Political tone at Penang heritage do

Politics was the name of the game at George Town heritage event involving a wealthy Chinese community leader and the current and former Chief ministers of Penang.

IT is rare to see the current and former chief ministers of Penang together but there they were, sharing the same stage at a heritage event at one of the most historical sites in George Town.

But going by the expressions on their faces, they seemed less than thrilled unlike the host of the occasion, Zhang Wei Lu, who was seated between them.

Zhang, a wealthy and good-looking businessman and currently chairman of the Penang Chinese Clans Association, looked buoyant and confident even though he is embroiled in a brewing dispute with the state government. His composure was all the more remarkable given the news reports in the Chinese vernacular press about his personal life just days earlier.

At the heart of Zhang’s dispute with the state government is a heritage property in George Town known as “50, Love Lane” which is historically connected to the Ghee Hin secret society in the 1800s.

The trustees who oversaw the property have died, leaving behind a backlog of unpaid property charges that resulted in the property being forfeited by the state.

The association has been trying for years to redeem the property but things took on an accelerated tone after Zhang came into the picture and discussions with the state government became strained along the way. The ties were also marred by disputes over state allocations for the association’s cultural events.

Things came to a head last week at the association’s annual heritage festival.

The Chinese clans and guilds have long been a part of local politics in Penang and politicians tend to dance around them because of their perceived clout over the community.

Over the years, it has been the practice for the chief minister of the day to attend but relations with the state government had grown so awkward this year that Zhang’s invitations to the state exco drew a blank. Only one state exco said he would be there.

As a result, the association turned to former chief minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon to launch its event.

Dr Koh was said to be quite reluctant because he had made a clinical cut with all things political after retiring from politics. His status on Facebook is listed as “Writer” and he has been working on his memoirs.

It is understood that Dr Koh only agreed to attend after Zhang told him that Lim Guan Eng would not be able to make it. Dr Koh is not the confrontational type and he was not interested in getting into a conflict.

But according to Zhang, a day before the event, he was informed that Lim would be attending. It was too late to change the arrangements and that was how Zhang found himself sandwiched between the sitting and former chief ministers.

That was when things took a rather political turn. Zhang made what some thought was a rather political speech. He praised Dr Koh for his contributions to the state and thanked him and the former state government for laying the foundation for George Town’s Heritage City status.

There is a Chinese saying, jie dao sha ren (borrow a knife to slay someone), and those watching on could see that Zhang was using Dr Koh to hit out at the state government.

It was a significant moment because members of the former state government had been treated like the proverbial black sheep since 2008 and Dr Koh had been like some kind of invisible man in Penang where he lives.

“It was the first time a big Chinese association had openly acknow­ledged and thanked Dr Koh for his contributions,” said Gerakan politician Dr Thor Teong Ghee.

Zhang also used the occasion to hit out at politicians for their “dirty politics” and for attacking him on personal matters.

He was referring to Chinese press reports quoting some DAP politicians who had dug into Zhang’s academic background.

The Chinese media often refers to him as “Dr Zhang” but checks by the DAP side showed that he did not complete his medical studies in Taiwan and they also questioned reports that he had furthered his studies in the Philippines.

There was also an awkward protocol moment which some thought was disrespectful to the Chief Minister. Normally, the highest ranking guest speaks last but Dr Koh was the final speaker.

The former and current chief ministers are as different as night and day and it was reflected in their respective speeches.

Lim was his usual combative self. He elaborated on his achievements for Penang and at one point, he sort of challenged Dr Koh to contest the general election and let the people decide on who they wanted.

But he did indicate that the state government would abide by the law on the “50, Love Lane” issue and he urged the association to consult their lawyers to find a solution.

Dr Koh played the gentleman po­li­tician. He said Penang’s Heritage City status was a long and challenging effort that would not have been possible without the input of his state exco members and the backing of the federal authorities.

“It is also the success of the people, of the different races, so we have to preserve it for the future generations,” he said.

The issue of “50, Love Lane” has become more complicated now that it has strayed into political waters.

Jelutong MP Jeff Ooi, who has a weekly column in the Penang-based Kwong Wah Yit Poh newspaper, had written on the issue: “Politicians and office-bearers come and go but the assets of the community are forever. We have to think of the long-term interests of the community. We have our expiry date and his (Zhang) expiry date is May next year.”

It was a signal to Zhang that his term as association chairman will end in May and he should not delay the legal process if he wants to be part of the solution.

Is the “50, Love Lane” issue a sign of the shifting tides in Penang Chinese politics?

Source: The Star by Joceline Tan

 Related Links:

Penang relents over heritage house – Nation 

Heritage property transferred for only RM1

No money to repair historical buildings

Colonial buildings‘ ownership puzzle

More historical buildings to be preserved


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Straits International School (SIS) coming up in Penang

PENANG has been chosen by Charter Sdn Bhd as the site of their first educational centre called the Straits International School (SIS).http://www.straitsschool.edu.my/

SIS Charter Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Lita Nasyitah Goh Abdullah said they decided on Penang as their first education hub in Malaysia as they believed Penang was one of the most developed states.

