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

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Dismayed over the exorbitant engineering consultancy fees, 4 times higher !


GEORGE TOWN: Barisan Nasional leaders have criticised the Penang Government for allegedly over-paying, by four times, the detailed design fees of three road projects.

“Construction is not a new industry. Many people are puzzled by the exorbitant consultancy fees,” said Penang MCA secretary Tang Heap Seng in a press statement yesterday.

He said the Board of Engineers Malaysia (BEM) devised a standardised gazetted scale of fees for professional engineering consultancy in accordance with Section 4(1)(d) of the Registration of Engineers Act 1967 (Act 138), and it was highly irregular to deviate from it.

Yesterday, it was reported that Barisan’s strategic communication team sought the professional opinion of BEM on the costing of the three paired roads.

The board was said to have replied that the RM177mil in detailed design costs was four times higher than the maximum allowed under the gazetted scale of fees, which the board calculated to be RM41mil.

The three roads are from Teluk Bahang to Tanjung Bungah, Air Itam to Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway and Gurney Drive to the expressway. They are meant to be a traffic dispersal system for the proposed Penang Undersea Tunnel.

Penang MCA Youth chief Datuk Michael Lee Beng Seng also issued a statement, pointing out that the alleged overpaid amount of RM136mil was more than the reported RM100mil the state spent on flood mitigation in the last eight years.

“We are shocked that the Penang government has put the well-being and safety of the rakyat behind the interests of consultants and contractors.”

Gerakan vice-president Datuk Dr Dominic Lau highlighted that affordable housing, flash floods and landslides were issues that concerned Penangites.

On Tuesday, Barisan strategic communications director Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan announced that he was giving the Penang Government a week to explain BEM’s findings, failing which the matter would be referred to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

When asked to comment, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng replied: “Another day.” – The Star

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Penang Chief Minister may have too much on his plate, be fair when sharing power


 

CM may have too much on his plate

GEORGE TOWN: Penang Gerakan has questioned the efficiency of Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng as the chairman of numerous state-linked agencies and departments.

Its publicity bureau chief Ooi Zhi Yi said that besides being the chief minister, the Bagan MP and Air Putih assemblyman chairs 11 agencies and departments.

“He was recently also appointed chairman of the Penang Stadium Corporation And Open Spaces at the state assembly sitting,” he said.

Ooi asked what had happened to the DAP’s decentralisation of administration and power-sharing policy which it claimed to advocate?

“Is Lim able to handle various responsibilities in different agencies and departments simultaneously?

“Why can’t the state government identify any state executive councillor or assemblyman to hold some of the posts?” he further asked at a press conference at the Gerakan headquarters yesterday

The 11 state agencies and departments which Lim heads are the Penang Development Corporation (PDC), PBA Holdings Bhd (PBAHB) and its unit Perbadanan Bekalan Air Pulau Pinang (PBAPP), Penang Global Tourism (PGT), Penang Hill Corporation (PHC), Penang Convention and Exhibition Bureau (PCEB), George Town World Heritage Inc (GTWHI), the Penang State Museum, investPenang and two subsidiaries under PDC namely the BPO Premier Sdn Bhd and Premier Horizon Ventures Snd Bhd.

When contacted yesterday, Wong Hon Wai, who is Lim’s political secretary, said it is a customary process for a state leader to hold important positions in all the government statutory bodies.

“It is similar to how the Prime Minister and Mentri Besar chair important government bodies,” he explained. – Tbe Star

‘Be fair when sharing power’‘

GEORGE TOWN: The MCA wants the Penang government to create a check-and-balance to counter the Chief Minister’s influence in 19-state linked agencies, statutory bodies and government subsidiaries which he helms.

Penang MCA organising secretary Dr Tan Chuan Hong said the mechanism must include NGOs such as the Penang Forum, Consumers Association of Penang and Penang Heritage Trust.

He said the NGOs should have the right to oppose and express their views whenever needed.

He said Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had in a written reply to Sungai Dua assemblyman Muhamad Yusoff Mohd Noor at the recent state legislative assembly sitting revealed that he was the chairman of 19 bodies.

“This is not only shocking but also contradicts the CAT principles of Competency, Accountability and Transparency which the DAP-led state claims to practise.

