Tuesday, 22 August 2017

NGO alleges abuse of power by MBPP councillors


GEORGE TOWN: A non-governmental organisation has lodged a report with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) against two Penang Island City Council (MBPP) councillors for alleged abuse of power.

Persatuan Surplus Pulau Pinang chairman Sophian Mohd Zain urged the commission to probe the matter thoroughly.

He said the first case involved councillor Sharuddin Shariff who lives in a public housing unit in Sungai Pinang despite receiving a monthly allowance of RM4,000 from the council.

"This is not right at all," he said before lodging the report accompanied by former MBPP councillor Syazwani Mohd Amin.

Sophian also lodged another report against councillor Azrizal Tahir whom he alleged held two state-appointed posts.

He said Azrizal as a councillor should not have held the Village and Security Development Committee (JKKK) post and receive allowances from both positions.

When contacted, Azrizal urged the complainant not to trouble the MACC by asking them to probe cases with no basis.

He said those who lodge such reports should do their homework first.

"A press conference will be arranged to explain the matter soon," he said briefly.

Source: Edmund Lee newsdesk@thesundaily.com

MACC reports filed against PKR duo


GEORGE TOWN: Two PKR’s Penang Island city councillors have denied any wrongdoings as alleged by two non-governmental organisations which lodged reports with the state anti-graft body.

One of them, a four-term councillor, said there were no rules or regulations to prevent a councillor from becoming a village development and security committee (JKKK) chairman.

“But under a state policy which was enforced last year, we were advised not to hold the two positions at the same time.

“I have since let go of my JKKK post. I urge the complainants to check with the district office first and not to hurl baseless allegations against us,” he said when contacted.

Earlier, two NGOs – Persatuan Kebajikan Surplus Pulau Pinang and Kota – lodged reports with the Penang MACC over the alleged wrongdoings of the two councillors in Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah yesterday.

Persatuan Kebajikan Surplus chairman Sophian Mohd Zain claimed one councillor was the JKKK chairman of Permatang Damar Laut.

“A councillor receives allowance from the local government while a JKKK post is appointed by the state government. This is a conflict of interest.

“We hope the state government will clear the air in the name of CAT (Competency, Accountability and Transparency),” he said.

Also present was former councillor Noor Syazwani Md Amin, who was terminated from her post in April.

Sophian also claimed that a first-term councillor still had a People’s Housing Programme (PPR) flat in Sungai Pinang despite having an allowance of RM4,000.

The maximum eligible household monthly income for a PPR applicant is RM2,500.

A councillor is entitled up to RM1,200 in allowances for attending meetings and a RM300 mobile phone subsidy.

“How could he still be holding the key to a PPR flat for a RM100 monthly rental? The PPR flats are meant for the poor.

“The councillors are the policy makers in the local government while the PPR flats are under the purview of the council.

“I don’t think the council staff would dare to act against the councillors,” he added.

Sophian hoped the MACC would investigate the matter.

The said councillor could not be reached for comment.

Source: by Tan Sin Chow he Star

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Monday, 14 August 2017

Anti corruption agency MACC to interview Lim, and Norlela who did the right thing


Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) will call up Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and Penanti assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin to facilitate investigations into the Sungai Lembu's illegal factory case.

GEORGE TOWN: Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and Penanti assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin are ex­­pected to be called up by the Ma­­­laysian Anti-Corruption Com­mis­­sion (MACC) to give statements over the illegal factory in Kampung Sungai Lembu, Bukit Mertajam.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki con­­firmed that both would have their statements recorded at a suitable time.

“This is a normal procedure to call up them up as they have talked about the matter publicly.

“Their statements are needed to complete the investigations,” he said.

Sunday Star reported that the MACC is investigating two letters, which appear to have originated from state executive Councillor Phee Boon Poh, asking that no ac­­tion be taken against an illegal factory.

The letters, written in 2015 and 2016, directed the Seberang Prai Municipal Council (MPSP) from shutting down the carbon filter-processing factory which has been operating illegally for the past 10 years.

Phee was remanded five days since Saturday together with factory director Edmund Gan Eu Leong, 37, and his father Gan Buck Hee, 70, who is the factory mana­ger.

It is understood that a third MPSP officer has also been summoned to give his statement.

On Friday, two officers from the Enforcement Department and the Licensing Department were also called up.

“They were not arrested,” Azam said.

