Good time to invest in property now


Better upside: (from left) Knight Frank Sdn Bhd international project marketing (residential) senior manager Dominic Heaton-Watson, Knight Frank Asia-Pacific research head Nicholas Holt, Sarkunan and capital markets executive director James Buckley at the event

KUALA LUMPUR: The slowdown in the local property market has bottomed out, with prices seen picking up later this year, according to property consultancy firm Knight Frank Sdn Bhd.

“We predict a stable rate in 2017 and we will possibly see better upside towards the end of the year or early next year,” Knight Frank managing director Sarkunan Subramaniam said.

“The market has had a few years of contraction and we feel that this year, what will clear up one of the major concerns of most investors is the political uncertainty,” he said at the launch of Knight Frank’s 2017 Wealth Report here yesterday.

According to the report, “political uncertainty” was among the top concerns of its respondents in Asia at 25%.

“We’re going to have elections possibly this year. Once they have cleared, there will be positive movement in the market and that’s why I feel now is a good time to buy property in Malaysia.

“Once the elections are out, the economy will generally start picking up and sentiments will improve. Capital will also start coming in,” he said.

According to the wealth report, potential fall in asset values was the highest concern among its Asian respondents at 30%, followed by rising taxes and tighter controls on capital movement at 28% and 27% respectively.

Going forward, Sarkunan said affordable homes would primarily drive the local property market.

“Affordable homes will still be a driver to an extent, but medium-to-high end properties will also pick up again. Also, when the mass rapid transit (MRT) lines come into the city, it will drive the commercial market there as well.

“We’ve had a lot of decentralisation push over the last 10 years and the MRT will bring office workers to the city.”

Sarkunan pointed out that locations with light rail transit (LRT) and MRT lines, such as Damansara Heights, have bucked the trend in terms of condominium values.

“Prices have actually increased compared with some of the other areas in Malaysia. Transport hubs or transport-orientated developments, such as Kota Damansara, have also seen improvements in prices.”

The Knight Frank 2017 Wealth Report tracks the value of luxury homes in 100 key locations worldwide, including 19 destinations from Asia Pacific.

According to the report, values rose globally by 1.4% on average last year, compared with 1.8% in 2015. Asia was the second best performing world region last year, with prices rising 5.1%.

Australasia was the strongest performing world region with prices rising 11.4% year-on-year.

Source: BY EUGENE MAHALINGAM The Star/ANN

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Penang to set up panel to monitor floods, mudflows, soil ersosion, siltation & pollution


Sabri (fourth left) presenting safety vests to Chow (middle) and Lim to symbolically launch the Ops Lumpur enforcement squad at Komtar.

Putting an end to mudflows

THE Penang government has set up a steering committee to launch ‘Ops Lumpur’ to monitor development activities that could contribute to floods and river pollution in the state.

State Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow is the chairman, while his deputies are state exco members Phee Boon Poh and Lim Hock Seng.

The state Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) is the secretariat, while committee members comprise those from the local governments, state Economic Planning Unit, state Public Works Department, Department of Environment and district engineers and officers.

Speaking at the launch of the Ops Lumpur enforcement squad yesterday, state DID deputy director S. Ratna Rajah said the committee would make monthly surprise checks at construction sites starting next month.

“Our aim is to ensure that all development comply with the erosion and sediment control plan (ESCP), which is reviewed and approved by the DID.

“The setup of the Ops Lumpur Steering Committee is meant to reduce the risk of flash floods, water pollution and siltation problem,” he said during a briefing at the state DID office in Komtar yesterday.

Ratna Rajah said one of the hotspots was in Paya Terubong, where mudflows and landslips were constantly reported during heavy rain.

He said action could be taken against unregulated project development operators under Section 34 (a) of the Environmental Quality Act, which carries a maximum RM100,000 fine, a jail term not more than five years, or both.

“The authorities can act against developers who have not been given the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) approval, or are caught violating the conditions,” he said.

Ratna Rajah said action could also be taken against the perpetrators under the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974 (Act 133) by the local councils.

“Under Section 71 of the Act, those who failed to ensure the maintenance on the land, could be slapped with a maximum RM500,000 fine, or five years jail, or both,” he said.

Chow said the steering committee would act as adviser to two Implementation Committees spearheaded by Penang Island City Council mayor Datuk Patahiyah Ismail and Seberang Prai Municipal Council president Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif.

“We want to tackle problems like soil erosion and siltation at construction sites, which cause floods and river pollution.

“Our focus is to monitor those project developments with approved plans.

“The landowners, developers, engineers, consultants and contractors should play a role in ensuring they comply with ESCP.

“We need their cooperation so that there won’t be mudflows or river siltation whenever there are heavy rains.

