Speech (Part 2) by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, at the Penang DAP Ceramah at the Penang Chinese Town Hall on Tuesday, February 1, 1994 at 8 p.m.
The Hotel Metropole, the Taman Midlands, the Relau Indoor Stadium and other MPPP scandals have raised new questions about the accountability and indeed legitimacy of a nominated, undemocratic and unrepresentative MPPP President and Council.
In the last two months, the Hotel Metropole, the Taman Midlands, the Relau Indoor Stadium and other MPPP scandals have raised new questions about the accountability and indeed legitimacy of a nominated, undemocratic and unrepresentative MPPP President and Council.
If the MPPP President, Datuk Tan Gim Hwa, has any respect for the democratic principles of responsibility, accountability and transparency, the Hotel Metropole, Taman Midlands, the Relau Indoor Stadium and other MPPP scandals would not have occurred, or after they had occurred, he would have come forward to give satisfactory and acceptable explanations and submit himself to the scrutiny of the ratepayers.
However, Tan Gim Hwa has acted as if he is answerable and responsible to no one in Penang – and he may be right, because the Chief Minister, Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, is his political subordinate in Penang Gerakan.
As a result, we have a most unsatisfactory situation where the writ of the Penang Chief Minister does not run in the MPPP – which is more than half of the Penang State Government. In fact, the writ of the Penang Chief Minister also does not run in the MPSP, which is in the firm control of Penang UMNO leadership, nor does his writ run in the Penang State Exco, with Deputy Chief Minister, Dr. Ibrahim Saad exercising real power.
This is why Tan Gim Hwa had gone ‘over the head’ of Dr. Koh Tsu Koon and got the Gerakan President, Dr. Lim Keng Yaik, to declare from Kuala Lumpur last weekend that he is satisfied with the explanation of Gim Hwa on the demolition of Hotel Metropole in Penang.
When the Gerakan President has declared that he is satisfied with Gim Hwa’s handling of Hotel Metropole scandal, who is Tsu Koon or anyone in Penang Government to say or suggest otherwise?
But has Gim Hwa really given a satisfactory explanation to the people of Penang on the Hotel Metropole scandal?
The big questions about events before the December 25 demolition of Hotel Metropole are as important as the big questions about events after the Christmas Day demolition.
Up to now, Tan Gim Hwa has failed to give any satisfactory explanation to all the big questions about the two Hotel Metropole Scandals – both the Demolition Scandal and the Restoration Scandal.
Tan Gim Hwa wants to make people think about the events after the demolition on December 25 last year, when the events before December 25 demolition last year are as important as the events after the Christmas Day demolition.
The big questions about the Hotel Metropole scandal relating to the events before the demolition on December 25 last year include:
Why did RM2 company Dolphin Square Sdn. Bhd. on 10th June 1993 enter into an agreement to pay RM9.5 million, three times the market price for Hotel Metropole as a heritage building which could not be demolished?
Why did the MPPP surreptitiously, without public notice or consultation, on October 28, 1993 removed Hotel Metropole from the 1989 List of 20 conservation buildings along Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah and placed it in a new Category Two of heritage buildings, which allowed the heritage building to be demolished except for the preservation of its façade;
Is there any connection between the Sale Agreement of Hotel Metropole of June 10 and the MPPP decision on October 28 to remove the building from the 1989 MPPP List of 20 Conservation Building?
Whether there is any connection between the sale of Hotel Metropole on June 10, 1993 and the MPPP decision of October 28, 1993 to remove Hotel Metropole from the 1989 MPPP List of 20 conservation buildings, and in particular, Clause 9.2 (b) of the Sale Agreement which provided that Dolphin Square Sdn. Bhd. could rescind the agreement “in the event a statutory provision prohibits restricts or imposes adverse conditions upon the use or continued use of the said Land for the Permitted User”;
What is the real nature of the sale of the shares of the Penang State Gerakan leaders, including MPPP President, Datuk Tan Gim Hwa, in Hotel Metropolitan Sdn. Bhd. to national Gerakan leaders in Cempaka Sdn. Bhd. were Gerakan Secretary-General, Tan Sri Chan Choong Tat, the Gerakan Treasurer-General, Senator Dato Soong Siew Hoong and a brother of Gerakan President, Lim Kheng Guan.
Public Inquiry must be held to ascertain the real role played by Gerakan state and national leaders in the Hotel Metropole scandals.
The history of the association of Gerakan leaders with Hotel Metropole is well-known in Penang. In fact, it was known at one time as Hotel Gerakan and this history went back all the way to the late Gerakan Assemblyman, Ong Yi How, who took his own life. I understand that Ong Yi How’s suicide was not unrelated to Hotel Metropole, and may be, why Ong Yi How committed suicide should be re-opened.
Be that as it may, in view of the long history of association of Gerakan leaders with Hotel Metropole, public internet demand that the real role played by Gerakan state and national leaders in the Hotel Metropole scandals should be thoroughly investigated.
This applies not only the Hotel Metropole Demolition Scandal but also the Hotel Metropole Restoration Scandal and such a thorough investigation can only be carried by a full Public Inquiry Commission.