“Where is a person’s credibility if he holds all positions which are closely associated with his position as chief minister. And what about the power-sharing principle advocated by the state government?” Tan asked.

He said since Lim ‘monopolised’ most of the chairman positions, state exco members such as Chow Kon Yeow, Danny Law and Jagdeep Singh seemed to be given merely supplementary roles to play.

Among the bodies helmed by Lim are the Penang Development Corp (PDC), Penang Global Tourism, PICEB Sdn Bhd, PGC Strategies Sdn Bhd, Penang Water Supply Corp Bhd (PBAPP), PBA Holdings Bhd, Penang Hill Corp, Invest Penang and the state museum board.

He gets an annual RM10,000 allowance as PDC chairman, RM3,000 monthly allowance as PBAPP chairman and RM500 monthly allowance as PBA Holdings Bhd chairman.

Lim also gets allowances which range from RM250 to RM500 per meeting that he attends in some of the statutory bodies and subsidiaries that he helms. – The Star

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Penang CM corruption case, Court to rule on motion anti-corruption act ‘unconstitutional’


In this file photo taken on 30 June 2016, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and business woman Phang Li Khoon was seen in Penang Sessions Court. Lim was charged with two counts of corruption. The High Court here today fixed March 7 to unveil its decision on a motion filed by two accused parties in the corruption case of Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who are seeking a declaration that Section 62 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Act is unconstitutional. Pix by Danial Saad
Men of law: DPP Masri (right) leading the prosecution team out of the courtroom after the day’s proceedings.

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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Critical time for DAP leader, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng


 

Video: //players.brightcove.net/4405352761001/default_default/index.html?videoId=5010689338001

There has been widespread sympathy for Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng but he is under pressure to walk the talk and take leave while he clears his name in court.

IT was almost 7pm but the sky was still bright when a convoy of cars emerged from the underground car park of Komtar, Penang.

The only hint that this was no ordinary caravan of vehicles was the flashing lights and siren from an accompanying police car.

The moment had finally come after weeks of speculation. Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had been arrested and was being escorted to the MACC headquarters to be charged in court the next morning.

It has been a spectacular fall from grace for the DAP leader who rose to power on an awesome wave of popular support and who is known as “Tokong” among the Penang people.

Lim has claimed trial to two charges, one of which pertains to using his position to benefit his wife Betty Chew and himself in the rezoning of a piece of land belonging to a private company known as Magnificent Emblem in 2014.

Another charge is related to his purchase of a bungalow from businesswoman Phang Li Koon a year later at below market value.

Phang, a mysterious figure until thrust into the media spotlight, was charged with abetment in the property transaction.

Gossip and speculation about the nature of the charges have been brewing among the cafe society but everything should be clearer when hearing begins towards the end of the year.

Lim is not the first political head of state to have waded into troubled waters.

Former Selangor mentri besar Dr Mohd Khir Toyo is now on parole after spending six months in jail for purchasing an under-valued “Balinese palace” from a company that had business links with the state government.

Another former Selangor mentri besar, Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib, also lost his job following the Australian Gold Coast affair that saw him charged with possessing undeclared foreign currency.

The late Datuk Seri Harun Idris was forced by Umno to resign in the 1970s after he was charged for corruption.

Lim is also not the first to resist taking a leave of absence after being charged in court.

Former Sabah chief minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan clung on after being charged for corruption. He was eventually found guilty but his penalty was not great enough to cost him his seat.

But Pairin’s time was old politics and this is supposed to be the era of new politics.

The DAP central executive committee has given Lim a ringing endorsement to stay on in his job on grounds that “there is no question of conflict of interest as Lim has no influence or control over the prosecution”.

It is only expected of DAP to stand by their top leader because if the top man falls, the party will become shaky.

But it also means that DAP is unable to walk the talk. The party is famous for asking others to step down over issues big and small but is unable to live up to the same principle when it involves one of their own. It will be hard for the party to judge others from now on.

It has put DAP figures like their Selangor chairman Tony Pua in an awkward situation. Shortly after the bungalow issue erupted, Pua had said there was no need for Lim to go on leave unless charges were brought against him.

He was quoted in a pro-Pakatan Harapan news portal as saying: “When charged, then (the person) should take time off.”

