Runnymede demolition – another in a string of controversial swap deals

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The demolition by stealth of the Runnymede ancilliary buildings, which includes Raffles House, is the latest controversy that has plagued swap deals.

Contrary to prevalent thinking, the Pakatan state government in Penang is not the pioneer of these swap deals (though I think it is still debatable whether they could have prevented or minimised some of the controversies that arose from them).

The BN government came up with several swap deals in Penang as early as the 1990s. Runnymede was one of them. See the report above taken from the Penang Heritage Trust newsletter No. 87, June 2006. It is about a briefing provided by the Malaysian Army Second Division on the occasion of a heritage site visit to Runnymede by Badan Warisan Malaysia members on 28 May 2006. The accompanying photo is of Raffles House showing 19th Century Doric order columns.

After World War Two, Runnymede  was sold to the colonial government, which leased it to the post-war military. Runnymeade was the last British military facility to be handed over to the Malaysian government on 2 November 1971 for a token M$1. For a while, the Malaysian military then made use of the place.

Just before that, from what I understand USM was initially allocated a site in Bukit Gedung to build its campus, but following a campaign, it was decided that USM should be built on its present site in Gelugor, on which stood former military barracks. So the army was given the proposed USM site in Bukit Gedung, but little work was done while the army’s Second Infantry Division used Runnymede until 2005.

Under a swap-cum-privatisation deal, Warisan Pinang Sdn Bhd was tasked with building the Second Division’s new headquarters in Bukit Gedung, Bayan Lepas. Warisan Pinang was incorporated on 17 December 1994, and its main activity, according to latest company filings, is “construction of army camp, provision of management services and investment holding.  (Incidentally, in 1994, Mahathir was prime minister, Anwar was deputy prime minister, Najib was defence minister and Koh Tsu Koon was Penang chief mninister.)

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So apparently, in exchange, Warisan Pinang was given the right to develop the Runnymede property. Planning permission was given in 1999, but only one of the four towers planned was constructed.

Meanwhile, Warisan Pinang began work on the Second Division headquarters in Bukit Gedung in 2000. The Second Division finally moved to Bukit Gedung in 2005.

Who owns Warisan Pinang Sdn Bhd?

Warisan Pinang Sdn Bhd’s real owners are hidden under multiple layers. The company (issued capital RM10m) is owned by Citi Integrated Sdn Bhd (80%) and Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (20%).

Citi Integrated (issued capital RM4m) is wholly owned by Esquire Landmark Sdn Bhd.

Esquire Landmark (issued capital RM4m) is wholly owned by M R I Resources Holdings Sdn Bhd.

And M R I Resources Holdings Sdn Bhd (issued capital RM4m) is owned by Dato Mohd Ramzan Ibrahim (97%) and Mohd Ehsan Mohd Ramzan (3%).

So basically, Warisan Pinang is ultimately owned by Mohd Ramzan (close to 80%) and LTAT.

A former banker with an American bank, responsible for lending to the real estate sector, Ramzan is today group managing director of developer Runnymede Group of Companies, which ironically is promoting the Runnymede brand name.

Incidentally, Ramzan’s name was included in the famous list released by Umno of those who had benefited from privatisation deals. The list was released in 1998, when Mahathir wanted to thwart any leadership challenge within Umno.

See this list in Utusan:

63. Datuk Mohd Ramzan Ibrahim, LTAT, Datuk Mohamed Ikbal – Warisan Pinang Sdn Bhd (Citi Intergrated Sdn Bhd Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT Iqrah Holdings Sdn Bhd) – Penswastaan Pembinaan Kompleks Tentera Darat, Bukit Gedong Pulau Pinang….

67. Datuk Mohd Ramzan Ibrahim, Koperasi ATM Berhad dan Yayasan Guru Malaysia Berhad – Cherating Metropolitan Sdn Bhd. (Citi Integrated Sdn Bhd, Koperasi ATM Berhad, Yayasan Guru Malaysia Berhad) – Pembangunan Semula Tanah Tapak Lapang Sasar Di Sungai Dua, Pulau Pinang.

The first tower at the Runnymede site to be built is now being used by the EPF, which is a federal entity. Questions remain as to whether the approval given in 1999 should still be valid after a prolonged period of inactivity. The Penang Island City Council seems to think so.

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But were a heritage impact assessment and a heritage management study undertaken? A historian who attended the press briefing by the council was taken aback when council reps seemed unaware that one of the ancilliary buildings, Raffles House, had special historical significance.