Apart from the many big questions about the Hotel Metropole Scandal before December 25 last year, there are also many big questions about the Hotel Metropole demolition scandal on December 25 and subsequent events, such as:
Why MPPP President Tan Gim Hwa and the MPPP did not ‘lift a finger’ to stop the demolition of Hotel Metropole which took over a week to complete total demolition;
Were Gerakan leaders involved in any stage of the demolition of Hotel Metropole, whether actively or passively by conniving in its demolition;
Why the MPPP issued a summons under section 27(2) (a) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1976 to Dolphin Square Sdn. Bhd. ‘restore the land to its original condition’ when there are no original building plans or scale drawing of the hundred-year-old heritage building;
Why the MPPP notice to Dolphin Square Sdn. Bhd. to fully rebuild Hotel Metropole within six months was transformed in nine short days into a MPPP notice to rebuild only its ‘façade’?
Approval for Taman Midlands ‘One-Stop Centre’ Project would have been rushed through by MPPP if not for vigilance of Penang DAP Assemblymen.
The Taman Midlands Scandal is another case where there is no full and satisfactory accounting to the public and the ratepayers. There is no doubt that the MPPP would have rushed through full planning approval to the Taman Midlands ‘One-Stop Centre’ Project last month, if not for the vigilance of Penang DAP Assemblymen who gave notice in November that they would be raising the issue in the December meeting of the Penang State Assembly.
During the budget meeting of the Penang State Assembly last month, the State Government was unable to give satisfactory explanation for the various improprieties and irregularities in the Taman Midlands scandal, such as:
Why the MPPP was allowed to violate the Local Government Act in not getting the consent of the State Government before awarding the 99-year lease of the MPPP land to Pangkal Permata (M) Sdn. Bhd.;
Why the highest bidder which is RM3 million higher than that tendered by Pangkal Permata (M) Sdn. Bhd. was rejected;
The illegal sale and collection of booking fees of both commercial and residential units in the project without developer’s licence, sale and advertising permit of planning approval;
The various MPPP improprieties and irregularities in handling the Taman Midland’s ‘One-Stop Centre’ Project; and
The failure to consult the residents who would be affected by the project.
One outcome of the DAP questioning of the project in the Penang State Assembly was the setting up by the State Government of a three-man inquiry into the Taman Midlands scandal – what I have described as a committee for ‘Tan Gim Hwa to investigate into Tan Gim Hwa’ – comprising the MPPP President, the State Secretary and the State Legal Adviser.
What has happened to this three-man inquiry? Probably, it has establishd a world record as an inquiry with the shortest span of life!
The MPPP had acted with unusual speed on the Taman Midlands ‘One-Stop Centre’ Project.
For instance, the developer of Taman Midlands ‘One-Stop Centre’ project, Pangkal Permata (M) Sdn. Bhd., submitted its application for planning approval for the project on November 1, 1993 and the MPPP Infrastructure and Works Committee met on 24th November to endorse its proposal to close Lorong Reutens. The MPPP full Council approved the closing of Lorong Reutens at its meeting of 9th December 1993.
This is an unheard-of speed in the functioning of the MPPP and its various committees! The question is why the MPPP does not operate with similar speed and efficiency in all other cases of planning applications?
Can Tan Gim Hwa explain why the MPPP had not made any announcement that the MPPP had decided at its full council meeting of December 9 to close off Lorong Reutens.
The DAP had right from the beginning maintained that the rights of the residents who would be adversely affected by the Taman Midlands ‘One-Stop Centre’ Project must be respected and upheld, as 250 affected residents have signed the petition of the Taman Midlands Action Committee opposing the Taman Midlands ‘One-Stop Centre’ Project.
This is why we demanded that the MPPP should put on public display for a month the planning applications of Pangkal Permata (M) Sdn. Bhd. before any approval is granted, so that the people could make intelligent and informed representations to the MPPP about the planning application.
Is there any connection between the Hotel Metropole and Relau Indoor Stadium scandal?
At the Penang State Assembly last month, I raised another MPPP scandal – why the MPPP awarded the architectural design for the RM50 million MPPP Relau Indoor Stadium without an open competition, which violated the Rules of the Malaysian Institute of Architects.
I understand that this building design for the Relau Indoor Stadium would be worth about RM2 million, and that because of the violation of its Rules, the Malaysian Institute of Architects advised its members not to participate in the submission for the building design.
I want here to ask whether there is any connection between the Hotel Metropole scandal and the Relau Indoor Stadium scandal. Only a full Public Inquiry into the MPPP scandals can find the answer to this important question.
Gim Hwa’s re-appointment as MPPP President should be suspended until end of Public Inquiry into MPPP scandals and meanwhile Goh Cheng Teik can be acting MPPP President.
With these numerous MPPP scandals and irregularities, and open defiance of the democratic principles of responsibility, accountability and transparency, the Chief Minister and the State Exco have a strong case to suspend and terminate Tan Gim Hwa as MPPP President.
However, Penang Chief Minister, Dr. Koh Tsu Koon does not have such political power – sandwiched between Dr. Ibrahim Saad and Tan Gim Hwa. This is why on 13th January, Tsu Koon had no choice but to announce the renewal of Gim Hwa’s appointment as MPPP President although his tenure does not expire until 19th February 1994!
The Penang State Government should suspend the re-appointment of Tan Gim Hwa as MPPP President until a full Public Inquiry into the Hotel Metropole, Taman Midlands, Relau Indoor Stadium and other MPPP scandals and improprieties had been established and returned its findings.
In the meantime, Dr. Goh Cheng Teik, who is the State Exco member in charge of Local Government can be acting MPPP President – as for the last two years, he had nothing to do when Gim Hwa was MPPP President. If Tsu Koon’s writ cannot run to MPPP, how can Goh Cheng Teik’s writ run anywhere in the MPPP?