Spark the Debate - live feed
KUALA LUMPUR: What started off as an exchange of ammunition over the perceived lack of transparency on Penang's Bayan Mutiara on Twitter between DAP national publicity secretary Tony Pua and Kota Belud MP Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan sparked off the idea for a debate organsed by The Malay Mail in collaboration with UCSI tonight.
Held at the Blue Ocean Strategy Hall at the university-college's Taman Taynton campus, this is the first of The Malay Mail’s “Spark the Debate” series.
The Malay Mail managing editor Terence Fernandez has set the record straight that Bayan Mutiara is not a Penang issue and is a case study for land tenders, urban housing and ensuring the poor have a place in urban society, thus setting the topic for tonight's debate.
7.30pm - The crowd starts building up in the hall.
7.44pm - Moderator Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) chief executive Wan Saiful Wan Jan, carries out tests to ensure that the crowd understands that the session is an interactive one.
7.59pm - Tony Pua has already arrived and awaits his worthy opponent Abdul Rahman, whom K.J. John of USCI confirms, is stuck in traffic.
8.10pm - Guests continue to stream in.
8.12pm - Ong Kian Ming who is also a UCSI staff said the idea of the debate is a really good one. "It shows that two MPs can discuss issues that does not really affect their own constituency but the focus is on underlying issues such as the open tender process, how to use government money and how to build low-cost houses." He also appreciated the fact that the two organisations - The Malay Mail and UCSI - could collaborate on such an initiative and "is a testament to freedom of speech in context of the media and freedom of thought on the part of university students."
8.16pm - Abdul Rahman arrives and steps into hall with Pua.
8.17pm - K.J John gives an introduction to the session. Invites Fernandez to explain what "Spark the Debate" is all about.
8.19pm - Fernandez gives the crowd of some 100 participants a brief on The Malay Mail's new approach to news. Spark the Debate was being worked upon and says Abdul Rahman and Pua expedited the forum. "Tonight is the first of cooperation between The Malay Mail and UCSI in promoting thought." Fernandez thanks the speakers and participants for caring enough for the country to "brave the pasar malam jam". "The Malay Mail is available for subscription at a promotion rate tonight. Get your subscription forms outside."
8.24pm - Ong Kian Ming is introduced and takes the stage to set the context on the topic - 'Bayan Mutiara: Achievement or Bad Precedent? It's impact on affordable urban housing'. First shows the location of Bayan Mutiara; Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng's side of the story; background on the sale of the 41.5 hectares of land in question; Abdul Rahman's contention - that it was a negotiated tender and not a direct tender, Henry Butcher valued the land higher than what it was sold at, why wasn't PDC given opportunity to develop the land with its own JV with a private developer and new allegation that a mosque land was sold. Also raises the issue in which RM500 million obtained from the sale of land was used in the Batu Kawan Bandar Cassia affordable housing project by the Penang state administration.
8.32pm - Ong says two questions to ask are 1) Is this the best deal for the state government, did it get the best price? Really negotiated or tender? Are these processes being followed in other states? 2) Is this the best model for affordable housing?
8.34pm - Pua and Abdul Rahman are invited to the stage.
8.35pm - Wan Saiful Wan Jan, founder and CE of IDEAS is invited to play his moderator role and gets speakers to start the session by shaking hands "just in case you don't want to after the session".
8.37pm - Abdul Rahman takes the stand for the first 10 minutes. Asks "Time starts when I speak?" Pua asks: "Will there be warning?" Apologises for his delay, says he came alone - no supporters or cheerleaders or bodyguards. "The DAP guys are good guys. There will be no tow-trucks incidences."
8.39pm - Abdul Rahman tells the crowd of how he stumbled upon the Bayan Mutiara issue. He found a video on Lim Guan Eng talking about how he saved about a billion ringgit and how Lim's claim was untrue. "I was upset and I started to dig more about what Bayan Mutiara is all about." "We still maintain the argument that Penang people could get a better deal from this land. Only the rich and foreigners will benefit. This deal was shrouded by mystery betraying that CAT call - the competency, accountability and transparency - policy by the state government. We also maintain that Ivory Property Group was not the right choice."
8.42pm - "This was not an open tender, it was a request for proposal - as everybody knows," Abdul Rahman says. He provides the defintion of an open tender - the idea of a development and open request for quotations.
8.45pm - Abdul Rahman: Guan Eng was not giving straight answers. Even if there were straight answers, they were very vague. We wanted a lot of documents from the CM but it was so difficult to get documents from the state government.
