Court to rule on ‘violation’ motion ahead of CM corruption trial
GEORGE TOWN: The High Court here will rule on March 7 whether Section 62 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 is in violation of the Federal Constitution.
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and businesswoman Phang Li Khoon want Section 62 to be declared unconstitutional as they claim it is against the tenet of “considered innocent unless proven guilty.”
Penang High Court judge Datuk Hadhariah Syed Ismail set the date after the defence and prosecution made their arguments.
Lim and Phang are facing charges under the MACC Act in relation to the sale and purchase of a bungalow in 2014 and separately filed the motion to declare Section 62 a violation of the Federal Constitution in early January.
Phang’s counsel Datuk V. Sithambaram said Section 62 must be struck down as “it is contrary to a right to fair trial and is in violation of the fundamental rights of the accused.”
He argued that the section infringes the accused’s constitutional right under Article 5(1) and Article 8(1) of the Federal Constitution.
“Section 62 of the MACC Act requires the defence’s statement and documents, which would be tendered as evidence, to be delivered to the prosecution before the start of trial.
“However, the right of an accused to be presumed innocent and right to silence are encapsulated in the Federal Constitution.
“Article 5(1) declares that no person shall be deprived of life or liberty save in accordance with law and Article 8(1) dictates that all persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law.
“The court has not called for defence and yet the prosecution is asking for the statement of defence, even before the court decides. This is against the presumption of innocence,” he told the court yesterday.
Gobind Singh, acting for Lim, said the provision favours the prosecution and discriminates against the rights of the accused.
He argued that Section 62 restricted the defence of the accused person by excluding the right of an accused to expand his defence further and produce further documents at the trial.
“It is against the provisions of equality under Article 8 of the Federal Constitution.
He also said the accused could be subjected to criminal consequences under Section 68 of the MACC Act for failing to comply with the Act’s provisions and be penalised under Section 69 of the MACC Act.
DPP Masri Mohd Daud said Section 62 of the MACC Act is not discriminatory and is procedural and a general provision.
“The Act does not stop the defence from making further submissions other than those which had been submitted,” said Masry.
“The arguments that Section 62 contradicts Article 5 of the Con-stitution is far-fetched! Article 5 refers to, among others, the rights to consult a lawyer and the rights to be informed of the grounds for an arrest.”
On June 30, last year, Lim was charged with obtaining gratification for himself and his wife Betty Chew by approving the conversion of two lots of agricultural land belonging to Magnificent Emblem into residential development while chairing a state Planning Committee meeting on July 18, 2014.
The offence under Section 23 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act, carries a jail term of up to 20 years and a fine of at least five times the value of gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher.
He faces another charge under Section 165 of the Penal Code for using his position to obtain gratification by purchasing his bungalow in Pinhorn Road from Phang at RM2.8mil, below the market value of RM4.27mil, on July 28, 2015. The offence is punishable by a maximum of two years in jail or a fine, or both.
Phang, who is charged with abetment, faces up to two years in jail or a fine, or both.
Both Lim and Phang have pleaded not guilty. Their cases will be jointly heard between March and July.
Phang is respresented by Sithambaram, Hisyam Teh Poh Teik and A. Ruebankumar, while Lim by Gobind, Ramkarpal Singh Deo, R.S.N Rayer and Terence Naidu.
By Chong Kah Yuan The Star/Asia News Network
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Stepping down: Dr Lim giving a speech at the council meeting at City Hall, Penang. Dr. Lim tells why he walked GEORGE TOWN: The only
GEORGE TOWN: Penang has acknowledged that nine out of 29 hill clearing cases on the island, as reported by Penang Forum , were illegal.
Penang Forum representative Rexy Prakash Chacko said state Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow and Penang Island City Council (MBPP) had a discussion with them last week.
This came about after the forum’s first Penang Hills Watch (PHW) report on hill clearing cases was submitted to the state on Jan 2.
“They investigated the report and concluded that only nine were illegal clearing activities while the rest were legally permitted land works (14) and natural slope failure (one). The other five cases are still being investigated by the relevant departments.