He added that the MACC also conducted several raids and seized do­cuments from Phee’s office at Kom­­tar and his house in Sungai Puyu.

Yesterday, MACC officers spent more than an hour at his service centre in Jalan Ong Yi How in Butterworth. With them was Phee.

It was learnt that the MACC also raided two of his houses in But­­terworth yesterday.

In Alor Setar, an attempt by lawyers representing Phee and two others to quash their remand order was rejected by the High Court.

Judge Hashim Hamzah told Ramkarpal Singh, R.S.N Rayer and Dev Kumaraendran that their application should have been filed at the Penang High Court as it was the “suitable forum” for the matter.

Ramkarpal said they would file an application at Penang High Court today.

The MACC and several enforcement agencies first raided the factory on Thursday following complaints from villagers that its fumes could affect their health.

Meanwhile, MCA religious harmony bureau chairman Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker criticised DAP for “bullying and blaming” Dr Norlela for her request to the authorities to take action against the factory.

He said DAP cannot play the victim card now because Malaysians are beginning to see the party’s hypocrisy when it comes to corruption issues.

“DAP should allow the MACC to do its work without any hindrance and own up when their leaders are embroiled in corruption,” Ti said in a statement.

Transparency International Ma­­laysia president Datuk Akhbar Sa­­tar said MACC should be allowed to investigate the case professionally and fairly without fear or favour.

“Let the due process take its course and let us wait for the outcome of the investigations,” he said.

Source: The Star by Crystal Chiam Shiying and Lo Tern Chern

  Norlela did the right thing - She's merely fulfilling her duty to constituents, says state Gerakan Chief


https://youtu.be/QFy-cEpbEiI

Geroge Town - State Gerakan chairman Teng Chang Yeow has defended Penanti’s PKR assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin, who has been voicing out concerns on the illegal factory operation in Kampung Sungai Lembu.

"What we are concerned about is that the matter had been dragged on for so long.

"Her complaints fell on deaf ears for so long, so you can't penalized her.

"She has raised it many times, in the state assembly, to the authorities and Village Security and Development Committee, but there was no action," he told a press conference after attending the State Delegates' Conference 2017 at the state Gerakan Heeadquaters in Macalister Road yesterday.

It was reported that Dr. Norlela denied that she was responsible for the action being taken against an illegal carbon filter processing factory in Kampung Sungai Lembu.

She refuted the accusations in a Facebook post on Saturday, saying that she had highlighted complaints from her constituents.

Dr. Norlela said she was disappointed that she was blamed for the arrest of state exco member Phee Boon Poh.

Commenting on several past actions against Dr. Norlela, including having a state allocation to her constituency withheld pending her written explanation for not attending the Yang di-Pertua Negri's swearing-in ceremony in May, Teng said Gerakan may have differences with other Barisan National component parties, but it never penalized them.

He said that when Gerakan led the government, he had faced criticisms from MCA representatives but no action was taken against them.

Gerakan president Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong opened the event. - The Star

Gerakan defends PKR's Norlela over Penang illegal factory issue


GEORGE TOWN: Penanti assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin should not be penalised for speaking up on the illegal factory in Kampung Sungai Lembu, said state Gerakan chairman Teng Chang Yeow today.

“Being the state assemblyman of the constituency, she had every right to raise questions about the illegal factory.

“She was merely performing her duty,” he said during a press conference here, today.

He was responding to Norlela’s claim that she was treated like a criminal after expressing her gratitude to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for taking action against the illegal factory.

“Thank you to the MACC for solving the issues which have been plaguing the villagers there. We have been doing our best to help the villagers,” she had said in a Facebook posting recently.

She had said that in May this year, she received an 18-page petition, signed by 180 villagers, objecting against the illegal carbon filter factory.

“I raised several questions at the state legislative assembly sitting the same month. The state environment committee chairman had said the factory was burning 2,000 tonnes of sawdust monthly to be turned into activated carbon for water filters,” she had said.

On Thursday, MACC and other agencies raided the factory in Bukit Mertajam after numerous complaints to the authorities fell on deaf ears.

This was followed by further raids at the Seberang Perai Municipal Council licensing department offices and state Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh’s office, service centre and houses.

Phee is being remanded for five days pending investigations into an illegal factory in Kampung Sungai Lembu in Bukit Mertajam.

He was detained after he went to MACC’s office to have his statement recorded on Friday.

