Just when you thought the proposed RM50 million Penang International Convention Centre was bad enough for Penang rate-payers, now Boustead Holdings Bhd has reportedly submitted a RM60 million claim to the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) for scaling down its project in the world heritage zone.
The state government had earlier directed the developer to scale down its 12-storey hotel project to meet Unesco’s 18-metre or five-storey height ruling in the core heritage zone of Weld Quay.
Strangely though, instead of the Penang NGOs being lauded for protecting Penang’s World Heritage status, they have been criticised because Boustead has made a staggering claim.
This is a red herring. In fact, Penang had little choice but to ask the developers to scale down their projects or risk losing the world heritage status. Ironically, Boustead’s hotel will profit from the world heritage status, as the zone will now see an influx of visitors.
Instead of lambasting the Penang NGOs, the state government should haul up those responsible for approving the project to find out why heritage guidelines were ignored. How could a 12-storey hotel be approved in the core heritage zone? Demand answers and name names. Who exactly in the previous administration was responsible for the approval?
Besides, didn’t Boustead know about the heritage guidelines for the area when it planned the hotel?
A government that upholds CAT should have no hesitation in conducting an independent in-depth inquiry and making the findings public.
Incidentally, according to its 2009 Annual Report, Boustead Holdings Bhd is 58 per cent owned by Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera. This is the same Boustead that has “ventured into the submarine maintenance business where we will be providing ISS services to the Prime Minister’s Class Scorpene Submarines, KD TUNKU ABDUL RAHMAN and KD TUN RAZAK, for an initial period of six years”. Check out the protracted negotiations on the maintenance agreement here.
Also coming under Boustead are the BH Petrol retail network, Cadbury’s Confectionery Sdn Bhd, and Boustead Sissons Paint Sdn Bhd.
As a whole, the Boustead Group posted a profit before tax of RM501 million on the back of revenue of RM5.4 billion in 2009. Its property division alone posted a profit of RM106 million.
In contrast, the MPPP, on a tight RM40 million deficit budget for 2010, is managing public funds derived from an annual revenue of only around RM220 million.
Coming on the back of news of the RM50 million PICC project, this claim on public funds therefore is certainly not good news for the MPPP, the Penang rate-payers and the Penang public.
Penangites should definitely support the MPPP in contesting Boustead’s claim all the way.