“The illegal clearing cases have been issued with stop work orders or are being followed up by court action,” he said on Saturday.
Chacko commended Penang’s concern and transparency in responding to the PHW report.
He urged for close monitoring on the nine illegal clearing cases and for mitigation action to be taken to rehabilitate the areas if necessary.
“For those with permits, the forum hopes that the clearing will strictly adhere to the state laws on land works and drainage.”
Chow, when met at Datuk Keramat assemblyman Jagdeep Singh Deo’s CNY open house in Taman Free School, said he had discussed with Penang Forum members about the report and answered their queries.
The public can view the PHW report as well as the response from the state government at the Penang Hills Watch Facebook page (@PenangHillsWatch) or the Penang Forum website, and see them interactively on a map at the Penang Hills Watch page.
PHW, a citizen-oriented initiative to provide a platform to monitor activities affecting the hills of Penang, was launched in October last year by Penang Forum, a loose coalition of non-political civil society groups often critical of the state government’s plans and policies. – The Star
Jan 28, 2016 … PENANG’S drainage system is unable to cope with heavy rain falling within a
short ….. Penang Forum concerns over hill clearing and flood.
THE Penang Island City Council (MBPP) and the Seberang Prai Municipal Council (MPSP) see 10 new faces among the list of councillors who sworn in Jan 5 and 6 for the 2017 term.State Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said the lineup for the 24 MBPP and 23 MPSP councillors is effective Jan 1 till Dec 31.
He said three of the five new faces in MBPP are from non-governmental organisations (NGOs), namely writer Khoo Salma Nasution, 53, (Penang Forum), insurance and corporate risk consultant Shung Yin Ni, 31, (Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce) and marketing officer Noor Syazwani Md Amin, 30, (Persatuan Peniaga Melayu Pasar Malam Pulau Pinang).
The other two are senior marketing manager Tan Chiew Choon, 45, and businessman Shahrudin Mohamed Sahriff, 47, both from PKR.
Chiew Choon had served as a councillor before with the MBPP between 2013 and 2015. He was not retained the following term.
The five replace Eric Lim Seng Keat (NGO), Dr Lim Mah Hui (NGO), Mohamed Yusoff Mohamed Noor (NGO), Felix Ooi Keat Hin (PKR) and Shahul Hameed M. K. Mohamed Ishack (PKR).
The 19 councillors who were retained are Goh Choon Keong, Gooi Seong Kin, Grace Teoh Koon Gee, Harvindar Singh, Joseph Ng Soon Siang, D. R. Kala, Chris Lee Chun Kit, Ong Ah Teong, Syerleena Abdul Rashid, Wong Yuee Harng, J. Francis, Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik, Nur Zarina Zakaria, A. Kumaresan, Ahmad Razaaim Azimi, Ahmad Azrizal Tahir, Mhd Nasir Yahya, Saiful Azwan Abd Malik and Gan Ay Ling.
MPSP also has five new faces including lawyer Thomas Loh Wei Pheng, 33, (DAP), special officer Woo Sze Zeng, 34, (DAP), company director Dr Seow Kweng Tian, 37, (PKR), entrepreneur Fadzil Abdullah, 60, (Amanah) and clerk Hamizah Abdul Manab, 26, (NGO).
They replace Siti Nur Shazreen Mohd Jilani (DAP), Tan Chong Hee (DAP), Goh Choon Aik (PKR), Alias Wan Chek (PKR), Mohd Suzuki Ahmad (Amanah) and Ahmad Tarmizi Abdullah (NGO), whose terms were not extended.
Chow said one more vacancy in the lineup for MPSP will be decided in the next state exco meeting.
The other 18 MPSP councillors are P. David Marshel, Heng Yeh Shiuan, H’ng Mooi Lye, K. Kumar, Mohamad Shaipol Ismail, M. Satees, Tan Chee Teong, Tan Cheong Heng, Zulkifli Ibrahim, Mohd Sharmizan Mohamad Nor, Zaini Awang, Ong Jing Cheng, Anuar Yussoff, Dr Amar Pritpal Abdullah, Shuhada Abdul Rahim, Zulkiply Ishak, Dr Tiun Ling Ta and Wong Chee Keet.
