia especially among the international running community. Rather than risk the danger of another postponement because of political interference, many of them will prefer to miss this event in the international running calendar. All the hard work with the organizers have put in to build up the international reputation of this event has been tarnished and with that Malaysia’s international reputation as a place which can hold world class running events.

    For these reasons, the decision to postpone a running event is a microcosm of the larger problems which the country is facing right now and this is why the postponement of this event after a unilateral decision by the Minister is something worth paying attention to.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming is the MP for Serdang and has also signed up to run 42km for his charity of choice, Ecoknights. He has raised RM1000 thus far for this charity and feels disappointed if this change in date would affect the fund raising efforts of all those who have signed up to Run for a Cause (RFAC).

    [1] https://www.facebook.com/SCKLmarathon?fref=ts

    [2] http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/305116

    [3] https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bring-SCKLM-Back-To-October-4-Stop-Politicising-Sporting-Events/1011197192277453?ref=hl

    [4] http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/bring-scklm-back-to-october-4

    [5] https://www.worldmarathonmajors.com/

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