“Sometimes, everything looks good on paper. We need to be at the sites to look for ourselves whether there is any violation of rules and regulations.

“We will visit any ongoing development projects,” he said.

Also present was state DID director Sabri Abdul Mulok.

Source: By Tan Sin Chow The Star/ANN

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Police must act swiftly


Several recent crime cases have shaken Malaysians quite a bit. We leave it to our police force to provide answers to this madness.

RECENTLY, several widely reported crime cases, which many Malaysians are following, have really shaken us.

Yes, Malaysians complain a lot, and rightly so, about the never-ending burglaries and snatch theft cases in our neighbourhood and streets but these are merely incidents involving petty criminals.

Yes, we lose money and sometimes, there are fatalities involved but most are non-brutal and the motives are established quickly. I am not even talking about the high profile assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the exiled half-brother of North Korean dictator Jong-un, at the KLIA2 which has grabbed the world’s attention.

The police have been swift – two women who committed the crime were arrested and other suspects were taken in while more North Korean suspects have been identified.

There has been plenty of noise from the North Korean embassy but the case is being wrapped up, with fresh leads being revealed to the public daily.

But what has disturbed me most is the disappearance of Pastor Raymond Koh Keng Joo, who is well-known among the Christian community in Malaysia.

It has been reported that on Feb 13, occupants of a van stopped the pastor’s car, a silver Honda Accord, along Jalan Bahagia, Petaling Jaya, and abducted him.

(Left) Koh: Abducted in broad daylight. (Right) Sameera: Brutally murdered.

 

He had earlier left his Prima Sixteen Chapter Two home in Jalan 16/18, Petaling Jaya, at about 10am to go to the Puncak Damansara Condominium in Kampung Sg Kayu Ara, not far away. Koh’s family said the 62-year-old was en route to a friend’s home.

So far, there has been no ransom demanded or motive identified. We still don’t know the reason for the kidnapping.

A CCTV footage, currently with the police, purportedly showed the abduction taking place on a busy road.

It is believed that the pastor’s abduction involved several vehicles. It was professionally and very swiftly executed.

The case is under the personal attention of Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, who announced that a special task force has been formed to investigate the case, saying police had recorded statements from eight witnesses but admitted that there had been little information to go on.

The team is led by Selangor Criminal Investigations Department chief Senior Assistant Commissioner Fadzil Ahmat.

The case is most baffling. Ours is not a South American or Middle Eastern country where people get abducted from busy streets.

The abductors appeared to be very organised, almost professional-like, in carrying out their task. One of them even diverted traffic while others grabbed Koh.

The fact that they have not demanded any ransom shows that they are not ordinary kidnappers looking for money.

The only possible answer is that some persons (or group) are not happy with the way he is handling his work. Koh’s colleagues have revealed that a bullet was sent to the pastor six years ago after the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) conducted a raid on a thanksgiving and fund-raising dinner organised at a church in Petaling Jaya, where he was accused of proselytising to Muslims.

Religious leaders of any faith must be mindful that attempting to convert anyone is really crossing the line. The majority of Muslims will not tolerate any attempt of proselytising, even in the most subtle form, and leaders of other faiths must understand and accept the sensitivity and reality of the situation.

However, any grievances or complaints relating to religion, a sensitive issue, should be directed to the religious authorities and police. In this case, the pastor was snatched away with no obvious clues, and no claims have been made.

This is distressing, and his wife has understandably sought counselling in Singapore as the family agonises over the unexplained incident.

In the absence of any information, this has led to speculation and it is unhealthy for Malaysia as we take pride in our religious diversity and tolerance in resolving conflicts.

The other widely talked about case involved transgender Sameera Krishnan, who was brutally murdered on Thursday. She was shot, had four fingers severed and suffered head injuries.

The cruelty inflicted on her was horrifying and something Malaysians just cannot imagine. Interestingly, Sameera was the main witness in her own kidnapping case two years ago and the trial has been set to begin early next month.

In 2015, she was rescued by police after she was abducted from her home in Klang, and repeatedly sodomised.

Enough. Malaysians must stand up and demand for justice. While Malaysia does not condone LGBT (lesbians, gays, bisexual, and transgender), this does not mean Sameera’s life is worth any less than ours. It doesn’t matter whether we refer to Sameera as him or her.

The fact is this – she was murdered and sexually violated. Her pride and dignity were snatched away from her and despite the prejudices of many Malaysians, this should not, in any way, diminish the diligence and commitment needed to solve the crime.

Her perpetrators must be brought to justice and if we have any conscience at all, we should all be furious. It will be abnormal to be indifferent about this. Sameera deserves justice, just like anyone else.