8.48pm - Abdul Rahman is told he has only two minutes left. He is surprised, as he seemed to have just gotten warmed up and into the subject.
8.50pm - Abdul Rahman takes his break while Pua takes the stand.
8.52pm - Pua starts off saying Abdul Rahman's contentions were untrue. Says the document advertised was indeed a Request for Proposal but contains everything of a tender. Specific documents and 'Dos and Don'ts' on the piece of land was also specified in the advertisement. Only unfortunate thing was differing terms by companies who bid. The process would have differed if Barisan Nasional did it. Without open tender, as done by the current Penang government, there would have been losses, drawing loud applause from some of the crowd.
8.57pm - Pua: What is important is that the company pays up - just about 10% of the RM1.2 billion deal. RM22 million has been paid, and the rest is due to come in, in a week. If fail, there is a 10% penalty interest to be paid.
8.59pm - Pua raises a KL issue where Yayasan Gerak Bakti Kebangsaan did a collaboration with SP Setia - signed a privatisation deal with DBKL, and paid off YGBK RM76 million. Pua takes his seat.
9pm - Wan Saiful asks if an apology was made, there would be no reason for a debate? Pua replies: Everyone understood what the document was about.
9.02pm - Abdul Rahman: The plan to move to Bayan Mutiara was cancelled in 2003. There is no problem with RFP - it's a normal procedure. If Pua says there is no complaints, then he is not listening to the ground. A lot of people have been complaining about how the process was handled. Until now I have not got a copy of the RFP. If you are really transparent about RFP, then just publish it. Why did you choose Ivory Properties Group? Ministry of Finances' valuation was only valid for six months. And Pua forgot to mention that that particular valuation was only valid for six months. Why did you have to give IPG five years to pay for the land?
9.06pm - Wan Saiful: Are you setting the standards for BN? Will you join me in publishing the Mydin's Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia deals? Abdul Rahman: If you really want to be transparent then do it.
9.07pm - Khoo Kay Peng asks two questions including why the successful bidder was chosen on question of price.
9.10pm - Abdul Rahman: This is probably the last piece of land that could have been used on the island that was reclaimed by Barisan in their time. The RM500 million that supposed to be received - you don't need it to build the Batu Kawan project. In fact, Lim said he doesn't need the money. You didn't have to sell the piece of land. The land belongs to the people of Penang. If Umno is evil, why do you want to follow Umno? Today, thsi debate, the person in the dock is DAP state government. So stick with it. They promised you CAT so it's only fair to demand it from the government. One last point that I have is a letter dated 28 July 2010 from MPPP that actually changes the government's policy in Penang from having a 30% low-cost quota for a development to a new system. Penang state government also changed the density to increase from 30 units psf to 87 units psf.
9.15pm - Pua takes back the mic. Says he personally spoken to Abdul Rahman saying that he offered to get him documents - even before the debate but did not receive any requests. "If there are documents needed, we will be happy to provide them". Pua said IPG was negotiated with for payment period to be shortened from eight years to five years. "Penang people can be assured that their rights, over that piece of land, are protected".
9.22pm - "What is the national policy on affordable urban living?" the question is asked.
9.23pm - Abdul Rahman answers earlier question on valuation of land. Comparing Henry Butcher's to that valuation that was not done by the Penang government - "Ministry of Finance's valuation was not valid". In the youtube video, Lim Guan Eng said "I saved the Penang people RM1 billion for not building a Putrajaya here, I think that's too much. Manifestation of class war. Poor are being driven out of Penang Island to Batu Kawan. The poor people of Penang deserve to stay on island. Imagine if you're young, you're not earning much. What's so wrong with building affordable housing pn that land? That is goverment land. I have to admit. There must be concertive effort with state governemnt to build affordable housing. I think all state governments need to work with Federal Government because Federal Government has the money."
9.30pm: Tony Pua says advertisement Nov 2009 was for less than RM17 per sq ft. You mean to tell me the land went up by five times? something must be happening in Pennag where stones turn to gold. All we did was unlock the value of the land. In the heart of the CDB, you don't build low-cost houses there because that is prime land. The question is whether Cassia is a jungle. The answer is no. It will be a thriving area with industries and jobs for people. There is a need to look at affordable housing programmes. Why do we need to compete with private sectors when they excel at that. We need to bring the country to the next level or go into sectors that private sectors are not looking at - affordable housing programmes. We need to change the mindset to reinvigorate affordable housing in the country. We absolutely do need money for affordable housing. A lot of money that we got - RM400 million - from the sale of land and a lot can be done (with that money)."
