Gerakan Penang slams land deal linked to undersea tunnel project

GEORGE TOWN: Penang Gerakan has claimed that the state has become the first in Malaysia to sell land without validating it through the disbursement of land grants and the first to sell its territory on paper for land which does not yet exist.

Such forms of transactions may be seen as innovative and even espoused by the state to be transparent, but after Gerakan combed through it, there exist many posers which if left unanswered can affect the future outlook of Penang, said the state Gerakan Youth acting chief, Jason Loo.

"Therefore, land matters in Penang, particularly when the state has an acute shortage of it," he told a press conference.

According to him, there are alleged questionable transactions undertaken by the partners in the Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd, who is the group responsible to deliver the proposed RM6.3 billion undersea tunnel project.

Dubbed as one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Asia, the 7.2 km long undersea tunnel which links Bagan Ajam in Butterworth with Gurney Drive off George Town on the island, was working towards a completion by 2027.

On top of it, was three paired road links which run from Batu Ferringhi, Air Itam and Gurney Drive to the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway.

But the project remained stuck at the RM305 million feasibility study stage now after the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) began investigating the consortium on alleged grounds of inflating of costs and a delay in the completion of the feasibility study.

Loo said the first transaction which looks suspicious was on Jan 16, 2015, where a subsidiary of the consortium's partner signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) to secure the rights to purchase 50 acres of reclaimed land, valued at RM2.8 billion from the consortium itself.

This was on top of 5.6 acres acquired earlier to conduct the feasibility study.

"The problem is ... no land has been reclaimed yet. There is no land grant ... so how can the state allow the MoA to proceed. How can the state allow the consortium to sell land which does not exist nor have a land grant (title)?" Loo asked.

Loo said the arrangements were done on paper, but there was no physicality progress on the proposed reclamation as the first step towards constructing the undersea tunnel.

The public has yet to see any reclamation done, yet a deal was pushed through for an RM2.8 billion sale of land, he pointed out.

"Whether the deal was done via cash or land swaps, it is still the people's land. The public deserves to know what has transpired," Loo said.

Loo said that land matters in Penang as the proposed project was for the future generations and the people must comprehend that the selling of state land means that every Penang resident is selling a part of their beloved state away.