Shung, who is from a corporate background, said she hoped to assist in providing a better environment for business undertakings in Penang.
Shahrudin said the appointment would encourage him to step up efforts to serve the people better.
The Jelutong PKR branch deputy chief said he hoped to take on his role as a councillor more efficiently through various state initiatives and policies.
Dr Seow hopes to resolve issues related to public transportation and community welfare.
He said that he hoped to resolve traffic congestion, plant more trees and maintain cleanliness.
“I hope to be able to introduce more community-based activities as a councillor,” said Dr Seow, who is a PhD holder.
Speaking at a press conference in Komtar yesterday, Chow said the allowances for the councillors would remain at RM2,500 each.
“They are also eligible for allowances for attending meetings up to RM1,200, which is about RM100 for every meeting they attend. There is also a RM300 mobile phone allowance,” he added.
Also present was Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.
By Chong Kah YuanIntan Amalina The Star/ANN
MARKETING officer Noor Syazwani Md Amin is eagerly waiting to serve the people as one of Penang Island City Council’s (MBPP) five new councillors.
The 30-year-old, who is with a non-governmental organisation (NGO) Penggerak Komuniti Muda Pulau Pinang (Peka), said one of the issues close to her heart is the flood woes in the state.
“I live in the flood-prone Jalan P. Ramlee, so I definitely hope it’s one of the issues that can be solved for the sake of the people.
“There will be the flood mitigation projects which are going to be carried out. So, hopefully I can make use of that for the community, especially those staying in Sungai Pinang, Jelutong and Jalan P. Ramlee,” she said when met after the MBPP councillors’ swearing-in ceremony for the 2017 term at the City Hall in George Town, Penang, yesterday.
Noor Syazwani said her priority is always about placing the people first.
“Helping people excites me.
“Hopefully, I can give my best because I’m still new,” she added.
She is among 24 MBPP councillors, who took their oath at the City Hall yesterday.
Three of the five new faces are from NGOs. They are writer Khoo Salma Nasution, 53, (Penang Forum), insurance and corporate risk consultant Shung Yin Ni, 31, (Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce) and Noor Syazwani.
The other two are senior marketing manager Tan Chiew Choon, 45, and businessman Shahrudin Mohamed Shariff, 47, both from PKR.
Meanwhile, Shung said she hoped to enhance conduciveness of Penang as an excellent business centre with her appointment in the MBPP.
“This is so that when the economy blooms, everyone gets to benefit from it.
“I would also like to emphasise on sustainable development, which does not only mean taking care of the environment but also the needs of the people. Therefore, I hope to find a balance,” she added.
The five replace Eric Lim Seng Keat (NGO), Dr Lim Mah Hui (NGO), Mohamed Yusoff Mohamed Noor (NGO), Felix Ooi Keat Hin (PKR) and Shahul Hameed M.K. Mohamed Ishack (PKR).
The 19 councillors retained are Goh Choon Keong, Gooi Seong Kin, Grace Teoh Koon Gee, Harvindar Singh, Joseph Ng Soon Siang, D.R. Kala, Chris Lee Chun Kit, Ong Ah Teong, Syerleena Abdul Rashid, Wong Yuee Harng, J. Francis, Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik, Nur Zarina Zakaria, A. Kumaresan, Ahmad Razaaim Azimi, Ahmad Azrizal Tahir, Mhd Nasir Yahya, Saiful Azwan Abd Malik and Gan Ay Ling.
The new MBPP lineup comprises 10 from DAP, eight from PKR, two from Amanah and four from NGOs.
The tenure for the councillors is from Jan 1 until Dec 31.
In her speech, MBPP mayor Datuk Patahiyah Ismail congratulated all the appointed councillors.
State Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said the role of a councillor is very extensive.
“Apart from representing the general public and local community, a member of the council is also an intermediate between the community and local authority,” he said in his speech.
Chow also congratulated the council on its success in getting various awards and victories at state, national and international levels.
The achievements include being the Earth City Hour Challenge 2016 finalist.
