PETALING JAYA: Goodbye Selangor, hello Malacca.
That sums up the fate of the proposal by Yayasan Basmi Kemiskinan (YBK) to build the new Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) campus in Serendah as ownership of the 448-acre plot, where the campus was to be, has now reverted to the Selangor government under controversial circumstances.
YBK chairman Datuk Zainal Abidin Sakom told The Malay Mail the deadline set by the State government for the foundation to settle outstanding quit rent of RM5.6 million expired last Friday.
This was despite the offer made by Yayasan Melaka to settle the foundation’s quit rent as the offer came a little too late, since the Selangor government had already rejected the foundation’s application to extend the quit rent payment deadline.
Zainal Abidin said the foundation was informed last Friday evening via a letter from the State government that their application to extend the payment deadline was rejected.
All is not lost for the foundation’s plan as the Malacca government has already approved a 200-acre plot in Kampung Seri Mendapat, Mukim Semujuk, Jasin to build the UiTM campus there.
The Malay Mail learnt that the deal was approved by the Malacca government on Jan 21.
The foundation would now conduct discussions with Yayasan Melaka for a joint-venture project to develop the land. Only then would the foundation decide if it should proceed with the proposed UiTM campus project there, originally planned to be handled by its subsidiary, Permodalan YBK Sdn Bhd.
“I am thankful to Malacca chief minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam and Yayasan Melaka for their concern and assistance,” said Zainal Abidin.
On efforts by the foundation to seek help to settle the quit rent arrears earlier, he said the foundation tried to seek help from government-linked companies and private institutions but they had to pull out for various reasons.
Although the Selangor project has been cancelled, Zainal Abidin said the foundation would continue with their legal suit against the State government for defamatory claims as well as to claim due loss.
Last Friday, YBK had lodged a police report against the Selangor Menteri Besar’s office for alleged defamatory statements on the charitable body and its trustees.
The State government had allegedly used the inability of the foundation to settle quit rent arrears for portions of its 1,642-acre land bank as “bargaining chips” to get the Selangor MB and State exco member Rodziah Ismail appointed to YBK’s board of trustees.
In justifying the State government’s demands, Selangor MB Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim had stated the government’s involvement in YBK would ensure transparency and accountability in managing resources handed over to the foundation.
YBK has since appointed a team of lawyers to look into the matter and its legal panel head, Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman, had recently said YBK’s trustees were not empowered to appoint another trustee to the board as it is a private trust board created under the Trustee Incorporation Act 1952 and the trust deed.
Even the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission has entered the picture and are studying whether there are possible elements of power abuse in the State government’s post-for-project demand in YBK.
The State government had retaliated last Friday by issuing a statement saying that they are determined to ensure transparency in YBK by declassifying information relating to all assets and funds given to YBK.
“The police report by the foundation’s chairman Datuk Zainal Sakom will not derail the State’s efforts to unveil the foundation’s activities, ownership of property and land, methods of obtaining them and all its programmes,” said the statement released by Khalid via his political secretary, Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad.
It also stated the MB’s office has been receiving and collecting numerous documents from various government units and agencies to compile and summarise the assets, funds, projects and activities regarding YBK into documents which will be released as soon as possible.
Despite losing the 448 acres to the State government, Zainal Abidin told The Paper That Cares that the foundation still owns the remaining 900 acres in the area.
“This land belongs to us as long as we are paying taxes to the Selangor government. I hope we will be able to do whatever we want with the land without their intrusion.”
Alleging unfairness, Zainal Abidin said: “There are lots of other undeveloped plots of land whose owners have not paid due taxes to the State government. I hope the Selangor government would be fair and will not only target YBK land.
“I am sorry for the Selangor people, especially the people in Serendah, for not being able to develop the land.
“As a son of Selangor, I am disappointed as the foundation’s plan could have brought much benefit for the people there. But, what can we say if the State government itself is not willing to co-operate?”
YBK CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS
Jan 6: Yayasan Basmi Kemiskinan (YBK) rejects an order by the Selangor State financial officer, Datuk Mohd Arif Ab Rahman, in a letter dated Dec 7, to appoint Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim and Batu Tiga assemblyman Rodziah Ismail as trustees of the foundation. This results in YBK’s Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) campus project on a 448-acre site in Serendah, Selangor, not getting the green light to take off. In its letter to the State government, YBK explains that it needs the State’s go-ahead for the project so that it could pay off its quit rent arrears.
Jan 8: YBK says it will seek legal advice on whether to lodge a report with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on the State government’s post-for-project demand. Its panel of lawyers advises that this be done. The Selangor government explains that a seat for it on the YBK board will ensure the foundation’s transparency and accountability in handling funds.
Jan 9: The Malacca State government offers YBK an alternate site in Jasin for its UiTM campus project.
Jan 11: A non-governmental organisation called Bersih Bangun Selangor (Bebas) files a report with the MACC against Abdul Khalid over the UiTM campus project issue. Bebas chairman, Mohd Abdul Raof Mokhtar, says the report is to ensure the matter will be investigated by the commission.
Jan 13: The Selangor State government demands audit reports of YBK’s financial accounts and administration matters for the past five years. The foundation responds that it need not submit such reports to the State government, but only to the Attorney-General’s Chambers.
Jan 18: YBK says it is willing to sell its 1,300-acre plot of land in Serendah — part of which is for the UiTM project — to the Selangor State government at half the price if the land indeed costs RM540 million as alleged.
Jan 21: YBK’s legal panel poured cold water on Abdul Khalid’s demand that the trustees appoint him as foundation chairman because the trustees don’t have the power to do so.
Jan 29: YBK lodged a police report against the Selangor Menteri Besar’s office for allegedly spreading defamatory statements on the body and its trustees. The foundation learnt their application to extend the deadline for quit rent payment has been rejected by the Selangor State government via letter.