“We look forward to nurturing and guiding young Penangites towards greater success and a lifetime of achievement.

“We choose Bayan Lepas specifically as it is a free industrial zone and a destination for plenty of multinational companies.

“The locality also has great accessibility, infrastructure and logistics,” she said.

She was speaking before the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MoA) between Oztek (M) Sdn Bhd and SIS Charter Sdn Bhd at the Eastin Hotel recently.

“We see that Penang is gearing up to be an education hub. Hence, the setting up of our campus here is a decision which will defi-nitely benefit all concerned,” she added.

Oztek (M) Sdn Bhd managing director Datuk Alex Ooi, who is the developer, said that his company was currently finalising the building plan with the Penang Municipal Council.

The company is clearing a 0.809 ha plot of land in Jalan Tun Dr Awang.

“The build-up area of the school is about 200,000sq ft (about 18580sq m) and the building costs about RM20mil to RM25mil.

“Construction will start in January next year and is scheduled to be completed in the third quarter of 2014.”

Ooi added that the building will be able to host about 1,500 students.

“We are looking to lease the building to SIS Charter Sdn Bhd for 20 years,” he said.

SIS will begin its academic programme from its temporary campus at 1-Square, Penang Cyber City, which is at Tingkat Mahsuri 1, Bayan Lepas,

The new term will start on Aug 27.

Witnessing the MoA followed by the launching of the temporary campus was Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

Lim said that the new five-storey building of the school would be a state-of-the-art facility.

“The incorporation of the SIS underlines the growing importance of providing quality curriculum.

“This move will help place Penang as an educational hub of choice for not only the locals but the expatriate communities living in Thailand and Indonesia.”

The Star/Asia News Network

BJCC management fiasco: ‘Outsourcing not the fair way’, a walking game must use buggy; Wants 10 to face the music!

Council unhappy over golf club being run by third party

By JOSEPHINE JALLEH josephine@thestar.com.my

GEORGE TOWN: The liaison council of the Bukit Jambul Country Club (BJCC) that is at the centre of a buggy rule controversy has hit out at the state government for “outsourcing” the club’s management to a Japanese company.

BJCC secretary Alfred Beh claimed members were upset over the state’s decision as the company’s primary objective was “profit driven”.

“The state government and Chief Minister (Lim Guan Eng) have failed to consider the members’ interests,” he said.

“Golf courses are places of sporting and recreational activi­- ties, not institutions to rake in pro­fits.”

Beh was responding to Friday’s dispute between the club’s disgruntled members and its management, with both sides lodging police reports against each other following the compulsory buggy rule effective Feb 1.

Club managing director Datuk Eiro Sakamoto had said the rule was to ensure golfers “maximise their time on the field” and that there was no walking on the course.

He also claimed that the club rules allowed such a rule and majority of the 2,800 club members were happy with it.

Japanese firm Taiyo Resort (KL) Bhd took over the club’s management in 2010 and signed a leasing agreement with Penang Develop­ment Corporation (PDC) and Island Golf Properties Bhd.

Beh said the BJCC golf course was built in 1984 as a “walking course” and that the club did not have a buggy track incorporated in the original layout.

He also claimed there were only 700 golfing members out of the 2,800, with the rest being social and associate members.

“And among this 700, probably only half play the game regularly,” he added.

Golf truly a walking game

Jack Nicklaus walks up to his ball on the 9th ...

I AM the secretary of the Liaison Council of Bukit Jambul Country Club (BJCC) and wish to clarify some of the statements issued by club managing director Datuk Eiro Sakamoto, as reported in The Star on Feb 10.

Members of the club have never challenged the proprietary status of the club.

Please allow me to provide some background of BJCC, so you can understand the situation that has led to this clash with the club management.

1. Island Golf Properties Berhad (IGPB) is the developer which operates and manages BJCC which is a proprietary club and is required by law to comply with Division 5 of Part IV of the Companies Act 1965 and the Policy Guidelines and Requirements for Sale of Club Membership dated Sept 8, 1992, and updated on July 31, 2002.

2. The club’s objective is to promote golfing, swimming, tennis, squash and other forms of sporting, social and recreational activities for members.

3. The developer (IGPB) is the registered lessee of the land [No:P.T.258, Mukim 13, Daerah Timur Laut] leased from Penang Development Corporation for sixty (60) years commencing 01/02/1985 and expiring on 31/01/2045.

4. The developer is by law required to appoint a trustee to act in the interests of club membership holders.

5. There must be a trust deed to benefit and protect members. The principle deed of trust between IGPB and the trustee and several persons who acquire/have acquired membership mentioned in respect of BJCC (the members) was signed on Nov 2, 1993.

To date, seven supplemental trust deeds have been entered into.

6. The BJCC golf course was built in 1984 as a ‘walking course’. BJCC did not purchase golf buggies nor did it have a buggy track incorporated in the original course layout. Even a buggy shed was not incorporated into the building design.