MBPP also received the Tourism Promotion Organisation for Asia Pacific (TPO) Tourism Industry Leader Award in Tourism Promotion for Asia Pacific Forum 2016.
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who was also present, said MBPP’s success not only depended solely on a credible and effective management, but also the support, commitment and team work from all councillors, officers and staff.
He said MBPP practised prudent spending and governance based on the principles of CAT (competency, accountability and transparency) that successfully recorded an excellent financial performance with budget surplus in the financial statements for three consecutive years, which is RM47.57mil for 2013, RM177.95mil for 2014 and RM146.04mil for 2015.
“The success of the council in maintaining good financial performance enables efforts to improve the provision of public facilities.
“MBPP will implement several development projects at a cost of RM5.2mil.
“Among the proposed projects to improve the comfort of the people, include the construction of a public market in Batu Ferringhi,” he added.
By Cavina Lim The Star/ANN
GEORGE TOWN: An outspoken author of over a dozen history books is among five new faces appointed as Penang Island City (MBPP) councillors.
Khoo Salma Nasution represents Penang Forum and is taking over from her equally vocal counterpart Dr Lim Mah Hui, who opted out of being re-appointed this year after serving six terms.
Penang Forum is a loose coalition of non-political civil society groups, often critical of the state government’s plans and policies.
The city’s councillors are appointed yearly and comprise a small number of NGO representatives, including one from Penang Forum.
During his term, Dr Lim vociferously highlighted governance issues to the point of incurring the annoyance of the state administration.
Khoo planned to keep public pressure on MBPP and wished that more seats were allotted to NGOs.
She is eager to see what committees are in the council and hoped to play a role especially in fostering sustainable development, transport planning, environmental issues and heritage conservation.
“I feel there is not enough awareness on these. I want to see what I can do about making people more conscious of them, not just individuals but at an institutional level,” she said.
The former journalist of The Star who did a 20-year research into Penang’s history and development to write her books, believes that the council needs environmental goals and key performance indicators to monitor Penang’s green progress.
“We need to collect more information about how Penang is doing to track our environmental and heritage conservation efforts,” she said.
Khoo was in Komtar yesterday when Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and state exco member Chow Kon Yeow announced the appointments of the new councillors.
Dr Lim said he was glad that the state government accepted Penang Forum’s nomination of Khoo.
“Her decades of study on Penang’s growth will help the council manage development while preserving our cultural and heritage values,” he said.
Dr Lim added that he declined his re-appointment because he felt “the change in Penang that we want doesn’t seem to be happening”.
Other new faces are Tan Chiew Choon (PKR), Shahrudin Mohamed Sahriff (PKR), Shung Yin Ni (NGO) and Noor Syazwani Mohd Amin (NGO).
GEORGE TOWN: The only city councillor here who dared to go against the state government does not want to continue after his term ends on New Year’s Eve because he is disappointed with the Penang Island City Council (MBPP).
Dr Lim Mah Hui (pic) said he no longer wanted to serve because “the change in Penang that we want doesn’t seem to be happening”.
“I will remain active as a Penang Forum committee member. I will still speak up on public issues.
“I believe people in public offices should serve for limited terms. Perhaps it will take a fresher mind with new ideas and approaches to make things happen for the better,” he said.
Dr Lim, who has served as a councillor since 2011, also believed that the council should allow the public to observe council committee meetings.
“The committee meetings are where decisions are made. If people are watching the deliberations, then public scrutiny can help temper political interests,” he added.
The press and the public are allowed to witness full council meetings, but Dr Lim said these were formal meetings to confirm matters that had been decided upon.
Dr Lim is the sole city councillor out of 24 with no political ties. A former professor and international banker, he was nominated to MBPP by Penang Forum, a loose coalition of numerous NGOs in the state.
His appointment stemmed from the current government’s 2008 move to swear in councillors representing NGOs. Four such councillors were initially appointed but since 2012, although the official NGO councillors still stand at four, only Dr Lim is known to come strictly from civil society.
He made his maverick nature clear less than a year after being a councillor when he joined a group of 30 people to publicly protest against his own council outside City Hall months after being appointed.