Yesterday, Norlela revealed that she had been treated like a criminal since Phee’s arrest.

Source: NST By BALVIN KAUR

MACC gets more statements in illegal factory case


BUKIT MERTAJAM: No one has yet to be charged over the illegal carbon filter processing factory in Sungai Lembu as graft-busters are still investigating the case and gathering evidence.

Three Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officers showed up at the village yesterday and were seen talking to several residents there for about an hour in a coffeeshop.

Sungai Lembu Village Development and Security Committee (JKKK) chairman Tan Sing Lee and some businessmen staying and running businesses near the factory were later summoned to the MACC office in Butterworth to give statements.

“Initially, they wanted to record our statements at the coffeeshop but on seeing the press, they told us to go to their office instead,” Tan said.

Tan arrived at the MACC office with JKKK secretary Yeo Keng Chuan at about 1.30pm and left about 45 minutes later.

A spokesman for the MACC said it had recorded statements from several people, and that no arrest was made.

“We are still investigating,” he said.

Penang state executive councillor Phee Boon Poh, together with factory director Edmund Gan Eu Lee, 37, and his father Gan Buck Hee, 70, were arrested by the MACC on Aug 11.

But all walked free last Monday after their remand orders were set aside by the High Court.

The spokesman said the MACC would be appealing the court decision.

Meanwhile, Gerakan took Penang PKR assemblymen to task for not defending Penanti assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin against the barrage of attacks that came after she exposed the illegal factory.

“Why haven’t the men in PKR come to her aid? Are they so afraid of being victimised by DAP?” said state Gerakan vice-chairman Oh Tong Keong.

“What is also baffling is that the incident happened in the PKR fortress of Permatang Pauh,” he told a press conference.

He claimed that what happened to Dr Norlela was nothing new because Tanjung Bungah DAP assemblyman Teh Yee Cheu was also sidelined for speaking the truth.

Meanwhile in Kota Kinabalu, MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki said no investigation paper has been opened in the acquisition of the Grand Borneo Hotel by Felda Investment Corporation (FIC), purportedly at a higher market price.

He said it was still premature to suspect any wrongdoings in the purchase of the three-star hotel (in Kota Kinabalu).

“We are not moving in as yet. Our focus is still on the ongoing probe on FIC’s purchases of the two hotels in London and Kuching.

“Besides, there is still a need to compare the valuation reports during the time of purchase and the actual value of the Kota Kinabalu hotel,” he said when contacted.

Azam was asked to comment on a report suggesting that the MACC was to conduct a probe on a third hotel managed by FIC.

The Grand Borneo was said to have been acquired by Felda for RM86.4mil in 2012.

Azam said there were no plans to send MACC officers to Sabah.

Sabah MACC director Datuk Sazali Salbi also said that his state officers were not involved in any probe over the matter.

It is learnt the MACC would focus on completing the ongoing probe first as the remand order for Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad ends tomorrow.

On Tuesday, the former Felda chairman was arrested by the MACC after he was called in to give his statements over FIC’s purchase of hotels in London and Kuching.

The MACC is investigating suspicion of power abuse and corruption in the purchases of the two hotels.

So far, anti-graft officers have visited Mohd Isa’s houses in Selangor, Nilai, Linggi and Seremban, as well as his office at the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) headquarters. Mohd Isa is acting SPAD chairman. It was reported that cash amounting to RM100,000 was seized from a safe in one of his houses. - The Star.

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Phee's accounts with RM2mil frozen for a few months - Nation


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Sunday, 13 August 2017

Too good to be true? Think twice




HAVE you ever grabbed an offer without any hesitation, simply because the price is too cheap to resist?

Many of us have this experience especially during sales or promotional campaigns. We tend to spend more at the end or buy things which we are uncertain of their quality when the deal seems too good to say no.

It may be harmless if the amount involved is insignificant. However, when we apply the same approach to big ticket items, it can cause vast implications.

Recently, I heard a case which reinforces this belief.

A friend shared that a property project which was selling for RM300,000 a few years ago is now stuck. Although the whole project was sold out, the developer has problem delivering the units on time.

The developer is calling all purchasers to renegotiate the liquidated and ascertained damages (LAD), a compensation for late delivery.

One of the homeowners said he is owed RM50,000 of LAD, which means the project is 1½ years late. When we chatted, we found that he purchased the unit solely due to its cheap pricing without doing much research in the first place.