But legally speaking, the Chief Minister does not need to go on leave even with these kind of charges hanging over his head.

According to a Selangor judicial figure, forcing him out would be pre-judging him.

“He can still chair meetings, make decisions over land and development and sign documents. He can even go on with that tunnel thing.

“But having said that, a politician’s life is not only about legalities but also perception. He is representing a party that lectures others what to do. Can they still do that?” said the judicial figure.

Moreover, the Chief Minister’s focus, said the judicial figure, will now be divided between his case and running the state. There will be complications as the court case drags on.

Lim may not have influence or control over the prosecution but as the Chief Minister, he has control over the civil servants who may be called to testify in his case.

It will be awkward for potential witnesses who are his subordinates because not many people would be comfortable going to court to testify against their boss.

His presence would also bring uncertainty to the state and investors do not like uncertainty.

Still, it is his call and he has the full support of his party including that of party doyen Dr Chen Man Hin whose reputation is impeccable.

The charges against Lim are quite serious and it is only natural that he is doing what it takes to defend himself. Being Chief Minister will give him that much needed clout and back-up to face the complications ahead.

Besides, there is talk of new charges in the works related to the Taman Manggis land and also involving a company with links to “Miss Phang”, as she is known.

But there is also another side to the story why DAP is reluctant to have an acting Chief Minister take over from Lim.

Lim’s deputies are Deputy Chief Minister I Datuk Rashid Hasnon from PKR and Deputy Chief Minister II Dr P. Ramasamy from DAP.

Either one of them could act in Lim’s place if he goes on leave. But the sentiment in this Chinese-dominated party is that senior state executive council member Chow Kon Yeow should be the acting Chief Minister.

DAP would look terrible if Chow leap-frogs over the two deputies. It would only reinforce the perception that DAP is a Chinese chauvinist party.

However, if either Rashid or Dr Ramasamy takes over, the party’s right-wing Chinese base would be badly affected. Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, DAP probably thought it would be better for Lim to remain at the top.

DAP leaders have slammed the charges as baseless and an attempt to topple a democratically elected leader. It is quite clear they intend to approach this as a political trial and to win over the court of public opinion.

A lot of Lim’s time will be spent convincing the public that he is innocent and a victim. Events like “Walk with Guan Eng” and “Session with the People” have been planned for today.

His supporters have tried to liken his dilemma to what Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim went through in 1998. It is not the best of comparisons given that Anwar was able to galvanise a whole generation of young Malays who flooded the streets in anger.

What DAP may have failed to take note of was that many Chinese intelligentsia have been wary of Lim’s leadership since the Mercedes-Benz episode. Lim had opted for a Mercedes S300L as his official car a mere three months after the state purchased a new fleet of Toyota Camry for the state leaders.

This was evident in comments by the Huazong chairman of Negri Sembilan, Lau Zhi Wen, who is as anti-Barisan Nasional as one gets and has often run down the 1MDB issue.

Lau’s comments in the wake of the court case have gone viral among the Chinese-speaking circle.

He recalled the early days when Lim flew economy class and provided hope for change and greater transparency. He said the people had longed for another Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat who was respected for his simple lifestyle.

But Lau said that Lim changed after winning by a bigger majority in 2013.

“Many said you grew arrogant, others still deify you. You changed cars, flew business class and bought a RM5mil bungalow for RM2.8mil,” he said.

Lau said he had high expectations of the Penang Chief Minister but would no longer speak up for him.

The Chinese vernacular press that would have once defended him to the hilt was also visibly neutral. The thing is Lim does not have as many friends in the Chinese media as when he started out as Chief Minister.

The Chinese vernacular media was instrumental in helping to propel DAP to power. They put Lim on a pedestal but now, eight years down the road, many of them have stories to tell about how they were treated by Lim and his staff and they are not pleasant stories.

The same goes for some of the lawyers watching the drama at the Penang courts on Thursday. A few years ago, they would have come out for him but on that day, their response was: “Let justice take its course.”

DAP is hopeful and confident that the court case will swing sympathy and support towards Lim and arrest the resurgence of support for Barisan.

They are painting their secretary-general as a victim of selective prosecution. Lim has also been trying to tug at the heartstrings with famous sayings that he would prefer to die standing than live on bended knees, and playing up his overnight detention at the MACC headquarters.