In March this year, he was involved in a heated exchange with Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng during an NGO dialogue session over parking woes, road-widening projects and the council enforcement’s car-towing figures.
In July, Dr Lim criticised the state’s Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) and suggested an alternative better, cheaper, faster transport master plan.
A month before that, he sent a letter to Unesco expressing fears that the PTMP would jeopardise George Town’s World Heritage Site status.
Throughout his tenure in MBPP, Dr Lim has been called a liar, back-stabber and betrayer of the state government by local politicians. NGO members, however, hold him in high regard.
“Nobody can live up to Mah Hui’s standard as an example of integrity and representing public interest without fear or favour.
“He had been talking about stepping down for some time.
“Maybe he needs to take a break and we hope he will accept the post again,” said fellow Penang Forum member Khoo Salma Nasution, whom the group has nominated to take Dr Lim’s place.
Former DAP member Roger Teoh, who was initially at loggerheads with Dr Lim over the PTMP, said it was a shame that local politicians had painted him in a negative light.
“Something was not right about how the state was reacting to Dr Lim’s Unesco letter. I felt he was unfairly labelled as treasonous. If his concerns were heard internally, would he have needed to write to Unesco?” he asked.
Teoh had initially supported the PTMP and openly criticised Dr Lim.
He changed his stand after doing a Masters thesis research on car use in 100 cities around the world, which led him to resign from DAP recently.
Sources: Arnold Loh The Star/Asian News Network
“I have declined to be nominated for the reappointment as a councillor next year. I have served six years.
“I think I have served long enough and we need new blood and new people to take up the cause,” he said at the council’s monthly meeting yesterday.
He later told a press conference that Penang Forum suggested Khoo Salma Nasution, the forum’s steering committee member and Penang Heritage Trust vice-president, as his replacement.
“We have nominated Khoo as the representative for Penang Forum and NGOs. We will have to wait for the state executive council to decide on the nominations.
“Nobody told me to step down. It was my own decision. Penang Forum wanted me to continue but I told them I had done more than my share.
“I will remain in the Penang Transport Council,” he said.
Dr Lim, however, said he would continue to be vocal and speak out.
He urged the Penang Island City Council to open its meetings to the public to promote greater transparency and participation.
“Section 23 of the Local Govern-ment Act 1976 gives the local council the power to do so.
“Members of the public can also be invited to sit in, possibly as observers, at the council’s committee and sub-committee meetings where decisions are made.
“This is the challenge I put forward. If they are truly taking about change and a new type of government, then they should do that,” said Dr Lim.
Dr Lim has raised various concerns during his stint as a councillor and forum member on issues related to hill clearing, land reclamation, heritage conservation and the proposed Penang Transport Master Plan. – The Star
GEORGE TOWN, March 16 — Developers in Penang no longer fear flouting the law as the authorities seem to be “toothless” in taking punitive actions, an activist group claimed.
Referring to the latest hill-clearing incident on Bukit Gambir and similar past incidents, Penang Citizens Awareness Chant Group (CHANT) coordinator Yan Lee said the developers knew they could easily get away with illegal earthworks or structural demolitions.
This was because the state government and the municipal council were not prepared to take stern punitive action against them, he said in a text message yesterday.
The council has come under fire in the past few days after a developer defied a stop-work order to carry out earthworks on the hill slope of Bukit Gambir in Gelugor.
CHANT cited the demolition of the 19th century Khaw Sim Bee Mansion and illegal hilltop clearing of Bukit Relau, commonly referred to as “Botak Hill”, as examples of the developers’ fearlessness.
Yan Lee claimed that the developers were fearless because they knew a contribution to the state heritage fund (SHF) “can do magic”.
A check by Malay Mail yesterday showed the developer had stopped work for two days on the hill slope, located behind the Gambier Heights apartments.
The council had issued the stop-work order on Thursday.
The hill was cleared to build a temporary 500m-long access road and fencing for a housing project site on the hill slope.
Trees were chopped down to make way for the road, while a lorry and an excavator were parked at the construction site.
According to some residents, the earthworks began early this month.
The residents also complained of pollution caused by dust, and noise caused by the frequent movement of vehicles.