The first set of 30 buggies was acquired only in 1990 and their use was not compulsory.

Those who purchased membership as from 1984 did so on the explicit understanding that they would be able to walk the course when playing golf whilst carrying their golf clubs or pulling the same on a golf trolley.

7. One has to just take a look at how this game is being played around the world.

Watch how Tiger Woods, Greg Norman, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and the many heroes of the game play it. They walk the golf course through 18 holes.

There had never been an international or a national game (in Malaysia) or tournament where all players ride motorised carts to move around the course.

This is how the game has to be played, with the player playing against the terrain of the course, the different conditions of the fairways and the different types of grasses on each fairway. They challenge their stamina to play the game.

Therefore, it is only natural that members of a golf club would want to play this game the same way great sportsmen play it.

8. However, over time, more and more golf clubs started to think of the golfers who become physically disabled and still wish to play the game.

That gave birth to the motorised carts. But the introduction of these carts was never meant to replace the true and correct game methods.

9. The crux of the matter is that golf has to be properly played to be called golf.

But we need to cater for the unfortunate golfers who become physically incapable of walking.

The clash with the club management did not arise from a minority few, as stated by Sakamoto.

There are some 260 golfers who were affected and are now aggrieved, not the 50-odd claimed by him.

Another claim he made which I feel was misleading was that the club has 2,800 members and all of them are happy with the new rules.

What he failed to impress to the press is that out of the 2,800 members, there are about 700 golfing members, with the rest making up the social and associate member categories.

And of this 700, there are probably only 50% of them who play the game on a regular basis.

The golf course at any day can accommodate only about 280 players, so declaring that he has 2,800 members happy with this situation is misleading.

Before the management introduced the reduction in the time meant for golfers to walk the course, there was an average of 85 to 110 members each morning and about the same number in the afternoon visiting the golf course each day to play this game.

The first change was introduced in December 2010. Several members became disgusted with the changes and stopped playing or they went to other places to play the game.

Members are now up in arms over the disruptive changes.

They bought transferable memberships through a sales pro- spectus given by IGPB, which among others, promises certain facilities for members to use and enjoy.

The aggrieved members bought their membership on the premise that they could use the golf facilities as they saw it then (i.e with people playing the game by walking the course, which then confirms that this is indeed the correct place to play the game). This gave them true enjoyment of the game.

To change any of these, the members contend that the club management (now outsourced to this Japanese company which has no roots in our state and country) has to comply with the Trust Deeds as enforced by the Companies Acts.

And the developer needs to seek the members’ agreement on any change that affects the members’ rights to use and enjoy the facilities for which the members pay a monthly subscription.

This is not an easy matter to comprehensively cover in full and to get clear understanding of. The intent of this statement is to counter the misleading claims, so that Penangites understand the implications.

To highlight a few points in summary:

(a) Golf is a walking game, same as any other game.

(b) Most golf courses today have motorised carts to give players a choice, either to use them or not to. But a choice must exist.

(c) BJCC members are displeased with our state government which outsourced the management of the club to a foreigner whose sole objective, we believe, is profit-driven.

The state government and the Chief Minister have absolutely no understanding and appreciation of the game of golf and have failed to consider the interests of the members at large.

(d) It is common knowledge that golf courses are places of sporting and recreational activi-ties and are not institutions to rake in profits. Sports clubs are social obligations to the commu-nity.

Thanking you in anticipation.

ALFRED BEH,Secretary,Liaison Council of BJCC, Penang.

The Star Feb 15, 2012

BJCC wants 10 to face the music

 Sunday February 19, 2012

GEORGE TOWN: The compulsory buggy use issue has further ‘heated up’ after 10 Bukit Jambul Country Club (BJCC) members were hauled up for disciplinary action.

More then 50 people, believed to be BJCC members, turned up at the club to show support for the 10 who were accompanied by their lawyers.

“The 2pm hearing (yesterday), was postponed as the members decided to seek another date after being told by the disciplinary committee that no legal representation was allowed.

“The members have instructed their lawyers to send a notice (tomorrow) to the committee to place on record as to what had transpired at the hearing,” said the group’s spokesman Alfred Beh.

He said the members had allegedly teed off despite not being allowed to register as they refused to abide by the compulsory buggy use ruling implemented on Feb 1.

On Tuesday, the club’s disgruntled members and its management lodged police reports over the issue.

Beh claimed that members were also upset with the state’s decision to “outsource” the club’s management to a Japanese firm which had failed to consider their interests.

BJCC managing director Datuk Eiro Sakamoto could not be reached for comments.

He had said that the new rule was to ensure golfers could “maximise their time on the field” and that the majority of the 2,800 club members were happy with the decision.

Japanese firm Taiyo Resort (KL) Bhd took over the club’s management in 2010 and signed a leasing agreement with Penang Develop­ment Corporation and Island Golf Properties Bhd.

Related posts:

Golf, a good walking game!

BJCC Golf Club management Fiasco: challenges members to leave! Would Guan Eng Intervene?

BJCC Golf and Country Club News

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