Anyway, here are other BN swap deals in Penang that stirred varying levels of controversy:

  • Kampung Buah Pala land was allocated to Koperasi Pegawai Kerajaan Pulau Pinang as exchange for land owned by the co-operative in downtown Penang which was supposed to be used for expanding the High Court building.
  • UDA was given land reclamation rights in exchange for creating a heritage Malay fishing village in Tanjung Tokong. Look what happened to that.
  • IJM was asked to build a RM300m expressway and in exchange it received land reclamation rights for a huge stretch of prime seafront land worth billions and billions of ringgit in gross development value.
  • Patrick Lim’s Abad Naluri Sdn Bhd wanted to build the controversial Penang Global City Centre project on the Penang Turf Club site. In return, the company was supposed to build a new equestarian centre on hundreds of acres of potential prime land on the mainland which it had acquired cheaply near the then proposed second Penang bridge site in Batu Kawan.
  • In 2002, the BN state government wanted to give Peninsula Metroworks six parcels of prime land totalling 31ha in exchange for building the controversial Penang Outer Ring Road.

Swap deals continue to this day under both the Pakatan and BN administrations, except that the project values have soared.

Remember how 110 acres of Tanjung Tokong reclaimed land is supposed to be handed over to Zenith in exchange for building a controversial tunnel and three highways on the island (which outrageously do not require detailed EIAs).

And who can forget 1MDB’s Sungai Besi mega land deal under which 1MDB was supposed to relocate the existing military base and create a new ‘Bandar Malaysia’ at the site. We all know what happened to that.

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In recent years, reports surfaced of a plan to relocate the RMAF airforce base on the mainland in Teluk Air Tawar further inland so that its present site could be ‘developed’.

And now we have the three new islands – totalling an eye-popping 4,500 acres – proposed in southern Penang Island in exchange for implementing the RM35-40bn Penang transport masterplan.

Why are these swap deals so prone to controversy? Because the negotiations tend to be carried out away from the public eye and everything seems like a done deal when they are finally made public. For a swap deal to succeed, both sides of the deal have to be successfully carried out; otherwise, the deal falls apart.

So the projects on either side of the deal can barely be cancelled, even if there are strong objections from civil society and the larger public over social, environmental or even heritage concerns.

For the council and regulatory authorities, evaluating a large project is complex enough. A swap deal makes the process even more complicated as there are two sides to the story.

The independence of the decision-making process for each side of the deal tends to be clouded or even compromised as the twin sides are intertwined, and there are even more competing interests to consider.

And how can a federal or state government be independent enough to evaluate each side of the deal if it was a party or facilitator in coming up with the swap idea in the first place? If one side of the deal fails to be approved, the entire swap falls apart. This is why the detailed EIA or other impact assessments – if there are any – are perceived to be mere formalities, just a minor nuisance.

That is why I am against swap deals. This is not a Pakatan vs BN thing. Both sides seem quite happy to indulge in such swap deals.

Ultimately, in many cases, it is the developers and private interests that profit the most while society has to bear any social, environmental and other costs that may arise.

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49 Comments on "Runnymede demolition – another in a string of controversial swap deals"

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Ranger
Ranger

New Zealand folks do not want Union Jack on their flag.
No old legacy is necessarily good to preserve and cherish.

gk ong
gk ong

Singapore TV remembered Stamford Raffles with this skit:

https://yyoutube.com/watch?v=exgditqJpCw

benny
benny

Runnymede Hotel is still there – Chow Kon Yeow

Sia Boey
Sia Boey

Chow clever to whistle, minions shiok-shiok to believe all stock and barrels.
Tokong clever to speak no evil. Silent is golden as side kick do all the whistling.
Whistle means twist and turn anything.

XiaoBee
XiaoBee

The current CM is not afraid to face the critics.
Unlike the previous CM hiding like ostrich even when his ally tore up his portrait.

Rajesh Kannan
Rajesh Kannan

The original Runnymede has been burnt down to ashes.
So there is no value in the rebuilt one.
They should have kept the burnt ashes in the museum for those worshippers.
Anyway I simply cannot understand what is so great about Raffles the ang moh that colonised us.

Sia Boey Bo Luan-Luan Kong Wa
Sia Boey Bo Luan-Luan Kong Wa

Standard thinking no different from BTN.
Why not white wash Indian influence from Bujang Valley?
Selective history don’t make any truth great in a nation.

benny
benny

Hindu Civilisation is not consistent with Sejarah Nusantara, thus thousand-year old Candi was demolished?
http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2013/12/10/candi-lembah-bujang-destroying-history/

Kumar
Kumar

For the same reason the BN regime in Kedah does not promote Gunung Jerai at Gurun because of the site of Hindu civilization. Anyway the BN cronies prefer tourists to go yo Langkawi to Discover Kedah as they have personal interests in their investment there.

