Reading theSun’s interview with the Penang Chief Minister, I was puzzled about one thing: why can’t the state government initiate its own comprehensive probe of the PGCC or call for an independent inquiry – and make public the outcome?
Can’t they see for themselves what happened? Must they wait for evidence of mala fide to be supplied by the public, who do not have access to all the key players and documents in the deals?
In the case of the PGCC, there are clearly many serious questions about how Abad Naluri, which has strong political connections, managed to get hold of over 1,000 acres of prime land in Batu Kawan on the mainland, just next to the site of the proposed second Penang bridge.
Why not probe that?
And how did Abad Naluri, with its strong political connections, win the bid for the Turf Club land in 2002 when at that time, they didn’t even own the Batu Kawan land on which they were supposed to build a new racecourse? Who in the PDC gave them a “letter of support” for the Batu Kawan land when they were bidding for the Turf Club land – well before they actually entered into a principal agreement with the PDC to acquire the Batu Kawan land in 2004? The PDC comes under the Penang state government, so surely the Penang state government can tell us on what basis the PDC entered into an agreement to sell over 1,000 acres of land in Batu Kawan to one politically well-connected company, Abad Naluri. Why has there been nothing but silence on this? Where is CAT when you really need it?
How is the public supposed to supply evidence when the Batu Kawan deal was done with the PDC? Shouldn’t the PDC top management (and the previous state government) be asked some hard questions – and the answers be made public?
The reason this is important is that the rezoning of the Turf Club land (from recreational to new development) is closely tied to these deals. So the rezoning could be declared null and void if the probe on the land deals reveals any irregularities. It is therefore disappointing to note instead that the state government is leaving the door open for future development plans for the Turf Club land to be submitted when the controversy surrounding the deals has not been resolved.
The question of the Penang government being hit by a claim for compensation does not arise as it would be an investigation to get to the root of the matter. So don’t use that as an excuse not to initiate an in-depth probe on the PGCC – and to reveal the findings to the public. The Penang public deserve better.
Interview in theSun today with Chief Minister:
A number of giant projects like Gurney Paragon and Times Square were approved by the previous government, but some NGOs strongly object to these, citing irregularities in the approval process. You have said you sympathise but your hands are tied. How do you reconcile these concerns with your apparent helplessness to review the projects?
First, when you talk about irregularities, the Hunza project (Gurney Paragon), they (complainants) had sent their submissions to the Appeals Board. But unfortunately, they withdrew their complaint. So no irregularities are proven. They also did not lodge a police report. When I reviewed the files, I asked, were there any irregularities? Nothing. Were there any police reports lodged? Nothing.
Those who made the complaints withdrew their complaints. I can only review the project when there is evidence of mala fide. But how do I prove mala fide when the complainant withdrew his submissions on his own accord?
I am sure you are going to ask about PGCC (Penang Global City Centre), the zoning thing (the zone was changed from “recreational and open space” to “new development” by the BN government). If you cannot prove mala fide and you make decisions like that (to re-convert zoning), there is going to be a huge cost involved. Under the law, when you talk about expectation of profit, to pay expectation of profit like that is huge.
For the Hunza project, the expectation of profit will run into tens, if not hundreds, of millions of ringgit. Do you want to put that at risk?
When you make decisions, you are also bound by legal questions, the legal framework that we operate under. You want to review a project? Want to show evidence of mala fide? Good. Show it to me.
But if you can’t and I just listen to you, who is going to bear the cost eventually? The people of Penang! And I think I have a responsibility to the people of Penang.
When Penangites heard that the Turf Club land was going to be developed, there was a major ruckus. Are there other plans, or are you aware of other plans to develop Penang Hill?
Except for the cable car, no. We will assess any development plan on its merits. I don’t want to give the impression that I reject any development outright. I say there are no plans at the moment. But I am willing to hear views and suggestions.
If there are any sustainable eco-development (ideas), we are willing to listen. I don’t want to close the door. We are open, we will listen to your views. Even though I may not agree with your views, I am still willing to listen.
Same thing when you talk about PGCC. They have not really sent in their plans. I will not say “Oh, I reject you outright. So you don’t even have to bother to submit”. No, I did not say that. You submit and let us decide, approve and vet it on its merits.