9.35pm - Abdul Rahman: We have a lot of agencies - and all kinds of nonsense that we have - that are going their own way. In Singapore they only have Housing Development Board of Singapore. I think we need only one agency to look after the need of affordable housing in this country. We are doing it for Land and Transport Commission - SPAD. Why are we not doing it for the housing? I think that is one of the reasons. I agree that KL now is getting more pricey. That is why we need the Greater KL transportation integration. People come into the city not to live in but to work. At the beginning of your last session - you sounded Umno like - "unlocking the value ... sounded like Koh Tsu Koon to me". "I don't think Penang need foreigners to come in because they only come in to speculate. The Penang people - the islanders - are very proud of their roots. Even if they are poor, you don't ask them to go to Batu Kawan. This is wrong. You don't sell that piece of land for another crony dot-dot-dot ..."
9.39pm - Pua: Let me reply to allegation that we gave the land to crony ... We even welcome Umno crony companies and pay the highest price.
9.41pm - Khoo Kay Peng: The debate has been very interesting. But you both sound capitalists. That's very scary. How can you guarantee that the development will be a world-class city? What about enforcement?
9.45pm - Pua: Plans have not been submitted to MPPP yet. Guidelines are being watched over - roads, density - by the council. No point building units that people want to stay in. We want to build units that people, real Malaysians, want to stay in. The 30% requirement is still in place and developer will still need to build it within the island. The RM500 million for affordable housing fund is applicable state-wide.
9.48pm - Abdul Rahman: Why are we putting a lot of pressure on Lim Guan Eng? Question is why not? I agree I think RM42,000 is untenable. I think government must raise minimum price for affordable housing. I don't know. Maybe RM100,000. If contractors did it, they would have to cut corners. Have one agency, and the government - federal will need to work with state and also private sector - like we're doing with PR1MA.
9.53pm - Abdul Rahman: PM is doing his level best to bring in new culture. If you say I don't have the legitimacy to ask questions in Penang, Guan Eng comes to my kawasan very often. As long as you know the subject, is fine. I don't mind the boo-ing and the jeering. I'm so used to it in Parliament. Sometimes parliament is like a pasar (market). DAP are good people. I'm not going to be punched here. There is a transformation going on. We're getting there. I think GE13 will answer a lot of questions.
9.56pm - Abdul Rahman: I thank The Malay Mail and really hope Spark the Debate will have continuous series. I still believe the land should not be sold. I believe Penang people still need the land. The land in Batu Kawan belongs to PDC, all you need is to snap your fingers and say 'Hey! I want to build affordable homes in Batu Kawan'. You don't need that land to be sold. You could have done public parks and what not there. I think the terms that were given to Ivory. At the end of the day, the entity that is involved in development is another company - more than Ivory. A lot of people have high expectations of the CAT policy set by the CM. I still maintain that the land should not have been sold. I still maintain that Ivory was not the right company because they were financnially weak, I still maintain that the contract allows Ivory to sub-sell the parcels. I stillq uestion the two-year financing by the state to Ivory for the piece of land. I believe when you subject yourself and put yourself so high and so transparent with your CAT, that you should respond immediately to information. Not to politicans like me but people of Penang. Mind you Penang has a very strong culture of NGOs. You don't call them old or ask them to shut up. In that sense, Lim Guan Eng has failed to live up to his policy. I would be very very honoured to be invited for another Spark the Debate series.
10.01pm - Pua: When this debate first started, it started on Twitter. What got me riled - enough to get involved in a debate on Bayan Mutiara - was the accusation that the Penang state government was involved in shady deals, underpricing land, and getting cronies. I'm glad tonight, from the debate, we can see differences in opinion but the differences lie in how to use the land. But differences does not prove that there was hanky panky. We have shown clearly that we have negotiated the payment terms from eight years to five years. Whatever policies that we decide to execute, is executed above board so that people know this is the government is the one they can do business with. Does not cheat, is not corrupt and will not accept money for deals ... That is the objective that I wanted to come forward to proof tonight. There is of course, room to improve. We are only four-years old but we have to work towards our goal to be better policy makers, but underlying our journey - is one principle that must stay the foundation - that is we must have integrity and we must be incorruptible not only for Penang but the whole of Malaysia.
10.06pm - Wan Saiful wraps up the event. K.J John invites a dean to hand over a small token to the two speakers.
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