I believe that Malaysia is a country where minorities are protected. There are laws in our country and they are upheld.

The police have been professional, and I believe and respect our police force. They take every bit of information seriously and in my regular dealings with them, I have developed even more respect for them. They trudge on diligently despite their impossibly heavy work load.

I hope they will bring some sense and provide us answers to the madness and along the way, some reassurances to the public.

On The Beat By Wong Chun Wai The Star

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

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https://youtu.be/phQQ_gDStm4 

http://www.enanyang.my/?p=833246

 

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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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Penang has confirmed the illegal hill clearing cases reported by Penang Forum


Land clearing in Penang is rampant with Civil liberties group, Penang Forum (PF) revealing only 7.4 per cent of the state is categorised as forested land. NSTP pix
Location : Near Lintang Bukit Jambul 1
Approximate Coordinates : 5°20’38.47″N,100°16’52.82″E
Report sent in August 2016. Photos taken in November 2016 and 2014. PHW Report 15 pix.

 

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

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To elect or not elect mayors of City Councils of local government?


THERE are three levels of government in most countries – a federal government, state government and local authorities.

Although Malaysia is generally seen as a democratic country, only the federal government and the state governments are elected.

In other words, members of parliament are elected and they elect the prime minister. State assemblymen are also elected and they in turn elect the mentris besar or chief ministers.

However, the local authorities are not elected. The mayors or presidents and councillors are appointed by the state government.

It is time to bring back elected local governments.

There were elected local governments in the past. As early as 1951, when Malaya was a colony of England, elections were held to elect councillors in George Town.

For example, Goh Guan Hoe, more popularly known as G. H. Goh, a lawyer and an MCA leader, was chosen as the president of George Town in 1956. Although he was often addressed as “mayor”, technically, he was the president of the municipality.

George Town was declared a city by Queen Elizabeth II on Jan 1, 1957. By that time, the Labour Party was in control of the municipality and D. S. Ramanathan, a leader of the Labour Party, was elected as the first mayor of George Town.

Since then, local government in Penang Island has gone through considerable changes. Local government elections were suspended in the 1960s. The reason given by the federal government was Indonesia’s declaration of “Ganyang Malaysia”.

The City Council of George Town was amalgamated with the rest of the island to form a municipality of Penang Island. The local authority of the island became a municipality.

Since then, the president and councillors have been appointed by the state government. It is fair to believe that the appointments were the prerogative of the chief minister of Penang.

There has been a tendency to appoint government officers as mayors or presidents of the local authorities. For example, the mayor and president of Penang Island and Seberang Perai were government officers.

There are good reasons for appointing senior government officers largely because they have the experience and expertise in the working of the local authorities.

On the other hand, this practice is not ideal. Senior government officers have been trained to abide by the General Orders and are expected to look to the chief minister or mentri besar as their superior.

Hence they tend to implement what their superior officers want. Since they have been appointed by the chief minister or mentri besar, it is difficult for them to ignore his preferences.

There were days when presidents of local councils were appointed from among the politicians of the ruling party. For example, the president of Penang Island Municipal Council, Tan Gim Hua, was a leader of Gerakan.

Unfortunately, there have been no books written about the days of Penang Island Municipal Council when Tan was the president of the Penang Island Municipality.

It is not necessary to appoint only government officers as mayors or presidents of the local authorities. Hopefully, in the near future, chief ministers or mentris besar will take the trouble to appoint other prominent personalities to be local council presidents or mayors.

Better still, the federal government should review the Local Government Act. It has been long overdue to bring back local government elections.

Meanwhile, it may be interesting if the Penang state government appoints non-government officers to be the heads of local councils.

For instance, Dr Lim Mah Hui is a good example. He has just announced that he would resign as a councillor of the Penang Island City Council. He is a suitable person to be appointed a mayor of Penang Island.

He is familiar with Penang Island as he was a lecturer in Universiti Sains Malaysia and was a local councillor in Penang Island for six years. He spent a considerable amount of time in the disbursement of funds at international level.

Although he is rich enough to buy an expensive car to go around Penang Island, he has made good use of a bicycle as a mode of transport.

Being vocal and full of ideas, it will be interesting and good for the residents of the city to appoint Dr Lim as the mayor of the island.

By Datuk Dr Goh Ban Lee who is interested in urban planning, housing and urban governance. He is also a friend of Dr Lim. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

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Singaporeans on buying sprees for Penang prewar houses; Residents see red


Singapore sweep continues

 Republic’s real estate hunters snapping up houses outside Penang’s heritage enclave.

GEORGE TOWN: Singaporean real estate hunters with a taste for prewar properties in Penang are still on buying sprees, says an NGO.