The incident is a real-life example of paying too low for an item which can leave us as losers, especially when it involves huge sum of investment, such as property.

To many, buying a house maybe a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a decision made can make or break the happiness of a family.

A good decision ensures a roof over the head and a great living environment, while an imprudent move may incur long-term financial woes if the house is left uncompleted.

Nowadays, it is common to see people do research when they plan to buy a phone, household item, or other smaller ticket items.

Looking at the amount involved and implication of buying a house, we should apply the same discretion if not more.

It is always important for house buyers to study the background of a developer and project, consult experienced homeowners regarding the good and bad of a project before committing.

I have seen many people buy a house merely based on price consideration.

In fact, there are more to be deliberated when we commit for a roof over our heads. The location, project type, reputation of a developer, the workmanship, the future maintenance of the property etc, are all important factors for a good decision as they would affect the future value of a project.

Beware when a discount or a rebate sounds too good to be true, it may be just too good to be true and never materialised. If the collection or revenue of a housing project is not sufficient to fund the building cost, the developer may not be able to complete the project or deliver the house as per promised terms. At the end of the day, the “price” paid by homeowners would be far more expensive.

In general, the same principle applies elsewhere. It is a known fact that when we pay a premium for a quality product from a reliable producer, we have a peace of mind that the product could last longer and end up saving us money. Some lucky ones will end up gaining much more.

For instance, when we purchase a car, we should consider its resale value as some cars hold up well, while others collapse after a short period. Other determining factors include the specifications of the car, the after sales service, and the availability of spare parts.

Quality products always come with a higher price tag due to the research, effort, materials and services involved.

In addition to buying a house or big ticket items, other incidents that can tantamount to losing huge sums are like money games, get-rich-quick scheme, or the purchase of stolen cars or houses with caveats.

When an offer or a rebate sounds dodgy, the “good deal” can be a scam.

Years of experience tells me that when what is too good to be true, we should think twice. I always remind myself with a quote from John Ruskin (1819-1900) who was an art critic, an artist, an architect and a philosopher. “It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money – that’s all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do.

“The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot – it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.”

Food for thought by Alan Tong

Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in property development. He was the world president of FIABCI International for 2005/2006 and awarded the Property Man of the Year 2010 at FIABCI Malaysia Property Award. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please email feedback@fiabci-asiapacific.com.

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Saturday, 12 August 2017

Penang exco man held in graft probe for abuse of power


Rail link seen as game changer but cost is a concern.


TOK Bali, a fishing village in Kelantan with its beautiful sandy beaches and pristine blue waters has long been a hidden gem among well-travelled backpackers. But that may soon change. The idyllic town is one that is touted to potentially become a tourist hotspot, as it sits along the alignment of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), a multi-billion infrastructure project that promises many economic spin-offs.

After almost a decade in planning, ECRL was launched with great pomp this week.

Touted as a key game-changer for the east coast states of Peninsular Malaysia, the interstate ECRL is expected to help the economy of the four states that it covers by an additional 1.5% per year over the next 50 years.

On a micro level, more employment opportunities, particularly skilled jobs, will be made available to Malaysians. Domestic industry players especially in the construction sector, can now anticipate construction contracts to the tune of RM16bil, at least.

   
Another milstone:Najib checking out a train model at the ground-breaking ceremony this week.He called ECRL 'another milestore in the country's land public transport history".

The ECRL is expected to benefit freight transport because it would link key economic and industrial areas within the East Coast Economic Region such as the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park, Gambang Halal Park, Kertih Biopolymer Park and Tok Bali Integrated Fisheries Park to both Kuantan Port and Port Klang.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak called it “another milestone in the country’s land public transport history”.

Despite the much highlighted economic benefits from the rail network, the venture is attracting its own share of controversies from the way the contract was awarded to the price of contract.

For one, China’s state-owned China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) has been appointed for the construction of ECRL via a direct negotiation method.

Detractors have labelled ECRL – at a cost of RM80mil per kilometre – as the world’s costliest rail project. Note that, the Gemas-Johor Baru double-tracking stretch costs RM45mil per km.

ECRL, however, will go over hilly terrain and has several tunnels to be built.

There are questions on whether the 688km rail venture, at RM55bil, will be financially feasible.

Sources say the price tag is unlikely to have included land acquisition costs.

They indicate that close to half of the land plots required for the rail link sit on private land and would require land acquisition. At this point, the total land acquisition cost is unknown.