XiaoBee
XiaoBee

Stupid indeed.
Kesha could have brought in lots of tourist dollars with the Hindu Candi in Jerai, just like what Borobudur and Angkor Wat have done for Indonesia and Cambodia respectively.

tunglang
tunglang
Runnymede bungalow would have been preserved if it was in Singapore, says academic https://sg.news.yahoo.com/runnymede-bungalow-preserved-singapore-says-085243660.html “I am sorry to read that the bungalow built by Raffles in 1808 has been demolished. “If it were located in Singapore, would we have designated it as a national monument or a conservation building? I think so,” said Koh, who is Singapore’s ambassador-at-large in an email interview with the New Straits Times. Singapore’s National Heritage Board’s preservation of sites and monuments director Jean Wee said the Runnymede bungalow would have scored high marks for its heritage value. “Sometimes, heritage impact assessment or environmental impact assessments… Read more »
Sim
Sim

Singapore demolished its national theatre and its iconic National Library years ago for road expansion despite these buildings held fond memories to its residents. But new and better ones were built as replacement.

Plastic Doll Maker from Singapore
Plastic Doll Maker from Singapore

You want a plastic version of your old boring wife?
Plastic one also as good. Also smooth like porcelain.
No fond memories but create new memories instantly!

owc
owc

“除舊迎新” – A typical Chinese New Year Saying: Remove the old, welcome the New.

tunglang
tunglang

Same mentality as “saying to your old folks, out you go to lau lang keng, welcome home my darling sin bo!”
A typical Chinese mentality in Cosmopolitan Bin-Chui Penang for everything beautiful, new & class + expensive!

calvinsankaran

BTW Anil, is Penang Forum is following up on LGE’s promise to declassify agreements signed by his regime on land swap/sales ? He also supposed to reveal meeting minutes as part of his much hyped FOI Act. This was promised weeks ago.

zoro
zoro

can you ask bn gomen to follow ph gomen to declassify doc and not hide under osa?

james k
james k

already revealed last month when it was available in Komtar.
Some opposition leaders has obtained them to study them- so far still quiet from their side

calvinsankaran

FYI, it was never released, the state is still delaying the release.

Sim
Sim

Are you refering to the long-delayed 1MDB report?

benny
benny

Pendedahan dokumen perjanjian projek Bayan Bay & Bayan Mutiara bawah FOI:

calvinsankaran
This is a joke! Why promise to reveal all and then give all sort of excuses ? Why require a SD and charge money for this ? I don’t see a point. Prof Rama is rambling on and on as with his usual style without giving a straight answer. ———————————————————————————— GEORGE TOWN: A Gerakan leader is upset over the delay by the Penang government in providing him with copies of documents and agreements for the land reclamation projects in Bayan Bay and Bayan Mutiara. Penang Gerakan Youth legal and public complaints bureau chief Jason Loo said he had yet to… Read more »
zoro
zoro

lets hear it from the boys. opportunties for those rowdy noises. surprise nst umno mouthpiece has yet to make any news

terry
terry

Misleading heading as Runnymede building was never demolished, only the insignificant part on the side was demolished.

gk ong
gk ong

Those with nostalgic string attached to the New World Park please be warned that Robert Kuok could move in soon with his wrecking ball for demolition job to make way for the dreaded (in this blog, at least) mixed development.

http://m.thestar.com.my/story.aspx?hl=Mixed+development+plan+for+New+World+Park&sec=business&id={D315E11C-2A6A-4041-AAC4-3B179A5A86BF}

benny
benny
chl
chl

Anil,

This Runnymede problem is not new. Do you know if anyone or group was working on something to protect it? If yes, could you share more on what they were doing? This is as important as highlighting the problem because we need more people understanding the challenges and maybe supporting the cause.

Also the same for the tree cutting on Jalan Masjid Negri-Jalan Air Itam-Jalan Scotland for road expansion. The plan was known quite a while ago, if SAM (or some other group) did object to the plan and etc, the papers are not reporting it at all.

gk ong
gk ong

Clearly Warisan Pisang would not bother about warisan mat salleh. Raffles house is not Bkt Kepong police building that could evoke malay nationalism. Raffles is no Tokoh Nusantara.