Traffic management and flood mitigation committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow called on the council to take stern action against the developer for “jumping the gun”.
He said the developer should have waited for the council to issue a commencement of work certificate.
Sahabat Alam Malaysia urged the state authorities to stop the developer from clearing the hill, and to implement firm policies to protect the hills and greenery in the state.
It warned against a repeat of the “Botak Hill” incident.
An MPPP councillor also said the developers had no respect for the authorities.
“Even if the council were to haul them up for violating the law, they know they will get away with a token fine,” the councillor, who asked not to be named, said.
He cited a previous case where a developer completed a housing project despite the case for carrying out illegal earthworks pending in court.
Sources: Athi Shanka, MalayMail online
“First of all, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) can only compel someone to declare his assets. Once the assets are d…
WE’RE on the cusp of history. A week from today, the oldest English school in the country, Penang Free School, will turn 200. It’s a proud moment for the school. And for yours truly. I spent my formative years in that school.
It’s the kind of school that cliches are made off – you can take a student out of Free School but you can never take the Free out of the students. We will always be Old Frees.
The old boys are already celebrating. There have been golf tournaments, dinners and get-togethers lined up. There was a 73-day, 20,000km road convoy from Penang to Dittisham, Devon, in Britain, where the founder of PFS, Reverend Robert S. Hutchings, was born.
The six-vehicle convoy left on July 17 and arrived at its destination on Oct 3.
The huge school field is now covered with canopies waiting for the thousands of Old Frees who will gather there on Oct 21 to celebrate the grand old dame’s birthday.
The field is one of the things most Old Frees would remember. It was both a blessing and a bane. With two football fields, three hockey pitches and a cricket pitch, it was great for outdoor activities.
The track around the field was good training ground for long-distance runners. But for the errant ones in school, it was a pain. The teachers made you run around the field as punishment. If you were not athletically inclined, that was punishing indeed.
But it was the teachers who made the school wonderful. We had some of the best and most dedicated teachers – not just in the subjects they taught but also in sports.
There was Wilson Doss, the cricket-mad teacher. He played for Selangor, Penang and even in international matches and he would try to get every lad in the school to give the sport a try-out.
I have to admit to being an absolute flop at it. With only the experience of playing “rounders” with the neighbourhood gang, I would hurl the cricket bat away as I ran. And Mr Wilson would growl.
There was N. Vallupillay, the hockey coach with the kindest of souls. He, too, would try to get everyone to play hockey and among the top players he nurtured was former national captain Ow Soon Kooi.
With Vallupillay at the helm, PFS was the state’s school hockey champion for 20 years from 1964 to 1984. The rivalry with St Xavier’s Institution and the Bukit Mertajam High School was intense, sometimes even rowdy.
Vallupillay then moved to George Town Secondary School and voila, that school became another hockey powerhouse in the state.
Then, there was Johnny Ooi, yet another teacher who was very much into hockey and who took over when Mr Vallupillay left.
Ooi Bee Seng was the basketball man. Under his watch, more basketball courts were built and more of the students turned to the game.
Nai Bej Sararaks was the athletics guy. Every now and then, he would bundle a gang of us into his beat-up jalopy and drive us off to training. The one I vividly remember was when we ran up Penang Hill from what Penangites know as Moongate.
The man waited at the bottom of the hill as the bunch of us ran up to the top of the hill and later scrambled all the way down. He was there with some juice before taking us all back to the school.
There was no need then for sports schools or schools of excellence. The teachers delivered. It’s been some years but I believe the teachers in the school are still a dedicated bunch.
But the real wonder of the school is the belief on which it is built – that it should be free from religion and open to all.
It’s a very strange thing. At a time when almost all education was under the care of priests (or brothers), there was one Rev Hutchings who did not want to impose his religious beliefs on the local populace.
When Hutchings first petitioned for a “free school”, his aim was to provide a school to educate, feed, and clothe orphans and poor children. It wasn’t about religion – only about education.
Yes, there was a bit of “free” in the financial sense. Only those who could afford it were asked to pay $3, $2, and $1 per year. Poor children were exempted.