No money in rail

The concerns of the critics are understandable, given the fact that public infrastructure projects, namely rail projects are usually not commercially viable.

A quick check on the finances of Malaysia’s very own Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd (KTMB) and a number of major rail operators abroad, affirms the fact that rail projects do not promise easy money.

The loss-making KTMB which was corporatised in 1992, has not been able to financially sustain itself, resulting in the deterioration of its level of service despite attempts to turn around the company.

According to the railway service operator’s latest publicly available audited report for financial year 2013, the group registered a total net loss of RM128.2mil. However, note that, the net loss had narrowed by 46% from RM238.5mil in the previous year.

Had it not been for the government’s subsidy which kept it afloat, KTMB would find it difficult to continue its operations without a further raise of its fare.

In India, where railway is a favoured mode of transportation, the Indian Railways has been incurring losses on passenger operations every year. Earlier this year, the lower chamber of the Indian parliament was told that the state-owned rail operator recorded a loss of Rs359.18bil (RM24.04bil) in the period of 2015 to 2016.

This was slightly higher than its loss of Rs334.91bil (RM22.42bil) in the period of 2014-2015.

On the other hand, China’s state-owned rail operator, China Railway Corp, was reported to have recorded a 58% increase in earnings last year despite huge losses in the first nine months. However, a zoom into its finances reveals that the high profit made was only possible due to a significant annual government subsidy.

Similarly, Singapore’s SMRT Corp which manages the city-state’s rail operations posted a profit of S$7.4mil (RM23.33mil) in its financial year of 2016. This was on the back of a revenue of S$681mil (RM2.15bil), which rose by 4.1% year-on-year.

While the rail operations saw higher ridership in that year, SMRT Corp would have registered a loss of S$9.6mil (RM30.26mil) for its rail business, if not for the net property tax refund of S$17.1mil (RM53.9mil).

Considering the lack of commercial viability in such rail projects, ECRL would ultimately require assistance from the government in ensuring smooth operations, while maintaining an affordable service for its users. This is akin a crucial trade-off, to complement the government’s move to provide an integrated transportation system in Malaysia, which is long overdue.

AmBank Group’s chief economist Anthony Dass tells StarBizWeek that for every ringgit spent on capital projects such as transportation, it generates a return or multiplier effect of around 5% to 20%.

In his estimation, he says the ECRL should create around RM50-55bil in terms of gross domestic product.

“The impact of this project to the economy will be multilevel. Impact on the respective states’ GDP and national GDP will be evident, though the magnitude of the impact on the respective states is poised to vary.

“On a longer term, once the entire project is completed, we expect strong benefits seeping into services related activities. Properties in the major towns is likely to enjoy more especially the port-connected towns, driven by logistics- and trade-related businesses.

“Other areas would benefit from the movement of tourism. As for the smaller towns, they are more likely to enjoy from the spillovers of this connectivity through movement of people commuting to work and new areas of business growth especially in areas like the small and medium businesses,” says Anthony.

High cargo projections

By the year 2040, an estimated 8 million passengers and 53 million tonnes of cargo are expected to use the ECRL service annually as the primary transport between the east coast and west coast.

By 2040, ECRL is projected to support a freight density of 19 million tonnes.

The freight cargo projections of the rail network stands in stark contrast to the total cargo volume running through the entire Malaysian railways today.

As of 2015, the entire Malaysian railways operations handled a sum of 6.21 million tons of cargo, according to a study related to the ECRL.

To note, the revenue from the operation of the venture is projected to be obtained through a transportation ratio of 30% passengers and 70% freight.

If the projections of ECRL are anything to go by, the planners are anticipating a ballistic growth in volume of cargo being moved along the tracks.

Is this realistic?

Socio Economic Research Centre executive director Lee Heng Guie remains concerned on the details of the project financing, albeit the expected trickle-down benefits of ECRL.

“While ECRL has been identified as a high impact public transport project that will connect east coast states with the west coast, especially Greater KL and Klang Valley, the high cost of RM55bil requires further justification. More clarity on the cost structure and terms and conditions of the loan is needed to ease public genuine concerns.

“It must be noted that the high costs, low profits and long gestation periods of transportation projects do not always make them financially viable. The financial viability of the ECRL would depend on the revenue generated to cover operating cash flow, including interest expenses.