As for those hush-hush land swap deals, likely a front for political donation? Could Anil continue with the investigative reporting to expose the truth?

tunglang
tunglang
Pre 308 – one was a Father of Swap Deals. Post 308 – this one is the Mother of All Swap Deals handled by an accountant-politician. Need more money for a healthy CAT balance sheet, just call for swap deals. While the Penang Local Plan is still under eternal translation in Malay, any inch of gomen land can be swapped at any price. But the futures price will have to be borne by Penangites – unaffordable housing, botak-ed hills, no-fish seas, dying trees (of those pulled out of roots & relocated), hotter climate, dangerous highways (the wider, the better for… Read more »
gk ong
gk ong

Are you aware that the rental of the 55 shop units (within the George Town heritage zone) that are acquired by Hong Kong folks has gone up 100-700%, and more than half of the tenants (many traditional traders) have quit or move out?

Read the report on Kwong Wah Jit Poh here:
http://www.kwongwah.com.my/?p=95189

benny
benny

A drastic increase in rentals has forced 34 tenants to move out of the 55 pre-war properties along Penang Road, Kimberley Steet and Lim Chwee Leong Road.

The rentals have increased dramatically by 100% to 700% since Jan 1 when the new rates took effect.

Some of the monthly rentals have gone up to RM14,000 from RM2,000 (up by 700%), while others have increased to RM2,000 from RM700 (up by 285%).

http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2016/02/20/prewar-shop-rent-too-high-tenants-forced-to-leave-george-town-heritage-area-as-rates-skyrocket/

tunglang
tunglang

How to do business?
Increase in rentals has no business logic & not based on market fundamentals but speculative rental for limited spaces.
Not only will it affect prices of goods & services, the economic future will be gloomy for small businesses which rely on location & market access.
No thanks to sudden rise of property prices by cartel-style property developers sang sky-high by property gurus.
In the end many will suffer b’cos of greed.
A repeat of 1997 rental crash is on the horizon.

zoro
zoro

typical in hk. rentals are very high. an apartment can further subdivide into 3 to : houses with cooking and toilet in each house. they call it cut room. in sham shui po there are caged beds and rented out for hk2k about rm 1k

zoro
zoro

McDonald is willing to pay premium rents for a mansion. We remember McDonald to fill our stomach and to please our children wanting to have fun in old mcdonald. The original and descendants must be very happy to see their resident turn into old McDonald have a farm. No wonder, LKY wants his house to pull down rather become a zoo.

4-SeKawan Gelak-Gelak
4-SeKawan Gelak-Gelak

Who don’t know! Greener, Cleaner And Foreign-owned Cosmopolitan Penang mah!
CAT – Chase Away Traders.

zoro
zoro
Interestingly badan warisan may just see2 and look2 and did not talk to the right channel the rakyat Gomen. They listen to colonel ramli on the transfer of land through privatisation. Who is this colonel ramli? Was he part of the team inked the deal? Why badan warisan did not get black and white from rakyat Gomen who bought the area and property for rm1? Who are the people in badan at that time knowing the land and bldgs are transferred to a property developer? Why badan warisan did not put up a sign in the property listing as national… Read more »
tunglang
tunglang

Beli Nasi Goreng Pattaya @ TNB (Jalan Anson) Kantin, potong setengah chun-chun, & anda akan dapat keterangan selanjut yang amat pedas & panas!!!
If all else fails, pray to Tokong for answers. It will most probably send a Chow Chow for a briefing.

Pin
Pin

What talking you?

Jetty Lee
Jetty Lee

Liak boh lo, loo kong simit?

tunglang
tunglang

You want me to ua tng-a-to ane chheng-cho?
(to draw an intestine very clearly?)
Pls catch up on Penang politics & happening esp the Tokong & Chow Chow for your own benefit esp. in social media discourse.

Lu liah bo kiu? (you catch no ball?) Ane thit-tho bakguli lo! (Then play marbles!)
Phai-se ah!

Tua Pai Kiah
Tua Pai Kiah

simple hokkien, Anil.

No need Google Hokkien translator

“catch no ball, you say what ?”

simee
simee

convenient amnesia!!!

rajraman666
rajraman666

Demi G said if anyone bought 1MDB properties he would not approved any project to the new buyer.All aproval must goes through him and MPPP must report direct to him.

Meanwhile (someone) might ask MPpp goes to sleep when heritage building demolished.

rajraman. Politician job to swap words when comes to their interest.

calvinsankaran

Interesting read…did you note that even at that time the site was visited by Badan Warisan Malaysia, which signifies the heritage aspect of the building. It goes to show that the heritage value of the buildings was well known and acknowledged even by the military.

But what happened after that is a mystery…why did MBPP go to sleep ? How come they are unaware of the heritage value of the site?

4-SeKawan Gelak-Gelak
4-SeKawan Gelak-Gelak

Sleeping on the job, buat pura pura tak tau!
This is no mystery, going by the record of MPPP turned MBPP.

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