The country has come a long, long way from then. Education standards have slumped. We have been dithering over the direction we want to take. Sports in schools is no longer a big thing. Few teachers believe in the power of sports.
Instead, religion has come into schools in a big way. There is a lot of emphasis on religious education and rituals, causing our children to drift apart from one another.
There really is a need for more new “free” schools – schools where education and sports are where the emphasis is.
Why Not? By Dorairaj Nadason is The Star’s Executive Editor.
The writer, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, still salutes the gates of the school when he drives by. She is, after all, alma mater – the mother who nurtured him.
Dec 23, 2015 … I strongly urge public universities and the Education Ministry to fix the … to collectively improve the standard of tertiary education in Malaysia.
Jul 4, 2016 … In 1995, Project 211 was initiated to raise research standards of about 100 …. The Malaysian Education: bleak and bright side, a wake .
AT a recent property seminar organised by Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute, several developers and property consultants had a debate predicting when the property market will pick up.
Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association Malaysia (Rehda) patron Datuk Jeffrey Ng Tiong Lip reckoned the residential sector should recover next year or in 2018.
Ng was the moderator for the session on The Future Outlook and Challenges of the Housing and Property Sector.
Property consultants Savills Malaysia managing director Allan Soo, who specialises in the retail malls, expects a 2019 recovery.
Office market specialist Jones Lang Wootton executive director Malathi Thevendre declined to make any predictions. “It all depends …,” she says.
Ng says the current slow housing market is actually good over the long term, although it is painful in the short term. It all depends on how we manage “the noise”, he says.
There are lots of noises at present, both on the national and international level.
“If next year is election year, the recovery – if there is one – will be after that because between now and then, there are so many uncertainties.
“There is a lack of clarity at the moment,” says Ng.
His reading of the property crystal ball of a 2017/2018 turnaround is by far the most positive and contrasts with Kenanga Investment Bank Bhd equity research head Sarah Lim Fern Chieh.
Lim expects house prices to be flattish or slightly weak depending on locations “over the next four to five years, if there are no major policy changes”.
Her rationale for a longer down-cycle is simple. If your destination is Genting Highlands, but you are driving in the opposite direction, you will need a longer time to arrive there when you finally realise you are driving in the wrong direction.
Although it is widely accepted that the property cycle is between eight to 10 years, within this cycle are “mini two-year cycles. There were two-year up-cycle in 1999-2000 after the Asian Financial Crisis, and another in 2003-2004 and 2007/2007.
But after the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, Malaysia had an extended five-year up-cycle between 2010 and 2014 with prices peaking in 2013, and this was largely due to quantitative easing (QE).
She is, therefore, expecting a longer consolidation period of between four and five years, starting from 2015, before the next up-cycle, barring any policy changes and the global economic climate.
She is also expecting the property market to experience structural changes due to affordability and liquidity factors, among others.
More realistic pricing
Notwithstanding the fuzzy horizon, there are nevertheless a few certainties which may well put the sector on a better footing.
First, home ownership has become a national issue.
Second, the government, at both federal and state levels being landowners, are stepping up on affordable housing.
Third, prices are expected to be more realistic going forward.
Rehda president Datuk Seri FD Iskandar Mohamed Mansor is seeking government cooperation to reduce or waive development charges and other charges, collectively known as compliance costs, in order to bring down prices as this is “too challenging” for private developers to go it alone, considering today’s high land prices.
“If the Government wants developers to build more affordable housing, give us cheaper premiums or don’t charge at all.
“We will then see more stability in prices, or even a reduction, if development charges and all sorts of other charges imposed on developers come down,” said FD Iskandar at a Rehda first half-year review recently.
He says property development and land matters have been the biggest revenue earner for every state. Both federal and state governments own large tracts of land. Although FD Iskandar had made this call before, he was very passionate and firm this time around. Other developers, previously silent, are also quite vocal about the various land and development charges they have to fork out.
This is probably the first time developers are coming together to make a collective public call to seek a waiver or reduction of development and other aspects of compliance cost. The effectiveness of that call depends on the Government’s will to act.