“As the loan will have a seven year moratorium, the bunching of loan repayment together with interest payment will be substantial in the remaining 13 years,” he says.

Lowering cost the key

In terms of funding, 85% of the total project value of RM55bil would be to be funded by Exim Bank of China’s through a soft loan at a 3.25% interest.

The balance 15% would be financed through a sukuk programme by local banks.

There is no payment for the first seven years, and the government starts paying after the seventh year over a 13-year period.

At 3.25% interest per annum, the interest servicing bill for the project is huge.

“Hence the main challenge to this project will be to bring down cost as low as possible. The lower the cost, the lesser it would be the burden on the government’s balance sheet,” says an industry player.

Echoing a similar view, Lee noted the ERCL project loan is expected to be treated as “contingent liability” as it will be taken by Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd, a special purpose vehicle owned by the Ministry of Finance.

This is also to ensure that the Federal Government will not breach the self-imposed debt to GDP ratio of 55%.

As at end-March 2017, the Federal Government’s debt stood at RM664.5bil or 50.2% of GDP.

At the end of the day, despite the concerns on the possible cost overrun in the ECRL project, proper management and efficiency in project delivery could lead to cost savings and ultimately lower overall expenditure for ECRL.

History has shown that Malaysian companies can lower the cost, especially on rail projects compared to foreign players.

In the late 1990s, a consortium of India and China state-owned companies were awarded the contract to build a double track electrified railway system from Padang Besar to Johor Baru. The cost was estimated at RM44bil and paid through crude palm oil.

However, an MMC Corp Bhd-Gamuda Bhd joint venture managed to win the job in 2003 with a RM14.3bil proposal. However this project was shelved and subsequently continued after a lull of few years.

ECRL is a seven year project to be built in stages. Many factors can come into play in that period like delay in construction and rise in material costs.

However in the bigger picture, the infrastructure venture should not merely be seen from a commercial-viable lens alone. The trickle-down benefits on the economy and the Malaysian population should also be factored into the calculations.

The lower the cost, the higher the multiplier effect.

Source: The Star by ganeshwaran kanaandgurmeet kaur

Related Link:

Debate on ECRL

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https://youtu.be/TpHEBW1dEmM



https://youtu.be/i28FwI4tlV4

Arrest linked to illegal operation of carbon filter factory in Bukit Mertajam


For 10 years, a factory has been illegally burning sawdust to produce carbon for filters, forcing villagers and schoolchildren in parts of Bukit Mertajam to breathe dust-laden smoke every day. The matter has now flared up with the arrest of Penang exco man Phee Boon Poh and two of the factory’s directors by the MACC. All three are set to be remanded today.

GEORGE TOWN: An illegal carbon filter processing factory has become a burning issue in Penang with the arrest of state executive councillor Phee Boon Poh and two factory di­­rectors by graft-busters from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commis­­sion (MACC).

All three are expected to be remanded today.

The factory in Kampung Sungai Lembu in Bukit Mertajam was in the news on Wednesday when MACC officers raided its premises and seized several documents.

Yesterday, a team of five MACC officers raided Phee’s office at Level 53 in Komtar at about 11.30am and took away more documents.

Phee, who chairs the state Wel­­fare, Caring Society and Envi­­ron­­ment Committee, was asked to report to the Penang MACC headquarters in Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah. He was arrested at 3.30pm when he turned up at the MACC building.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki said Phee was detained under Section 23 of the MACC Act for abuse of power.

The section provides for a jail term of up to 20 years and a fine of up to five times the value of the bribe or RM10,000, whichever is higher.

The 66-year-old Phee was brought back to his house in Butterworth at about 5pm in his car and escorted by two MACC vehicles. It is learnt that he packed some personal be­­longings from his house before lea­­ving for the state MACC headquarters at 7.05pm.

The MACC also arrested a 70-year-old man and his 37-year-old son, the manager and director of the factory, at 6.05pm and 6.35pm respectively.

The two were summoned to the state MACC headquarters to give their statements before they were detained.

Lawyer R.S.N. Rayer, who accompanied Phee to the Penang MACC headquarters, said the exco man was asked to meet MACC officers after 2pm.

“I was informed that they (MACC officers) went to his office and took some documents including letters that he wrote. They wanted to re­­cord his statement regarding the documents.

“He gave his full cooperation and presented himself at the MACC office. I am surprised that he was arrested,” he said before leaving the state MACC building at about 4.30pm.

