|Athi Veeranggan | May 12, 08 12:38pm
|The controversial mega Penang Global City Centre project saga continues with the present Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng requesting his predecessor Koh Tsu Koon to guide him “on how to re-zone the project site to its original zoning”.
“After all, he was the one who had reclassified the site zone previously.
“Therefore he should guide us and explain explicitly on how to reclassify it again,” said Lim, when officiating Bukit Bendera MP Liew Chin Tong’s service centre in Pulau Tikus yesterday.
Originally earmarked as a recreational and open space zone, the Penang Turf Club (PTC) site in Jalan Batu Gantong, George Town was re-gazetted under the Penang Structural Plan 2020 on June 28, 2007 as a new township zone for mixed commercial development for the PGCC project. The turf club is to be relocated to another site.
Under the Town and Country Planning Act 1976, the state planning committee, in which the Chief Minister would be the chairperson by legal requirement, re-gazetted the land as for commercial use in pursuant to the Structure Plan.
Due to this use of legislation, the proposed RM25 billion PGCC project-developer, Abad Naluri Sdn Bhd need not pay the premium estimated to be worth RM200 million to the state government for land conversion.
Abad Naluri bought the turf club plot, which has been classified as grade one land, for RM488 million.
Sensing that the state government had lost millions in land premiums due to the previous state government re-zoning, Lim now wants Koh to tell all to the public the reasons behind the sudden change in land status of the turf club plot.
Various unanswered questions
1. Why the land was re-zoned after the Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi had launched the mega project?
2. Was the PM misled by Koh’s administration on the land zone?
3. Why was Abad Naluri exempted from land premium?
4. Why did the state government position itself for a non-financial gain in the land conversion for a mammoth project?
“Koh owes a public explanation on all these questions,” said Lim.
Upon taking the hot seat of Penang chief minister, Lim has already revealed a billion-ringgit land scam under the previous administration that could hit the northern island state with a loud tremor.
On numerous occasions, he had requested Koh and former state executive councillor in charge of land portfolio, Abdul Rashid Abdullah to meet him and explain about the alleged land improprieties that had cost the state government billions of ringgit in land premium for conversion.
However, both have declined the requests.
While a report has been lodged to the Anti-Corruption Agency to investigate the matter, the state government had also set up a three-man team led by Deputy Chief Minister Mohammad Fairuz Khairuddin to probe the scam.
And now to add to that, the PGCC land conversion scam had surfaced now.
Turf club members unhappy
PTC members lodged several police reports last week alleging the previous state government had lost millions in revenue when it took upon itself to re-zone the turf club land as the site for a ‘mixed development’ for the PGCC project.
The PGCC, located in the heart of the Georgetown, has been billed as the country’s largest private sector development project. It is also the single-biggest component of the Northern Corridor Economic Region development plan, launched last August.
On Saturday, Koh’s aide and former state executive councillor Dr Teng Hock Nan, who was then the exco in-charge of local government, revealed that the previous state government and the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) never approved the planning permission applied by Abad Naluri for PGCC project.
He said it was up to the present state government and MPPP to decide whether to reject or approve any development proposal.
He dispelled accusations that Koh has helped Abad Naluri save approximately RM200 million in premium fees for land conversion when the original recreation land was reclassified under ‘mixed development’.
Lim said that Teng statement had failed to clarify public curiosity on how and why the project site was re-zoned in the first place.
“It would be better for Koh, not Dr Teng, to answers our questions,” said Lim.
Abad Naluri is an associate company of Equine Capital Bhd controlled by businessman Patrick Lim, who is known to be a close friend of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Equine Capital holds 25 percent of Abad Naluri.
In recent weeks, a number of key shareholders have sold their stakes in Equine following news that the PGCC project would be shelved. The company was also hit by two resignations from its board of directors.
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