They are snapping up houses that are located just outside the state’s heritage enclave as these properties are not accorded heritage protection by Unesco, according to George Town Heritage Action.

The biggest buyer appears to be World Class Land (WCL), which is building the tallest residential skyscraper in the planet’s southern hemisphere.

Called Australia 108 because of its 108 storeys, the Melbourne development is expected to be completed in 2019.

WCL has since December 2013 reportedly snapped up 236 prewar houses in Penang, totalling more than 250,000sq ft – the equivalent of 26 football fields.

Recently, it applied to build a 46-storey condominium tower in Gurdwara Road, just 200m from Komtar after buying 37 prewar properties in that area.

Its latest block buy appears to be 26 prewar houses on Penang Road and Bertam Lane, also across from Komtar.

The properties were owned by six descendants of Tunku Kudin (1835- 1909), the great grand uncle of the late first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, for nearly 100 years.

The offer from WCL was about RM980 per sq ft, totalling RM21mil.

Tengku Abdullah Tengku Mahadi, 61, who collected the monthly rent from the tenants on behalf of his 92-year-old father, said the deal was sealed in Thailand through one of the six heirs who spoke for all of them.

“All the heirs are in their late 80s and 90s. It will cost too much to develop the land ourselves.

“We didn’t really feel like selling. We know the new owner will change the whole place but we are all old and don’t want to stand in the way of development,” he told The Star.

He said the heirs only earned about RM50 per month from each unit when the Rent Control Act was in force.

After it was repealed in 1997, they raised the rent to about RM600 and it had stayed the same since.

WCL lawyers have sent eviction notices to the 60-odd tenants who have until end November to move out.

A subsidiary of Aspial Corporation Ltd, WCL has completed many projects in the island republic and Australia.

Aspial chief executive officer Koh Wee Seng is listed by Forbes this year as the 43rd richest man in Singapore.

George Town Heritage Action has been vociferously against the state government’s apparent lack of control over the alleged WCL buying sprees.

“This company’s business model is to buy the properties, evict the tenants, renovate or rebuild, and then drastically increase rentals,” said its co-founder Mark Lay.

At a press conference yesterday, he showed a list of 236 properties purportedly bought by WCL through several subsidiaries.

Totalling more than 250,000 sq ft, these include rows of old houses along 19 roads, including Dato Keramat, Macalister, Transfer and much of the Seven Streets precinct (known locally as Chit Tiau Lor) near Komtar.

Lay warned that if the state government allowed “one company to accumulate more than 230 prewar houses, it will kill diversity and people’s moral rights to the city”.

“Our concern is also socio-cultural. Any company can damage the fabric of George Town when they have a monopoly,” he added.

In June, The Star reported that Singaporean companies typically raise rentals by 400% to 500% after sprucing up the old houses.

In response, Penang Town and Country Planning Committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo had said that the state cannot interfere with free enterprise.

By Arnold Loh The Star/ANN

Penang residents see red over Singaporeans snapping up properties

 

GEORGE TOWN: Public anger in the state is on the rise as Singaporeans continue to buy up pre-war houses here by the blocks.

NGOs and netizens are reacting negatively following The Star Online’s Facebook posting of the news yesterday.

Many are calling for stricter measures to limit foreign buying, but Penang Citizens Chant Group legal adviser Yan Lee warned that it would be useless as foreigners could sidestep such restrictions by simply forming Malaysian shell companies with local directors who are proxies or trustees.

“The corporate veil will shield them from these simple stop-gap measures. Instead, these measures end up keeping out individual foreigners who earnestly want to own property here because they just want to live in Penang.

“The Penang government is more concerned about collecting development charges. The more it allows development, the more money it collects,” he lamented.

Yan Lee was commenting on cooling measures here since 2012 that prevent foreigners from buying landed property of less than RM2mil on the island and RM1mil on the mainland.

For stratified property, the cap is not less than RM1mil both on the island and the mainland.

There is also a state approval fee of 3% over the purchase price.

State Town and Country Planning Committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said in a statement yesterday that statistics had shown that these measures had reduced foreign buying of Penang property by about 50% since 2013.

George Town Heritage Action held a press conference on Thursday to reveal that Singapore developer World Class Land (WCL) had acquired 236 pre-war houses in and around the heritage zone totalling about 250,000sq ft, equal to 26 football fields.

According to the annual report of WCL’s parent company, Aspial Corporation Ltd, the properties are held by six Malaysian companies – WCL (George Town) Holdings, WCL (Magazine), WCL (Macallum), WCL (Noordin), WCL (Bertam R) and WCL (Bertam L).

In the Companies Commission of Malaysia’s online portal, there are also company records of WCL (Malaysia) and WCL (Penang).

By Arnold Loh The Star/ANN

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