Earlier, the five MACC officers spent more than an hour in Phee’s office.

Shortly after they left, Phee and four assistants walked out of the office.

Phee declined to comment on the raid.

He is the second member of the current Penang state administration to be arrested by the MACC.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng was arrested in June last year over the purchase of a RM2.8mil bungalow in Pinhorn Road.

He was subsequently charged with using his position as the Chief Minister of Penang to gain gratification for himself and his wife, Betty Chew Gek Cheng, by approving the application for conversion of agriculture land to a public housing zone in south-west Penang to the com­­pany, Magnificient Emblem Sdn Bhd.

He allegedly committed the of­­fence while chairing the Penang State Planning Committee meeting at the operations room in the Komtar building on July 18, 2014.

The charge under Section 23 of the MACC Act 2009 provides for imprisonment of up to 20 years and a fine of up to five times the sum or value of the bribe, or RM10,000, whichever is higher, upon conviction.

Lim faces a second charge of using his position to obtain a plot of land and a bungalow located at No 25 Jalan Pinhorn, George Town, on July 28, 2015, from businesswoman Phang Li Koon for RM2.8mil, a price which he allegedly knew did not commensurate with the property’s market value at the time of RM4.27mil.

The charge, under Section 165 of the Penal Code, provides for a jail term of up to two years or a fine, or both, upon conviction.

Late last night, Lim was among several DAP leaders and members who turned up outside the state MACC headquarters to stage a candlelight vigil in support of Phee.

Source: The Star by crystal chiam shiying, chong kah yuan, lo tern chern, andlogeiswary thevadass

10 years of smoke in the eyes for villagers




BUKIT MERTAJAM: For about 10 years now, the villagers of Kampung Sungai Lembu have been forced to breathe air laden with pollutants. Children going to school at SJK(C) Kampung Sungai Lembu also have had to put up with the thick dust.

The air is thick with a burning smell from the processing activities at an illegal carbon filter processing factory, just 1km away from the school.

The 5,000sq-m factory, about the size of a football field, has piles upon piles of sawdust, much of it burning in deep pits.

The tall chimneys spout white pollutant-filled smoke into the air which is carried to the nearby villages by the slight breeze.

A source from the Department of Environment revealed that the factory also did not have an air pollution control system.

Kampung Sungai Lembu Deve­lop­ment and Security Committee chairman Tan Sing Lee, 58, said the factory also carried out open burning of sawdust to produce carbon.

“Every time the wind blows our way especially in December, the air is polluted. At night, the air is foggy and villagers complain about the smell,” he said.

“We reported the matter to Penanti assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin but no action was taken in the past two years,” he said.

The factory is also situated inside an oil palm estate, on land designated for agriculture.

Tan claimed a man in his 30s died in 2015 after he fell into one of the pits while filling it with sawdust.

A check by The Star at the factory yesterday found 20 pits, each measuring about 3m across. The pits were filled with burning sawdust and there was smoke everywhere. The sawdust is burnt to produce carbon which is then used in filters.

Permatang Pauh Umno chief Da­­tuk Mohd Zaidi Mohd Said claimed there may have been people in­­volved in covering up the issue before the raid on the factory by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commis­­sion (MACC) on Thursday.

“Several reports have been lodged against the factory.

It is impossible for the Seberang Prai Municipal Council to not be aware of it,” he said during a press conference in Kampung Sungai Lembu.

Also present was Parti Cinta Malaysia deputy president Datuk Huan Cheng Guan.

PKR rep Norlela glad over action against illegal factory

 

BUKIT MERTAJAM: Penan­ti’s PKR assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin (pic) is pleased that action is finally being taken by the MACC over an illegal factory in Kampung Sungai Lembu.

Dr Norlela said she raised the issue of the carbon filter processing factory more than two years ago. “The villagers told me about their concerns in February 2015. I raised the matter at the state assembly sitting but no ac­­tion was taken for two years,” she said.

It was in November that Dr Norlela broke down and sobbed uncontrollably at the assembly, clai­­ming the state government had failed to respond to her queries.

She lamented then that she had complained of many woes like illegal factories, frequent flooding and the lack of infrastructure like roads and proper jetties for fishermen.

“Early this year, before the state assembly sitting, villagers handed me an 18-page petition, appealing for the factory to be closed as they claimed it was affecting their health.

“It was also found that the factory was not operating according to guide­­­­lines,” she said yesterday.

