The dream of a Penang People’s Park lives on.
But Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng seems concerned that if he rezones the Penang Turf Club land back from “development” status to “recreational”, it could expose the state government to claims of compensation.
But he needn’t have to worry too much. For the Penang state government holds a trump card. It can take back the Batu Kawan land and, in doing so, foil any bid to develop the Penang Turf Club land by 2011.
In April 2008, the Penang Turf Club signed a supplementary agreement with Abad Naluri Sdn Bhd, extending by three years its original agreement signed in 2004 to March 2011. Under this agreement, the requirement for Abad Naluri to build a new racecourse in Batu Kawan is still there.
But there are concerns that new parties could be taking over the reins at Abad Naluri or Equine with other plans for property development on the Penang Turb Club land.
One way to preserve the Turf Club’s green lung for now is for the Penang state government to block the sale of the Batu Kawan land to Abad Naluri.
It can easily do this. The master agreement between the Penang Development Corporation and Abad Naluri for various parcels of land totalling more than 1,000 acres (wow, 1,000 acres to one company! very lucky one!), was signed in January 2004. Under this agreement, Abad Naluri was given four years to settle the purchase consideration. But until now, the actual sale and purchase agreement for the Batu Kawan racecourse parcel of 300 acres apparently has not yet even been signed, and the land has not been paid for – even though payment should have been made by January 2008. So the PDC can take back the Batu Kawan land, effectively making it impossible for Abad Naluri to build a new racecourse on the mainland for the Turf Club. If the PDC were to do this, Abad Naluri would be unable to fulfil its part of the agreement with the Turf Club.
Now, the background to how Abad Naluri was awarded the tender in 2002 for the relocation of the Turf Club gets very interesting. In 2002, four parties were said to be involved in the bidding for the Turf Club relocation plan, namely firms linked to two different tycoons in KL, another one in Penang and Abad Naluri. One of these parties is now said to be eyeing the Turf Club land again.
Abad Naluri’s tender is believed to have been submitted and signed in May 2002 by someone in the company then who was politically well-connected (try and guess who it was – it’s not Patrick Lim, who many believe was just a ‘front man’).
Abad Naluri is believed to have been awarded the tender because of its ability to build a new racecourse in Batu Kawan. The firm had claimed that it had a land bank of 250 acres in Batu Kawan which it could use to build the new racecourse and it had a “letter of approval” (from the PDC?) to support that claim.
But the funny thing is that the master agreement between PDC and Abad Naluri for the Batu Kawan land was only signed in January 2004. The agreement included the parcel of 300 acres for the Batu Kawan racecourse. So this means that when Abad Naluri submitted its tender, it had not yet entered into the master agreement with Batu Kawan. But that did not stop Abad Naluri from already claiming it had 250 acres to build the race-course. And the Penang Turf Club believed this – based on a letter of approval?
Blog reader dontplaypuks left this comment:
Knowing state governments, government departments and local councils, I will bet my bottom $ that proper procedures were not adhered to and that the decision was ultra vires their powers. e.g an EIA may not have been done or there was no quorum in the approval given by the State Govt. or a public inquiry that ought to have been held, was not.
Under those circumstances, if the conversion can be proven illegal or beyond the powers of the state, then the conversion can be reversed.
I am sure LGE, who now has the resources of a whole state and access to the best local lawyers, can get cracking on this, pronto!!
Another blog reader, rhino, says Penang desperately needs more recreational space:
We need the PEOPLES PARK!!! Ask LGE to take a walk in Botanical Gardens and Youth Park during the weekends. See for himself how utterly bad the situation is, and how desperate people are for that little space to exercise.
And, it is a tourist stop-over. Utterly shameful for Penang. Even weekdays go and see for yourself how badly a park is needed.
No more space for people to exercise!
Blog reader Andrew sent in this message: “I don’t care how Guan Eng does it; I am not interested in all the legal and business obstacles. We elected him to do something different – and we want the People’s Park!”