The court case proper has yet to start but the court of public opinion is already in session.

By Joceline Tan

 

Who’s is who?

Judge:
Judicial Commissioner Datuk Azmi Arifin

Accused:
1. Lim Guan Eng 2. Phang Li Koon

Prosecution:

1. Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali 2. DPP Masri Mohd daud 3. DPP Mohd dusuki Mokhtar 4. DPP udiman lut Mohamed 5. DPP Mohd Ashrof Adrin Kamarul 6. DPP Mohd Zain Ibrahim 7. DPP Muhammad Fadzlan Mohd Noorbr

Lim Guan Eng’s counsel:

1. Gobind Singh Deo (lead) 2. Ramkarpal Singh 3. R.S.N Rayer 4. M. Kulasegaran 5. P. Subramaniam 6. M. Manoharanbr

Phang Li Koon’s counsel:

1. Datuk K. Kumaraendran (lead) 2. Dev Kumaraendran 3. Raj Shankar 4. Chetan Jethawanibr />

Penang bets on IT-BPO Hub


Penang BPOHigh-tech industry: An artist impression of the BPO Piazza and the BPO Prime building (right).

 

GEORGE TOWN: The RM3.3bil Infor-mation Technology Outsourcing and Business Process Outsourcing (IT-BPO) Hub in Penang will generate some 30,000 high-paying jobs when the project is fully developed in 10 years.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said in the first five years, about 21,000 high-paying jobs would be created.
“The fastest-growing sector in the BPO industry in Malaysia is in banking, financial services and insurance with a 30% market share followed by manufacturing (27%), oil and gas (22%), and others such as retail, logistics, government and telecommunication.

“The outsourcing sector in Malaysia is expected to expand at an average rate of 15% in the next three years in terms of revenue,” he said at the ground-breaking ceremony of the IT-BPO Hub in Bayan Lepas (next to the Penang International Airport) yesterday.

The IT-BPO Hub comprises three components involving a 30ha IT-BPO Park in Bayan Lepas, a planned development of 2.8ha BPO Prime in Bayan Baru and a 9,290sq m of Creative Animation Triggers (CAT) in the George Town heritage enclave.

Lim said he was informed that the outsourcing industry had created about 50,000 new jobs as of June 2013, adding that the Multimedia Development Corp targets the creation of at least 85,000 jobs by 2017 for Malaysia.

BPO services include customer operations, data processing, back office administration, accounting, technical support, transcription, software development, IT consultancy and disaster recovery services.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar represented the Prime Minister at the event.

He said the global outsourcing market was currently worth US$458bil (RM1.501 trillion) and was expected to reach US$625bil (RM2.048 trillion) by 2017.

“Malaysia’s outsourcing industry worth US$1.7bil (RM5.57bil) in 2012 is projected to grow even faster, doubling in value by 2017. The federal and state governments must work together to ensure the success of the IT-BPO Hub,” he added.

– The Star/Asia News Network

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Taman Manggis land issue in Penang, a ‘Robin Hood story’ or soap opera?


The twists and turns in the Taman Manggis land issue in Penang is starting to resemble a soap opera but it has also raised the question of whether the legal procedures are observed in the sale of state land.

THE showdown over a plot of land known as Taman Manggis or “mangosteen garden” in the heart of George Town is about to erupt in another slanging match on Nov 3.

Dubbed by some as the “Robin Hood story”, the Taman Manggis land has become one of the most controversial issues in Penang.

It has also become a rather entertaining saga of gamesmanship between Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and his political secretary Ng Wei Aik on one side and the state Barisan Nasional Youth on the other.

The 0.4ha of land had been designated for affordable housing but before the project could take place, Barisan was toppled.

Lim’s administration has since reportedly sold the land for RM11mil to a Kuala Lumpur company that is planning to build a health tourism facility that includes a private dental hospital and hotel on the site.

That was how the Robin Hood thing came about, but with a twist where Barisan is accusing the Pakatan Rakyat government of being a distorted version of Robin Hood by taking land meant for the poor to give to the rich.

When Barisan accused the state government of selling the land at below market rate, Lim challenged it to buy the land for RM22.4mil. Lim probably thought Barisan would not take up the dare. After all, RM22.4mil is not small change.