While developers can clamour for such waivers, what is facing the market today is weak sales and this in turn is forcing developers to tweak pricing and strategy a bit, hence the drop in the number of launches as they try push unsold stock.
Andaman group managing director Datuk Seri Vincent Tiew says developers will be offering “more realistic pricing” from now onwards with location being a paramount factor.
There will be more affordable housing and this can be seen from the various affordable housing projects being planned by both the federal and state government although the end-products are slow in coming.
This, says Tiew, can be seen in the various agencies under the federal and state governments, among them being PR1MA Corp mandated to build 500,000 units of affordable housing units by 2018, as outlined in Budget 2013.
A total of 240,000 houses were due by end-2015, with an annual mandate for 80,000 between 2013 and 2015. The number of completed units was 883 at the end of 2015, says Tiew. By the end of this year, 10,000 units are scheduled to be completed. The number of units approved to date are 232,807 against 1.24 million PR1MA registrants as of February 2016. All eyes will be on the affordable segment in the coming Budget 2017.
The demand for housing has always been there. The issue is affordability, says Kenanga’s Sarah Lim.
“Of late, developers are beginning to price units at RM500,000 and below,” she says.
The current change in direction is attributed to societal and government pressure. Unsold stock and government pressure forced developers to relook their pricing strategy.If developers keep building RM1mil homes, when the threshold is RM500,000 and less, they will be left holding unsold stock. In order to move stocks, creative marketing/financing strategies are employed to move these stocks.
Lim says if developers were unable to meet at least 40% of their sales target by mid-year, they would be unable to meet this year’s targets.
More than two-thirds missed their sales targets last year.
“Prior to this, what was booked was considered sold. Now, this is no longer true,” Lim says.
Lim says there are two issues here, the pressure on the sector as the rate of aborted sales crept up and the people’s demand for realistic prices.
“What we are seeing today is the government’s influence. It is actually steering the market in the right direction,” she says.
Renting the way forward
The other certainty is observed in the rental market, which is expected to continue to be soft next year.
There will be “low occupancy rate” for projects completed last year (2015) and this year, with rental yield at less than 3% a year, says Andaman group’s Tiew.
It is cheaper to rent than to buy. There is so much supply going around and the purchasing power of the ringgit is shrinking.
Selangor State Development Corp (PKNS) senior manager (corporate planning and transformation) Norita Mohd Sidek advocates renting.
She says if there is a 50% loan rejection rate for affordable housing, and considering the limited supply by private developers, renting may be the only option.
She suggests building affordable housing cities the likes of Stuyvesant Town’s Peter Copper Village, Manhattan New York and counters the argument that there is no money to be made from affordable housing.
In October 2015, Blackstone led a deal that put Manhattan’s biggest apartment complex in the hands of the world’s largest private equity firm and maintain some affordable housing at the property.
Blackstone and Canada’s real estate company Ivanhoe Cambridge Inc acquired the 80-acre enclave for about US$5.3bil. Rent is kept below market rates for some 5,000 units. Public transport and other amenities must be part of the development for it to succeed. “Government grants and resources are needed to identify the right location to built more council homes,” she says in her paper.
In today’s low yield environment, pension funds around the world are looking at other ways to generate dividends besides equities and fixed income securities. They are buying into infrastructures and large township developments where there are economies of scale for maintenance.
Malaysia’s national housing dilemma cannot be solved by profit-oriented private developers alone. The golden property years between 2010 and 2014 have been intoxicating, having resulted in expectations of 20% to 30% rise in sales year-on-year, like the manufacturing sector. But the property sector is quite unlike manufacturing. The reflection point was seen in 2014 after the government introduced certain cooling measures and anti-speculation sales gimmick.
Going forward, the emphasis on housing priced RM500,000 and below means developers have to sell more units to make the same sales value as previous years.
“They have to sacrifice some of their margins. Higher profit margins can be had from the mid- to high-end segments,” says Lim. They will have to work harder to help buyers secure loans.
This search for some form of cohesion in the national housing arena has taken a bit of time. Hopefully, the coming Budget 2017 will pave the way for more positive action.
By Thean Lee Cheng The Star/Asia News Network
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