The PGCC project has been the biggest land scam in Penang, Penang Chief Minister Guan Eng said today, adding there were a couple of other large scams still under investigation.
He was responding to a statement by Teng Hock Nan yesterday (see full statement below). The previous Penang state government had converted the Turf Club land from open recreational area to “new development” under the Penang Structure Plan gazetted in June 2007.
Critics claim the state lost between RM120 million and RM400 million in conversion fees as the conversion was done before the PGCC project was approved while the state forfeited RM1.5 billion in potential revaluation surplus, which it would have earned had it purchased the land from the Penang Turf Club itself instead of allowing the land to be sold to Abad Naluri. A priceless green lung has also been put in danger of being turned into a congrete jungle instead of into a People’s Park.
Teng said yesterday the Municipal Council had not made any decision on the PGCC nor had the previous state government decided whether and how much premiums or charges to levy on Abad Naluri, the PGCC developer. “Therefore, since no decision has been made as yet, it is up to the new state government and the MPPP to make whatever decision that they think suitable with respect to the site and any development proposal, including whatever charges to be imposed.”
In response, Guan Eng said: “I want to ask Koh Tsu Koon what are the consequences of (re)rezoning the land.” He said he knew the consequences but he wanted Koh to tell him. “Show me you are on top of your job. You have been chief minister for 18 years. You tell me what are the consequences should we want to rezone it,” he challenged Koh. Guan Eng said all this with a smile.
“Koh Tsu Koon is in big trouble,” observed one journalist who was present.
Some believe that rezoning the land back to recreational status could leave the state open to claims for compensation. So the state might not want to do anything with the land at the moment and just leave things as they are – but that could open the land to other forms of property development later, dashing hopes that it could be turned into a People’s Park.
As one activist observed, Teng’s statement yesterday just reinforced the fact that nothing has been approved, but failed to answer why the previous state government rezoned the land without waiting for an application from the developer.
Guan Eng posed more pointed questions to Koh and Teng. When the change was made from tanah lapang dan rekreasi to pembangunan baru, how does this benefit the public interest, he asked. “Why and how did you change this?”
As for the previous administration holding public hearings to obtain the views of the public, Guan Eng said he would let the NGOs reply to this. He said as far as he knew, civil society groups were largely unaware of these public hearings.
The Penang Chief Minister added Koh and Teng had misled the Prime Minister when they got him to officiate at the launch of the PGCC last October, when the project had not yet been approved. “Why did you allow the PM to embarrass himself in launching an illegal project?”
One activist remarked that he finds it hard to believe that Abdullah was not aware of the background and status of the project. The PM had said back then he wanted all approvals to be expedited.
Another activist commented:
And here is Teng’s statement in full:
Statement by Dato’ Dr Teng Hock Nan
Former Penang State Exco Member in charge of Local Government
THE PROPOSED PGCC PROJECT:
PREVIOUS STATE GOVERNMENT DID NOT APPROVE AS YET
PRESENT GOVERNMENT CAN DECIDE AND IMPOSE LEVIES
It must be emphasised that the application for planning permission by the developer of the proposed Penang Global City Centre (PGCC) project has not yet been approved by the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) under the previous state government as of 8 March 2008.
The previous state government has also not made any decision as yet on whether and how much premiums or charges were to be levied on the developer relating to the proposed PGCC project.
The formulation of the structure plan, which made provisions on zoning of development for the whole state, followed the proper provisions and procedure for structure plan under the Town and Country Planning Act. Public exhibitions and hearings were held in 2006 – 2007 on the draft structure plan which was finalised and gazetted in June 2007.
In this respect, the structure plan did not specify the type (residential or commercial or “mixed”) and the scale (density, plot ratio, etc) of “new development” zoned on that site.
The MPPP can still decide whether to reject or approve any development proposal, including the type and the scale. It is also up to the State Planning Committee chaired by the Chief Minister to provide guidance.
Therefore, since no decision has been made as yet, it is up to the new state government and the MPPP to make whatever decision that they think suitable with respect to the site and any development proposal, including whatever charges to be imposed.