In May, her allocation was withheld after she did not show up at the Yang di-Pertua Negri’s swearing-in ceremony.

Earlier this month, she complained that funds collected for flood mitigation had not been used to help her constituents.

“In Penanti alone, there are nine flood-prone areas that could greatly benefit from these funds,” she re­­portedly said, citing the Auditor Ge­­­ne­­ral’s Report 2016 Series 1 which revealed that the Seberang Prai Municipal Council had only used RM2.2mil of RM63.39mil collected from 2008 to June 2016.

Dr Norlela is among several as­­sem­­blymen who have been at loggerheads with the state leadership, often criticising it for not carrying out its duties or for not caring about the environment,

Last month, she praised the Sungai Buloh-Kajang MRT project and took a swipe at the Penang Transport Master Plan by comparing the construction cost of both projects in a video she posted on social media.

DAP's lone ranger faces his biggest test


GEORGE TOWN: Two-term Pe­­nang executive councillor Phee Boon Poh, 66, gained fame as a vocal opposition leader when he took on 38 Barisan Nasional representatives in the state assembly when he was the sole DAP assemblyman from 2004 until 2008.

Despite being overwhelmed, the “lone ranger” raised many issues.

Although PAS was represented by Mohd Hamdan Abdul Rahman, it was Phee who questioned the policies of the state administration headed by Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon.

Phee began his political career by winning the Bagan Jermal state seat in 1990, only to lose it to Barisan’s Tan Sri Dr Sak Cheng Lum in 1995.

In 1999, he contested the Sungai Puyu seat but lost to Barisan’s Loo Ah Dee. In 2004, he wrested it from Loo with a 607-vote majority.

In 2008, he retained his state seat with a 9,201-vote majority and was appointed state Welfare and Caring Society chairman.

He later took over the environment portfolio from state exco member Chow Kon Yeow.

In the 2013 general election, he beat MCA’s Sum Yoo Keong by 16,207 votes.

Phee is a distant relative of businesswoman Phang Li Koon, who has been charged with abetment in the two corruption cases against Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

MACC probes Phee’s letters - Directing council to 'stay away' under investigation

Phee Boon Poh mobbed by the media after he was remanded in George Town. — ZAINUDIN AHAD and ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

PENANG: The Malaysian Anti-Corrup­tion Commission (MACC) is investigating two letters, which appear to have originated from state executive councillor Phee Boon Poh, asking that no action be taken against an illegal factory.

The letters, written in 2015 and 2016, directed the Seberang Prai Municipal Council from shutting down the carbon filter-processing factory which had been operating illegally for the past 10 years.

The MACC is also investigating whether Phee or his officials had authorised the letters telling the council to back off.

As Phee and two of the company’s directors were remanded yesterday, the MACC is expected to call up a DAP state assemblyman for questioning.

The MACC is believed to be investigating the role of this state assemblyman in the case.

It is understood that MACC is also probing the relationship between Phee and the factory owners.

It wants to find out how the factory could operate openly despite complaints from the villagers nearby.

“The illegal factory is on an agro-based land. (We want to know) why it has been able to operate without any action (taken against it),” a source told Sunday Star.

Too close for comfort: The illegal carbon filter-processing factory still operating and its proximity to Kampung Sungai Lembu and surrounding areas near Bukit Mertajam. 

When contacted, MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki said the anti-graft body will carry out a thorough probe and look into all angles.

Azam said investigations will focus on the element of abuse of power.

“We have opened an investigation paper under Section 23 of the MACC Act.

“We will look into whether one of the suspects has given (any form of) protection to the illegal factory to enable it to continue operating the last 10 years,” he said.

He declined to elaborate further as investigations were ongoing.

Sources said anti-graft officers revisited the house of the state exco member in Sungai Puyu on the mainland to look for more evidence to assist in the probe.

It is not immediately known if documents were seized.

The homes and offices of two other suspects will also be revisited as part of the probe.

More arrests are expected in the coming days as investigations into the case widen.

Source: The Star by simon khoo, crystal chiam shiying, lo tern chern, akil yunus

Related Links:

No protection for corrupt in Penang govt, says Guan Eng | Free ...

 The Penang government will not protect any of its officials ... Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng says he believes state exco man Phee Boon ... Phee, who is in charge of the welfare, caring society and environment portfolio, was arrested yesterday by the MACC over alleged misuse of power.




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