I wish to warn UMNO-controlled papers to stop their cunning and conniving tactics with BN to continuously defame me by ignoring my explanation and printing lies that I had indeed mislead the Penang State Assembly on the PHH issue. The refusal of UMNO-controlled papers to print my explanations demonstrates not only a fear of the truth but also an abuse of their powers to willfully target Pakatan Rakyat leaders by undermining our credibility.
On the PHH issue, I had explained that Pulau Betong assemblyman Muhammad Farid Saad had asked whether there had been any land conversions to freehold status for government land for development purposes during the period from April 2008 to June 2009. There was no government land converted to freehold status as PHH is no longer state or government land, but owned 51% by YTL Hotel & Properties Sdn Bhd(YTL H&P) with PDC holding only 49%. For the UMNO-controlled papers to persist in insisting that I had misled the Penang State Assembly is a bare-faced lie.
If my officers made a mistake, I have no hesitation in correcting and apologizing as I have done so in the previous state assembly meeting on Mohd bin Sabu being appointed as an independent director of PBA Holdings Bhd when he was not an independent director. But how can UMNO and BN ask me to apologise when I had neither given wrong information nor misled the Penang state assembly.
To show that I have nothing to hide, I had taken the unprecedented step of declassifying EXCO, Land Committee and PDC minutes of the conversion of the PHH land to freehold status. PHH was approved that state land by the previous BN administration. UMNO should explain why state land was sold that surrendered ownership of the land to a private company that holds a majority share.
To ensure that the state government does not lose rights over the land and the interests of the public are protected, three conditions were set out for approving the conversion to freehold title:-
a) increasing PDC equity stake in PHH by 1% to 50% to ensure its equal share and that the private company does not have majority control to do as it likes;
b) all costs relating to the increase in equity stake of PHH by 1% as well as land conversion and land premium costs of RM 8.2 million will have to be borne also by YTL H&P; and
c) abide by the heritage guidelines in the George Town heritage area that the height of buildings will not exceed 5 storeys.
These are the special circumstances that fulfill the legal requirements for conversion to freehold land. This is a triple win solution for the state in allowing us to regain back some control over the state land lost when PDC only controlled a 49% stake; do not incur any cost to PDC but increase revenues for the state of RM 8.2 million; preserve the heritage guidelines and revive development in the land area that has been left idle and abandoned for some time.
BN, UMNO and Gerakan can not deny that the state land was sold to PHH with PDC as a minority shareholder. The success of the PR government is to regain control of the PHH land and project as an equal partner at no cost and with increased revenues.
The public has clearly benefited from this exercise and only BN who wishes to politicize the issue will remain blind to their failure is protect public interest when they allowed the land to be sold with PDC as a minority shareholder. Instead of appreciating the PR state government success in improving on the state government’s positions and interests, BN, UMNO or Gerakan has chosen to politicize the issue with lies that I had misled the Penang state Assembly.