Malaysiakini Letter

Is the focus on the Penang tunnel a diversion tactic?

P Ramasamy  |  Published:  |  Modified:

LETTER | BN strategic communications deputy director Eric See-To seems to think that if he can repeat the same lies as MCA deputy president Wee Ka Siong enough times, then it will ultimately emerge as the truth.

He says that the Penang state government is deliberately diverting attention by bringing up the 1MDB matter to hide the corruption investigation on the Penang undersea tunnel project.

See-To was responding to my challenge to Wee to allow me to buy Tun Razak Exchange land at the same price paid by 1MDB at RM64 per square foot (psf) in 2010.

A few years later the same land was sold by 1MDB to Tabung Haji at RM2,773psf.

Wee knew very well when he challenged me that the value of the Penang land to be swapped with Consortium Zenith Sdn Bhd was valued at RM 1,300psf, and not RM457psf.

The RM457psf was based on the evaluation by Malaysian Valuation and Property Services Department (JPPH) in 2012.

But the Penang government swapped the land in favour of Zenith at three times the value of what was valued by JPPH, at RM1,300psf.

See-To also claimed that there are fundamental differences between the land that was swapped with Zenith and the land that was sold by 1MDB to Tabung Haji.

He said that the transaction in Penang was between the state government and a private company, whereas in Kuala Lumpur it was between two public bodies, and that given this scenario, it is not fair to make the comparison.

Secondly, in the case of the Penang tunnel, See-To stated there would be extra costs incurred due to the relocation of squatters and others.

Thirdly, he added, selling to a private company would involve hidden costs, if the company takes its own sweet time in starting the project.

But I don't understand how See-to can justify the transaction between 1MDB and Tabung Haji at the cost of RM2,773psf. Such a price was 42 times higher than the original. Just because the transaction was between two public bodies cannot justify the price escalation.

Contrary to his fears, there are no hidden costs that would be incurred by the Penang state government, such as relocation and related matters.

And finally, there is an agreement between the Penang state government and Zenith eliminating the chance of the latter in delaying the project.

The question then is, why did the government sell the TRX land at RM64psf, and then two years later sell the same piece of land for 42 times more?

This vast difference indicates that something is seriously wrong, with the land being bought for so cheap and resold at 42 times the price within a short span.

See-To and Wee Ka Siong must first explain how a government land was bought so cheap, before accusing the Penang government of diversionary tactics.

P RAMASAMY is Penang deputy chief minister and Perai state assemblyperson.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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