But Barisan agreed and announced that it had set up a special purpose company to buy and develop affordable homes on the land.

Caught on one foot, the state government was forced to respond and Ng issued an offer letter to Barisan. And that was when the soap opera began.

The Barisan side led by its State Barisan Youth chief Oh Tong Keong proceeded to pay 1% earnest money as is called for in such transactions.

The next step, as anyone would know, is for the lawyers from both sides to draw up a sales and purchase (S&P) agreement.

Once that is signed, the buyer would pay the balance of the requisite 10% and depending on the terms and condition, the full amount is usually paid within three months or more.

This is to enable the buyer to raise funds or secure a loan from the bank.

However, following the 1% payment, Lim demanded that the Barisan pay up the rest of the amount within a month.

The outlandish demand saw a few jaws drop on the Barisan side. First, it is not possible for Barisan to cough up that kind of money in so short a time.

Another was the audacity of the demand.

“There is no S&P agreement in sight and the seller is demanding the full amount. Do they understand the laws of transaction? Without an S&P agreement, no one would want to pay RM22.4mil,” said architect Khoo Boo Soon.

Khoo, who was the former building director of the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP), is quite appalled at the frivolous way that state property is being treated.

He is incredulous that state land is being sold based on an offer letter by a political secretary on the instruction of the Chief Minister.

“I have been a government servant for more than 17 years. As far as I know, land transactions have to be discussed and decided by the state exco, the state legal adviser has to be consulted, the state secretary has to be involved. It cannot be a one-man decision, both parties need to sign an S&P agreement,” said Khoo.

The Barisan side was more direct. “This is government land, it belongs to the people. The land does not belong to the Chief Minister’s grandfather. We are not buying a bicycle or a car, this is about public land costing millions of ringgit,” said Oh.

The Barisan side had on Oct 3 written to the state government requesting for an S&P agreement before they proceed to pay up the rest of the money.

On Oct 8, the state secretary wrote back asking them to refer to the offer letter and to pay up within a month.

To compound this half-past-six state of affairs, rumours abound that the land has actually been sold to the Kuala Lumpur company.

No one can tell for sure because the state government has been tight-lipped about the issue.

Requests for information on the actual status of the land has run up against a stone wall.

On top of all that, the house that Lim is renting in Penang reportedly belongs to the wife of the major stakeholder of the Kuala Lumpur company.

The lady is also the cousin of state exco member Phee Boon Poh. The implication of all this is unclear but it does add spice to the story.

Many people following this soap opera are quite confused but that is what makes soap operas so addictive – there are lots of twists and turns.

The more discerning think Lim has no intention of selling the land to Barisan, hence the conditions and obstacles put in the way.

Some suspect the delay tactics are aimed at making Barisan give up.

But it would be a blow to Lim’s administration if the Barisan people actually purchased it and proceeded to build low-cost housing.

Lim would lose face, particularly given that his administration has failed to build any affordable housing since coming into power.

To make matters worse, this is happening amid an inflated property market on the island and where house prices have soared beyond the reach of 80% of wage earners.

Lim should be transparent about the issue. If the land has been sold, he should admit it.

If it is still in the state’s hands, then he should do the decent thing and use it for its original purpose.

Instead he is angry at being criticised and is punishing those who want to build affordable homes by doubling the price of the land.

A Penang lawyer said he is not surprised about the “Robin Hood issue”.

“What shocks me is the silence on the part of the Penang NGOs. They used to be so vocal on issues affecting public interest,” said the lawyer.

In the meantime, the countdown to Nov 3 has begun.

ANALYSIS BY JOCELINE TAN The Star/Asia News Network

 

P/S:  Landlady of CM’s residence is not wife of company stakeholder

Regarding the Taman Manggis land, the Star and State exco member Phee Boon Poh clarified yesterday that the woman in question is his cousin, she is not married nor is she the wife of the company stakeholder. “My cousin and the stakeholder are just business partners,” he said.

The Taman Manggis land which had been designated for low-cost housing by the former Barisan Nasional government, became an issue when the Lim administration decided to sell it to a Kuala Lumpur company to develop a health tourism facility that includes a private dental hospital, hotel and multi-storey car park.

Related post:

Land sold for a song? Aug 11, 2012

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