TRANS­PARENCY DONERIGHT

DAP can learn from BN rep’s de­ci­sion to take leave of ab­sence to ‘clear fam­ily’s name’

New Straits Times - - Opinion - ah­mad­fairuz@nst.com.my The writer is NST Jo­hor bureau chief. When not work­ing, he loves driv­ing along the coastal high­way and trunk roads of Jo­hor. A lover of food, mu­sic and the­atre, he rec­om­mends ev­ery­one to try Jo­hor’s ver­sion of 'ais ka­cang', which is

ONE of the more at­ten­tion-grab­bing head­lines in the past fort­night in Jo­hor was the re­port about seven peo­ple who were ar­rested by the Malaysian Anti-Cor­rup­tion Com­mis­sion (MACC) for al­leged in­volve­ment in a real es­tate cor­rup­tion scan­dal.

It involved the loss of tens of mil­lions of ring­git worth of po­ten­tial hous­ing rev­enue that could have gone to the state gov­ern­ment.

What was most shock­ing was that the son and spe­cial of­fi­cer to a state ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil mem­ber were among the sus­pects de­tained.

The first six sus­pects, aged 25 to 50, were ar­rested on Feb 24 and in­cluded two devel­op­ers, a lawyer and a civil­ian.

Four days later, the sev­enth sus­pect, a 46-year-old con­trac­tor, was picked up to fa­cil­i­tate in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

De­tails of the ill-got­ten gains and lux­ury items seized dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tions also gained at­ten­tion for all the wrong rea­sons.

MACC froze RM15.5 mil­lion in 45 bank ac­counts and seized 21 lux­ury cars, five high-pow­ered mo­tor­cy­cles and RM500,000 in lo­cal and for­eign cur­ren­cies.

The ques­tion on many peo­ple’s minds was how cor­rup­tion of that mag­ni­tude could have involved peo­ple with links to a state gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial?

MACC has yet to com­plete the in­ves­ti­ga­tions, so it is un­fair to lay all the blame on those ar­rested.

No one has been charged, and two of the seven ar­rested have been re­leased on bail.

The Jo­hor gov­ern­ment, un­der the lead­er­ship of Men­teri Be­sar Datuk Seri Mo­hamed Khaled Nordin, has been trans­par­ent about the case.

Khaled al­lowed the exco mem­ber’s re­quest to go on leave pend­ing the com­ple­tion of MACC’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

In this re­gard, the exco mem­ber, a first-term as­sem­bly­man, made a re­spon­si­ble move by step­ping away from state gov­ern­ment du­ties.

The exco mem­ber told a col­league prior to the state ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil meet­ing last Wed­nes­day that he needed time off to fo­cus on the in­ves­ti­ga­tions and to “clear his fam­ily’s name”.

What was not called for were the brick­bats from the op­po­si­tion when the exco mem­ber was im­pli­cated.

DAP ad­viser Lim Kit Siang was the first to fire a salvo at the Barisan Na­sional-led Jo­hor gov­ern­ment by say­ing that Khaled should fol­low in the exco mem­ber’s foot­steps and go on leave in the wake of the cor­rup­tion scan­dal.

But such a sug­ges­tion by Kit Siang is un­be­com­ing and tainted with hypocrisy.

The DAP supremo does not call for the same thing for his son, Lim Guan Eng, the Pe­nang chief min­is­ter and DAP sec­re­tary-gen­eral, who was charged with two counts of cor­rup­tion last year.

While Guan Eng con­tin­ues to des­per­ately hold on to power de­spite the charges against him, the exco mem­ber chose to be the big­ger per­son and has dealt with the case by be­ing ac­count­able for it.

Per­haps DAP can take a leaf out of the Jo­hor gov­ern­ment’s prac­tice of trans­parency.

In­stead of re­sort­ing to mud­sling­ing pol­i­tics, the Jo­hor gov­ern­ment pre­sented facts and fig­ures to re­but base­less al­le­ga­tions that were lev­elled against it in the wake of the MACC in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Khaled ad­dressed a chief con­cern among crit­ics who ques­tioned whether the case would af­fect the sup­ply of af­ford­able and low-cost hous­ing in Jo­hor.

This was a ques­tion on ev­ery­one’s mind be­cause MACC’s ini­tial find­ings re­vealed that the sus­pects in the Jo­hor case had con­verted Bu­mi­put­era-al­lo­cated hous­ing units into non-Bu­mi­put­era hous­ing units to sell at higher prices.

In Jo­hor, hous­ing devel­op­ers are re­quired to al­lo­cate 40 per cent of units in a new hous­ing project as Bu­mi­put­era units, which are sold at a 15 per cent dis­count.

Khaled re­sponded to these con­cerns by fur­nish­ing de­tails of the state gov­ern­ment’s hous­ing pol­icy, which dis­al­lows the con­ver­sion of Bu­mi­put­era units un­der the Rumah Mampu Mi­lik Jo­hor (RMMJ) af­ford­able hous­ing or low-cost hous­ing schemes.

By ex­plain­ing this mech­a­nism, Khaled re­vealed an im­por­tant facet of the state’s hous­ing pol­icy in which devel­op­ers are only al­lowed to re­lease un­sold Bu­mi­put­era units if they paid a pre­mium to the state gov­ern­ment.

The pre­mium, which is 7.5 per cent, or about half of the Bu­mi­put­era dis­count rate, is chan­nelled into the Jo­hor Bu­mi­put­era Prop­erty Fund, which is used to build hous­ing and com­mer­cial in­fra­struc­ture for Bu­mi­put­eras.

Since 2013, the fund has col­lected RM600 mil­lion from devel­op­ers, and this money has been used to build 6,000 units un­der the RMMJ scheme.

These facts must be con­sid­ered by any­one who wants to form any opinion about the MACC case in Jo­hor.

What ev­ery­one needs to do now is to al­low the MACC to con­duct its in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

While Guan Eng con­tin­ues to des­per­ately hold on to power de­spite the charges against him, the exco mem­ber chose to be the big­ger per­son and has dealt with the case by be­ing ac­count­able for it.

PICBYZAINAHMED

The Jo­hor gov­ern­ment’s hous­ing pol­icy dis­al­lows the con­ver­sion of Bu­mi­put­era units un­der the Rumah Mampu Mi­lik Jo­hor af­ford­able hous­ing scheme. Devel­op­ers can only re­lease un­sold Bu­mi­put­era units if they pay a pre­mium to the state gov­ern­ment.

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